by Dawn Taylor 

Trepidatious. That was my feeling when I saw I had music time with two musicians on my second day at the Callanish retreat. I’m from a spectacularly non-musical family: all the relatives I have met sing off-key and none play an instrument with any skill (I assume our other charms, such as being very clumsy with the hands and feet, are endearing!). Sure, I can use words like percussion correctly in a sentence, but only because I read a lot, not because I’m musically inclined.

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I confess I did spend some time worrying about what I would be asked to do. Was I expected to sing? Read music? Learn to play an instrument? Lie on the floor while they played music on either side of me? I was rather hoping for the last, so I could avoid the embarrassment of singing in public.

I met Maryliz and Danielle in the lovely room where we gathered for group sessions and relaxation and qigong and other healing activities. Whilst I didn’t lie on the floor, they did sit on either side of me. And so began a loving, supportive journey through my emotions since diagnosis. I was encouraged to speak about my emotions, and they wrote down my words as if they were important (which gave them importance). They asked about my hopes and my losses and wrote those words down too. I think I cried some, but my memory of the process was that these two people cared about what I was saying. So I felt safe as we talked and in the experience that followed.

When they felt they had enough of my story, they created a song. Danielle called it a Heart Song. So they created Dawn’s Heart Song. Out of my words and my emotions. The song reflects the roller coaster I’ve been on since diagnosis; it contains my fears, loss, grief, hope and some funny stuff too. The music reflects my words, going from upbeat to melancholy to upbeat, and contains some spoken word as well. They practiced the song with me and recorded it. During our final Callanish group meeting, they played and sang my song for the group—with permission of course—and I did the spoken word part. When they asked me beforehand, I was afraid of the exposure but decided to take the risk.

After I returned home, Danielle sent me the recording of the song. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it for about a month after she sent it. I knew it contained those emotions, and I was afraid to relive them. When I finally listened to it, I could only smile. The time with Maryliz and Danielle had been filled with so much kindness and celebration that the sting of those emotions had been mellowed. Thank you, Maryliz and Danielle, for such a lovely and loving experience.


Dawn Taylor participated in the February 2017 Callanish retreat at Brew Creek after diagnosis and treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She is a teacher-librarian in Burnaby and is thrilled to be able to continue bringing books and children together.