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“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
—Barry Lopez
(as Badger, in Crow and Weasel)


To be nobody but yourself -- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
- e. e. cummings


Guarded Gratitude

_____Why is it we often find it most difficult to express our feelings for the ones who mean the most to us? For years I struggled with the frustration of not being able to break these chains and tell my father exactly what he means to me. I believe the answer to this question for me lies within the limitations posed by our overused language. It seems as though all the really powerful words have been used so many times by so many people with so little thought that they have been rendered meaningless. I could tell him again that I love him, but how many times have I said, "I love cinnamon rolls," or "I love tennis?" How do my feelings for my dad compare to pastry or even the most thrilling of games? We are forced to use the same words to attempt to convey vastly different emotions.
-------Quite often music can come close to describing what words cannot. My father and I are both musicians. I thought to myself, “This must be the key." I knew it still wouldn't be easy though, for our musical tastes vary so.
Finally, a song made its way into the popular charts that came very close to explaining how I felt about my father. I knew I could never have gotten closer to portraying my sentiments musically than this. Why then did I still have trouble mustering the courage to share this song with my father?
-------I spoke to a friend of mine about it briefly. He was one of my most inspirational music teachers and therefore understands the potential music has for moving the soul. Though I barely mentioned the song or its meaning to my teacher, I would later find that I had actually expressed to him much more than the mere content of my dialogue. When the song came up in a casual conversation weeks later, my teacher looked at me with a warm and empathetic look on his face. "I wish your father knew how much that song means to you." I had told him nothing that would imply the magnitude of my heartfelt emotions, and my father never came up in the context of this conversation. My feelings had evidently come across in something other than my words. Somehow I felt a resurgent confidence in the power of communication.
-------"Now or never" time arrived one night when my father and I were in the house alone. I happened to be listening to this very record when he walked into the room. It was an unusual situation, for he had never before walked in and sat down, showing an interest in what I was listening to. I was frightened, for I knew if I failed to share the song with him in this moment, which had presented itself graciously, I'd surely never find the nerve to initiate an opportunity on my own.
-------I lifted the stylus from the vinyl grooves and searched for the words to describe what the song meant to me. I stumbled through an awkward introduction and placed the stylus in the groove at the beginning of the spinning platter. As the opening chords sounded I moved to a location in the room outside my father's line of sight and listened nervously while he followed the lyric sheet I had handed him.
-------He had few words to describe the song and this momentous event. They were very generic, often repeated words; something like "That's nice” or "Pretty good." Hardly earth shattering remarks, but now I could empathize with my teacher. There was more conveyed in his modest muttering than mere sentiment. As he left the room I sank in the relief of having made a courageous attempt at getting my message across. Furthermore, I knew he had received at least a miniscule portion of the immense gratitude I wished to express.

© 2004 - The Trill House