Thursday, September 11, 2014

Listening to Gabriel's Oboe

Today I listened to Gabriel's Oboe over and over. It’s the theme from the film, The Mission. When I made my confirmation, it was required viewing. Rarely does a film pack so many questions into one story. My mother and father saw it the theater. She recalls the two of them walking New York’s streets for hours afterwards. Neither of them had words for it. Instead, they walked in saturated silence.

The story is of a Spanish mission that thrived in the Amazon during Colonial times. It’s success threatened authorities both governmental and clerical.  The powerful never falter in their desire to squash the truly free. It is their greatest fear. When it comes time to defend the mission, two priests fight alongside the native people. One fights by sword, the other by prayer. For both of them, the truly good sought fairness in all things, opening themselves to criticism and ostracism in their quest for right. Often, the free, possessing a power of a different nature, fail. Neither man survived.

I can’t imagine the film without it’s score. Music tells the story through dense emotions, those we never named.  It’s record filled our Upper East Side Apartment for weeks. The opening mimics the first sound after the quiet heard at sunrise. It floats as more instruments join, each creating a different chill and charge. Then, the chorus perfects the pieces, coming just shy of exploding and destroying it. Nuance at its most raw. The build up reminds me of the promise tomorrow brings when today feels wasted. But no effort is ever wasted, no kindness to small to matter. Daddy taught me this. Mommy perfected it.

Music makes visceral memory. Bow over string transports me through time even more than the smell of the beach.  At times, I believed I could smell my father on a wave of sound. When something amazing plays, I still do. Sound wraps around my shoulders. It rests against my back and squeezes my ribs. When I look up, no one is there.

My father’s best friend, Peter, said it best. “We went to a Irish bar on the East Side – a dark, smoky place. We drank and listened to Irish War ballads, not quite like Tommy Clancy. It was the most moving experience I ever had in my life. I’ve searched for years to find that music.” To search is to know you still love.

Before Ellie was born, Brian and I traveled to South East Asia. In Hoi An, a beach town in Vietnam, I woke up before dawn. I sat outside with a camera and watched the world wake up. Fishermen put out to sea in round, wicker boats. A mother held her baby in her lap. They clapped together. The quiet was perfect.  It is in quiet that we build connections with another.

These images and moments are so complete unto themselves; they seem impossible in worlds of noise and glowing screens. But it was this world of moments and images that I inhabited with Daddy. Our time was uninterrupted. When we were together, we belonged in a world entirely of our own making. Only recently did I learn that I can go there whenever I wish, but the ticket is always round-trip and I travel there alone.

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