Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Opening Door

It is Easter morning in one of the sacred sites I’ve known—Hidden Valley Music Seminars in Carmel Valley. This is where the miracles have happened every summer these past 12 years in our San Francisco International Orff Course as 100 people from some 20 countries worldwide gather to play, sing and dance their way into euphoria. It’s also the site where Orff Mini-Conferences have gathered every two years for the last 37 years. 


I was at the first such gathering in 1987, teaching a ritual version of death, resurrection and eternal life through a children’s rhyme “Sally Go Round the Sun.” My teacher Avon Gillespie was the headliner and on Easter morning, he led us through some spirited singing of his own Easter Cantata composition. Avon was a master of getting a group singing from the depths of their soul and feeling connected together in a way far more profound than most people experienced. In the barn-like theater, while we were swirling about in the spirit-lifting choral sound, he spontaneously ran to the sliding doors and pulled them open so that when we reached the final chord, the sun came streaming in with a Biblical moment of epiphany. No one who had the good fortune to be there ever forgot that moment. 


And so almost four decades later, Avon long gone (he died in 1989 far too young at 51 years old), here I am again. Awakening on another Easter morning in the midst of a David Whyte poetry retreat at nearby Asilomar. Here is another master of resurrection, lifting us up through poetry and opening the doors of our own resistant selves who often don’t have either the strength nor courage to pull those sliding doors about to allow ourselves to be bathed in celestial light. 

David is a virtuoso of the human soul, an expert cartographer who reveals the full topography of our often-refused possibility and names all the places and corners we hide to avoid the work of becoming ourselves. With an eloquence of a concert pianist in full control of touch and nuance and phrasing married to the spontaneity of the jazz musician who can respond precisely to the moment. Yesterday, in the midst of reciting a poem, he paused and asked, “Is that some music I hear?” concerned about the interruption. The group told him it was merely the rain and the next line of his poem was “faces upturned in the rain.” Without missing a beat, he quipped that the rain was interrupting his line about celebrating rain and laughed with us all. 


Off for the morning lecture to see how he will open the door yet again on this Easter morning. 

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