I glanced down at the open book of Hymns on my lap and pondered the fact that I’m clueless when it comes to music. Oh, I quite enjoy listening to it, but I’m oblivious when it comes to the understanding of notes, composition, tune, rhythm, etc.
It wasn’t my intention to attend church services that morning. I’m not normally a church goer, but I do occasionally get drawn in by architecture and every now and then the need for a little spiritual enlightenment. It was a lovely morning, and I was out and about visiting a local historical landmark. The Lamar, Texas, cemetery has gravestones dating back to the Civil War and all the local tourist brochures listed this as a site to visit.
So, there I was on a Sunday morning strolling through a cemetery when I realized the neighboring little Catholic Church’s’ doors were open. My curiosity was such, that I found myself entering the Stella Maris Chapel and taking a seat in the second to the last row of pews. I was a little early and only the fifth person to arrive. I glanced around taking in my surroundings and noting the Hymn numbers posted. I turned to the appropriate page to glance at the first song to be sung. I already knew I wouldn’t be singing out loud…..
My first real exposure to the education of music was somewhere around the seventh grade. It was a semester long, daily one-hour class exposing students to all aspects of music including singing. This sounded like a fun class to me, especially since I could sing really well…. or so I thought. After all, what teenager doesn’t like singing along with their favorite artist?
The first day of this new class, the teacher wanted to get to know the students and their abilities. She had the left half of the class sing the first verse of a song and then she had the right half sing it. She’d select different students to sing a line while the rest of us remained silent. Recommendations were made and it was obvious these first few students that had attracted her attention were talented singers.
This process continued and when the teacher finally called my name, I proudly stood erect thinking she’d want me to sing by myself. Instead, I was told to sing a little softer, which I did, but apparently not soft enough. She stopped our group two more times to tell me to sing a little softer. Once my volume was down to lip-synching level and not one vocal cord in my throat vibrated, I was given a big thumbs up… “That’s perfect, Ingrid. Keep singing at that volume for the rest of class”.
“Seriously”, I thought? “What did she know?” I couldn’t wait to get home and sing my heart out into my little cassette player-recorder, proving that the music teacher didn’t know what she was talking about. And sing I did, and in my head I sounded fantastic!
With a smile on my face and child-like exuberance, I rewound the cassette and hit play to hear my wonderful rendition of I Think I Love You. Come on, who didn’t want to be Susan Day back then? I even played an air piano while singing and had taken an iron to my unfashionable curly hair an hour earlier.
Alone in my room, I listened to the singer on the cassette player. I didn’t recognize the voice, yet I knew it was mine. I continued listening figuring it had to get better, because it couldn’t possibly get any worse. Or could it? My faced flushed with embarrassment at the realization I couldn’t sing…. or rather I shouldn’t sing.
Oh well, I never had any aspirations to be a musical performer, thus I focused on being the best lip singer in class. Ever since discovering my inability to carry a tune, I rarely sing. Even today when we’ve joined friends for karaoke, I won’t sing, but I will gladly get on stage to be a background dancer for a Robert Palmer song!
Back to church….. After a little fire and brimstone which included why parishioners should sing out loud (egad, did the priest imply me?) services were over and I exited the church. I immediately noticed a turkey vulture in a tree. I first became intrigued with these unique birds a couple of years ago during a visit to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. My fascination lead to a series of Google searches to learn about them. Did you know, vultures lack a syrinx and are nearly silent? Their vocalizations are limited to grunts and hisses; no harmonic singing from these birds.
As I approached the tree located between the church and the cemetery, Vivian Vulture hissed at me. I hissed back, “Come on Viv…. we’re kindred spirits…. neither one of us can sing”.
Vultures serve an important role in the circle of life. Some may say they’re ugly. I find them beautiful. I shared my unusual infatuation with these birds before along with some intriguing facts. If you’re interested in reading a few more tidbits about vultures and seeing more photos, you can read my post here.
I may not have felt any spiritual enlightenment from the church sermon, but I did experience a clarity that morning with my encounter with Vivian. I was reminded that we are all created with a distinct purpose and rare beauty; created with special talents or gifts; created with uniqueness that should be embraced. How boring would it be if we were all able to sing like Adele? Or worse, what if we all sang like Cameron Diaz in “My Best Friends Wedding”? Oh yikes, I do 😉
Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web of life and here to make a contribution – Deepak Chopra