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May 16, 2016

How Music Transports us: Looking Forward to Looking Back.

author photo: Nico Wood Kos (not for re-use)

Last summer, I spent a few months working at the Grant Village post office in Yellowstone National Park, often with my small baby strapped to my chest.

One perk of working at this small town post office was getting to pick the music, but one day I forgot my phone and had to dig through the CDs at hand. Amidst the classical and the worship music, a Motown record label caught my eye. It was the soundtrack for a film I’ve never seen.

Songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys and “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops were perfect for a morning spent greeting French tourists. “Gimme Some Lovin’” by the Spencer Davis Group helped dispense with my mid-morning slump. But when the last track began to play, I was overcome with emotion.

“The Weight” (commonly known as “Take a Load off Fanny”), written and performed by The Band transported me—from the very first note—to a campfire on the banks of the Colorado River, down at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

During the winter of 2013, I spent 30 days rafting the Grand Canyon. This trip left an indelible mark on me. I’m certain it is what led me to Yellowstone.

Tears blurred my vision as I processed packages, thinking about communication across the great distances of space and time.

In one breath, I was so sad at how long it’s been since I’d seen those friends, so happy that it happened, so in love with that piece of geography and so blown away by all that’s happened since.

And as the song plays, I am in both worlds for a moment…

I am swaying my shoulders as Kelso plays guitar and everybody sings. I am blowing a wooden train whistle. I am knocking around ideas for a performance about mothers and daughters that will become my first big artistic success. I am remote—removed from so many aspects of my life—and yet, I am immersed in community, enveloped by the earth, engaged in living, but released from my life.

And in the very same instant, I am a doctor, a mother and a part-time postal service employee. Again remote, again removed from what for a long time encompassed my life. Again knocking around ideas for a performance about mothers and daughters that will become something unforeseen.

This time, immersed in motherhood, enveloped by the forest, navigating the rapid Lydia and praying each day—as I did in the Grand Canyon (for prayer is the only word strong enough)—for sharper eyes to see every detail, a bigger heart to take it all in and for a depth of spirit that allows it to pass through me. Even as I wish with all my might for some way, just some way, to hold each moment, to keep it for myself.

And that’s love, I guess—holding on while letting go.

But the good news is, you can go back. You can re-live it. The right song can come on when you least expect it, and boom—you’re there. Your eyes have sharpened and your heart has grown. Removed and enveloped all at once, your depth of spirit reveals itself.

This summer, I returned to Yellowstone. I still wouldn’t say I’ve found my groove here—I wouldn’t say I’ve hit my stride. I’m still searching for the coda to this story. But I look forward to looking back.

Perhaps it will be “Oh Yoko” by John Lennon, or the succulent smell of pine, or—more likely than not—some detail I could never have anticipated that transports me suddenly and with abandon to that sweet place that remembers the delight but diminishes the exhaustion.

I will feel it in my bones that time is a game and space is a concept, because I will be everywhere I’ve ever been with everyone I love, for a moment.

And my eyes will swell. And I will know, that life is impossibly beautiful.

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Author: Nico Wood Kos

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Author’s own.

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Nico Wood Kos