Saturday, July 5, 2008
Amidst these busy summer days of visits and concerts and guests and events there remains the odd quiet moment to reflect, to pick up the knitting or mending, and let the mind focus in peace while a button gets reattached, a bead gets strung and a few rows of stocking stitch get added to a sleeve. One such moment was thrust upon me the day before yesterday as I waited outside a hospital room while my boyfriend paid his last respects to one of his oldest friends. Oli died quite suddenly, though not unexpectedly as he had been through the wringer to treat his leukemia and the sad reality that there was not going to be a cure was known to all. As I waited I thought and the little stitches hopped from one needle to the next, sometimes with very little help, like sand running through an hourglass.
Oli has done many amazing things in his creative life, and has inspired creativity and a sense of musical adventure in the lives of many others. He has nurtured an incredible next generation of musicians already. Knowing that his days where few, he was seized with the desire to do one last show before an audience. In less than 6 weeks the whole event was organized. On June 5th 2008, fighting fatigue that was imperceptible to the audience he gave an absolutely brilliant show with some closest of his musical collaborators. The program had as much new material as familiar and every person in the hall hung on to every note. The joy of the event, the beauty of the music and the intense awareness of all in the room that this concert, this performance was a gift from Oli was palpable. It was a gift from us to Oli, too. The show rapidly sold out the 80o seat hall and the love and appreciation he was showered with I am sure helped to give him an incredible sense of peace, of goodness, of knowing that he is loved and that he has living legacy. That is something few people get to experience - few people in his state of life are able to rise up to the inevitable and continue to create and give and be given. I think Oli recognized that gift to him.
He left in a way that was like some of his tunes. At concerts and even on recordings, I often wished he'd repeat the melody - "That was too short, Oli," I'd say in my mind, "Play it again from the top!" While he still had many projects and visions, while much was left undone and while he left us much, much, much too soon, he somehow managed to go like a note hanging off his violin, the strings vibrating after the last powerful draw of the bow. Rather than the cancer take him - small piece by small piece - he went all at once due to a complication. How odd, that a complication in a way simplified the end.
But it was his commitment to his creativity, to what gave him joy in life - music - and how his joy became the joy of others that has been the great shining beacon for me and the many around him who were lucky enough to know him. Life goes on until the last moment if we can let ourselves see it that way. I did not feel the least bit morbid or dark, sitting there knitting quietly by the door. Sad, yes indeed, but there I was making a sleeve for my little niece, a kind of commitment to the future, to life, if you will.
If you enjoy music that springs from tradition and wanders artfully and playfully in many directions, seek out Oli's recordings. I adore Camino. I have listened to it over and over without tiring of it. All his music is good but that one has a special place in my heart. It is beautiful music to just close your eyes to and let your ears paint pictures for you. It is lovely music to inspire you while you fill row after row with stitches and your mind wanders. Thanks, Oli. Godspeed.