TEN THOUSAND HOURS

How long does it take to get this? one of the students asks. She is dubious. She has made progress the first three classes in ways that seemed remarkable to her but in the last class all her doubt came back. It was immensely deflating. She couldn’t get the backfloat. She kept getting water in her nose. Despite my suggesting otherwise, she wanted it to do it without a nose clip. To prove something, I guess.

I respond, it takes as long as it takes. This remark is a clunker. I take another tack: I refer to the cultural meme given much currency: it takes ten thousand hours to master something.

Her face falls.  Oh god.

But what if they’re ten thousand hours of fun?

Her expression changes.  Is it possible?

So I ask myself practicing accordion this morning, entertaining images of defenestration.  Not myself, the accordion.  Maybe myself.

 

BEGINNING CLASS, THE BORDER

8 students, 7 women

Shirl, Becky, Naomi, Saradha, Traci, Bridget, Geeta, and Robert

1 African-American, 3 Asian-American (one bleach-blond) 2 Indians, 1 Irish-American (guess which), 1 Asian-Latino-American (O hyphenly days!)

We meet at the cafe. It’s reasonably quiet until a herd of drunk Broncos fans comes in. Oh the barbarians!  Secure the borders!

Miracle Swimming. It’s a miracle I can hear a thing.

They want to know, as all students do, where is this class going to take me?

Last night in my dream I came to a river. I swam across.  That’s all I know.

THE THESAURUS IS MY FAVORITE DINOSAUR

Roget’s International Thesaurus Fifth Edition

Now Completely Revised and Updated

Isn’t that “Now” reassuring? It’s the eternal present.

My guide.  Sometimes I open it dreading that this time

it will fail me. Disillusionment is a synonym of enlightenment.

It has never failed me. Today, I’m sure it’s a sign

I found a mistake. Facing pages had the same

two-word heading (there must be a word for this)

granular-greenhorn.

The right hand page should have read

greenhouse-ground.

I venerate these conjoined words like oracles.

The mistake is no accident, that I stumbled upon it.

It has to do with all the rain we’ve been having

all the weeding I’ve been postponing while writing nonsense.

Last week Roget was in an electioneering spirit

channeling Republican candidates according to polls:

ersatz-evangelical

guide dog-Hades

defy-demagogue

flaunting-flocculent

Yesterday Roget was feeling roger-ish

sodomy-somewhere

personable-phlegmatic

mirth-misrepresentation

What is today’s runic wisdom? crabbed-cream

Before I put it into my coffee I’ll sniff the half-and-half.

ALMIGHTY BIG BALL OF WAX

CJ, as part of the advertisment for her traditional Sunday walk into Glen Canyon, says it’s possible to see coyotes. This Sunday she sent me an pre-8 AM email, wondering if I wanted to join her. When I saw the email, I debated. A definite maybe. It would be nice to go, and nice to stay home. I picked up the phone, started to punch in her number, put the phone down. Maybe. Picked up the phone two minutes later.  “I suppose you’re on your way by now,” I said.

“Just to the corner. I’ll come back.”

CJ has a route and from what I gathered, it doesn’t vary. This side of the street on the way up, that side the way down. And up is the operative word. The hill you just climbed is just to get you to the steeper one ahead.

We make our way up Diamond Heights, talking about various shades of spiritual practice. The phrase “ball of wax” comes into play, refering to the stuff that accretes to dogma. It sticks to my mind too. The ball of wax as the god itself, the object of veneration. Augmented by candle stubs. Is that pure? Multiplicity of attibutes. Plasticity. Hardness and softness. The god of gob. Handfuls are taken and venerated, heresy for the monotheists.

Unserious mindplay, and verbal play, between huffings. We round a corner at the base of a green grassy hill and CJ exclaims, “Look a coyote” and there it is near the summit, leaping and sprinting back and forth. It is a large animal. It seems so, anyway. A couple walking ahead of us turns around. “It looks stressed out,” the man says. “Better keep away.”

“I hope it’s not lost,” CJ says.

In the few seconds of watching the coyote I’ve interpreted its behavior as a kind of high-spirited gamboling. Now I see it as desperation. Possibly. But who knows? It trots back and forth, occasionally leaping into the air. At one point it is silhouetted on the line of the hill, one degree west of the sun, invisible unless you block out the sun with your palm. The perfect vantage point for an attack, using the sun the way the Comanches did during their raids.

We survive, thank you great ball of wax, and begin the downward portion of the walk, into Glen Canyon. Oh beauty. A trickle of a creek. And before I can settle into my inherent sloth we are heading back up, and Diamond Heights is just as high as it was on our initial ascent. CJ points out the small street where, soaked with rain, she knocked on a door for shelter and the couple took her in and treated her with great hospitality. There is no sign of a coyote.

On the way back CJ mentions how so many people she knows in our age bracket are asking the question, “Shouldn’t I be doing more with my life? Taking more risks?”

And I, ball of wax, have a perfect solution to sidestep that self-nagging “is that all there is?” nonsense. When you meet a maybe, say yes.

IT’S NOT A BEACH

Try it one more time, Jennifer says.

We’re working on an intro, a phrase of Cielito lindo that primes a would-be singer to come in. She plays it, adding an arpeggio at the end, a little flourish, and asks me if I want to try it. You would think she had asked me to solve a problem in advanced calculus, the way my brain turns to sludge. That I make it to the end of the phrase having hit a few right notes is pure chance.

Try it one more time, Jennifer says.

I repeat the not-ready-for-Carnegie Hall peformance, and squirm my way around an encore, saying I got it well enough to practice it at home She pencils in some notes as reminders. Neither of us quite believes me, and sure enough, those notes are untranslatable hieroglyphics when I next practice. Still, playing what I am able to, I find myself sailing. As ever, as soon as I notice this—what is it? music?— I’m grounded again, trudging in sand.

ENTITLED

Rita and I talk on Skype. Though I have, let’s say, an ambivalent attitude toward e-conveniences, (the “e” often seems to be short for “entitled,”) Skype is almost too good to be true. When Rita first went to Nigeria, chunks of time would go by without any word. Letters took weeks to arrive, if they ever did. One phone call would bust a budget, not that I ever had one. Now we can talk whenever the connection is strong enough, which it mostly is, though it often gets wavery.

Last Friday she told me that she was leery about the visit scheduled that morning to the village her organization had helped to supply with e-readers. The village head had inquired to make sure she was going to be present at their celebration. She was afraid she would be given another title

Another title? How many did she have?

Two. The first one she couldn’t remember what the name was, the second one was the Enedudu of Aidogodo.

Was an Enedudu something like a baroness? Did we have another baroness in the family?

Today we talked again. Did she get another title?

Yes. The Light of Remau. She turned on her camera—we usually don’t have them on to save signal juice—to show me her trophy, swaddled in satin in what she called a little “casket.”

I said Enedudu of Aidogodo suited her better, and inquired if when I go to visit next summer I might get a title.

Yes, she said. Gimbiya.

What does that mean?

Princess.

NEW YEAR’S PROGRESS REPORT: TINY (TIM) MIRACLES

I move the music stand into the dining room not far from the wall heater. The nights have been cold, the air with an almost miraculous clarity. Bronze sunlight with no discernible warmth slips through the bare branches of the apple tree and puts a plank across the table. I’m playing, trying to, De Colores for the twenty-eighth time. “Persist,” Marta said after my last lesson. I persist in getting to the same measure in the third line, the one where the fingers move a third and the pinkie has to anticipate a B-flat, and screw it up. Every time. Sometimes I stop and break the measure apart and chew on the notes like they’re jerky…and they are, pun intended. I gnaw over and over on that measure, and then finally I plow onward to the end. The last notes linger in the air so seductively, so forgiving of mistakes and promising fulfillment that once more, I take if from the top. De colores, de colores se visten los campos en la primavera.

Now and then, I can almost imagine my mind, obstructive and helpful simultaneously, put out to pasture, that the flow of music takes my body, my arms and fingers, my swaying torso, into the great wide river of music. My eyes drift from the sheet music into the pool of gold light on the table where three Meyer lemons express all there is to know about yellow. The light also gilds tim on Via magazine and I am filled with a sweet melancholy. Tim. I miss him. What a sweet guy.

But the stream of bliss is nearing the boulder of B-flat, and sure enough, capsized again. I clutch the mind’s lifeline. Tim. There isn’t, there never was, a Tim in my life. The letters are the middle ones of Ultimate, in Ultimate Monterey.

Persist. Ultimately…