Monday, October 12, 2009


I’ve been listening to two new Christmas harp CDs I bought last week. The performances are incredible! I can picture in my mind those professional, talented fingers just gliding over the keys, seemingly effortlessly. They put my poor attempts at harp-playing to shame.

I used to wonder why I even try to play the harp. If I want to hear harp music, all I have to do is pop in a CD and hear professionals execute exemplary form, perfect rhythm, and flawless technique. I’m also an adequate pianist, but why spend time playing on my old digital keyboard, when I can download from iTunes the great Van Cliburn playing a Steinway?

After questioning myself, I cannot deny that the above statements are logical and practical. But beyond logic and practicality, there is something else going on here. It’s the ability to create. To lean the harp against my body and pluck one string after another and hear them vibrate their beautiful sounds - there’s nothing like it. To sit down at the piano and be able to play “Moonlight Sonata” or “As Time Goes By” as I touch the keys and give my expression to the pieces - wow! Oh, certainly, I wish I knew more of what I was doing. I wish that on piano and harp I used the correct fingering, hit all the notes I should, and could create a seamless performance. But perfection is not the goal here. It is creation.

Ed and I recently watched a show on PBS about crafts in America. The show highlighted the apprentices and masters still in this country who try to create objects of beauty, from jewelry to pottery. The section that impressed me most was the part featuring people who make violins. I never thought about where violins came from or who made them - at least the non-mass-produced kind - but the whole process looks intriguing, starting with a cutout of a violin-shaped piece of wood and taking it from there. I could see the pride in their work, their joy at creating something so beautiful. Each violin is its own unique self.

And so are my performances. Every piece I play is different - it has its own beauty and imperfections. But it’s mine - I own it - I create it from the depth of my soul. I take an inanimate, silent instrument and bring it to life. I take various fabrics and sew them into a one-of-a-kind quilt. I take flour and water and salt and a couple of other ingredients and bake a loaf of bread that didn’t exist yesterday.

God has many nuances, but one of those is the Creator. Ed always said that when we make something in this world, we are co-creators with God. We see the joy of bringing something to life with our stamp on it. It doesn’t matter who wrote the music, built the harp or piano, wove the fabric, or grew the wheat - the bringing it all together is the thing that brings me incredible satisfaction.

An old “rule” for quilters is that you leave one error in your finished quilt - to remind you that only God is perfect. In other words, give up trying to make the perfect quilt or play the perfect song. The satisfaction is from the creating, not the perfection. Those harp CDs are lovely, but actually sitting down to a harp and plucking it - that’s the real joy!

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