Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hope is the thing with feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity
It asked a crumb of me.
Emily Dickinson 
As I was doing my little morning meditation I thought of the line in this poem, 'and sings the tune without the words', and it reminded me of an incident that happened about ten years ago.

I used to work as an accompanist - playing piano to accompany classical musicians.  I was working with a good friend of mine, who is now one of Australia's most well-known saxophone players and we were playing a very difficult concerto - him on the sax, me on piano.  He was playing from memory, and during rehearsals he'd sometimes forget the music.
'What are we going to do if that happens in the competition?' I asked.  If you're playing by yourself and forget music you can often just make up a few bars and fudge your way through, or jump back or forward to a part of the music you know, and go from there.   But, making up music while you have an accompanist is much more difficult, because it sounds terrible! And, if the soloist jumps backwards or forwards, the accompanist has to scramble to work out where in the piece they are.

So, the thought of my friend having a memory lapse was a bit worrying (especially as this concerto was about 20 minutes long). 'We'll just work it out,' he said, calmly.

In the concert he did have a memory lapse and I still remember my feeling of panic as he started playing these really long notes that had no relationship to what he should be playing.  We drifted along for a few bars, while he tried to find some kind of toe-hold in the music that he could latch onto so he could get back on track.

Basically, what we were both doing was singing the tune without the words - just vamping, improvising, while we tried to find the path. Eventually he jumped to a section of the piece he knew, I scrambled back a few pages, and we were on our way again.
Both of us were experienced musicians and knew better than to ever show panic on our faces, so I don't think the audience ever knew what happened - and he went on to win the competition. ($1000 - thankyou very much!)

It struck me this morning that this incident was literally, 'singing the song without the words,' and that this line of the poem metaphorically describes so much of my life with an illness. I often feel like I'll never know the words to the song of my life, and that I'll spend forever just whistling in the dark - putting one foot in front of the other, trusting in nothing more than trust and hope.

But, who does ever know the song of their lives?  That might be a fairly boring life.  So, maybe this trust in the unknown is the lyrics to the song.  Maybe faith, and hope, and a simple taking of the next step in front of me are the words to the song of my life.
This beautiful print is by New England folk artist Donna Atkins.

1 comment:

  1. Emma, what an inspiring post! I'm honored that you used my "hope is the thing with feathers" print. Thank you - have a lovely day!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...