Four o'clock in the morning, December 22, I woke moments before the alarm. Dressed in the dark, soft-footed past Randy sleeping and past the girls' closed bedroom doors. Drove to Katy's in the dark and told her about my dream: I overslept until eleven, woke to sunshine and complained to Randy, "Why didn't you wake me!"
Cool air, wet streets, fuzzy orange streetlights punched through the slate gray of the morning.
Links Hall Constellation faces the viaduct on Western Avenue. I saw a House production of Peter Pan here years ago. We piled our blankets and pillows on the white floor. Virginia joined us; this is her fourteenth or so solstice celebration with Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang. Hushed whispers and yawns. White votive candles flickering. Two drum sets, scattered djembe and other hand drums. Hamid and Michael entered, sat before us and at first there was silence. Then, with a flickering of fingers on the taut surface of drum skin, the bath of sound began.
There were jazzy patterns and back and forth playfulness, Hamid and Michael improvising and experimenting with their riffs on the bells and drum sets. It helped to be able to sit crossed leg, yoga style with a strong straight back, or be able to lie down, ears covered, and sink into the muffled waves of sound. The best part was early on, beats on the soft hand drums, a pattern clicked in and the two drummers sustained it, unafraid to repeat and repeat the chanting groove and I swayed and rocked within it, part of the music.
Shimmering cymbals ebbed and flowed from the beats of soft mallets, hand-held by the drummers to vibrate in mid-air, then dampened against their knees. As the last gleam of sound faded away, I opened my eyes to the glow of a gray dawn from the windows behind us.
A burst of diesel exhaust greeted us through the morning air as we left Constellation for hot chocolate and apple handpies from a food truck waiting outside. "That smell reminds me of morning in Europe," said Katie. "Berlin and it's my semester abroad and I'm going to meet friends at a bar. No worries in all the world. I was happy."
I could remember that feeling -- not the one she had in Berlin, but the one she was enjoying now: nostalgia tinged with joy instead of sadness, recognition of a beautiful connection to a beloved memory. I remember, but in this dim season, my emotions are muted.
It's been a challenge, taking on a full time job at the same time that I volunteered to lead both Mia and Nora's scout troops and also manage the leaders of the five towns in our district. You know I love a challenge, though, and I'm constantly lifted knowing the work I do teaching and leading young girls and boys is grounded in good.
I'm patient with myself now because I know this low mood will pass, I know I'll revive in the spring, I know great things are ahead. Even though the news is often atrocious, the Republican mind spins seemingly without logic or compassion and my phone rang with a sad message from my brother the day after Christmas, I know that relief is waiting up ahead.
Here's what Joanna Newsom tells me:
The moment of your greatest joy sustains:
not ax nor hammer,
can take it away, and it remains.
Nora is practicing this week for a performance of The Little Mermaid; she works on a Jamaican accent for her role as Sebastian the Crab with a voice somewhere between Russia and New Orleans. Mia is preparing for her social dance class with some trepidation lessened by the thrill of new dresses that make her look at herself in the mirror in a new way. I will fly to Philadelphia over my spring break to take care of my beautiful grand-niece. The girls will go with their father to someplace warm on their week that doesn't coincide with mine. I'll miss them but I'm also happy for them and Randy has promised to take them someplace I have already seen. With his kindnesses and my persistent belief in light (it's a kind of faith, isn't it?) and our daughters' constant delightfulness, with the hope of our first woman president (!!) and a restoration of sanity in the national conversation, I move on, wishing you and yours a happy new year.