Once Below a Time: Music, Dylan Thomas and a New Year

Yesterday at church we had our “burning bowl” ceremony, during which we wrote on slips of paper behaviors or attitudes from last year to get rid of. One of my slips said “my battle with time.” Since I started using Prozac I am already more relaxed about time, but my internal body clock still sometimes ticks too loudly.

A myth about retirement (held by people who have not yet retired) is this: “When I retire I will have enough time—time to play golf, redecorate the house, travel, shop, play with the grand-kids, update all the photo albums, clean the closets….” In the three years I’ve been retired I actually have accomplished a lot of those things (though you will never find me joining my husband on the golf course—there are not enough hours in a lifetime to spend chasing a little white ball for four hours. And I like that we each have separate activities in addition to our shared interests.)

I’m adding a bit of time to my day by getting up earlier, trying to overcome another side effect of Prozac, the tendency to sleep nine or 10 hours straight. Despite my hatred of alarms when I rose at 5 during my working days, I set the radio to play soft classical music at about 7:30, and my body clock somehow magically wakes me a few minutes before it comes on.

This effort to free myself from the tyranny of the clock is a kind of new year’s resolution. I’m not going to let time stop me from doing something I want to do. Could this be my year to finally get an SLR camera, take up quilting, become conversant in another language? Today I signed up for a Lifetime Learning Institute class to brush up on my rusty high school and college French for our summer trip to Europe.

The biggest commitment this winter is singing with Texas Choral Consort. The music for this winter’s session was irresistible: “Fern Hill,” a setting of the Dylan Thomas poem by John Corigliano; Eric Whitacre’s “Cloudburst,” one of the most unusual and exciting works I’ve ever performed; Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs, plus some other pieces.

CD cover designed by Stan Gilbert

CD cover designed by Stan Gilbert

I have sung in choirs since I was 12 and I miss it if I drop out. My granddaughter loves to sing and is in children’s choir, so there is hope for another generation. I have read that more adults in the U.S. participate in community choral singing than in any other art form. When you add church choirs, you can consider us a nation of singers! It makes sense when you consider the benefits:

  • Social: Until “Glee,” choir singers were pretty much considered dorks, but they are fun and cool and really, really nice. TCC is one of the best groups I’ve ever been involved with.
  • Mental: Just glance at a page of music by Mozart or Bach if you doubt it.
  • Physical: I’ve heard that singing causes our hollow bones to vibrate, resonating through the body. I know singing helps expand the chest and improves breathing and breath control.
  • Emotional: Singing is fun, satisfying, and especially rewarding when an audience applauds at the end of a performance.
  • Spiritual: Music feeds the soul. Being around people who love what they are doing is good for the spirits.

Among the beautiful language in Fern Hill is this: “And once below a time….” (I encourage you to read the entire poem.)

That is how I view my resolve: time below time.

Another line from the poem:

Time let me play and be

Golden in the mercy of his means.

Happy New Year, and may your dreams be realized.


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