Friday, April 10, 2009

Gentle Reminders

it is so
easy to get
off track.

Life is so short. Most people, if they take the time to look inward, have a host of dreams that they would like to accomplish. I am no different in this aspect. For me, learning to knit has been a major accomplishment this year. I have so little time to myself as a mother of two so my moments of learning are short stolen moments while making meals, during nap times, or in the late hours of the night as the rest of the family lay sleeping. This sounds like a lot of time but I also have the task of working from home and trying to get enough sleep to keep myself reasonably sane. Ten minutes here and there has to make do. Each day, these moments are set aside to write, garden, knit, sew, make something special in the kitchen, or read and learn something new about one of these past times. The one thing that has been eluding me, however, is music. I have a wish to learn to play the mandolin and I want to teach Dane this instrument some day. While I knew how to read music as a youngster and play a few pieces on the piano, it is not like riding a bicycle. No matter what anyone says, music has to be practiced or you lose a lot of your learning. Switch from one instrument to another and it is like learning a whole new language. My husbands family hails from the Appalachia's and I have become fascinated with bluegrass and stringed instruments. When we attended a family reunion in West Virginia while I was pregnant with Dane, my daughter Wren danced for hours on a makeshift wood platform stage while relatives she had never met before pounded out tunes like Foggy Mountain and Cripple Creek. We were in a setting about as remote as one can get this side of the Mississippi, complete with hand hewn log cabin and southern cooking at its finest. It was a transforming experience for both Wren and myself. But then the new baby arrives, life resumes its chaotic course, and you find yourself listening to your bluegrass on the CD player instead of from the source of talented relatives. By the time of the reunion, I had already had this dream, so a mandolin was waiting patiently in a closet at home. It had been there a few years actually, picked up now and then, but never in earnest. With learning to knit, as it has been proven by science, something has expanded in my brain, and I am picking things up quicker than usual. Thoughts of the mandolin were circulating again. And then the flu hit our household this week and I lost two entire nights worth of sleep. By the third night I couldn't sleep so I watched a movie to try and clear my head. Hah! I chose Copying Beethoven. I was transported into this beautiful but so complicated world of a Master and the ins and outs of public adoration and humiliation. There were words in this movie that struck straight to my heart. Beethoven says at one point:

"The vibrations on the air are the breath of God speaking to man's soul. Music is the language of God. We musicians are as close to God as man can be. We hear his voice, we read his lips, we give birth to the children of God, who sing his praise. That's what musicians are. "

For me these words help define a feeling that there were no words to explain. It is the reason I can find myself crying during an opera, transported to the past by a familiar tune, or halted in my tracks by a melody I have never heard before. And then there was this:

"And then, a voice, a single frail voice emerges, soaring above the sound. The striving continues, moving below the surface. Crescendo. First violin longing, pleading to God. And then, God answers. The clouds open. Loving hands reach down. We're raised up into heaven. Cello remains earthbound, but the other voices soar suspended, for an instant in which you can live forever. Earth does not exist. Time is timeless. And the hands that lifted you caress your face, mold them to the face of God. And you are at one. You are at peace. You're finally free. "

Beethoven's explanation of his last work is riveting. It begs one to understand how music is created, to somehow do more than just listen and be moved. I am half way through learning Cripple Creek and the mandolin is permanently out of its case and resting safely atop quilts in an armoire where I can reach for it here and there throughout the day. Music is transforming. I always knew that. But now I am truly finding out just how transforming it can be by using more than just my hearing.

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