Welcome to Grace Notes, the "column" section of Grace's Garden. Here's where inspiration, thoughts, affirmation, a little fun, and lots of other good things will flow like a calming fountain, or shine like the morning sun. Periodically, new columns will be featured on this page, and old ones will be archived, so do please keep checking back!
In the subtle tinkling of a garden wind chime, in the whisper of a breeze through high pond grasses, grown tall in early September, we hear it. In the first, tentative shivers of the north wind, in the calling of a red-winged blackbird to its mate, in the rustling of century-old pages in an antique edition of Henry the Fifth, and in the laughter of a grandchild, we hear it. In its unwanted forms, it constantly bombards us, in blaring television commercials, on bustling subway cars, in noisy office break rooms. But when we actively seek it out, it can be one of the most soothing, uplifting, glorious, and life-affirming gifts known to humankind. It’s music. And it is indeed all around us.
In this first column, upon which, with a warm smile of remembrance, I bestow the title, “Grace Notes,” I welcome you to a beautiful world that IS all around us, if only we will see it, hear it, and shamelessly, unabashedly revel in it. As we get to know each other through our mutual love of all things sunny and bright, musical and artistic, soothing and scented, delicious and comforting, I hope to introduce you, dear reader, to the many ways in which we can grace our own worlds with simple joys all too often overlooked in today’s overscheduled, overworked world.
So many times, we draw upon our childhoods, our families, and our homes for inspiration in our lives. Sometimes this sense of history and connection to the past manifests itself in the way we decorate our private spaces, or in the types of foods we like to cook, or even in what we decide to do for a living. And sometimes, it shows in our very being. I like to think that a lot of who I am today comes from my Grandma Grace, for whom I was named. When I was 11 years old, she and my grandfather came to live with us; and though I didn’t realize it at the time, my Grandma influenced me in more ways than I can even begin to fathom.
Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, there was a wonderful riverfront band shell in the town I grew up in, where free summertime concerts were given by local performers, as well as internationally renowned musicians, including many jazz bands. To this day, the sound of wind band music takes me back to that simpler time, of gentle river breezes carrying notes kissed by brass and silver to an audience sitting happily in beach chairs and wooden grandstands, their flip-flopped toes tapping to the livelier selections, or curled up in contented bliss at the softer, more soothing pieces.
But, getting back to Grandma Grace: We’d often bring my grandparents along when we went on these summer evening family outings, and because the concert series was so popular, we’d have to park quite a distance away from the band shell. (At least, it seemed far, to a youngster.) Along the way, Grandma would enjoy the stroll, observing the trees and flowers by the roadside (as she was a farm girl), and often pausing to stoop over and pick up a pretty little pink pebble she’d find on the sidewalk. She would actually stop, right there, and peer at it, study it, and exclaim, with her adorable Italian accent, how beautiful she thought it was, and then place it carefully in her pocket, where it would await new friends she would inevitably discover along the same journey. My grandfather, ever the practical, old-school, all-business “provider for the family,” would often gently rebuke her, saying things like, “Come on, Graziella, everyone’s waiting. You don’t need that,” in his own Italian accent, tempered by years of self-study in the English language. She would out-and-out tell him that she was having fun, and she thought they were pretty and she’d collect as many of them as she wanted. A couple of times I even saw her, in her rare combination of childlike shamelessness and womanly confidence, sticking her tongue out at him!
Now THAT’S the kind of woman I’ve always wanted to be. Not disrespectful, contentious, or irresponsible – but just aware of who she truly was, and able to let others know she was going to be who she truly was. With just a healthy dose of playfulness thrown in for good measure.
And now, as I steam toward the half-century mark, I realize how much more important it is now to let myself be that kind of woman – the kind of woman who’s not afraid to remark how pretty I think a pebble is, or how lovely that first sip of tea is after the coldest day of holiday shopping, how the different instruments in an orchestra seem akin to the many colors in an oil painting, each providing its own unique layer to add to the masterpiece, or how the strings of my guitar feel alive as I gently coax the music from them. And I have a feeling that you, my new friend, are that kind of person as well. In this modern world, we are, on a daily basis, exposed to so much negativity that it can be very difficult to focus on the good, or even to find it anymore. So much is demanded from us that it can be nearly impossible to slow down, even for a moment. But you and I aren’t like that. You and I know that the truly finer things in life aren’t the most expensive. And together, you and I CAN find the music that is all around us, and the lovely things of this world, and we WILL carve out a little extra time – even if it’s only a few moments a day – to allow ourselves to revel in them. Shamelessly. Unabashedly.
Just like my Grandma Grace did.
Feast your ears with the music awhile.
--William Shakespeare, Timon Of Athens; Act III, scene vi.
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