Friday, November 6, 2015

Am I Still a Piper?

I stopped my piping lessons earlier this year.  A perfect storm of events seemed to blow me completely off-course - I'd been in a bad car accident last November, my asthma was uncontolled (unbeknownst to me at the time), finding practice time was challenging, and construction and its concomitant dust and chaos was in full swing in my home.

My physical crash injuries are healed, and my pipes are sitting here in my office - and the sheepskin bag is probably a total mess after having sat for so long - and yet I can't seem to pick them back up yet.  And the knitting project I mentioned trashing a few posts ago?  It was my first kilt hose . . . no wonder I played so poorly the summer I competed - they were full of the energy from the alleged con-artist.

I suppose I can't blame poor playing entirely on that - I truly wasn't ready to compete, and my tunes were very challenging (that's how Ian Whitelaw, my awesome teacher rolls - challenging all the time  :-) ). My teacher lives in Southern California, and while FaceTime lessons are pretty wonderful, there really is no substitute for in-person lessons. 

This is me a couple of years ago on Cape Cod the January before the summer  I competed.  Man, it was so cold that day!

Competing that summer was not at all like I had envisioned it.  I've been to my share of Highland Games in both Illinois and California, but when you compete, it's an entirely different experience.  For me, most of all, it was a very lonely and frustrating experience, because (1) I don't play with a band; and (2) I wasn't playing well for light music (what you likely think of as pipe music :-) ).  So, I was on my own, and because my teacher is not local, most of the time I didn't have anyone to help me tune, or to encourage me.  I'd see two of my local former teachers from time to time, but they have their own students and oftentime judging responsibilities.  They'd help me tune if I found one of them, but they really didn't have time to do any handholding for a newbie who wasn't one of their students any longer.  At one games I hung out with my friend and her band, and that was great, but she didn't complete much that summer and without her there, it wasn't comfortable to hang with her bandmates.

So, for most of the summer, I was on my own, with my pipes and my chair-in-a-bag (best present ever from my cousin K).  In addition, that summer was hot - except for the very first games I attended, which was in the 40s in the morning during solo play, the rest of the summer was brutally hot.  So, imagine an 80-90+ degree sunny day - and you're in thick wool kilt hose, a heavy wool kilt that weighs about 5 pounds, a long-sleeved shirt, a velveteen vest that you have to keep buttoned, a tie, a wool Glengarry on your head, and the MOST uncomfortable shoes you have ever worn in your entire existance..  I was a dripping, miserable mess nearly all the time.  I'd just look around for a stand of trees somewhere, and take my pipes and chair over to find a little shade, but a lot of time I'd go home early and not stay to watch massed bands at the end of the day.

When you're not in a band, you don't have anywhere to leave your stuff so you end up carrying it around all day at the games. I know what you're thinking, but I don't leave my pipes - any musical instrument - in the car alone.  Ever.  My first teacher drilled that into me.  Seriously - if I'm traveling with them and I stop for gasoline and a quick run to the Ladies', the pipes go to the Ladies' with me.  They are a musical instrument - temperature affects them, and someone could steal them.  Never leave a musical instrument in the car alone.  Just don't do it.  Never do it.  Never.  Ever.  This seems like it should be common knowledge to me, which is why I'm always so surprised when I read on Facebook or hear on the news that some musician somewhere had their car or van broken into and their priceless guitar stolen.  Really Dude????  You LEFT your priceless instrument alone in parked vehicle?????  Anyway - my pipe case doubles as a back pack, and my chair-in-a-bag can be left in the car, so I'd go back to my car, change my brutal shoes, leave the chair, and walk around the games for awhile.  But more often than not, I'd just get in the car and go home early.

I think that people who say that they don't like bagpipes have never really heard them.  They've heard someone like me who is isn't a very accomplished player and whose pipes are often not quite in tune.  They just need to hear someone like my teacher, Ian Whitelaw, play. 

Am I still a piper? I'm not playing at the moment and sometimes I wonder if I will ever play again.  But I just looked up at my bulletin board - right in front of me:

 If you click to biggify, just left of center you'll see some wooden tiles.  The one visible says, "Be willing to change your words and beliefs."  And to the right, that red ribbon is my Second Place medal for Piobaireachd my first time out of the gate. (And I suppose if you study that board you'll know an awful lot about me by the things I hold precious . . . )

And here they sit, right behind me in the wreck of my office (which has not yet recovered from being the last construction staging area)  . . .

In front of me.  Behind me.  Might just as well be a part of me, because truth be told I cannot imagine not having them.  I cannot imagine not playing them again.  I'm not exactly sure when, but something is telling me it's sooner rather than later.  And, no surprise, it's Samhain - I need a project to look inward with as I'm never well able to do that on my own.

Am I still a piper?  Yes, yes I am.  I still call myself a piper.  I know at the moment that I'm merely adequate - And I didn't start until I was 40, so I know I'm never going to be a world class piper like my teacher, Ian -  but that was never important to me.  Neither was playing in a band. I just love to play and I never lose hope that I will eventually be more than adequate.  I really miss playing, so I think that spark is still alive somewhere in my heart. But most of all, like I said - I can't really imagine never playing again.  In my musical soul, I'm a piper.

I'm crying now.  Who cares if I never compete again.  Who cares if I never play in a band.  Who cares if I never play as well as Ian. I just want to play because I'm still a piper!  Time to take back my power (it's there, on the board, just to the right of the tiles).

Is it time for you to take yours back, too? 


Michelle said...

Brian and I just watched that last video together; breathtaking, all of it!

Yes, you are a piper, friend; you will ALWAYS be a piper.

A :-) said...

So glad you guys liked that :-)

And thank you :-)