The pandemic knocked me for a loop—that’s a given. Since June of 2020, I have not be able to summon up enough energy to write a single blog post. In addition to being house-bound, I was coming to grips with multiple losses—friends dying (not just from the virus), family health crises, and particularly the loss of my mentor and friend, Barry Harris.
It was a gradual loss at first; I was last in his presence at his NYC class on March 10, 2020, just as Covid was about to lock us all inside. Terribly afraid of accidentally being a carrier (because at that time nobody knew if you could be asymptomatic and still spread the virus) I did not attempt to visit him at his home. Instead I sent cards and letters, and we had phone calls back and forth, but it was a very sad time as I missed hanging out with him, playing word games, making him my chicken soup and other things we enjoyed.
I struggled with anticipatory grief of more losses to come as I faced the new reality of my life without vocals class, without seeing my friends, without travel to visit people I love, and without the comforting community of musicians I was used to seeing every week. I knew there would be no more Barry Harris choral rehearsals, singing workshops, or Big Band experiences and these had become my main reason for leaving the house. I was grateful that Barry was able to begin teaching piano and improvisation classes via Zoom on Saturdays during lockdown—attending those sessions helped to ease my separation anxiety, but still I grieved the loss of singing, singing to him, and of learning new songs with his input and guidance.
And (deep sigh) now he is gone, I cannot embrace him, or kiss his cheek, or tell him face to face how much he means to me. I have been trying to push through all of it the best I can, the loss of his guidance and friendship on top of the pressures of family and work obligations that dominate my life right now. I am going slowly and not taking on any additional commitments until I am sure I can fulfill them.
I am happy for Barry; I am sure he is in his element now and free of all the physical discomfort. Part of my mind was always worried, wondering how he was doing and now I don’t have these concerns because I know he is okay. Since his passing, I have been trying to sleep through my grief to process it. If it wasn’t for my loudly crying cat (she needs me to feed her, go figure) I would have slept straight through the past month or so.
Yes, I am sleeping in shadows now, a strange riddle as they are shadows made without light, without a sun. I listen for the echo of the communal learning experience that nurtured me. It encompassed so much more than the musical lesson of that moment. What will the future bring? Right now I am taking a break from singing and composing. I am hopeful that at some point my spark will return, but for now I am not engaging in any major musical projects. Instead I am exploring internal issues that arise through journaling, collage and other mixed media arts. I am spending more time with my family. We are all trying to be creative and productive during a strange time in the world.
So, going forward I am not sure what types of posts I will be inspired to share here. Perhaps more of my personal art projects and things I observe, but for the time being there may not be many jazz related pieces, will see.
This month I had hoped to return to blogging by presenting a story about a Barry Harris song that brings beauty to the world, but I have not completed it yet. If I can post it next month I will do that.
Thank you to everyone who has called or written to me. Your condolences and our mutual grief have been very comforting. And to those of you that are grieving the loss of Barry that I have not spoken to I send you my deepest condolences on your loss. I hope you will be able to incorporate his love and guidance into your work going forward. That is my goal. ~Laurie