Last week in Salzburg, Austria I found home in a place called Schloss Leopoldskron. It is an 18th century palace commissioned by a religioso iron fist man, to further claim title, before his death in 1744. His name is inconsequential. As well, other particulars of this place I reside are of minor consequence to my psyche, including a literal nazi rule playhouse during the 1940’s, as well as narratives of a pre-nazi theatrical playhouse during the time of Max Reinhardt. Though, it is a beautiful place.
These histories are inconsequential because this Schloss is actually called the Music Palace, long form name The Palace of the Music Keepers. The real story here isn’t nazis, nor any individual, and it is certainly not about church control, but rather the nuance in gatherings of music keepers and the indigenous.
Last week I was among many music keepers, persons from around the world. Global music keepers who gathered to find some songs to ease a hurting world. And so we gathered in the adjacent places, and frequently within the walls of this complicated palace, to eat, then think, and of course play.
“Am I a music keeper?”
Outside there lay a kingdom, older than this palace. Ancient autumn gatherers, who have shown themselves in abundance for millenia. I think of these ancient gatherers, who then and in this moment have gathered to ease a hurting world. The indigenous. Their action irrefutable. Their gathering without refute. And in this small land, the land around this Schloss, the land these ancient gatherers inhabit, is well-known in these parts as the Mushroom Kingdom; its full name The Kingdom of the Mushrooms.
Now in Vienna, I am reminded of these mushrooms and of their actions, in the time I was there, and in every time I am not. It is because of them the air smells of such renewal. It is because of them that the grass is so green. It is because of them this very schloss exists; us music persons too.
Each morning I was in Salzburg I would wake to meet the other music keepers. We continued to meet, eat and play within the walls of the schloss. But there was never a day I went without recognizing the mushrooms. Taking naps in the shade with them. Being present, with their spores in the air we all breathe.
The mushrooms had come, as they always do, to share in the bounty of Fall. This of which I am sure. Each day at 8:30, then 13:00, then 18:30 the music keepers and I would gather for our scheduled meals. The mushrooms, I recall, they never stopped eating. Each time I walked along the crunchy paths, I’d catch the mushrooms in total debauch of food. The smell of dead leaves being eaten. Soggy crunches, particles that crunch in moisture.
It was a festival of food all week. Fried foods, dead things, green bundles, so much cream, dried fruits. We ate. And the mushrooms came to listen. Never quite vocalizing. Murmurs, more so vibrations of their truths.
But the music keepers did not gather for the mushrooms, nor ever speak with them. We never asked for their benefit. Through all the sharing, hugs and emotions, it became clear that many of the music keepers never considered the mushrooms. Adjacent tribes that do not speak. But the smell was in the air. If only we had smelled it.
For me, I pranced in their Kingdom. I waited to feel their vibrations. Still thinking of each step. When speaking of these ancients, in the halls of the music keepers, I was met with suspicion and laughter; later though there were some thoughts. The lives of these indigenous, in this shared space are not fantasy. This is not collective play or makings of peace because we did not speak to one another. We did not recognize the other. Nor is this all a work of fiction, to be shelved and categorized as such. This is now.
Each day that I was there, I would take visit of the mushrooms. After conceiving artistic stratagem towards a brighter landscape, i.e. resolve brainstorms on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, I would run and make my visits at dusk. This was of importance. For me, the ultimate stratagem was to be present in this Kingdom.
Often the music keepers would talk of climate change, again a hurting world. During the week, there was an abnormal heat wave at the schloss, in Austria. The music keepers talked of this. And too, the mushrooms told me so. At dusk each day they’d tell me of the moisture and brisk air they had prepared for, only to feel the summer heat on their gills.
But there these mushrooms did reside, in ground that was still moist under all the crunchy leaves, and moss, animal feces, debris and mist. Insulated, still with worry.
The Palace of the Music Keepers was full of gilded wooden frames, marble en masse, and grandeur that would rapture anyone. Sometimes I imagined life here in this palace without the leaves, without the chilly nights, without all the death that brings such happy renewals and I find worry too.
This gathering of the music keepers, and of the ancients, has reminded me of delicacy. The delicacy of our emotions, ideas. The delicacy of a hurting world. Indeed, such delicacy of our voice. There is a desire to isolate at times. There is a desire to forget collective struggle and think of dinner. Needs and desires.
The last day at the schloss, after all the music keepers had played together, I found some hope. Collective peace, but more so hope. Thinking of the times I had sat with friends in the wood, the mushrooms. I arranged a tour of the Mushroom Kingdom, with a handful of excitable music keepers. “Let us be present, and make friendship, if only to hear the vibrations of the mushrooms” this is what I said. During our last hours I led a careful prancing in the wood. I met the music keepers with the many mushrooms who had also gathered near this schloss. We visited their many burrows, neighborhoods of brackets, caps, and molds. Cottages along the creek. The music keepers and I listened to their gatherings at the base of stumps and stones. Joy in understanding.
I think . . . there is hope in future gatherings, the playful music keepers and the mushrooms who love to roam. New narratives we create, at palaces and country homes.
Smell these narratives. They wait to be smelled.
photos by Katie Green