our art is patient

18 Oct

I am an artist, of sorts. Words are my paint, sentences are my brush strokes, and a story is the piece I offer up to the world. The thing is, I do it poorly a lot of the time. And when I do, I imagine that my story is frustrated with me. It threatens me, saying it will find another writer to write it out if I can’t get my act together soon.

I can’t help but feel sorry for it sometimes. I wish I could do it more justice. Then I get frustrated with myself.

My husband, Clayton, is an artist of another kind. Musical notes are his paint. In school, he played the clarinet, and he loves a good song the way I love a good story. A year ago we were at my parent’s house, and I was surprised to see him sit down at the piano and start to play. He’d never had a lesson, but he could read music from his school days and knew the keys. He said that was enough. He messed up a lot, but I saw his brilliant mind working and soon he was forming whole songs.

A year has passed, and we’ve finally bought a lonely piano that was dying to be heard. I’ve been watching Clayton as he works his way through songs. My job is to offer up two phrases: “That was beautiful” and “Don’t be too hard on yourself.” The two phrases we artists need to remind ourselves of the most.

But mostly I just watch.  And think. And enjoy the amazing sounds. Then he plays a wrong chord, his fingers fumble, and he gets thrown off. The funny thing is, the piano doesn’t mind. Clayton does. He gets frustrated and holds his breath until he finds the right keys. But the piano doesn’t. Maybe in its youth, it would have. Indignant about the jostling of sounds reverberating around inside of it’s body. But now, after years of neglect and quiet, it has found its patience.

Clayton’s eyes move from sheet music to keys back to sheet music again. He breathes. Out comes something wonderful followed by the cutting of gruesome keys. The piano eats it all, but feasts on the beautiful bits, content under such trying fingers, a player who comes back to its bench each night to help it sing. It is an enduring vessel, and it knows it can’t play itself.

And on Clayton goes, faltering, persisting, and eventually the most glorious sounds start to emerge. And I can almost see the piano shudder with joy. Clayton starts breathing more and more and the song grows into something that seems alive, like I could reach out and touch it. And it’s amazing.

I am happy for them both, the musician and his instrument, creating something that wasn’t there before – together.

And a thought catches in my mind:

Maybe –yes, I think so- my story is happy with me as well.

So be patient with yourselves, you artists. Because your art is patient with you.

*******

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3 Responses to “our art is patient”

  1. Tom Demma October 18, 2012 at 3:23 am #

    Dustin,
    That was beautifly written. When you write you have a way of making ordinary objects come to life. Like that piano. When you wrote of the pianos lonelyness, it’s dying to be heard, and how it didn’t mind when Clayton hit a wrong key and how the piano shuddered with joy when he finally got it right, I felt that the piano was alive and felt appreciated. That is like an artist painting a picture of a bowl of fruit and your mouth waters when you gaze at it.
    I love your writing. I can see your growing as a writer every day. Keep pushing forward.

    Love, Dad

  2. clayanddust October 18, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    THANKS, Dad. I love you too.

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