Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Songs and Nieces (Sunday, 23 May 2010)

After a good night's sleep and with my mood recentered, I embarked on my plans for Sunday with a will.

I was at Wyatt's door at 10:10 a.m. After family greetings all around, Wyatt hauled me back to her room to meet her two eight-week-old kittens, Ducky and Pie, who were obligingly adorable, meepy, and pouncy. I was struck by how clean her room was - is my niece a very tidy young woman, or had she cleaned the room knowing I was coming over? Or was it a coincidence; had I just happened to arrive after a rare room cleaning? This bears further investigation, I'm sure.

But not just then, because we returned to the living room to watch Lion King 2: Pride of Simba, which is among the better Disney animated sequels. Wyatt clearly loves it, and I enjoyed it too. She and I share a high appreciation of the value of our animal cousins, but for me there was an added charge; there's something about seeing chapters of your life coincidentally reinterpreted in public art that never fails to surprise.

When I was young, I learned the hard way a lesson about the ways in which good people will oppress you if they misjudge you as a bad person. That can happen either through prejudice against a good person or through failure to see the emerging goodness in someone who has publicly made mistakes in the past. Redemption, although a powerful story, is unfortunately something many good people block in their efforts to avoid having their trust betrayed again. It's understandable but it's more than regrettable. It can make good people the enemies of rehabilitation, make them actively struggle to keep people down when they're sincerely trying to be better.

Ask me how I know.

Good people in America rarely like to reveal the ways in which they can fall short of the mark, the ways in which they can behave like bad people. Our culture twists us into purity freaks, neo-Platonists (look it up), anti-miscegenationists (look that up, too); we want our heroes to be all good and our villains to be all bad, angels and demons - at least when we're not trying to pass off villains as heroes. What we can't stand is the recognition that everyone contributes to the problem, that the supposedly pure good people themselves help make the world the mess it is. Evil mostly comes from people who believe they are doing good.

The film fumbles in some ways, of course, but there are other good qualities to Lion King 2. We'll save those for another time, maybe another viewing.

When I returned home with groceries from Puget Consumer's Co-op (buy organic, buy local, and vote with your money), Beverly and I made lunch and started into our project together.

Around the campfire on the Navajo reservation the night of Wednesday, May 12th, Guitar Tom and Harry Walters played guitar and sang as usual, and I sang my two songs a capella, like last year, but Thursday night Anna Lee Walters encouraged us to improvise, to get everyone involved in the music, so after some fumbling around for the right format we settled on going around the circle and having each person sing something they knew. I discovered it's been too long since I sang freely and often, and I've forgotten the words of many of the songs I once knew. I also discovered that of the songs I do remember, few are songs known to many, songs that anyone else could sing along with. So on the drive home Elizabeth and I discussed the need for a songbook containing an excellent selection of songs to sing and the printed lyrics.

This was Beverly and my project together, which we began Sunday. Song by song we went through our music lists proposing songs to each other, listening to them, singing along, deciding which could stand alone without instrumental accompaniment, which had enough soul to them in a campfire setting. We'll be at this off and on over the next year, I'm sure.

As planned, we were interrupted at 3:30 in the afternoon by the arrival of Elizabeth and Raoul. Introductions were made and then my niece, her sweetie, and I headed off to join the crowds strolling around Green Lake. During that pleasant hour we discussed our past, our present, and a little of our future together. Elizabeth and I had talked extensively about her life on our vacation together, and I was eager to begin getting to know this man who's become so important in her life. So I did.

After our return and recovery, they headed back home to House Decided to clean up and prepare for Sunday potluck night dinner. I remained behind with Beverly converting three cans of vegan Indian food I like into an Indian stew I could take for my last-minute contribution to the potluck. As I prepared the food, Beverly and I continued work on our project, listening to and critiquing music for its suitability for our songbook.

Having arrived at House Decided in the nick of time at 6:30, I joined the household and its guests for two hours of dinner and conversation together. I was fortunate enough to spend time afterward speaking at length with Canth, the woman of the house, whose company I enjoyed greatly, but not enough time to find the opportunity to tell her how much it means to me that she and Raoul took in my niece and gave her a home. That will have to wait for another time.

When I returned home, Beverly and I finished off the day refining our first-draft songbook list. We still have a long way to go, but by the time we went to bed at 11:30 p.m. (later than I prefer), we had forty-five songs initially selected, including an agreement to write an original song together for Harry and Anna Lee Walters in time to sing it to them when I return to the Chuska Mountains with Wyatt in May 2012.

We still have a long way to go, but it was a good start, a good day, a good weekend, and a good note to go to bed on, with family and music on our minds.

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