Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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Movement Matters

After many years of making music with children, Eve Kodiak, M.M., became interested in the brain/body processes that underlie the learning process. As an Educational Kinesiologist, she now works with people of all ages, using music and developmental movement to create positive change. Eve can be found in her office at The Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge, MA, or at home in New Hampshire, writing and recording. Her CD/book sets include Rappin' on the Reflexes and Feelin' Free, which combine developmental movements with songs, raps, and narrations with music. Eve also performs and records as an improvising classical pianist. More information and articles on music and developmental movement may be found at www.evekodiak.com.

 
 
 
 

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

Circle of the Sun: Birth and Death and Children’s Songs

7 Comments

Babies are born in the circle of the sun,

Circle of the sun on the birthing day . . . 

Sally Rogers sang this at the Children’s Music Network conference in October, and it has been running through my head ever since. Circle of the Sun is one of those songs, like ‘Tis the Gift to be Simple, that catches the spirit, and tosses it up into the widest context we know.

It was interesting, though, that the songwriter introduced Circle of the Sun with a caveat about the last verse not having been recorded on some album or other. Sally explained that the song had come to her during a funeral, a week after a baby in the family had been born.

I hope to be buried in the circle of the sun,

Circle of the sun on the dying day.

I have been pondering her introduction ever since. What could have been more natural than that last verse? And why do we need to justify putting death in a song that children sing?

The first children’s song I ever wrote was Feelin’ Free. It was the mid-eighties, and my colleague Jill Gleim had asked me to write a song with participation elements for her children’s chorus. The children got to clap and shout and pretend slip and fall in the water, and dry off in the sun and eat strawberries. The second to last verse goes:

I’m so sad, look what I found!

Little dead bird on the ground.

Must’ve slipped from Mama’s nest

I bow and wish him good rest.

Jill had them sing this verse softly and slowly, and they bowed their little heads. Then they sang a last verse that brought it all together

First we’re born, and then we die

Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry.

Tree and bird and me and you,           

The music moves on through.

and clapped and jumped and shouted hey! and did whatever else they felt like doing.

Our society is afraid of death. Not of violence and gunplay and bleeding and all the things that get into PG, and even G-rated movies. And getting flattened by a steam roller or falling off a cliff is fine if you are a cartoon character. And children are killing and getting killed all the time in the video games they play so endlessly.

None of these things are really about death. They hide death right out in the open, and we go on with our lives as if nothing had happened. Bugs Bunny gets right up again and is just fine. We rack up scores on the video games, and increase our standing. The dramatic moment moves on to a commercial for over-the-counter meds or soft drinks.

There is so much violence in the movies and on TV and in the news and in the gaming world. We experience – or avoid experiencing - an intense moment - and then nobody does anything with it. The ritual, the grief, the human working-through of death – these things do not make the news, or most TV and movies. And they certainly don’t make the cartoons or video games.

No wonder, as a society, we tend to be both stressed out and checked out. There is no practical, socially integrated way to handle this media barrage of sensory/emotional intensity. So we mostly just dissociate.

Our doctors can’t usually help us. Their training is mostly about keeping the physical body going at all costs, and dealing with pain and death is just not a big part of their courseload.In her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen talks about being one of the few women interns at that time. She says that she was sometimes approached by another doctor, who would say, “I don’t know what to do. My patient won’t stop crying.” She had no training either, but she was a woman, which seemed to place her in a slightly better genetic position to help.

Old parents used to be part of the family life, in the house, in the circle. Children would see them get older and die. But now it is much rarer to die at home.

Death is part of our original package. Our birth requires it. Are we doing children a disservice by shielding them from death? And are we doing ourselves a disservice by avoiding it?

My elderly mom has had a rocky two years, and for these and other reasons, it hasn’t really been possible to talk about dying in and of itself. All the family conversations tend to be about what to do so that she won’t die. Except no one will say that that’s why we’re making these decisions.

But, coincidentally, the Children’s Music Network conference was located about forty minutes from my parents’ house. And somehow, visiting with my mom right before the conference, I was able to talk to her about dying. We had a wonderful conversation about always being close, about the soul always being there to talk to. I cried a lot. It really helped.

So after the conference, I told my mother about Sally’s song. I asked her what she thought about singing that last verse with children. (She is a children’s book writer and was a teacher herself for many years).

She said, “I’d sing the verse and then talk about it. Children see dead things.”

Out of the mouths of elders.

Spread my ashes in the circle of the sun. . .

Comments

Nancy Schimmel Nov 03, 2012

At a CMN long ago in California, Bess Lomax Hawes gave an unforgettable keynote, and a big part of it was the story about the death of a dog in her family. After the dog died, she noticed one of her children singing “Go Tell Aunt Rhody,” and “Who Killed Cocky Robin,” and “Old Blue,” and other songs with death in them. He had picked them out of the family’s vast repertoire of songs because that’s what he needed right then.
I went to a workshop at a NAEYC conference given by Tom Hunter and Bev Boz about talking to children about death. They both stressed that you read books and sing songs about death before the class hamster dies, or whatever, don’t leave it until after. And Tom said the most important word in “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” was “tell.” The songs is saying it is okay to talk about death. He also read Tough Boris to us. And now Tom is gone.

Rick Townsend Watertown Nov 03, 2012

What a thoughtfully-written post - and comment. Thank you both for an enriching conversation.

Sue Reier Nov 03, 2012

There is an increasing chance that doctors and others in the medical field can access assistance on death and dying. My husband has served as a hospital chaplain to any and all patients and their families, inclusive of all faith and non-faith traditions and cultures (getting all kinds of training and education about cultural practices, even including satanic!) for over 15 years. He deals with all kinds of health issues, not just critical end of life stuff, but has specially pursued “Death and Dying”, helping other chaplains and nurses, doctors and any associated workers to better understand and deal with those realities people face. There are many others like him.
His office mate chairs a group called “No one dies alone”....one answer to the sad situation of families not living together through the generations. He has always advocated children attend the services associated with the death, to not hide them away from reality and grieving…..

Movement Matters Nov 03, 2012

This is such important work, Sue - thank you for sharing it, and reminding us that we are not alone -
and thank you, Nancy for reminding us of those songs, already in the canon, that help make death - and talking about it - a safer experience -
and thank you, Rick, for your appreciation.

Liz Hannan Nov 04, 2012

My own children became intrigued by the celebration of the Day of the Dead when they were in Junior High (1980’s). I was fearful of the notion and all the skeletons. Did I research, join them in their interest or in any way allow it? No!

Thankfully, my boys continued to expose me to things outside of my
limited upbringing and finally opened my heart, mind and spirit.

Most of my preschools (10) decorate for Halloween with the normal
pumpkins, scarecrows, spiders, etc. and cute stories of spooks.

One school kept all of that on the down low but did a full on celebration of El Día de los Muertos.  Each teacher and every student
brought in a photo or memento of a deceased loved one. They shared the story of that person/pet and then placed it on a long table for display. On Nov. 1st there was a great feast and celebration!

How lovely is that?

The children proudly showed me the display and chatted about the celebration. I was totally charmed, and hope all my schools embrace the same tradition. It honors the life and helps to take the takes the fear and mystery out of death and dying.

Liz Hannan

Beth Bierko Nov 06, 2012

Great topic, Eve. And i agree our society is very scared of death. It was interesting when my mother was dying how some dear friends disappeared out of their own discomfort and others I barely knew gave incredible support, often because they had experienced a loss. One of the “gifts” of losing someone you love is the compassion that it can open in us if we allow it.

As for kids, I think it’s a tricky subject based on various beliefs - some kids are taught about heaven, others not- and also personalities. When our family dog had to be put to sleep, we opted to do it at our home. Our younger daughter was part of the whole process and probably would have given the dog the injection herself if she were allowed. The other refused to be part of it and 4years later will still not even walk in the room where it took place in the house.Same parents, both kids loved the dog, very different comfort levels and reactions. Multiply that by 20 and I can understand teachers steering clear. But would love to hear from others if they do discuss it or create classroom rituals.

Love Liz Hanan’s description of celebrating Day of the Dead. On the first CMN all songs issue of Pass It On, there was a great song about death called, “Gonna Keep a Place in My Heart”. Forget the author. Anybody know?

Movement Matters Nov 08, 2012

Thanks for your thoughts, Beth! Regarding the “tricky” part . . . I think that lots of things happen in songs and that makes them fine, we don’t have to “believe” - as long as they aren’t too explicit. We sing “Swing low, sweet chariot,” without a problem, even if we don’t believe in that particular worldview. It’s a beautiful, heartfelt song, and there are many like that. In a way, singing these different songs that flow out of different belief systems can help us feel the ways in which we are all one, just as singing in different languages can.

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