I often find myself having deep, meaningful conversations with random people. There's Jim at the campground we're trying out this summer. It's going to be his birthday and he's already put in an order for Crown Royal. He met his wife when he was overseas and she was Stateside. Her dad was a little put off by this much older man chatting her up online, but after discovering the reason he was so far afield, so to speak, was because of his job as a wildlife biologist, he cut them some slack. They've been married almost a dozen years now and while he wasn't sure she'd be able to handle the often transient life he leads, they couldn't be happier.
Or there's Sam who stood behind me in the grocery store. He lost his father a couple years ago to cancer. When he got the call that his dad wasn't going to last much longer, he jumped in his vintage Ford and drove day and night back east to try and take his dad for one last spin in the truck they'd both restored together. He didn't make it in time and regrets it still, wondering if his dad realized how much he loved the time they spent on the truck.
And there's Andrew. Andrew moved to Morro Bay from the Valley a few years ago with his wife and kids and embraced the coastal lifestyle whole-heartedly. He'd always wanted to learn guitar so when he turned 39, he bought a beginner's acoustic guitar and a '68 VW Bug because, well, that just makes sense. He worked hard to learn and for his 40th birthday, his brother - a guitar player from way back - built him a custom electric guitar. His long-suffering wife - because we just know she was - finally told him he needed to sell his acoustic guitar because it was just taking up space and collecting dust. He posted it on Craigslist and two weeks later got a message from another almost-forty-year old with a hankering for learning the guitar as part of her midlife crisis. He cut her a deal with the understanding that if she were to ever sell it, she'd find another 39-year-old beginner who would appreciate the story.
I signed up for lessons at the adult school taught by Zen who is as mellow as his name would imply and populated by students who speak the language of music and artists the way I speak the names of authors and books.They're a different breed of people - ears attuned to the slightest variation of pitch, eyes able to read small dots on even smaller lines, fingers nimbly moving across frets and strings at a rate I can't seem to comprehend.
"It's a beginner's class," Zen assured me in my front row seat as I asked for perhaps the third time how exactly my fingers were supposed to stretch that far. "There are no bad questions," he said as I stood my guitar like a cello in front of me to figure out the direction of the music.
I can read the notes dancing across a page. I can see the quarter and eight notes beating their measure. I can write the chords down a diagram as quickly as my pencil moves.
And I can now play an A Chord.
Just the A.
It's a good chord;, solid, strong, the beginning of the alphabet.
The class played Hound Dog at a pace that would have had Elvis shaking his head instead of his hips. Strumming up and down, A....
There ain't nothing like a hound dog.....
My hands grope the strings trying to cling to the second note only to realize we're on the third. Reading ahead, I put my fingers back on A...
There ain't nothing like a hound dog...
This isn't really a good time to try and learn a new skill. My days are filled with work, my nights with the kids and chickens and garden, my weekends with writing, so much writing. I juggle Open House with birthday parties and try to keep the ones I love from feeling neglected. It's really not a good time to try to jump from an A to D.
Unlike everything else in my life right now, there's no hurry. There's no deadline, no rush, no looming end pushing and pulling my attention. I can spend an entire year learning to perfect an A chord. And then, perhaps, move on to D.
I could stay with A for five years, seven. I could be a one note wonder, strumming my A chord until my heart's content.
But last week, I didn't even know A.