There is a core of who I am that is tangled in music. I grew up going to symphonies, playing in some of the best bands and orchestras in the state. I was through and through a clarinet-playing, band geek.
My life has a nearly constant musical score running underneath.
I write to music. Sing snippets of Broadway, Mother Goose, Louis Armstrong, Simon and Garfunkle, and even “Uptown Funk” to my kids.
Soaring melodies, growling tympani, rising arpeggios, staccato xylophone—they draw pictures, speak words I cannot always form coherently. You know what I mean?
This weekend I went with my mom and sister to our local symphony’s live presentation of Disney’s Fantasia. The overlap of the art of film and music reminded me of the fear and destruction happening in our world. In short, it undid me.
A little over halfway through the program came the music of one of my favorite ballets, Stravinsky’s Firebird. It isn’t a piece most modern Americans are familiar with, but I love the unexpected twists and the drama it sings.
In Disney’s take, a mighty elk, king of the forest, wakes Spring – Life personified, beautiful fluidity. Blue and green swirls. Life exalts in melting the snow and playing with the birth of flowers and butterflies, but is shocked when a mountain, an extinct volcano, resists her efforts to sprout in greenness.
In the center of the bowl is a form, dark and frozen. When she touches his misshapen face, the firebird comes crashing to life. Foaming fire. Slashing into the sky. Delighting in destroying everything Life has created. Reducing everything to ash . . . even Life herself.
I have to admit, I was having an ugly cry by this time. Right there in the performance hall. I watched Life destroyed. Vicious. Purposeful. Unremorseful. Wanton destruction of the good and innocent.
Ash floats through the grayness. Hope is gone.
But then we catch sight of the mighty elk–the king.
He steps across the moonscape and, carefully selecting a particular place, breathes into the ashes. There is Life—the hope of the forest—gray, shaking, bits of her flaking off into the desolation.
When the king of the forest encourages Life to come with him, to see another way, Life, completely unable to stand on her own slides onto the king’s back.
And she cries.
Tears flowing down her face. Dropping to the ground, where a miracle happens. Awakening. Her tears create.
Suddenly she realizes that the king of the forest has given her a gift held tight inside her pain.
Her tears can make a difference, if she’ll share them. If she’ll move through the forest, she can spread the gift the king has given her.
Where there was once destruction, the forest grows stronger, bigger, and conquers the mountain because of tears.
There is a metaphor here. A solution to be found in the ashes. The only one that works I suspect.
And so I cry. My tears flowing down, in hope that the king can use them to make my ash-filled world a stronger, bigger place, where the barren land is brought to life in resplendent beauty.
Beauty for Ashes, who would have thought?