When to Turn Off Your Headphones

A street scene in Oia, Greece

I grew up with music. It was as much my nourishment as the toasted peanut butter sandwiches and gallons of milk my brother and I would consume daily, much to the annoyance of my mother who was forever asking, “Who finished the milk and didn’t tell me?” Leaving a lone two-ounce sip in the jug was the solution that freed us both from complicity: “Wasn’t me” accompanied by an innocent, classic palms-up gesture was our standard response.

Dad was a DJ back in the day, and strains of Frank Sinatra, The Supremes, Dionne Warwick, and Herb Alpert were always present in our home. I even used to play the guitar—after a fashion—which provided one more musical outlet. I would play alone in my room and warble my way through teen classics such as Janice Ian’s “At Seventeen,” a song I still remember all the words to. I credit my dad for my love of music and my interest in all genres from classical to zydeco because all the while I was listening to Aerosmith, The Eagles, Steely Dan, Little Feat, and ZZ Top with my friends, I still loved Vivaldi, Frank, James Moody, and Otis Redding.

Sun setting over Florida.
Day is Done

Certain songs remind me of places I’ve been or even friends and family members, kind of my own personal soundtrack, my life played out to music. Lindsey Buckingham’s “Don’t Look Down” will forever remind me of crossing Tampa Bay for the first time. Having just moved south from Pittsburgh, driving across, looking over the blue water, sun streaming through the open sunroof made me pinch myself in wonder at having moved to such an incredible place after so many years of living with ice and snow.

I remember dreamily slow dancing in a parking lot with my boyfriend, Mariah Carey’s “Dream Lover” spilling from the open car windows because pulling over and dancing in broad daylight just seemed so perfectly romantic, driving to horse shows with my friend, eating Sweet Sixteen donuts brushing snowflakes of soft, powdered sugar from our t-shirts to the strains of “The Dream” by David Sanborn, and years later, my daughter and I driving to school early mornings, both of us tunelessly singing to Kenny Logins’ “Christopher Robin,” a song that brings tears to my eyes now that she’s grown.

Orchid Beauty

I especially enjoy music—the Black Crows or Al Green depending on what mood I’m in—while driving, the teenage habit of increasing the volume until the speakers rattle, something I’ve never outgrown.

I suppose those from a younger generation would say that my musical tastes have become somewhat pedestrian these days given my—ahem—age. I do tend to lean more toward something softer, Ed Sheeran, Citizen Cope, or KT Tunstall, but considering I was brought up to appreciate all types of music, I still love hearing a new song by a talented artist or learning about a new band no matter the genre.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered there are alternatives to the music I’ve always loved, times I’ll mute my earbuds, when the music of palm fronds rustling, the bell-like tones of wind chimes, the calls of  mourning doves, or the rushing roar of the surf are the preferred melodies.

And then there are times when silence is the most beautiful music. Silence is uncluttered and pure, when there are no sounds of conversation, no washing machines running or phones ringing, when complete and utter quiet is every bit as musical as the music I love.



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