From Before


When summer was still alive, we left our candle-lit tents and made our way to a clearing lined by the dark shapes of the Lithuanian forest.

There’s something special in being involved in the rituals of other cultures—in being a spectator to something that carries so much. To experience the swaying movement, the closed eyes, the voices that rise and fall. I’ve never heard music like Baltic music; there’s something raw about it, like it’s been drawn out from deep places.

We stood around the fire as two boys pounded on drums, and I looked up at the nighttime sky—so far removed from the lights of cities, aglow with thousands and thousands of stars that have seen millions of years. A thin wisp of smoke lifted itself into the air from the bonfire to the stars, like a signal to whoever was watching. And it occurred to me, as I felt the grass beneath my feet vibrate with the sounds of our presence and the breeze curled around us, dipping in and out of the forest, that it would be very easy to imagine that nothing had changed in thousands of years. That this was not 2016, that we didn’t have cars and phones waiting for us by the tents, that we had ever spoken something other than this language—this language that was lifting itself up into the sky by so many voices that had somehow remembered, that had been kept alive despite so many attempts to erase it.

In the firelight, it was easy to imagine that no time had passed at all. A girl across from me had dark hair, hooded eyes, her lips parted in song. Her linen dress and bare feet over the dirt conjured images of a maiden from a painting, if only I could render her properly.

I didn’t speak the language. I shouldn’t understand the words. But somehow I did, there in the forest, holding hands with strangers. So much life has taken place; so much is beautiful that it cannot all be remembered. It must be bottled up, carefully, in songs and drums and those moments near midnight when youth wander into clearings and sing the words their ancestors wrote. When the ancestors listen.

I think a lot about what music does to culture; about what it says about our history. I wonder if those ancient Baltic people ever expected that their rhythms and words would still remain after so many generations have come and gone, after so many wars and occupations have threatened the memory of them. I wonder what any of those people, from the recent past and the distant past, would think if they knew that I—a strange combination of nations and cultures—would hear their words and identify with them.

I wonder if I know them a little more, now. I hope that like this, they can be a little less forgotten.

The reason for this delay in posting is that, although I’ve had this written for months, I was hoping to combine it with another post and connect two ideas rather ingeniously. It turns out that I can’t. So here you go: part 1 of my music musings.

Late-year updates:
– My second article, “To fight back: Harry, Katniss, and what the world really needs right now” was published on Hypable in November.
– I won NaNoWriMo 2016 and finished writing the draft of the rest of “The Tisroc and the King“. Once I get to edits chapters should be out with more regularity.
– I also published 3 new one-shots, for Narnia and Harry Potter, so check them out if you haven’t already. I’ll do an end-of-year round up of everything because there’s too much to say here!

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