While we camped out in our house without power or running water after high winds took out electric lines this week, I was unsettled. It took a couple of days to understand that although I was not unhappy or annoyed, I was strewn about inside, like the inside of a tent mid-vacation week.
I remember my ex-brother-in-law Hank whenever something got broken or ruined saying: No one died. Of course sometimes people do die. And then we cope differently. But these minor, no-death losses are the best ad hoc conferences, like pep rallies for the normal life we get lost in. I was knocked off-center for a couple of days, I had butterflies in my stomach. When I became aware of that, I got to thinking about what I need to do to get back to the center. Do I need running water and electricity for it?
“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”
So I ask myself, What are my essential riches (in the Thoreau sense)?
Solitude. Conversation with loved ones. A writing tablet and pen (or Microsoft Word). A few books of poetry. A window and a door, with Nature outside, even one leaf-bearing plant on a balcony.
“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Everyone except me. Right that moment, I wanted to ask all of you what your essential music is, what shaped you, what do you return to for comfort and soul centering? I wanted to ask you before one more minute was thrown into the past. As a preacher’s kid who thought it was oh-so-worldly when I received a radio for my twelfth birthday, on which I could listen to music from the pop charts, I missed a lot of great stuff that was played in different venues. My musical muse is Joni Mitchell, and she is far from shabby, even if the radio did play her song about being turned on like itself. But I missed Leonard Cohen, Gil Scott-Heron, Miles Davis, and so many other artists who play and sing the essential music of people's souls.
So, my post-ad hoc conference on the essentials of life leads me to confer with you wonderful folks. If you care to answer, what do you consider your essential music? Be specific please, and maybe not too prolific. Be easy on me. It could be you discovered it four decades ago, or last week, as I did Gil Scott-Heron. I will appreciate your response, and I will begin exploring, listening, choosing for myself and building a library rack for my iTunes turntable. I have the rest of my life to listen, however long or short that may be. As I evolve, maybe what will be essential to me ten years from now I haven't even heard of yet.
Postscript: I recognize that for some of you, this is like asking you to pick a wildflower from your meadow of uncountable flowers and tell me why it is your favorite. This is odd, and naïve, I feel how odd it is, like Music Essentials 101. It changes with the day and time. Ahhh, what I want is perhaps impossible to answer, to retrieve what I never had. Learning anything from lists may be a bad place to start. Suddenly I don't like my request. But I am going to leave it and see what comes of it. Maybe what will come of it is that this is not a good way to learn such things. Eh what?
How about this question: Today, what music does your soul long for?