A Different Tune


We were traveling back in our home country, the USA, earlier this year to take care of business and enjoy visiting our children and grandchildren. Along the way, we met many old friends. They asked numerous questions, which come down to a few: “Why did you choose to move abroad?” “Why Spain?” “How did you do it?” “What’s it like?” Some friends sounded like they wished they could move abroad. When we returned to Girona I felt called to answer some of those questions more fully than I could in our few minutes talking with a friend. That was the beginning of “Fandango Life.” I hope that you have enjoyed some of the pieces you have found here and even found them useful. Those pieces are grouped together under the general titles—“Practicalities” and “How we live.” I plan to continue to write some of those pieces from time to time.

What has been coming to me more and more strongly is that I want to do more than that. I am aware that when I start putting down words or speaking it is mostly about what I am thinking. All well, and good, but hardly the complete picture. I have been leaving out what I am feeling. Rigorous academic training can do that to a person, and it was very successful in my case.

I am gifted with a most excellent teacher—with whom I live and share my life—Elyn Aviva. While she has had an academic training more rigorous than mine, she started her writing life in a different way—as a poet. She is capable of the most amazing feats of conveying through words how her experiences really “feel.” A rare gift, indeed. And she has agreed to mentor me through the process of learning to write about my feelings. One way into this for me is by telling a story. Here it is:

I was going through some of the piles of accumulated papers, documents, photographs, etc. from Elyn’s father, who had just died. Elyn was in too much grief to do it, and we were going to store the papers away until some time in the future when we could deal with them. I came upon the most charming journal, written in Elyn’s father’s careful handwriting, listing things Elyn said as a toddler and child. I opened this slim volume and found an amazing treasury of verbal gems. I saw one that was so funny and so unexpected that I immediately committed it to memory and have told it many times. If you know me, you probably have heard it.


“Elyn says,” wrote her father, “’I’m going to sing ‘Mockingbird Hill,’ with different words and a different tune!’” I laughed out loud. And so have most folks I’ve told this to.


It was the beginning of Elyn’s life as a creative artist with words. She has been singing her own words to her own tune ever since. And that has come to full flower and fruit in her many articles and books, and has expanded into other areas as well—such as her fiber art creations.

As I struggle to find a way of conveying on the page even a small sample of what I feel, I have come to appreciate the profound wisdom of that simple sentence. I, Gary White, am trying to learn how to sing my own song with different words and a different tune. That is the gift of three-year-old Elyn to me at age seventy-eight. A rare gift, indeed.

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