Friday, October 22, 2010

Ode to a Piano Teacher

For My Dear Mrs. M.

Yesterday my dad hauled all my old piano books and folders of music halfway around the world and brought them here to me. I sat down at the beautiful upright my husband bought for me a little over a year ago, but have barely been able to play, and leafed through the familiar pages for awhile, fingering old pieces, playing through entire Sonatas, remembering again the feeling I used to have when I could really play.

I thought of you almost the entire time I sat there, my head filled with the grand sweeps of the music or fast and furious finger maneuvers that I once worked so hard to learn; it was as though you were sitting just to my left, but a little behind, watching and listening and talking quietly in my ear. I was glad you were there, enjoying the moment with me, because you were there for so many of the moments before this one... puttering about your studio or rummaging in the laundry, but always with an ear cocked and always somehow able to know exactly which note I had missed or which fingering needed work.

I thought of you and how your own hands, hindered by stroke, can no longer move over the milk colored keys, washing them with your own emotions and years of hard earned skill. Your hands, now still for over a decade. I know they must ache to scamper with fury, or slow and sweet caressing over that ivory board, and I know that it must be more than just the activity of your hands that you long for, because music is so much more than an exercise in your life, and in the life of anyone who loves it.

And you are a lover of music. You are a lover of life, of the many things that make up a life. You have loved hard and loved well, and I am one bearer of the fruits of that love, me sitting here in my apartment in China, playing songs that echo in your ears too... if only you could hear them with me now.

I thought of you as I played because it is as though your hands lie like ghost fingers with mine as they move up and down the lines of black and white, mind held up by yours and mine able to live only because of the life you gave them. It was such a picture of who God is to us, as I thought of you laboring over me as a teacher; the way I would never have been able to achieve any of the joys I now know as a pianist if it wasn't for you training and teaching and showing me the way, often pushing me beyond the limit of what I thought I could do, and certainly beyond what I ever would have done were I left to my own devices. This to me, an act of grace.

There are others who bear the fruits of your love, many of them musical but some of them with a beauty we don't yet comprehend: your son, who though his mind is crippled has been given freedom by you to be so much more than he might have been were it not for your careful and perhaps laborious training, your years of working with him, a love poured out over and over again. Now you must be still, unable to help him as you once did... and to a much smaller degree you are unable to help me as you once did too. Yet I feel strong with the part of life you have given me, and I wonder if Pauly feels that strength too. It's a joy and a skill that needed your outworking in order to find its place in me, and I know it is a strength that will one day lie still in my own hands as well. So I have plans of passing it on, as you passed it on to me.

Sitting here today, relishing in the uncovering of a line of Bach that came shakily, but grew in strength as the minutes passed, I was thankful for you and all that you have given. I know that the days now must seem smaller than they once were, must seem longer and perhaps emptier, or just quieter. Yet I am full now with thoughts of you and pray you may be blessed from the tips of your still fingers to the bottoms of your toes, knowing that your life matters much, both now and forevermore.

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful, Christine. Thank you for sharing!