Monday, December 5, 2011


This piano may look austere now, but not yesterday afternoon, when John and I were treated to an impromptu performance by Mabel, a concert pianist and also our good neighbor. She'd asked us to come watch a practice session for an upcoming concert -- said it made her less nervous for the real deal.

Mabel's work tends toward contemporary avante-garde, and at times she throws her entire body into the piece, stretching her hands to the farthest reaches of the keyboard, plunking out multiple notes at once, arms spread like a bird alighting.

Watching Mabel work is not only awe-inspiring (even for a musical rube like myself). It also makes you realize there are those people who have their thing: Musical gifts, athletic ability, multilingualism, a knack for sewing, a knowledge of birds, or wine, or baking. And there are those, like myself, who very much want a thing but struggle to find it (sigh). I've tried knitting and photography and learning Spanish and writing fiction and even keeping a sourdough starter, but none of it stuck. I'm even a lousy Luddite.

Sure, I make soup. I perform weddings. Occasionally I keep track of local social policy, but I'll shift from education to employment to immigration on a whim. I guess I'm a consummate dabbler. So it's luminous to watch someone like Mabel strut her stuff. She's been at it 20 years or more, and her piano continues to challenge and excite her, as it does those lucky enough to disappear into those complex notes as they fill up the room around you, like reminders.


tracy said...

Hooray for dabblers! I've always wondered how to get deeply obsessed with one thing (mostly serious athletics, which I just can't get my imagination to tackle), but I love dabbling. It keeps life interesting.

Hey, I quoted your motto to my students the other day, when they were beating themselves up for not being expert enough in the course material. "What I lack in skill I make up for in curiosity": they LOVED it and thought it a good motto to live by.

Rosemary said...

Hey, I'm usually humbled by your virtuosity in these blog posts, Christy, so you can't say you don't have a "thing." You're a sublime observer and writer.

Having said that, I know exactly how you felt. There's a palpable transcendence when you're in the presence of that kind of talent. It's at such a different level than a normal person could achieve that you can only feel awe, and like possibly human beings don't completely suck.

(Sorry: some end-of-semester cynicism sneaking in there...)

Christy said...

I adore you both for reminding me I'm always in good company.