Writers’ Page – November 2014

…They Comfort Me – Music

Martha Wood

I love music. I find it stimulating, restful, uplifting, mood altering, and oh lots of things, but the best is that it comforts me.

I wish I knew more about music. Even though it has been a constant in my life, after years of instruction, I never became proficient on the piano, trumpet or French horn. I got by, learned my lessons and played well. I had a head for it, a heart for it and excellent hearing.

You see, I grew up in a very quiet family. We were all girls; my mother, older sister, younger sister and me. No loud fights or boisterous playing disturbed our setting. I think this helped preserve my hearing. But the drawback is that I lived several miles from my piano teachers, and the lessons were in the daytime when mother was at work. So I would walk to and from these lessons. They were both nice women, nevertheless not the kind of teachers best for me. Both had a habit of paying my next lesson for me each week. I would sing my lessons all the way home and then played mostly by ear, meaning I didn’t have an incentive to discover for myself the melodies and rhythms being taught in the lesson.

When it came to the brass instruments, I hadn’t learned good study habits for the piano. Therefore, I didn’t practice as much or with as much joy needed to grow as a musician. I did, however, finally recognize that I have a gift for singing. I sang in choirs from the age of nine. It was only natural for me because mother set an example by singing in the church’s adult choir from as early as I can remember. In fact, she controlled our behavior in church from the choir loft with just a look. You can imagine the look. Your mom probably had one as well.

Now, I don’t know if it is true or not, but my theory is that singing is 90 percent hearing. And the funny thing is, you hear with your heart and your ears. Even though only my mother and I have sung in choirs, I thought everyone could sign. Historically, Methodists are known as singing people, and, as a lifelong Methodist, I was used to lots of people singing. Plus, I thought everyone heard music in their head just as I do. I often wake in the middle of the night with music rattling up there. When I switched from instrumental music in school and transferred to the music department, I soon discovered only three of us in the school chorus were serious about vocal music. One was a soprano, as I am, and the other was the student accompanist who also sang alto when she got the chance. We became best friends and still keep in touch today.

Well, as to comfort, I had a rather lonely childhood. My mother was the only parent in our home, and she worked every day. My older sister, seven years my senior, was always off with her friends. My younger sister, by six years, was either at her aunt’s or mother’s work. From third grade through Junior High School, I was home alone, a latch-key kid, with instructions to stay home, stay in, and no one could come over when she wasn’t at home. I often sang out loud or to myself to pass the time. Listening to records, I learned the music to light opera, and would pretend I was Jeanette McDonald, also a soprano, and in my imagination, I sang duets with Nelson Eddy on stage. After our family finally got a television set, I would tune into programs featuring music. I loved the Voice of Firestone, formerly known on radio as the Firestone Hour, as well as the local Smokey Rogers Show. I finally grew out of all that when I started to sing in a more grown up choir at church and the school chorus and had real solos. Still it was quite a while before I realized my ability. It took invitations to sing for weddings and memorial services, without the backup of other singers, to come into my own.

Recalling all this reminds me that for those of us who sing in groups, like choirs or community ensembles, we find that we always have a place and, at least for our time there, we have another family bound by the strings of music. There is something magical about group singing. It is a unifying force. There is great comfort in the cocoon that surrounds one in the midst of ensemble singing. It is difficult to explain or to imagine unless you have been in the middle of feeling.

I hum and sing to myself, sometimes out loud, without realizing it. Jim loves it. He is my greatest fan. As in the past and in other towns, I sing with our community chorus. I sing in a small group called We Three, and am still in church choir. Plus, I sing solos in these groups and for special church services. I am still pretty good. In fact, sometimes I allow myself to think I have improved with maturity. I sing more with my heart now and doing a lot of singing keeps those muscles fit.

On the back cover of my book, Out of My Mind, I am quoted as saying, “…music feeds (my) soul and writing feeds (my) spirit,” and that is definitely a true statement. I love music. I find it stimulating, restful, uplifting, mood altering and oh, lots of things, but the best is that it comforts me.


Gail Thatcher

Some of you know of my saga with persistent birds. I thought I had solved my problems with the cooing doves, drilling woodpeckers and birds building nests on my patio.

Yesterday morning when I went out to chase away a wood pecker drilling on the metal on my chimney, I got rid of him, but I heard a bird squawking loudly on my patio. I walked around and discovered a soon to be mama woodpecker in the process of building a nest on the lip of my patio light. She of course was making a big mess, but my main objection was, nesting there would curtail my use of the patio when her babies are born. I worried that my presence would frighten them, possibly causing their little hearts to stop. I wasn’t concerned with scaring the mama because woodpeckers often exhibit more persistence and tenacity than many crows or grackles I’ve seen.

When I saw that she was building a nest, I clapped my hands loudly and yelled, “Shoo. No” as I walked toward her. The tiny bird ignored me until I was almost under her. She then flew away. I knocked down the handiwork of the little creature and hoped it would end her desire to create her project on my patio. Unfortunately that was a short lived dream. About an hour later I looked out my dining room window and saw the bird bringing nest material back to the light and observed that there were already some twigs on the lip. I opened the door and clapped my hands loudly as I yelled at her and rushed toward her. I was almost to the light when she flew away. This little sage continued five or six times or maybe more, I don’t know, I lost track. I even hosed the lip hoping that would discourage her, but no luck, she just waited until it dried and began her building project again.

In between the chasings of “my little friend,” I tried to figure out a way to defeat her. I decided that I could put rocks, like the ones I put on the couch to deter cats from sleeping there, but I didn’t have a ladder or anyone to do the job for me. I thought about getting on a chair, but the possibility of falling on tile and breaking a bone, discouraged me.

That night I couldn’t get the nest off of my mind. When I looked out the window, I saw that my little friend had almost completed a nest on the lip of the light. Feeling defeated, I walked out to the light and knocked down the nest and hid it so the bird couldn’t reuse it when she continued to chisel away at my sanity. When I looked up to see if I got all of the material, I noticed the piece of leftover cord from my computer that I had looped over the fiberboard slat of the cover and around and under the light to prevent her from getting onto the lip. It had about a two or three inch wide loose loop where I had tied the ends together. I got a broom handle and after quite a few tries, I was able to push the loop up onto the lip of the light. It was wide enough that I am hoping it will block the bird, tho tiny, from getting back onto the lip. It looks pretty secure, but I won’t underestimate that tough little bird.

I just looked out of the dining room window and I’m not sure, but it looks like my friend may have tried to move the cord, but the one end is sticking up and laying against a slat, preventing it from moving any more. I should be relieved, but I don’t really hold out much hope that I have defeated that tenacious little creature.

My handyman is supposed to come over this week and fix my chimney to prevent the woodpeckers from “drilling” on the metal. I don’t hold out much hope that it will work, but I can always dream. If he is successful, maybe the only noise at my house on the 4th of July will be from the fireworks in the distance.

My handyman was over today and put bird repellant around the top of my chimney and on the cinderblocks to deter the woodpeckers and doves. Now I can only hope that in the morning I will enjoy peace and quiet again. He also put small rocks on the lip of my patio light to prevent the mad mama from building her condo there. I’m almost afraid to hope this will work. Time will tell.

I’ve returned from a week in California and miracle of miracles, the rocks are still on the lip of the patio light. There is no sign of an attempt to build a nest. Dare I hope?

When I awakened this morning I couldn’t believe my ears. There was silence, except for the normal morning noises in the beautiful state of Arizona. I laid there a while, waiting to see if maybe I was on the doves and woodpeckers late list, but was happy to note that the silence continued. I was a little concerned that the next morning would bring back the racket.

As the sun rose on the next morning, I awakened to the beautiful sound of silence. I am happy to report that it has remained that way ever since. I am enjoying my revelry, because I know when the repellant wears off I will be assaulted again, but hopefully my handyman will come to my rescue. Oh, life is good in Sun Lakes again.