"The March Sparrow," a prose

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Many thanks to Unluckybolte for his encouragement that I share this piece, written shortly after the previously posted poem of the same name.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


March 26, 2016.

Spring is here, but this is New York; the chill and drizzle are all but of the essence.

They persist preeminently, they affect persistently.

My best friend of three decades is three weeks from getting married and I’ve been selected as one of two best men. “Best,” it turns out, is relative; a second "best" is warranted to complement – or perhaps to compensate for – the first.

My job, other than to merely be present at the various festivities, is to say a few words at the rehearsal dinner; to elicit some laughs, to compel some tears, to convince the bride’s parents that they aren’t making a mistake in allowing their wonderful, beautiful daughter to share in holiest matrimony with this high-powered mutant I’ve called “friend” since before I knew what it meant to have one.

I can write a speech – I’ve done it before – but the words in this instance are sparse, the sentiments inarticulable.

Ticking and tocking resonate from overhead more loudly than usual; an ebullient Mickey Mouse sporting a sorcerer’s apprentice robe and cap conveys that it’s a few minutes past 3 in the afternoon.

But in the rodent’s rhythm, that murine metronome, I am lost. Tick, tock.

And then, not.

“I’m going either way,” my mother asserts suddenly, materializing from nothingness. “Please come – you really need to get out of the house.”

Right. It’s Saturday.

There’s a concert tonight headlined by the next in an infinite series of coffeehouse acts we’ve never heard or even heard of. Being season ticketholders is to partake in a grand experiment, a low-risk lottery; a smorgasbord of new music to enjoy and new acquaintances to make.

Horizons, I have found, can only expand.

And I agree with the maternal assessment; it’s been almost 30 hours since I happened upon an excuse to go outside. I’ll join her tonight, I say, but if during the performance I am able to zone out; if my mind should self-extricate from the debilitated husk it calls home and catch but a glimpse of anything resembling a respectable wedding toast framework, she should just leave me be.

From deep within a daydream, revelation.


6:58 PM.

We arrive at the concert venue: A backwoods Unitarian sanctuary, youth center and social justice stronghold in neighboring Hastings-on-Hudson. The opening act is supposed to take the stage at 7:30, but never have we as concertgoers witnessed such respect for time.

My money’s on a 7:46 opening strum; what I presume will be a strum, anyway. It could be a pluck, or perhaps a bow.

What we hear at these shows rarely departs from the seemingly all-encompassing realm of Americana; anthemic folk music. Every act we see has either worked with or is related to or is at the very least heavily inspired by Pete Seeger, a forefather of the American folk movement and founder of the Clearwater organization, the steadfast champions of environmental education and activism and of cleaning up our dear Hudson. Sometimes we get jazz – our rivertowns are home to an abundance of hobbyist and professional jazz musicians – or Latin or even hip-hip groups, but I can count those instances on one tone-gnarled hand.

Tonight’s openers we’re told are a guitar and upright bass. Or maybe a banjo and cello; the ticket lady stationed at the front of the venue isn’t sure.

She inquires to me amid the confusion: “Are you okay? You look stressed out.”

“Oh, I am,” I reply, my patented polite irritability on full display.

“Well, the headliners are really good. They sounded great during setup.”

I nod.

Well, hell. I was hoping they wouldn’t.


7:43 PM.

Charlie, the coffeehouse impresario, switches on the migraine-inducing lights he indubitably borrowed from a fellow hippie congregant’s garage and moves to occupy the sanctuary “stage” – a few square feet of floor space cordoned off by monitor and microphone cables going every which way – where he’ll offer his rundown of the program’s mission, its mode of operations.

The concert series, which runs yearly from September to May, has nearly completed its fourteenth season as a function of the Unitarian Society’s social justice committee. Every cent not put towards paying performers or replacing faulty in-house equipment is donated to hurricane relief efforts in New Orleans and elsewhere; Midnight Run for feeding and clothing New York City's homeless; even organizations in West Africa centered on constructing grain banks through which to fight the region’s food crisis.

At least two shows remain this season, Charlie divulges; three if the act who canceled earlier in the year is able to reschedule. I had nigh on forgotten about the blizzard in late January that mucked up the works.

“But you’re not here to listen to me,” he concedes, his spiel sufficiently wrapped. “Without further ado, Pluck and Rail.”

A guitar and cello appear from the back of the room along with their handlers, one moderately more hipster-looking than the other but both exuding the requisite gloom for their chosen profession.

As the openers, they haven't much time; there is little by way of introduction or banter between the two bards, only a steady purveyance of melodic melancholia.

Sleepy, soporific melancholia.

I wander into a waking repose, wondering about the theme of my toast and whether it should even have a theme. The groom is a lawyer by trade, a gamer by hobby, a sports enthusiast, a one-and-done blogger, a father to two antisocial hounds who can't occupy the same room lest the space be remodeled into Thunderdome. But how to capture with any concision our relationship, our emotional journey, our agreements and differences, our mutual fondnesses and disparate ideologies?

He and I are brothers, to be sure, though not in name or by blood.

What is it that we pseudo-siblings share?

Everything, I realize, and nothing. Tit for tat.

My mental word processor conjures something in the following vein:

Luke tosses me off a cliff in Smash Bros., I roll over his Major League Baseball 1998 PlayStation disc. He projectile spits diet coke all over my bed after an unfortunate moment in a Goldeneye match, I carrier rush his base in Starcraft. Tit is destined to be met with tat, and Luke and I have always found a way to meet in the middle.

With air units.


Inside jokes galore and enough video game references to make the actual adults in the room roll their eyes all at once, spinning our pretty planet clean off its axis and out of orbit.

This is good. This is really, really good.

As a jumping-off point, at the very least.

My wits reconvene on the telluric plane just in time for me to award a brief hand-to-stomach applause to the performers from whom I've been sitting a mere six feet away. They begin to unplug and pack their equipment, their set concluded, but before retiring issue their thanks: To Charlie for inviting them; to Bob on sound; to Marilyn for the delicious pre-set dinner; to the audience for being so lovely.

“We'd like to take you home with us,” I expect Pluck to confess as Rail offers a concurring nod. “We'd love to take you home.”

My imagination is running on fumes.

To be home, I wonder, means what? Am I not already home, tethered to my own heart? Or is home a mysticism, some grand revelation, a place I've yet to find?

I realize, as Charlie incites another round of applause for the two minstrels and invites everyone to buy their merchandise, that I haven't a clue.

The wheelhouse is vacant despite my having provided the furniture.



8:32 PM.

It's a dance in which we have received no formal training but instead rely on innate equanimity and sheer force of will to execute at each of these shows, ad infinitum.

We’re in the intermission and have self-realized as ravenous gluttons in need of sugary treats. Per habit’s insistence, my mother offers to abandon her seat and retrieve for us an equitably shareable brownie that may or may not be homemade but which will most certainly be worth all seventy five of the cents soon to be deposited into a coffeehouse volunteer’s appreciative palm.

But that is merely the suggestion; the vision; the juncture of time, space and mind.

Reality has other plans.

Inevitably, the Mad Titaness who moments ago ventured into the society lobby in search of a fragment of distinctly squishy chocolate cake now returns with a slice of pumpkin bread.

My soul is crushed – all that I love, sacrificed – but I am powerless to resist this particular temptation.

I know what it's like to lose.
 
8:44 PM.

Charlie returns to the front of the sanctuary; the second act is underway.

I've heard this witticism before: No, Charlie assures, NERFA has nothing to do with toy firearms that shoot foam balls. It stands for Northeast Regional Folk Alliance, a nonprofit built around promoting and preserving all manner of folk music under the umbrella of the larger Folk Alliance International organization.

It was at a NERFA conference, he relates, that he first met Jordana, one of the three talents in this evening’s headlining act.

“I have been waiting a long time to say this.”

He stalls. His dramatic pause, though to some opinions superfluous, is the mark of a professional promoter; the audience can barely contain itself.

“Harpeth Rising.”

They too are professionals, taking the stage in the order in which they are situated in every picture, every promotional post on social media, every video embedded in the electronic mailings Charlie sent out in the days leading up to the show.

They are the reason.


8:56 PM.

Michelle, a Virginia native now living in Rochester, New York, just recently joined the band. The previous banjoist left the trio to tend to her family, and it was on Valentine's Day – only a month and a half before this evening – that Michelle committed to driving through the most obscene snowstorm the American heartland had ever experienced in order to get to the band's headquarters in southern Indiana for her inauguration.

She hadn't met violinist Jordana or cellist Maria in person; only over Skype.

But there she was at her induction into coalescent chamberfolk: A guest in a strange farmhouse – Jordana's family home – situated on a remote hilltop in a miniscule municipality no one has ever heard of, watching a cow give birth in a kitchen.

Godspeed, little friend.


9:14 PM.

Maria is from Brooklyn; the paisanos in the audience cheerfully reveal themselves.

She speaks of studying cello at Indiana University, an admittedly unlikely host to one of the best classical music programs in the country. But that is also where she met Jordana and in 2011 signed on to Harpeth’s roster.

Her cello's frequent duels with the adjacent violin are mesmerizing; the signals between them – subtle glances and nods in each other's direction – captivating. I am not a musician and cannot begin to appreciate the nuances of executing a performance as rigorously precise as this, but I like to think that I am somehow more receptive to the physical aspects of musical invention than the average concertgoer; observing those tells, preparing for the shift, nodding my head in mimicry are all natural, even unconscious activities.

I am enjoying this immensely.

But whether I am floating or falling, I cannot say.



9:26 PM.

Jordana was born in Ontario. Before they moved to Indiana, she recounts, she and her parents and older brother inhabited a one thousand-square mile island in Lake Huron called Manitoulin. Her mother Mary, currently an emergency room doctor, was back then the island’s only physician; her father Abe was and is himself a singer-songwriter but never “got the bug,” as Jordana puts it, for performing.

He is her muse; her greatest inspiration.

But it is her mother for whom she wrote the next number in their set: “Proof”.

Let me tell you a secret
I’ve been keeping for a while
It’s been weighing on me heavy
I’ve been carryin’ it for miles

Picked it up in Indiana
From a woman with long hair
She’s been holdin’ it for so long
Done more than her share


This one is different. Her violin bow hangs from a previously unnoticed hook on her microphone stand; she cradles her instrument like a ukulele but plucks its strings as one would a harp’s. Her bandmates provide a quiet accompaniment; all ears are toward the voice.

There’s no reward for good behavior
And there’s no such thing as fair
You can build the highest tower
There’s no answer there

You’d better love the feeling
Of sweat upon your brow
‘Cause that’s the only proof you’ll get

You’re even living now.



9:56 PM.

The concert has ended.

I make my way outside, misanthropy in tow; I have never enjoyed the ability, much less the talent, to stop and chat with musicians after a show. Every now and again a performer will impart to me his appreciation that I came and listened and an ebullient “No, thank you!” is often the best reciprocation I can muster. In this instance, the wall of people clamoring for Harpeth’s signed-on-the-spot compact discs and tee shirts is my only impendence; none of the three bandmembers can so much as see me through the fleshy smog.

The drizzle has ceased and the chill bears refreshment.

I chat with Irene, a friend of my mother’s who happened to attend and sit near us during the show, about the evening’s entertainment and her various engagements at a local independent film center and an animal shelter and what her immigration lawyer husband is doing these days, every few seconds glancing inward to the lobby in hopes of seeing my mother, whom I have, for the umpteenth time in my life, apparently misplaced.

I finally notice her on the other side of a small group of satisfied attendees, chatting with Jordana and signing what I presume to be an email list.

“She was just telling me how full her inbox is,” I complain to Irene. She chuckles.

My mother joins us on the society porch, grinning wide and beaming without inhibition.

“You’re not going to believe this,” she challenges, unable to resist confronting my cynicism.

I’ll bite. “Okay?”

“The violinist we just heard – what was her name?”

Yes; my mother spoke with the woman not thirty seconds earlier and has already forgotten her name.

“Um, Jordana?”

“Yeah. I think she’s your cousin.”

It is criminally insufficient to say I am stunned.

“What? How do you know?”

My mom proffers her explanation.

The longest journey; the flights unknown.


10:00 PM.

My dad had a brother named Arthur.

Arthur was the older sibling by eleven years; he and my father were never close. If I met him and his wife Ruth, it was during my infancy and only on one occasion, two at the most.

I have never had any concept of my uncle or aunt, much less of the girl they adopted decades before my parents even met.

Mary. Jordana’s mother.

Mary is my paternal cousin by adoption; Jordana my first cousin once removed.

It was from Jordana’s introduction to “Proof” – her disclosures about her parents and of Manitoulin Island – that my mom pieced together our kinship.

Our commonest ground.

Time is triggered and totes conceit, though for me pauses minutes and months complete.


10:04 PM.

“Would you like to go back in and meet her?”

The question, much like my mother’s revelation, feels insincere somehow. Phony. Too good to be true.

I overcompensate in my reply. “I feel like I have to.”

Irene departs and my mother and I return indoors. We approach Jordana.

I am pleased to let my mother take the lead in the following introduction and conversation; despite the tone and tightness in my muscles and my joints’ liability for dislocation, I have managed to preemptively lodge my foot in my mouth.

“This is my son Nathaniel.”

The hellos are exchanged with ease; it’s when Jordana asks me if I ever met her adoptive grandparents – Arthur and Ruth – that things spiral out of control.

“No!” Way too much enthusiasm.

My mother interjects. “You did, but you were two years old…”

“Well…” I cut her off but don’t know where to go. The star-strickenness is beginning to kick in.

This woman is both my cousin who I didn’t know existed AND a brilliant classically trained violinist and singer-songwriter.

That lottery, I submit, has just been won.

The three of us chat for a moment more about comings and goings, the impending destination wedding and Harpeth’s next concert appearance, which happens to be near to where my mom’s sister lives. I am drowning in self-disgust for being such a poor conversationalist; it’s all I can do to work a “You guys are fantastic, by the way!” into my farewell.

“Thanks!” Jordana replies graciously.

We shake hands and my mother and I take our leave.

Father Time just walks on by, promising not to tell.
 
September 28, 2019

3:38 PM.

Tick, tock.

I wanted this to be finished two days ago – the third-and-a-half anniversary of that wonderful happenstance.

But I also wanted this account to be complete; enjoyable; as close to perfect as I could manage despite this highly agreeable sentiment shared with me just yesterday by a friend:

“Perfection sucks.”

It really does.

But when you discover its embodiment, its personification, tenacious and authentic, you have all the cause you need to celebrate and author some enormous thing like this to share with the world.

Or at least with a forum full of wonderful people.

To tie up a few other loose ends…

I killed it at the wedding. Laughs, tears, the whole thing. The bride’s grandfather said to me after my speech that from my words about the groom, his confidence was inspired to the fullest.

My mother and I got to see Harpeth four more times over the next few years, including at their final show at a music and arts festival in Jordana’s hometown in southern Indiana this past August – her music and arts festival. She runs a nonprofit centered on providing equitable access to music and arts programming in underserved communities – the festival is free to attend – and I’ve enjoyed the privilege of working on her board of directors in whatever meager legal capacity I am able, plus as a disability liaison of sorts.

Unequivocally, her energy and passion for organizing and producing - not to mention for making music - is unlike anything I’ve ever seen or been a part of.

One last thing.

In November 2018, I took a DNA test.

Upon comparing my results with Jordana’s, we discovered a 9-centimorgan sliver on the fifteenth chromosome; 0.11% of our DNA is shared.

According to 23andMe, she and I are biological fifth cousins.
 
Many thanks to Unluckybolte for his encouragement that I share this piece, written shortly after the previously posted poem of the same name.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


March 26, 2016.

Spring is here, but this is New York; the chill and drizzle are all but of the essence.

They persist preeminently, they affect persistently.

My best friend of three decades is three weeks from getting married and I’ve been selected as one of two best men. “Best,” it turns out, is relative; a second "best" is warranted to complement – or perhaps to compensate for – the first.

My job, other than to merely be present at the various festivities, is to say a few words at the rehearsal dinner; to elicit some laughs, to compel some tears, to convince the bride’s parents that they aren’t making a mistake in allowing their wonderful, beautiful daughter to share in holiest matrimony with this high-powered mutant I’ve called “friend” since before I knew what it meant to have one.

I can write a speech – I’ve done it before – but the words in this instance are sparse, the sentiments inarticulable.

Ticking and tocking resonate from overhead more loudly than usual; an ebullient Mickey Mouse sporting a sorcerer’s apprentice robe and cap conveys that it’s a few minutes past 3 in the afternoon.

But in the rodent’s rhythm, that murine metronome, I am lost. Tick, tock.

And then, not.

“I’m going either way,” my mother asserts suddenly, materializing from nothingness. “Please come – you really need to get out of the house.”

Right. It’s Saturday.

There’s a concert tonight headlined by the next in an infinite series of coffeehouse acts we’ve never heard or even heard of. Being season ticketholders is to partake in a grand experiment, a low-risk lottery; a smorgasbord of new music to enjoy and new acquaintances to make.

Horizons, I have found, can only expand.

And I agree with the maternal assessment; it’s been almost 30 hours since I happened upon an excuse to go outside. I’ll join her tonight, I say, but if during the performance I am able to zone out; if my mind should self-extricate from the debilitated husk it calls home and catch but a glimpse of anything resembling a respectable wedding toast framework, she should just leave me be.

From deep within a daydream, revelation.


6:58 PM.

We arrive at the concert venue: A backwoods Unitarian sanctuary, youth center and social justice stronghold in neighboring Hastings-on-Hudson. The opening act is supposed to take the stage at 7:30, but never have we as concertgoers witnessed such respect for time.

My money’s on a 7:46 opening strum; what I presume will be a strum, anyway. It could be a pluck, or perhaps a bow.

What we hear at these shows rarely departs from the seemingly all-encompassing realm of Americana; anthemic folk music. Every act we see has either worked with or is related to or is at the very least heavily inspired by Pete Seeger, a forefather of the American folk movement and founder of the Clearwater organization, the steadfast champions of environmental education and activism and of cleaning up our dear Hudson. Sometimes we get jazz – our rivertowns are home to an abundance of hobbyist and professional jazz musicians – or Latin or even hip-hip groups, but I can count those instances on one tone-gnarled hand.

Tonight’s openers we’re told are a guitar and upright bass. Or maybe a banjo and cello; the ticket lady stationed at the front of the venue isn’t sure.

She inquires to me amid the confusion: “Are you okay? You look stressed out.”

“Oh, I am,” I reply, my patented polite irritability on full display.

“Well, the headliners are really good. They sounded great during setup.”

I nod.

Well, hell. I was hoping they wouldn’t.


7:43 PM.

Charlie, the coffeehouse impresario, switches on the migraine-inducing lights he indubitably borrowed from a fellow hippie congregant’s garage and moves to occupy the sanctuary “stage” – a few square feet of floor space cordoned off by monitor and microphone cables going every which way – where he’ll offer his rundown of the program’s mission, its mode of operations.

The concert series, which runs yearly from September to May, has nearly completed its fourteenth season as a function of the Unitarian Society’s social justice committee. Every cent not put towards paying performers or replacing faulty in-house equipment is donated to hurricane relief efforts in New Orleans and elsewhere; Midnight Run for feeding and clothing New York City's homeless; even organizations in West Africa centered on constructing grain banks through which to fight the region’s food crisis.

At least two shows remain this season, Charlie divulges; three if the act who canceled earlier in the year is able to reschedule. I had nigh on forgotten about the blizzard in late January that mucked up the works.

“But you’re not here to listen to me,” he concedes, his spiel sufficiently wrapped. “Without further ado, Pluck and Rail.”

A guitar and cello appear from the back of the room along with their handlers, one moderately more hipster-looking than the other but both exuding the requisite gloom for their chosen profession.

As the openers, they haven't much time; there is little by way of introduction or banter between the two bards, only a steady purveyance of melodic melancholia.

Sleepy, soporific melancholia.

I wander into a waking repose, wondering about the theme of my toast and whether it should even have a theme. The groom is a lawyer by trade, a gamer by hobby, a sports enthusiast, a one-and-done blogger, a father to two antisocial hounds who can't occupy the same room lest the space be remodeled into Thunderdome. But how to capture with any concision our relationship, our emotional journey, our agreements and differences, our mutual fondnesses and disparate ideologies?

He and I are brothers, to be sure, though not in name or by blood.

What is it that we pseudo-siblings share?

Everything, I realize, and nothing. Tit for tat.

My mental word processor conjures something in the following vein:

Luke tosses me off a cliff in Smash Bros., I roll over his Major League Baseball 1998 PlayStation disc. He projectile spits diet coke all over my bed after an unfortunate moment in a Goldeneye match, I carrier rush his base in Starcraft. Tit is destined to be met with tat, and Luke and I have always found a way to meet in the middle.

With air units.


Inside jokes galore and enough video game references to make the actual adults in the room roll their eyes all at once, spinning our pretty planet clean off its axis and out of orbit.

This is good. This is really, really good.

As a jumping-off point, at the very least.

My wits reconvene on the telluric plane just in time for me to award a brief hand-to-stomach applause to the performers from whom I've been sitting a mere six feet away. They begin to unplug and pack their equipment, their set concluded, but before retiring issue their thanks: To Charlie for inviting them; to Bob on sound; to Marilyn for the delicious pre-set dinner; to the audience for being so lovely.

“We'd like to take you home with us,” I expect Pluck to confess as Rail offers a concurring nod. “We'd love to take you home.”

My imagination is running on fumes.

To be home, I wonder, means what? Am I not already home, tethered to my own heart? Or is home a mysticism, some grand revelation, a place I've yet to find?

I realize, as Charlie incites another round of applause for the two minstrels and invites everyone to buy their merchandise, that I haven't a clue.

The wheelhouse is vacant despite my having provided the furniture.



8:32 PM.

It's a dance in which we have received no formal training but instead rely on innate equanimity and sheer force of will to execute at each of these shows, ad infinitum.

We’re in the intermission and have self-realized as ravenous gluttons in need of sugary treats. Per habit’s insistence, my mother offers to abandon her seat and retrieve for us an equitably shareable brownie that may or may not be homemade but which will most certainly be worth all seventy five of the cents soon to be deposited into a coffeehouse volunteer’s appreciative palm.

But that is merely the suggestion; the vision; the juncture of time, space and mind.

Reality has other plans.

Inevitably, the Mad Titaness who moments ago ventured into the society lobby in search of a fragment of distinctly squishy chocolate cake now returns with a slice of pumpkin bread.

My soul is crushed – all that I love, sacrificed – but I am powerless to resist this particular temptation.

I know what it's like to lose.
Narrated well :)
 
8:44 PM.

Charlie returns to the front of the sanctuary; the second act is underway.

I've heard this witticism before: No, Charlie assures, NERFA has nothing to do with toy firearms that shoot foam balls. It stands for Northeast Regional Folk Alliance, a nonprofit built around promoting and preserving all manner of folk music under the umbrella of the larger Folk Alliance International organization.

It was at a NERFA conference, he relates, that he first met Jordana, one of the three talents in this evening’s headlining act.

“I have been waiting a long time to say this.”

He stalls. His dramatic pause, though to some opinions superfluous, is the mark of a professional promoter; the audience can barely contain itself.

“Harpeth Rising.”

They too are professionals, taking the stage in the order in which they are situated in every picture, every promotional post on social media, every video embedded in the electronic mailings Charlie sent out in the days leading up to the show.

They are the reason.


8:56 PM.

Michelle, a Virginia native now living in Rochester, New York, just recently joined the band. The previous banjoist left the trio to tend to her family, and it was on Valentine's Day – only a month and a half before this evening – that Michelle committed to driving through the most obscene snowstorm the American heartland had ever experienced in order to get to the band's headquarters in southern Indiana for her inauguration.

She hadn't met violinist Jordana or cellist Maria in person; only over Skype.

But there she was at her induction into coalescent chamberfolk: A guest in a strange farmhouse – Jordana's family home – situated on a remote hilltop in a miniscule municipality no one has ever heard of, watching a cow give birth in a kitchen.

Godspeed, little friend.


9:14 PM.

Maria is from Brooklyn; the paisanos in the audience cheerfully reveal themselves.

She speaks of studying cello at Indiana University, an admittedly unlikely host to one of the best classical music programs in the country. But that is also where she met Jordana and in 2011 signed on to Harpeth’s roster.

Her cello's frequent duels with the adjacent violin are mesmerizing; the signals between them – subtle glances and nods in each other's direction – captivating. I am not a musician and cannot begin to appreciate the nuances of executing a performance as rigorously precise as this, but I like to think that I am somehow more receptive to the physical aspects of musical invention than the average concertgoer; observing those tells, preparing for the shift, nodding my head in mimicry are all natural, even unconscious activities.

I am enjoying this immensely.

But whether I am floating or falling, I cannot say.



9:26 PM.

Jordana was born in Ontario. Before they moved to Indiana, she recounts, she and her parents and older brother inhabited a one thousand-square mile island in Lake Huron called Manitoulin. Her mother Mary, currently an emergency room doctor, was back then the island’s only physician; her father Abe was and is himself a singer-songwriter but never “got the bug,” as Jordana puts it, for performing.

He is her muse; her greatest inspiration.

But it is her mother for whom she wrote the next number in their set: “Proof”.

Let me tell you a secret
I’ve been keeping for a while
It’s been weighing on me heavy
I’ve been carryin’ it for miles

Picked it up in Indiana
From a woman with long hair
She’s been holdin’ it for so long
Done more than her share


This one is different. Her violin bow hangs from a previously unnoticed hook on her microphone stand; she cradles her instrument like a ukulele but plucks its strings as one would a harp’s. Her bandmates provide a quiet accompaniment; all ears are toward the voice.

There’s no reward for good behavior
And there’s no such thing as fair
You can build the highest tower
There’s no answer there

You’d better love the feeling
Of sweat upon your brow
‘Cause that’s the only proof you’ll get

You’re even living now.



9:56 PM.

The concert has ended.

I make my way outside, misanthropy in tow; I have never enjoyed the ability, much less the talent, to stop and chat with musicians after a show. Every now and again a performer will impart to me his appreciation that I came and listened and an ebullient “No, thank you!” is often the best reciprocation I can muster. In this instance, the wall of people clamoring for Harpeth’s signed-on-the-spot compact discs and tee shirts is my only impendence; none of the three bandmembers can so much as see me through the fleshy smog.

The drizzle has ceased and the chill bears refreshment.

I chat with Irene, a friend of my mother’s who happened to attend and sit near us during the show, about the evening’s entertainment and her various engagements at a local independent film center and an animal shelter and what her immigration lawyer husband is doing these days, every few seconds glancing inward to the lobby in hopes of seeing my mother, whom I have, for the umpteenth time in my life, apparently misplaced.

I finally notice her on the other side of a small group of satisfied attendees, chatting with Jordana and signing what I presume to be an email list.

“She was just telling me how full her inbox is,” I complain to Irene. She chuckles.

My mother joins us on the society porch, grinning wide and beaming without inhibition.

“You’re not going to believe this,” she challenges, unable to resist confronting my cynicism.

I’ll bite. “Okay?”

“The violinist we just heard – what was her name?”

Yes; my mother spoke with the woman not thirty seconds earlier and has already forgotten her name.

“Um, Jordana?”

“Yeah. I think she’s your cousin.”

It is criminally insufficient to say I am stunned.

“What? How do you know?”

My mom proffers her explanation.

The longest journey; the flights unknown.


10:00 PM.

My dad had a brother named Arthur.

Arthur was the older sibling by eleven years; he and my father were never close. If I met him and his wife Ruth, it was during my infancy and only on one occasion, two at the most.

I have never had any concept of my uncle or aunt, much less of the girl they adopted decades before my parents even met.

Mary. Jordana’s mother.

Mary is my paternal cousin by adoption; Jordana my first cousin once removed.

It was from Jordana’s introduction to “Proof” – her disclosures about her parents and of Manitoulin Island – that my mom pieced together our kinship.

Our commonest ground.

Time is triggered and totes conceit, though for me pauses minutes and months complete.


10:04 PM.

“Would you like to go back in and meet her?”

The question, much like my mother’s revelation, feels insincere somehow. Phony. Too good to be true.

I overcompensate in my reply. “I feel like I have to.”

Irene departs and my mother and I return indoors. We approach Jordana.

I am pleased to let my mother take the lead in the following introduction and conversation; despite the tone and tightness in my muscles and my joints’ liability for dislocation, I have managed to preemptively lodge my foot in my mouth.

“This is my son Nathaniel.”

The hellos are exchanged with ease; it’s when Jordana asks me if I ever met her adoptive grandparents – Arthur and Ruth – that things spiral out of control.

“No!” Way too much enthusiasm.

My mother interjects. “You did, but you were two years old…”

“Well…” I cut her off but don’t know where to go. The star-strickenness is beginning to kick in.

This woman is both my cousin who I didn’t know existed AND a brilliant classically trained violinist and singer-songwriter.

That lottery, I submit, has just been won.

The three of us chat for a moment more about comings and goings, the impending destination wedding and Harpeth’s next concert appearance, which happens to be near to where my mom’s sister lives. I am drowning in self-disgust for being such a poor conversationalist; it’s all I can do to work a “You guys are fantastic, by the way!” into my farewell.

“Thanks!” Jordana replies graciously.

We shake hands and my mother and I take our leave.

Father Time just walks on by, promising not to tell.
Nice 👍
 
September 28, 2019

3:38 PM.

Tick, tock.

I wanted this to be finished two days ago – the third-and-a-half anniversary of that wonderful happenstance.

But I also wanted this account to be complete; enjoyable; as close to perfect as I could manage despite this highly agreeable sentiment shared with me just yesterday by a friend:

“Perfection sucks.”

It really does.

But when you discover its embodiment, its personification, tenacious and authentic, you have all the cause you need to celebrate and author some enormous thing like this to share with the world.

Or at least with a forum full of wonderful people.

To tie up a few other loose ends…

I killed it at the wedding. Laughs, tears, the whole thing. The bride’s grandfather said to me after my speech that from my words about the groom, his confidence was inspired to the fullest.

My mother and I got to see Harpeth four more times over the next few years, including at their final show at a music and arts festival in Jordana’s hometown in southern Indiana this past August – her music and arts festival. She runs a nonprofit centered on providing equitable access to music and arts programming in underserved communities – the festival is free to attend – and I’ve enjoyed the privilege of working on her board of directors in whatever meager legal capacity I am able, plus as a disability liaison of sorts.

Unequivocally, her energy and passion for organizing and producing - not to mention for making music - is unlike anything I’ve ever seen or been a part of.

One last thing.

In November 2018, I took a DNA test.

Upon comparing my results with Jordana’s, we discovered a 9-centimorgan sliver on the fifteenth chromosome; 0.11% of our DNA is shared.

According to 23andMe, she and I are biological fifth cousins.
Beautiful 😍
 
Im still shocked with the dna test part. An amazing story from an amazing person. My brother 💖
 
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