Cedar Street Times 2-5-2016
by Patricia Hamilton and Joyce Krieg
The first month of 2016 turned out to be one major bummer for Baby Boomers. First came the death of David Bowie on January 10, then Glenn Frey on the 18th, followed by the shocking news that two founding members of Jefferson Airplane, Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson, had both died within hours of each other on January 28. In this column, Joyce Krieg reflects on celebrity deaths, why we care, and what it means when it comes to writing our own life stories.
Turning Our Secure Universe Inside Out
If you were a teen in the 1960s in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jefferson Airplane couldn’t help but be a huge influence. Along with the Grateful Dead, the Airplane electrified our young psyches with their strange, trippy sounds and provocative lyrics. Suddenly we became aware of a world beyond our conservative suburban high school and bland tract houses. With ears glued to transistor radios, we whispered rumors about someone’s older brother who had allegedly hitch-hiked to something called the Monterey Pop Music Festival, and traded theories as to what the words to “White Rabbit” really meant. Psychedelic rock turned our secure universe inside out.
And yet … that was a half-century ago. Why should that music—and those musicians—that we loved so long ago matter now?
One answer, of course, is that these final journeys to Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven remind us of our own mortality. If even rock stars eventually wither and die, then what hope is there for us mere mortals? The take-away: don’t die with your music hidden inside you! Write that poem, paint that still-life, photograph that sunset, knit that sweater.
A celebrity death also has the power to freeze a particular moment in time. Perhaps that’s why many of us react so strongly—because the star’s legacy sends us back to the time when we first became aware of them, when we first heard their music or saw them perform. For me, learning of the deaths of the Jefferson Airplane guitarist and original lead singer instantly turned me back into a teenager in mid-century Northern California, transporting me to that moment when the Airplane first swept the airwaves and introduced a generation to the whole hippie thing, exciting and dangerous, far different from our own sheltered lives.
Understanding Our Life and Times through Writing
One way we learn to understand ourselves and the times we live in is by writing about it. On the Creative Nonfiction blog, writer Tara DaPra summed it up well when she said, “Perhaps the only recompense for tragedy—for death and loss of innocence—is the chance to create some measure of beauty. The marvel of a well-crafted sentence—finding just the right diction and syntax—is a small triumph over pain, a way to create order in the world. That world, at times, may be nothing more than a writer and her pen. Writers find pleasure in moments of flow, a loss of consciousness, but as any practitioner of meditation will tell, this is simply preparation to engage in the world and to develop a more refined consciousness. After all, what is the human experience if not an attempt to order pain and chaos?”
Promise yourself that this is the year that you will create a sense of order in your own world. Research your family history, record the stories of your elderly relatives, leave a written legacy of your own life, and take the time to reflect on the times and culture you witnessed, and the music that made up the soundtrack of your life.
Patricia Hamilton and Joyce Krieg urge you to explore your own life story or family history and put it on paper. To find out more about the editing, book design, publication, and marketing services offered by Park Place Publications, and for a free consultation, contact Patricia at 831/649-6640, firstname.lastname@example.org.