Sunday I went to see the musical ‘Once’ at the Benedum Center in downtown Pittsburgh. I knew it was a love story and I only knew one song from the musical, the beautifully haunting ‘Falling Slowly.’
I was already in somewhat of an emotional state and the song, early in the performance caught me reaching for the Kleenex. It’s a beautiful, heart-achey song but it also takes me back to a bittersweet part of my life in the mid-2000s which I won’t get into here.
The whole performance, the love story, the Irish music and Dublin locale, were all a reminder of all that is good in the world. The performance was a thing of beauty and that also added to the tears.
I explained this to my wife on the way home. In the last 24-hours, two mass shootings had taken place in the country. Inside, my mind was also filled with information on the advancing march of climate change and what is just around the corner and knowing that we, collectively, through our choices, made it inevitable.
So much darkness, so much evil, so much disaster waiting to befall humankind.
And yet, in the middle the nightmare that is both my brain and the outside world, there is so much beauty that we should suck in like a Hoover (play reference!) given the time we have and the things we are losing.
The performance reminded me of all that’s right with the world; that human beings still create songs and performances that uplift the soul and show us what is, what was, and what could have been the best of us.
Also, the birds on my back feeder, even thought they fight amongst themselves for the suet basket, are gifts from nature and represent things of beauty and wonder. Add to that the squirrels, deer, moles, chipmunks, rabbits and all the other creatures that feed upon the seeds and food I leave in the back yard. When I watch them all mingling together, I feel a sense of peace and appreciate the beauty in front of me that may not last much longer.
There’s a Frank Sinatra song, ‘September of My Years’ on the album of the same name, that I have been listening to often this last year. It’s about a man who never took stock of the beauty of the world around him but now that he’s hit ‘a certain age’ he notices the children playing, is cognizant of his time left, and vows to ‘stop and smell the roses.’
As a man who has never
paused at wishing wells
Now I’m watching children’s carousels
And their laughter’s music to my ears
And I find that I’m smiling gently as I near
September, the warm September of my years
The golden warm September of my years
This is me. Slowing down. Noticing. No longer chasing dreams and dollars but taking stock of my life and the wonder and beauty that surrounds me. I look, really look around and appreciate it all – the way I did when I was a child.
It’s all still here. I want to remember. I want to smell the earth, touch the flowers, hear the birds, listen to the children playing down the street. I want to take it all in as I’ve never done before and hold it close to my heart.
I don’t know exactly what the future will bring, but whatever comes, I want my soul to be filled and enriched by the things I’ve taken for granted. It will be my own psychological armor against future woe.
I’m old enough to remember this Paul Anka song Kodak used to sell film. I still hear it today:
Reach back for the joy
and the sorrow
Put them away in your mind
The mem’ries are time that you borrow
To spend when you get to tomorrow
Here comes the setting sun
The seasons are passing one by one
So gather moments while you may
Collect the dreams you dream today
Remember, will you remember
The times of your life
Now I don’t know if what I’ve written will have any significance for the reader or offer any coping mechanism. We are all different – ages, sexes, backgrounds. It is my way of coping. When I was rushing to grow up I never realized that every second we spend on this planet, ever interaction we have with other people, is precious and sacred.
I hope that by expressing some of why I’m feeling, perhaps it will inspire you to live your life to the fullest and stop and take in all the beauty that is there, even among all the hate and sadness. We know not the numbers of our days but the one thing we can control is how we appreciate the days we are given.
Take this sinking boat
and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice
You’ve made it now
Yeah dad, I cried. Like when you told me you were going to die and that was the first and last time I ever saw tears on you. You can be a man. You can cry. If you had done more of it, had you gotten all that anger and sadness out of you, it might have saved your life.