“This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills.
The weather this spring, or one recent storm in particular, reminded me again of a night long ago in a land far away, when I had occasion to attend a concert in a large but spare concert venue, likely a high school or small college gymnasium. It was too long ago actually for this elderly brain to remember the location. I don’t even remember if I’ve told you this before. Apologies if I did, but here goes.
Despite memory lapses, that scene is etched in my mind. I almost didn’t go, because the weather forecast didn’t sound good. But it was Dave Brubeck and his bunch, and it was one night only. So I went, and was soon consumed by the rich, tumbling notes, the mysterious timing of Joe Morello’s drums and Paul Desmond’s delicious, buttery saxophone. All this was soon accompanied by the intricate and seemingly well timed light show glimpsed through the gym’s high windows as the storm approached. The thunder, too, seemed to be keeping time, rolling nearer, readying itself for a solo, perhaps, if offered. Then all at once, a flash, a sizzling, explosive, deafening bang, and the lights went out. But that wasn’t the amazing part. Obviously it was planned if unrehearsed, but the band shifted between one note, one beat and the next, from Take Five to Stormy Weather.
“Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky…”
It wasn’t the storm or my memory of it, but that calm, measured reaction to it, that has cast it into my memory and made it an archetype a “a recurrent symbol or motif, like in literature, art, or mythology.”
Earlier this week, or earlier this month, like all the times before, a storm roared through the Ozarks and did its level best to throw our stuff in the air, damage everything it could and scare the bejeezus out of everybody. And then we got up the next morning, assessed the damage, grabbed boots and saws and work gloves and said “OK, let’s get to it.”
And that’s the thing about we humans, or at least the ones that live here in these old hills. We don’t stay scared. We may tremble in the moment, and cast fervent prayers to whoever might be listening. But then when it blows over we get up and do what needs to be done.
I do sometimes wonder what’s to become of us, with our vivid imaginations, our gullibility even, to be caught up in ever more far fetched notions that feed our fears, dislodge our personal phantoms and lead us down rabbit tracks into a wilderness of the almost real, the “reality” that isn’t really, the rumor apocalypse. What will we believe tomorrow, and how will we know that it’s true, or not?.. Today, if we tire of the reality based universe, we can just go with the virtual. Put on our goggles, play the game, and see what world we enter when we take them off. Will it be just a regular day, or the stuff of our dreams – or a nightmare. Like the Terry Pratchett character In a world of change that it is forbidden to notice, who asks “Yes, I know that’s always been there, but yesterday? Yesterday, had it always been there then?”
Now don’t misunderstand me. I may be old, but I’m not yet some Luddite who believes we should go back to pre-technology days and burn our computers and cell phones. I admit to being a great fan of all the ingenious things created in the machine age – but I also believe there would have been far more axe-murders during our pandemic isolated winter if we hadn’t had Zoom and Facetime and Instagram and all that to fall back on. All those are good things, and played a great role in our ability to step away from the terrifying uncertainty and awful sameness of this past year. But while we are now anxiously awaiting a return to something we think of as normal, I think it bears mentioning that we probably should pay some attention to that new normal, and weigh the wisdom of returning altogether to how and who we were back then. Perhaps we should weigh our attitudes and beliefs of the past against what we have learned in that very educational time in between, the time we spent alone. We learn a lot when there’s time to think. That’s why those sages go up on mountaintops and discourage company. Certainly we get well acquainted with our fears, and we can be overwhelmed by them. But like the morning after a storm, there is a new day to consider, new thoughts to think, new things to learn, new depths to our character added just because we made it through another night. Add to that the utter simplicity of what we’ve become accustomed to: curbside pickup, on-line ordering, working from home – or not. We entered a place of great peril both to our health and our finances, but on the other hand there were suddenly no costs for eating out, driving to and from work, all those things we just had to have. We were pared down to the essentials, and by that learned a good deal about just what those essentials are. We have a lot to think about.
A great deal has been made over the past year over real and supposed limits to our freedom. For me, those sensible limits were worth it to curb the risks, and most of us were able to be adults about it. But i can tell you from recent experience that there is no feeling of freedom equal to that moment when you mask up, go somewhere, see a friend, flash the 2-finger V sign meaning you’ve had both shots, and hug for as long as you want to, fearlessly. We’ve earned those hugs, those hands holding fast, those deep sighs of relief. I know there is some anxiousness about the vaccines. But really. Tell me you go on line and check out the ingredients on sausage and hot dogs before you eat them. Tell me you read all the printed material that comes with every prescription.
I know. We hear things that scare us. But we also know human nature. We know some people just make things up, sometimes to scare us, to win us to their way of thinking, and sometimes just to get attention. And we also know there are hostile governments that are actively working to damage us, including trying to scare us away from the things that would keep us strong and healthy. For me, I trust my doctors over anything on Facebook or any other unverified source. I trust them because they’ve already saved my life more than once, and I expect them to keep on doing it.
Well, anyway, here I am on the verge of turning this into a lecture, and that’s not what I’m here for. I went down this rabbit track out of thankfulness for many things – that Monday night’s storm wasn’t any worse, and that we’re waking up to the normal of spring’s sun filled, windblown sometimes dramatic mornings, and life is as it should be, normal or not. We are nearly out from under this long, dismal dark cloud of the pandemic, and I’m grateful it wasn’t any worse, or lastedany longer. I’m sincerely hoping you’ve gotten your shots so I can hug you when I see you, and you can trade that V for Vaccinated with everybody you know and love, and that you’re ready to weather all the storms life sends you in these Ozarks Hills.”
I’m always touched by your unpretentious thoughts and observations – not to mention your music!
I’m so happy to hear from you, Merideth. Best, Dru
As one who lost their life partner of forty years to Covid, how welcome are your words that raise us all to a greater standard of reason.
This is you, Marideth? I hadn’t expected that. Thanks, gotta read it again, a lot to take in. Fo7nd out recently- through David Hoffman’s fabulous YouTube channel, where he’s uploaded the 1950s and 60s films he made of dancing in the Ozark – that it’s my mob, too, a lot that settles the Ozark. The Irish. My line got sent to Australia by the British for minor theft fir survival – al, know that story. And I had no idea about the Ozark, or anywhere around there. Got my head filled with stereotypes of making a joke of these hillbillies. It’s a while real fascinating thing for me now. My family loves to sing. Irish can’t seem to help it. The music of the Ozark is so grounding. So on the ground if that makes sense at all. Thank you very very much