Father’s Day, Now

My 90 year old Dad called this morning, to express his wonderment at getting my FedEx envelope with his card, including copies of my blog post about him as an air traffic controller, and a bunch of jewelry bits that he will enjoy making into bolos. Yes, I had forgotten to send him a card(!), and had to do next day Saturday delivery to cover my forgetfulness. On his 60th Father’s Day, too!  He didn’t notice the envelope until after 10PM, so assumed that they found his door deep in his senior village that late at night!

So, to totally break with society’s idea of the proper way to honor yourself as a father (be waited on, etc.), I made a wooden piece to fix the bench glider on our dock, so it would be ready for our annual Fourth of July party. After the power tool part was done, the hand tools came out. While doing the mortise and tenon, I had this flash of resonance with all the men who built their cabins and furniture in this manner – hand saw, chisel, rasp, knife. After a couple rounds of fine tuning – it fit! A perfect way to honor all fathers throughout history!

With sawdust and gratitude to all fathers, and children of fathers,

your Nowist, Blaise.

Home is Where Your Heart Opens

my Dad in PHL control tower, 1969

my Dad (on phone) in PHL control tower, 1969

Home is not just a physical place – where you hang your hat or cook a meal. Not just where years of love and relationships have built a place that glows with warmth. A recent experience in an airport showed me that even on a plane full of strangers, I can feel fully at home.

My Dad was an air traffic controller at Philadelphia International Airport from the late 1950’s to mid 1970’s. Once in a while he brought me to work, where the guys would greet me as Frank Junior, probably knowing that was not my name. My most memorable visits were at night, as my Dad wanted to “to show me the lights” from the control tower. All the runways and taxiways were rimmed with colored lights for visibility, and their lines reminded me of Christmas tree lights. Blues and greens, and of course red. I suppose he held a sense of wonder even during his midnight-to-eight shift, for he himself lit up as he talked about taking me there.

Sitting on a plane in 2013, looking out the tiny window at the abandoned old control tower at PHL, I felt a rush of warmth and sense of belonging. My heart was simultaneously open to the past and present, and I felt the oneness only felt at home.  Now that Dad is long retired and with his eyesight fading, he stills lights up with curiosity and appreciation, a beacon to all of us on our daily journeys.

Give your Spirit something to do and it will rise to the occasion!

After three unrelentingly cold and rainy Spring days in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, even attending the Adventures in Sound Play workshop with Paul Winter could not shake my gloomy mood.  At Kripalu, where this workshop was held, breakfast is held in silence, so on this last morning, my only social contact as I entered our jam room was with my own heavy thoughts. When Paul gathered us for the first jam of the day, 3 of the 4 chairs filled, but I really had no interest in volunteering.

But when I was invited to play violin, I reluctantly joined. Unlike reading music from a page, a spontaneous music session demands complete attention and openness to all the sounds emerging around you. During our opening silence, I thought about making a tentative entrance that would reflect my mood. But after the hand percussion and harp started, I realized that would not blend with the established music. So instead of hesitating, I let those introductory musical moments inspire a true in-the-moment expression. What came out of my violin was almost a grand entrance! I guessed the harp’s key correctly and came in harmoniously. From there a melody emerged, which gave our improv a recurring structure and musical direction. The aural communication amongst us was wonderful, with some dialogs and call-and-response episodes. After maybe 4 or 5 minutes, a clear ending presented itself, and it was over.

Such a rush of joy coursed through me – it was an amazing transformation, dispersing all residue of my funk of 6 minutes earlier. And as both players and listeners shared, it became clear that it touched many quite deeply, some to tears. I have had this experience when playing violin in a slow, plaintive minor key, but never in an up tempo major key. Something special had happened, something that never would have occurred if I had not been invited, and then found the willingness to forego my thinking and let the moment inform my actions.

When asked how I could have played this way despite entering the room shrouded in personal gloominess, I replied, well, “Give your Spirit something to do and it will rise to the occasion!” It truly felt that I was in tune with a presence larger than myself, larger than the other musicians, and even larger than everyone in the room. I felt like an inner sun had burst through the prevailing grayness.

The lesson encapsulated in the title of this post is simple to state, yet sometimes hard to do. No matter how dark your personal mood, you can bypass its pull by allowing your sense of spirit or creativity out to play! And if you can involve others as well, you will have public acknowledgement of what your mood was concealing.