After two tranquil days of summer sun and the still waters of Lake Michigan, the storms have come. Whitecaps on the waters, trees branches swaying, the steady pound of rain. Deeply disturbing news last night of Robin Williams’ suicide, an American icon of mirth and lighting-quick intelligence victim to the downward spiral of addictions and depressions. Must this always be the price? Must the gods always be haunted by demons?
As I write, granddaughter Zadie roars her Big Bad Wolf roar and then delights us with her infectious smile. Maybe monsters and heroes will always walk side-by-side and the best we can do it minimize the mayhem. Maybe depression accompanies high-flying ecstasy, that the addictive personality is also a creative one, that the intensity of Charlie Parker’s saxophone solos matched his insatiable appetite for life lived at a high pitch. Orson Welles in The Third Man:
“In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love—they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
Well, perhaps the cuckoo clock over the Mona Lisa is a good trade for peace and harmony over murder and bloodshed. But why even discuss it? We don’t get to choose. The storms come and the best we can do is close the windows, cozy in, make some soup—or go out into the blustery winds and let the storm’s power course through our veins.
And so a week with the family at the summer retreat at Lake Michigan. The cadence to the extraordinary Orff Course delivered its promise, swelling to a thunderous Beethoven climax. The music of transformation ended with a full orchestral finish, reflected in the applause of the evaluations. “Was this a valuable course?” answered by “YES!!!!!!! LIFE-CHANGING!!!!” (Should we enter the Personal Growth venues and charge triple?)
But now it’s Zadie-time and it’s every bit as delightful as I anticipated— and perhaps more so. Two years and nine months into life’s grand adventure, she’s a bonafide talker and now our days are filled with storytelling, singing, dancing, painting, piano-playing, sandcastle building (well, more destroying) and some splashing in the water. She made a driftwood sculpture with Grandma “Mima” using a power drill. Later, with no one watching, she drilled a hole in the carpet. Power tools and two-year olds are not the best combination.
Around the corner awaits the Sisyphusian stone of school starting, 40th time around, its own blend of tranquil lakes and stormy seas. All this amidst the ever-growing family of dreams that have found their feet, but need help walking— the books waiting to be written, the books written that need accounting, the Intern program still battling with Homeland Security, the Pentatonics Jazz Group awaiting the world’s invitations, the workshop schedule, the paper-filing and organization (aaargh!!!!). I throw the fishing lines into the waters and see which one gets a nibble.
The wind still blows outside on a late summer morning, Zadie plays with Legos, my wife knits, my brother-in-law’s dog curls up on the rug, my daughter sips her morning coffee. It’s a domestic morning within, a stormy day without. R.I.P, Robin Williams, wishing you some tranquil summer lakes in that other world.