I walk in the house and as I look at the others, I am suddenly acutely aware of my filthy state.
I've just come home from work. Eight hours of activity outside in the rain and mud leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to cleanliness afterwards. There is mud spattered on my face, on the collar of my shirt, in my hair even. My pants are wet from the knees down. I look like a mud monster.
I clean up, have dinner, do chores... Now what? I'm tired, but not exhausted. My mind has words it wants to say, but I know not how to say them. I can write, yes, but when it comes to verbally saying something, I am all too often at a loss. It frustrates me more than I can say... Why am I such a dunce when it comes to communicating and expressing myself? I consider writing, think about sitting at the computer and writing a blog post, but I'm too restless for that right now. I need to do something. Need to say something. Need to silently express myself, which sounds rather impossible.
At times like this, I turn to music. There is something about music that always fills the void and creates the words I wish I knew how to say. It describes what I'm feeling, what I'm wishing, what I wish I was brave enough to say, to write, to be. Whether I'm listening to music by someone else, or making it myself, there is a sudden feeling of completion. I don't have to speak; the notes will do it for me. This is what I wanted to say... Can you hear it in the notes? Listen closely, for my meaning is often hidden deep in the undertones of the song.
My subconscious knows what I want tonight as I restlessly watch the minutes tick by on the old clock in the living room. My mind has words it wants to say, but my tongue has not yet learned the trick to saying them how it's wanted. I need music; need to move, need to create something with my hands.
So I find my bowed psaltery. Its walnut finished wood gleams beneath the fluorescent light bulbs in the sewing/music room. My fingers lightly trace over the grain of the wood, following its symmetrical pattern that creates such a lovely character for this rare instrument. I pull the matching horsehair bows out from the box in which they stay and give them a cursory application of rosin. They do not need a lot, but I wanted a sharp edge tonight. I wanted clear, strong notes that would give words to my actions. I start out with my old stand by's and favorites, 'Star of County Down', 'Just As I Am', 'Be Still My Soul'... I play these songs every time I sit down with the psaltery. They are songs I know by heart, songs that my hands can play while my mind is elsewhere, songs that allow me to shape words into their melody. I am no expert musician and that's a fact. But I get by. And it's enough to make me happy. The long, slow, haunting notes of the psaltery never cease to thrill me. As I play, I consider recording a video or two tomorrow so that y'all can hear it too. I make no promises though; I'll have to see how the day goes.
I move on to other songs. Longer, louder, more emotional songs. This is what I wanted to say. Hear it in my notes. Hear the faults, hear the mistakes, the squeaks... Know that this is how I feel. Like a failure more often than not. Like someone who can't do anything right. But also hear the strong, proud notes. The low ones with their strength, the high ones with their grace. This is also how I feel. Like someone who is beginning to understand. Like someone who is beginning to see. I am learning, I am living, I am laughing. I mask my emotions behind a face that does not want others to see what is hidden there. But I cannot mask the emotions in my music. You may not understand what is behind the notes of my music as I play, but I understand it. As you and I get to know each other, I think you too will start to pick up on this language that I try to speak by using instruments.
As I play the psaltery, my body moves with the melody; it can't be helped. I am in the moment, watching my bows, looking for the next notes, enjoying the sound. Oh how I love sound... I have shaken my braid out and let my long, thick hair simply drape around my shoulders. It falls halfway over my face as I lean in towards the little instrument during a particularly intense moment of a tune, but I can't do anything about it yet, or I will lose the rhythm of my song. I do not often let my hair down, but I do like it when I do. And after spending the day looking and feeling like something that crawled out of the swamp, I wanted a little reminder that *am* still a lady. Even if I am a lady who has dirt permanently under her finger nails and in the creases of her hands.
After only ten or fifteen minutes of playing the psaltery, I am satisfied. I said what I wanted to say with the aid of wood and horsehair. I lay the bows and instrument back in the box where they always lay, and leave the room. I had not opened my mouth even once, but I felt like I had just had a heart-to-heart.
Music is so very important to me. Music and writing. Without them I would be a cold, introverted person indeed... But with them, I am capable of speaking my mind. And that's what matters.