There are many woes in the world. There is war and violence, sickness, starvation, love lost or mislaid. Here is what passes for woe in my world: I lack the discipline to park my fanny on a piano bench long enough to learn the music I love. “I wish I could get into some kind of routine, like I had when I was still taking lessons,” I pouted to Dave, who nodded, while he flipped the contents of a saute pan. He is a saute-pan artiste.
Dave gave it some thought. “I have an idea,” he said. “Why don’t you sit down at the piano every night while I’m making your dinner?” Two things sprang to mind. One, this would totally work. Two, I may be the luckiest person in the whole world.
Over the next week, a kinship began to develop between Schumann and garlic frying in butter. It is the smell and soundtrack of rapture. It’s no great thing that I feel gratitude a dozen times a day. It would disgrace me if I didn’t. Fortune has billowed over me my whole life, none of it earned. It’s not that I don’t deserve it. It’s that no one ever does.
I should, with good health, be able to devote myself to learning the entire Schumann canon, in the time given to me by a respectable pension from the Postal Service. There are those who would say that I earned that time with my thirty-two years of work, and in a small, unimportant way, I have. But the world is full of people who have worked harder and done greater things who will never have the particular freedom I’ve been afforded.
Garlic in butter. They say the sense of smell hangs right next to our memories in a closet in the brain. There is someone who was dear to my heart who never caught a decent break in her life. She lived the whole of it with pain and struggled to remain hopeful, and scavenged all her luck from an abundance of both hardship and friendship, never failing to find the flecks of gold in her pan of black sand. She did not deserve her luck any more than I do mine.
When I paint a landscape, sometimes I pull out a thin line of violet behind my backlit tree or glowing rock formation. It grates against the warmth of the subject and vibrates life into it. My violet line is as thin and sharp as grief, and grief is what shines behind something wonderful that was given and is now gone. I feel that edge of violet shimmering behind me sometimes and am thankful for
how much I’ve had and lost. I have done nothing to earn the abundance in my life, and the only thing I can say in my defense is that I am grateful, all the time.