For as long as I can remember, the issue of feeling like I don’t belong and don’t have a place in the world has dogged me. Being an avid science fiction reader since fifth grade, I determined that the reason I did not fit in anywhere was that Earth was not my native planet. I knew that I must have been kidnapped by space gypsies at a very young age, and then genetically modified to resemble human beings. I could only hope that someday my real parents would find me and take me home.
I’m still here. And I figured out that Earth is not such a bad planet, once you get used to its inhabitants. When I became old enough to leave the small, backwards, right-wing conservative textile town I grew up in, I found other people who became members of my earth-bound tribe, and I began to find the places on this planet where I could belong.
But those old feelings of not belonging or having a place will still pop up unexpectedly, surprising me with their sudden painful intensity. I recognize them for what they are – ghosts of the past trying to haunt my present, ghosts that carry sadness and longing from places and times long gone – but these ghosts can still chill my heart, and leave me scrambling to find the place I belong in the present.
A morning of sleeping late at the beach called forth their latest apparition. I usually wake early to see the day come to life over the ocean, but this morning I was the last to rise. My six friends were sitting around the breakfast table, at the six places they set, in the six chairs that fit around the glass tabletop. Someone fixed pancakes for breakfast, and now there were only crumbs left in sticky puddles of syrup. They were drinking coffee, and the coffee pot was empty. No room at the table, no food, no coffee – quite enough to trigger old feelings and new, hot tears that I tried to blink away before anyone could see them.
Back in the real world, I knew that no one was trying to tell me I don’t belong. My friends made room at the table, and cooked fresh pancakes, and showed me the workings of the individual-cup coffee maker they were using because not one of us seven caffeine-dependent adults remembered to bring coffee filters. Still, the ghosts had once again chilled my heart, and I needed to find warmth.
After breakfast I pulled my harp over to the wide ocean-front window, and set up my harp bench and music stand so I could see the white-caps being pushed to shore by tropical storm Alberto. I sat on the bench, pulled the harp back to my shoulder and my heart, and in that daily ritual, I was where I belonged, where I am supposed to be, where I always have a place.
And on this morning I knew that it’s not just when I am at my harp lesson working with my teacher, it’s not just when I am making music with others in the recorder and early music ensembles, that I have a place. Music is the place I belong, wherever I am.
I allowed an easy practice, just letting tunes flow out my fingers, and I listened to the sounds of the harp join the sounds of breaking waves and raucous gulls. On this heart-chilled morning, Music wrapped me up and gave me the welcome into the day that my tears longed for, and turned my sadness into grace. My heart warmed with peace and gratitude for being blessed with harp and Music, and for knowing that I am not alone, and not without a place, with Music as my companion.