Thursday, July 10, 2014

Swing music

          When I was a first grade teacher, my students always started their day in a room filled with some type of music.  Some days I played Bach.  Other days it was a soundtrack from a Disney movie.  Some of the kids brought in their favorite CD's and I happily played them as they settled into their day or worked on projects in the afternoon.  We all loved the background music as a way to tune into the moment and tune out the world beyond our classroom.
          One morning my principal happened to walk by and popped his head through the door.  "Is that Glenn Miller?" Mr. Baker asked.
          I nodded.  "Yep.  Swing music is my favorite."
          "And Big Band?"
          "You bet."
          "In the Mood" serenaded us as my first graders bee bopped their way through a phonics worksheet, many of them bobbling their heads to the upbeat rhythm.
          "They seem to like it, too," Mr. Baker noticed.
          "We like all kinds," one of the kids replied.  "Miss Ingersoll plays stuff I've never heard before."
          It's true.  I had a wide collection of music that I shared with the kids.  From Bluegrass to Beethoven, from Blues to Bobby McFerrin, they were exposed to as many genres as I could muster (save twangy country and heavy metal).   Around Earth Day, I taught them a Kenny Loggins tune and they sang "Conviction of the Heart" better than any children's choir around. 
          When I started teaching children's yoga, I added as much music as I was able to weave into the poses and movements.  We sang "The Little Frog Song," "Namaste," and "I'm a Little Teapot" as we made our way from deep squats to forward bends to triangles. 
          Even now I love to choose just the right music to set the tone for an adult class or an afternoon spent writing in my office.  As a matter of fact, right now I pulled out an oldie but goodie (to me at least) and am playing a Pure Moods MP3.  And just yesterday I rode my bike to the park where I met a woman and her two grandsons who stopped by to chat while I took a break.  The boys were fascinated by my headset, so I handed one to each of them, then turned on the MP3 player.  Their eyes widened and they smiled while listening to some great Latin guitar.
          "Why do you have this to ride a bike?" one of them asked.
          "It helps me stay focused when I'm tired," I replied.  "Sometimes it's a long ride home and the music keeps me going."
          "Play me another one," he giggled. 
          I pressed a button and out came an upbeat chant by Krishna Das. 
          The little boy's eyes brightened.  "That's fun!  I can hear the drums!"
          All too soon, it was time for them to go home and as I hopped on my bike and headed west, I found a bouncy tune by Phil Collins and hit the trail.
          Yep...I like my music as eclectic as the books on my shelves.

          But in the evening it's a different story. 
          This summer has been absolutely beautiful.  This week in particular has been a string of cool, sunny days followed by even cooler and comfortable nights.  I've slept better than I have in months now that we're past the summer solstice and the Fourth of July fireworks, awakening refreshed and energized to meet the new day.
          To add to the glory of this wonderful season of longer days, I recently built a swing in my backyard.  Not a glider mind you, but a canopied creation that feels like a hammock when you sit down.  As a child I always raced to the swings during recess, eager to glide back and forth, tipping my head back and letting my hair dust the earth.  Even as an adult if I'm at the park with my little friends, we'll take the time to jump on a swing and see if we can sway high enough so it looks like our feet are touching the sky.
          These days my swing time is mostly in the evenings at twilight...always my favorite time of day.  And this is my favorite time of summer -- when the slow decay of the perennials gives a hint of autumn to come, but there's still over two months of summertime left to enjoy.   So as the sun sets, I take a cool shower, washing off the yoga classes already taught, the dirt and sweat from working in the garden or riding my bike, put on a pair of soft cotton pajamas and head outside with a glass of something sweet.   I slip off my sandals and ease back into the swing, effortlessly letting go of the day behind me.
          A couple of nights ago I burned a whole stack of paper (see blog "Pyromaniac"), then sat in the swing for nearly an hour.  I watched the sky turn an inky blue as the birds stopped twittering and returned to their nests for the night.  I listened to the neighborhood kids wind down from a day filled with frolic and fun.  Observed the changing shadows as my garden was transformed from light into darkness.  Was soothed by the sound of humming cicadas and listened intently for the soft chirping of crickets. 
          And as always when calmed by a gentle motion that reminds me of floating on the surface of the sea, I started humming.  My pal, Satish, says I hum when I'm knitting, too, but I don't notice it then...not unless I'm sitting on the front porch swing or in the glider in my living room.  It's a nonsensical that meanders its way around a host of patterns, an unraveling chain of notes that doesn't really have a beginning or an end.  Sometimes it repeats itself.  Sometimes not. 
          Always it's a pathway to peace.
          So these days, if you come over and don't find me out on the porch, don't worry.  I'm enjoying a little swing music in the quiet paradise of my backyard.