Friday, January 31, 2014

Splendor in the Grass


There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,
The earth and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparalled in celestial light
The glory and freshness of a dream.

It is not now as it hath been of yore
Turn wheresoever I may
By night or day
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

This is Wordsworth in his epic poem, Intimations of Immortality. By my standards, he was young when he wrote that— 34. Perhaps too young to already feel the loss of his sense of wonder, to be jaded by “been there and done that” so many times, it had lost its freshness. And yet I remember 34—up to your ears in bills and responsibility and not as much time to “wander lonely as a cloud” as when you were a kid or the post-college student traveling around the world.

Well, we all know what that feels like and while I looked forward to being in the romantic city of Savannah, I wasn’t wholly feeling it. Maybe because I was teaching four or five workshops a day and then rushing to deal with e-mail in my hotel room in-between sessions. Not the best choice. But then again, two days ago was an ice storm and it was freezing outside!

But today, after I finished my last workshop, I stepped out of the Conference Center and lo and behold! there was the Savannah of my dreams, “apparelled in celestial light.” After two cold clouded days, the sun emerged, the temperature rose and all was reborn. So I went on the quaint water taxi to do what I love to do in strange cities— stroll about aimlessly along the riverfront, amble through a succession of seductive scenic squares, sit for a spell to soak in the sight of the splashing fountains, wander with Wordsworth’s poem on my tongue. Well, the penultimate stanza for starters, with the lines of “though nothing can bring back the hour, of splendor in the grass and glory in the flower” (from which came the Warren Beatty/ Natalie Wood classic film Splendor in the Grass) and its subsequent line: “in the primal sympathy which having been must ever be.”

Yes, William, that indeed is correct. When I managed to resist looking in the store window reflection to see my actual face, I remember that post-college kid and touched again that feeling of walking ageless and nameless through the town. The same spring in my step and lightness in my heart as that younger man who walked through so many towns in this wide wonderful world. Free. Unburdened. Left alone to think my own quirky thoughts, to keep dreaming ahead to what yet may be, to look longingly at the lovely women as if they too wouldn’t notice my old face, to gaze out at the still heron on the river’s edge, the hovering gulls, the sun setting behind the sprawling bridge.

In the windowless forced air over-carpeted room in the Conference Center, I spent many hours helping to release the neglected inner children of responsible adult music teachers, giving them permission to play their way into stirring music and dance, to charge the air with their laughter and good fellow-feeling, effortlessly (with 39 years of practice) stitching all the little games and exercises together to create a coherent confluence of harmonious sound and movement that sent them humming out the door. Hooray for that! No longer feeling the need to convert them to the Orff way, to try to dazzle or impress them, to convince them buy my books— just play together and enjoy!

And so today, I earned this blog’s title. Earned anew my stripes as a music teacher with activities, good music, ideas and a touch of inspiration, that somebody in particular sharing from my little corner of creation. And then the anonymous traveler,  that nameless nobody-special just moving along with the fellow tourists, drifting like the logs on the river, standing still like the heron at river’s edge partaking in the glory of creation. Keeping alive the sense of splendor in the grass, even with its frosted edge on this last day of January.

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