Monday, November 10, 2014

Heart of Life

I was recently asked to submit a quote for an article on a site called  They were working on a piece for Veteran's Day about music and military families.  It's a nice article, and there is a cute picture of me and Ian there so you should go look!

They only used a couple of parts of the piece I wrote (at the very beginning and again at the end), so I'm putting the whole original thing here.  (And in case you don't know the song I'm referring to, I'll post a clip at the end.)

Heart of Life, by Korinthia Klein

I am a musician and a violin maker who is married to a man in the Army Reserve.  My husband has been deployed to Iraq twice.  The first time in 2006 was the hardest because we only had six days notice, he was gone for 15 months, and I was two months pregnant when he left and our girls were ages four and two.  We didn't have family nearby, and not many friends yet in our new neighborhood.  As the family of a Reservist in particular it was an isolating experience because there was no one around who understood what I was going through. 

My relationship to music is not casual.  Generally I can't work with music on in the background unless the work I'm doing allows me to focus on the music as well.  During that first deployment there were many sleepless nights and exhausting days where in addition to the general stress I worried about losing any identity I had left after simply trying to hold everything together.  I made it a point to keep working on instruments in my shop when I could, as children slept or played nearby.  Sometimes in my shop I also listened to music, but I would tend to find one song that I wanted to get to know well and put it on repeat for a long time.

In the Spring of 2007 I was past the one year mark of the deployment, and I'd heard an interesting radio interview with John Mayer and had decided to buy his Continuum CD.  I'd bought it for a different song, but when eventually I got to Heart of Life it left me speechless.  By the third hearing I was in tears.  It had the feel of a children's song in its simplicity, which gave it a ring of truth, and it was the essence of what I was struggling with and striving for every day.  I cried often back then, and would be disappointed with myself for not having more patience with my kids, and I tried to step back and realize that I was actually an extremely lucky person despite the circumstances, and that the heart of life really was good.  The whole song seemed to be speaking directly to me, and I puzzled a lot over the line "Fear is a friend who's misunderstood," and finally decided that if fear was going to be my constant companion while my husband was in a war zone that I may as well view it as a friend.

My husband and I have parallel soundtracks to our lives.  We tend to listen to different things, but he does attend my orchestra concerts, and there have been some wonderful pieces we've been able to enjoy together.  But we don't really have a song that is "ours."  Even though both of us find music important, it's rarely an element of our relationship that I think of us as sharing, but sometimes we may each be reminded of the other in something we listen to when apart.  I don't know if Heart of Life is a song my husband even likes, but for me it captured my end of the deployment in a way no other song did.  When he was finally back home I did convince him to dance with me to it once in my shop among wood chips scattered on the floor and with a child or two clamoring at our knees.  I'm grateful every day that he is home and our family is whole.  He's at the heart of my life, and it really is good.


  1. It's a mystery to me how acoustic stimuli can uniquely, profoundly affect one human and inspire ambivalence in another. Dosha and I share a large musical overlap, but how is it that she does not like the music of Bob Dylan?
    I like the image of Ian dancing with you, irrespective of whether or not he liked the Mayer song (and that you still don't know whether or not he does).

    1. It is mysterious, isn't it? I was reading a blog post yesterday about a parent who plans to force all of her children to learn guitar despite her own experiences being traumatized for being forced to take piano. I know lots of good parents who think you should force kids into music because music is important. It strikes me as odd that you would potentially damage someone's relationship to music by sucking the joy out of it. I think everyone should have the opportunity to learn music, but it's so personal, and you have to pick what speaks to you. Not everyone wants the kind of relationship to music I have and that's okay. Beethoven's seventh symphony gives me chills every time, and it's hard for me to understand why that doesn't happen for everyone, but then I think about how completely wrapped up so many people can get in a football game that leaves me bored to tears and just marvel at how different we all are.

  2. That was a good article and a very cute picture!! I like that he danced with you to the song! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Beautifully written, Kory. As always. You have a wonderful introspective soul and I love reading what you write.

    I've always loved that particular song by John Mayer for similar yet different reasons, as I'm sure you can imagine. There may be hardship and crap in life, but the heart of it is still pretty good.

    This particular song often brings on that choked-up feeling. It's amazing how profoundly different music impacts us.

    Please convey my thanks to Ian for his service. And, thanks to you and your family as well, for being strong even when you were afraid.