For the past three months I have been writing on a whole range of topics, but my oldest friend has never been mentioned. It’s funny how difficult it is to write about friends that define who you have become. I have a saxophone that was built in 1914. I got it when I was eleven years old. It has been with me ever since. For a column that claims to be looking for balance, the arts have presented a very difficult topic to address. We play pick up hockey, kick the soccer ball with our children, sometimes even walk to work; but we view the arts as a different, more formal pastime. A person can be forgiven for seeing the arts as distant because our society has not built participation into our lives as it has with sports. But if music and drama belong on the stage, art in the gallery, and books in the library, where is the recreational artist to turn? Yet a soul without art cannot find balance. Those that divorce art from life cut off a part of themselves that is far more real than the concrete, glass and steel that our modern society so longs to honour.
Just as the sunrise, fall colours and a blue heron in flight are feasts for the eyes, so the wind in the trees, the crickets and the bobolinks are feasts for the ears. Our place, just as theirs is to sing a song of life. And what a song it is, filled with planting gardens, watching the sunrise and listening to fields of nesting birds. Through the arts we find our place not just in the world but in life. The sea of concrete that we build to serve the automobile offers no music, no joy, no love.
The joy the saxophone has given me spans almost all the years of my life. It is filled with jazz and the blues when I am sad, show tunes when I am happy and songs of courage when I need hope. We need no audience to justify playing, just the desire to make music. Much has been said in recent years about the cognitive development that playing a musical instrument supports, but all of that research pales beside the pure joy of making music from the soul.
I was lucky to have grown up in a home filled with music, books and paintings that stirred the imagination. Even more, I had the good fortune to spend much of my adult life teaching others to love drama. Best of all, as I grow older, I have found that the music, theatre and art that framed my past have become the core of my life on the farm. Spring is the time of bobolinks, robins, killdeer and the myriad of other nesting birds that fill our fields with song. In summer the garden fills the world with scents and tastes. Fall brings its colours and the rains which in turn give over to cold winter mornings when my skis slide across the snow. I guess balance to me never was all about cheque-books, nine to five jobs or promotions; it was about learning to treasure those things that nature gives us free of charge. It was about finding joy in life. It was always about learning to create my own music of life and to thrill every time nature echoed back its own version of my tunes. See you next time.