Many of you know that I play the cello. I began as an adult and have been taking lessons for nearly seven years now and although I can see progress, I still can’t bring myself to claim the title of cellist yet.
The learning curve for this instrument is steep. For each note the fingers of my left hand have to press an exact spot on the string to produce the correct pitch. Depending on the sound I want and what the next notes will be, I have to choose which finger to use and whether to press just my fingertip or a flattened finger onto the string. Do I hold it steady or rock my hand to create vibrato? Meanwhile to form the purest tone my right hand controls the pressure, angle and placement of the bow as well as its speed across the string. So many choices with each and every note.
Truth be told, practicing is not always a pleasant experience…for me or the other inhabitants of my house. If I know my practice session will include work on some horribly hard stuff, I try to schedule my cello time when no one else is home. If that can’t happen I warn my family with our code phrase, “It’s going to be two-door bad.” That’s means I not only close the door to the room where I am practicing, but I also close their door in order muffle the sound as much as possible.
Over the years I do see improvement in my playing but it’s a painfully long and slow process. Sometimes that’s discouraging. Cringing as I hit yet another awful note can be debilitating. If I stop my bow, the note is gone but its memory lingers to mock my attempts. I often think, “Should I just give up now and spare the world this agony?” Thankfully God whispers life lessons to me in odd moments like this. It struck me recently that each time I pick up the cello I have a choice. I can’t do anything about the bad notes I played before but I can make each note I am currently playing as beautiful as possible. Those past regrets take away from today’s beauty and I need to let them go. Learn from them but move on. A valuable life lesson indeed.
Sharing our art with others brings up the question, “Is it still art even if no one else ever sees it?” I used to think the answer was a total yes, but now I’m not so sure. Art has both a giving and a receiving aspect. It involves both the artist and the art patron. I believe it was actually meant to be shared with a wider audience and not hoarded by its creator.
As some of you may know, in addition to being an egg artist, I also play the cello. I have been taking lessons for a while now and find it’s the most absorbing and yet most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted. I work hard when I practice and enjoy it tremendously. What I don’t enjoy are the recitals my teacher schedules two or three times each year. Thankfully he has separate ones for his younger and older students. Believe me, it really helps to know I won’t have to follow a fourth grader playing a piece much more difficult than mine. Still, I get nervous at the thought of playing in public. And just so you understand how much of a weenie I am, this particular “public” is only the other adult students and sometimes a few family members. Even so, it is PUBLIC playing, not my usual me-and-the-cello-with-the-door-to-the-rest-of-the-house-closed.
I’ve been told repeatedly that the more you do something, the easier it gets. I know lots of “real musicians” who say they love playing before an audience. I have to say I’m still waiting for that to happen with me. On the feeling scale from “terrifying to fun,” my score is still a lot closer to terrified. But I keep at it because I want to be able to share my music with others. As a growth area in my life, this is not easy but I’m convinced it’s absolutely necessary. My prayer is that I will continue to step outside my comfortable boundaries to see what God has in store for me out there. In the meantime, I have to go practice!
Several years ago my sister and I attended a weeklong class on artisan bread-baking at the John C Campbell Folkschool in Brasstown, North Carolina. It was kind of like summer camp for adults, except that the setting was spectacular, it runs year round and the food is a whole lot better. Their website states they “provide experiences in non-competitive learning and community life that are joyful and enlivening” and I can say firsthand they certainly met that goal.
As I absorbed the atmosphere that week, attended class or extra activities, and enjoyed conversations with other campers during our communal meals, I realized that we tend to relegate learning to the young. Once we graduate from high school, or college, or beyond we don’t always give ourselves the permission to explore new things, to try and possibly fail, or to devote time and energy to an endeavor just for the fun of it. During that week I talked with many fellow students who were discovering a passion for some new art that they had never known before. How sweet to see eyes light up as they talked about their class and their projects.
On a more personal note, at the grand old age of 50, I picked up the cello for the first time. I can honestly say it has been challenging, fulfilling, frustrating, and beyond fun. My point here? There is never a “too late” when it comes to learning something new.
If you are interested in learning how to make these pysanky eggs, the next introductory class will be Saturday, August 21, from 9 AM to 12 PM. You don’t need to bring anything, or know anything, or have any artistic talent. You just need to come with a youthful curiosity. See the “Classes” tab above for more information.