Bowing Along

SHAR’s case of trial bows

So Thursday and Friday, I did this thing – tested cello bows. This is my second bow upgrade since I began lessons in September 2017 and I took a really big step!  Seriously, I gave myself a low-level carbon fiber bow for Christmas after playing with the lowest level student bow for several months (I still have it but it has been put away in a box!!) I really enjoyed the first upgrade and was pleasantly surprised that my playing sounded better and that the bow was easier to manage. I even had just enough confidence that I purchased the cello I had been renting. Scary.

Several months back I decided I loved playing cello. I am certainly not going to ever be the next Yo-Yo Ma (ha!) or Nancy Bateman or Rebekah Miller. No way!! They are my cello playing heroes! But like with some other things in my life, choir, for example, I can be a decent ensemble player if I just work at it.  I think that realization came when some of the basic mechanics (who knew that there were so many moving parts and things to think about?) of playing stopped being stressful and became, at times, music.  I was encouraged even more to stretch myself and to explore outside my comfort zone.  Heck. I realized I “liked” playing scales and thirds and trying weird technical exercises! I hated that when I was taking piano and tolerated it when playing the trombone. Maybe it is an “age thing!”

So, I started looking at a real bow upgrade (and, don’t tell Steve, but a cello upgrade, too – still looking at that; need to reach some of my next goals before going there.)  I actually only ordered two bows to try but the nice rep from SHAR called and let me know that for the same $25 trial fee I could try four of them.  I told him to send them on.

I have been serious about practice this summer – I play usually 40-50 minutes almost every day, seldom less and even occasionally more. Thursday, when the bows arrived,  I played everything I am working on plus some favorites using all four bows.  I was super surprised there was so much difference from one bow to the next. Rebekah had cautioned me that what matters is how the bow sounds on my cello and how it feels to me. I played them all multiple times and then lined them up in the box in the order I liked them.  The top two included one I selected for trial and one selected by SHAR.

Yesterday, I headed over to Belhaven to meet Rebekah Miller, my amazing teacher and friend. She patiently listened as I played the C major scale and parts of the Bach Minuet #1 with each of them. Honestly, sometimes I think I need to purchase noise cancellation earplugs for her when I play Bach!! I still liked best the one I liked on Thursday. I liked its sound and how it felt.  It is a little heavier than the Presto carbon fiber bow I have been using but I heard my cello sing in a different way from before.

The best part of the whole assessment was having Rebekah play my cello using all the trial bows. I could have listened all afternoon!  Scales and parts of an etude and parts of the Dvorak concerto she is working on.  Since I am a visual learner in large part, I loved watching how she embraces the instrument and attacks the notes making music. And I got to hear it more than 4 times because she repeated all of those with all the bows and then went back to the top two and then to the final one, a German Joseph Shuster bow, we agreed was best. Wow.

This was not really a “lesson” but, as always, I got one. And I got to play a new piece I am working on that is coming along nicely.

I am getting ready to drop the bows I am returning at FedEx.  The new bow has already been played this morning (early practice since we are headed out-of-town for a few days).  I already like it but did realize this morning that I was holding the thing with a death grip! Will work on that when I get back (that happened last switch, too).

I guess the moral of this tale is, don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t be afraid to follow a path God puts before you.  Prior to starting lessons last fall, I had forgotten how much I loved learning and how much I really loved classical music. I had gotten away from music as pure enjoyment and had just not made time to experience something really new. Frankly I think I was afraid I of failure. I reminded myself and some other friends, though, even yesterday that those who have never failed have never attempted anything. That is important for all of us to remember.

In Hebrews 10:35-36 NIV, we are reminded:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

I am certain the writer of Hebrew was NOT talking about a 60 something year-old learning to play cello! I am equally certain, though, the writer is reminding us we must constantly and with confidence seek Him and follow where He leads, though we may not know where He is leading us.

Seek Him today. If it takes “bowing along” to get you back to Him and seeking His face, then do it.

Still Choosing Joy!


Make New Friends

Shilup – Counselors In Training 1971

Where to start?  You think you reach a point in life where you might forget someone. Certainly, I am past the time where that occurs every day but summers never pass that I don’t find myself deep in the piney woods just north of Wiggins mentoring young girls with my friend Becky. Or doing Senior Scout projects with Becky. Or hanging out with Becky. Or talking on the phone or planning/plotting/whatever with Becky.  It was an unlikely friendship of two strong and willful personalities at opposite ends of any spectrum you might ever imagine. 
Staff Photo 1972 – We LOVED this bobtruck!
Our common denominator was Girl Scouting. We had both been in Scouts since we were 7 year old Brownies in Gulf Pines Council but the Pascagoula/Moss Point Neighborhoods might as well have been as far from Wiggins as Moscow is from New Orleans!
 I suppose in the “texting” parlance of 2012, we were “BFFs”. She would have agreed but would be amused, I think, at that term.
We met during the summer of our CIT year (1971) at Camp Iti Kana – we knew “of” each other. Both of us were considered to be campers who got it, we just did not know each other. We struggled to figure out how or even if we could be friends (I find that funny now – at the time, not so much so. In fact, was not sure I wanted her as my friend because she was so bossy!)

Teaching about “horseplay” at the pool.  
The summers (six) we spent together as well as as much time in between as we could figure out, were so much fun. Becky taught me more than anything how to laugh at myself and how to trust others. Those have come in handy over the years. We both served as unit leaders. She directed CIT and I served as Waterfront Director and we both taught swimming. We mentored tons of girls. Some of those same folks will be getting back together in October to talk about those long summer days and nights and how much fun we had and how much we learned.

On the old CIK bridge (1975)
Of course we had to make everything difficult. She went to MGCCC/JC and to MSU. I went to Ole Miss. She dated one guy and then married another from Pascagoula. I dated a guy (at the time) from the Mississippi Delta. She married Ricky Grafton and returned to Jackson County the semester she finished at MSU. I had another three semesters at Ole Miss and then located in Jackson. She taught kindergarten. I decided to chase technology. She had children. That was not in God’s plan for me. I did know Ricky (her husband). She never knew Steve but I do think she would have liked him. She would also have liked that we have adopted a couple of really special kids that we treat like grand kids.We stayed in touch though our lives took very different turns in the years after she married. We did not talk as much or visit as often but the friendship was still there.
December 20, 1976
In addition to both having similar but different leadership skills (we also learned from each other how to be followers, how to divide and conquer, and how to respect the differences in others.) We figured out that a team only works if the parts work together. 
Finally, we both had breast cancer.  She died from her encounter. Mine which occurred some 18 years later, was probably treated with things that were tried and refined with her and others like her in clinical trials like she was in.
Her birthday and Steve’s are a day apart. He was born one day before her. This November she would have been 58.  She was 32 when she left us. I still hear sounds, pick up certain scents in the woods, and even see folks who remind me of her. I still miss her and expect I always will. Next month when we return to CIK for our reunion, I know I will walk to the bridge and some other places we spent hours together and remember.
On the wall of our guest room hangs a cross stitch she did for me when I graduated from high school. It says:
Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver, the other is gold.
Thanks Becky for being my friend.