Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Sonidos de Soledad

 I've been joking with friends about my lifelong penchant for solitude.  We've had a private relationship for years, I say-- flirtations, sometimes a secret affair...  but lately we've become more or less exclusive.  To be perfectly honest, I never really felt totally connected.  I loved my mother-- but the others-- well, it was like we were made of different material.  We'd get banished to our rooms for various childhood misdeeds and while my sister would tantrum and panic, it was sort of my sanctuary.  I invented stories and poems-- I read, I painted pictures, talked to my little animal collection, looked at stamps, built things.  It was the group activities that terrified me-- even a family dinner was like a tortuous ritual.  

It's not like I was a loner; I was social and participated... I took ballet and chorus and orchestra and loved the ensemble thing, but I craved solitude.   When I discovered music-- pop and rock in those magical years of the early 60's, the lyrics reached out to me.  I went as an exchange student to a remote city in Veracruz, Mexico and the language difference separated me further, but also drew me in.  The girls had names like Blanca-- Rosa-- colors... or Dolores (sorrow), and my favorite friend, Soledad (loneliness).  It was like a legendary story and I was a character.  Life was simple and basic-- no electricity or plumbing; we slept three 'sisters' to a floor-palette.  People sang and danced.  

I'd brought with me Simon & Garfunkel's 'Sounds of Silence' album.  This had been a revelation to me-- from the very first lyric 'Hello darkness my old friend'... I knew I was 'home'. Unfortunately there was no turntable and nowhere to plug one in, but Soledad daily came and studied the cover-- turning it over and over, touching the vinyl grooves as though magic would emerge.  They had a guitar; I was not good but could figure out most of the chords... So I spent the summer translating song lyrics...los Sonidos de Silencio.  My versions were clumsy and filled with mistakes and misinterpretations but I began to understand the underlayer of the Spanish language, the way we in school wake up one day to the concept of symbolism.  Names have a meaning; characters represent things.  What is the meaning of my life, I wondered, as I wrote out Yo soy piedra/yo soy isla... and Soledad looked at me from her black eyes of sympathy.

My first stop when I got to Mexico City later that season was a record store where I found The Who's 'Tommy' had been released.  I spent the afternoon in an isolation booth with headphones, savoring the re-discovery of recorded music--like an old friend.  For those of us who begin to 'live' via music, it is only this that accompanies the solitary room of existence.  Every sorrow has a theme, every grief has a soundtrack. 

Ironically, in my 2020 confinement here, I have been separated from my live musical connections.  Players need one another-- we need noise and amplification and audience and company... personal intimacy.  The absence of the alternative to solitude takes away some of its meaning.  I'm not sure Thoreau would agree-- or St. Augustine or those monks who suffered and labored for years confined and deprived.  For me, during much of the year, loss and grief have defined the boundaries of my shadows-- they have drawn the outline of my silhouette.  Some nights it has been hard to even listen to songs of my personal history that conjure old memories.  Here I have all the time and space I have ever craved, and the ghosts of music past haunt my evenings and color my auditions with a kind of pain.  

Tonight I did my lap of the park reservoir in the cold with the wind stirring up a current on the glassy water... A lone goose was calling-- shrieking, squawking.  The moon had painted a clear white broken line on the black surface but she avoided the spotlight.  I strained to understand her, to fathom her language... to no avail... but within minutes a whole flock came and surrounded her.  For a time they all shouted and sang; then they were quiet.  What was the meaning?  Was she banished or punished and then forgiven?  They all seemed so calm when I turned west-- gliding across the rippling cold water, listening to the sirens and the soft wind, unaware that the year is about to turn over.  

I realize that Soledad taught me somehow the difference between solitude and loneliness.  I wonder where she is today-- an older woman like me.  She liked to dance-- she would undoubtedly have led the happy/sad life of most beautiful women.  I am still mourning the losses of this year, but am grateful to embrace the amplitude of what I have been given.  It is as though I am in an empty room with nothing but a wand.  There is another language still to be learned; I am beginning to see this, and I look forward to a  slow melodic passage into another year where I will once again hear and translate the sounds of silence.

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3 Comments:

Blogger franksfotos said...

Amy old friend...happy to see that there are so many older posts that I can read and savor in 2021...what a writer you are....here's to seeing each other in 202..it's been a long time coming...xxoo Amy

December 31, 2020 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

From Leo: So...has everybody read this? Like, Paul Simon for example. Kind of knew you'd end the year with one of the very very best. That image of alone in a room with...a wand! The possibilities, infinite. May you stay amazing and together, Amy.

December 31, 2020 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger PH said...

Don’t stop, I’m thankful for your thoughtful definitions of times we know but can’t define. I barely grew up in nyc, join the marines went to war came home owned bars and learned a lot that taught me life that I had difficulty communicating. You give explanations and right on answers. Thank you.

January 2, 2021 at 9:01 PM  

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