Music Speaks Louder than Words

In order for anyone reading this to really understand its significance, you need to understand that my mother and stepfather are no mere “dollar voters” (those folks who read their organization's newsletter to decide which pizza company to boycott that week), but Capital-A Activists.

When I was twelve, for example, they were instrumental in starting the Modesto chapter of Amnesty International, while I lurked and tried to ask intelligent questions. I have been alternately dragged to, or a willing participant in, peace marches, anti-nuke rallies, a protest against Lawrence Livermore Labs, and tons of pro-Cuba, pro-Choice, and pro-Gay and Lesbian events. (I played Becky Bell in a street-theatre demonstration that involved lying down in front of San Jose's light rail, several years ago, and sang “The Engineer Song” at another demonstration, at one point, and the first time I did clinic defense, a rather notorious local OR-member barricaded himself in his van because we wouldn't let him near the clinic doors, and made so many calls to 911 that he was finally arrested for mis-using it.)

But really, this entry isn't about all that.

It's about Fuzzy indulging me for my birthday, which was a week ago, really, but my present was last night: Premier tickets to see Peter, Paul & Mary at the Mountain Winery, with a gourmet dinner on the deck of the Chateau up there, before, and passes for the private reception, after.

The food was wonderful – the theme was Pacific Rim – and selections included cashew salad, and three different fruit salads, olive bread, marinated mushrooms, their version of California roll, thai pasta, chicken marinated in some kind of chilli and orange combination, and Mahi-mahi with pineapple salsa. The view was amazing, the entire valley spread out below us.

The concert began with everyone realizing it was getting much colder than expected. And I was annoyed, at first, because the person directly in front of me was very very tall, and I'm very very short, and for a few minutes I was miffed. And then they started to sing, beginning with no introduction, just launching right into “Weave me the Sunshine,” breaking up into laughter because (as we found out later) Mary had mavved a lyric the night before, and they'd reminded her of it as they walked out.

And then they did Puff. Or maybe, really, we all did Puff, because I don't think there was anyone who wasn't singing along. Noel Paul Stookey said in another concert, once, that he felt all politicians should be required to sing for their constituents, because it's so much harder to lie through song, than it is to lie through the spoken word, but there were no liars there last night. I ceased to be miffed at TallGuy, though, when I heard him singing, off-key, but with total sincerity, and saw him reach for his daughter's hand (she was my age, or a bit older, he was probably around seventy), during the line, “Dragons live forever; not so little boys.” I mean, really, how can you be annoyed with anyone who gets all mushy during Puff?

And so it continued. We sang, they sang. The second half was their solo section, and Peter talked about his current pet project: Arts in the Schools, and Mary shared her gardening hobby with us, and her new pet project: keeping Water from becoming a trade item, and Noel (Paul) read a rude poem about Asparagus, and then sang the Garden Song, which, despite my almost complete lack of religious tendencies, has long been a favorite of mine.

And at the end, as the fog was rolling in, there was the ritual last encore of “Blowin' in the Wind,” which, of course, meant the audience was singing as well. In that moment, surrounded by redwoods, at the top of a mountain, with blue lights, and starlight, and wisps of fog, the energy was at once powerful and serene, and filled with possibilities.

And then it was over, and we trekked up the hill to the room where the private reception was to be held. We read over the literature from the host organization, Environmental Volunteers a group that goes into classrooms and gets kids excited about natural sciences.

There was dessert there: peach cobbler, chocolate dipped strawberries, and brownies laced heavily with Jack Daniels. And, more importantly, there was coffee, and it was warm!

Finally, the trio arrived, and they each spoke a bit about the concert and the evening, and then Mary and Noel bailed, but Peter worked the crowd. He teased the kids, hugged everyone, and I got my moment with him. I told him about this legacy of activsim my parents had handed to me (that I'm doing very little with…and that needs to change), and about music, and that being in that room was my birthday present, and he stopped me, and started singing, and made the whole room sing. And someone from Environmental Volunteers said, “You have to have a picture, we'll send it to you.”

Last weekend, I was having a miserable birthday because we worked and fought, and this weekend, beginning with a giggle-filled dinner with , and and Fuzzy, (where I didn't talk much, I know, and I'm sorry, but y'all made me laugh, and I /so/ needed that), and culminating with being smooched and serenaded by Puff the Magic Dragon's dad, I have been wrapped in a bubble of pure delight.

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
And music does speak louder than words.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Music Speaks Louder than Words by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.