Saturday, July 2, 2016

Mandolin Practice, Spiritual Practice

In later months and years, when I think back about these particular days, I hope I will remember this:

I hope that I keep picking up the mandolin, so that the above picture represents what we've continued to do.

A few weeks ago, we took our mandolins out of their cases, as we do every half year or so.  I was immediately frustrated and in despair about how much I had forgotten.  I dug the teach yourself mandolin book out of the bookcase to try to remember which note corresponds to which hand position.

At the end of our session, I suggested leaving the mandolins out on the guitar stands so that we'd pick them up and practice more.  My spouse agreed and added this warning:  "But if we don't practice, they go back in their cases."

So far, it's worked.  Every few days, we've picked up the mandolins and plucked out a tune.  Currently, we're working on "The Rose"; in the picture above, that's the music that we were writing on the staff.  I am thrilled that in just a few weeks of a bit of practicing here and there, I've gone from someone who can't remember anything about how the notes on the page correspond to the instrument to someone who can play a song that's recognizable.

I'm intrigued by how I might apply these lessons to other aspects of creativity.  If I only have a few minutes here and there, how might I make the most of these minutes?

I think of my grad school friend who spent the summer working as an assistant for James Dickey.  He had typewriters throughout the house so that he could be ready to go whenever inspiration struck him.

On Friday night, when the picture was taken, we watched cooking shows on PBS and practiced our mandolins, during the commercials.  PBS claims to be commercial-free, but it really just bundles its commercials to come at the end of the show--lots of time to practice. 

On Saturday, we did something similar with commercial TV--I prefer the sustained practice time that we had on Friday.

As a result of these small snippets of practice, I can now play several songs with very few goofs.   I am getting to the point where I don't need to think so much about which note goes with which fingers.

I suspect that we would see improvement with any practice, not just creative practice.  In a year, how different might our spiritual lives be if we worked spiritual practices into the small, free times in our schedules?

 Maybe if we keep going, I'll learn how to tune the mandolin too!

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