Sometimes I wonder if I am just the wrong age. Many of the people dearest to me are ten or even twenty chronological years older than me (or, in the case of my Mother-in-law, 30 years older). Yet we share an affinity, things in common, a wavelength if you like, where those years on paper are completely irrelevant.
My tastes in some things “officially” belong to a bygone age – for example I joined a Facebook group called “I’m fed up with bad church music”, which has a membership of some thousands of mainly church organists across the world. Its central tenet is a prejudice against the rather benign Christian ditty “Shine, Jesus, Shine” (which I actually don’t mind), yet I find myself in agreement with much of what is expressed by its participants.
One of my many obscure personal theories is that the popular music we are most familiar with, is that which receives constant airplay in our early teens. For me, that was Abba and local efforts Sherbet, AC/DC, and the ubiquitous John Farnham. Therefore, along with the fact that my own teenage years were devoted to many hours of homework and studying classical piano and violin, I have very little knowledge and understanding of popular music.
Once I stayed for the Easter long weekend with delightful cousins who have, in contrast, a very extensive collection of vinyl LP’s and a keen understanding of DECENT popular music. And, yes, are ten years older than I, so, therefore, blessed to be born into a more quality era of popular music. My relatives took me in, and even gave me “Homework”, a detailed listing of what I should listen to over the four days to improve my musical education. There was, as you would expect, an album each from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but also some musicians I had never, at that time, even heard of, such as Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jefferson Airplane.
This I did, and I still remember, to this day, some of the songs I was introduced to, and it has certainly helped broaden my horizons. Also on that same weekend I saw the newly released film “Dirty Dancing” with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in the cinema.
How time flies. I can remember that Easter, and its significance to me, as if it were yesterday.
Something else that I learnt on catch-up from from my older former boyfriends [with co-incidentally British connections] and then later my actual British husband and the English people I lived amongst for seven years, was an appreciation of British Drama and Comedy. So much more gentle and subtle than the offerings on television here, of both the Australian and American variety.
Although we had been fed, via our ABC, a steady diet of British fare, I had never got my head around “Monty Python”. But I needed to learn about it when my, again, slightly older mates at Uni would quote odd passages from it, and then fall about laughing. One-liners about Dead Parrots and Spanish Inquisitions and Always Looking on the Bright Side of Life.
“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” – the closing song from “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”. Which I guess I “shouldn’t” watch because it’s considered to be blasphemous by some, and I am, after all, a Pastor’s wife. But, as y’all know, I am not really good at conforming to stereotypes, and I definitely have issues with the concept of “SHOULD”.
So, yes, I have seen the film.
And right now I am trying to embrace the sentiment of that closing song.
Again, as a teenager, I was a keen reader. One of my favourite books was “Pollyanna”, by Eleanor H. Porter, now considered a classic. It would be seen as quite old-fashioned now, I’m sure, with its dated language and somewhat quaint concepts. The story of an orphaned missionary’s daughter trying to find something to be “glad about” in everyday life, even when things were tough, and attempting to spread that concept amongst those in her community.
She quoted from her late father that there were apparently eight hundred times in the Bible where God exhorted us to be glad and rejoice. So he must have wanted us to do it. Like “Shout for Joy” “Be Glad in the Lord”. “Rejoice in the Lord always”. “Sing to the Lord a new Song”. Her mission was to try and find SOMETHING to “be glad” about in each situation, no matter how bleak it may seem.
To find the proverbial “Silver Lining” in every cloud.
Readers of “Serendipity” will know that I have had my difficulties this year. But that I have done my best to work through them. That, despite a horror start to the year (detailed in “It was the Best of times, it was the Worst of times”), I came to the conclusion, then, that: “My work at the school is not done”.
Sadly, now it is.
I have done everything in my power to make things work. But I have come to the end of the road. Much as it grieves me, it is time to move on.
Sometimes letting go is indeed better than holding on.
These past few weeks have been very strange for me, with a number of huge contrasts and seeming coincidences (or out-workings of the power of Serendipity, if you prefer).
I had written to a composer acquaintance in Britain, Peter Martin, asking for suggestions for repertoire to teach my Year 4’s and 5’s, as previously we had used his fabulous compositions to great effect. He wrote back with a list of suggestions. Then, curiously, within days, I received a second email with the rather obscure query – was the term “Down under” – used by Brits to describe Australians – seen as offensive at all? Oh no, I wrote back, if anything we see it as humorous.
Before too long, I discovered the reason for this question. Peter had composed a brand new suite of pieces for Beginner Strings called “String Street Down Under” – all with titles inspired by Queensland place names (such as Hayman Island Hop) and dedicated:
My Grade 4 Beginners were very excited to try it out, especially when they understood that they were the first people in the world to ever play the music.
And then, when I got home, there was a beautiful bunch of flowers waiting, which had been delivered, from an esteemed friend overseas thanking me for my assistance with a project we had been working on together.
On the very same day, two different men, on two different continents, send me messages to say I am appreciated and valued.
And then, while doing some filing at home, I coincidentally came across a good-wishes-for-the-future message from my revered Year 11 Maths teacher (a small pink card kept for 33 years).
AND, stored with it, something I had not even seen for 25 years – a thin, white piece of paper folded multiple times.
When I carefully unfolded it I found it was the list of “Good reasons” I had challenged [now husband] Neil to provide for why I should go with him to New Zealand to meet his parents way back in 1990. (Knowing full well I would need to convince my own Mum of the same).
Being just as “bolshie” then as I am now, I had suggested ten good reasons should be the aim, but the handwritten list stopped at 8.
[But I remember the verbalised Number 9 – which I gave Double points – and the rest, as they say, is history.]
Meanwhile, some local problems loomed on the horizon, and other doors seemed to be closing.
Very strange times indeed.
And then, in a further piece of happenstance, in a “Downloads” folder I didn’t even know existed on my computer, I found an image of a significant day I had previously reflected on.
November 2009 at Pacific Fair Shopping Centre. The day two colleagues and I took a bunch of students, an Electric Piano and a String Quartet, sang some carols with the odd Violin Descant, won a cash prize, and made good on our promise to the kids to reward them for their efforts. On the way back to the Bus stop, went to McDonalds and bought NINETY ice-creams.
With the passage of time, my many 2009 Year 7 students who participated on this occasion Graduated in 2014, and are now in the workforce or well into their University courses. One Year 11 student of mine from this period has completed a degree and teaching diploma, and has now come full circle, teaching at the same school where she was a student! I posted the photo to Facebook this week, as I have kept in touch with a few former students. Soon comments came flooding in, not only from them, but from their former classmates – names and faces from the past, ghosts of my past. “I remember this day! Such great memories!” “This was such a fun time” “Oh, my, wow, I remember this”, “Best memories, remember it like it was yesterday”.
Then 12 year olds who are now 19 year olds.
But no longer children but adults. They have moved on.
And so must I.
I described this cluster of rather serendipitous and confusing events and messages to a wise and trusted friend, and mused:
“What is the universe trying to tell me?”
His response: “Be quiet and listen”.
The Bible relates the story, in 1 Kings 19, of the prophet Elijah fleeing the evil Jezebel, who had essentially “put out a contract” on him. He literally ran for his life and hid in a cave in the mountains.
Verse 9 picks up the tale:
9 The word of the Lord came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
10 He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’
11 The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
14 He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’
Sometimes when things are very bleak in our lives, it is easy to wallow in despair and even depression, to feel that nobody cares, that no-one understands, and, yes, to feel “I am the only one left” When you feel little sympathy or understanding, its easy to take that a step further and feel persecuted, literally “now they are trying to kill me too”.
But did God leave Elijah sitting wallowing in his cave? No, he did not. God sought him out. And gave him some quite miraculous signs that he was not alone – a powerful wind, an earthquake and a fire. But then God spoke, not in those dramatic ways, but in a whisper.
One of my favourite traditional hymns is “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”
Here are the last two verses. I wonder if they may even reference Elijah?
4 Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.
5 Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!
O still, small voice of calm!
A gentle whisper
“Be quiet and listen”
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there“ L.P. Hartley
Endnote: Main Photograph is of my daughter Cassie and her friend Jenn singing “I know him so well” from “Chess”, the first lines being:
Nothing is so good it lasts eternally, Perfect situations must go wrong, But this has never yet prevented me, Wanting far too much for far too long…