Breaking Free – Day 13 (Beethoven)

Day 13 – Wednesday, August 23, 2017 (Beethoven)

7:44 a.m. – Home from a walk that came with a gift. I spent most my time with Ludwig van Beethoven, a hero of mine since I was a boy. I was hooked on his music and his story straightaway. That he composed the Ninth Symphony, in 1824, when he was almost completely deaf, just three years before his death in March 1827, is an act of creation that leads me to be still with its truth and grateful for the moment.

I can’t remember its name, or its author, but there was a biography of Beethoven (and one of Geronimo, by the way) that I read over and over again when I was a boy. I remember the kindness he received from the von Breuning family. He needed it. He was 17, his mother had just died, his father had fallen full-tilt into the death-grip of alcoholism, and, he had two younger brothers.

I remember passages in the biography detailing how Beethoven would go for long walks in the woods, by streams, in all weather, and hear the existence of music – meaning – in all he heard.  This brings me back to this morning’s walk. Beethoven was present the moment I stepped out the door. This morning offered a strong shifting breeze, a sky with a mix of dark clouds and sun-backed white ones – the dark clouds had the advantage – and I could hear the water rushing from last night’s downpour through the man-made channel just yards away. There was movement laced with sounds and shadows and colors and birds singing the day awake. The occasional and not unwelcome soft-deep puff of breeze pushed gently into my ear, brought with it sounds of cello and kettle drum.

Every morning is a gift.





A Gift of Joy for Your New Year

Many things join us as people. Music is one of them. Since before I could walk Beethoven was my favorite composer. And so, this is my gift to you. And while I have sent this to some of those close to me already,  there are nearly 2,000 people that read this blog on a regular basis, and I am very grateful and humbled by this. And so, let this be my gift to you, all of you, as you begin 2013. Be well, be safe, remember to live.

And now, have some


Stealing Time

I still do it now. Wake up in the middle of the night, pad quietly through the dark still house and sit silent in the living room or at the kitchen table and just be. No need to turn lights on. No one in the whole wide world knows I’m up. It’s just me in the middle of the night quiet, when every house sound banished by daytime activities can come out to play, the clicking of the wall clocks, the on again off again whirr of the refrigerator and, once in awhile, if I am lucky, the one renegade bird in the night who doesn’t care that it’s dark out and sings anyway.

I did this as a child of course. Get up in the middle of the night and move like a secret shadow through the house, my body tingling with joy, my parents still asleep, those two God like forces deep in slumber. Back then I realized I was stealing time, living moments I think I’m not supposed to have, which of course makes them the most delicious moments of all.  Moments when the all of me is present and alive and happy and smiling, I am swooning with unutterable joy.

No doubt stealing time spurred Beethoven into writing the Ode to Joy  despite being completely deaf at the time.


Writing Without Words

Every writer is different. Some can write with all kinds of ambient noise going on, some need complete silence. Some can write to music, even songs. I can often write to two specific kinds of music – jazz and classical. But I can’t write to any kind of music if it has lyrics. And forget writing if the television is on. If I hear words while writing I get so caught up in the words my ability to focus on my writing, whatever its worth, goes out the window, or down the drain. Take your pick.

There are some writers who can write in any environment. Michael, the person I am closest to in the world and one of the best writers I’ve ever encountered, in person or on the page, can write sitting in the middle ring of a three ring circus while the circus is performing for a standing room only raucous crowd. I don’t know how on earth he does it and frankly I am jealous as hell.

As I write this morning I am listening to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto Number 4 in G, Op. 58. For me there is no better companion than Beethoven. He is as welcome in my world as oxygen is.

If you’ll allow me a moment to stray from the theme of this piece, Beethoven, along with the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen are the four sources of music and song closest to my heart and soul. Believe me, I love a wide range of music, but those four do me just fine. As for Beethoven, I’ve literally been listening to his music since before I could walk. I loved classical music all my life. My parents would tell me, however, that there was always something about Beethoven that seemed to reach the center of me. Still true. The closest to that would be Springsteen followed by a third place tie between the Beatles and Dylan.

Having said all that I have thus far, there are times, many of them, when I need total silence when I write. Times where the place writing takes me to is so, what are the words,  delicately focused, that any ambient sound will shatter the sentences in mid-air and they’ll never reach the page.

There is certainly no right or wrong about all this. The task is to get the words on the page. And, as always, there are exceptions to the rule. There is one in my case. I can listen to Springsteen while turning loose specific forms of poetry and prose.

Anyway, time for another cup of coffee and some more Beethoven.

Be well. Take care of yourselves.

The Roads Less Travelled

John Steinbeck once wrote, “We are creatures of habit, a very senseless species.” He was right. We all get caught up in patterns and relationships in life that hold us back, that result in our taking part in life with one hand tied behind our back. We don’t do this consciously, so, when we notice these patterns, we are wise to treat ourselves (and each other) with kindness, not harsh judgment. After all, new beginnings, while often rewarding and wonderful, are inherently scary, at times terrifying.

Recently I got to contemplating a passage from the Robert Frost poem, “Road Less Travelled”, 

Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

and Henry David Thoreau’s words,

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.

Contemplating both passages brought me out of the darkness of indecision and led me into the sunshine of clarity. As a result, I have been able to make some changes that will free me to walk the roads less traveled. Both passages helped me to make these changes because when I read them, to myself or out loud, and then align them with those I admire most: Mandela, Elie Wiesel, Dr. King, Beethoven, Geronimo, Tolstoy, Teddy Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steinbeck, Rosa Parks, Dickens, my father and more, it is strikingly clear that all of them lived the lives they imagined. All of them took the roads less travelled.

New beginnings often are the roads less travelled and they are often the roads best taken.