Jennifer Crowder’s 26-Minute Memoir

I am a horn player. I was. I am. I am both a present and a past tense horn player. My health made me quit. I almost sold my horn but I didn’t. I now play in the Bad Band. It keeps me playing, and there are moments I feel strong and skillful. But more when I don’t. The feeling of sitting in the middle of a big orchestra, fully playing—a rising string passage, an edgy perfect brass entrance, the feeling of the resonating string and brass and percussion through your seat, in your bones, is the best thing ever. I love to sit in the orchestra and hear music from all sides, bombarded with sound, immersed in it, swimming. It is equally fabulous to be part of the sound that is surrounding you. Maybe this is why I like the Wallace Stevens poem “The Idea of Order at Key West”— its words ring in my ears.  She became the sea. She was the song that was the sea. The sea sang her. That poem is like the sea; deep and mysterious and changeable. You see things in it that I don’t. I see things that you don’t. We each have our own private seas, like our thoughts, which can be unreadable and unfathomable to even our best friends, to those around us who love us most, who are our family and who’ve grown up with us. Waves of sound, breaking over us and swamping us and drowning us in notes and chords and crescendos like the rising tide. Notes together like drops of water, individually striking us like rain and then rushing in a torrent, taking over our minds our bodies our hearts. Becoming us. We become the notes and the chords. And all of that is what I mostly cannot do  any longer. For that I weep and the tears become the sea  in which I sometimes could easily drown, sinking slowly after floating for a long  long time, looking up at the sky, being held up by the water’s gentle hand. And then the hand slowly releasing me and I sink. Is the moment when you can no longer breathe scary? I fear that. But then you might become unconscious and  just dream, and all of the things in your life that created sorrow are erased,  like the words “I love you” written in sand with a stick are erased by the incoming tide, and the smooth beach awaits a new message. But Kevin if you read this don’t worry, I will live out this life with all its imperfections, and wait for each day to be new like the unscripted beach. And I will tolerate my worst days, when I can barely type and all is wobbling and I am maddened.  But I  think I must persevere in this life, for it’s just one life and others have been and will be braver than I. Horn playing takes bravery and cannot be tentative, so that means I am brave. I must be brave; I must play my life like I play my horn, whether on stage at Benaroya or in the Bad Band, I must play it fearlessly, all the notes, the time signatures, the crescendos and decrescendos, the largos and the andantes. I must play all days, those dissonant and melodic, staccato and legato. I must play in the most transparent parts, where my sound cannot hide. And I must play all the notes through to the end , when the conductor’s baton falls. And only then can I put down my instrument and, as in the water, fall contentedly while standing and looking out at the lights.


Jennifer Crowder
March 7, 2011

About Theo Pauline Nestor

Author of Writing Is My Drink (Simon & Schuster) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed. Learn more about my courses, editing, and coaching at
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5 Responses to Jennifer Crowder’s 26-Minute Memoir

  1. Deirdre says:

    The rhythm of the writing is like the music and the ocean. I had to slow down and take some breaths while reading! Really related to playing each of life’s notes completely and seeing the music all the way to the end with as much heart and soul in the last note as in the first.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Yes, Dear Jennifer, you are brave. I admire the way you “play your life” and I’m grateful to be a part of it. Thanks for sharing the things that you see – things I would otherwise miss.

  3. Theo Nestor says:

    Beautiful work. A piece by Jennifer Crowder will be included in We Came to Say, an anthology of creative nonfiction by writers who’ve taken my workshops. We Came to Say will be printed at Third Place Press here in Seattle in April.

    Thanks, Jennifer, and thanks to all the readers of the 26-Minute Memoir. Write one of your own. Set the timer….


  4. wendy hinman says:

    This does have the ring of music, like notes and rhythm flowing from your fingertips. So nice to celebrate with you yesterday. Can’t wait to read your anthology piece. Congratulations!

  5. Pingback: Guest Blogger Jennifer Crowder: Discovering a Revision Secret | Writing Is My Drink

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