“ The river is famous to the fish…
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors…
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it did.”
Excerpts from Naomi Shihab Nye's poem Famous
Fame and fortune. Isn’t that what we’re all supposed to crave? How lucky I am that I seem to have just enough of both. Enough fortune to live in an expensive city, buy my groceries, have an occasional dinner out and miraculously, to have put both my children through college. And enough fame that I still get invited to places far and wide to teach, my books steadily sell and people show up at my workshops.
In short, fame and fortune of modest proportions, enough to keep me fed, clothed and working, but not so much that I need sunglasses in public places and have to follow the stock market every day and worry about investments. Truly, the greatest perk of fame, any size, is the opportunity to get to keep doing what you love, to keep sharing skills, ideas and materials you’ve spent a lifetime crafting with those who seem to need it. To have the constantly renewing pleasure of offering some tasty food to satiate people’s hunger and please their palate and enjoy their convivial company around the dinner table of your calling. I would add to Ms Nye’s poem— to be useful, like a pulley or buttonhole, easing the weight of someone’s unknowing and hauling it efficiently from the unknown to the known, closing the shirt of one’s confusion so you can go out in public without your belly showing.
This Saturday, I will fly to the Orff Institut in Salzburg to work intensively for two weeks with 16 people from some 11 different countries come to feast on 9 months of Orff Schulwerk. This will be the 9thsuch group I’ve worked with since 2003 and always a delight to work with such committed and motivated people who are immersed from head-to-toe in the full range of Orff’s far-reaching vision. My fame in the international Orff world is just right for my hope to keep getting to share what I know and keep exploring together with the students what I yet don’t know. The fortune is modest, but enough to get me to Austria, Italy, Turkey for free and with extra United miles to boot! Help pay for a few Belgian cherry beers at the Merkur (market) and come home with a few Euros in my pocket.
Meanwhile, one more week at school with children who are impressed by rock star and movie star fame (it’s their patriotic duty), but singularly unimpressed that their teacher is in international high demand and published 8 books. As they should be. We just go about our work with a mallet that’s famous to a xylophone, a hand famous to the ukele and lips famous to the recorder. It’s enough.