“Play me something on this guitar, Paul. I want to listen to the sound.” Kurt held out the old classical guitar expectantly. As I reluctantly took the guitar from his hand, he stepped a few feet away, waiting for me to strum a few chords on the nylon strings. I thought for a second and then began a classical piece, the name long lost to my memory, which I had learned close to thirty years ago. It was a pretty basic student piece, with a repetitious high E, plucked in an alternating eighth note pattern throughout the first half of the piece, progressing to a triplet feel toward the end. For some reason, the song is impressive to listen to, but not so difficult to play. My rudimentary skills are well suited for this piece, so it’s what I usually play when someone insists that I demonstrate a guitar for them.
Kurt has been around our little town for a few years now, a transplant from New Orleans, uprooted by hurricane Katrina. He came for the shelter offered in the camp south of town and decided to stay and work for awhile. I first met him, along with another displaced fellow, who came in to my store from the camp to find a guitar. They had both been professional musicians in the city and lost everything they had when disaster struck. The other older gentleman headed back for more familiar territory as soon as he could, but Kurt has carved out a niche for himself here. He is a seasoned jazz guitar player, so it was gratifying to watch him as I played the little ditty on that old guitar. The look of surprise and enjoyment on his face was unexpected, but welcome to me as I struggled to manipulate the strings on the frets with my inept left hand and, at the same time, to work out the plucking pattern with the tentative digits of my right hand.
When I finished the piece, we talked for a few moments about the guitar and took care of our business. As he exited, he tossed a comment over his shoulders. “I never knew you had that in you, Paul. You really can play the guitar, can’t you?” I didn’t have the chance to disabuse him of the notion, but I wish it were true. Years ago, I aspired to learn the guitar, spending a number of late evenings practicing and stumbling through exercises and scales, learning the notation for this frustrating instrument with its odd intervals and difficult chord patterns. In the battle of man against guitar, the guitar won. Thirty years later, I still cannot claim anything but the most basic mastery, nor do I anticipate that this will change in the next thirty years.
As usual, my focus is not really on the actual event I describe, but on the illuminating concept that emerges as I consider the implication of Kurt’s words. I’m wondering if this is not actually a fairly common condition, this hidden talent awaiting an opportunity to surprise others who think they know us. The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that most of us have gifts, talents if you will, that have lain dormant within us, simply awaiting the time when we realize that it’s now or never. We succumb to that urge to paint, or write, or play the guitar; whatever it is that has been our secret talent.
Many late bloomers determine to make the most of their dream and seek instructors to help perfect their craft. Others simply begin to do that which they have put off until it can be put off no longer. For some, the dormancy was never their plan, but simply a casualty of the necessities of life. Marriage, family, work – all of these combine to crush our intentions to use the skills we have. Now at last, those responsibilities have progressed to a point where they demand less of our attention and we remember what it was we once wanted to achieve.
Are you a late bloomer? It’s time to get busy! Start using that secret skill; practicing that talent. You owe it to yourself to explore the potential. I’m not saying that everyone around will enjoy it, but give it a shot anyway. I’m tormenting you with my blooming dream right now. Writing these posts has been the most fun I’ve had in many years. I realize that from the other side, it may not be so pleasurable. Thanks for putting up with me anyway. I may get better at it as time progresses (or not). Maybe it’s time you give it a try yourself. (I don’t mean the writing, unless of course, that’s your passion.)
If you’re going to run marathons, start training. Sharpen up the knives if you’re going to try woodcarving. Somewhere out there is someone who will look at you in surprise and say, “I didn’t know you had that in you!”
It’s time you let the rest of the world in on the secret.
“Hide not your talents. They, for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?”
(Benjamin Franklin~American statesman, writer, and inventor~1706-1790)
“Hide it under a bushel? No!
I’m going to let it shine!”
(from the children’s song “This Little Light Of Mine” by Harry Dixon Loes~1895-1965)