Music (Part II): Stirrings

dsc_00155Saint James sits at the laptop in the kitchen, scrolls through hundreds upon hundreds of songs, clicking – listening – clicking – listening. Perched like a gargoyle, he listens with his whole body. He listens with his ears, his eyes – his shoulders tensed up, his toes tightly curled around the rungs of the stool. When he finds a song he likes, he leaves it on and flips over to the internet to google cool soccer moves.

He’s been lingering in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, memorizing song titles and lyrics with that steel trap brain of his. The brain that memorizes multiplication tables I’ve long forgotten, legions of Pokemon and all their powers and evolutions, piano scales, the birthdays of his friends and teachers, the habitats and life cycles of obscure Australian rodents, the relationships and power struggles of countless clans of Warrior Cats, and myriad other boy esoterica. I am humbled by the power and elasticity of the young brain – and now, it seems, he is turning his attention to music, at the ripe old age of eight. What a lucky little dude.

Saint James: This is a really good section. It’s Dani California, then Snow, then Charlie. 

(Hmmm . . . so the lad likes Stadium Arcadium . . . good man.)

Me: Are those your favorites?

Saint James: I don’t know yet. (Scroll, click, scroll, click . . . measured, like his father . . . withholding judgment until he’s sure).

It’s equal parts heart-warming and heart-wrenching to watch this little development: the subtle spike in interest in music. He’s inching ever so slowly toward adolescence, when music and friendships will be everything. (Gus Van Sant said: “I think that when you are sixteen and seventeen years old, you’re making the most important connections with the world that you will probably ever make in your life. If you ask a seventy year old what his favorite song is, it’ll be a song he heard when he was sixteen.”) Saint James is shifting from responding to music like a child, by jumping around like a clumsy happy marionette, to being way more still and aware, to listening with care and curiosity, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of angst.

To me there is a correlation between starting to love music and starting to love. I’m not talking about the amorphous selfish fuzzy blanket love of a child. I’m talking about love love. Real love. Big love. Love that can take you over the moon. Love that can leave you dead in a ditch.

Saint James is still young – I don’t think girls are really on his radar screen yet. As far as I can tell, there are no snot addled crying into the pillow histrionics on the near horizon (or maybe that’s just a girl thing). But something IS happening. Movement, stirring – in that deep seated spot where soulfulness resides – in that space that exists between the guts and the heart that aches and throbs and churns when lyrics and melodies and bass lines just happen to coalesce in a certain way. Saint James might not yet understand that music can be a ticket to fantasy, to possibility, to shelter, succor and relief from heartache and loss. That it can be a way to celebrate, a way to mourn, a way to feel turned on, a way to feel understood, a way to pass the time because time moves so very slowly when we’re young. I think he’s just located that thick artery that runs between a good song and the soul. He’s gently probing it with his finger, starting to feel that pulse. He might not know it yet, but I’m watching it happen. Right here in my kitchen.

There’s a girl just down the aisle,

Oh, to turn and see her smile.

You can hear the words she wrote

As you read the hidden note . . .*

Oh, son, go, explore . . . just take care with that sweet heart of yours.

*From Sugar Mountain by the great Neil Young.

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