Friday, May 23, 2008

Quitting

QUITTING

Just yesterday I asked Otto to reach across a bunch of boxes that sat on the floor of our bedroom waiting to be sorted, and to take down the 1920s Martin guitar that has become part of the wall decor. And that’s all it has been for many years. It’s hard to believe how long it has been since a guitar was like a second soul to me. It was often propped by my bed at night. Letting melodies flow from it was as easy for me as breathing.

Yesterday I held the guitar tentatively and let my fingers try to remember something. Anything! My right hand was happy to oblige, easily reproducing the finger picking patterns at which I used to be so proficient. No problem there. But ,oh, my left hand! I produced a number of jarring discords with it before something clicked in the automatic part of my brain and I heard a C chord then a D and F. I couldn’t get beyond these most basic chords, and then my aging fingers rebelled at the painful pressure of holding down the strings. When I turned my hands up to see the pads of my fingers, I found deep grooves which persisted for several minutes. And to think that I once had such calluses on those finger pads that I had almost been denied an exit visa from Brazil. An examination of my fingerprints had led an official to conclude that I must be a criminal who had filed off her fingerprints to conceal her record.

Guitar was my passion for several years. I wrote songs and Otto, who had taken up guitar at about the same time that I had, joined me in programs where we played and sang. Below is a picture of us in the 70’s with grandchildren Josie Smith and Byron Shock giving a performance of my songs. They had been written at the behest of the local Council of Churches for the Unicef Year of the Child.


I will tell another time about memorable performances, once over Bulgarian radio after the assassination of Salvador Allende in Chile. But the Sunday Scribbling prompt is about quitting, not about my love affair with the guitar.

I quit guitar just as I have quit every other temporary passion that has consumed me for a few short years. I’m not apologetic about it. I think it may be my attempt to cram many lifetimes into one. And I don’t quit because I’m tired of one activity but because the next leaves none of my leisure time free for the previous one. My children (for whom I never lost my passion!) are aware of this and tease me about it. Let’s see. Here are a few of my temporary but intensely practiced activities starting before most of you were born:
piano
water-color landscapes (painting them)
humorous poetry (writing and being published)
science fiction stories (writing and being published)
macrame
guitar and song writing
crayon abstract drawings
singing in choruses
stained glass
translation of Portuguese poetry into English (published)
novel (AI is a Three-toed Sloth)
polymer clay jewelry (Fimo)
There are sporadic bursts of other enthusiasms. And lots of things I never quit, such as working for peace and social justice.

And there are the things I’ve had to quit because of the physical changes of aging, such as the longs walks through all of my city, seeking little known paths and parks.

And what is my current enthusiasm? Blogging. Of course!

Crayon Abstract
"Of Moons and Springs and Dragon Wings"


40 comments:

nonizamboni said...

A bittersweet revisit to your guitar. I could just see it come off the wall and you noodling away. Thank you for that and the encouraging philosophy of 'cramming many lifetimes into one.' Quite an impressive list, my dear.
I, for one, am glad of your passion for blogging (and that you remain passionate about your children) and for a peaceful coexistence.
Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Bethany said...

I like the way you put it, "cram[ming] many lifetimes into one." I often feel guilty that I'm not keeping up my many one-time hobbies, but it sounds like you're able to simply appreciate the different phases of your life -- a skill I'd love to cultivate. And by the way, your crayon drawing is beautiful!

Marianne said...

Your Martin is a Beauty! Like you I feel the need to take up lots of interests over a life time, or at least as much as we may have..
Muscle memory is a funny thing, eh? I played piano for years, starting when I was 2 or 3... some pieces my fingers remember more, if I tried to 'think' about it I'd lose it so I learned to let my hands have their way.
I'm Very Glad you blog :^)

texasblu said...

I've seen crayon art before - I still can't beilieve you can get art like that out of a crayon!

What many passions you've pursued... I am in awe! Not only have you lived Granny, but you've LIVED! Conngrats on that!

keith hillman said...

Granny, what a delight. I too have my guitar hanging on the wall just beside me as I sit here. I got it for my 17th birthday 44 years ago. Your words have inspired me to go and get a new set of strings and see if I can still get a chord or two out of it!

anno said...

If even one brief post provides so much to comment on -- that gorgeous guitar! your beautiful abstract! the story about having callouses so thick that border guards thought might be a criminal on the lam! -- it doesn't surprise me at all to find so many quitted interests in your wake. How else to explain a life acquitted with such passion and such charm?

anthonynorth said...

I used to play guitar in a local rock band. Marvellous times. I still pick up an acoustic from time to time and remember, though quietly :-)

linda may said...

G'Day Granny,
Don't quit blogging.
Re; your message; I hope the weather has cooled down a bit over there. I couldn't live here without my heating and air conditioning with the extremes in weather we have from season to season.

linda may said...

My son, now 25 has been obsessed by guitars ever since he was 2 years old and got his first ukulele. He called it his biddelum, that was the noise it made for him then.He still takes his Dad's acoustic guitar and plays it well.

Robin said...

Oh how I would love to hear your songs. As a longtime folkie with a passion for singer-songwriters this speaks to the very core of my being.

arboleda said...

congratulations Granny Smith...go on blogging!

Geraldine said...

What a great post Granny Smith and one I can relate to. My list of temp./past passions is a long one. I think it's better to be passionate about things than lukewarm, even if our interests ebb and flow in particular pursuits. Thanks for sharing.Huggs,G

www.mypoeticpath.wordpress.com

Robin Westphal said...

Granny you are such an inspiration and a creative genius. You inspire me every time I read your blog.

CHEFDRUCK said...

Granny,
What a positive way to look at quitting. You're right, life is too short to limit yourself to a few hobbies. It's best to jump in with two feet and not look back. How wonderful that you could still get some music out of that guitar. I took my flute out of its case the other day and could not longer read music or get many notes out. I hadn't played in 20 years since high school.

Lucy said...

Oh Granny, I hope you never quit your current enthusiasm, because it gives so many a delightful few minutes each day!
The wonderful thing about all those passions that you've quit, is it makes you so good at so many diverse activities! I must add, Otto looked like quite the cool dude back in the 70's!! Go Granny! xo

Devil Mood said...

Não sabia que falava português, Avó :)

Every time I come here I get more and more surprised at your stories and your life and this time was no exception! That fingerprint story is unbelievable!
You also reminded me of something I quit even before I started - guitar.

GreenishLady said...

I used to feel guilty for leaving aside various passions, but I began to see them as all part of the patchwork of life, and enjoy the fact for a while I used to have this or that hobby or interest. Your particular patchwork is an amazingly rich and textured one! Thanks for sharing it.

Beauty and the BEast said...

There is something I learnt after reading this : When you are doing something, let it consume you, such that nobody can ever do it better than you did. When you let go, do it with a smile and fond memories because you must never begin anything new on a sour note. And how can you begin something new, if you havent seen the old to its end?

Thank you so much for this post

black coffee said...

you look so beautiful(note the word: beautiful not pretty) in that picture.. :)

and yes we do quit these things that we come across.. but makes me wonder if we still think about these and wish for doing them again, can it really be called quitting? they are still attached to our heart with a string, however feeble that thread might be!

and i loved the crayon art! :O wow! i am so impressed Granny(can i continue calling you that? cos in India people call our elders like that as Granny/Granpa, aunt/uncle out of respect for their age instead of calling them by their names)
and i hav such respect for your art and writing! :)

shud thank sunday scribblings for this! :)

murat11 said...

Granny Smith: So glad we are all a part of your new passion. Don't leave us for another! I love the last image.

I like how, even more than being about quitting, this post is about passion, passions that consume and carry us on ever-new journeys. The kind of quittings you're describing seem more like Jane and Tarzan (Phyllis and Otto) flying through the rainforests from vine to vine.

Keep flying.

SmallWorld Reads said...

I love this life journey, and somehow I feel so happy to know that it's OK to leave behind one interest for another. Sometimes I lament how I used to quilt, or used to garden with more fervor, or used to write more. But this is good.

And I hope you DON'T quit blogging!

Beatriz' suitcase contents said...

Quitting is just making room for something better and new. I see it this was. I am glad your current obsession is blogging, as we are lucky to get glimpses into your fantastic life.

Patois said...

Let's hope this latest passion is one you don't ever quit, only to return to blogging later and produce jarring words.

Jennifer Hicks said...

think of all the wonderful experiences you've had because of quitting! glad you're here to share your talents...

danni said...

how dull we would be if our enthusiasms held us captive forever rather than letting us grow out of them as we become enrapt with new interests - loved the pic!!!

b said...

Like your guitar, the things that you have learned to do over the years are not forgotten nor have you "quit". You have simply added them to a list of things that you have done or still can do. I loved this post. Thank you.

Stop on by my blog again soon. I love your comments.

b

Tammie Lee said...

So much comes and goes in our life time. I pictured you holding your guitar for the first time in so long.Memories, feelings come to life. I imagine it took a long time to create your initial callouses! What a hoot having security question you over your musical grooves! That is a story for the grandkids as well as us!

Your crayon art is wonderful! Inspire me Thursday had crayon as a prompt last week, in case you want to peak.

wwamazon said...

oh no - I'm #28 to comment and so you may never get to me - but I have to say...you truly are my honorary granny and kindred spirit! though I never took on the guitar (not yet at least) My husband often razzes me for trying to live too many lifetime sin one. He says I'm trying to live and make art as though I am going to die tomorrow. I have bought books trying to understand my 'renaissance' interests and nothing has helped as much as reading this post today!! lastly, one thing i do every year is attend a conference on social justice and equity...so I know we're related!!!;)


-amarettogirl
My SS response: http://amarettogirl.squarespace.com/the-written-word/

My blog: http:amarettogirl.squarespace.com

wwamazon said...

p.s. I love the crayon drawing and want to see/read about more examples of all the fruit of all the things off your list!!

-amarettogirl

JonsterMom said...

I remember that performance! Man, Byron & I used to have such fun together when we'd both be at your house together!
I can still hear the music that was always part of growing up visiting your house. I feel so incredibly lucky that I got to visit you so often as a child. Although more would have been better!
I love you!
Josie

Retiredandcrazy said...

One of my beautiful grandsons was given a guitar by a friend and within four months could replicate any tune you asked him for. He is a pretty talented singer and an all round Mr Nice Guy too

Retiredandcrazy said...

Hi, you've been tagged!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

First off, apologies for taking so long to return your visit; I was camping with the kids!

Now... I look at my various hobbies and activities the EXACT same way -- as another lifetime. I usually don't call it that until I look back and realize how abruptly my life shifted when one thing ended and the next began. But I know exactly what you mean.

And the guitar... you know my writing well enough by now to know I am a guitar lover. Good for you for picking it up again after so many years. Even if you don't touch it again, at least you know the knowledge is still there -- even as you mourn that lifetime you left behind.

anno said...

BTW, if you feel at all inclined to post about a book you're currently reading, I tagged you for a [very easy] book meme today...

alister said...

Granny, you top the hit parade! A former guitar god, a current stuffer of many lifetimes into one, you’re amazing, living one of the most wonderful lives I’ve ever read about! I'm considering living vicariously through you so I hope you don't quit blogging! ;-)
missalister

Beth said...

Just wanted to say your blogging is an inspiration! You bring such positive enthusiasm into the world with your writings, and now I see your life enriches others in so many other ways. May your creativity continue to blossom and inspire!

Redness said...

So true, there's never enough hours is there? Your post is so eloquent, with so many thought provoking inspirations, thank YOU for taking us to where you have been and THANK YOU for your blogging.

Ali la Loca said...

Gasp!!! I just realized that my biggest thing I've ever quit isn't on my list: the piano!! I played for 15 years.

Loved this post - it's amazing how many hobbies one can fit into a lifetime.

Shyam said...

Granny, isnt it wonderful how two people who are separated by age, miles, upbringing, culture, tastes and everything else can be so alike? :) My passions are intense but short-lived because there are so many more things to learn, do, see, experience...

Besides, isnt the definition of an expert "someone who knows more and more about less and less"? :)

me ann my camera said...

How inspiring and wonderful your post is. And I can identify so strongly with the not quitting, but instead that of moving on finding new paths to follow. Now that I am retired with lots of time I find I do not have enough of it; for now I have more threads running through my life than ever before. Before they often got tangled in confusion and frustration, now they are intricatily woven through my interests and pursuits by choice.