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The Unending Melody
The porchlight outside my window is on, barely managing to brighten up the room. I don’t need the light, anyway; I play mostly from memory. The open window lets in the silence of the night. In return I send out music. It is beautiful, pure music that comes out of my heart and into the world through my flute, for any night wanderer who stops and listens.
My flute is an old instrument. The silver finish is chipped and scratched in places, and occasionally one of the buttons will decide to stubbornly stick. But it plays music, and that’s all that really matters to me. I lift it to my lips again and blow. I find it fascinating that if you blow in just the right way on one end, a very different sound comes out the other.
I’ve been trying to write a song for a while now. I want it to be not just any song, but my song. A song that tells who I am, that is a memory, a dream, and a wish all at the same time. Something that people will listen to and remember.
But I haven’t been able to come up with something yet. Like a kitten stalking a butterfly, I’ll have it in my grasp, only to have it flutter away. Maybe I have the musician’s form of writer’s block.
Returning to the simple, classic melody I had been playing earlier, I imagine a man standing outside. He tilts his head to listen. He is an unsuccessful businessman, trying hard to make a living in a suit and tie much too large for him. The music brings him hope, and that makes me glad.
A woman walks up beside him. She is old and her children have grown up. She remembers how she used to play the flute when she was young, and smiles, lost in memories.
Another man, over a decade younger than the first, stops suddenly when he hears. He has gotten out of his car to walk around and try to clear his mind. He blinks slowly, as if the song has made him realize something, and rushes back to his car.
Lastly, a young girl passes, not much older than me. A tattered notebook is tucked under her arm, a pencil under her ear. She is deep in thought, but still pauses to listen. Suddenly she takes out her notebook, holds it against a nearby tree to steady it, and starts writing eagerly. I silently wish her the best story ever.
I get up and lean out the open window. For one moment I can see all of them, each one so different, yet the same in that my flute music has brought them together. Then I blink, and they are gone, leaving me looking out onto the quiet, empty street below.
I sit down again to make another attempt at composing. The blank sheet of paper quickly becomes a flurry of crossed-out sixteenth notes and eraser dust. Like before, I have no luck.
Thinking that maybe it’s because I’m tired, I reverently take apart my flute and polish all three pieces until I can see my reflection in them. Then I put it back in my leathery black case, feeling the soft blue velvet that lines the inside. I like to think that it is like a bed that I tuck my instrument into every night before I go to bed myself. In the case it sleeps away the night, waiting for morning.
The next morning I wake to the birds singing and a warm breeze coming through the still-open window. The birds sing a cheerful chorus, filled with hope and adventure. It makes me wonder how they do it. How can they create such a beautiful melody by simply improvising? I envy their skill.
After getting dressed, I pick up my flute case and walk down the stairs, barely managing to avoid the creaky one. Not stopping for breakfast, I let myself out the back door. The sun is shining brightly and the feathery clouds are ambling lazily across the sky.
I walk down the street a ways, my flute case swinging at my side. When we come to a forest I make a sharp left turn and disappear into the trees. The branches I push aside crack and snap like a bad percussion player with broken drumsticks.
Soon, the trees, mostly oaks and birches, start to thin out. Now I am standing in a clearing, a small grassy island in a sea of trees. I select a fallen log to sit on and balance my flute case beside me. The three silver pieces come together almost automatically.
Then I start to play. First a short sonatina, next a Mexican folk dance, then something roughly composed in the shower last week. I wish my eccentric band director could hear me now. Lost in my music, I continue playing. Anyone else in the forest would my favorite movie theme, ‘Apologize’, and many more. The birds and the wind accompany me. Or am I accompanying them?
Suddenly it comes to me. The song I’ve been trying to compose is not a solo, but a duet. The melody I play blends with the chorus of the birds; the whistling of the wind; the silence of the sky. Even the rumbling of cars on the nearby road contributes to the song. It is not only a dream, a memory, and a wish, but a promise as well.
As I sit there, my flute sings a duet with the world. Every part of life is another section of a universal band that needs no music to keep its melody going. And even when I stop playing, the song will go on.