When I get to the end of writing about an artist, there is always a tinge of remorse. Have I featured enough about them to make it worth your while to wander through their catalog? I am constantly amazed about what I learn, and I hope that I can get some of that through to you. Honestly, I wanted to write about Nat because of his amazing rendition of The Christmas Song, you hear a lot during this season, but each day I found something that fit better with the story or the thought for the day… and I kept pushing it out. Then, I actually found a song that fits the theme of renewal, the last day, better… so, what should I do?
We just came back from our daily walk up here in the mountains, and with the recent winter storm, all the trees are covered with ice, and when the sun is out, it is truly a winter wonderland. And, as many are taking these 2 weeks off for the holidays, the area is filling up with families. There are kids on sleds screaming with delight/fear as they careen down the white golf fairways, which up here are steep 😉 Fires are burning – real ones with wood, the smell of which is never matched by any other. As a native Texan I would never think I would say this – Winter is actually amazing…
The Christmas Song was not written by Nat, but by Mel Tormé, who I need to do a series on. From WikiPedia, my major “co-author”, according to Tormé, the song was written in July during a blistering hot summer, in an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool”, “I saw a spiral pad with four lines written in pencil”, Tormé recalled. “They started, ‘Chestnuts roasting…, Jack Frost nipping…, Yuletide carols…, Folks dressed up like Eskimos.’ My partner didn’t think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics.”
Today started out gloomy, which was an amazing gift… of renewal. When we moved to Ithaca, if you had a pretty day during the winter (which up there was from October till April – no exaggeration) – you got out and did something. Even if it was 0 degrees, you bundled up and got outside. And on days when it wasn’t you had projects inside. With the gloom, I threw myself into a project, building a Van Halen guitar for a friend… the perfect thing to get my mind off the “work” that has been consuming me the last 6 weeks… a life long pattern for me.
With this new team and some amazingly complex/difficult goals, I have been all in – TOO far in… where I had lost my perspective. Yes, there were important things to do, and if I didn’t do them they would not be done… but is that a good reason to burn my candle on both ends, and in the middle? It was a familiar pattern, getting to Friday with literally nothing left, sick with a migraine on Saturday, crash Sunday, and… repeat. There was a phase where I would get stomach cramps literally every weekend…thinking it was what I ate…
… it was not. In a year like this one, people have many excuses that are being tested. Business models, investments, hiring decisions, methods of work, Management Hygiene… all being assessed in the harsh light of something we never could have Prepared for. And one element I see consistently missing – Grace. For directs, for teammates, for spouses, for kids… but most of all… for you and me. We think we can keep going day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year…
… like the hopeful notes that became the lyrics of The Christmas Song, we try to convince ourselves that it is actually cool in July, and that we actually are watching snow fall in Los Angeles, that we don’t have to pay attention to our own bodies. The practice of renewal is one that interrupts that pattern, at least once a week, with a day set apart – to rest. As my wife liked to remind me in that season (and again this season), “Even God took a day off. What makes me think I can do more?”
Friday was an incredibly stressful “work” day, reminiscent of the days in Ithaca, including an escalation that was going into the ditch, and the familiar “overwork” pattern re-emerged. Frentic emailing, telecon’s on top of Zoom calls, texting… and then, I remembered the simple lesson from that season…
… it was a beautiful day, and I needed to get outside. And to clear the ice off my driveway… the perfect outlet… completely crazy, physically exhausting… and renewing. Physically shaking the salt onto the ice, I heard it immediately start to crack as it melted… and that meant I could now get a scraper underneath it and break the “ice” into smaller pieces that now I could push down the driveway. While doing all of that, I reached out to friends to help “crack” my “work” problems into different pieces, literally out of breath as I called them from the drive… and they came through. With both problems cleared away, I had time then to have lunch outside with friends, ending the day with a Zoom call with new friends – kids of my old boss. Reminding myself of the gift of relationships helped remind me to Prepare… to renew.
I didn’t know this song until I was researching this week. Gordan Jenkins was a consistent orchestra leader for Nat for his last few albums, but he actually wrote this one. He thought it was one of his finest, and I have to agree as it kicked The Christmas Song into an “also-ran” for the week.
Each week I end with the suggestion that you should ensure that you take time to take stock, think about what really matters, and potentially reconnect with a faith that renews. This week I was reminded personally that this is a lifelong challenge for me, and that without constant renewal, my bad patterns are just beneath the surface. And on this Sabbath day, by getting outside, and breaking things into pieces, the headaches, stomach cramps, and other symptoms are from being 30 years older than those cold days in Ithaca… and my new guitar is almost finished 😉
As I end the chapter on Nat, I think this is the perfect song of both Preparation and renewal… and I hope you will take it into your heart as we close out the week and the year. This Is All I Ask….
As I approach the prime of my life
I find I have the time of my life
Learning to enjoy at my leisure
All the simple pleasure
And so I happily concede
This is all I ask
This is all I need
Beautiful girls, walk a little slower when you walk by me
Lingering sunset, stay a little longer with the lonely sea
Children everywhere, when you shoot at bad men, shoot at me
Take me to that strange enchanted land
Grownups seldom understand
Wandering rainbows, leave a bit of color for my heart to own
Stars in the sky, make my wish come true
Before the night has flown
And let the music play as long as there’s a song to sing
Then I will stay younger than spring