The Great Throwing-Away: Piano

My husband just made arrangements for the Salvation Army to pick up the piano because we’re moving in two weeks and won’t have room for it in our new place.

It’s not in the best of shape. It doesn’t tune as high as it should because I let it get too hot and too cold for a year before moving it to Austin.

But it still tunes and would be fine for playing, or for singing to if you’re not particular about the vocal range. Still, I haven’t played it in months, have played only infrequently for years. The cats sleep under it.

William used to sleep on it.

So I shouldn’t care.

But any minute now, I’m going to start crying, and I’m going to cry till the Sally truck comes on Tuesday, and I’m going to cry while they load it onto the truck, and while they drive off, and every time I look at the space where it used to live, because all my life I’ve had a piano, and now I won’t.

And then I’ll dry up and feel a lot better because the Salvation Army was good to soldiers during World War II, and they’ll find it a home where somebody will play it and not let it just sit there with cats leaning against the pedals.

And because I’ll have stopped trying to drag one more part of my past into the present.


Image of piano by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

Monkey Mind

I am a distractible adult. I suffer from Monkey Mind.*

I wasn’t a distractible child. I listened in class, turned my assignments in on time, and made the honor roll. It’s true that I didn’t practice the piano or the clarinet as I should have, but there were extenuating circumstances.

Regarding the piano, my mother encouraged me and saw that a certain miminum standard was observed. But she also said she wanted me to learn to play well enough for the piano to be a pleasure rather than a burden.

The piano was a pleasure. I amused myself for hours playing pieces I wanted to play.

Pieces I wanted to play included anything my teacher hadn’t assigned. Scales, arpeggios, Czerny exercises–all those repetitive activities designed to develop skill–fell into the didn’t-want-to column.

As a result, the piano is now a major frustration, and I wish Mother had declared all-out war on her musical slacker.

The clarinet situation was more complex. As a fifth- and sixth-grader, I played daily for my own amusement, and for the amusement of my white-faced Hereford, Marie, who stood on her side of the fence while I entertained from a lawn chair on mine.

But when the euphoria triggered by receipt of my very own Boosey and Hawkes in its very own case had worn off, I realized that, in the hands of a novice, the clarinet is at best a noisemaker. And in concert, the trumpet gets all the good parts, like the melody. Practice was all tootle-tootle-tootle-rest-ooh-ooh-ooh-rest-tootle-tootle-tootle-rest-tootle-rest-rest-rest-repeat.

I loved music, so listening to myself was misery. My mother loved music as well, so being part of a captive audience must have been worse. Consequently, I believe my mother, realizing the clarinet would never be a pleasure to me or to anyone else in the family, except Marie, made certain accommodations. Possibly something like, The less tootling I have to listen to, the less I’ll nag her about the piano.

(No. That’s unfair, even in jest. Music was in my mother’s DNA. She’d have gladly put up with all the tootling I thought necessary.)

(For his part, my father was a saint. He used to joke that when he didn’t want to listen to something–or someone–he turned off his hearing aid. But he kept it on through all my noise. I know because twenty years later, Mother told me that during one evening’s tootling, “Polly Wolly Doodle,” to be exact, he looked up and said, “She’s playing a song.”)


Well. Having concluded that digression, whose connection to the rest of this post isn’t clear to me either, I’ll return to the original topic, and say that, aside from a talent for locking myself out of my car, the tendency to ditsiness lay dormant until a sudden surge six years ago this month. That’s when I left my position as a paralegal (and the structure it provided) to stay home and write. Or, to be more specific, when I bought a laptop and discovered wireless connectivity.

It’s strange how a device that should aid writers can be such a hindrance. Even when good intentions coincide with opportunity, there’s that tempting little Firefox icon lurking at the bottom of the screen. Throw in a tinge of curiosity about anything at all–the current state of your email inbox, the definition of a particular word, the spelling of distractibility, a peek at who’s doing what on Facebook, how old Peter Vaughn is and what Billie Whitelaw, who married him in 1952, looks like, since you know you’ve seen her but you can’t for the life of you remember her face . . . and you have to know now, and then one click leads to another . . .

It’s a slippery slope.

Anyway, I chose to write about Monkey Mind because after sitting in this coffee shop, staring at a blank LibreWriter screen and watching my mentor across the table just typing away, I grew restless, both physically and mentally. After a time, I gave up and in, opened Firefox, and surrendered to the lure of the Web.

Then a funny thing happened. Surfing usually stops the jiggliness I feel when staring at a blank page. Instead, the feeling increased. My mind scattered. My hands shook. To make things worse, an intense irritability set in. I was not in good shape.

Finally, just as I was ready to slam my laptop closed and stalk out, a word unrelated to icons and mice floated through my brain: hunger. Breakfast was only a distant memory. I wobbled to the counter. One orange juice and one banana later, jiggliness abated and writing began.

End of story.


Now for the Moral, which I direct to all those people–and they know who they are–who claim Monkey Mind is completely psychological, a self-indulgence created by literary Camilles, would-be writers who like to talk the talk but don’t want to walk the walk:

The Moral

Monkey Mind can’t always be cured by meditation, relaxation, Artist Dates, discipline, yoga, warm showers, outlining, daily affirmations, or a good swift kick.

Sometimes the only cure for Monkey Mind is lunch.


 * a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable” ~ Wikipedia

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Day 27: William, weary

William misbehaving. Note in his expression the combination of smugness and defiance.

I think WordPress got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

First it refused  my perfectly good password and tried to get me to log in to the  Hotshots! account.

Then, instead of saving this post as a draft, it posted the picture above with the title Private so only I had access. A check of my privacy settings showed no change–To write was still (supposedly) visible to the public. Unclicking and reclicking the same box then published William for all the world to see.

I presume he’s still there. I’m typing as fast as I can.

William has developed an intense interest in the piano. He jumps on it when he wants me to turn off the laptop and go to bed.

I’ve been operating all these years on the assumption that cats do as they please when they please. I thought a sleepy cat could just curled up any old place and lose consciousness.

Not William.

When he decides it’s bedtime, usually around 1:00 a.m., he wants everyone to close up shop. To get my attention, he jumps on the piano.

At first I tried to discourage this. He tended to stray from the piano to the sideboard. There are things on the sideboard I’d like to see stay there. Intact.

One night he jumped from the piano to the top of the china cabinet. There are a few breakable objects up there, too.

I admit William is graceful. That surprises me. As a kitten he was so tubby he couldn’t leap and climb as  (other) kittens do. When he tried to pull himself onto a higher shelf of the kitty pagoda, his little body would just dangle there, bottom-heavy, until he let go and fell or was discovered and rescued. Instead of jumping onto the bed, he walked up the stairs we’d put there for Chloe.

The difference was that Chloe was sixteen when she stopped jumping. William was six months.

The adult William is enormous, but his paws are delicate and tapered, beautiful, but small  compared to the rest of him.

And yet, he’s agile and light of foot. Earrings, cough drops, rubber bands, ballpoint pens–these things and more have found their way from high places to low, and in perfect silence.

If I hadn’t made an uncharacteristic decision to sweep under the refrigerator, the flash drive would still be lost.

There’s a reason they call them cat burglars.

Last night, or rather early this morning, a weary William had already traversed the mantel, the case of David’s collectibles, the dining table (I wash it often), and who knows what else before resorting to the piano. I was tired of popping up every five minutes to drag him off wherever he was, so I decided if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em and just kept typing. Glancing over my shoulder to make sure he didn’t have designs on the china cabinet, I saw the display that begins this post.

It was like the time my three-year-old cousin Chip sidled into the kitchen, hands behind his back, face and overalls covered in grease, and told the flock of gawking women he’d been “fixing the lawnmower.”

Just so darned cute all you can do is get the camera.

So I got the camera.

Then I took the hint.

He was tired.

I turned off the laptop and went to bed.