I stayed home again today, due to my cold (which is getting better, thanks, but now Kim has it), and had to run out for some grocery items a short while ago. As I opened the front door, what do I hear but the skirling of a bagpipe out in the park that’s across the street from where we live.
As I stood there for a few moments, listening to that mournful wail, I found myself overcome with emotions regarding my friend Karl, who died last week.
Karl was a musician at heart. He built his own harp and learned to play it; he learned countless folk songs — many pagan, but many not — and when last I saw him, was getting more involved with music of the sea. Working at Mystic Seaport, he had ample opportunities for this.
He was a poet, too. When last he and I spoke via email, he told me of how he’d written a poem a day for an entire year for his wife while he was wooing her. He was a Romantic in the truest sense of the word.
The pipes, though, as far as I know, eluded him. For years, he spoke of wanting to learn them, going so far as to get a practice chanter. He longed for that pureness of musical sound that only a pipe can produce. Whether he actually progressed onto learning them, I know not, but I believe he didn’t pursue that particular dream further.
Of all the people I’ve known in my life and called “friend,” he, alone, walked what would be called a bardic path. He was forever learning new ditties — many of them ribald — and entertaining an audience wherever he happened to be.
Later today, there will be a memorial service for Karl at 5 p.m., at Chubb’s Wharf, Mystic Seaport Museum. I regret not being able to be there, but I’ve another chance on October 26th, as Susan, who once led Shadowpath Grove (to which many of us once belonged) is holding a gathering for those who knew Karl. Many former Shadowpath members are attending, and I’m going to try to do my best to also be there.
It seems that in death, Karl has brought some healing amongst those he once called brothers and sisters. I don’t know all of the specifics behind the eventual breakup of Shadowpath after I stopped making regular trips back in 1994, but for one night, at least, differences will be cast aside as folks gather in circle to remember Karl and speak with his soul as the veils between the worlds begin their parting due to Samhain.
And I will do my damnedest to be there to say goodbye to a man I once proudly called “brother.”