More than two months has passed since my last blog post.
I started writing several drafts, but none seemed worthy of completion…
This morning, however, I awoke from very sweet dreams — about returning to my elementary school as an adult — and started the day by stretching on our back porch.
A mockingbird was singing a wonderfully idiosyncratic song from a nearby roof, and the sky above me was totally blue.
Many birds passed high in the sky — swallows swooping back and forth (maybe catching bugs?), a pair of ducks en route from one body of water to another, some cooing doves, a bright red cardinal, and a seagull.
They reminded me of a song by Craig Carnelia called “Flight.”
It was first recorded by actress and singer Karen Akers in 1994, and since then it has been performed by a bunch of Broadway folks including Ben Platt, Betty Buckley, Brian Lane Green, and Sutton Foster.
When I recorded it with pianist Doug Hammer, I was still working as the assistant director of a non-profit in Harvard Square — the Cambridge Center for Adult Education — and longing to break free from my day job so that I could devote myself to making music.
I had started at the CCAE by volunteering to help with a new musical series that the PR director, a wonderful singer named Tracy Gibbs, was putting together called The Cabaret Connection.
My offer to help transformed into a part-time job overseeing not only The Cabaret Connection but also another series called The Jazz Chair and a few other special events.
Then I began sharing responsibility for publicizing these events, and when Tracy left for a new job, I was offered a full-time position as PR director for the entire CCAE.
This was not my plan.
My plan was to have a part-time day job so that I could continue to do plenty of music on the side.
But now my day job would INCLUDE music — and I would gain new perspectives (such as what it was like to have performers contacting me about the possibility of being booked into one of our musical series…)
So I said, “Yes.”
After a few years, our development director left, and I took over her responsibilities as well.
Eventually I became assistant director and helped to bridge the transition between the retirement of our beloved executive director and the arrival of his successor.
Then I was laid off.
Time for a deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
This was a surprise and a shock — but perhaps also a blessing.
I had been working 40-70 hours per week for many years — and I was grateful to slow down.
I also have a fair amount of “the disease to please” in my emotional constitution as well as a low tolerance for risk.
So even though many of my more psychologically astute (and cherished) co-workers had seen the writing on the wall regarding the pros and cons of our new executive director and had found new employment elsewhere, I had remained loyal (or some might say “stuck”) to the longtime CCAE community of teachers, board members, students and volunteers.
Being laid off might have been the only way to get me to leave.
And dare to focus on music.
Another deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
So I signed up to learn how to be a Music Together teacher — which some of my musical peers had thought I might enjoy.
And they were right!
I also began putting together one-hour programs of music with a jazz pianist, Joe Reid, who had left full-time employment as a corporate lawyer to pursue HIS love of music.
And I continued writing songs.
Now I listen to “Flight” with a very different perspective from when I first learned it — and was feeling such a longing to break free…
Now my time is completely my own — to vision, to plan, to shape, to fill!
I have nothing I want to escape.
My only deadlines are the minor ones I give myself AND the major ones related to climate change which loom ever larger and more terrifying with each passing day of denial and inaction.
Another deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
I love the imagery in Craig’s lyrics — and the flow of the narrator’s thought processes from one moment to the next…
It reminds me of a sailboat tacking to and fro in response to the ever-changing winds.
However, we human beings were not satisfied with sailboats.
So we created the motorboat, which zooms, noisily and relentlessly — oblivious to what it might run over, hit, injure, or disrupt — in a straight line from point A to point B.
And then the airplane!
Life before fossil fuels seems like it was much less linear.
Paths and roads followed the curves of hills and streams — rather than being bulldozed or dynamited to create the most efficient and convenient line of travel.
I saw this same phenomenon in the sky this morning — with birds swooping in curvy lines while far above them a jet plane left a perfectly straight line of moisture and toxic emissions in the sky…
Yet another deep breath in.
And deep breath out.
The desire to fly — and perhaps to fly away — has been with us human beings for thousands of years.
I often think about the myth of Daedalus and his son Icarus — who enthusiastically flew too high and too close to the sun (forgetting or ignoring his father’s warning about how the wax adhering the feathers of his marvelously-constructed wings could melt…) and fell to his death in the Mediterranean sea.
Oftentimes our human culture in the 21st century seems to be soaring ever higher on a frantic, teen-aged exuberance for relentless, profit-driven innovation and stimulation.
We ignore wise warnings about how our fossil-fuel-powered desires (for 24/7 computer functionality, for food at any hour of the day or night (much of it shipped from hundreds or even thousands of miles away), for the ability to travel via motorcycle, car, motorboat, ocean liner, bus, train, or plane wherever we want (and as much as we can afford… or choose to put on a credit card), for alternative currencies, etc. are leading us faster and faster towards global catastrophe.
One would think that any one of the challenges we have experienced in recent years here in the USA — flooding of major cities, changing weather patterns which have led to increased wildfires/hurricanes/tornadoes, as well as a year-long viral pandemic — might lead us to re-think and change our habits of consumption.
And might lead us to listen to scientists with a deepened respect.
But I don’t see much of that happening…
Denial is indeed an extraordinary human phenomenon.
I certainly understand why the likely scenarios — such as famine, wars over water and arable land, vast migrations of desperate refugees, more epidemics of diseases — are too terrifying for most of us to set aside any time to contemplate.
How about a really deep breath in…
And a really deep breath out….
The most recent — and to me ridiculous — example of our human hubris is Amazon gazillionaire Jeff Bezos building a huge, 500-million-dollar super-yacht.
And — getting back to the topic of flight — the creation of rocket ships — which take our human desire for flight to an entirely different level.
I saw a posting on Facebook recently with which I immediately agreed:
“Mars sucks. Its weather sucks. Its distance sucks. Its atmosphere sucks. The little water it has…sucks. It has sucked for billions of years and will suck for billions more…
You know what doesn’t suck?
I have life.
I have vast oceans and lush forests.
I have rivers to swim and air to breath.
But the way I’m being treated — that part sucks.
You use me and pollute me.
You overheat me.
You use every resource I have, and return very little back from where it came.
And then you dream of Mars — a hellhole — a barren, desolate wasteland you can’t set foot on fast enough.
Why not use some of that creative energy and billions of dollars on saving me? You know, the planet that’s giving you what you need to live right now.
Mars can wait.
The only part of this posting with which I don’t agree is the idea that earth needs to be saved.
I am pretty confident that planet earth — having already withstood billions of years of evolutionary changes — will be OK.
We human beings are the ones whose existence is at stake — along with the millions of other forms of life (such as birds and bees and fungi and bacteria and trees and grasses and turtles and whales and algae and shrimp and wolves and bison) which are vital links in the amazing web of life here on planet earth which we are in the process of altering and destroying.
Awake, fellow humans!
Now is the time to make significant changes in how we live here on planet earth…
I am very grateful to the wonderful photographers who share their images at Pixabay.
I would also like to thank pianist/producer Doug Hammer for playing so magnificently on this track.
Another big thank you to Craig Carnelia for writing “Flight.”
And a final thank you to YOU for reading — and listening — to yet another one of my blog posts.
I’ve re-designed my website in recent months to include a LOT more music — and you are always welcome to visit there.
You can also find me on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and other digital music platforms.
One final breath in.
Life goes on…