Thursday, October 2, 2008

Oct. 2nd, 2008 My Grandfather, My Music

I thought I'd try something a little different with these blogs. As much as my past blogs are fine, I have to admit, going on about how great it is to get Grammy Nominations really isn't what I or my music is all about (as much as I do very much enjoy that). My music comes from a very deep place inside me that has more to do with "soul searching", "deep listening" and "Self inquiry" than with "Award seeking" and a sort of "tra la la" way of bouncing through life. So, I thought I'd write a blog that was "real" for me and more about who I am and what I think about. So here goes . . .

My grandfather died a little over a year ago. He was 91 and the last of my family in Germany. My Mother and Aunt died when I was in my teens, my father wasn't around and my Grandfather became my single most significant "Elder". I knew years ago that his death would really put me through it emotioanally. And now a year after his death I still find myself struggling with the loss and the sense of "aloneness" that's been triggered within me. Also, since he was my maternal grandfather I think it's stirred up feelings around the loss of my Mother when I was just 18 years old.

When my grandfather died after a year or so of mourning and missing him I finally realized that it wasn't so much the pain of losing him that I was dealing with, it was the pain of having never really been "seen" by him for who I really am and understood for what I value and strive towards. It's the pain of accepting that so much was left unresolved and so little was said of any real significance or substance. He had the ability to and felt it was his responsibility to comment on and judge every little area and detail of my life. But he never once found it possible to say "I Love You". His conversations were always about what was wrong, missing or false and then from there went to the weather, the food or the soccer game.

I cried when I read about Paul Newman's death. You didn't have to know him personally to know that he was a "good" man. Someone to look up to. I saw a brief interview with one of his daughters the day after his death. All around her was this beautiful air of "peace" and acceptance. I could see that she mourned her father's death because she loved him. But, because she felt seen and loved by him she seemed content with what was shared between them. Her relationship with her father seemed complete and ongoing. This was not the case with my parents or grandparents. I honestly never felt "seen" or "heard" in an essential way by any of them. And I'm certain that it was this longing to be seen and heard, and my desire to find something deeper than was available to me in my environment that led me deeply into my music. Not music in general, but MY music. My music is all about "being" with and exploring and feeling a whole wide range of emotions, of accepting and loving oneselve and creating a safe environment, a loving, compassionate and essential place. It's about embracing whatever exists in this moment in time and space. I can experience the perfection of the Universe and embrace all of my Self and all of Life in the music that comes through me. I realize this may seem to be a rather "large" statement, but is true for me and I feel good about saying it.

Even though my grandfather was the most predictable, old fashioned, judgmental, superstitious and narrow minded man living in Germany; and even though he judged me, never saw me, always criticized me and had the nerve to treat me rudely on and off in the last years of his life; there was something about living under his roof as a child, under his protection; and in his world , even as an adult, that was so safe and comforting. He had the incomprehensible comfort of knowing that what he was doing and how he lived his life was right and was "normal" at the same time. Oh, what a luxury to not question your actions and thought process. To just know that since you're thinking and doing like everyone else, and how your parents thought and did, that it must be the right way to think and do. The comfort of living your life like your parents, peers and neighbors and feeling that it's simply correct and "in order" . . . never questioning . . . That's just amazing. It's almost worth pursuing, it's so attractive. But for some reason, that doesn't really seem like a possibility in my life. Is that something that's true with artists or creative types? I don't know. I feel like a kite with a long ribboned string hanging, blowing wild and free. Occasionally I get caught on something, a bush, a mountain top, a satellite . . . and I'll feel that connection and that tension and soar straight up, sure of myself, higher into the heavens. And then, somehow, unpredictably, I come loose and I'm blown by the wind again, flying randomly, sometimes calmly and gracefully and sometimes wildly and out of control. The need for security and predictability and rootedness can feel pretty intense at times.

There were several times in my life where I could have chosen a more structured path. I could have gone to back to Germany when I was 18 after my Mother died and went to music school and my grandparents would have set me up in an apartment and car and paid for my education. I could have. But no. I always had to be free (I mean "me"). At the age of seven, "Born Free" was one of my favorite songs, with "I Did It My Way" and "To Dream The Impossible Dream" coming in as close seconds. No, "Edelweis" wasn't good enough for me, I flew from Germany to America at the ripe old age of 3 years old and was subject to a whole new world of ambition, risk, adventure and "lyrics". It's not my fault. That's what I tell myself everyday. I look at my grandfather who retired at the age of 55 after working 40 years at Siemens Corporation in Germany. He lived the last 36 years of his life in retirement, comfort and ease. He traveled as he pleased, spent weeks at a time at Spas and Health Resorts, carefully planning his next year of travels, bratwurst and weis beer. He was prudent to cut back on the pork roast, potato dumplings and sweets as he got in his late 80's. He planned everything in advance and kept to his plan. He wasn't hungry for improvisation like I was. He used to tease me about my need for "freedom" and called me a dreamer. It's ironic that he and my grandmother bought me my first piano and paid for all my years of piano lessons. They also instilled in me a deep love, appreciation and respect for nature, beginning in the Bavarian Alps. He told me a few dozen times that if he had my life he wouldn't be able to sleep at night. And yet, I wonder why I have always slept so darn well. I wonder what sleep would be like for me if I had my Grandfathers life and security. I'd probably drop into a comma or die of predicatibility.

He never took out a loan in his entire life. Never. He bought his first house with cash after saving like crazy for 15 years while working at Siemens. He paid for his house in full at the closing. When he first heard about mortgages and credit cards he was totally convinced it was the work of the Devil. And I guess at this point most of us would probably agree. He also warned me to never trust any man with a beard. He couldn't believe I had a car loan. If he new the full extent of my financial stresses throughout my life he'd haunt me from his grave telling me that he can't pass over to the other side because of the unpredictability of my life and income. Well, now I see and understand the value and spiritual significance of "Edelweis". I KNOW that the best things in life are free and organic. I KNOW that there's nothing more rewarding than your child looking up at you with loving trusting eyes, nothing more profound than the sunset blazing, screaming in full glory across the sky, or knowing that you're just happy to BE with your partner, unconditionally, freely and continually. I now KNOW that there's nothing outside of me that I need to be happy. But it's too late to get a job at Siemens and I really love my music work. And to be honest, I wouldn't change a thing (well almost). I dreamed the impossible dream and did it my way in a born free kind of way and now here I am. And you know, no matter where I go . . . there I am.

But . . . my grandfather never got it. He never saw me. He tried, to his credit, but it was just too far from his reality, from his comfort zone. Too far for him to reach. And I never got the satisfaction of his approval, or his saying, "wow, you really accomplished something". Even to hear him say something nice about my music would have been huge, but it never happened. He doubted everything I told him about my career, my accomplishments, awards etc. and he died not understanding what motivates me in my life and what I value. He died without once saying that he loved me. But I know that he did. I know that with some people, the best you can do is see their love bubbling up underneath . . . pushing up their fear, judgments and concerns to the surface, because that's what's between them and expressing their love. Sometimes, especially with family, you have to be the one that gets bigger, even if they're supposed to be older and wiser. You have to get big enough to accept, embrace and love them as they are. I told him I loved him many times in the last years of his life. It came out of my mouth and fell loudly to the floor between us with a thud. The ensuing awkward silence only reassured me that he did hear me and that he loved me too. And in that awkward silence lay the seeds to a life-time worth of music for me to nurture, explore and express. I am grateful.


  1. Beautiful, Peter. Made me cry. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Dear Peter,

    I searched out your web site in order to tell you how 'Migration' has been and still is such a blessing in my life. I was introduced to it during the process of dream work with a beautiful and gifted therapist in Boulder many years ago. The music touches me deeply after all this time. I wanted to say simply- THANK YOU.

    But then as often happens while exploring web sites, I discovered your Blog and read the peice about your grandfather. I connected in so many ways, not the least of which is that my son for whom I have profuse love, (and tell him often) is spending a year in Munich Germany teaching Tai Yoga for Air Yoga studios. My grandfathers had both died before I was born. On my sacred space in my room at the moment rests a 'SARK' greeting card. In the center of a her familiar brightly colored flower are these words: "You are seen. You are known. You are loved." I bought it for myself one day when feeling none of those things from the people I was with, yet knowing all of them were true.

    How good it is that you have taken time to reflect about your grandfather and to have arrived at the knowledge that he did indeed love you.

    And how good it is that you dreamed the impossible dream, remained free, and followed the lead of your heart and soul. You bless us with your creative gifts.

    I hope to experience a live performacne of your music again this year in Colorado. It has been too long.

    With deep appreciation,
    Vicki Clark

  3. Thank you Peter for sharing this piece about your grandfather. It moved me emotionally also in more ways than I can say. I think once we 'know' how much we are loved, the little voice inside is silenced. It took me a long time to realize this...and it came about from working on it layer by layer. It heals eventually if we can learn to let it go, surrender to whatever comes. I guess I was ready when it finally happened by getting into the moment of be-ing. So far it's been a miracle living life fully every day. Sometimes I think it's something just beyond my reach, but never will give it up now that it's been shown to me...through music, dance and nature.
    Blessings and Light, Jo