It’s four days until my 66th birthday and I’ve never been happier. I’m no stranger to the ravages of time—the wattled neck, the swelling belly, the hair long gone, the backwards counting from some statistical life expectancy and so on. But never have I been more grateful for the gifts of time. Gifts only made possible by the blessing of long life and a determination to not waste a second of our precious time. Why don’t more people talk about this? Why do we spend so much time idolizing the follies of Youth?
In my 2nd day of my 4th Jazz Course and that lifetime-ago intuition that I could set a room on fire with happy people playing, singing and dancing has reached a maturity that only years—and ongoing attention to disciplined practice—can reap. I sit on my meditation cushion imagining the day to come and the 30 different ways I can release laughter, joy, deep thought and tender feeling, picking and choosing which combination the day suggests. I think ahead to the week and what I might do with a demonstration class of 4-year olds and what songs we will sing later that day with the 94 year olds. I plan which pieces my band will play in our concert for the kids and teachers and what new ways we might involve the audience. And having taught three jazz courses in other places—each one as delightful as a 6-year-old’s Christmas morning—I am just so damn happy to not only get the chance to do it again, but to do it in my own music room, my home for 42 years, with the instruments I’ve so carefully and lovingly collected and with the sound I’m used to and find so satisfying.
I walked into school with a slight sensation that “Hey, it’s still summer! Too early to be here!”
But that soon changed to the feeling, “I don’t know how I’m ever going to leave this place.” The preschool kids greeted me with “Dougie!”, the grand piano in the music room never sounded better, the pleasure of sharing this remarkable piece of paradise with some 50 teachers come to study Orff Schulwerk in three different classes continued to feel so satisfying. All the surrounding voices keep whispering “When are you going to retire?” and I keep answering, “Show me something better than this and I’ll consider it.”
Off to Day Two.