A Measure of Music
18 December 2015
I have often felt very overwhelmed at things and events in my life. This realization personally occurred when I was a young girl of about 12. I was striving to master the piano, as many young kids aim to do. I had a magnificent piano teacher, Ann Dobbins. Her home was beyond lovely, her grand piano was overwhelmingly lovely as well. She was quirky, patient, a smidge pushy when she needed to be and a loveable soul. When she entered my life, I was a new transplant to a new place. It was tough to fit in. I was 12, the only girl in my family of very rowdy brothers (whom I adore to this day) and starting Middle School. I was concerned about lots of stuff. Sure, most of it was trivial to the casual observer, but from my skin-point ~ it was intense! So once a week I would make the meek pilgrimage to her door, rapping timidly and feeling nervous about my weekly accomplishments in the comfort of my own piano at home. She would warmly greet me, usher me in and envelope me in this state of grace and elegance in our new friendship. And progress I did. I was so very proud of who I was becoming, of who I was and what talent (meager, I’m certain) I was blossoming out with. I felt inspired, confident, capable of tough things – a perfect list of ingredients for a newly transplanted Middle School kid from the Dakotas to the heart of Dixie.
Until that one night – that’s the night that my subconscious became a wicked, wicked thief. Picture this: A fancy dress, a jittery nervous girl, an auditorium (theater in the round type), and a massive gleaming grand piano bathed in a bright spotlight. And the rich stillness – the lights are down, the audience is masked but I feel them just the same. I hear the shuffling of the Recital Programs, I can hear the random stifled coughs, the squeak of chair hinges as they fidget waiting for me. And there I sit, bathed in that overwhelming spotlight, perched like a princess at this elegant instrument. So proud am I that I have memorized my music so thoroughly. I had had it down for weeks. We labored, Ann and I, over musical nuances, poise, phrasing and the like. She bolstered my confidence. I was so ready! But then there’s that thief part.
As I sat there I could not hear the music that had danced in my head for months. I could not remember how it started, how it phrased, where it crescendoed. I began to wilt. The paper shuffling became a roar, the cautioned coughs became urgent noises of an impatient crowd. I had nowhere to hide, nowhere to go. So I sat there. And I lost it all. To this day, I cannot play the piano. I can pluck out a few notes in the treble clef but that’s all that the thief let me keep.
This is not a memory lane moment shared to make you go, “Awww… Poor kid!” And now, “Poor adult who can’t get over such a traumatic thing!” Nope. It is to reinforce my sweet knowledge that life is like music. We strive to learn, to understand, to master one small measure at a time.
And so it is that my Life Motto has been sculpted to be this: Out of Small and Simple Things are Great Things Brought To Pass. We are small, you and I. We have small moments all day, every day. We come from small places and do small acts of grace and generous acts of love. It is good to be small. The world clamors for me to be big, to take huge swipes at life, to be bold and brave and outrageous. But I’m a simple creature. And I love knowing that the measure of my day today will add to the measure of life I lived yesterday and that of the week before. And all this will be added to the measures that I write in my life for the tomorrows to come. My only hope is that the end result in my life’s music will be a melody worth hearing.