Sand and Music
“It keeps changing fast, and it don’t last for long.”
My mom loved the water. We traveled the country for many summers in our state-of-the-art Coachmen RV, visiting the classic American tourist spots from coast to coast. We loved riding the horse trails, panning for gold, and visiting Opryland. Our adventures, as the driving, were endless. My mom listened to Elvis across a vast majority of the miles, but (perhaps at the hands of my dad) there was also music from the John Denver 8-track, which was my favorite. I felt as though the songs were written just for us, as I, along with one cousin or another, jumped on the bed at my aunt’s lake house and roasted marshmallows with my brother and sister at the Yogi Bear campground. Mom was happiest, though, walking on the sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Ocean. We were along for the ride, which was a great one, but the high tide, the starfish, and the shimmer of the sun in the ocean waves filled my mother’s soul.
We grew up, and the camper was sold in favor of more practical adventures such as college tuition and wedding expenses.
“Someday,” my mom would say, looking at old vacation pictures which surely brought back more than thoughts of sandpipers and sun.
If you long to do something, you must find a way.
When my college roommate and I were young mothers at home, we both bought bread machines at the same time. I still have the recipe cards that she shared with me: Honey Wheat Bread and Apple Spice Bread, among others, especially endearing as they are handwritten, and I cannot look at them without thinking of her and of the life carving impact that she had on me as together we crossed the threshold to our adult lives.
Just a handful of times have I seen my college roommate in recent decades, and my bread machine had long since been retired to a remote basement shelf.
Led recently by a friend to do more scratch baking, I have been making our family’s sandwich bread. To accomplish this, to mix the bread dough, I have resurrected the bread machine that had been used nearly daily for the course of several years during my early motherhood.
The dough cycle takes about two and a half hours, which seems just enough time for me to forget that I am making bread in the first place.
At the end of the cycle, eight faint beeps can be heard. If I neglect to take out the pan right away, the dough will keep rising over the edge of the pan, spilling into the heat mechanism and causing all sorts of trouble that does not result in sandwich bread. If I respond to that tiny signal just as it calls, though, just at the right moment, the dough will be perfect for baking into two golden loaves to fill the bellies of my family.
If I don’t hear the sound, it’s like it never happened in the first place. The window, the opportunity is lost.
I have to pay attention.
“And they say that he got crazy once and tried to touch the sun.”
I am grateful for one more chance to visit the ducks at the lagoon, to throw rocks into the waterfall under the bridge, and to be transported back to 1986 by the smell of the mingling of library books, musty furniture, and strong coffee which greets me as I open the door to the music building. A great advantage to living at the edge of your college campus as an adult is that you know the best places for picnics, you remember where the soda machines are, and you are able to navigate, even with a stroller, to the bathrooms in the university buildings.
We heard the sound of drumbeats as we passed by Still Gym on our way back from our circle around the lagoon. Today, we could wait, and we could listen, unlike the students who were making their way to lecture halls and dissertation seminars in pursuit of the quickly approaching end-of-spring-semester.
It had turned out to be a bright, warm day in spite of the dismal forecast.
As we passed Gilbert Hall, it became clear that the sounds hadn’t been coming from Still Gym at all. A group of students were practicing their music just beyond where we had parked. We paused to take in this unexpected gift, which minutes before had been a bit of a mystery. Up close, we could see and feel the passion and rhythm that had once been just background music.
With a greater level of awareness, we wonder how it could have been anything else. When we think we have arrived, we may have only begun the journey.
“His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand…”
The springtime is no subtle beep, but rather a magical burst life, of new color and fantastic patterns that grow and change on a daily, even momentary basis. If I fail to make it to the east edge of my property within a day or two, I will find spent magnolia blooms spilled throughout the grass. I will have missed the skyward flowery burst that heralds spring’s beauty.
Tomorrow, despite the expected rain and gloom, I am going to cut some lilac flowers and take in the gifts before me.
“Now his life is full of wonder, but his heart still knows some fear of a simple thing he cannot comprehend.”
I understand why my dad took my mom to the ocean. It was time, and he couldn’t miss it. The music was beautiful. The songs were not from Elvis this time, or even John Denver. This music was such that anyone would recognize, though it made no sound at all. It was the music of a longing fulfilled, a soul opening to another, and a gift that can only be given when it’s bearer is truly able to listen.
Song lyrics: John Denver, “Rocky Mountain High”