Looking back, facing forward

The summer was one of challenges and growth, questioning and purpose, shifting and  refocus. Events and work enlarging, deepening during this my sixtieth year of life as I look forward with an unexpected sense of fulfillment to a new calling.

During September I hope to post about some of the changes and events interspersed with fiber stuff.

One fearsome undertaking was being asked to play the fiddle for the 80th birthday barbecue for a beloved dad who loves fiddle music. I did not feel up to the task of playing solo for an hour for a crowd. I’ve always depended on a guitar or mandolin player to keep the rhythm, to cover my mistakes, to carry the performances.  We were at Black Sheep Gathering when Julie texted me for an answer at 5:30 the morning of the first day. She was heading out for a run before work, I was headed to the shower. I quickly texted back that I’d call: she’d never heard me play, I wasn’t comfortable committing without letting her hear a few tunes.

She’s one of the cooks for the Wednesday dinner that Ed helps prepare and serve so I arranged to take my fiddle and play for the work crew during their noon break. Feeling quite timid I sat down wanting to fade into the background.
Julie was thrilled with the four or five tunes I played and so I agreed to play, especially since not many people at the barbecue would know me. Anonymity can comforting.

The beginning of the Tour de Fleece coincided with the need to seriously practice every. single. day. Bowing drills and finger exercises, over and over. Playing the tunes, working on the rough patches, lining out a play list arranging some slow pieces among the American folk tunes, bluegrass, and celtic jigs which would comfortably take me through an hour of playing with some extras, just in case. All that practice combined with trying to spin at least 30 minutes every day for the TdF took a toll on my right wrist to the point that I had to stop spinning and cut back on the bowing exercises.

The week before the barbecue I attended the week-long NW Friends annual business sessions as a representative for our church. The days were filled with meetings, workshops and worship sessions plus connecting with people from other meetings throughout the Pacific Northwest. The violin, and its mute, traveled with me to be practiced whenever possible. The first time I took it outside the dorm, sat under a spreading maple tree and played my nerves almost got the best of me as people drifted across the university campus. Each time I played outside my confidence grew and I began to feel that I could do this.

I was helping to offload an air compressor shortly before I needed to get dressed for the gig when I stepped back onto the edge of a small hole. My ankle turned dropping into the hole and launching me backward hard against the edge square support post at the corner of our back porch. Agony! The post knocked the wind out of me, ribs and ankle throbbing. I bound my ankle with athletic tape, pulled on cowboy boots (a Western themed bbq for her country dad) then loaded mic, amp, small folding chair with a spindle – just in case – and violin into the car.
The back yard setting looking out over their horse pastures to fields of flowers was beautiful, the perfect setting for a fun evening of fiddle music!
Saying a silent prayer I launched into the first piece, and had a blast playing for an hour that whizzed past.

When it was over I stood up and was almost floored by the pain. My poor ribs: they are still a bit bruised, even now. Bigger than the pain was euphoria in conquering my fear of playing a solo paying gig while having fun and knowing they were enjoying it by their enthusiasm, big smiles, toe tapping and thanks.

More fields of flowers as I drove home elated in the late evening sunshine.


Author: Wanda J

I never dreamed my life would be entangled with fiber and the tools used to produce fibery items. When I bought a boat shuttle used in weaving Ed looked at it, decided to make a better one and the rest is history. For a decade he made shuttles, crochet hooks, knitting needles, until his spindles became so popular that he had to devote his time to making them, as well as Walking Wheels. Free time is spent reading, trying to coax food from the ground, and playing in the creek near our place. I love long walks and camping far from crowds. Playing a fiddle beside a stream or with good friends brings sweetness to my soul. Sundays are set aside for worshiping God with our small Quaker meeting.

9 thoughts on “Looking back, facing forward”

  1. So sorry to hear you were hurt but elated at your successful performance! I didn’t know you played the fiddle-bluegrass if my favorite music. I hope you heal quickly. I do miss you.

  2. Wow, Wanda…what an accomplishment!! I’m sure everyone in attendance was blessed by your music.

    I hope the ribs and ankle are feeling better now….not to mention the spinning wrist!

  3. Congrats on your solo gig; that is a big accomplishment! I like playing with others for all the reasons you listed. But one of my playing partners has just moved away…

    Hope you’re feeling better soon! Ouch!

    1. Thanks Michele. The other thing about playing with others is the wonder of making music when everyone is in sync and tight. I’m sure you’ve experienced that sweeping feeling.

  4. Congratulations on doing all the work to prepare for and perform that solo gig, despite all the nervosity you were feeling beforehand, and the pain you had to endure during the performance. You did it! And I’m sure your music added a lot to the beauty of that event.

    I’m looking forward to reading more about that new calling you alluded to. After that challenging summer, I wish you a wonderful and fulfilling autumn!

  5. Hi Wanda, I wish I could have been there to hear your fiddling. I’ve been warming up a bit on my cello in preparation for some Christmas music. I haven’t played the cello or violin for awhile so it’s sounding rough at the moment. I’d love to get a bit of vibrato going on the cello. We had a very hot summer here and we also moved during the heat and humidity. It’s much cooler now. Thank you for your post. It was nice to hear from you.

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