Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Harp

This harp was found in pieces, in the basement of the church where my father served for 28 years. I was five months old when he began his ministry there. Someone had donated it, left it behind and although he tried to locate the owner, he was never able to. My father was born and raised in Syracuse, so when he went back to visit his mother , he took the harp with him since it had been made by the Clark Co. in Syracuse. They repaired it and he brought it home for me to play. I had a harp teacher for several years, a very important musician who play with the New York Philharmonic and she terrified me. She wanted me to hold my hand correctly and she was forever pushing me and challenging me to work harder. I was a chubby, awkward preteen, who was easily terrified by powerful women and I was also somewhat lazy about practicing. Although for years I didn't play it, this harp has gone everywhere with me. This small Celtic harp, green and gold and rickety is part of me, and it makes music even when I have left it silenced.

Several years ago, in Delaware, as a gift from my husband, I started taking harp lessons from a man who played in a Irish band. He taught me in his home, he taught me to play by listening and repeating. He let me make mistakes, and told me to not worry about the music on the printed page - to just feel the music and the resonance of the instrument. After my first lesson I cried. Not out of sadness but for the great release, for the sheer joy of playing music where the learning (and all the mistakes) were an honored part of the process. I had spent years feeling I would never be good enough to play. I found I could play a little and that was enough for one day. I took many lessons thereafter and got better, and loved the practice time. In recent years, as I have gotten so busy as a bishop, I have let my harp playing slide. But this week, it became clear to me that my harp has been waiting to sing, has been aching to make music -just as I have.

And so, I will practice and make mistake and enjoy all of it. Because my harp reminds me, as a constant friend, that a little music, offered even with mistakes, is still a gift. It changes my breathing, decreases anxiety and invites joy. May you invite joy today, may you invite music today - however you can. For in this life, God doesn't ask us to be good or perfect, just willing to try. And just being willing to try can change the world.

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