A Gift from the Sea: A More Peaceful Tempo
In the 50th anniversary edition of Gift from the Sea, Reeve Lindbergh, daughter of author Anne Morrow Lindbergh, writes:
“At whatever point one opens Gift from the Sea, to any chapter or any page, the author’s words offer a chance to breathe and live more slowly. The book makes it possible to quiet down and rest in the present, no matter what the circumstances may be. Just to read it—a little of it or in its entirety—is to exist for a while
in a different and more peaceful tempo. Even the sway and flow of language and cadence seem to me to make reference to the easy, inevitable movements of the sea.”
-Introduction, Gift from the Sea
It seems forever ago that I was first chair clarinet in my high school concert band. I even made it to Regionals three years in a row. If I were to hold that special wooden clarinet in my hands today, I wouldn’t know where to begin. My fondest memory of all is of Mr. James Page, my band director—conductor’s baton in his right hand. His left hand sweeping across his forehead to move his hair, all while engrossed in continuing the momentum of tempo. Grace and Beauty met Passion and Fire under the direction of that man’s right hand.
I learned how to fix my gaze on the movement of his hands. Even as I write, my eyes are tearing up because I can see him. I remember the intention of each note. The hours of practice. Each instrument under his care as he carefully guided us to individual excellence and ultimately the beautiful synchronicity of musicians melding into one symphonic concert band.
The Importance of Tempo
Before ever beginning to work on a piece, Mr. Page would put his trusted wooden metronome on his stand and make us listen to the expected rate and rhythm. Toes would tap. Heads would nod. Souls would soak up the sound and then, try to imitate the pace.
Day after day, he showed me the importance of each and every tempo—and the effect it has on a piece of music. So varied, yet so vital:
Grave – Very Slow
Largo, Lento – Slow
Larghetto – A little faster than Largo
Adagio – Moderately Slow
Andante – “Walking” Tempo
Andantino – A little faster than Andante
Allegretto – A little slower than Allegro
Allegro – Fast
Vivace – Lively
Presto – Very Fast
Prestissimo – Very Very Fast
Moderato – Moderate(ly)
Molto – Very
A Change of Tempo
Today, I am hoping to not only exist for a while in a different and more peaceful tempo but somehow find a way, in our hurried culture, to exist in that inner peaceful tempo for the rest of my life.
I’ve tried so many times before. It works for awhile, but then slowly, one yes here and one yes there, and I’m right back living between allegro and vivace and presto…fast to faster to fastest. It happens so subtly. As I’ve written, my recent medical diagnosis has forced me to listen to the metronome of my life. I have to change—my physical problem hints of a far deeper problem—an emotional/mental one.
Today, as I headed to the beach to say good morning to God, I took off my shoes, laid them aside, and said a quiet prayer:
Good morning God.
I need your help.
I’ve tried so many times before to change.
As I lay my sandals aside, I lay aside the erratic tempo of my soul.
I want to really live the life you have for me.
My life, not anyone else’s.
Help me find that peaceful tempo and
then help me live and breathe it.
I know it will take daily practice
and that I will need to fix my gaze on Your hand
as you lead me through the symphony of my life.
Maybe, like me, the tempo of your life is out of sync and you desperately want it to remedy itself. You desire a life so in sync with God’s tempo that it creates a symphony for those around you.
Finding your perfect rate and rhythm will take practice. It will take a keen ear and a laser-sharp gaze fixed on the Conductor’s hand. And, it will involve time in the waiting room because real change always takes time.
To begin, take a minute and listen to this cool online metronome. I asked myself, “If my life was interpreted in beats per minute, what would it sound like?” Something pretty amazing happened when I actually listened to the different “beats per minute.” I wondered, “Is that how my life sounds to God’s ear? To others around me?”
I concluded I was currently at about 82 beats per minute, known in tempo language as “Andante,” with a grand desire to live life at about 67 beats per minute in “Adagio.” Nice steady rhythm…..
Okay, check your tempo and share your current and desired BPM with us all!