So I snapped my bridge today while teaching a lesson.
I think what happened was, the humidity from a long rainy spell, combined with a slight uncorrected tilt after a string change, may have ever so slightly warped the feet of my bridge. Today when I went to adjust it (same as I always do), it popped right out and shot to the floor, broken. For a moment, I sat paralyzed. How could I have been so careless to do such a thing? I carefully pried up the tailpiece and looked beneath it. Of course, it had put a nice little scratch in the varnish. Oh no. My heart sank as I shook the body lightly. A rattling, rolling sound confirmed what I already suspected: the sound post was down, too. My mouth fell agape in shock, all while my student watched. So I tried to play it off: "Ha, well, now you know how old violins got to looking the way they do."
In reality, it felt worse than that time when I backed into my parent's rental car yesterday.
(...And I don't want to hear any advice about how I should have supported the bridge with both hands, or, what about that rear view mirror, eh? Just--don't.)
My next piece for the show:
Now the berries are ripe. Slowing down on the trail, I make time for random grabs at the bright new colors I spy beneath the turning leaves. Raspberries are my favorite, although the tart blueberries haven't yet peaked.
And when the season turns, I know it's time to round up the studio from their summer activities and get them all lined up for fall tutelage again. It's always suspenseful to see who will be back, and who will be moving on to something else this time. I have to admit, I hate this part of my job, which feels somewhat like asking for a second date. My fingers fumble on the buttons of the phone, nervously, as I plan each speech and brace for each reply.
What hurts the most is seeing someone that I've invested a good amount of myself on decide that she doesn't want violin lessons anymore. It's potential squandered, ideas going to rot, unpicked. Why did I plan their road so carefully if they were not going to travel it after all? It makes me shake my heavy head and sigh.
I'm still itching for the day I can see a student from start to finish and send him off into the world with a bagful of music. I suppose my time as a teacher is still short. Time will bring it, I hope.
Meanwhile, I enjoy the raspberries.
I went to the studio to grab something and saw my violin lying in its case. Reaching down, I strummed the open strings. Sometimes, I fixate on the round sound of the grounded perfect fifths; they reach upward like tall, straight trees. I plucked the open strings for a while, listening to how each one lay neatly locked into the next, chiming in agreement.
Could the manual acrobatics of the highly skilled dare compete with such a sound as this? I think twice before interrupting to speak, reluctant to disturb the security of this untainted perfection. For a while, I am content to simply leave them open, like a blank canvas.
I’ll think of something better to say later.
What day is it, anyway,
And how much time do we have?
The roadside blooms remind me;
The tips of the fireweed tell.
There she goes, the summer of 2007. It has been a good one, I think. I sat in the sun today, feeling the coolness behind its strength, which indicated the arrival of a new season. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could press the pause button and hold it right there? I couldn’t figure out why my heart ached so much, even while basking in such a perfect day, but it did.
A couple of particular events got me thinking this week. One of the coaches for this week’s hockey camp approached me, saying I should be a motivational speaker for one of the services. The idea made me laugh, actually. He’d been interested in me because last Saturday I completed my first 50-mile trail race. Ecstatic as that had made me to accomplish such a feat, I still had to stop a moment and think about what I really could say about it. You know, anybody could do that; I wasn’t even a runner six years ago. A series of little goals stacked up until they added up to this one big goal, more or less.
I thought about the people in my life whom I admire most, many of whom are successful athletes or musicians. Even with all their success, what impresses me most about them is their overflowing love, kindness, and generosity--areas that in my own life could use a little improvement. But they got to be who they are through little steps on each daily walk, no different than what anyone else does. Every one of us is capable of both the greatest good and the darkest evil. We end up being who we are, for better or worse, by all the small decisions we’ve made along the way.
This week I also got to make friends with a retired NHL player, Laurie Boschman, and his son Jeffrey. George and I took them fishing in the evenings, and we had fun watching the father video taping his son fighting salmon on the Kenai river. Only later did I discover that the mother was absent from the picture because she died early last year. One evening, Laurie showed us a video of one of his favorite musical pieces, “Time to Say Goodbye” sung by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. As I listened, I heard a glimpse of what it must have been like for him to experience such a loss when the love of his life had to leave him. I observed that when he spoke, he didn’t go on and on about his greatest achievements on the ice, though he would tell you a story or two if you asked him. Instead, he urgently shared this song with me, despite the patchy computer connection and the bustling activity all around us.
I accomplish a lot of things, but the things can be so hollow, really. There’s always better musicians, harder climbs, and farther to go. And then it’s over, summer’s gone. Tell me, what lasts even after the grass withers and the flowers fall?
Emily Grossman is from Soldotna, Alaska. Biography
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