It’s November. Clocks turned back, Halloween costumes stored away, leftover candy tempting the turn-of-the-month resolve to eat better. In San Francisco, leaves, such as we have, just beginning to turn and theoretically the end of our two-month sunny and warm paradise. Few things match the beauty of this city with warm air and bright light. But yesterday a summer fog rolled in and we are all awaiting the promised rains.
November. Literally, “9th month” even though it’s the 11.th (You know where to look that up.) A big birthday month in my family. In the generation above, the 18th for my wife’s father, the 19th for mine. In the generation below, the 25th for my sister’s son, the 26th for my daughter. And now the next generation, first grandchild Zadie born on her great grandfather’s birthday, the 18th again. We just got our plane tickets to organize her 4th birthday party—songs, stories, artwork and a dash of fear and trembling that our fabulous plans will be at the mercy of volatile and unpredictable 4-year olds like our birthday girl.
November. Since 1984, an unbroken string of Orff National Conferences to mark the year, reunite with colleagues far away, explore with friends a slice of American culture. My own little ritual every year to name by memory the site of each conference and recall some of the stories that go with each one. Might as well practice here, on my honor with no external help:
Las Vegas, Kansas City, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Denver, San Diego, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Dallas, Memphis, Seattle, Tampa, Phoenix, Rochester, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Louisville, Long Beach, Birmingham, Omaha, San Jose, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Spokane, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Denver, Nashville. (And for the record, also attended the Conference in L.A. in 1976 and Portland 1982.)
So this year back in San Diego and with 46 middle school kids to perform. With a dash of pride, may I say I believe that The San Francisco School has performed at these conferences more than any other single school— San Diego 1991, Las Vegas 2002, Long Beach 2004, San Jose 2007 and now San Diego again 2015. My Orff performing group Xephyr also performed in Dallas 1995, Seattle 1997, Phoenix 1999, Long Beach 2004 and my group The Pentatonics in St. Louis 2012. I’ve given workshops at some 24 of those 33 conferences. A big part of my life in so many ways and it will be a big deal when the day comes that I miss one. Hopefully not soon.
November. The horror and euphoria of presidential elections, five times as a voting adult beaten down and feeling like I was forced into exile in Mordor, darkness and evil abounding. Five times feeling like I could exhale and enjoy some peace and contentment in the Shire. I don’t look forward to this time next year, to put it mildly. So much at stake, so much tension, so little confidence in the intelligence of the average voter, but always willing to be amazed and surprised and affirmed that people will not be brainwashed into voting against their own—and all of ours— best interest.
And finally, November as the time of turkey and the World Series and football and encroaching darkness and beginning the school plays and daring to sing the first Winter Holiday songs. I turn the calendar page and renew my resolve to make each day count, to step my one inch further toward beauty and justice and convivial communion. May it be so.