I am in the fortunate position of being able to earn my living through combining two of the things I love most – music and human connection. Even on my toughest days at work there are normally moments that in some small way make me glad to be alive.
Occasionally though, in the course of my working day there is a connection that transcends the definition of ‘rewarding work’ and leaves me feeling changed . . .
I am with Clare and Mary. We walk tentatively into the lounge. It is the nursing floor – there is a sea of enormous wheelchair-like contraptions in front of us, all facing away from us to the TV. The people take up so much less space than the furniture they are semi-permanently stationed in – there are only 5 or 6 residents in there but the big lounge is almost full. They are watching ‘Only fools and horses’, well at least it is on in the room they happen to be in. We turn it off.
Then I see you. When I walked in you seemed partly chair, partly person-who-cannot-move-very-much. But I realise now that through all the palaver of the entry of 3 new people and 2 instruments who are trying to find space amongst the wheelchairs, you have not taken your eyes off my face. I introduce myself and I understand that you are doing the same, although you cannot tell me your name. And then I see your eyes, so full of life and beauty. You are smiling at me, a little with your lips but mostly with your eyes. I understand that you want me to look at you, not just be next to you. And so I do. You gaze into my eyes for an infinite amount of time, and I discover to my surprise I can gaze into yours for just as long. There is no awkwardness in me, the self-consciousness I carry around with me in my day-to-day life simply falls away. In fact all my walls seem to fall away and all there is is this moment, here with you.
I start to play gently because I think you want to hear my cello. Mary joins me with her violin and I become aware of Clare moving in a beautiful dance with E, silk scarves floating in the air. I break my gaze for a few seconds to ask W what your name is and he tells me, and then I find that now I am singing to you and playing to you and looking at you and I don’t even care that the words are nothing special because it comes from my heart and I use your name and that makes it special.
All this time you have been radiating joy and love and beauty, beaming it into my very core. It feels like I am looking deep into your soul and also into my own all at once.
When I got married my dad gave me a card in which he had written out a poem by Rumi, ‘Where Everything Is Music’. I thought it was completely beautiful. Today, at last I understand it.
‘Where Everything Is Music’
Don’t worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn’t matter.
We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.
The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the whole world’s harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.
So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint, and a spark.
This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.
Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!
from a slow and powerful root
that we can’t see.
Stop the words now.
Open the window in the centre of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.
Thank you J, for seeing me, for accepting me just as I am, for opening the window in the centre of my heart and for making music with me today.