Yesterday I rode my bike down to the beach and stood at the water for a while thinking about things. A wonderful sense of gratitude washed over me, and I felt connected to everyone I love and have loved. I’ve been feeling very vulnerable lately but I am beginning to see that even though so much seems beyond our control, what we believe and focus on is still a matter of choice.
On Sunday our writing group met, and it was encouraging and energizing. We were gathered in a different setting, the home of friend named Rebecca who lives in the hills behind Buellton. I had no idea how much country was back there, all dusty roads, motley houses, hazy mountain views. It was very dry, but in a sweet-smelling way, like hazelnuts and hay, or unbuttered toast.
And I was brave and read a short story I’ve been working and reworking and tossing aside as worthless. I prefaced it by explaining that I’ve been reading stories by people like Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore, and they’re so brilliant it makes me feel hopeless. Like why even try?
“That’s what you get from reading a good story?” asked the beautiful and blunt Bojana. “Why do you do that to yourself? That’s just sad.”
She’s right. Just because you can’t be Rembrandt, does that mean you should never pick up a paintbrush?
So I read my story, and people responded to it in mostly positive ways, providing tangible suggestions to improve it. It was actually a delicious feeling to see it live for a few minutes, to have created fictional characters and set them in motion, determining their fates like a god. Afterwards, Rebecca lent me a book of stories by Chekhov for further inspiration. I really need to stretch and challenge myself more!
Earlier in the week I had been listening to an interview with Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn and thinking about the lack of music in my life. Now I noticed a handsome maple banjo leaning against a chair in Rebecca’s house, which Jim picked up and started strumming. Its twang was richer than expected, sweet and sort of bell-like.
“I wonder if I’m too old to learn to play a banjo or something.” I mused out loud. Since everyone was in mutual morale-boost mode, they naturally said no. And I do think I can learn something new, but probably not a musical instrument.
Meanwhile I’ve been thinking a lot about the ramifications of my acoustic neuroma. My acoustic neuroma? Who could have imagined there would be this? I’ve decided I’m just going to monitor it for a while, and maybe I’ll be lucky and it will never get worse. Unfortunately, if it does show growth, I can’t just ignore it, because if it starts to press on the brain, it can cause far more serious problems. So we’ll see.
But you know what? This has also tripped me into a whole different consciousness. How foolish I am to waste more time being sad! I think the universe is giving me a message, and it’s something along the lines of recognizing how fine this very moment is, and learning and doing and being here now.
I even asked Monte his opinion of my picking up a banjo and giving it a try.
“God no,” he said, far more honest than my writing group friends. “If anything, the guitar…but why? I don’t think you’ve ever exhibited any musical inclinations. And you’re losing your hearing now…that won’t help.”
“Beethoven was deaf,” I said cheerfully.
“Correlation is not causation,” said Monte, using one of his favorite expressions. “Beethoven already had the talent and then went deaf. That’s different from going deaf and suddenly finding the talent.”
This is true. So maybe I’ll study Italian instead.
Again. In earnest this time.