I was sitting in my thinking chair on the back patio this morning and I got to thinking about phases I’ve gone through…you know, things you sort of dream about doing one day, and then one day you give it a shot. It’s like attempting an item on your bucket list, but in this case maybe it’s a beach pail list since the timing is still plenty early in your life. You may actually accomplish the goal and reach your expectations…or not. Examples? Oh, I thought you’d never ask…
I have never learned to play a musical instrument. It’s really something I’d like to do. I’ve made two attempts. Both failed. The first time was when I was in 6th or 7th grade—sometime around then. I went to the music room in my school and I asked the school’s band teacher how to go about learning to play an instrument and maybe even join the band. He was in a hurry and just told me to go to the closets that lined the back wall and pick out an instrument I’d like to play. Then I was supposed to sign it out, take it home and begin practicing. “But, I don’t know anything about music,” I yelled as he was already in the front of the room and halfway out the door. “I can’t even read music,” I confessed. “Just pick something out, take it home and practice,” was the fading repeated solution he offered as he disappeared down the green cinderblock hallway.
I began opening closet doors along the back wall of the music room. I knew exactly what I was looking for—a clarinet. Yep, I was going to play the clarinet. But what’s up with this? Closet after closet was empty. Only one had an instrument inside.
Now, I must tell you at this point that I was skinny when I was a kid. No, I mean it, really skinny. If I weren’t ready for it, you could easily blow me over if you just walked by me too quickly. Well, back at the closet, it could have been worse. It could have been a tuba or a big bass fiddle. No, neither one. It was an awkward shaped instrument that just didn’t seem too cool for a kid my age to be playing. Perhaps that’s why it was the last instrument in all the closets. It was a French horn. But, hey, I was determined. So I signed it out.
To make a long tortuous story short, neither of my parents were musical so they were no help. The music teacher, he was no help either. He was always too busy with the kids who already knew a quarter note from a quarter teaspoon. Meanwhile, at least for me, the most critical issue with the French horn had nothing to do with learning how to play it. It was its case. Empty, it still probably weighed more than I did. Attempting two six-to-eight block walks back and forth to school each day, with a stack of books under one arm and the French horn under the other as it side-swiped my leg with each step…well, it was a real struggle. That, and the lack of anyone giving a hoot about my toot was enough for me to decide to give it up. So, into the music room I went, strutting like a drum major. I signed in the French horn, put it back in the closet and went on with my life. I didn’t bother saying goodbye to the music teacher. I figure he’d only tell me to go home and practice.
I didn’t give up my musical pursuits entirely. I had a brush with a guitar for a year or three when I was in my thirties. That did not work out either and that’s its over there, on a stand, decorating the corner of my room. Next story:
My wife, the lovely Rosemarie, has had similar experiences, but with painting. No, not houses—pictures. Over the years she has ventured in and out of adult-class lessons. She has dabbled in pencil, charcoal, watercolor, acrylics and oils. She’s tried them all. She is famous for the Rosemarie Wipe-out. That’s when she finishes a painting, decides she does not like it and then proceeds to wipe the entire layer of paint from the canvas and begin all over. I have always encouraged her, but truthfully, my expectations have never been more than, say, my being an accomplished French horn player. That is, until this weekend.
Recently, Rosemarie picked up the brush and pallet once more and she began following the instructions of a video series on YouTube. Yesterday I saw what she was working on. It blew me away! It was a scene that had depth, proportion and lots of detail. In an hour or so she had pretty much competed a water scene that actually looked like a water scene. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out–Rosemarie’s first painting that may eventually hang in a world-famous art museum…or at least on the wall above my guitar.