I believe in the healing power of music.
My father was born in a strawberry patch. He came into the world with a three part harmony ringing through the Chief Long Jim Spring Canyon sung by a flock of meadowlarks. My father’s roots are cowboy. Dad grew up without his father in attendance; Grandad was always on the road working the rodeo circuit throughout the northwest. His mother died in 1937 giving birth to his little sister. He ran away from home to the high country, searching for life’s answers amongst the cattle and knotty pine. He pondered his existence in the evenings sitting at the wooden dinner table watching the oil lamp light flicker off clouded windows. The radio blared sounds of Gene Autry and he knew in his bones that he had something to offer. He grabbed his guitar and began playing.
My mother was born in the heart of the Colville Reservation on the wolf road. Her father played violin; her mother played piano and guitar. She was brought into the world during a westward quest from Montana to find a new life. The ancient spark burned in my mother from the time she was born. At nine, she picked up the guitar and eventually replaced her mother playing rhythm at local barn dances. Her voice waltzes through the willows and pines, carried by blustery Okanogan winds stopping to soothe and heal local friends and family who are joined together by affectionate life bonds. Her 1915 guitar rests kindly on the Piatt Place’s aged bedroom wall, and somehow the horses in the pasture exhale and are comforted by the Omak Creek valley equilibrium flowing through the decades. My mother’s roots are native. The center of her life is family and guitars flourish in the living room.
The smoky wooden stage sears the edges of my memory; the twangy beat impales itself into my heart. The sign on the timber building says Okanogan Grange. The band breaks into an upbeat tempo and my feet in cowboy boots begin to shuffle. I am not aware of this, of course, as I have other worries. My husband died earlier this year from the cancer, the immoral monster void of pity. I am empty; I can’t believe he’s gone. The four-year battle drained all of us, and I am sick with relief that he is no longer in pain, but the loneliness is overwhelming. At times, I am not sure I want to live. But my feet are moving and I can feel the music; it sustains me.
An upbeat rhythm; I can feel the beat. Although I’m not sure, as I can barely wiggle my toes. Last thing I remember is the LT barking orders to advance. The war is not going well. God it is miserable over there. Sand gets in everything I used to doze on the assault vehicle; you never sleep well, and dream of home: River Street, Ogeechee River, and Tybee Island. Dad was in Vietnam I think he was proud when I joined the Army and the 3rd ID led the charge into the war. But I don’t know. I’m in bed and I can’t move. I wish I would’ve died over there so I wouldn’t have to live like this. The only thing that interests me is my iPOD and my music. The rhythm; at least I can still feel the beat
Although I’m not sure I feel anything anymore. Everyone seems to have forgotten me. Nothing is the same in the wake of the insatiable monster from the sea. The terror I lived through has left me empty. I am a changed human being. It is the equal to being tossed into the pit as bait, to feed the monster, only the beast gorges himself on your neighbor and tastes you briefly, then tosses you aside like the piece of foul red meat that you are. You lay in the corner not willing to move for fear of being devoured, but in the end you are simply left to rot. And the rest of the country does not give a damn about you or anyone else in the area, because you are black. But somehow I hear the familiar tempo of Bourbon Street and I am sustained. There may be hope after all.
But I don’t know any of these things because I’m five years old. The year is 1964. My parents are on stage playing old-style music. Family bonds embrace the gathering. I feel the beat. I’ve felt it my whole life. I believe in the healing power of music. It’s a mystical wonder that nourishes the soul.
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