After returning home again two nights ago post-two-week-trip to visit family and friends, local life and living required extra attention to catch up.
Plans to meditate and practice clarinet disappeared, submerged under a torrent of errands and events.
This was no ordinary two weeks away. Several medium and minor cacophonies had shaken my nerves and worn my spirit, a series of rhythmic shocks, percussing bass drum thumps over a slow loud phrase. While storms raged and earth shook under the whole East Coast of the USA, other major and minor dissonances tore into my life.
I arrived home in a car mangled in a minor wreck two weeks ago, and arrived at a front garden mangled by an out of control driver 3 days ago, telltale tracks of smashed plants crushed by hooded heavy wheels.
In the past 24 hours? More little aftershocks. Little ticks and shadows.
Toilet paper ran out. It sounds facetious, but it’s not. Toilet paper offers a reliable security in an insecure world. Printer ink also ran out, then the whole machine broke, printing ghosts of words. A living room light timer fizzled, grunting motor gasping as it expired. Smart phone would not allow itself to be answered, ringing and ringing as I tried to answer, leaving callers in limbo, like I wasn’t there. Was I?
Yet when I finally picked up the clarinet yesterday and began playing, those chord clusters and gong crashes and bass drum thunders had a melody intertwined in the chaos. Things made sense. Even chaos made sense somehow.
The first hour of practice held the magic of innocence which often finds itself into the body after a hiatus from the instrument, little reminiscences of being child at play, a naive spirit born of distance and forgetfulness.
While the freedom waned a bit in remembering the tedious and gnawing work behind the practice, I noticed that it need not go far, if I paid attention.
With a little practice, I’ve noticed, a body can be open-minded before it plays, easy in attitude, light hearted in expectation, and resilient in its spirit. How else to approach an art which resembles ephemeral Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas, blown away at the first breeze, than to the relatively permanent Mona Lisa or the Greek Pantheon?
While I while in waiting, I also begin, first by looking, then becoming something from within, finding outside through inside; then begin again.
While preparing the house this morning for an inspection by an appraiser as part of refinancing my home, I approached the dwelling from the point of view of a stranger, putting things in neat piles, picking up pieces, removing clutter.
As I fluffed and fluttered the comforter to spread modestly upon my bed, the waves of cloth and air pushed out against the square shape of the room’s walls, expelling a slow deep thud, causing the whining window fan to raise and strain an eerie minor tone for a slow second before returning to its drone.
A Chickadee clucks a staccato ostinato outside, a cat rustles a bush, a stick thumps on the roof, inside my drum.
At the end of neatening up, a book caught my eye from a neat pile in the neat room of the neat house: Novalis’ Pollen and Fragments, a book of provocative aphorisms by the gifted, controversial and short lived 18th century romantic writer Friedrich von Hardednberg (1772-1801).
I opened the book to a random page and read, “Spirit is a purified act”, and thought, “Doesn’t music fit that definition?”
Isn’t music a purified act? Distilled, clean, pure, an essence of something?
Isn’t the experience of music, its composition and performance and hearing, an act which is both purifying to the living and pure in its own ghostly and persistent existence beyond our finite bodily selves?
Today’s practice has not yet begun. Gray clouds and the quiet fragrant cool stillness of early fall weather have changed the key from tonic to modal, a hushed and ambivalent expectation, made beautiful by its minor hauntedness.