So this summer I signed up for fiddle camp. The invitation came via Facebook, inviting youth thru adults who had never played, never even held a violin. Perfect description of my skill level.
A week-long class, three hours a day. Hmm, that should help me decide if this is something I want to pursue. I signed up.
August 1-5, I was to be immersed in the fine art of fiddle playing.
Day One: I learn that I am the only adult in the class. Yep, the class was me and around 30 5-10 year olds. My pant leg was tugged more than once as a small child asked how to put the shoulder rest on their violin, how to tune the instrument, did they need to rosin up their bow. “I’m a student, not a teacher,” was my reply. They looked at me as if I was lying through my teeth, so I added, “But that lady over there can answer your questions.”
I learned how to pick up and hold my violin in the rest position. I learned how to get it to my shoulder – place your finger on the button, put the button to your ear, slide the violin to your shoulder, tilt your chin up, look to your left, lay your chin on the chin rest.
Excellent. One day in and I can get my violin safely from the case to my shoulder.
Then, on to percussion. We spent about 45 minutes each day working on a couple of percussion numbers which were to be part of the recital on Friday. I became very aware of the age difference between my peers and me when the instructor said, “OK, you need to take the buckets off your heads.” I looked around the room and at least half of my fellows had placed there buckets on their heads and were banging ferociously on them with their drumsticks. I am so past that!
Day Two: The kids now know, without a doubt, that I am their peer in this week’s class. Ha! Told you!
This day there was actual playing. Once we had practiced getting the instrument to our shoulders several times, we started working on finger placement and plucked out a song (this would be the song we would play most for the duration of camp, and would perform at the Friday recital. Yikes!) Over and over we played. Perfecting our little tune. As I focused on playing, on learning and doing my best, the differences in age seemed to disappear.
Day Three: Today we were introduced to our bows. Things started to get fun. Our song started sounding like a song. For fun we got to try a new song. One know-it-all girl started getting on my nerves. Every time the instructor would say something, Ms.Know-it-All would add her own wisdom or correct her. This is the same day another youngster, I’m guessing she is on the Autistic spectrum, decided I was her protector. I was OK with that.
Day Four: Tomorrow was the big performance. We practiced and practiced – fiddling and banging on buckets. There were those who were scared, those who were having fun, those who played well, and those who only thought they did. Seems like these are the same personalities that show up in just about every situation in life – school, career, parenting.
At the lunch break, Ms. Know-it-All told my frightened, clingy charge that she could only go outside with the group if … and she proceeded to rattle off her checklist. I do not know what came over me, but I looked at Ms. Know-it-All and asked, “who made you boss of the world?” I felt the hysteria bubbling up inside me. For the life of me I can’t explain it, but it was very liberating to say those words again.
That night I practiced several times, feeling confident I could get through the recital.
Day Five: Ms. Know-it-All was somewhat subdued (comparatively) so I know someone had a chat with her. We did a run through of the recital, and the parents started arriving. There were several I knew. One asked if I’m a teacher. “No, a student,” I said. “That is very brave,” she said as she laughed her way over to her seat. Another said, “I thought everyone knew only kids came to this camp.” At this point, I had a little chat with myself. I could either go the totally self-conscious, freaked out route and run, or I could be playful and just go for it. I decide to go the playful direction and stick it out through the recital.
We started off with the percussion. My theory is that this was to numb our listeners’ sense of hearing before the fiddling began, but I could be wrong.
We, the beginners, played our song. And you know what? It sounded good. It sounded like a song. Woo Hoo. We did it!
Then, we had a couple of special guests who were expert players. Wow! If we practice (a lot) maybe we could play that well … someday.
Finally, the intermediate group played several songs. They did great!
Now, a month later, I see my fellow fiddle campers around town. They come up and talk to me. What do we talk about? Fiddling, of course. For in that, we are the same age.
What’s in yours? What story does it tell?
One glance in my Junk Drawer tells much of my tale.
It is neat and orderly, which seems oxymoronical for a Junk Drawer.
You’ll see expired ski passes – mine, my sweetie’s, my youngest son’s. Those are in the front, left-hand corner.
And pens (yes, they all work), more pens than I could use in a lifetime. There are pens from faraway Marriotts and Hiltons. There are pens from exotic resorts in Jamaica, Mexico, Italy and France. There are a gajillion from Panhandle State Bank – do I get those when I make deposits or withdrawals?
Over here is a stack of coupons, long expired – pizza, girl products, toothbrushes. Guess I paid full price.
Batteries are rolling around in the Junk Drawer. I wonder if they are dead or alive.
Look, it’s the itty bitty screwdrivers my dad used to use. When he passed away, I got all of his hand tools. Funny, that’s all I would have wanted. Oh, and his old, beat up, well traveled leather jacket. What else would the Tomboy daughter want? I can’t count the hours I spent, as a wee lass, retrieving tools from the shed for my dad. Yes, I have brothers but … By the time I was 5 years old, I knew my way around the tool chests. If he yelled for a 7mm socket wrench, by golly that’s what I delivered. I always loved these mini-screwdrivers. Heck, they’re so cute, Barbi could love them.
In the back right corner is the organizer box. One compartment for needles for the bike and ball air pump, another has spare game parts – Monopoly, Cribbage. I’ve got push pins, straight pins and needles … Pins and Needles? Here is some florist wire, which is one of the handiest things a girl can have on hand. Well, that and cammo duct tape! I’ve got nails and screws, for nailing and screwing. There are wall anchors of all shapes and sizes, Canada coins and rubber bands.
You’ll find a couple of decks of cards – full decks, a cribbage board, and a local phone book. And where did all of these wine corks come from?
Finally, there are the keys. What are all these keys? What did they open or lock? When last used, did they leave things locked or unlocked? I like to think unlocked, that the last click the doors and padlocks felt was one of opening – of freedom.
Instead of throwing away the key, I put it in the only logical place, my Junk Drawer
They look at me and see a woman who can sing. Who can write songs. Who is a true and dedicated friend. Who is fun (who, me?). Who is carefree. Who makes them laugh. Who is compassionate. Who listens.
There must be something wrong with their vision! I spend most of my time afraid. I tear up songs in fits of frustration and toss them in the fire. I’m awkward and clumsy socially. I blurt out stupid stuff all the time. I’m frozen in place by indecision, sure that any decision I make will be the wrong one.
I tell myself this is who I am, that my friends don’t know me. I am not the person they think they see. But what if …
What if there is something to what they see? What if I could do these things? What if I could be this person? What if …
Some people see right to our hearts and souls. They don’t see, or at least they don’t focus on our weird little quirks and defensive behaviors. They see the stripped down, childlike person we once were. The one who sang at the top of her lungs. The one who wrote silly songs with no agony or judgment. The one who made spontaneous decisions and had no regrets.
The simple fact that they see us, the true us, frees us to become our deepest, bravest, most creative, delightful selves.
If you are a person who looks at others through Beautiful Eyes, thank you. You have surely set people free to, once again, show their greatness. I am filled to the brim with gratitude for the men, women and children who have put me on a better path by helping me see, and be, the best that’s in me.
This song, Beautiful Eyes, is dedicated to all the people who see us through their beautiful eyes.
Beautiful eyes, see to the heart of me
Beautiful eyes, see to the soul of me
Beautiful eyes, find only the good in me
Your beautiful eyes see me, free me, to be me
Enjoy a free download of Beautiful Eyes
Happy Valentine’s Day and much love every day,
They were playing at one of our favorite watering holes, Eichardt’s. We stopped in to introduce ourselves, and to listen for a while.
Burke, stage name Church Mouse, writes and performs tunes of a darker nature. He uses two vocal mics, which give his voice a haunting, almost forlorn feel. Tunes that make you think.
Adam is idealistic and innocent. Everything about him feels happy. He uses the base of his stool to tap out rhythms with his feet – sorta like a toned down clog-dance – while playing the guitar, singing and smiling. Cool!
Musicians, songwriters, creatives of any sort really, love to talk to others who share their passion. So despite their long day of driving, setting up for their gig, playing, tearing down, packing up, and driving to our place, Burke and Adam wanted to talk (and so did we).
We talked about what inspires our songwriting, how we get started, what blocks us, what sets us free. We talked about our fears and our joys of performing. We shared stories of the road – our best and worst gigs. And, we swapped the names of venues that attracted appreciative audiences.
The best venues often can’t afford to pay, so you play for tips. Many times you play and sing your heart out, and the people walk by as if you weren’t even there. So why do it? Why drive over mountain passes in the middle of winter? Why spend time, gas, miles, and money to play? Why pack the gear in and out of venues and drive through the night to the next gig?
Ask Adam. Ask Burke. Ask the guy in the grocery store parking lot who plays his sax and gives it all he’s got when it’s only 27 degrees outside. They will all give you the same answer, “because we have to.”
When I wrote Man on the Corner I was thinking about the buskers who play in the rain, and snow, and the heat of the day. I was remembering the artists who bare their souls in the dim corners of bars, or noise filled coffee shops. I was writing a tribute to all the players who probably didn’t even cover the cost it took them to get there.
We all have our stories. Stories we love to tell from our life’s book. Some stories grow old, or maybe our lesson is learned, so we no longer need to retell them. Those are closed chapters.
Others always seem fresh. They bring up certain welcome thoughts or feelings no matter how many times or years in the telling.
My new friend Robyn told me one of her stories last week. I will share it here in her words, as I remember them.
My daughter was home, not feeling well one day. She was on my bed upstairs. Sometimes snuggling into momma’s bed is the best thing for healing.
She was sleeping, so I left to run a few errands. When I returned, the window was broken out of the back door. Electricity surged through me. Someone broke into my home with my daughter asleep upstairs. I need to get to her NOW.
As I started heading up the stairs, a young man, arms full of our laptops and such, was coming down. I started to speak, mind crazed, to this man between me and my daughter. “What are you doing”… I demanded. Then, “put that stuff down on the table.” He did. ‘Do you have a weapon,” I asked. He had kept one hand out of sight.
“No,” he said.
“Let me see your hands.”
The hand he’d kept hidden was wrapped in one of my bathroom towels and was bleeding heavily. I was insane with a need to get up to my daughter. “Lemme see your hand,” I said. He held it out to me. “We need to get this cleaned up. You sit down. I’m going up to get some things to clean these wounds.”
“What would your mother think,” I said, almost under my breath as I headed toward the stairs.
My daughter was not in my room. I looked out the front window and saw that her car was gone. She must have gotten up and left before the young burglar showed up. I sat on the edge of my bed, somewhere between breaking down and punching something.
After I pulled myself together, I got the peroxide and bandages.
He was still sitting at the table (I figured he would have made a run for it but …)
As I cleaned his wounds, he started to cry. “My mother would be so disappointed if she knew,” he said. Then he reached into his pocket and returned heirloom rings and jewelry that had been in my family for several generations. “What can I do to make it up to you,” he asked.
“Well, you can fix the door,” I said.
We went to the hardware store, got a new pane of glass and some trim. He fixed the window. When he went to leave, I handed him $20. “I don’t know what your situation is, but twenty dollars should help you for a day or two. Take it.” He took the money and left.
Every year, on Mother’s Day, I get a card from him. I have gotten them for 18 years now.
I was speechless after hearing Robyn’s story. I’m glad she hasn’t worn tired of telling it. I wonder what the story would sound like from the wannabe burglar, and if he still tells it.
Webster’s dictionary says procrastination is to postpone something you dread. Here’s the silly part, I procrastinate doing the things I truly enjoy – writing, performing, singing – which makes no sense. If I’m going to put off the things I love, why can’t I procrastinate eating potato chips?
These things I enjoy so much (yet delay doing) are also my work. I guess I still struggle to see how something I love doing, something that makes me feel good to the core, can be called work, can be valued as work. Isn’t work supposed to be, well, work?
Not according to people in the know. Shakti Gawain, in her most excellent book Creative Visualization suggests, “You don’t have to exert effort to get where you want to go; you simply keep clearly in mind where you would like to go and then patiently, harmoniously follow the flow of the river of life until it takes you there.” In The Secret, there is one account after the other of living the life you desire easily, without effort, while enjoying the ride.
I believe this. In concept, it makes complete sense. Yet, that nagging voice in the back of my head keeps saying, “and what do you have to show for your efforts?” There’s the rub.
What I have to show is words, songs that dissipate into thin air, performances that, as soon as the curtain call is over, join the songs in the ether. I have nothing tangible to show for my efforts.
So, I procrastinate – which my synonym finder also calls delay, dawdle, dilly dally. Do I want to be a dilly dallier? I don’t think so.
I can dilly dally and do diddly, or do what I love and at least do something. Seems like I need to come to terms with the obvious fact that who I am and what I do cannot be measured in the tangible. My work cannot be held. But it can (and does?) have value (even if I never know what that value is).
I better go eat some potato chips and think on this awhile.
Once posted, I headed back to the office via a different route, this one in front of the Daily Bee (our local newspaper), where there was apparently a “yard sale” going on. The sale was on both sides of the sidewalk, so foot traffic was funneled through. Yes, I looked. Voila, I found two picnic table cloths (on the list for the camp box), but no prices. I got in line to inquire.
The woman in front of me handed over a twenty for her few items and was on her way. Turns out this was a sale “by donation” and the money was going to a boy in town who has brain cancer. The family, including cousins and extended relatives, were giving up household belongings, sporting equipment, every single thing they could spare to raise money for medical care for the young boy.
Both feet now solidly on the ground, I watched as person after person gave $10, $20, $50 dollars to help a boy they did not know. I watched as the things that were being sacrificed by one family to try and save a life were finding new homes at prices they probably didn’t see new.
When you made a donation, you got a coupon for a free burrito from Joel’s (the best Mexican food anywhere, served up by the nicest people you could hope to meet). So I got Tim and we walked to Joel’s. Joel said, “the coupon is good only on Sundays,” (the day they are closed). “And I was going to tell you how great I thought you were for being so generous and giving,” I replied. We all had a good, neighborly laugh.
While we enjoyed our lunch, a friend from the radio station was chatting with us. “What’s going on over at the Bee,” he asked. I told him. “I’ve got a few spare bucks in my pocket,” he said, “I’ll take it over.”
Tim and I could both feel the tears stinging our eyes.
People want to help. People do not want to see others in pain. People are inherently good.