Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sounding out joy!

Gay Hendricks talks about how people often have upper limits on happiness and joy.
For the longest time, I told myself, “I wouldn’t know about that. There are too many painful things going on in my life. What I can do is take in the simple beauty of the stars on a clear night or the quick visit of a blue jay at the feeder.”
I didn’t believe that really good things were meant for me. They are for somebody else, more deserving.

So it is with shock and in trepidation that I share with my reading audience and closest friends the miracle of some good things that have all come together at once.
I had one of my stories published in a book. Other than having my work printed in high school, or some writing for a local weekly paper back in the early  90’s, or a few letters to the editor, and of course, lots of college writing, I haven’t really had anything printed as part of a larger writing project.

This feels really good. (Read in a quiet whisper so as not to scare oneself.)
Remember that fire in the last piece I wrote about. Well, Partner works for a wholesale building supply company that recently picked up a line of countertops and cabinets. We could replace the now-scorched countertop – which we had wanted to do when we bought the house several years ago, but couldn’t afford it – with his employee discount. Somehow, we could make this happen.

That somehow was really about a little money that came our way after all these deaths last year. If feels wrong to talk about it. But the mindfulness part of me feels compelled to talk about this as an opportunity to say that I am being taught how to manage heavy emotional baggage lightly.
Material things and money, as well as, life itself have always been pretty serious and difficult work in my life. We didn’t do anything to deserve this, but there it is.

Then there is the matter of taking a huge leap and buying a concert harp. Partner and friends kept encouraging me to go ahead. If there was ever a time, now is the time to buy the harp you’ve been dreaming about.
A few weekends ago, I went to a harp conference for old people. They don’t advertise it as that. Instead, it is called “Beginning in the Middle.” But participants were all older women with a few men sprinkled in. The Virginia Harp Center hosted this event and brought lots of harps for people to try out and buy.

The first day I just looked at the harps. I was too intimidated to try out any harps with other people milling around. I knew that they were better players than I. The second day I plucked quietly at the large harps, afraid to sit down and really play for sound. It didn’t help that a Celtic harp teacher picked on me in her class about how I was holding my lever harp and how classically trained harpists had it all wrong. I just needed to get on board with the Irish way. Her attitude and my vulnerability didn’t work well that day.
My body hurt throughout the weekend. Perhaps the Celtic harper was right. A pedal harp for a 5’2” woman was all wrong. It would be too much for me to handle. I imagined that should there be a nuclear war, how would I carry my pedal harp with me? What would happen if I got sick and spent all this money on a concert harp and it just sit in the corner of the living room?

But at some point, I remembered something. It was that I loved the rich sounds of the concert harp. The tones alone had been getting me through my practice, lessons with my teacher, and these past few difficult years. My teacher kindly allowed me access to her studio to practice on her large harp as often as I wanted. I’d gotten good enough that the lever/Celtic harp with its lighter string tension was getting me into trouble technically with my teacher. I was stuck. If I wanted to move on, I needed to get my own instrument.
I also remembered several friends who reminded me how much joy the harp brought into my life. It was like they could see what I couldn’t. They mirrored back to me in clear uncompromising statements about what they had witnessed. Their message: If ever you can find the resources to get a concert harp, do it. Keep at it.

Partner was particularly helplful regarding the Celtic teacher's comments. He reminded me that even though I was just over 5', that I'd worked with lots of creatures larger than myself, as he stood almost a foot taller next to me. I'd also grown up with a draft horse, who probably weighted a ton. I could handle a concert harp. His comment made me laugh.

As I write, a simple Lyon and Healy concert grand Chicago model stands in my living room where a recliner once sat. Partner calls it the Quaker harp.
My work is picking up, but every chance I get, I try to set aside some time to play. I love it. I pretend that one day I will be good enough to play for my friends, family, and use sound as a healing tool. I might even play schmaltzy harp music in public to strangers!
All the major religions talk about non-attachment to the material world. One day we will all die. As I work with this fact, I am reminded how this can be turned around to: How do I want to live with the time I have? How can my life be tuned in and used as part of the grand universal symphony?

Talk about joy!


  1. quietly clapping and smiling!

  2. So much all at once! What book will your story be in? I want to buy it when it's available.