My earliest memory is of my father’s music. As a child, I used to watch him play for hours. A few years back my jazz musician father turned 88 years old, which, he said, was significant because he has lived long enough to be the same as his piano (88 keys) and was still playing.
How many people do you know who have been playing the piano for 80 years? Pretty amazing, right?
Like my pop, I play the piano, but I haven’t mastered it as he has. Not even close. Still, I love the piano as a songwriting tool and have missed it terribly over the years. The last time I had a piano was when I owned my own home, and it made me very happy to play every day, but I have moved around too much since then to own a piano. Just not practical. Guitar is much more portable and it is the instrument of my heart. Been playing guitar since I was 11 years old, which was also the age I began writing books. But the keys were my first love and I will never stop missing ’em until I once again replace my small apartment with a real house and finally buy another piano.
THE MUSICIAN ME
A long time ago, a musician friend once said to me:
Music will be the longest relationship you will ever have. It is in your heart and your blood and will be until the day you die. Treat it with respect, love, and care. Give it the attention it needs and deserves, and it will heal you in ways you cannot yet imagine. It will soothe your soul, mend a broken heart, keep your mind free to experience and imagine and inspire. If you honor the musician in you, it will give back tenfold what you put into it.
Maybe not those exact words, but that’s what my heart heard.
Thing is, I didn’t truly understand it then. I do now.
It pains me to confess that I took a long hiatus from music, believing I needed to concentrate solely on my books. It was too long. I played the piano once a year if I was lucky enough to find one (and be granted permission to play it). I only picked up my guitar once every 3 months or so, always wishing my fingers danced the way they used to.
My Pop is now 93 and playing better than ever. I was reluctant to tell him about my musical hiatus, not because I thought he would judge me (he’s not the type), but because I felt I had forsaken a family legacy. It’s as if he had given me the Hope Diamond and I had buried it in the ground and forgot to make a treasure map. It seemed unforgivable.
I had begun to feel as if I had not only denied my heritage, but also betrayed my relationship with music. I ignored the sage advice my music teacher had given me in high school and denied my soul the very thing that gave it wings.
When I finally told my father how I felt about what I’d done, he said:
What matters is that you continue to create. As long as you are creating, your soul will flourish. It is important for everyone to have a creative outlet, but for souls like ours, it is absolutely essential… as essential as breathing. If you stopped writing books, then I would be worried, but your books are like music to me, and the songs you write all tell wonderful stories, so where is the loss to your soul?
He was right, of course. All I had to do was stop judging myself for the decisions I’d made, and live my life to its fullest potential. That meant stepping out of regret and into self-forgiveness. It meant becoming who I’m meant to be, and being it even when I feel lost and alone. I am a writer. I am a musician. One need not be forsaken for the other. That was just a story I told myself to give myself permission to concentrate on The LightBridge Legacy series.
I don’t make excuses anymore. I make CHOICES.
A NEW PATH
A few years ago, about the same time I decided it was time to return to music and start writing songs again, I was approached by one of my lifelong musician friends—the same musician I quoted above—Greg Conway, (genius composer/superb guitarist/masterful audio engineer and producer). He asked me if I would consider writing lyrics for his prog-rock band Grey Matter. The moment was serendipitous. So we started to go through my 2-inch-thick binder of song lyrics that I have been contributing to nearly my entire life and picked six to start with.
We still plan on developing those tunes, but Greg and I decided to start with a different song—a song we would create from scratch together, both of us contributing equally to music and lyrics—a song that would not be for the band, but just for us.
We started with a poem I wrote just after experiencing a devastating loss.
It took a year of Wednesdays (we meet for a few hours every other Wednesday afternoon), but it is finally complete! It is called The Longing and the Letting Go, and it’s about the journey of grief. When we started the song, we had both lost someone dear to us and needed to express the deep sorrow and utter strangeness of death. Sorrow is something everyone can understand, I think, but when you lose a soul that has been with you for so long that they have become a part of you, you don’t recognize your life after they’re gone. You don’t even recognize yourself. You look in the mirror, and your reflection looks wrong without them beside you.
How does one live through such devastating grief?
The Longing and the Letting Go is about this moment-by-moment healing journey. It’s about the year-long transition from here to there to here again: Life…loss…and the return to life.
When my mother and best friend died, I wrote a book to get me through it. That book is called The Saint of Carrington. It’s a Christmas book because I lost my mom during the holidays and felt Christmas would never be the same. It is a story of love, loss, and hope… a story of learning to believe again. This song is another such journey. It marks my active return to music and my soul is smiling because of it.
I’m pleased to be able to share this recording with you (and the lyrics) below…
The Longing and the Letting Go – Lyrics
Colors fade to shades of grey
No more words between us
Still the touch of memory rushes over me
Everything remains the same, but everything has changed
A moonlight trace illuminates a photograph of you
It’s all that’s left. It’s all I have. I cannot hold you now
Anger comes like pounding drums, drowning out the pain
Still the empty lingers in the shape of you
All the rest is meaningless
There’s nothing for me here
I’d give all my tomorrows for one more dream with you
My heart grieves in spite of me
I cannot hold you now
A momentary glimpse reveals the truth in my reflection
Faded echoes ripple through my world
My feet upon the ground, unbound: a walking contradiction
The longing and the letting go, the ebb and flow
The dream undone
Sorrow comes to wake me
The scent of you still holds the room
It comforts me
I cannot hold you now
The world waits
I cannot hold you now
UPDATE: Since creating this song, Greg and I have decided to continue our partnership. We are called Juniper House, and you can follow us here to get updates on new releases: https://juniperhouse1.bandcamp.com
Elayne Gineve James is the author of the adventure/ fantasy coming-of-age series, The LightBridge Legacy, and the new holiday novel, The Saint of Carrington, plus the upcoming Dragonbond Books. For more info visit: http://www.ElayneJames.com