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Home > Columns > Paul Schweer > May, 2006 - A Love of Sound

A Love of Sound by Paul Schweer


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Ron was a grown man, a child I met on a grass field late one summer morning. I was young and warm from sun and a girl with blonde hair and smooth skin, tan and tight across her belly. My shoes were heavy, soaked from walking through the grass still wet from the night. Ron stepped out from the crisscrossing crowd lingering by a bus, walked with purpose across the field. I happened in his path, and he took hold of me, hugging and patting and talking loud. My face got planted onto his shoulder, into the cloth of his flannel shirt. It smelled like he did, clean but kept in a corner somewhere. Some place poorly ventilated, sealed tight. He was inside the shirt, an angled collection of edges, each jumping out of time; an internal band, the pieces playing staccato, fast tempo, without a score -- without apology, or care for music. With a love of sound. And a friend just met, in his arms -- in a field of grass, morning sun on our backs.

I was to look after him. There were songs, and he sang. There were games; he played. There were walks in the evenings winding through the woods, swimming in the afternoons if the weather was good. Ron couldn't swim, wouldn't follow single file. But the water didn't mind him, and the woods were kind. The games conceded. The songs survived.

He could make his bed, bathe, and dress himself. But Ron couldn't shave, so I did it for him. He was quiet while I did, but he couldn't stop moving. I cut him pretty bad. Put tissue on it, but it kept bleeding. And he kept moving. But, in a way, he was very still. Like he was listening to a quiet memory, trying to hear again echoed recollections. Sounds from the outside, birds heard through the trees, harmonized with whisker cracklings, a razor rinsed in a hollow sink, my whispering, "Hold still. Hang on."

Then, in the field again, I was his friend. Roughly embraced. An old good friend. He was gathered in by a quiet crowd, and I was released. And relieved. Without a love of sound, I left the field as the night came in. Dampening the grass.

***

I admire those who seem to effortlessly do what I struggle to try, but I often recognize such people only in retrospect. Ron is one of those people.

I haven't seen Ron in twenty years. I spent no more than ten days with him, two one-week sessions during two different summers... if I'm remembering right. He was exhausting. He was not needy; he followed directions happily and well. It was his enthusiasm that tired me.

Ron loved being there. He loved all of us. He loved the people he came with on the bus. He loved the outdoors, the activities, the songs. He loved it all, because he loved it. He loved as hard as he could, all the time, with every calorie he burned. And nothing that happened, or didn't happen -- nobody or nobody's absence diminished his lust... for everything.

I've been around aikido not very long now, but long enough to see changes. To see people come and go. To hear my body talk back to me. To see a teacher step off the mat. To try quitting a couple times myself. To wonder why, what it's about. And the advice that seems relevant is to practice, to continue, for its own sake. For love of practice.

I've seen it done.


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