Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mountain Music's Call by Kathryn Magendie

As I barrel down Interstates 40, 81, 77, to my hometown in West Virginia for a funeral, I insert one CD after another, an eclectic musical mix of instrument and word blasting from the hearty speakers of my Subaru: Santana, where Carlos’s guitar lures me luridly; Beethoven, who I have a schoolgirl crush on—such genius in his handsome glowering stare as he interprets the silent world through his music; and the Cranberries, Alan Parsons Project, Incubus, Sting, Reamonn, Kristen Hall, Queen, Creed, Dido, and more.

Once I arrive in Charleston, I prepare myself for the visit to the funeral home. I dread the overpowering smell of flowers and the scents used to cover the formaldehyde smell that permeates the walls, furniture, carpeting, and the suits and hair of its employees. Even more, I dread the organ music that drones through the speakers, saying to me, “this is what death sounds like.” Through the heavy mahogany doors, I enter a foyer of silence. I turn my head to the side, listening—where is the cliché announcing, “Time to grieve now. This music surely must feel mournful, right?” Nothing. Silence.

I whisper, “What no dreaded organ?” My West Virginia Kin then shows me the CD they have created of beloved mountain songs. Moments later, I hear banjo, fiddle, acoustic guitar, and the lilting mountain voices singing about love and life and who we mountain people are and will proudly forever be. I hear the way we love, the way we live, the way we die. I hear the music all the way down into my bones, seeping deep into the marrow, settling there as silt to the creek, never stagnant, never stationary. Mountain’s music: the wind as it rushes down from ridge to holler, the owl’s midnight cry, the men scrubbing coal dust from their faces, the old women humming wistfully after their children rush mad-long through summer-heated grass straight into another life. Oh, the magic of music!—it even brings back the dead to the living.

We’re lost to the lowing strains of the fiddle playing along our skin, causing the fine hairs on our arms to stand and wave in time, the music enters our marrow, settling. The hillbilly ghosts listen, tap their vaporous feet. This is who we are, and I am grateful for my ancestors, their music, these mountains, my life, my West Virginia Kin.



(Dedicated to Coy Engle, done gone for a spell now, just a little spell. The image is from Kathy Mattea's COAL )

9 comments:

Angie Ledbetter said...

Great writing & post as always. I can almost hear the music...

Kathryn Magendie said...

:-) mornin' angie...

Patresa Hartman said...

so nice. you know, i think you write like mountain music, ms. kat. i like that.

and i am so with you on the dreaded smell and organ of funeral homes. i can barely stand it. when i die, i hope everybody just meets in a park and tosses my ashes to the ducks.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Same here, P...cremate me, toss me in the mountains, under a weeping willow, under a beautiful Louisiana Oak tree with spanish moss, in the ocean....wheeee there I go, drifting and settling and swimming

The Paper Whisperer said...

I have chill bumps right now. That was beautiful, just beautiful. I can relate to the music in my marrow because I am such a lover of music. I am so musically inclined that one minute into your blog, I could actually hear Elton John's, "Funeral For a Friend." I'm sorry for your loss, but thankful for the inspiration. Have a beautiful weekend.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Thank you, PW...*smiling*
and you have a great weekend as well!

Barbara Quinn said...

Loved this..and me too on the cremation. One of my future tasks is once my mom passes to spread her ashes in the ocean, along with my Dad's which she is keeping so they can be scattered there together. That's where I want to be scattered too, into the wonderful sea.

Kathryn Magendie said...

it just seems right, doesn't it, Barb?

The Paper Whisperer said...

Mz. Kat...I have spent the last half hour trying to email you to no avail. Go to my blog and shoot me an e-mail with your addy so I can send you the 411 on the GY.

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