It’s pretty heavy outside. Humidity and muddy puddles are thick under the gray sky. Not the best Monday I can think of, but I have nowhere to be and that is a great thing. A very great thing. I love stay-at-home days, where my time is my own (sort of). My life is uncluttered, groceries ordered, laundry is humming, menus are planned, my goals are fresh and hopeful, I made room for prayer and meditation, pushed through an ugly ab workout, cleaned up, took care of little people and sent them off with love–and I cannot wait to practice. I laugh to think what my thirteen-year-old self would think at this profession of love. I loathed practicing then, not because I didn’t love my ability to play, but more because I didn’t like my parents wanting me to play and to practice. Teen angst I guess. I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t want to quit at some point. We all go through it.
But now! I love loving practice. It is a stretching, whittling, carving out time; a smoothing, sanding, tumbling, airing time. A self-discovery, an awakening, a sense of home and wholeness. A settling into myself.
Each time I change my strings I am reminded of this process of stretching and settling. I recently succumbed to buying a new set of strings I had never tried before. The expensive ones that everyone raves about. Even though my previous teachers had said not to bother or be fooled into thinking that the expense actually equalled a better sound for me, I was just curious enough to try them. Of all the strings I have ever changed, I quickly realized these were the most difficult. They didn’t hold tension and were a bear to adjust with each tuning. I had never experienced that before. For weeks I struggled with two-handed straining on my pegs, settling oft-times for a less than perfect tuning out of sheer frustration. The E string was a painfully different timbre against the other strings which made and Bach sonata practice an ear-piercing experience. Over 2 weeks, the strings held true, while adjustments are still difficult. Stretch! Settle! Please!
I think my soul often feels the same frustration with each practice. Come on Dayna! Accept the expansion of your heart, your talent, your ability! Don’t be so hard on yourself! But maybe muscle it just a bit more? No. That’s the trouble with my strings. I have to use so much muscle to adjust them. And this soul expanding, talent building practice cannot be forced. I cannot force my soul into Bach without a steady building foundation of technique and strength. Line upon line. Here a little and there a little, and it will surely settle into beauty.
In the meantime, I cannot recommend my strings to my instrument ever again. In fact, they need changing, but I cannot help but feel a duty to master my sound in them before I swap them out again. They are at odds with my instrument and the warmth that it needs, but there is an inherent challenge in them for me to sculpt and finesse a bit more my fingers and bow.
So, today, on this rainy Monday, with humidity sitting heavy on my skin, I will practice with my stubborn strings, reminding my spirit of its own stubbornness that needs softening and lengthening.