One of the things I miss about living in Ohio is the Cleveland Metro-parks, part of the “emerald necklace” that rings the city and extends down into the Cuyahoga National Park. It’s a great park system, especially for bikers.
The bike path is fairly flat except for one section that has a challenging steep grade. On one particular day I hit the hill; dropped into low gear and, huffing and puffing, was able to pedal to the top. After pumping my fist in the air to celebrate my accomplishment I slowed down. There at the crest was a bench with the inscription: “I like the rhythm of my life.”
What a cool statement, a great way to understand and affirm one’s life. As I caught my breath I thought about mine—my life, that is. And I had to agree: I like the rhythm of my life too. I thought of the hill I just ascended using all my leg power . . . with the assist of 24 available gears. Through decades of life’s ups and downs a self-rhythm has become evident in my life, as consistent as my heartbeat. And the beauty is, as the beat goes on, it takes on a creative rhythmic pulse that mirrors the encounters of every moment regardless of tempo. Even with a constant “thump-a-thump” I can imagine shifting rhythmic patterns (from 4/4 to 3/4, cut time to 6/8 or even 5/4) to accompany just about any melody flowing through me.
As a saxophonist I interpret melody. But I’ve learned that without a rhythmic context improvisational exploration can get pretty bland. And who wants to live on the bland side of things. The exploration of each day is an adventure and, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, “it’s not how much you play your horn, it’s how you live life that makes you a musician.” I suppose you could say the same for religion – it’s not how much you proclaim your faith it’s how you live it. Louis Armstrong was much more elegant. He said, “My whole life, my whole soul, my whole spirit is to blow that horn . . . What we play is life.”
Looking back, I don’t remember who that bench was dedicated to, but I am sure of one thing: he or she was definitely a musician, savoring life’s rhythmic flow, playing life to the fullest.