..."What do you remember about yourself back then, at such a young age, before it happened?” Dale prompts.
And there, rising softly from the recesses of my memory, I hear singing. Humming, emanating from my little girl self. Swaying along with the trees, arms outstretched, singing to and with the wind. I sensed no boundary between my physical self and the physical world around me. The flow of energy from me to not-me moved effortlessly, unimpeded by physical form. I was traveling along the air’s constant hum with my own inner humming voice.
MUSIC. It has always surrounded and permeated me, steady and constant as the air, its presence unmistakably distinct from all other senses. Sadly, a moment arrives in all children’s lives when their inborn conduit to the universe’s sounds gets switched off. It never shut off within me, though.
Perhaps I was wandering in the woods singing when the other children were rounded up and turned (tuned?) off. Eventually, I realized that not everyone sang with the air and the trees. I therefore limited my communion to the privacy of the woods.
In our small township, I knew of only one other person who heard things differently, and she bore the label of the village eccentric. Helen Moore, the flower lady who lived down the road just outside the tiny borough of North Lewisburg, talked to the birds in a manner similar to how I sang to the trees. Whenever we stopped by Helen’s house for flowers or vegetables, she would alternate between talking with us and conversing with the birds fluttering around her gardens.
My sisters snickered that Helen was a wierdo, and I must admit that try as I might, I could not decipher what the birds said to her. It wasn’t music to my ears. But if she claimed to understand birds and other critters, then I surmised that my hearing the earth sing was just as real. Nevertheless, I decided not to share this facet of my being with anyone else, not even Helen. I needed that conduit to remain open
... As the abuse continued alongside its denial, each incident drove further into hiding the child who stretched out her arms to hum with the wind and swaying trees. I created an outer persona, a protective shield around the precious fragments of my soul’s inner singing spirit. My mirror became musical sound that composed (literally) my self as I wished it to be. And no child wants to see themselves as anything but loved, safe, whole.
My inner and outer worlds were filled with music. In my musical world I was immersed in the sounds of church choir, piano lessons, school music class, National Public Radio broadcasts (Mother’s favorite channel on Saturday morning shopping errands), and the occasional concert in a nearby city. This rich variety provided a sonic canvas of expressive models. If any feelings loomed in threat to overwhelm me with painful truths, then I sought to transplant them onto a musical landscape. In this manner, I cut myself off from engaging too deeply with fear, loneliness, and despair. Like the memories, I wanted to banish them to the periphery of my consciousness.
Music became my emotional food. Its ordered principles of pitch, rhythm, timbre, texture, and form directed my mind away from the chaos of traumas I was powerless to prevent or resist. Music became my surrogate human mirror, its non-verbal communication conveniently masking my deficit of vocabulary to describe what was happening to me at my mother’s hands. The more fully I immersed myself in the sounds and activities of music, the more fully I could reflect it all inward to mute the internal noise of my traumatized self.