This morning, with my daughter’s school I went to hear the Dayton Philharmonic concert perform several stories, including Peter and The Wolf. I was sleep-deprived, having worried overnight about a very scary situation a friend was going through–a reminder that we don’t get out of here alive. The strains of Peter and the Wolf hurled me back to childhood, and left me tearful…the music (as music will sometimes do) approached me from other human hearts (composer, musicians), reached into my body, held my wrung-out heart, exposing that red and tender mess to music’s melodic touch. Of course I cried.
At the end of the story of Peter and the Wolf, the characters parade to take the trapped wolf to the zoo. “What if Peter hadn’t caught the wolf? What then?” asks Peter’s grandfather.
I cried while I watched the story today in part because a friend from college, the roommate of my college boyfriend, went to the hospital last Christmas day because his stomach hurt. It was stomach cancer. Two weeks ago, despite the ever-youthful impish angel energy he carried with him so beautifully through the decades, after how many rounds of chemo and thousands of people circling him with love and support, he died. (The wolf was not caught. But my friend the imp-angel, in his final months, due to his loving, kind spirit, pulled back together a circle of friends whom I’d missed for years. One bright fact in this horrible loss, the light he shone on us.)
This morning I learned that last night’s freshest reminder of our damned mortality, my friend who I worried about while I did not sleep, might have cheated death awhile longer. This morning I pled in my journal , “Please let him be okay,” covered the page with scrawled hearts, as I often do when I’m wishing, but I might as well have written, more bluntly: “Please let him cheat death awhile longer.”
Each breath cheats death, doesn’t it? As I write this and as you read it, look at the two of us: just a couple of lucky, breathing cheaters.
As a child, the wolf was a scary dark force, who always slinked up at the same point in the symphony, on cue. This morning, watching the Dayton Philharmonic and the Dayton Ballet School amid an audience of school children, my adult mind was able to see a crucial nuance: The wolf is hungry.
The wolf is always hungry.
So hungry, in fact, that she swallows the duck whole. (If you listen closely, you can still hear the duck’s song. That’s called memory, children.)
But what if Peter hadn’t caught the wolf? What then?