Friday, November 12, 2010


A long and luxurious studio session yesterday afternoon followed a meaningful and satisfying cello practice in the morning. It was the first day that I had really plunged into either activity with attention and patience since we returned from Spain.  In both cases, I actively resisted the impulse to leap in and accomplish something. Instead, I allowed myself to relax and interact with each moment of what was happening.

While I was away, I was aware of a sense of distance and perspective from both activities, and a sense of seeing them -- and myself within them  -- from almost a third-party point of view.  Jerome and I talked about being anthropologist-observers of, rather than participants in, the cultures we were visiting.  I also took on that role when thinking about home, painting, and cello.  I kept that sense of observer yesterday, just long enough to change the dynamic of both the studio session and the music session.  The result, in both cases, was a mindfulness that let me ignore the mindset that pushes for production and encourage the mindset that stays in the moment and engages with what is going on.  It is much more rewarding, and I need to cultivate it more.  Perhaps that is a project for this winter: to not worry about forward progress in cello, or producing finished paintings, and just be in each moment with each activity, and let things evolve.

In the studio yesterday, I brought out a painting that needed some line work.  For some reason, the piece made me think of a ruined castle that we visited in Gormaz, Spain (above).  Caught by the memory, I picked up a ceramics needle tool and let my hand travel the road up the high hill on which the castle stood, then delineate the ruins and the fields in the valley below.  Then I put down more paint.  I ended up working on the piece for nearly an hour, lost in remembered sensations from that day a few weeks ago.  I didn't even think about how the painting might (or might not) turn out.

In cello practice, I focused on intonation, the exact sound of the notes played, their purity and their relationship to each another.  Again, time went by without my noticing.  I was completely caught up in the task at hand, and I heard nuances that I had never heard before.  I explored minor thirds in various iterations without thinking about anything but the sounds.  I wasn't working on a piece, and I had no further goal at that moment than to play with as perfect intonation as I could achieve.

In both cases, the small accomplishments clearly will contribute to later goals, but I achieved what I did because I paid no thought to those larger aims, but focused on what was going on at the moment.  And, at the end of the day, the satisfaction was deep.

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