Many things are opening up for me during these 6 months of clothes free life. One thing that has recently returned to my heart is the desire to play the viola. I started playing it in high school after having spent a few years on the violin. Then, a few years ago, I walked away from it, and I’ve felt like a part of me was missing ever since.
One day, something inside pushed me over the edge, and I bought one I could afford along with a shoulder rest. As soon as I clicked the confirmation button, my heart began to race. “What am I doing? Did I just buy a viola? Where am I?!” I was scared. At the same time, I couldn’t wait for it to come.
Of course the shoulder rest arrived first. I remember seeing the tiny box by the door when I came home. Despite the reality before my eyes, somehow I expected a viola to magically and gracefully fly out of the little package and land in my arms. No such luck, folks. Just the little shoulder rest. Nevertheless, holding it in my hands gave me something to hold on to in anticipation of the viola’s arrival.
It came on a Tuesday. It had been a long, rough tearful day with lots of things storming in all directions. I cried four times that day. By the time I got home after the entire day’s work, it was about 10:30pm.
There it was: the box.
I took my time, letting the reality settle as I stared at the box, still wearing my coat and backpack. This was it, homecoming. Once I came to, I disrobed quickly of course, as a moment like this must be experienced clothes free. I grabbed scissors, sat down and took a deep breath.
Yes, this was (appropriately) one of those box within a box within a box kind of situations, so the cutting took forever. Finally I saw the viola case itself: a clean, sturdy black case zipped shut. Another deep breath, and I parted the zippers to each side and opened it. A soft cover hid the viola, but even the sight of the bow gave me chills. I dislodged it, tightened it up and touched the soft hairs. I let it fall against my skin and connect with me. Then, I took out the fresh rosin, which must be disrobed as well in order to be applied to the bow. So, I scratched its surface with a nail file until it was ready to dust the bow.
Finally, it was time to uncover the viola and tune it. I took it out of the case and perched it on my lap. Looking at it’s solid brown body, its scroll, its pegs, its four soulful strings hovering over the fingerboard. I went to tuning, turning pegs and harmonizing each string with another. As the last step, I slid the bow across the strings, the first swipes. Sound released. All was well.
That night I only played enough to tune it, given the hour. But, a few evenings later, I took to playing. It was interesting reconnecting with this passion. I had to relearn placement of my fingers on the fingerboard, and the relationship between the fingers. Where were flat notes? I slid up and down the finger board, I rediscovered vibrato.
And guys: I got the instrument, the shoulder rest, and all. But I didn’t have sheet music! So, there were many moments where I stalled, thinking, “What should I do? What should I play?” So, I went from memory and allowed my fingers to rediscover the patterns of a given piece. I observed the bowing arm relearning direction and watched rosin fall on the viola’s body as the bow danced its strings, enjoying all the small moments of wonder in this re-connection.
It was a very crunchy session, to be honest. I switched keys accidentally and lost my place. I made lots of funky mistakes. It was messy, it was squeaky. It was starting all over again.
But it felt so good to be me, to be home, to hold home in my arms nakedly.