One time, I got really paranoid about my use of the comma. I went out and bought another copy of Strunk and White, having long ago lost my mother's copy. After reviewing a few basic rules and discovering that there might just be a little room for preference after all, I decided it was best to apply the comma laws where necessary, and in cases where personal preference came into play, I would insert commas only where they could help clarify the sentence. Commas also went everywhere that conversation dictated; pauses for breath, for instance, merited commas.
Unfortunately, if you ever met me, you would notice right away that I speak in commas. You will find, that as I round the corners of my thoughts, and I try to find my way to the point of the sentence, I will pause and regroup several times, causing many people to become impatient and stop listening altogether. Run-on sentences become run-on lessons, and before I know it, I'm spilling over into the next student's slot.
I should be more blunt.
I should stick to simple sentences.
"Your child forgot his music."
"Your payment was due last week."
"Keep your children from breaking my trees."
"Pick up your child on time."
"Write this down."
"He needs a new instrument."
Instead, I wrote:
"Thank you for writing. I'm sorry, and I promise it won't happen again."
Downtown Anchorage seemed more crowded than usual this weekend. Not naive enough to believe that this was entirely due to our upcoming symphony concert, I speculated as to what other event might be taking place in the area. After noticing a high percentage of very tanned, abnormally chiseled people hanging out at the corner coffee shop, I guessed it must be some sort of body-building competition. My hunch was confirmed when, upon entering the backstage area of the symphony hall, I found this sign:
So of course, I told our conductor as I passed him with my violin, "Hey you, didn't you read that sign back there?"
“Hey, remember me?” It was Ben. He was pissed now, and glared at me from the corner. Without pausing from my work, I lent him an ear as he continued. “No forget that. Remember you? Remember last year, when you used to take me hiking every day? We used to go outside, remember? You used to run and climb, and scale tall peaks, and think creative thoughts and the like. Now look at you, stooping over the ground, gluing rocks to the floor. All day long. Every day. This has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”
I had to admit, my dog had a point. Yes, there was the symphony repertoire to practice. Yes, that October art show was far from finished. And yes, the mountains threatened snow more sincerely by the day. But how was I supposed to have known the literal speed of grout? At this rate, I might not ever finish, but it was too late for second thoughts now. As I reached for the trowel, I heard an exasperated sigh. Was that Ben, or was that me?
My first drawing for the fall show, a 16" x 20" graphite:
Today's lessons included the application of no-stick spray to a student's hopelessly stuck pegs.
Verdict: No-stick spray is an excellent choice for unsticking pegs.
(Mitch's lesson: Never listen to the local music store owner when he tells you that you're supposed to put the rosin on your pegs.)
Now I'm drawing--which is unfortunate to all the new students I accepted this fall. I like to make a good first impression, and the only foot I can seem to put forward lately is artistically handicapped: absentminded and scatterbrained, at best.
My latest graphite project is large and energy-consuming. For the subject, I went close-up on a patch of dwarf dogwood so that I could draw attention to the raindrops that bejewel each leaf. As I etch the reflections and shadows contained in this little universe, I feel like I'm stepping into another world, like Bartok's Mikrokosmos.
Better yet, it reminds me of Brahms' Sonata in G. The laser precision I must wield with a sharpened pencil is blatheringly simple when compared to the demands this sonata has placed on my bow. The phrasing! I've whittled for hours, puzzling over the appropriate approach for each musical sentence. It's ugly! Or is it? What am I supposed to do with this? A thousand raindrops scatter, and I'm driven to capture each one and assemble them all into a meaningful work of art, but the final result seems forced and contrived.
Taking a break from both projects, I settle with a sigh into computer games while George watches the Travel Channel. Anthony Bourdain is visiting Japan again, and he's learning about the art of flower arrangement. His wry wit always entertains us, though for the time being I'm distracted with the keyboard. Suddenly, his words pull me to abrupt attention:
"Beauty can only be found; step aside--it's there."
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