The afterglow of the birthday celebration cut in half by numbers from the relentless pandemic, but made beautiful by the sharing with some 30 friends from all corners and times of my life, the touching video sent by Brazilian folks and the hundreds of one-sentence love notes sent by people whose lives were touched by the work I’ve been blessed to carry forth. “We all sit down someday to a banquet of consequences” said Robert Louis Stevenson and the feast could not have been more delicious. I felt that rarest of feelings— being wholly seen and known and appreciated and yes, even loved, for all of who I have been and what I have done and what I have cared about it. I led a workshop with the folks, shared a slide show, listened to their music and words, gave a talk and played a solo piano piece and three hours later, it was time for dinner. And the intimate size of the gathering made it possible to actually talk with each and every person, share laughs and stories and level down to the ground of true friendship, get out of the center of the circle and just enjoy being side-by-side with everyone.
And if that wasn’t enough, the added pleasure of the post-dinner jam session and seeing people from different parts of my life meeting each other and making music, dancing and talking together. Minus the presence of most of my family (though my sister represented so marvelously) and my jazz band and of course, all the people I would have loved to be side-by-side again in this moment (or any moment), it was all a mere mortal could ask for —and then yet more.
The next day a brunch with my colleagues, a visit to the John Steinbeck Museum in Salinas, a walk on the Asilomar beach and lovely dinner at our favorite Carmel Valley Mexican restaurant. And then back to teaching, the first day of our second week. I’ve been teaching more than usual, recorder as well as Basic Orff and leading some of the “tutti” gatherings, some five hours each day and nothing could feel further from the feeling of work as mostly we know it. I am never more at home than when teaching a live workshop. Never. I loved the year of Zoom workshops, neighborhood sings, the resumption of playing piano at the Jewish Home, writing on this Blog and writing a new book. teaching kids, all the ways I connect with the world and hope to contribute. But at the top of the pyramid is the live workshop with people hungry to play, work and live the Orff Schulwerk way. Without an ounce of effort, I awaken with a spring in my step and a smile on my face and am 150% present for each and every minute of each and every class.
And so I worry a bit that while I thought I was content with my retired/pandemic life of Zoom, playing piano, writing, walking, biking, jigsaw puzzles, enjoying various TV series— and I was—I am not as wholly alive with any of it as I am teaching. I have a workshop or two at an Orff Conference in November and one potential live Orff Conference in Australia in January that now looks dubious and that’s it for my calendar. And if that 70 number on my birthday cake means anything, it’s that feeling that “well, there will be plenty of more opportunities” is not quite as casual as it used to be.
And so the usual punch line of immense gratitude for the blessing of each and every opportunity I’ve had in this life and continue to have, the reminder to savor the moment, the faith that whatever presents itself can be food for the Soul. Today I stumbled upon two exciting variations on familiar material while teaching, yet another sign that work has not abandoned me just as I have not abandoned the work. It is my sacred ground.