Back in the Fall of 1992, a 35-year-old put on his bright blue windbreaker, wrapped his baby in warm clothes, slid his favourite cassette in his Walkman and went for a walk around the neighbourhood. And he did it on the next day. And the next. And every time, the same thing happened: his baby (finally!) fell asleep. During the same song.
The number of times I fell asleep to that cassette. You’d think it would be special somehow. And it is. It is special. My father loves it, and every time he hears the song, he thinks of the warm feeling he got when he finally managed to make his first child, his four-month-old baby fall asleep, feeling the baby’s head drop close to his chest, and that song played, and the Fall wind blew, and for a few seconds, everything was right. There was hope. He was connected. He had a place. Here was a small, wonderful, beautiful human who’d have a life completely different from his own. And he’d created it.
I’m sure you know this feeling. Even if you’ve never had a baby. Even if you’ve never touched a cassette or a Walkman or a bright blue windbreaker. Even if you’d sooner die than go on the same walk listening to the same songs in the same order every day.
It’s the feeling when the sounds in your ears echo the humming of the blood in your veins. Something out there is the same as something in you, finally. Your mind can’t believe it, but your heart knows it’s real. Everything is exactly where it needs to be. Including you.
Or maybe it’s not music or even sound. Maybe it’s something you see. Maybe it’s something you read. Maybe it’s a smell or a taste. Maybe it’s the heat of the Sun washing over you on a summer day. Whatever it is, you can take comfort in knowing that it’s real. And that weird intangible unnameable thing inside you, that wilderness you can’t explain? It’s real too.
When I was a small child, I was heavily interested in Catholicism, the religion of my grandparents. To a certain extent, I was brought up with this slight Catholic undertone, I think mostly as a way for my parents to appease their own parents after they’d eloped and moved away. But I just knew there was something more to life than what I could see and, not knowing other religions really existed, I tried to study that one. I think I was five or six when I asked for a Bible for Christmas.
I was disappointed when I learned there were other equally as valid religions, or when I started seeing the extent of the pain that existed in the world. It wasn’t long after. It was some time after I’d gotten those two children’s Bibles (children’s Bibles, seriously, how insulting, I want the full stories, I remember thinking with my six-year-old brain), and before I got the actual, full New Testament in Catechesis (I think I was eight then).
I have this vivid memory… It wasn’t too long after I’d gotten that New Testament. I was cross-country skiing in the trails my parents’ friends traced on their land. I was using my mother’s old ski set, the one she’d bought for herself as a teenager with the money she’d made babysitting and giving music classes. I stood on top of a hill, ready to go down. There was a gust of wind. It caressed my face. It blew away the hair that had slipped out of my toque. I stretched my arms out to the side. The wind slipped and slid all around them. I was completely surrounded by this gust, and I felt powerful and high on endorphins and I remember exactly what I thought: “This is God.”
I wouldn’t call it God anymore. I don’t know what I would call it. Life. The Universe. Energy. Synchronicity. Love. Connectedness. I don’t know. But I know there’s something. I know there’s something because of the way I feel when birds sing, when the breeze bristles through the leaves of trees, when the soles of my feet hit scalding hot sand, when I listen to Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity or Postcards from Italy, when I read tarot, when a friend says something that gives me hope, when I see the smile on my father’s face as he tells the story of the baby and the cassette, when I’ve made spaghetti sauce the way my mother does, when a song I’ve written gets stuck in my head…
I know this is coming from a place of privilege in many ways. In fact, it’s coming from appreciating and acknowledging the privileges I have, from my parents to the nature and peace around me, along with the colour of my skin and everything else on the way. Even simply knowing what hot sand feels like.
And I think the real problem is not privilege in itself, but ignoring or diminishing it.
See you in the next one. I’ll write about the Knight of Pentacles.
Until then, I wish you joy at least as big as having your newborn finally fall asleep while listening to your favourite song.