I live in a box.
Literally and metaphorically.
Within that box are many other boxes. One holds my thoughts—well, truthfully, that one is always spilling over, so I’ve had to invest in a few more.
Some attempt to contain my emotions (again, the previous statement applies, although those cartons explode occasionally with the heavy artillery they apparently house).
Some cradle my dreams—the ones where I somehow become a master distiller living off the grid with nothing more than the fuel created by sheep poo, and a certificate from Joe Salatin congratulating me for filling up more than half the food banks of Virginia with the excess of my prolific garden. (I said they were dreams.)
Other boxes support my curiosities. Much of those spill out into word form and show up on my blog, but there are others I’ve been advised not to share. Because how can you really explain the desire to seek out the price and possibility of making little boots for your sheep so their feet stay dry and don’t develop hoof rot without appearing to have lost your marbles? You don’t. That’s why this stays between us.
There are stacks of other boxes, but the container I’m cracking the lid on today is one that recently had its top pried off and its sides expanded. It’s the box I hold music in.
My early life was threaded with strains of virtuosic violinists, tobacco-spitting gitbox strummers, and tight horn sections swinging notes with the ease of trapeze artists.
As a young teen, I clung to sappy lyrics and vocalists who’d grown used to audiences full of swooning females, allowing myself an occasional attachment to a collection of notes that could double as a big wad of pink bubble gum.
Eventually, when I hauled two extra lumps of squiggling arms and legs around with me, toing and froing from crib to car to couch, I threw in side-splitting comedy, although I think I discovered there’s a limit to the amount of humor one can musically squeeze out of a banana.
At present, my summers are filled with slick Aussie cowboys and gun-slinging, sharp-tongued women who are fed up with the men that have wronged them. My autumn days slither by with filaments of tunes all penned in places thick with thistles, the pain dulled with whisky. Winter months are warmed with somnolent crooners, antiquated motets and the soft, round notes of lap-held harps. Come springtime, I’m surrounded by singing bowls and Native American flutes mirroring my hopeful spiritual growth with the new green shoots in the garden.
I’ve been quite content with my steady routine—a life immersed in a melodic soup of simple ingredients that make for a merry musical meal.
But it’s not just me in this house. Or car.
There are other beats that bleed into this shared space.
Our musical preferences are vastly different. And by different I sometimes mean whatever I’ve been forced to listen to cannot in anyway shape or form be mistaken for music.
Except, it appears I am the mistaken one.
Music is defined not by a set of words, prosaic and pleasing, but rather by a set of ears. Just one person’s.
My husband is so deeply entrenched in songs from his impressionable youth that he cannot shake himself awake from the 70’s. We’ve tried. He ain’t budging. We can’t even get him to set a toe into the next decade. But who’s to say the answers to all of life’s problems are not buried beneath the lyrical lines of Pink Floyd?
My daughter has an appetite that spans the taste buds of thousands of tongues. She continually stuffs her earbuds into my head to share astonishing compositions from cultures that have nothing to make musical instruments from other than a goat hide and a handful of sand. It is heartbreaking, inventive and worthy of a plastic spy ring for the sleuthing she must do to uncover such gems.
My fourteen year old son has joined a tribe consisting of many of his white middle class peers. Somehow, a slice from this generation of children has responded to a constant tug toward the music of their “true” people. I’m guessing they feel they were torn away from the hood before concrete memory was possible. But genetics are hard to fight and we have a mass of angry rapping white kids thankfully speaking on behalf of those with no voice.
Truthfully, he has forced me to listen in order to connect with him. Ignore the lyrics. Listen to the rhythm. Find the themes. Search for the story. Feel the pain.
Occasionally the pain is located in my eardrums.
But I am surprised at how much (if I work at it—and I do because it’s important to me) I can find to absorb and sympathize with, if not actually enjoy. I have to admit, when we’re jamming to somebody with a first name like Lil, Killah, Busta or 2, I wish I was driving one of the souped-up bagged vehicles that bounce because of added hydraulics. It could be fun. For about five minutes.
Of course, there are still the other occupants of this mountaintop that provide me with a type of music not typically recorded or heard in places other than a meditation retreat at Yogaville. Birdsong, rustling leaves and blades of grass, the morning rooster a mile down the road, the slow grunts of pleasure from sheep scratching against the fence, the sigh of my dog in the middle of the night and the purr of a waking cat who rouses minutes before the blare of the alarm clock.
This too, is worthy.
Harmonic and grand, melodic and winsome.
It’s all music to my ears.