a funeral playlist…??

a funeral playlist…??

Admittedly, mortality has been on my mind lately (see previous post). Still, when I saw this idea ~ a funeral playlist! ~ in a recent Oprah (of course!), I loved it.

The idea is that the songs we list should ‘represent the things we value.’ Or be ‘essentially you.’ Hmmm… Not sure what songs are really ‘me.’ And what that would even mean…? Although I know we did pick songs we associated with my mother when we did her funeral – old big band, jazz standards, a few crooners. A musical hit (Dites Moi, of course!), a Doris Day favourite… Because we four daughters are all over the place spiritually/religiously, hymns were in short supply. And to be fair, I don’t remember Mother as a big hymn fan anyway.

My own funeral playlist has only a few constants; the other 6-7 songs (you’re supposed to list 10) vary as my mood does. A couple of classical favourites would always be there – Bach’s Brandenburgs, particularly number 4. And Pachelbel’sCanon in D, of course. I’ve been playing an extended Canon playlist (29 riffs, so far)! for years, whenever I need soothing. And the Brandenburgs work much the same, although #4 is my favourite.

Another sure thing is über idiosyncratic (although the album it debuted on was named best NPR album of 2006), the Decembrists’ Crane Wife.Crane Wife 3is the one I love – the Japanese folk tale it comes from is so poignant: love gone greedy, the beautiful wounded crane ~she had no heart so hardened…

Then there are a couple I’m not sure I will ‘always’ love, although they’ve certainly been favourites for years: Death Cab for Cutie’s I will follow you into the dark; Playing for Change’s Stand by Me. I have several coversof Leonard Cohen’s Halleleujah, too, as well as the original. 

Here’s my question for you: what songs do you want to be remembered by? What says ‘you’ musically? And how do you feel about the whole idea of a funeral playlist? When you go to a funeral (and do you?), does the music matter to you? Since music is important to me – isn’t it to most of us? – I don’t want songs played that have no significance to me. But then again… It’s not like I can do much about it by then!

Share your favourites! I’d love to hear what you like!

The magic of music ~

The magic of music ~

You know those multiple intelligences tests that go around every so often? Well, I used to ask my students to take them. They’re a good ice breaker, and as a long-time teacher, and one of the (very few!) folks who read alllll of Howard Gardner’s book on multiple intelligences, I agree with his conclusions: folks have various ways of learning that are easier for them than others. It’s not rocket science..😉

I always asked my students what they thought my ‘intelligences’ were. They began w/ verbal, since I teach reaching & writing. Nope, I would respond. Not even close. After a few blinks, they would say, interpersonal. And again, I’d reply Nope. I’d counter that actually I’m almost on the spectrum: I’m VERY low in interpersonal skills. I tend to misread folks, although usually to their benefit & not mine…😏 I like to think folks are basically well-intentioned. Politics lately have reminded me that this is not true.

Then they would begin to popcorn sugestions: science? Art? WHAT, Britt?? And almost never (well, to be honest, I don’t remember anyone EVERY suggesting) outdoors. Then music. Verry close together, folks. I adore being outside, and music is my first language. Not even poetry, which depends on both word & song, but music. Which for me, at least, is a kind of magic.

So today, while I was making myself heartsick reading how we are failing so many Americans in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, my younger son sent me a song. It was a cover of a song I always loved. And it totally changed my attitude! Seriously — I found myself dancing in the chair beneath the umbrella outside, my Ipad & keyboard totally forgotten as I listened.

I remembered why music IS one of the ways I process the world: it keeps me balanced. I put that song on like a 16-year-old — playing it over & over for 1/2 an hour, as my bleak dark mood lightened, finally dissipating entirely. I shared it w/ my beloved, as well. And he smiled, caught up in the melody & lyrics. Given, it’s a particularly happy tune, but really? Music is just magic.

I can’t think of anything else — not food, not drink, not books, not even the laughter of my grandsons — that has the same kind of impact on me. Music takes me outside of myself, to some place other. I couldn’t tell you where that it is, or how that works, to be honest. Nothing else, however (well, nothing but being outside…) has that kind of healing power for me.

Anyway, if these dark & grievous times are preying on you like they do me? Well, here it is, so you can enjoy it too. I hope it helps. I know we all need some light these days…

We’re still the world…

We’re still the world…

It’s been a hard year, this election year… And it gets harder. As I mentioned in a previous post, this is an election that has set family members against one another. In some cases — I’m thinking of a colleague at a conference last weekend — husband against wife. That, on top of so many almost daily occurrences of police murdering innocent people of colour, on top of Hurricane Matthew, on top of…

It’s all just too much. So I got sick.

Now, please note: I didn’t get sick on purpose. ???? But I do believe that illness has its own reasons, and often you’re sick because of something in your life. In my case? I’m just bloody exhausted & overwhelmed. So I got sick enough (baby flu, for what it’s worth — I’m not dying here, but I’ve been pretty punk) to require long naps & not much more activity than opening a can of soup & reading an e-book (no pages to turn!).

And I stayed off of most social media, preferring to look at the floor plan of a house we’re buying only FOUR BLOCKS (!) from my beloved grandson, or dreaming of a new garden and bird habitat. Or beginning to say goodbye to this life I love, right here in the messed up heartland. The red, red heartland…

The universe, thinking I needed something to leaven my days, sent me this song. And I remembered: remembered how we came together to feed a continent riven by drought, starving to death. Remembered how music became a rallying cry for generousity that saved thousands & thousands of lives. Remembered how it felt when I first heard that mantra ~ we are the world, we are the people…

Because we STILL ARE. All of us — and we need to get back to saving our own lives, together. We need to somehow move beyond the miasma of hate that’s masquerading as a political campaign for so many, and reach out. TAKE CHANCES. Get to know that ‘other.’ You know: ‘the’ African American; ‘the’ Muslim.’ The autistic kid in your kid’s class, or the guy on the spectrum at work.

We need to look around and see PEOPLE, not terrorists or thieves or whatever political BS is trying to separate us.

I’m verrry lucky to have lived over much of the world. So that when other people are able to talk of Muslims hatefully, lumping that vastly diverse group of nationalities & ethnicities together as if Baptist were Catholics, I see Salina from Algiers, who lived across the apartment hall from me. Who taught me how to make mint tea, & was my friend. Or Yousuf, my husband’s friend, who had us over for dinner, and served us lamb on platters of silvered brass, shouting with laughter at bad jokes. Or Soha, whom took her doctorate in TESOL Education at OSU, in her 2nd language. And who is a better person than almost anyone I know: funny, kind, compassionate, a grateful mother, and a dear dear friend.

“Mexicans” to me are my beloved daughter-in-law’s family, who actually are Hispanic Americans, multiple generations of land-grant & Pueblo land owners in New Mexico. They are her mother, who has two Masters. Her grandmother, one of the most devout Catholics I can imagine.

Or a nurse who stayed with my husband when he was in the hospital, who  was putting herself through nursing school. Or dear sweet Fannie, a professor at the university where my son & DIL teach, who came from Mexico to study math education, and stayed to teach and marry.

These ‘others’ are US, America. They are my friends, my family. They are the people I visit with on FB & Twitter, the people I ask for recommendations on LinkedIn. “They” are not ‘them.’ Each of the people in the world has a name. Had a mother, a father. A place of birth. A story that began with a birth. How have we forgotten that???

So today? Please — listen to the swell of the music. And remember: WE ~ each of us, every one of us ~ are the world. And we need to get busy. We need to be saving our own lives, folks. And let me tell you: hate will not do it.

What we need is a lot more love. More compassion. And a lot more music. Otherwise? We’re going to be very sick. For a very long time ~


Louis Armstrong, memory, & my mother ~

Louis Armstrong, memory, & my mother ~

When I was younger, I didn’t care much for jazz. For many of the same reasons I didn’t listen to classical music then, although Mrs. Schumaker made me practice it daily. I still remember Für Elise by heart: I can even do the 5th finger/4th finger trill. But I didn’t listen to it — it wasn’t FUN. ????

And jazz was even harder. Not the Big Band jazz my mother loved, but Miles and Coltrane and what I even now think of as intelligent jazz. Where the music bears listening to again. And again. And 5, 6, even 100 times. Like Bach, it needs familiarity to breed love. I know people who fell in love straight away, but I wasn’t one of them.

imageBig Band was okay. I actually liked it (still do), but it was my mother’s first. Which meant it wasn’t for me, when I was younger. Like the bright floral prints I still can’t see w/out thinking of her. Or her long pearl earrings I have yet to wear — they’re too much hers.

Louis Armstrong, though — he was different. I loved him from the first time I heard him. It was probably Blueberry Hill, one of my mother’s favourites. When I hear it, I’m transported back to the old record player in the corner of the dining room, by the stairs.

imageMusic has that magic power. Play a song, overhear a melody and the years and distance fall like leaves to the ground. Like notes from a cornet. People you haven’t thought of in years walk like ghosts beside you. The tinkle of glasses, the acrid float of smoke… It comes alive in a lyric, a refrain.

Like Louis Armstrong. I hear his unmistakeable rough-cut diamond voice, and I can see my mother as a young woman. I can hear the excitement in my son’s voice when he ‘discovered’ New Orleans jazz. It’s New Orleans, and my husband and I are walking through the French Quarter, me barefoot because I left my shoes in a bar. This is as close to time travel as I have.

imageThere are religions that admonish their followers not to listen to music. Not to play instruments. There’s even a Buddhist precept that states this, but I don’t buy it. I can not believe that any universal good can be against music. Surely it’s the purest language we have? And I say that as a poet, knowing that nothing I have written or will write can compare to a song. No emotion I trigger, no response to my most carefully crafted, polished-until-they-glow words is as evocative as what happens when a song plays us.

So Mr. Satchmo, sir: please resurrect my mother for me, holding her hands out from her body as she moves to the music, that woman years younger than she became. And take me back. And oh, by the way — thank you. A hundred times, thank you