Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Simple Dreams

I haven't blogged since June.  June.  So, tonight I decided it was time to get back to All-en-A-Day's Work.  I hope you'll forgive my absence.  I hope that I will be nudged to get this and several other bits of writing done... sooner than later. 

And what do I start with?  Simple Dreams:  A Musical Memoir by Linda Ronstadt.  Two weeks ago as I was flying to and from Saskatoon, I read it (it's been on order since I heard she was writing it).

I've always been a Linda Ronstadt fan (or Ronda Lindstadt as my friend Christine O'Hanlon lovingly calls her).  When Susan and I got married I told her there were three people I wanted to see in concert:  Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt.  And, together, we've seen all three.  In fact, we saw Linda in Denver not long before she quit touring as a singer... forever.  For those of you who don't know, she's been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and her singing career has been silenced.  Now it's through her recordings and her written word that we'll have to enjoy her voice.  

There's a wonderful section at the beginning of the book where she describes the "mud huaraches" they made so that they could run barefoot in the Arizona desert.  She writes, "We often went barefoot, but the ground in summer would become so hot that it could raise a blister.  The remedy for this was to wet our feet, then dip them in the dry, powdery clay dust, then a little wet mud, and then back into the dust again until we built up layers of earth to insulate us from the heat."  I used this section as a "think aloud" with my students as we began a study of how Wise Readers Ask Questions.  

As I've read her words, I've been pleasantly surprised by her writing.  As I've read her words, I've been pleasantly surprised by how much music as been a part of her life since birth.  As I've read her words, I've been pleasantly surprised by her candor and honesty regarding a career that has spanned decades and garnered many awards and nominations.  As I've read her words, I've been pleasantly surprised by her honesty.  She's smart.  She's talented.  She's gifted.

Perhaps my favorite passage in the book is in the epilogue.  She writes, "People ask me why my career consisted of such rampant eclecticism, and why I didn't simply stick to one type of music.  The answer is that when I admire something tremendously, it is difficult not to try to emulate it.  Some of the attempts were successful, others not.  The only rule I imposed on myself; consciously or unconsciously, was to not try singing something that I hadn't heard in the family living room before the age of ten.  If I hadn't heard it by then, I couldn't attempt it with even a shred of authenticity."

And she ends with the line, "At the time, struggling with so many different kinds of music seemed like a complicated fantasy, but from the vantage point of my sixty-seven years.  I see it was only a simple dream."

Like her music (I've heard it all), this last line knocked my socks off!  Simplicity... a shred of authenticity. 

I've been thinking about simple dreams of late.  I had one once... to teach.  It started in 1984 (after getting a degree in Communication Disorders).  I decided to teach.  I was probably listening to "Lush Life" while I did my homework.  It was a good dream at the time.  

But my dream has changed a bit.  Now with all the complexities and mandates and grand reformation and uncommonly good standards my dream is that I keep reminding myself of why I got into this career in the first place.  

Thanks, Ms. Ronstadt for reminding me to relish my career.  With all its ups and downs, gives and takes, mistakes and successes.  And, thank you, for reminding me of how important it is to "play in the desert mud" or "ride a horse with a friend" or "sing a song" or "stand up for your beliefs, your history, your voice."  Of how important it is to pursue learning with rigor and endurance.

I think it's time we all start thinking about all the children we know and have known; hoping that they too will have a chance to follow a "simple dream" in an overly complex world.