In the summer of 1972 I was preparing to go off to college for the first time. I planned to purchase a turntable/stereo system. My father found a used system that was almost new: a Sherwood receiver, large Scott speakers, and a turntable. He drove me to an apartment rented by two young women who “needed the money.” I paid them $325 (a reduction in price suggested by my father). I didn’t much like my father at the time. I did appreciate the gesture. I got a good deal.
Within 12 years the amplifier was temperamental and the speakers produced occasional distortions, though I wasn’t certain if it was the amp or the speakers. The system was relegated as a backup in my bedroom. From time to time I thought about throwing them out.
In 1987, two people that I’d worked with at the North Dakota School for the Blind decided to look me up. I had been a live-in house-parent, and had taught karate. As part of the training, we played a game where I spread the group throughout the large gym, and then I snuck up to them randomly on a rubberized floor. Completely silent — you’ll have to take my word for it that I was stealthy. They had to point me out when I got to within 10 feet. It was difficult at first. I urged them to stop listening, and feel the area around them. Then they would notice when I entered that space. They all got pretty good at it. When I brought the group in to test for their first belt, I’d spent so much time with blind people that I marveled at the visual capacity of normal people: they can see me from all the way across the room. By the way, my group of blind and visually handicapped students all passed.
My two visitors thought for sure that I was still practicing. I think they half expected that by now I could turn myself into a beam of light that even they could see. You know – the benefits of age, practice, and a wizard’s knack. They seemed a little disappointed that I’d become human, too physically compromised to practice. Well then, perhaps I could wow them with some great music. I’d introduced them to all sorts of music when my original system was in its prime. My replacement system left much to be desired. And I wasn’t even using CDs. I’d become rather ordinary. I realized that they’d gone to a great deal of effort to look me up and find me. It was not a journey they were likely to make again, so I tried to give them an intangible something. The sound of my voice, perhaps.
Did I mention that I’d planned to throw away those Scott speakers? They’re huge: 24″ by 15″ by 11″. When I was preparing to move four years ago I actually put one of them in the outdoor trash, then removed it on second thought and brought them both to a speaker repair shop in St. Paul. Nothing wrong with them. In fact, the shop owner told me they sounded great. With the right amplifier, they did.
I’m listing to music on those 40-year-old speakers as I write this post. My father, who never much liked music, still feels proud that he helped purchase them. He’s been dead for about 12 years, but every once in a while I feel that pride – taking pleasure that I still take pleasure listening to music through speakers that he took time to locate.
It’s no secret amongst the spirits within telepathic range that they are all welcome to drop by and enjoy the music. There are times when I’m sure the room is filled, depending on the mood and what I’m playing. It reminds me of the film Truly, Madly, Deeply – when the ghosts keep dropping by to watch movies. It’s like I’m carrying on a tradition, the spirit of my great-grandfather and his musical cottage (see GATHERING MY LIFE INTO FEATHERS for details).
So is this a post about not giving up on what’s not really broken, or a post about taking time to listen to the music with friendly ghosts and spirits? Maybe there’s something in here about the mysteries of vision. I looked up just now, and there’s a firefly on my patio door, flashing me in firefly code. I don’t know precisely what he’s saying. Do I need to?
There are trails of light lifting me out of time. It’s like stars shining through a transparent roof. What kind of host would I be if I didn’t invite the stars? When I drink the sky from THAT goblet, everyone is invited. Grace holds all the links that light up when frequencies overlap. Am I making sense? Do I need to? Can’t I just love for love’s sake – through one everlasting moment?