Friday, September 18, 2009

Newness, part two

Lots of newness around here. Our new cats are getting used to their new surroundings.

Gus and Bubba at the door

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.

Picking up 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.

Shakuhachi under the Japanese maple

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.

Shakuhachi mouthpiece

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.

4 comments:

Yolanda said...

I used to play the flute in high school. Although I don't comment every time I visit I always enjoy my visits here.

Joanne said...

The cats look nice and relaxed, Judy. Congratulations on the job offer. And the instrument looks fascinating. Certainly some new challenges for you.

inkberryblue said...

Congratulations on the new job! I'm glad the cats are settling in too.
...and I think the shakuhachi has the most beautiful sound ~ how exciting that you are learning how to play it!!!! I'm looking forward to reading about your progress...and maybe one day we can hear you perform? (I'm just about to try my first ever jazz piano lesson.)

Plain Jane said...

goodness! LOTS of newness since I visited you last. Congrats on the new job--really, sound like a perfect 'size' job and the new musical foray!