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Emily Grossman


January 16, 2007 at 11:04 AM

Not that it always works. It didn’t work last Wednesday when, while visiting Anchorage, I chose my parking place and awoke the next morning to find my car missing. Intuition didn’t kick in and tell me that the unmarked apartment complex lot had an arbitrary fire lane, to be used especially for towing purposes when parking feuds got out of hand. Nothing in my gut told me that by parking there, I would be caught in the crossfire of neighborly rage. I simply woke up and saw my empty tire tracks in the snow. Intuition could have saved me $137 in that case. That particular day was full of out-of-the-blue, unfortunately.

But often times, I get this instinctual motive, and when heeded, it produces jaw-dropping results. It comes in handy when stabbing at the high notes during a first-time-through in orchestra rehearsal. Half of the time, I’m not even positive what the note should be, nor what will come out of my instrument when my fingers land, but if I don’t second-guess it, my chances are pretty good that I’ll be on the pitch. Right on it. It happens so often that it actually disturbs me. I couldn’t land the pitches better if I’d worked on them for hours. My gut tells me to move there, and my fingers go. My head is practically absent. It’s as though I’m watching someone else play my instrument.

Intuition surprises me as I teach, too. Today, for instance, I corrected a piano student while writing in his assignment book. He started on the wrong note and I heard my voice calling out “E natural” as I wrote out “Monday, January 15th”. I hadn’t even looked at the music. I just knew that he should be playing an E and he wasn’t. I wouldn’t have a clue if I’d thought about it. This sort of thing happens often enough that I know it’s not just a lucky guess, either.

I had intuition on my mind today. I thought about it while settling into my evening shifting exercises: clear the mind, relax the hand, and go. I also thought about it while scribbling out my “Welcome Home George” sign. If I didn’t try to control the color application, the letters came out prompt, consistent, and right the first time, with a particularly well-defined personality.

So, after four months, George was finally coming home. I thought about a bottle of celebratory wine and headed to town to buy one. Slick roads, dark. 55mph. A driver hesitated to pull out in front of me from the gas station. He wouldn’t. No. He isn’t!

He did. In a space too small on even a good day with good conditions, he not only pulled out in front of me, but he stopped to turn left. In disbelief, I braked, skidded left, honked, braked, skidded right, and scarcely held control of my car as I passed on the shoulder. What a story that would make, having an accident on a three mile trip into town, after George had forged 4500 miles through Canada and blizzards and whatnot. That would have been stupid.

I was still thinking about it on the way home. I thought about the fishy motions my car made when I’d tried to stop. I thought about how long it had taken me to slow down, and what improvements I could possibly make the next time. When the unexpected takes place in a split second like that, you don’t have much to save you at all. Except, there’s that magical thing that happens with time, you know, how it slows down and you think about a dozen things all at once? That helps. Other than that, you are mostly left with instinct and God’s mercy. Some people lock up and jam the brake pedal down, watching helplessly as their car slides directly toward destruction. Some people keep their heads on straight and make split-second decisions, maneuvering and performing like a trained professional. I personally seem to be guided by an uncanny force that I can’t describe as anything other than “intuition.”

As I headed back out of town toward my home, I thought about visibility and what I would do if I hit a moose. Was I going too fast? Could I see beyond those blinding headlights before me? What if there was a moose, say, right... There!

And, as thought I’d waved a magic wand, there he was.

It didn’t surprise me. It was as if we’d made an appointment for 9:52 pm, just past Mackey Lake road. He paused for an instant just to make sure, and then stepped into my lane. However, since I had anticipated this scenario, I was one step ahead, foot to the brake, pumping and swerving to the right. My car stopped just shy of his frightened furry rump.

Holy... Breathe! I was a mile down the road before it registered, what had just happened to me. Unbelievable. That timing was unbelievable. Just wait until I tell George. Reaching the turnoff for home, I flipped my left blinker and slowed, as a truck approached from the opposite direction. He too slowed, his right blinker flashing. I made out a familiar silhouette.

Welcome home, George.

From Donna Clegg
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 1:09 PM
Great writing and welcome home GEORGE!
From Scott 68
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 2:55 PM
I call it muscle memory - you dont have to think - the fingers fall into place because you have done it so many times - this is why practice is so important - you dont have to think as much, you have more control, and the performance becomes more instinctive

good to hear you are with george again and are well and safe after all that happened, hope violin goes well for you this new year and that your neighbors will be a little less prone to rage

From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 4:40 PM
I am glad George is back. That should keep you out of trouble for a while!
From jennifer steinfeldt warren
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 4:44 PM
Ever considered being a short story writer?

I have that same experience regarding high notes in orchestra when sight-reading. Somehow it doesn't quite happen like that when I'm sight-reading something alone, at home. :)


From Linda Lerskier
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 7:23 PM
Ahh! It's like a rainbow!

I love your blogs Emily. And the moose. But that comes second.

From Elizabeth Smith
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 8:02 PM
Not a short story writer, a memoirist. Great writing.
From Karin Lin
Posted on January 16, 2007 at 8:37 PM
Awwww. Hope you had a wonderful reunion with your honey.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 17, 2007 at 7:17 AM
You know what, Jennifer, I wonder if playing in an orchestra is akin to flying in a flock of sparrows. Sparrows develop a singular mind and somehow move as one unit. I wonder if orchestras have the potential to function the same way.

I suppose that's a stretch. That's just what it reminded me of.

Oh, and thanks for the compliments.

Linda, I assumed that was your moose again. We keep running into each other.

From Linda Lerskier
Posted on January 17, 2007 at 10:46 PM
Well you betta watch out because my moose has life insurance.

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