Getting In Tune

Pablo Casals’ cello is playing a Bach solo in my living room right now. He’s considered the greatest cellist of all time. I first discovered him from a college class I took called Classical Music Appreciation.

Class met three days a week. Each class period our instructor would espouse her passion for these dead men who mastered classical music. Then we’d listen, write our emotions, and later read aloud small sections with a brief explanation about how it evoked such a response.

The final exam was a 20 minute one on one “walk and talk” around campus discussing our favorite composer with the instructor. I chose Pablo. Not only was this the most enjoyable 4.0 I have ever received, it was also profound in that I acquired a taste for classical music, and deepened my understanding of practice as a mechanism for staying “in tune” with my writer-side self.

Pablo was quoted as saying,

“If I don’t practice for even one day, I can tell the difference when I next cradle the cello in my arms. If I fail to practice for two days, my close friends can tell the difference. If I don’t practice three days, the whole world knows.”

I understand completely. I haven’t been writing for a couple weeks. The few times that I have sat with journal open – the pen didn’t glide, the hand didn’t swim, the thoughts arrived out of tune. Nothing dreamed out loud, nothing powered out from the chaos that swirls in my mind.

I’ve lived with guitars throughout the last 25 years or so since leaving home. This I know to be true: that guitar will die if not played daily. Same goes for djembe drums. In the years when I was playing, or the people I lived with were playing, that guitar was picked up already resonant. Somehow quietly boisterous when first lifted down, ready to sing at first strike of the strings. Yet if not played, the wood of that guitar seemed to lay inert, as if the microscopic ripples of the wood simply flattened.

I know this to be true with our physical bodies too. I once went four years without a single workout. The blood stops moving, fat collects in places caught by gravity.

So I write you today out of tune. My pen isn’t shouting, my hand isn’t poised and my creativity is rusty. I am out of practice. This week, I will write and I will click send. A small piece of my best work will be ready for you each morning at 7 a.m. for seven days. I’m putting myself on the hook – without excuses.