When I was a kid, I traveled a lot with my family. My dad was a career army officer. We got to live in Germany and Korea, as well as several states from east to west and north to south around the U.S.A.
Taking family vacations and trips around Europe, Asia and all over the United States was one of the great side benefits of having such a semi-nomadic life.
As a result, I have always been fascinated by different lifestyles and world views, both around the globe and here, within our own country.
In college I studied different cultures and languages from all over the world. I became interested in how differences in language frame our different perspectives of the world around us. I learned that to understand someone very different from me it is important to listen to their language, and to the words they use to describe their world.
Going to college was a privilege that I never fully appreciated at the time, but studying and learning about the things I loved was – and still is – a great joy.
After all that moving around (I have moved 44 times!) I realized some years ago that I needed to settle down a bit, and take the time to invest myself in a community.
I’m doing that, but it can be challenging. In spite of having first moved to Minnesota almost 40 years ago, I don’t always speak our local dialect, or understand things the way life-long local folks do. I’m convinced that if I want to be a real part of our community right here, I have to connect with people, learn more about our community from them, and think and write in terms that express the common values we share.
So here I am, in retirement, rediscovering the wonders of learning new things, and exploring new ways to see the world.
For me, retirement is like graduating from high school – all the possibilities of the world are laid out before you. With significant time available, now I get to go to school again – this time the school of life – and it does not go unappreciated.
Whether learning how to write a news article, or how to use a Secchi disc to test the waters of my local lake, I am learning wonderful and useful new things. I am learning from experts about how art can build a community, and how even farmers and city folks can bridge their divide and bind themselves together in the cooperative spirit of community-supported agriculture.
As a writer I get to interview people. I love to ask them about the things that make them excited about life, and I find myself getting excited about life, too.
I get to see a bit of the world through their eyes, to learn a little of their personal language, and in so doing become a little more part of this place, our community. What a privilege!
So many things I see around me here, in our little corner of the planet, lead me to believe that we can build a better, greener, and more connected world.
And there is music.
After years away from it, in retirement I have come to realize that the world is a better place with music. Maybe it was that community concert at a church, or that local music festival, or maybe that musician interview. Maybe it was my own need to write new music, or to share old music that still has the power to touch us today. I don’t know, but I want to be part of making the world a better place through music.
I’ve got musical friends who, as friends sometimes do, have disagreed with me about something that was important to each of us. I’m sad to say we’ve even parted company over those disagreements.
But now I begin to think about how we once shared our hearts in music. I begin to see the bonds we made. It makes me step out of my prideful old self, and do whatever it takes to make the relationship right again — to restore the bonds we had. It’s not the music that drives this desire, but the very connections we built with one another through our shared language of music. We once understood each other, spoke the same language, shared that love, and I won’t let that go.
So, let me tell you this, friends: it works. Love works. Love heals all wounds, if we will just listen and learn its language.
That’s it, folks. That’s my heart for our shared new year – that we listen to and learn from one another, learn how to speak in each other’s personal language, and work to build new bridges of love and community between us.
Always in peace,