I had to do a 5 min presentation in class yesterday on a piece of art that has had significant impact upon my life. For those of you interested here is what I wrote! Enjoy the story . . .
My phone went off, interrupting my morning coffee making ritual. It was 8am and I found it kind of strange that my house mate was calling me from her bedroom down the hallway. “I suppose you want some coffee?!”, was my response. “Tell me you’ve got it?”, Jenn answered on the other end of the phone. “Got what?”, I replied. “Oh God. Tell me you took it home last night?”. Jenn owns the Water Shed Arts Cafe in Walnut Grove, and at 3am that morning had been woken up by a call from the police, stating that the cafe had been broken into. Currently she was at the Water Shed on the phone to me. “No. What’s happened?!”, I responded. At this point my stomach was turning. I don’t usually leave things that are really important to me lying around, however I thought it would be safe, locked up in the back of the cafe. Guess I should have listened more carefully to my random thought yesterday not to forget to pick it up on my way home from friend’s place. However I forgot and now it was gone. My Indian Rosewood, Cedar top, $6000, acoustic guitar, hand made and carefully crafted by a skilled luthier in a small factory called Avalon in Ireland, was gone.
I bought it 8 years ago from a lawyer friend who got paid in guitars for doing work for Avalon. The factory has a great legacy for making beautiful guitars, so when my friend who knew I was looking asked if I wanted to check them out I jumped at the chance. He had about twenty guitars in his basement to choose from, and after two days of playing guitars of all kinds of woods, shapes and sizes, I settled on mine. Aesthetically I think it’s beautiful. The grain of the Indian rosewood that makes the back of the guitar was split in half beautifully (that’s the sign of a carefully crafted guitar), the inlay was simple but tasteful, and the neck felt smooth and incredibly playable. The sound was warm and rich with not too much bottom end, but enough clarity to cut through any mix – perfect for recording and performing live. If it sounded that good when I bought it, I knew after a few years that it would really sing. I was in love. It made me want to play and play and play.
Being a music teacher, I would often mention to parents that when they bought a new keyboard or piano for their child who had been playing for a while, they would see a significant increase in their child’s skill level and passion. Why? Because they would want to be playing it all the time – the better tool would inspire them to create in new uncharted ways. And now here I was living out my own words. The tonality and resonance of my guitar moved me: it opening me up to new musical and creative ideas, inspired me to reach new technical levels of skill, and pushed me to spend more time on songwriting. Music, whether I’m participating in it by listening or playing, has always been a space where I allow my thoughts to wander. Now having this beautiful tool that enabled me to create and explore music in fresh ways, also enabled me to journey different pathways in my thinking, whether that be about life, others, relationships, God, etc.
My guitar had become an extension of myself, of my body. It had journeyed with me all over the world, used in various settings from large stages, to hospital bed sides, to recording studios, to weddings, to on the streets. It had taken its fair share of knocks at open mic nights by teenagers who used pennies as picks, or knocked over by my dog, or smacked with a toy by a baby! Even though it held incredible value for me, it was something to be shared whether that be allowing others to play it or lending it to friends or just simply performing with it – this art had to be shared. It was in my eyes a beautiful piece of creativity, whose meaning was deeply embedded in my story, deeply embedded in me. And now coming back to the story I started with, this piece of art had been stolen.
Apparently the thieves knew what they were looking for when they broke into the cafe. We had a cheap Water Shed guitar hanging on the back wall of the cafe and that was gone along with my guitar, which was stashed near the back room. They had smashed the front entrance, run through the cafe, grabbed the guitars and then left via the back door. The building manager, Wayne was first on the scene at 3am, and after calling the police he had done a walk around of the property, checking to make sure that all the other stores were okay. When Jenn got on the scene she discovered that the guitars were gone, but obviously was not sure whether I had taken my guitar home the day before. After our phone call, both of us were pretty distraught. The reality of it being gone was hitting in and even after doing the biblical ‘blessing the thieves’ thing, it didn’t really ease the loss. Jenn shared with Wayne about the guitars and as she was calling the insurance company he really felt that he should go back to the building where all the garbage was stored on the site adjacent to our strip. When he did the walk around at 3am, he noticed that the door was ajar on the building but thought nothing of it, thinking that someone had left it open when they took out the trash.
Wayne went back to the building and searched through the garbage cans, but there was nothing there. He then decided to look up, and there in the rafters of the building was my guitar case. Opening the case he discovered my guitar with not a scratch or dent in it. Obviously the thieves had decided that they would stash one of the guitars in the rafters and come back for it later. Little did they know that they stashed the more expensive guitar and taken off with the cheap one! Jenn was on the phone to me after calling the insurance company when Wayne walked around the corner with the guitar case in hand. I won’t describe the language that came out of both of our mouths when she saw it – all I can say was that I found it a little hard to contain my relief.
I would consider my guitar a piece of art – may be not one that you would conventionally think of when you think about art – however, one that has had a profound impact upon me on every level of being. A couple of weeks ago, the cedar top began to split in three places. Thankfully it could be fixed. I consider those splits as part of its growing character, its evolving beauty, its art.