Thursday, June 26, 2014

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it...

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and magic and power..." Goethe

My dream is to play a little rag-time, jazz, and honky-tonk on the piano. No slow stuff please. However, the joy, rhythm and swing surging through me was thwarted, with my knowledge restricted to three notes to a chord, my fingers had no hope. I needed a music teacher -- someone relaxed enough to let me make mistakes while walking the line with Johnny Cash, keeping pace with Nova Scotia fiddlers and chording a little soft jazz with Nora Jones.

Thus, two years ago the search began in Halifax and Tucson. Then last fall I happened to look in a small local paper, read the ad twice, and there she was, hopefully, my music teacher. Arriving at the lesson, only a mile down the road, I wondered, would she be the one? I came out of the lesson dancing in the sunshine.

My first concert was last Sunday. I had three pieces to chord: Five Foot Two, Squid Jigging Grounds, and Uncle Milton Milks the Cow.  The first piece was to begin the concert. I had it memorized for months.  My teacher had added some swing, style and a jazzy beat. I loved playing it. The other two pieces came later in the program but their timing gave me "no end of trouble."

Concert Day: My family is in the audience. A pianist entertains us a half hour before it begins.  He is a master performer. I am spell-bound. He plays with the ease of an angel; his fingers jumping, dancing over the keys just like I want to do. Yet the more he plays, my great rendition of Five Foot Two seems to shrink and so do I.

My turn. A young guitarist is to do the introduction. In practice, we have always made eye contact, now I am looking at her back. The accordions were closer, too. My music teacher whispers, "Don't go too slow." I am worried about going too fast. The audience quiets, everyone is ready. I play a strong C chord (only three notes). Oh my, what comes next? Is it A7th, E7th or D7th? Where is my head?

Thank goodness for my teacher pointing out where I was in the song. Thank goodness for accordions and any other instrument drowning me out. Painfully, I get through it but the spirit of Five Foot Two didn't -- no swing, no jazz, no me. I had succumbed, apparently, to "stage-fright".

However, I still have two pieces yet to chord and they are trouble. I cannot go back up on that stage. Then a tempting thought, "Maybe my teacher will play them." Yet a pesky inner-voice cautions, "You can't quit in the middle of a concert, Augusta! Play softly, concentrate on the sheet music and whatever you do, don't look at the audience."

Now it's my turn again. I eye the piano. My head seems to be sitting on someone elses shoulders, leaving me ending at the neck. The teacher -- my support and "Linus blanket" is kneeling next to me because someone has taken her chair. My non-existent musical balance rest entirely on everything being perfect. Yet looking down on the top of her head, a thought, "It's appropriate, as she is probably praying, like myself, that I was anywhere else but on this piano bench."

Two weeks later: Amazingly, I did haul the squid in, managed to milk Uncle Milton's cow without mishap. I was grateful and relieved -- two out of three. I thanked my music teacher and the next day she emailed me, " Wasn't it truly a great day. You were fantastic (generous but not true), gave it your all (true) and we are looking forward to enjoying more music together."

Hmm, maybe she will let me chord Five Foot Two again next year with my music-head on my shoulders. And best of all, the dream of playing my joy-spirit with rhythm and swing survives in its boldness, magic, and power...

image resource:

Friday, June 6, 2014

beyond coincidences...

"Everything has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences -- only blessings from which to learn."  Elizabeth Kubler-Ross *

I always believed in coincidence as being a curious chance interaction until spending a week at one of Elizabeth's "Death and Dying" workshops some years ago.  She announced the first day, "There are no coincidences in life." I didn't believe her. I was to discover through the week and following years that my meaning for the word had no more depth than a shallow puddle.

People in the workshop were in deep emotional pain and some where much too young to die. Their struggle was heart wrenching. People came from across North America and Europe, yet the woman I sat next to lived fifteen miles from me and we became important friends. She died within five years (early thirties). I could no longer say, "Oh, just a coincidence, a mere chance encounter."

Coincidences come big and small. I became aware one day I had neglected an acquaintance, she didn't tell me but her actions did. The same afternoon I dropped my favorite vase. Still feeling badly and looking at the shards of glass on the floor, I knew what it was telling me. The sun comes in the window and crosses my page just as my pen catches a significant learning. Ah, another confirmation. The printer adjusts itself just at the moment when a thought imprints me with meaning. Little coincidences, I wonder?

Then there are the big coincidences. I have been bothered about the images I have put on this blog for the last year, slowing moving out of my ignorance about copy-write, and excuses, "Everyone does it so it must be 'ok'." Three mornings ago, the proverbial "jig was up." Nothing particular had happened but it was no longer "ok".  Yet, I had just finished a writing called "the solitary bird" and was ready to post but needed a picture of a eagle or hawk high in the sky. I was sorely tempted -- so easy to pop into Google for one more.   An hour later, talking on the phone on the deck, I noticed a bird in the sky hovering over the river, probably hunting. I kept talking. Then it turned and flew my way. I stopped talking.

"Ah,there's the bird-image I want for the writing." I thought, watching the under-feathers, a dark and light pattern, skim over my head. I have never been this close to a hawk and started to tell my friend on the phone but  she stopped me saying softly, "I heard the swish of its wings." Here was my picture but no camera, yet more importantly, here was my confirmation, information, and direction.

I am too old, too experienced to ignore the messages carried on such bold wings. I know the universe talks back.The physicists and mystics know there is a pattern, a divine intelligence, a divine matrix to this life. This force speaks through the wind, the printer, the vase, which teaches, guides, and leads us into the magic of the moment, to an invisible companion who is as close as my finger tips on these computer keys. Elizabeth knew who she was working with, could depend upon and she was right. There are no coincidences.

* Kubler-Ross wrote the ground breaking book, Death and Dying.
   She was an inductee into the American National Women's Hall of Fame in 2007.