21 Measures of Pain


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I  am sure I have tried to play Op.1 Part III No.1 by Mauro Giuliani (1780-1829), a hundred times and have yet to go through it without a misstep. This is a classical guitar piece that would be considered as challenging perhaps for an intermediate player. For the longest time I have considered myself of intermediate caliber, then I decided to record my playing. Let me tell you, I have heard that we are our own worst critic, but this little exercise really accentuates one’s mistakes! This piece has 21 measures and fits on one page, and only ventures to the third position but briefly. I spent a good two hours the other night, trying to work out the rough patches and the tempo and tone, and what I got is a super sore right hand that wants to cramp into a pretzel. And not one take worth documenting.

This has given me pause. I have owned this volume of sheet music for more than twenty years. Now I question my sessions with my instructor, back in the eighties. He checked off a good number of these pieces. These checks must have meant not,

“Well done my star student, you are ready for the next challenge”, but rather, “I’m tired of hearing you butcher Fernando Sor, lets move on to Carcassi”.

I honestly feel somewhat the fraud, passing myself off as a guitar player. This astounds me further when I witness a master playing a full length concerto in flawless manner. It is no secret masters are passionate about their art, which has driven them to forego many things in order to be the best. Practice, practice, practice! Not to be lauded. Not to entertain. Not to be world famous, or get the girl. The process was the end, not the means. The love of the instrument, of the composer, the art.

All of this is nothing new.

One that is plain in her duties is a Nurse Practitioner, I have had the privilege to work with. She spent twenty years as an E.R. Nurse. Twenty years dealing with coding patients and stretched resources. I have witnessed her spring into action when we have had compromised patients, BAM, BAM, BAM! She arranges for emergency transport, gets the patient oxygen, accesses a vein to start an IV well, draws the necessary labs to asses cardiac status and administers meds needed to stabilize the patient, all before the medics get there. The medics are grateful, the family is grateful, the staff is grateful! She is so focused that the Doctors get out of her way. Her response to that is, “That’s what you do. There are certain steps that you always perform under those situations, and after doing those steps over and over for twenty years you just do it without thinking. Sounds like an uninspired explanation. But when someone’s life is in the balance and you are part of that team, it is very, very inspiring!

Will I save someone’s life by playing 21 measures of guitar music well? No. But I may cause someone to be moved in some way, because I took responsibility for the passion I allege to have. And what I am learning about this great life, is that everything worth while can be learned, and in fact must be learned: Being a leader. Being a father. Being a friend, a husband. A worshiper of God. How to take an x-ray. How to stabilize a coding patient. How to love. It must be learned and then applied correctly, that we may call ourselves competent heart holders.

So I am going to nurse my hand another day, and then get back to Giuliani, so that I may, perhaps but for a moment, rescue you.


Flamenco and Orchids


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Flamenco Rojo

I went to Longwood Gardens with my family on Saturday. They were featuring their orchid display and they were also kicking off the 2014 Philadelphia Flamenco Festival with two shows performed by Pasión y Arte, a Flamenco dance company based in Philly.

We loved it all! Being in the conservatory is like being in a paradise, with the pond, and the water falls, and the vegetation. It was a relief to our core to see green, green grass.

With all of this beauty and art surrounding us, I couldn’t help but to be drawn to the people that converged at this one spot in the universe at the same time, and I thought how beautiful an unburdened human is. It must be the most beautiful thing there ever has been. I so wanted to converse with all of them. I got to share smiles with many: men, women, children, young, old; all walks of life. I even got to share smiles with some of the performers during their performance, as there was a deluge of natural light illuminating the entire audience. It is a giant greenhouse, so the performers were able to see the expressions on our faces.

I shared a moment with the singer as she was clapping “a compás”(with the beat) while I was trying to stay in unison with my clapping. For fear I would go off time while being watched I stopped my rhythmic attempt and left it back to the experts. Clapping a compás seems to be an art unto itself, and would be assigned only to the most competent.

To keep perfect rhythm with your fellow performers is something very intimate, very human, and it is an anchor to the soul. It is of God. Something unfailing.

As it was, we did end up meeting and conversing with a good number of people. One family had just received one of the family members back from the Dominican Republic where she had attended the wedding of the daughter of a good friend. She was not far from where my sister lives!

We were, hundreds of us, all uninitiated as a family, but a family of sorts none-the-less. We were all unique but in rhythm with one another. Enthralled. And I remembered my hope, and it became stronger.


Looking Glass Self


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Cuando vi

Que estabas presente

A mi alma, mente y corazón

Los agradó

Es que quise ser

Tu amigo

Amado hermano

Por su sonrisa

Que me dio refrigerio

Sentí en ese instante

Que estaba dispuesta

Entregar tu alma por completo

Por esa sublime confianza

Una luz reflejó

Cual hizo que yo creyera

Más completamente en yo

Y por eso mi alma a la tuya

Por siempre estará sellado



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