Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Butterfield's Lullaby

I lose it when I hear Taps. It has to be performed by a single, live bugler, unaccompanied. It is the most poignant, somber, reflective song I have ever heard. If you can hear it and not be stopped in place, you may want to make sure you have a soul installed.

It's kind of like that for all the Honor Guard ceremonies for me. It is deeply resonant stuff. A good friend's father served in the Army in the Korean War and the Honor Guard came down to the Oxford Fire Company for the funeral and folded and presented his sons with an American flag. I had very little composure left. It rips me open. I think that is the point.

Author Jim Harrison, who has been compared to Hemingway, said about the literary Big Papa that his work was a "woodstove that didn't give off much heat." I have had that feeling about a number of works of art deemed classics; sometimes I just don't connect directly to them.

Taps was written in 1862, at Berkeley Plantation on the James River, after the Seven Days Battles. Union General Daniel Butterfield scribbled the notes on the back of an envelope and Oliver Wilcox Norton was the first to play it. The Confederates heard it and adopted it as well. The adage goes that it was one of the first things the two sides agreed on.

I'd go so far to call Taps a classic. It is one classic that strikes my soul vertically, connecting me to both the ground and the sky.

I don't have anything to add to the many voices and words written about September 11. But sitting down to watch the Ravens on Saturday, when the NFL tribute went out to Pennsylvania and the bugler played Taps, I remembered. Not just 9/11, but loss, sacrifice, Skeets Abell's life and funeral, mortality, and the fact that fucked up shit happens, over which we have little or no influence. And that there are times that we/I need to stop, reflect and remember. Taps is a universal doorway for that.

No comments: