Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A musical portrait

Together We AreImage by mommy peace via FlickrAt first I thought he was angry with me. He certainly looked quite solemn. True, I'd been away for a couple of weeks, but usually he's at least willing to stand up and go to the Music Room with me. 

So I pulled up a chair and sat next to him. "You don't want to go to your session?" I asked. He hung his head down. "Okay. Can I just sit with you for a little bit?" He looked up briefly and then face down again. 

We sat for a minute. "You can come and tell me in the music if you're upset about something." He was listening, but not moving. "You know, I'm going to just go get your jacket and hold on to it. If you still don't want to come with me that's fine. But if you do, we'll have your jacket. I don't know. Maybe we could just go for a walk. It's pretty nice outside." 

I went to the coat closet, fished out his, and went back to sit next to him. The guys in his group were all watching television, so I chatted about that. After a little while, he half-smiled, got up and reached for his jacket.  "Cool!"

We headed outside into the sunshine and walked slowly. I wasn't sure whether we were just walking or if we'd be going to do his session.  As it turned out, we made it to the Music Room. 

He moved the instruments I'd put out for him onto the bench at the end of the couch and proceeded to lie down so he was facing me where I was sitting at the piano. I could hear, from the way he was breathing, that his sinuses were really giving him a hard time. 

His facial expression was still quite serious, unsmiling. I sang a greeting and asked how he was feeling. He responded with a heavy sigh.

"I realize you may have some feelings about my having been on vacation. I wonder if maybe you're feeling angry with me." And I invited him to look my way if that was the case. He did not.

Oh. Hm.

"Feeling abandoned?" A little bit of eye-contact.

We stayed there, quiet. Where to go with this?

"I'm having a hard time figuring out what might be going on for you today. I'd like to play a musical portrait of what I think I might be seeing or hearing, maybe just sensing, from you right now. If you can, will you help me by letting me know if what I'm playing makes sense. Also if it doesn't sound right, can you find a way to steer me in the right direction? I'll do my best to listen."

I played, using the piano. It was halting, dissonant- really quite dissonant, and it didn't feel very grounded. I guess you could say it sounded like someone floating and unsettled. 

As I played, I realized I hadn't "heard" his initial response accurately. He wasn't angry. The music he inspired didn't sound remotely angry. It sounded, and felt, very sad. And it probably wasn't really about me. 

"I misunderstood. I'm sorry. I think, as I'm listening to the music, I might be hearing your sadness." Slowly he turned to face me. Wow. I felt his sadness too.

What now? Where to go with all this sadness? 

As I thought about how to respond, how to be present, I was reminded of my friend, Greg, who often quotes John McNeill to me: "If anyone is willing to enter my private hell and stay there with me, then there are grounds for hope."

I invited him to hum with me as I played. I started the music where I had left off- at the musical portrait. Gradually, the sounds on the piano became slightly- only slightly- more consonant. Eventually, I was just moving between A flat and B flat, humming quietly. 

I heard sounds from him- not a lot, because it was difficult to vocalize with his nose all stuffy as it was. I moved from humming to a quiet "ee" sound, thinking it might be an easier sound for him to make.

His eyes closed and he smiled briefly. I thought he might fall asleep, as he often does. But he didn't. He listened. And we sat together in the sadness and in the music.

It was time to go. I sang a quiet goodbye, reminding him I planned to be back on Thursday. I got up to get my sweater, and he followed me to get his jacket.

He took my hand and we walked back to his cottage in the sunshine. 


Laura Cousins said...

This is very beautiful to me.

Roia said...

Aww. Thank you, Laura. It was beautiful and poignant to experience as well.

Meghan Hinman said...

Roia, what a beautiful post. I'm surprised that you haven't had more comments. You do some wonderful, deep work.

Roia said...

Meghan, thanks so much for your sweet response. I guess people just didn't really have much else to say. I'm never sure why some posts invite commentary and others don't. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to reading your blog when you get it going. Please keep me posted!