Monday, November 10, 2008

This, Too, Shall Pass

Quite a few years ago (before the birth of my son), I needed to have a medical test that involved inserting a needle into my abdomen, pumping me full of a gas that allowed my internal organs to "float" so they could be x-rayed. I had no anesthesia for the procedure--none was needed--but to steel myself for whatever discomfort I would experience, I kept saying--this, too, shall pass. For a while, that little expression was a personal mantra--and, perhaps, still is.

Now, the expression takes on a slightly different cast. While I said it then to help me know I could withstand temporary pain, I say it now in recognition of the fleeting aspects of life.

News comes today that Miriam Makeba has died. She was a great South African singer, who I loved to hear as she sang sometimes in Zulu, with all its wonderful clicks. Upon learning the news of her death, a friend of mine sent me an email--wherein she recalled sitting in my office 20 years ago as I explained and pronounced Zulu clicks to her. Zulu, and its offspring language of Sindebele, makes a clicking sound on the Q, X, and C. Put your tongue to the roof of your mouth and make a pop, or make a noise as though to move a horse, or suck your tongue against your teeth in a sound of tsk tsk--and you have the approximate sounds of clicks.

Anyway, Miriam Makeba died. I heard her sing years ago when Paul Simon had his Graceland tour. My husband, son, and I went to Philadelphia and heard Paul Simon sing with
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, along with Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. If you want to hear a bit of Miriam's wonderful singing, watch the rendition of "Under African Skies" with Paul Simon.

Since I don't always get up in time to hear Garrison Keillor's "The Daily Almanac" I have it sent to me by email. That's how I learned that today is the birthday of
Padraic Pearse, an Irish poet who took part in the failed Irish Easter uprising of 1916 and for his troubles was shot dead by the British.

Pearse wrote a sweet poem that matches my thoughts today.

The Wayfarer

by Padraic Pearse

The beauty of the world hath made me sad,
This beauty that will pass;
Sometimes my heart hath shaken with great joy
To see a leaping squirrel in a tree,
Or a red lady-bird upon a stalk,
Or little rabbits in a field at evening,
Lit by a slanting sun,
Or some green hill where shadows drifted by
Some quiet hill where mountainy man hath sown
And soon would reap; near to the gate of Heaven;
Or children with bare feet upon the sands
Of some ebbed sea, or playing on the streets
Of little towns in Connacht,
Things young and happy.
And then my heart hath told me:
These will pass,
Will pass and change, will die and be no more,
Things bright and green, things young and happy;
And I have gone upon my way

Ah, perhaps it is an autumn day with stormy skies that inspires these thoughts of ephemerality in me. Who knows--or perhaps it is the death of a lovely lady.


Climenheise said...

Mama Africa. Wonderful person, wonderful performer. South Africa and the world are poorer today; but also richer with the gifts she gave us.

Beverly said...

Thank you for sharing this. I always learn something when I read your posts! That is a real loss.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I am sorry for the world's loss but grateful that you have shared yurs.

Anvilcloud said...

The days pass more quickly now.

My BIL was born in Nigeria and has demonstrated that clicking sound once or twice.

Ruth said...

I remember listening to her vinyl records as a child. My dad loved her singing. I believe she was Xhosa, not Zulu. Their language has all the clicks. We used to try the sounds for fun.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss ... indeed for all our loss. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories. I enjoyed listening to her music.

JeanMac said...

That sure was sad - so sudden.

Dog_geek said...

I had read the news about Miriam Makeba's death, but didn't fully appreciate it until reading your post. What a loss for the world. And the Pearse poem... beautiful melancholy. I have been feeling that in my heart a lot lately.

Climenheise said...

By the way, can you still do the clicks? Say quyickly three times: "Amaxoxo ayaxaxa" -- or "Ngiyaqoqodo."

I wish I had the tongue-twisters that school children are taught while studying Zulu or Ndebele.

NCmountainwoman said...

I spent my college years listening to Miriam Makeba. What a fine tribute to a wonderful human being. I, too, was so saddened to hear of her death.

Mary said...

She has a beautiful voice, never to be forgotten. I enjoyed she and Paul together.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Africa has lost a wonderful symbol and spokeswoman. Here gift of music lives on for years to come.

You are too kind to say Pearce was "shot" by the British. He was executed after stopping the rebellion and surrending.

KGMom said...

Ruth is absolutely right--Miriam Makeba was Xhosa, and that's what she sang. Zulu and Sindebele (spoken in Rhodesia when I was there) are related to Xhosa. There are several other clicking languages in Africa.

Daryl--I probably could still pronounce the tongue twisting words you gave. The one word I do remember is the one for little finger--no idea how to spell it though.

Philip--too right about Pearse. As were other Irish who led the uprising, Pearse was executed. The English has much to atone for in their handling of Irish affairs over the centuries.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

"This too shall pass." I'll hold on to those words as I continue to walk through my own Valley of the Shadow in my oppressive school district.