Wednesday, September 17, 2008

88 keys

Recently, I learned to juggle.

It came from too many shifts at the kite store, where we happen to sell those beanbags for jugglers. Bored, I picked up three of them to see what would happen, and in tossing them up in the air, remembered as they fell every which way that I had tried to teach myself many years ago, and had always failed. But my hands, though too clumsy to actually catch the bags, remembered the form, so I kept trying. Last week I had a breakthrough; up to 50 catches before a bag fell!
Now, when I have a spare moment at the store I pick up the 3 little beanbags and toss them, sometimes perfectly, sometimes...not. I am not consistent enough yet, but I have improved a lot and it was an excellent reminder of two things: muscle memory is powerful, even if it's been years since that particular motion, and regular practice really does make a difference.

It's been a timely reminder, what with starting piano lessons last week. I've been taking it slow, learning to walk again before I try running (although my teacher is always telling me to slow down, so I guess I'm not walking slowly enough). Certain things are so different from when I was last practicing as a kid: half-hour lessons go so fast! Practicing every day is fun! And certain things are like old friends I haven't seen in a long time: hello A minor harmonic scale, haven't seen you for a while. My fingers stumble where once they would have flown. But I have advantages now: I carry extra experience on my shoulders: years of playing instruments, hearing patterns, writing music. Every day I play those chords and scales like a mantra, like a Tai Chi exercise. I may be walking slowly, tentatively now, but as my hands learn the chords and scales again- easier this time because I enjoy the learning- I will begin to sprint.

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