(Listen to yourself.)

Sufjan Stevens, banjo, heart, wings
Sufjan Stevens, banjo, heart, wings

Unless your heart is prepared to Feel Things, please don’t listen to Sufjan Stevens on the day when your daughter, who suddenly wakes up Very Tall, begins first grade.

Especially don’t listen to a version of this song; don’t listen to it while you’re sitting on the floor with her later that afternoon, constructing a little world from the cardboard boxes sent by her best friend away in Italy, don’t listen, because last winter you watched, with this tall girl, this specific video, heard the sweet story of the wasp…the girl was transfixed last winter by this video, by the young orchestra playing and wearing wings…asked for them again and again…if you listen to this song on this now-day, this tall day, your heart will expand, become a stretched balloon full of the breath of love that is created by biology (she’s your daughter, she’s getting taller, she’s growing so fast) and horomones (you’re older now too, approaching a later life threshold, but feeling younger than ever before in so many ways, how your heart is liberated, flying, soaring, but too, paradoxically full of the knowledge that time becomes shorter and shorter with each exhilarating breath, holding all the complexity of this, and her new shoot of life, this sprout, this girl, all the wings, and what this song means to the young man who wrote it, which has nothing to do with your daughter growing up, except that it does, because all of humanity means this, everything does, as our little interior mirrors work to show and mean what we see in them, always ourselves along with the world and work around us, and how messy and glorious that mess is)…and talk to her at night about death, help her understand what you are still trying to understand, keep telling her that no one knows everything, keep making room for it all…

(And Sufjan sings, “I can tell you, I love him each day…”)

and his earnest, beautiful, shining orchestra plays with him, their hearts in their fingers on strings and keys, telling their own stories, lips on brass, holding bows and sticks and hitting drums to make and manifest together         just           one             thing            .

Which is beauty.


Grateful today for the heart that can hold so much.

“What if Peter hadn’t caught the wolf? What then?”

Was this the album cover of my youth?
Was this the album cover of my youth?

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?