Squeaking and Squonking on White Rabbit Day

In high school, a math teacher once asked us if we’d said “White Rabbit!” that morning. When we looked at him blankly, he explained that if the first words out of your mouth on the first day of a new month were “White Rabbit,” you’d have good luck for the entire month.

This morning, New Year’s Day, I said “White Rabbit.” Does that mean I’ll have good luck for the entire year? Or will I, like Alice’s rabbit, just be late for everything?

I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions, but today I decided that I’m going to make a few changes that are long overdue. One is to take up the recorder. Or rather, take it up again.

My dear friend Tim, who besides being the most amazing watercolorist (his work in oils is pretty fine too, but the watercolors really speak to me) is a lovely lyrical recorder player, had been prodding me for years to get a recorder of my own. In August of 2004 I finally broke down and bought an alto Yamaha. And I got the two beginners’ books he recommended.

A month later, when we evacuated to Tampa as Hurricane Frances was bearing down on us, I took the recorder with me. That week the recorder and I got to know one another, and I made satisfying progress.

But once back in the regular swing of daily life, the recorder was laid aside. I’d pick it up from time to time, but playing it never became a habit, and in the ensuing years, the poor thing languished. And it became a bigger and bigger bugaboo. That rosewood-colored beauty just sat there, mocking me.

This week a friend and I challenged each other to just play. For both of us, it turned out to be musical instruments that we once loved but had been neglecting so long that they were now fearsome, but we realized that just playing is very good advice in many areas of our life. We don’t need to be perfect at everything, don’t need to be professionals all the time. We can just play and enjoy whatever happens as a result.

Today I cleaned and assembled the recorder, and started playing with it. Not playing it, really; playing with it. I can’t begin to express the awful squeaks and squonks that poor recorder is making. A goose being beaten and strangled would make sweeter music.

An unintended side effect is that I now want to find my Sweet Pipes Recorder Books, which are in my office somewhere. I use the word “office” only because that is its official designation. For many months before Mom died, I barely used the office, instead working off my laptop, sitting in the chair next to her bed, and the office became a dumping ground for old papers, books, paraphernalia, and things that should have been thrown away a very long time ago. On top of the clutter and chaos is a thick layer of dust. And somewhere in there are those recorder books.

I need those recorder books. My alto Yamaha is in abject pain, judging from the noises it is emitting, and it desperately needs me to treat it with more educated fingers. So today, after I clean out the refrigerator, the big, BIG garage trashcan is moving into my office, and I will become an archaeologist beginning a new excavation. No telling what other treasures I’ll unearth.

Maybe I’ll even find the white rabbit’s gloves and pocket watch.

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Categories: Getting Organized, Holidays, Music | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Squeaking and Squonking on White Rabbit Day

  1. Tim Achor-Hoch

    So at long last you pick up the alto, and I get my own, non-orvis email account. Can a facebook page and website be far behind? How wonderful to spend the morning playing my alto, and then have Kate appear with news of your new year’s pleasure. Squonks and all. Find those books, and let’s talk about a time when we might visit (not necessarily in that order).

  2. Excellent, excellent and most excellent.

    I spent quite a bit of time playing my dulcimer last night and then more time with my basses.

    Tuning them, they did not blow up. I did not die. Not even a battery needed replacing. The amps turned on, the acoustic followed the laws of physics, strings vibrated and there was sound.

    Not sound sound, but decent sound. I had forgotten some things, but that is quite ok.

    I planned on opening and playing with the Homespun DVD today but ended up in He(South Florida)ll visiting my daughter and parents.

    Tomorrow we shall open it. I say so in public, in writing and so it must be done. To quote a rather famous fellow stating some rather famous line: “So let it be written, so let it be done.”

    And my pride, though I have no place or right to it, is overflowing that you have taken up the recorder again. If we prod each other to action, then to action in the name of beauty and art it should be.

  3. I played a little more this evening. It hurt my ears. It hurt the ears of those long dead who love recorder music.

  4. It hurt their ears but I am sure it gladdened their hearts to know one more person knew and appreciated the same beauty they did and, though squonking produced, knew how it could sing.

  5. Oh, no, Tim The Recorder Terror has gotten to you as well!

  6. Jennie

    No, it does NOT hurt the ears of those long dead (or living still ) who love recorder music.

    Everyone who has ever played an instrument, with the exception of a few anomalous prodigies, has begun playing well by starting out playing badly. Your goal at this point is not to play well, but merely to play, and in the playing, learn to express yourself more and more fully. Like writing, the way to learn to do it well is to do it often and try new things until you find your voice. Someone just learning a new language would be happy to get a few words right here and there, or successfully ask to use the restroom. They would not expect to be able to write lyric poetry in the first month. You are learning a new language, and using new organs of speech, to boot. The squeaks and squonks are the muse signaling you to experiment and change what you are doing ever so slightly. They are instant feedback about technique, and they are your friends. When you hear them, be thankful for the pointers.

    If I can find my recorder, untouched for some time, perhaps we can learn more together. (If you don’t mind hearing MY squeaks and squonks.)

  7. Many a perfectionist learns to do nothing at all, attempts nothing at all. For fear of an error there is never a start. Jennie is right, of course. But I suspect a perfectionist would also not listen.

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