Lots of newness around here. Our new cats are getting used to their new surroundings.
Ross and Chris are settling into their new school years. And I have opened the floodgates to new in my life. Exhibit A: a new job! I've been teaching classes for the city's park & rec. department for a couple years, but I haven't had a steady job since a couple of years before Ross was born. Out of the blue, I was asked if I would become the communications coordinator for my church. It's a part-time affair; the largest responsibility is creating the weekly bulletins and the monthly newsletter. It didn't take me long to say yes.
Exhibit B: I have begun to play a new instrument: the shakuhachi.
The shakuhachi is a traditional bamboo flute, invented by the Chinese and perfected by the Japanese. It is used as a Zen meditation instrument, and is often featured in traditional Japanese music. You've heard it in nontraditional places, as well -- the flute heard in Peter Gabriel's song "Sledgehammer" is a synethesized shakuhachi.
I stumbled upon a local group of shakuhachi students, and they have very kindly allowed me to join their group. One has lent me a shakuhachi to play.
This is a notoriously difficult instrument. It takes a long time to learn to get a sound out of it! I played clarinet and saxophone as a kid; I find it very humbling to pick up a woodwind and not be able to get a note from it. Frustrating, too. It takes me back to when I was learning clarinet when I was eleven, and it seemed as if everything I played sounded awful.
But the frustration gives way to laughter. I can laugh at my lofty expectations, and smile at the way the shakuhachi puts me back to square one. I can eke out a few notes, and they sound terribly flat. But I'm thrilled to get any sound out of it at all. I have to be conscious of posture, breath, mouth position, everything, in order to make a lovely note. It is good practice in staying in the moment, being in the Now. No wonder the Zen monks used it for meditation.