Crossing the Great Divide

I crossed the Great Divide between middle age and elderly this weekend. There is suddenly a barely-fathomable “7” at the front of my age-digits.

I decided several months ago that I might as well use this coming upheaval as a cause for celebration—after all, as they say, getting old is better than the alternative. So I thought through the things I love to do. Not big parties, particularly. Not ocean cruises. Definitely not climbing a mountain.

Suze Pratten

Suze Pratten

But SINGING! – now there’s something. And friends. What if I could find a weekend of joyous singing, and share it with people I love?

The perfect opportunity availed itself: “Singing at the Monastery”. The location was clearly going to be beautiful. The directors I knew well. Three full days of singing with them – could there be a more fitting opportunity to herald in a new decade?

So I put the word out to a number of close friends, most of whom were able to chisel a hole in busy lives and set aside four days for celebration. We rented a large and luxurious Airbnb not far from the Monastery, and packed up enough wine and bright clothing to get us through the weekend.

I then proceeded to surrender to the choice, and in the end slid over the Great Divide with joy and panache.

Monastery 5The Stroud Monastery turned out to be an enchanting environment. The hall in which we sang (Gunyah Chiara) had perfect acoustics. The chapel, where we sang one evening, carried echoes of thousands of years of music and ritual. There was a sing-along at the campfire, complete with candle-lit pathways, the glowing white trunks of gum trees, a full moon in the sky, and someone toasting the only perfect marshmallows I’ve seen south of the equator.

Our contingent from Wingsong

Our contingent from Wingsong

And most all there was singing! There were 67 of us (10 from our own Wingsong Choir) and we sang almost non-stop for a full three days. We learned seven songs, each more beautiful than the last. We danced, we held concerts, we juiced ourselves up with those happy hormones that come with choral singing. On The Day itself, I was fêted with a raucous cha-cha-cha rendering of Happy Birthday.

Birthday groovin'For all of that time, I dwelt completely in the present, at the same time building up enough memories to last the rest of a lifetime.

Now, several mornings later, I still have the sumptuous chords that 67 voices can make filtering through my brain. I open my mouth to talk, and a riff falls out. I sing in the shower, and can hear faintly the other 66 voices behind me. The event is a miracle that keeps on giving.

But in spite of all this, I confess to feeling a bit forlorn.

People neglect to tell you the downside of a choral weekend. You might guess that leaving behind excellent new friends is a negative, and that’s bad enough. But the true loss comes from having to leave the songs behind, along with the 67 voices and the wonderful directors who arranged them and led us so passionately. That can’t be replicated. The new friends I can find again if I want to, but it feels like the songs are gone forever.

It’s left me somewhat bereft.

Maybe it’s just that loss becomes more poignant when you reach 70. Unmistakably, it’s all finite. When a friend or partner dies, they’re gone. When a song is left behind, it’s gone.

But didn’t you love them while you had them! – And that’s the joy that lurks behind all loss.

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10 thoughts on “Crossing the Great Divide

    • Seems like every year should be treasured and celebrated, loss and decay are just part of the natural order of things. xxx

  1. My dear Heather,,,,,, Every single word you write is a gift to us recipients from you………, How I wish I were going to be around to read your thoughts when you turn 92 like me, or a little older yet like your Mom…..

    Keep sharin’…

    How many friends have you made in this ole world?

    Sent from Windows Mail

  2. Happy New (8th) Decade to you, Soulmate Heather! I am so bold as to say that because I am a fellow singer and my 70th comes up in August. I am alternately not happy about it because it is such a big number, and then very happy about it, with “still alive and live is excellent” kinds of thoughts. About singing: There is a wonderful oratorio by Robert Cohen about Alzheimer’s Disease, if you can believe it. It is settings of poems by and about people with ALZ, “Alzheimer Stories.” Anyway, one of the beautiful refrains is, “Music is the last thing to go.” A song is never over–it’s inside us forever, even after other things fade. Music keeps us alive in so many ways. In addition to the wonderful Key Chorale that I am privileged to sing in here in Sarasota, there is the “Off Key Chorale,” an allied chorus for Parkinson’s patients and other people who love to sing. It offers many kinds of therapy all at the same time. I joined as a “ringer” for their upcoming concert, but it turns out to be a joyful weekly hour for me, as your monastery gig obviously was for you. This weekend, our chorale sings in collaboration with 100 high school singers. Can’t wait!
    Now–imagine that you can hear me singing “Happy birthday to you”….

    • Thank you – I am picking up the “Happy Birthday” very nicely!
      I am playing the Robert Cohen piece as I write this: what a haunting and poignant work of beauty. Lots of mischief. And discord.
      Would love to sit in the audience while the Key Chorale does its thing; you’ll be so inspired!

    • Just let them know that if you just make a point to do something you really love to do, you can slide in gracefully!

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