When the Music Plays You

“I love trying to spin the world into a web of words. And I love those times when it feels like those words turn into a world of their own.”  — Rose Auslander 

I am seventeen and practicing the piano.  I go at it two hours a day, and no longer need the nagging of my parents, when I used to prefer playing softball after school. The work itself is its own reward, playing a passage over and over at different rhythms, until it comes out smooth as silk.  

I rarely practice after dark, since I don’t want to disturb my father, who may have brought work home.  But now that I’m on the yearbook committee, there are days when I simply have to. It’s winter and the room is dark except for the light over the piano, and I feel my father’s entrance and his quiet sigh as he sits down well away from the piano and me.

It is near the end of my practice session, when I play something for pure pleasure, and tonight it’s a Schubert impromptu, a piece I love to play, complex and romantic.  I am aware that my father is in the room; I am aware of all the ambiguities of our relationship; I know, however, that my ability to play so well has pleased him, and that falls into the complexity of Schubert, me, my father, the abuse, all the pain of never knowing if he has loved me or not. 

Somehow, I throw myself into the music, I become the music, the music — Schubert — is playing me.  It’s transformative. I am no longer in this darkened living room.  My father is still here, because there is a musical line connecting us, and I thrill as the phrases and chords and notes become a world of their own — a world described by incredible beauty and freedom. And at the end, I bow my head over the keys and feel full of the act of love I have just performed.

Photo by Roger Eichholz

About SSH

Philadelphia native and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, Shaw Homer has lived in Costa Rica for over 30 years, where she has taught languages and worked for environmental NGOs. In addition to writing for the local press, her fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in both print and on-line literary and travel journals, as well as on her blog, writingfromtheheart.net. Her travel memoir, Letters from the Pacific, received excellent Kirkus and Publishers Weekly reviews. Her most recent book is Evelio’s Garden: Memoir of a Naturalist in Costa Rica. She and all her books can be found at www.sandrashawhomer.com.

2 thoughts on “When the Music Plays You

  1. harvey burgess says:

    Beautiful piece Sandy. Pitch perfect! I can visualize you at the piano, the stillness, the chiaroscuro – it’s painterly.
    And then the change of pace as you immerse yourself in the playing and are transported to a different plane. And the spectre of your father, the pain, and how you rise above it, serenely. Very moving indeed.

  2. Allyson Latta says:

    This is beautifully written and very moving, Sandy.

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