Saturday, November 28, 2009

Owl Waltz

Kayt heard the first Great Horned Owl hoot of the season this evening as she took the dogs out for a potty trip. The arrival of the first owl hoots are always a sure sign of winter here Beyond Ester. Kayt went out with me so I could hear it, and together we reveled in the sound. A friend turned me on to Shostakovich's Waltz No. 2 a couple of days ago, and even brought me sheet music. I've been learning it on the fiddle, and listened to dozens of versions on youtube today. Do you know the tune? It starts out with four oom-pahs and then a solo violin plays a plaintive, simple line for a few bars. The music suddenly bursts into a festival of harmony, then reverts back to the solo string again. As I listened to the owl hoot, plaintive and simple, I thought how perfect its call would fit into the Waltz.

In one version of the Waltz on youtube, the orchestra plays on raised stages arranged in a pinwheel into the audience. Many folks are dancing, non-dancers have linked arms and are swaying in massive waving lines. Everyone is singing dah dah dah dah, because they are part of the melody. The composer intended his audience to be participants, to be part of the music. Listening to the Great Horned Owl is like that. The owl is part of the melody of impending winter. I'm a small part, singing my line, dah dah dah dah, as the earth spins through the Long Dark towards the longest night of the year.

Our beloved 17-year old cat, Toklas, left us six weeks ago. I enter this first winter without him with sadness tinged with despair. We were each other's anchor for nearly two decades. I saved him from a nasty death when he was a baby, and he returned the favor with gracious, intelligent, vociferous affection. I find it difficult to imagine a future without him. I played the Westphalia Waltz for him over and over on his last day on the earth, and we sent him onto the next stage of his journey while singing his theme song, the Tokey Pokey.

Music soothes, music opens aches. Music sears, eases, fixes memory. Tonight, I sing my small part of the music of the universe--dah dah dah dah--knowing that the owl and Toklas sing with me. Goddess bless us all as we hum our way through the dark.

The stone owl above is one of many that lurk in a stone arch at Bryn Mawr College.

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