Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Two Lights


This is my journal for today. See how neatly I started on a little thought? You can tell by how messy it gets about halfway through that my pen was struggling to keep pace with my head.

This notebook is my all-purpose enabler of an obsessive compulsion for writing everything down. I write meetings, I write phone numbers, I write journal entries, prayers, poems, blog ideas, drawings, lesson plans, check lists. I bought it in late November 2010 and have amassed 2.5 years of everything I've done written in my frantic (but artful?) shorthand. If it lasts to the end of 2013 I will be pleased.

Today I had a thought, a very happy thought. I realized that I was able to do two things in the last week that revived my spirit in this far place: playing piano at the museum where we have afternoon class, and mincing several cloves of garlic during a student cooking session yesterday. Here is some of what I wrote as the thoughts poured in/out:

"These two things are very related because they are tangible things. They are creative things. They are things I miss badly. What is it about them that is so satisfying? I think it is the simple seeing of a thing (i.e. garlic cloves, piano keys) and then the changing of that thing to make something out of it through the transformative process of creation. Piano keys they are not anymore: they are music. Cloves, no longer: minced, flavor-giving garlic. I take them from where they are and together we arrive at their purpose. Potential to kinetic--I am Physics. I am a force of reason and spirit descending on them. Cooking is music, too. It is bringing disparate, sometimes dissonant elements into harmony by creative, intelligent incision. Taste is like music, too. A sorbet is Katy Perry's latest pop anthem. A fresh salad, a sprightly waltz. The orchestra is here--I conduct. I whip my arms into a fury drawing out the crescendo of spices. I fade down the blaring brass...or onion. I coax the life out of basil leaves, a flourish of strings."

When I sat down to the piano I played through Daniel Johnston's "Held the hand". One of the students was there with me, so I sang it for her. It's a devastating progression of chords (not to mention the words and melody) with the abrupt, whimsical mood shifts that are present even in his darkest songs. It wasn't the same as being in my apartment with my keyboard, but in the same abstract sense as above it was still a row of keys giving birth to song (with my help).

When I realized we would need garlic for the gallo pinto I volunteered loudly to cut it. A clove of garlic is a small thing already, and the activity of making that clove into tiny, tiny bits of itself is what I love. It's work with hands, it's simple concentration on a simple task, it's raise-and-cut, raise-and-cut. That there was a decent knife made it three minutes of long-needed therapy. I could have kept on cutting my whole way through the head, but six cloves was enough and so I had to hang up the knife for another couple of weeks.

I'll probably get minced garlic all over my keyboard and guitar the day I get home.

2 comments:

Kim Roth Howe said...

That's lovely Mr. Chambers.

David Chambers said...

I would never have associated those, but it makes perfect sense!