Walking on air

By - Apr 18th, 2008 02:52 pm
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This is the best time of year. The best. Someone I used to know called it “that summer feeling.” It’s not summer yet, not by a longshot — there aren’t even leaves on the trees — but you can FEEL it coming. You can smell meat grilling and grass getting heavy, see hot sun on bare shoulders. You can let yourself wear shoes without socks or leave your sweater in the car.

It’s enough to make you delirious. Every little beautiful thing becomes monumental.

Walking to the Public Market for lunch. Buying flowers. The trains passing, the bells on the drawbridges ringing as the bridges raise for cargo boats. Driving with the window down and turning up the radio a little louder. The wind sucks a yellow curtain through an open window and it blows out there all day like a greeting to the passengers on the Amtrak.

The barista you love surprises you by knowing your name! Isn’t that something!
The egg salad sandwich you order for lunch (from What’s Fresh, perhaps) is delicious! God almighty!
The moon is out and it illuminates the hem of the clouds! It’s a miracle!

Walking north in Riverwest a few days ago, I hallucinated the lake on the horizon. It was early morning, the sun was fresh and every blue thing in eyeshot (in this case, a far-off warehouse) took on a grandeur that could only be explained as lake-ness. Perhaps I’m disoriented, I thought. Maybe I’m headed east. Perhaps the lake has always been in this direction.

Of course, feeling like a gleeful tourist in my own life really calls into question the stability of any relationship I have with my emotional world. If all it takes to turn around the bone-dry melancholy of the late winter is a warm breeze, a little luck and a lot of sunshine, how did I understand anything that happened between January and March in a genuine way? Is it possible that this sense I have of majesty, affirmation and the fundamental rightness of the universe, despite all reports that would lead me to believe otherwise, is just a whim? A function — nay, side-effect — of some fairly routine meteorological phenomena?

Probably. But I don’t care.

Tonight my inside man at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (to protect his professional integrity, I won’t say who, though you can probably guess) wrangled me a fabulous seat for Music Director Designate Edo De Waart‘s debut engagement, conducting Gustav Holst’s The Planets. Due to some serious dawdling on my part, I missed my hand-off and was provided with further instructions to look for my ticket in the grating under the first tree to the left of the stage door.

Surreptitiously I snapped up the goods (the triumphant absurdity! picking up a ticket to THE SYMPHONY off of THE GROUND, like some lucky accident!) and hustled into the Marcus Center, feeling windswept, sweaty and a little conspicuous in beat-up black boots and big fur-hooded vest in a cocktail-hour, nice-cologne kind of crowd.

But none of it mattered once I climbed over some well-dressed knees and took a seat. This was the first time I had ever been in Uihlein Hall. It reminded me of my family’s synagogue.

I noticed my heart racing. I was strangely exhilarated.

“This afternoon, Edo de Waart conducted the Milwaukee Symphony for the first time,” said Concertmaster Frank Almond, “for an audience of 2000 screaming children.”

Graciously, Maestro de Waart agreed to return for the night. When he took the stage, the crowd stood and cheered for him.

And then, with little ado, the driving rhythm of the first movement, “Mars, Bringer of War,” the wood of the bows tapping the strings in urgent 5/4 time, the melody swelling.

I realized I’ve been seeking this out: an opportunity to get away from myself, to lose myself in something huge and furious and far removed from all of the petty winter fretting I’ve been doing – what am I thinking, what am I doing, what do I look like, what does that one cute boy think of me, why isn’t anyone calling me, what smart book should I be reading, etcetera into tiresome infinity.

The Symphony was captivating. Rapturous. It was huge and furious. When I left I was walking on air. I walked home through a warm, cloudy night, the half-moon swathing the Blatz building in creamy light.

It’s little wonder that love gets in the air like this in the springtime. What must life be like in Southern California in the spring? In bleak Nevada? In the canyons of the great Southwest or the swampy heat of Alabama? Is love EVER in the air? Or is it like a page on which everything is highlighted — does the constant presence of nice weather nullify its power?

I couldn’t live like that. I need the punch to the soul that spring brings. I need to be jarred by it: reminded, revitalized and reawakened to tremendous possibilities.

Categories: VITAL

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