SKY TOP (Waltz): Mohonk Mountain House
KOEHLER & KELLY was invited to perform during The Festival of the Arts at The Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY. Our families joined us, making our stay there the perfect blend of work and pleasure.
Each morning, with a full to-do list, we would meet at the "rocking chairs" on the grand front porch, then head off to explore. This day, my family reached the porch first. I spied an open rocking chair and with a grin, shooed away my two antsy teens to busy themselves until our friends came down from their room.
I sat down and gazed at the beautiful, glacial Mohonk Lake. To my left was a family with two cheery little boys in perpetual motion--a scene I certainly recognized from my own life. I love little ones. To my right was an elderly couple rocking slowly and talking quietly. I tuned in to their voices, mid-conversation... husband and wife... married forever... been here countless times... loved their family. It became obvious that Mohonk was a place that held decades of special memories.
The gentleman started each sentence with, "Can you see that, Dear?" He would gesture to a canoe or one of the many tiny wooden gazebos ("summer houses") along the Lake Shore path. His wife's voice was frail and she could not see well. Her husband did most of the talking, describing what he saw, nothing poetic, but enough so she could enjoy the view. I was touched by the kindness in his voice and for a moment, I closed my eyes and pretended he was describing the scene to me. Each description triggered a memory, and his thoughts wandered freely from the antics of their grandchildren to a time when they were first married.
Eventually, his eyes rested on the iconic Sky Top Tower on the plateau of Mohonk Mountain. It is an impressive stone building where you would fully expect to find Rapunzel. As I listened to him reminisce, it seemed unfathomable that this couple could have ever hiked that trail. The day before, our families had hoofed it to Sky Top and our kiddos scrambled up the winding staircase to the open roof to check out a real lightening rod. I found it intriguing how my own experience now overlapped with that of this older couple.
I realized something in that moment on the porch: there I was, a middle-aged mother sitting in this row of rocking chairs as if they were the "starting line" of my day... serving only as a place to pause before the whistle blew and the real adventure began. But for this couple, in their golden years, the porch was clearly their destination... a place to pause and recall a lifetime of adventure. In contrast, the young family to my left was long gone, no doubt chasing their young lads. As I thought about the "time line" of my own life, I realized I had been sitting there between my "past" and my "future." I was reminded to temper my tendency to cling to days gone by-- and my inclination to rush towards the next moment... and just sit there... and center myself.
Back home in Northern New York, I often thought of the anonymous couple. My youngest son encouraged me to write a tune for them, so I set out to compose them a love song... an Old Time waltz, full of nostalgia, that would meander musically from idea to idea, just as the husband floated from memory to memory. I purposefully begin the tune "mid-phrase" to capture how I entered their story mid-sentence. Finally, I thought the melody should end in such a way as to let the story continue... much in the same way I looked up from my wooden chair that morning, greeted my friends with a smile and we headed out to make memories... as the couple continued rocking on the porch.