A Vanquished Foe

The light was yellowed with the day’s death. All the beasts which eat green and growing things were seeking their places of slumber; the others, those which feed on flesh and gentle things, were waking. I stood at the crenulations of my castle wall looking out across my infinite plains. The sun’s own death throes painted fire red my rolling fields of wheat. I smiled a handsome smile as tendrils of wind fingered through my crops like a giant’s hand through his mane. It was magnificent… but something was amiss. I heard the shrill call of a maiden. She came running, with flaxen hair and cherub cheeks, and stopped short at the sight of my muscular build. Her hair was parted in pig tails. She wore a halo of sunlight.

Fair Maiden

This maiden, fairer than fair, told a tale so distressing. In the dark nights of these past autumnal months, a band of evil doers with poison tipped daggers had moved into her cottage. She had run with naught but her life to tell her gallant king of their trespass. You see, my boundless kingdom is so vast that even one as vigilant as I can’t see to it all. But that’s not to say that I’d let such an insult, as offered by these fey villains, stand unpunished.

Evil doers

So I dallied not. I traveled forth with all haste to my armory and plucked forth from my panoply a weapon so fierce that even this band… nay, this army of treacherous scum would weep at the sight of its steely might. The beautiful hens of my king’s court, like so many ladies in waiting, watched on with fear painted on their lovely faces. Could these enemies succeed where countless scores had failed previously? They knew not. I knew victory was certain, but only because I knew the depth of my chivalry.

Blade

I am awesome, let there be no mistake. But in this fight, I was to face more than one thousand foe. So I called upon my alchemist and had him brew for me a most noxious poison. I say let these fiends taste upon their bodies the very poison they intended for my fair maiden. This poison of his was to be “propelled by aerosol,” but I’m not privy to wizard speak, so I had no choice but to trust the man. And just to err on the side of safety, I went looking for The Beast to aid in my quest. This particular beast is a terror from the Orient. Its yellowed fangs of ivory have been reddened often by the life blood of those who seek to imperil my kingdom. The Beast, I tell you truly, is a mutated descendant from the great grey wolf with a howl that can frighten the dead further into the underworld.

The Beast 1

Nay… that rendering of The Beast doesn’t capture its true ferocity. None save I have seen The Beast prostrate its self so lovingly for I am the only mortal who can best such a creature in combat and earn its submission. I pray thee to but give me another moment. I shall find another portrait of the creature which will stir in your very being the visceral fear of being eaten alive.

The Beast 2

Yes. Yes I say. That’s more like it. Do you see that hooded gaze? Those proud ears laid back in warning of wrath? Few have seen what you’re seeing now and lived to tell their kin around the hearth fire such a tale of narrow escape, but back to the matter at hand. I took my poison and my blade and The Beast straight away to the fair maiden’s cottage. I wasted no time with warnings or offerings of truce. I spewed forth my poison as The Beast barked in triumph. Mine enemy was slow to offer a volley. The cold air of my realm, which makes men out of boys, had stolen from my foe his wits. The ichor in his putrescent veins ran like the sap from a felled tree, slow and gelatinous, but death was coming on quick wings. I swung once with my mighty blade, and I did raze to the ground my foes’ fortress. Bodies fell and writhed on the hallowed ground of my ancestral home…

Razed

Walls of grey stone, most probably constructed by witchcraft, parted asunder before my might…

Grey Walls

And the soft underbelly of my advisories’ cave-like dwellings was finally exposed. I stepped forward slowly, knowing the day was mine. My shadow blocked out the last rays from an evening sun as fear and despair took root in the hundreds of doomed hearts before me. They pleaded and buzzed for mercy as my enemies are wont to do, but I heard them not. I raised my mighty blade, and smote the life from those who would dare harm my fair maiden.

Comb

Seeing that the battlefield was cleared of living enemy, she came running to impart upon my brow a kiss, a favor of love, to name me her champion. It’s good to be king.

Stillwater

I park my truck in a darkened lot every Monday and Wednesday night, and I wait. I usually have my radio turned up and the bass from the door speaker stirs rhythmically the stale air in my cab. It takes five minutes, ten at most, for the children to swarm out of Stillwater’s front door. My daughter is one of them, and she’s always smiling.

The Stillwater Foundation studios are sandwiched in between a taxi dispatch office and an alley which pours out right across from the northernmost City Market. As one of the local nonprofits here in Durango, they’re dedicated to teaching our youth the vagaries of music, and they do so adroitly. They teach their art and then take their pupils out into the public on gigs. The audience listens and then claps thunderously in approval; it’s a warm and tacit invitation for our children to express themselves further. Without Stillwater, I swear my oldest daughter would’ve been swallowed up long ago by the introverted gene I accidentally passed on. From a distance, you’d swear that she was spared such a fate. She’s this demure little beauty with jade eyes and a lambent smile. She has this odd gravitational pull around her which pulls in like a tractor beam friends and family, but behind her braces-encrusted smile is a drawn-in mind. All of the wonderment which is my child is surrounded by a fortification, and about a year ago, the wife and I decided that it needed to crumble. Music was to be our battering ram.

It made sense. Direct expression felt so alien to me when I was young and lost. So I played my drums, and I found a way out. It worked. And since our daughter is my feminine carbon copy, pure, cold logic dictated that it might work for her as well. Luckily, she too was born with a latent musical talent. There was a hidden pro to my genetic con. My wife and I went the generic route at first. We piled in front of our daughter a panoply of musical instruments. I gave her lessons with strings and drumsticks. We found someone named Ryan who leavened her burgeoning love for the piano. But music was something she could love alone. She just took it into her fortifications and winched down the portcullis. We needed something else. Ryan is one of the teachers at Stillwater, and serendipitously, he brought her into the fold.

That first day, when we walked our daughter through Stillwater’s front door, is one of those indelible memories that I’ll never lose. She trailed behind us. The room was warm and it was filled with instruments and microphones and acoustic trappings. There was a new teacher in the room. His name was Jared (the man is a certifiable savant on the trumpet). But more importantly, there were other musically gifted children in the room… they were all boys. My daughter’s pallid skin flushed red. She froze. Her eyes locked with laser focus on the exit and our hopes teetered on a precipice. So we threw her to the wolves and left. You know, because we’re good parents. We waited just outside and then came to her rescue a few moments later. As a side note, did you know that a moment is technically ninety seconds? It’s an actual, measurable thing. How weird is that? But I bet those moments felt like individual eternities to our daughter. When we asked if she ever wanted to go back, she answered monosyllabically. Yes. I pretended to not care one way or the other, but in my mind, I threw an epic party of celebration complete with fanfare and fireworks. So we paid Stillwater’s freakishly small fee and brought her back, again and again. Our biweekly trips to Stillwater’s front door are like imperative pilgrimages. She thinks that it’s music, we know that it’s therapy.

For children like my child, band is like a team sport. Developmentally, it’s huge. It teaches them how to be social with others of their ilk. And within band, music is their language. It’s this weird and wonderful esoteric way of communication, like a syncopated pig Latin if you will, which most people only get to enjoy from the crowd. Without music, without Stillwater, my daughter would still be brooding behind the crenulations of her fortifications. I owe them more than the aforementioned pittance my wife and I pay them monthly. And they need my help; they need our help. Like I mentioned earlier, they’re a registered nonprofit, and they’re putting on a benefit concert and silent auction Sunday, December 14th at the VFW hall in downtown Durango. It starts at 1:00pm. Please come. Please help them continue to teach our youth the language of music so children like my own and others in our community can come out from behind their fortifications.

For more information about The Stillwater Foundation, please visit http://www.stillwaterfoundation.org

Stillwater 1