Hammers and StringsApril 12, 2010
“It smells like rain” I told myself as I stood there in the middle of a wide open expanse reminiscent of the Bonneville Salt Flats. The rain always takes me back to the days when I was just a young boy growing up in the dust bowl of New Mexico. The first April showers always kicked up dust from the parched, cracked ground and it always smelled like today. The cool wind nipped at my face and the mist gently fell all around us as a storm brewed on the horizon. And somewhere deep down, the Goodness gave my soul a hug.
“Just tell us what to do!” Anna yelled from across the distance.
I cupped my hands around my mouth. “Give me one sec!” I fired back. “I just need to finish up a few things and we’ll get started!”
Truth was I didn’t really need a minute. What I needed was a lifetime. To just be here. To take this all in. The churning clouds on the distance, the white salty ground, my beloved piano, but most importantly the journey and the patience that lead me up to this couple and this day that would produce what I would now consider one of my finest images.
This story actually begins about 6 months earlier.
The listing was on craigslist and it read “Vintage Piano to good home. Needs lots of TLC but may be salvageable with the right person. Must be gone by tomorrow or it will go to the dump. First $50 takes it.”
Piano? How on earth did my search for vintage shoes return a listing for an old beat up piano? Curious indeed. I was just about proceed to the next listing when a still small voice urged me to wait. To just wait. Throwing my feet onto my desk I leaned back in my chair and took the last swallow of a lukewarm Diet Coke.
“Piano?” I pondered aloud tossing the empty can into the corner waste basket, missing by a long shot. Cerveza, my while lab, inquisitively cocked her head to one side as if the word “piano” was synonymous with “squirrel” or “ball.”
I read the listing again. “…needs lots of TLC….right person…to the dump…”
I closed my eyes, place my hands behind my head, and took a deep breathe as I gathered my thoughts. I began to imagine the piano in a busy intersection, on a beach, in a field of yellow Bitterweed, but never in a landfill. Two lovers sitting there, her head resting on his shoulder as he played her a melody. The soundtrack to their lives. Something in the key of A Minor, melancholy yet beutifully tender at the same time. Moments later I dialed the number provided in the ad and offered to pick up the piano that very evening if she would take twenty dollars cash. She accepted. When I arrived the piano was covered in boxes of old VHS tapes some of which were actually labeled “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Yeah, that was aweome. By dinner the piano was taking up what little real estate was still available in the corner of my garage.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. Clients came and went and still it sat. I never forgot about the plans I had for the piano but it had to be just right. It had to be a day such as this.
I watched Tyler tinkle with a few of the keys. “Play something pretty.” I said, half joking, half hoping.
Tyler gazed down at his hands and methodically placed his fingers on the keys, mostly white with a few black, and pushed down.
The piano could definitely use a good tuning. No question there. But regardless, what came forth was something not only beautiful, but painfully honest. A feeling. An expression of his love for her manifested in strings and hammers.
Anna gazed over at him. “I didn’t know you played the piano.” She sounded surprised.
Tyler moved his hands until it felt right and once again pressed down.
“I don’t” He said. “Not until today…”
I imagine that being in a relationship is like learning to play the piano, or any instrument for that matter. There is no sheet music for life. You hit a couple of notes and sometimes you get lucky and they actually sound pretty good together. But more often than not, you immediately forget everything that you just did and in searching for the same sequence of notes you actually stumble upon a completely different melody that is even better than the original. Such was the case with Anna and Tyler. After having fallen in love and then being separated for three years, it was a weekend in New York that taught them that sometimes, just sometimes, the second verse is better than the first.
She wrapped her arms around his and rested her head gently on his shoulder. “Play it again” Anna whispered and closed her eyes. She smiled.
I lifted the viewfinder to my right eye and released the shutter and at that very moment I became the most accomplished photographer to ever live…