When I lived in New York City, only a block away from Central Park, I would stroll through Strawberry Fields, singing the iconic Beatles song. The area had been a favorite of John’s and his wife Yoko while John was still alive; often the two could be seen together walking arm-in-arm in the rustic tranquility of their surroundings. After Lennon’s death, with a hefty donation from his widow, this section of the park was cleared of wild bushes and planted with majestic trees and multi-color flowers; additionally, a wheel made of mosaics with the word “Imagine” running across it, was set over concrete as a memorial to the legendary musician. Thanks to Yoko Ono’s continued donation and additional support by the Central Park Conservancy, Strawberry Fields is meticulously maintained for the enjoyment of locals and tourists who come to honor Lennon’s legacy.
The celebrated song, after which the area was named, stood for everything Manhattan represented to me: a city where I would as likely run into a celebrity at the local supermarket as I would a friend; a city of skyscrapers caressing the sky but with a green oasis at its very heart providing a place for leisure and contemplation; a city of Broadway lights and serious music but with room for jazz lovers who would find plenty to enjoy in venues dedicated to the genre. Like the song, a city that would be mine “forever.” It had already been my home for more than thirty years.
But forever, I learned, becomes a kaleidoscope that forms new colors and shapes as our lives morphs.
In my case the transformation started slowly. I bought a house in New Jersey, where fresh air and my own private garden started to obliterate the beauty of Central Park and the serenity of Strawberry Fields. Since I was commuting to Manhattan every day, however, the link that connected me to the electrical energy of the city stayed strong for a while; gradually it became looser and looser until one day it was gone.
I moved to Houston, Texas. My friends were horrified. I would no longer be able to stroll freely through city streets or a park that was only a block away from home. What had I done? I explained my twin lived an hour away, and I had been longing to be near family ever since both my parents who had lived in New York passed away. Friends still balked at the thought of Texas.
My days in Houston, I said, would be spent in retirement listening to music and writing. My memoir “Cuba, Adios” had already been published and readers had been kind with their comments. I would continue adding to my opus.
But then something unexpected happened. I was offered the job of Executive Director of the Houston Chamber Choir, a professional ensemble of 27 singers who have studied at prestigious conservatories and important music schools nationally and abroad. The exquisite blend of their voices reminds me of fine lace. Delicate and Precious.
As a bonus I received an invitation to accompany the choir on its first concert in celebration of the ensemble’s 20th Anniversary. I would be covered by the choral mantilla of this exceptional group. It doesn’t get better than that!
The moral of the story is, never get stuck with one song. There’s always another melody waiting for you around the corner. Houston Chamber Choir Forever!
How about you, how many “forevers” have you said in your life?