Years ago I went to a retreat center in the far N.C. mountains for a long weekend of meditation and quiet. A wonderful teacher and wonderful food complemented the beauty of the surroundings and the sense of spiritual connection we all felt during that time. The only technology was the one wall-mounted, push-button phone in the cramped office just off the kitchen. This technological wonder was for emergencies only.
While meals were in silence, we did have some free time in the afternoons between meditation sessions and the evening dharma talks. I took my guitar but didn’t want to play it in the area of the housing because some would be meditating and resting. So I took off hiking up the steep access road, carrying my bulky guitar case, to find a small cabin suspended over a steep incline I had been told was available for me.
Some of the others wanted to come up also. I got there first, tuned up and started playing some of my songs on my old Martin while a few others arrived after trekking up the hill. One of the women was someone I’d met in a prior retreat. Joan was her name and after a few songs she said, “Listening to you sing your songs is like having someone read their journal to you.” I told her it is true because the songs are often just another formulation of something I’m experiencing or observing in life.
As I was getting ready to go into high school, a friend said to me at church one Sunday, “I’m starting a band and I want you to be the singer.” I said, emphatically, “I’ve never sung anywhere.” He said, “You can do it.” Thus began a musical life. I sang for 3 years in “The Counts” before going off to college. In retrospect, I perhaps should have stayed in the music world. I can envision myself on stage singing ’60’s rhythm and blues, still selling albums with songs I sang half a century ago.
Over the years The Counts have done about 10 reunion concerts, including the one pictured here in early 2011. I’ve also played and sung with a myriad of other musicians in many configurations of varying degrees of competence. I even learned to sing operatically for a couple of plays. In all, while I’ve never made much money from music, I’ve always been appreciative that I kept it up, that I didn’t let it drift away as have so many of my acquaintances along the way.
Today, more than ever, music is a driving force and a core value for me. What a blessing to have something in our later lives for which we come a bit more alive! At the same time I was singing with The Counts, the protest music of the ’60’s emerged and with it the fantastic groups that took music to a place that is still revered and played today. I knew it was really good stuff at mid-life when my son absconded with my remastered Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon” album.
What is your music? What will fill your life and give you something of value to share with others? What draws you back repeatedly, over time, to meaning and purpose? A large part of this journey we’re all on is to seek and explore the avenues that life offers. We co-create with universal forces when we express ourselves through the outlets to which we are drawn. Paint, sing, write or cook, whatever it is that lights you up is an expression the world needs and a desire you need to express.