21 April 2015

Music Lessons from the Plumber

Maybe this is terrible, but I secretly look forward to having the plumbers come.  Not because I desire a problem--no, I don't have a lot of time for extras of those.  But these guys are hard-working, friendly people, and I always enjoy their attention to courtesy as they take care of life's basics around the house.

I think that's what one of my favorite uncles is like as a plumber (I'm allowed to have more than one favorite uncle, right?), although I've never been out on the job site with him.

Today's visit from the plumbers didn't disappoint.  As we talked about the details of parts and next visits, I mentioned my up-coming responsibilities as choir accompanist at a local school's music festival at the end of this week.  The conversation turned to the piano gracing the living room.

"I think it was built in 1907," I told them.

They did the math.  Yes, 108 years old, as far as we know.  Amazing, right?  

Turns out, one of the plumbers is also a musician who plays several instruments.  He told me how he learned to play by sheer effort and commitment.  And you know what?  I think he had a lot of wisdom to share with this piano teacher and her students.  It was just the affirmation and encouragement I needed in this busier-than-usual music making week.

Making Music Takes Discipline

That's no surprise to me.  I've been making music for a lot of years, and I'm still making music because at each step I've stayed disciplined.  The plumber said playing accordion didn't come easily to him.

"Why can't I do this?" he asked himself, over and over and over.

But he didn't give up, and neither did I.  Now we're both musicians for life.

Making Music Takes Priority

If learning to play your instrument isn't a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly priority, you will never learn to play your instrument well.  The plumber said he turned down countless invitations as a young man to go have fun just to keep trying to play.  Even before he was good at playing.  

He simply wanted to play, and he knew it would take making his instrument a priority if he was every going to learn.

Opening the Musical Ear

And you know what?  All that discipline and all that priority eventually "opened the musical ear", as he put it.  

"Once the musical ear is opened," he told me, "there's no stopping it."

He's entirely self taught.  He tunes all his instruments by ear.  He hears things other people can't hear.

Because he kept at it, day in and day out, until he could play.

06 April 2015

Garden Friends


My mom e-mailed today to tell me it would have been her dad's birthday.  The photo she attached shows him kneeling in his garden, face turned up, cowboy had securely placed, surrounded by rows of good things to eat.

He died thirty-five years ago.  I'm not thirty-five yet, which means I never met him.

I do hear stories of how generous he was, both with money and garden produce.  I hear how he made soda water pancakes when everyone went camping (or at least got credit for them...it's hard to tell from the stories just how much help he really got from my grandma!).

And I hear about his garden.  How he grew enough corn to dry and grind for their own cornmeal--enough for a family of two parents, eight children, and who knows how many guests arriving who knows with how much notice.

That's a lot of corn meal.

I hear about how he bought ladybugs to come into the garden and eat the aphids.  I've been glad to see more ladybugs in the garden this year, but I haven't bought any. 

Unless you count the ladybug nail clippers and the ladybug squeeze toys I bought for my piano students, to remind them to clip their nails and curve their fingers.  But that's different.

I do think my grandfather and I would have been good friends.  Even if we wouldn't have had anything more than gardens in common.  Gardens, after all, can take up enough of life to be enough for a good bond.

And do you see who else came to the garden this spring?  They chose the right time this year, when the dill was big and I was already letting it go to seed.  We ended up with three little guys, as far as I could tell. 

In these photos, they're probably ready to run off and find somewhere to hang as chrysalises for a while, but I haven't figured out where they went to do that.  I hope they chose safe places.

I still can't get over their adorable stumpy feet.

You'll notice that the dill looks a bit beat up and ragged.  It has good reason to.  A week and half ago, my neighbor called to warn me that a bad storm was coming. 

My husband was home on lunch break, so we quickly shut the windows, gathered the littlest potted plants and put them under cover, and said a prayer for protection.

Then the hail started, with stones an inch and a half across.  It was like the sky was hurling ice cubes everywhere.  Some hit windows.  The hail lasted about five minutes, and in the end there wasn't significant damage, even in the garden--except for a few broken dill stems.

And we are grateful indeed.