Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Today is the Day

They have been waiting. And waiting. Practicing with box violins (mac and cheese boxes, stuffed with plastic bags and wrapped in turquoise duct tape, paint stirrers hot-glued in for necks) and dowel rod bows. They have been practicing, and singing and clapping and marching and dancing and listening. And waitingmostly patiently but not alwaysfor today.

It will feel differentthe real violins are heavier, and not as easy to get in the right spot on your shoulder. Today will feel like a step backward because the playing positions and bow holds will not be as familiar as they were yesterday. I promised them the ease will come back, and will arrive much sooner than it did the first time around.

Everything will be more breakable now, and we've had a few accidents in class, already. We'll deal with that when we need to.

Butsound. We are so close to making sound, and learning notes, and putting real pieces together, bit by bit. We are going to make music together.

Today is huge.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

No school today, no violin lessons, either.

Outside is foggy and damp, cool. The autumn leaves are bright, falling occasionally like leftover confetti. I had some serious writing goals for the day but they require uninterrupted thinking, which isn’t going to happen today. The interruptions are friendly, and welcome, but also on a furious pace. I’m trying to roll with it. Working through a list of goals that require less focus. It is good to have a relaxed day with my kids. It’s just that it is precisely times like this—when the magic is everywhere in pockets and flashes across an ordinary day—that I want to write the most.

Youngest is doing science experiments in the kitchen. I’m not sure it’s knowledge about chemicals and reactions she’s collecting as much as it is texture and color, fizzing-to-overflowing and glowing stuff and generally the experience of it all. She has moved beyond the instruction book to pure improvisation, singing each step as she works, recording her work in a flowered journal, sharing each concoction with whoever is close by. Oldest and Middle and I, we all had a turn in a darkened closet, exclaiming over the glow of zinc sulfide.

A morning like this, it seems so obvious that there is no need to be anything more than ourselves. No matter that this is something that needs to be learned over and over—the moments the knowledge comes easily have such a glow to them. That is our rest today, and there is a fullness to it, even with the frustrations.

And now it is night. It is quiet. Several test tubes and jam jars filled with the best of this morning's experiments have joined the row of treasures already on the kitchen windowsill. I never did get to the writing I intended, although in the end the words that needed to get out found their way out. I don't know that I'll ever know quite how to manage the ebb and flow of needing to be with people and needing to be alone. There is so much filling and emptying with each, and it is so easy to feel caught in the waves. 

The days you remember you can float—those are my favorite.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

One Thing: Handmade Scarf

On a bright day at an outdoor craft fair, the scarf stood out. Hanging up on one side of a booth full of things that were nice but not quite my style, it was the colors that called out, the unexpected combination of bright and soft that held on.

Handmade chenille, the maker explained. She described the multiple layers of fabric laid one over the other, how she sewed them together in long stripes up the length of the material and then cut between the seams—each layer on both sides of the fabric except a single middle layer. Delicate work, such constructing and deconstructing, the softness a result of deliberate fraying. As she spoke it became clear that the colors in my hand were not random; the fabric had been a bright madras plaid. She showed me how different fabrics took on different characters, how each became a slightly different sort of chenille. We touched other scarves, saw and felt both their origins and their new state. I bought the scarf—it would be soft and bright around my neck.

On another bright fall day the scarf finds its way out of my drawer, promising warmth and softness. Brightness, however, is the primary goal. Some days call for colors that give off a little of their own light. Sometimes they are a reflection, sometimes a reminder, but either way it matters, choosing them—wrapping them around yourself and stepping out into the world.

The warmth, it turns out, matters as well. On this particular day I am starting to break loose from the grasp of a cold-turned-sinus-and-bronchial-infection. Wrapping tender exposed parts is a comfort, and brings a certain kind of warmth and freedom to the whole body. I had not thought about this when I put the scarf on, but it is welcome.

There is also, I think, another comfort wrapped into this scarf. It is linked to the way the maker described how she made it, the love she had for both the work and the finished piece. I carried these things home with the scarf. I don’t know exactly what it meant to her to make it, but I know that it meant a lot. And I know that I have made things—in joy, in hurt, in frustration, in excitement, in sorrow—that carry something of me with them out into the world. 

These are things I am sure of: how necessary it is to make something, how a thing slowly becomes more than itself, how a thing carries meaning from person to person—growing in a way, even while it never changes shape. How this works is less important. Seeing is enough.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Medley, 10/13/14

1. Tuesday evening: moonrise. A not-quite-full moon, pale and round and flat. The sky, too, is clear and pale. Peaceful. This week is busy, like so many of the rest of them, but the sky remains open and peaceful, changing and unchanging.

2. Later Tuesday evening: orchestra rehearsal, all Beethoven. The 7th Symphony, and Leonore Overture No. 3, and the Piano Concerto No. 4. I’m not sure how many times I’ve played any of these pieces, but the past performances are present, always. The piano concerto, for instance: I once got to play this with Daniel Barenboim as both soloist and conductor. The intensity and concentration of that performance, it turns out, is burned into my psyche. As we run through the piece with tonight’s soloist I can hear both the present version and the one from all those years ago. And this music is so good. 

3. Wednesday morning: I’m sitting alone in the waiting room at the dentist’s. All three kids are having checkups at once. I hear Youngest’s voice—she is singing “Let it Go” with all her heart. I imagine her face, and the way she must be moving in the dentist’s chair as she swoops for the high notes and dips for the low. “The cold never bothered me anyway—” I think she especially loves that line, and the meaning she intuits in it. The hygienist tells me later that they waited at the doorway of Youngest's  room until she finished the song. They did not want to interrupt.

4. Saturday: the last birthday cake of the season, chocolate with cream cheese frosting, sprinkled with dark chocolate curls and golden sugar. It struck me, looking at the finished cake, that the frosting works as a sealer, holding in moisture, at least as much as it sweetens and decorates. I’ve always thought of the frosting as the best part; I’ve never before thought of it as a kind of armor.

5. All week, each weekday afternoon: The Violin Project. These kids are young, and they're tired at the end of the day. It is a difficult time for intense focus. The room is often noisy. I have been trying to get them to be quieter—especially while I am tuning their violins. But this week I suggested that they use tuning time (which for them is waiting time) to help each other—second year students could help beginners with bow holds, playing positions, rhythms; older kids in general could help younger; second year kids could join forces to puzzle out new skills and pieces. The noise turned into something special. This is what I am looking for, at least as much as I am seeking order. What could happen, if we all keep learning and growing like this? 

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