My old friend pushed my door open this morning. I was glad to see him. My piano needed his visit as much as I did. You see, my friend is a piano tuner, trained in the technical art by some of the best in the business, at one of the largest and most respected piano manufacturers in the world.
Never mind that he now looks the part of a mountain man, a backwoods kind of character in blue jeans and sandals, sporting an unruly beard. He decided years ago that the demands of corporate life were not for him and hightailed it to the foothills of the Ozark Mountains to slow things down a bit. In spite of his own rebellious streak, he is still the kind of fellow who can take a couple hundred unruly and out-of-tune lengths of piano wire and make them behave. He has promised to take a shot at accomplishing that for my hundred twenty-five year old piano today.
It would be a welcome change. The piano sounds atrocious. Some notes are sharp; some are flat. When one plays in the key of D, it actually sounds like the notes are battling each other, going this way and that, but never coming to any agreement. My head hurts to hear it.
I am not a fan of discord. I like it when all the notes on an instrument cooperate, blending and taking their place in the chords.
As I write the words, the mental picture of the various notes fitting together comfortably makes me shift my focus. I think it was something the Piano Man said when he arrived at my door.
I asked him how he was doing.
He replied, perhaps a little sarcastically, “Oh, just another day in paradise.”
I literally jerked my head up to look at him. The last man who said those words to me was not so unlike my friend. I wrote of him a couple of years ago after his unexpected passing from this earth. That man, who I called Mountain Man, had always answered my opening question with exactly the same words. Only, he had added a second phrase every time.
“Just another day in paradise. It keeps getting better and better all the time.”
As my mind drifted back to my acquaintance with my late friend, I recalled again our visits with each other.
We fought like a couple of schoolyard bullies, each looking for an advantage, but neither gaining one. It happened every time he came to visit. I would make a comment and he would challenge it. Perhaps it would happen the other way around and I was the contentious one.
We argued. We taunted each other. We raised our voices.
The noise was not attractive.
Like jangling strings, slightly off-pitch from each other, we made our noises concurrently, but we simply could not blend. There was never a pleasant chord, never any harmony.
Still. I miss him.
I want to think that I’ve learned a few things in the intervening years, one of which is to live peaceably with my friends. I want to think that.
Funny. This morning, as the memories that flooded my head were still spinning in the gray matter, another friend wandered in. This other fellow and I have almost exactly the same relationship as the Mountain Man and I did, so much so that the Lovely Lady has to warn me to be on my best behavior whenever he comes to visit.
She wasn’t here to warn me today. But, the thought had already been planted in my brain, so I was prepared. Harmony would reign. It would.
This friend waited his opportunity and then he was off. Up one row and down the other he went, looking for the button that would set me off. Or, so it seemed to me.
One subject after another was broached. A few false starts on my part gave him hope, but I was able to quell the impulses. Finally, I simply turned my attention to a job which had to be completed this morning and I let him talk. After a few moments, he realized that I couldn’t be baited into arguing and he made a quiet–for him–exit.
The Piano Man returned from his task, with a report of success. Strings which had wandered from the fold had been gathered back in. Errant unisons were again at the same frequency. Chords would soothe now, instead of riling up.
I look around me.
No. Further than that. Past the front door.
Further even than my town and the next town, and the next county. I hear the raucous and jangly sounds of the world around and my heart sinks again.
Where is the Tuner for this mess?
Years ago, I learned to tune pianos myself. The Lovely Lady’s father was a master tuner who taught others to follow the craft. It didn’t take with me. I wanted to make music, not to sit and pluck one, two, or three strings together, trying to make sense of the beats and overtones.
I did learn this: The tuner starts with one string.
From that one, he moves to another, tuning it to the first. Then another is tuned to that second one, and then another to that third one.
But, it starts with one. One string that is willing to move into the correct frequency, to exactly the right pitch.
One string that will stay true as all the strings around it are tuned, each one counting on the one before it to stay true.
The result is astounding beauty. Astounding.
Don’t believe it? You should have heard my old piano when the Piano Man played his little concert on it after the tuning was done today.
There is a Master Tuner who is ready to bring harmony out of discord, music from noise.
He does it one string at a time.
Maybe it’s my turn to take the stretching. And then to stay true.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with all people.”
(Romans 12:18 ~ ISV)
“In a long meter hymn, a singer–they call it lays out a line. And then the whole church joins in in repeating that line. And they form a wall of harmony so tight, you can’t wedge a pin between it.”
(Maya Angelou ~ American poet ~ 1928-2014)
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Photo by Onascout