Barber’s Adagio for Strings from The String Quartet, Opus 11
I listen to Barber’s Adagio for Strings from the String Quartet, Opus 11, and I am filled with longing for all the things I’ve lost in my life.
The violin bows pluck at my heart strings and my heart swells and swoons and catches in my throat. My eyes fill with tears as I fill my lungs with the joy of living. I close my eyes and let the music wash over me. Climbing high and higher, I soar and then dip down to the ground and then peace sweet peace washes over me like a whispered breath that blows through my soul and I am aloft again, soaring on the wings of eagles, rising higher and higher and then I feel the warm kiss of my Lord as he envelopes me in his loving arms and covers me with sweet kisses. I am filled with ecstasy and delight and my heart swells and feels as if it could burst! Oh, my Lord, come hold me and take me to those unforeseen reaches. And the music stops and my journey takes a somber turn and I am again filled with hopeful longing.
Take me up, and let me touch the skies. Oh, yes, take me higher and set my soul free to see you and be with you again. My face is wet with my tears of joy and longing and sorrow. Now softly hold me close and let me be one with your love.
Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in A Minor, Opus 43, Variation XVIII
The piano begins, plucking the cords, I sway with the music like a tree sways in the breeze. I am in love and my lover holds me in his arms and we dance across the floor, twirling and twirling, and he looks into my eyes and smiles and I am enthralled. He is so tall and handsome and strong. Love is here and holds me and we merge and become one leaf floating along the melody. and the song plays on and we look into each other’s eyes and love.
Tchaikovsky’s Overture from the Nutcracker
I am a child at my first ballet. The music starts and I am filled with anticipation. I bounce my legs and move my head from side to side swaying with the music. The beautiful ladies dance across the stage and I become them. It is magic and I am beautiful, dancing and dancing, so graceful and beautiful. Twirling and twirling and so very dizzy that I stumble, recover myself and I’m twirling around and around and then up on my toes and I am a ballerina dancing across the stage so beautiful and graceful. There is magic in the air and every eye is on me as I dance around and around. I am warm and happy and life is pure and simple. I am wearing my red velvet dress, holding my wand and the music lifts me and carries me across the stage and I am twirling and dancing and jumping so gracefully across the stage. I am happy and free and I am eight years old again.
I wake up slowly this morning, groggy, disoriented. I lie quietly for several minutes to get my bearings, and then open my eyes and sit up. I slept hard last night, dreaming active dreams that were peopled with the faces of long departed loved ones, beloved pets, friends…many I lost decades ago. My dreams were active and continuous and in most I was traveling along rivers and oceans, up and down mountains, floating through the heavens, spinning through a hallucinogenic mishmash of colors, sensations and emotions.
I am still a bit groggy, disoriented and sleepy. I look around the room. To my right I see a futon that doubles as a couch and as another bed and a small chest of drawers.
On the left wall is a closed doorway that I know leads through a small closet to the bathroom, with a chipped sink, leaking toilet, and broken tile. I hear the shower running. To the right of the doorway, along the wall, is a rickety entertainment center that houses an old analogue television set and beside that is a linoleum counter top sitting atop a small refrigerator and cabinet. A microwave oven sits above the counter top on open shelving that shows a limited inventory of mismatched plates, pots, and drinking glasses.
Directly across from me is a large sliding glass door that spans almost the entire width of the room except for an area to the left where the small kitchen sink sits. A square table with three chairs stands in the middle of the view. If I open the sliding door and step outside to the small balcony, I can look out beyond the swimming pool and parking lot, over the sand dunes and the waving sea oats, across the craggy driftwood forest and see the ocean, with its gentle, rolling waves, lapping the shoreline as it deposits its debris of starfish, scraggly seaweed, broken shells. I am on the second floor of an old house that has been divided up into a fourplex that is managed by the old rundown motel right next door.
The last time I stayed here was at the end of the summer of 1985. My mother was coming for a visit and wanted to go to the beach. When I called to make the reservation, the manager told me, “Hope you don’t mind, but you’ll be the only guests here that week and the last guests we house. The very next week the bulldozers come in and level the whole place. It’ll be some new expensive condominiums next time you come out this way.” My mom and I had a wonderful time.
I was 27 years old and had finally gotten through the most painful parts of a divorce from a man who had been demeaning, abusive and who had managed to squash my self image to a place of worthlessness. Enough time had passed that I had gotten back some confidence, gained some perspective and was taking some positive steps to rebuild my life.
My mom was 54 years old. Our relationship had been a little strained after she ended her 26 year marriage to my Father. Not because I had a hard time accepting her decision, but because she had become a person I could not recognize as my mother. On past visits, I had a hard time relating to her. On this trip, she had finally settled down a little and I could see some bits of my mother in her. We were still mother and daughter, but we had begun to forge a new woman-to-woman relationship. It was the last time I saw my mother so happy and the last time I could bask in her unconditional love and acceptance.
The very next Memorial Day, my older brother died in a motorcycle accident, on a remote stretch of Alaska’s scenic Seward Highway. There at the turn off to Hope, Alaska where the road makes a deep curve, my brother hit the curve too fast, swung out into the other lane of traffic and hit a truck head on. The attending paramedic told me at my high school reunion a few days later, “It all happened so fast, he never knew anything.” His body was cremated and on my 28th birthday we took his ashes out in a fishing boat from Seward Alaska to Thumb Cove and spread them in Resurrection Bay.
Turns out, I lost two people that day. For when my brother died, my mother disappeared into a deep abyss of grief and mourning and I never saw her smile again. Later that fall cancer wrapped its tenacious tentacles around my Mom who was stranded in the abyss and a year later we made another trip to Thumb Cove with my mother’s ashes.
I stand up from the bed and walk over to the sliding glass door. My 56 year old self stands at the window, gazing out at the gentle waves, the careening seagulls, thinking about the day ahead. I hear the door open behind me and a voice, “Rise and shine sweet Jujubean. The day’s waiting!” I turn and smile into my mother’s eyes.