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Spring Break Day 10: The Piano Man

March 28, 2010

You see, I find the way I am spending my Spring Break (right now) quite strange. Some people spend their break in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They welcome their Spring by spending time in sunny areas — maybe even on the beach! They get tans, they relax, they enjoy themselves.

But, no. Not me! My family and I headed off to Yosemite — to the snow. I spent my whole day today bundled up in snow gear. But, for me, the best part, was how I spent the afternoon. Well, that’s not entirely accurate — the best part of my day was how I spent the hours of 9 AM to 4 PM.

My family and I hiked up a mountain (all uphill, mind you) in the snow, for HOURS. It was actually hell. We were in heavy snow gear, but to make matters worse, we were given ski poles and snow shoe applicators that made you feel like you were walking on skis. There was snow all around, but the sun was shining brightly, so the sun reflected directly up off of the white, and I ended the day with a significant burn on my face. I finished out the day, as Bob Dylan so majestically put it: “burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail, poisoned in the bushes and blown out on the trail; hunted like a crocodile ravaged in the corn.” The man had a way with words, what can I say?

I wasn’t feeling too hot over dinner. I ordered soup. Whatever. But the thing that changed my WHOLE outlook on the day was the piano player at the cafe I went to. Basically, he was there to play music so that the people in the cafe don’t notice there’s no music playing. He plays so that people don’t notice how boring their own conversations are, or how silent their party is. No one is meant to notice him, or pay any attention to him whatsoever.

But I did. I watched him. Normally, I probably wouldn’t have noticed him, if I’m being honest. But I was so tired today that I didn’t really engage in the conversation taking place at my table — I was looking around, and my eyes locked on him.

He was playing from a generic songbook, and none of the music he was playing was particularly good — but he was. And, you could tell from the way he played and the way he looked at the piano keys as he played, that he loved the piano more than anything. It was so beautiful to watch. Sometimes he would close his eyes and gently move his hands up and down the keyboard. There was so much love in his movements, and sometimes he would mouth certain words as he played — words that didn’t belong to the song, but were probably made by him out of love for the instrument.

He finished playing one song, and he has played the whole thing so tenderly and perfectly. As he played the final note, he closed his eyes and smiled, and held his fingers on the keys for a while, taking in the noise and feeling of creating the sound. I wanted so badly to start clapping for him. I wanted him to know what a beautiful human he was, and how much he had done for me without even knowing — or trying! But I didn’t. I realized that he wasn’t playing for applause. He probably wasn’t even thinking about it. He was playing because he loves the piano, and he loves playing music. He was playing for him. The crowd of people could have been enthralled with him, ignoring him, or absent altogether, and he would have played the same.

He started playing another song as we left, and I wanted to go over to him and say something. As I was about to walk up to him, though, I decided not to. He was deep in song. The way he was looking at the keys — I couldn’t interrupt him. He was with the love of his life — who was I to disturb that?

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