Saturday, February 23, 2008

Strings Attached

The Universe delivered me a guitar last night.

I’m working a lot with the ideas of Louise Hay, Wayne Dwyer, and others, about living with affirmations: the things you want in life are manifested by your thoughts. They claim it is so easy to simply create all that you desire by belief. “The Universe loves gratitude”, they say, and rewards abundantly.

Due to the incredible wisdom and foresight of my sixth grade teacher who taught the entire class to play folk songs on guitars as a bonding tool, the lesson stuck with me and music became an anchor in my life. For many, many years, I usually had a guitar in hand. One accompanied me daily and celebrated so many adventures. I carried them on planes, up mountainsides, and onto stages of all sizes.

Unfortunately, in need of cash in later years, and finished with bands, I sold a beautiful Gibson SG electric to pay the electric (and other) bills. It was sad to part ways, but I could live with the decision. When I needed to play, my more treasured acoustic kept my callouses in shape and my heart singing. I did not often miss the Gibson, but every now and then, usually around the beat of a Grateful Dead tune, my heart fluttered and my fingers itched.

In the past few years my son has learned to play clarinet in his Middle School band and slowly found his way to the bass guitar. He has not been blessed with as much live music in the household as I have known in the past, but we have played variations on the 12 bar blues to the point he can recognize it in much of the music he likes.

In the last year, more often I have missed that Ol’ SG. Glimpses of it appear in old pictures of Bob Weir, or on TV. I’ll always point it out. Taking my son to the music store, he’ll oogle all sorts of instruments and gadgets, but I linger by the guitars, eyes roaming the racks just in case mine might miraculously be available.

Last week, on an impulse of gratitude, I called my teacher in Seattle. Though it has been 42 years since that year, and 20 since we last talked, we agreed it had been an exceptional year. We talked about music and guitars and where others in the class lived, then I thanked her for her gifts and her spirit and her creative energy that she had shared so freely.

And so yesterday, when I was in a basement to lift a floor back into alignment, I spied an old guitar (name unknown), abandoned and missing strings, lying on a pile of storage. A hollow body with “f’ holes and forlornly, profoundly alone, it attracted me, so I commented about it to the owner. He hesitated only long enough to honor that it had been a gift to him, then he gifted it forward to me.
New strings and a dusting later, I tuned it up and plugged it into my son’s amp.

Tentative and scratchy were those first notes, but clearly was the sound decent and true, the fingering easy on my unpracticed fingers. Soon, I could hear the subtle difference of touch there plays between acoustic and electric, the one resonating from within, the other surrounding and enveloping from without. This is no incredible guitar—one volume knob is useless, and the switches decidedly low tech—but it feels like a blessing to me.

And what a wonder it is to hear my son’s fingers figuring out the patterns that create a scale late into the night through the wall between our separate rooms, our separate lives.

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RAC said...

Nice blog! This past weekend, I picked up a beginner's DVD to learn how to play a classical guitar I've had sitting around for eight years. I may try to get an electric acoustic guitar this summer, but I've never studied music, so wish me luck.

laughngrl said...

Hey Kip, I just wandered into this entry and it touched me. I’ve kind of had a similar experience with a man – someone I might have overlooked when he was buried in the debris of his own life. But when I reached out and dusted him off . . . well, he makes fine music (better than fine).