I am often complimented on my ability to find the good in situations, and have even been told that my positive thoughts can be borderline annoying.
I have been challenged lately to stay in a place of gratitude, but thankfully, I have been able to do so while feeling like I’m dodging bullets at times. As an example, while enjoying the lush green vegetation on my daily commute, out from it leaps a tiny, tan, freckled baby deer. After slamming on the brakes and taking a moment to remember to breathe, I felt grateful that it had passed safely just a few feet in front of my car and I returned to my scenic drive.
Being ungrateful or unappreciative of the good that surrounds me is not an option, it’s a matter of survival. Balance is necessary more than ever before, but finding balance has been a challenge, too, especially Monday through Wednesday in the newspaper business. Luckily, I was blessed last week with an early-ending Harbor Committee meeting that allowed me a two-hour dinner break during which I did not eat, but instead danced to samba and African drumming on the beach.
The following morning, my boss assigned me the task of covering a ladybug catch-and-release program at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, where I took pictures of adorable children and organic vegetation while strolling on land that has been protected by the Peconic Land Trust. I was so grateful for the opportunity to experience the grounds and to chat with Scott Chaskey, the farm’s director. I thanked him for what he has created for the community and for ensuring a source of local, organic, non-genetically-engineered food and simultaneously helping to protect our land and water.
Last Thursday, The Star’s arts editor asked me to attend an Inda Eaton concert and interview the local musician, who has quickly become one of my favorites. As Inda was joined onstage by several other amazing musicians, I looked at my pad, pen, and camera on the banister of the Talkhouse dance floor and felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. . . . “I am working right now,” I thought, and probably even said aloud, as I do talk to myself regularly.
I listened to Ms. Eaton’s new CD, “Go West” the next day, on one of my recent and frequent three-hour trips to the hospital to visit my father and felt comfort in her lyrics. “Rest your head,” “better days,” and “in the arms of my hometown for a while.”
Music has become an even bigger part of my well-being lately, and I am hoping it will also help my father, who has been hospitalized for weeks and is now on a ventilator, unresponsive. I played Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, two of his favorites, in the hospital room on Friday, hoping it would help to wake him.
Some of my family members said that my father’s legs moved the most when the song “In the Mood” was played, a song that usually results in a solo swing-dance performance by my parents at family gatherings. I hope that once again my parents’ amazing dance steps will bring them — and those who watch them — joy, as they have since their Copa Cabana dating days. I have inherited their love of music and dancing. Mine has taken place mostly to percussion on the beach. During those moments, dancing in the daylight hours, through the always amazing Sagg Main sunset, and into the night, my pain is relieved.
The drummers I have met on Monday nights, and all types of musicians that I have come to know, have been a great gift to me. Their concerts, their hugs and chitchatting, and even offers to play live for my father have increased my awe of the East End music community.
Music is the most effective way to shift my mood and thoughts when they are heading in the wrong direction. The car radio “spiritual D.J.” has been on task too, with uplifting choices and sometimes just a sign that all is as it should be.
With the trauma of my father’s illness, a newfound level of gratitude has also emerged from everyday occurrences — my cat purring next to me and the feeling of each his four little paws touching me. Hugs from friends have been a gift, as has each comment and “like” on my Facebook postings and prayer requests. Along with my incredible family throughout the country, who come together and support each other in such a beautiful way, the music and social media communities have become another type of family that I can count on for soul repair when I feel wounded.
Shelter Island has also been a blessing to me, from the beauty of the island itself to the smiling faces of ferry workers who welcome me on and off the boat each day. My new cabin on the island brings the music of birds, frogs, and insects. I can retreat from a day’s hospital visit filled with bacteria, tubes, wires, monitors, beeping noises, and visuals that include my deeply saddened and worried mother kissing my unresponsive father on the head. I return to a paradise of sorts, with blue water, greenery, vegetables from an organic farm, and a new restaurant that now brings many of my favorite musicians to play just a mile or two from home. How can I not be grateful?
Carrie Ann Salvi is a reporter at The Star whose beats include the local music scene.