As I type this to you, my left finger tips feel sort of plastic. I play guitar every day, like three times a day. I just played for half an hour when I meant to be writing, because it’s fun and I can feel how I’m creeping closer to being able to play a song.
It’s a new thing, a birthday gift for myself just under a month ago. I’ve had this kind of itchy desire to play and make music for the last few years. It comes and goes; I think Scotland may have really kicked it off when I stopped letting myself complain about how I didn’t take bagpipe lessons in college. But bagpipes are loud, expensive and hard to learn. And there are things I wanted to do musically that my existing skills & equipment (see: trombone, also loud and unloved) were not good for: Playing alone. Singing while I play.
I made myself get something basic. Just let me do the normal thing, for once! I do still have a trombone if I need to be weird.
The wordless, (relatively) screenless experience of playing guitar has been exactly what I wanted. Worrying about rhythm, listening closely to the noises I’m making, and mostly just making a pleasing ruckus — it feels like the antidote to my regular life, where I measure my words, stare at screens, consume a lot. In my normal life, there is a point to all the things and nothing goes unmeasured. In my guitar life, there is one measurement that matters: Did I play today?
So far I’ve played every day. Some days I love it, feel new paths growing in my brain and in my fingers; other days my fingers are obstinate. My hard-earned callous is coming off and I have no idea why.
Learning a skill is pleasurable, all by itself. I have lots of skills I’d like to develop and some of them matter to me more deeply than I’d like to acknowledge. I’d like to write a novel and there are LOTS of skills between me and there, and it gets fraught. But with guitar, every time I change chords and don’t fuck up is just one more moment when I’m better at guitar than I have any reason to be. T
he days are filled now with late afternoon thunder and rain. The tomatoes are starting to ripen, and the corn is taller than I am. I feel terrible about various social mishaps, all caused by coronavirus but no easier to bear because of it. I worry about small things and large. I miss my cat, Caesar.
But sometimes I’m swept up in gratitude: I don’t have to go out to do my laundry anymore. I make enough money. I have time to myself. The roof is new.
I lay in the hammock; I write; I make pizza from scratch; I practice guitar.