Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stop, Look and Listen

After six straight days of teaching, I’m enjoying a Sabbath by a lake in Finland. I’m at the house of my friend Soili Perkio, the Godmother of Orff in Finland and beloved teacher around the world. Soili is one of the few Orff teachers I know who has traveled as much, if not more, as I have and who should most definitely been writing her own “Confessions of a Traveling Music Teacher” blog. Based on the stories she’s told me in the past couple of days, it would be much more interesting than my own! Really remarkable tales of her travels, studies and teaching in Russia, Estonia, South Africa, Ghana, Iran, Cuba and beyond, adventures more interesting and more real than Indiana Jones. Soili radiates warmth, joy and wisdom, a seasoned innocence that attracts goodness and invites these story-telling quality experiences. Every day in the cafeteria during our recent summer course, her laughter pealed above the drone of the crowd like a healing tonic note. I don’t know any adult who smiles and laughs as much as she does.

Soili is also a collector of instruments and here at her house by the lake, she has a beautiful studio filled with her remarkable collection. Every kind of drum and xylophone imaginable, gongs and cymbals, stringed instruments, flutes of all sorts, a piece of pottery from Salzburg she uses as a clay drum, metal tubes from a house excavation that she has hung as large chimes. I came to this house in the winter several years ago and led a workshop in that studio with lit candles and instruments improvising together that had perhaps never met before on this planet. It was a memorable and magical evening.

And now a welcome rest from work, a chance to converse with Soili about our mutual Orff passion and compare travel notes, to enjoy a hearty breakfast of berries and yogurt and dark Finnish bread with cheese and cucumbers, drink juice made from a flower and raspberry tea and enjoy other natural delights. And also to just sit bathed in a silence punctuated by small Finnish songbirds who fly to Africa and back and are welcomed back with folk songs, listen to the hush of the breeze in the pines, observe the dance of the delicate flowers stirred by the light wind and inhale their delicious fragrance. The sun dips in and out, one moment announcing summer, the other holding on to a chilled-air spring. Little insects crawl over my bare legs and tickle, but don’t bite. There is no distant drone of traffic or planes overhead— just the symphony of bugs, birds and breezes. “Stop. Look. Listen.” That’s what my 6th grade teacher told us when she rang the bell and her advice holds up.

No matter how much I love my work and love the way it seems to use all of me, there is a still a part it doesn’t touch and a part that needs attention. That anonymous fellow with no name who simply walks on this earth or floats in the lake or looks up at the stars, quiets his mind, shuts down his voice and just listens and feels the awe of participating in the grandeur and wonder of the natural world. And so I close this intrusive computer screen, lie down in the grass, let my mind float with the clouds and dream the next chapter of this remarkable adventure. 

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