07 February 2013

My flute - now and then

I had an inspiration to call my flute thunder-chaser. I feel this is a better name than storm-maker, even if the distinction is marginal. It happened to be a very wet afternoon. The challenge for my song was to follow the lightning and discover the shape of the coming thunder, before it arrived.

I am not sure what inspired me to even consider naming my flute. Perhaps I read somewhere that special instruments are always named, but this could just be a conceit of a certain type of musician. Probably I am confusing the lore of magical swords with instruments. Doubtless I feel a growing affection and attachment for my flute.

My flute is special to me because it stills my mind, remedies the ills of my heart and heals my solitude. These things are one; they are the same.

A few times lately I have gone in the evening to play in the nice part of Haig Park. Who can say exactly where the nice part is? If you don't hear music midst the trees you are in the wrong spot! The time between sunset and dusk is most lovely and this is the season when evening is ripe with thick, resonant cricket song.

Otherwise, I play in my apartment, usually with the window open, because the birds and wind are my inspiration. My playing is an elemental pursuit.

I sense the missing notes of my song, gaps of sadness, unreached depths, emptiness. These are the notes I wish to discover, the music I still want to play.

No one can always chase thunder or keep the rhythm of a butterfly's flight without getting tired.

Sorting papers recently, I came across this story written a decade earlier:

August 2002, Queens, New York

Alone in my tiny room, the sound of my playing is a pure magic I have selfishly guarded the day long. I am asking the faint and distant birds to begin a conversation. I am thrilling to the dance of the beauty of imagination.

There is one hour before the sun will set and I know a park easy to reach. I hunger to possess the distant melody of the birdsong. I want more. I take my flute and soon arrive. There is a good view from where I sit, at the apex of two paths leading into a small valley.

It is not so easy to play now. I feel the incomparable burden of nature’s perfection. Especially so close to sunset. Streams of golden light vibrate gently from the sun. The sound of the birds is so rich I can no longer discern it as a separate thing. I am sitting on a lush spread of grass.

The sound does not come easy. I experiment with a few soft low notes as gently as possible. There it is – a delicate reaching. Now is not the when to be strident. I lose it again. Why is it so difficult? I watch couples, families, runners, walkers, talkers, dogs, pass by. Mostly I am quiet when anyone is near. Some children hear and wander a little wide eyed in my direction before their next distraction. I begin to play again. I have to. I want the children to know this moment belongs to them too.

Finally I feel more comfortable and a brisk pleasant tune is sounding. Then I notice a man has stopped to listen and I stop playing. “That sounded good. Keep playing!” he calls out. “It’s too perfect here already,” I reply, with a wave of my hand and an impish grin. He pauses to consider this and right then, although he is about 30 metres away from me, instantly becomes so close I am looking into his eyes like a mirror. We both disappear, then time starts and he is walking away. It is a little while before I draw the cold metal to my lips again. This music is about ending the sense of separation.

I meditate. In my vision I am what I see – at last. A wealthy clump of trees. They grow deep and spread wide. A prolific, dynamic outburst of the earth.


I wish I could say I have been practicisng flute faithfully every day for the last ten years, but I went so many years without even playing at all. That has only really changed in the last three months.

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