Her Mystery, Her Mathematics, Her Mercy
I didn’t know the depth of Gratitude, when I found my first guitar someone else had thrown away in an alley trashcan, that I was finding one of the children of a lineage of instruments that was over 4000 years old.
I didn’t know the touch of Gratitude, when I first tried to tune her, that I was endeavoring that ancient effort of one of my childhood heros, Pythagoras of Samos, when he studied the vibration of strings and tuned them between various self made stop-enders underneath vibrating strands he fabricated and stretched with his own two hands. In a village somewhere without stores to buy guitar strings or even places that made such things, these hand made fibers with which used to study the qualities of harmonics and vibration.
I didn’t know the histories of Gratitude, when I discovered my first guitar had been thrown away because its neck was cracked, what a Luthier was, and that there is an entire world of people devoted to the love and creation, invention and repair, of this magical mystical instrument.
I didn’t know when I was filling her broken neck with wood glue, and clamping her gently in place and nervously wondering if she would ever truly heal from whatever experience had hurt her. Uncertain if she would ever really be healed, and still I didn’t know if I was meant to play, if some people were meant to, and maybe, I was just one of those who simply, and forever would be not.
But the shape of her. But the delicacy. The elegance and a tactile air. Even broken, the light that bounced from elsewhere off her kept a shape burning in my eyes that was itself a song, a music without sound, just made of the picture of all the impressions every crevice curve corner bend arch and hollow visage made.
Just laying there, soundless, this guitar resting, healing, all the songs in the universe gave.
She would never seem to mind on our first walks to the park any way I tried to hear her speak. She never insisted or even intoned names I needed knowing when pressing on her strings. She didn’t tell me words like minor or major or position while we were first visiting the birds or sitting at the stream down at the creek together.
My first guitar’s neck seemed so dark and dangerous looking. Cautiously I sought nearby strings nearest her chin that made me feel least unlearned. She seemed quite content with however I found patterns with one hand, and experimented with the drawing skills of my other that was at least adept enough to pick an occasional string deliberately. At least I could try to match each string with each finger, making up for all my speechlessness with made-up intricacies of individually plucked strings.
She always seemed to change, my guitar and the days.
Every time I picked her up, it was almost as if just picking her up was the song, and the sounds made after were just some footprint left from an unspeakable place. Every time is new, every time is a first date with her. She makes all the sounds of the world go away when the light from her strings breaks in.
However, years would pass before I noticed how she didn’t compare herself with the guitars that others played.
As I played my own songs along the learning of her strings, I had no jealousy of Johnny Marr, Suzanne Vega, Jimmy Hendrix, Joe Walsh, Ani DiFranco, Bob Dylan, David Byrne, Bob Casale, Bruce Springsteen, Eddy Vedder, BB King, or any of the tens of thousands of other guitarists invisibly awash in the mind surrounded by this marvelous American Radio World which we both found ourselves within.
She would mix herself with any words and any way of feeling, within seconds of lifting her up all pretenses could almost be seen weakening.
The strangest and most beautiful about her is just that she’s everywhere. Without telling me she just simply showed me over years and years how every guitar I see is exactly the same mystical creation of seemingly empty space that’s the farthest and very opposite of emptiness.
While laying down beside her in the dark room at night, she says things like worlds, accented echoes and often she resonates most poignantly when a storm is just outside the window, much like tonight, as we sit and listen to the wind and drops of water strike the moonlit window panes.
We speak of the number of songs she’s heard and I ask her if she has heard them all, and she makes me stare at the numbers along her wooden neck, and think of time and permutations of just these seemingly simple twelve letter combinations.
Before long and after recalling how to carry zeros over tens and moving decimal places into spaces that were magnitudes upon magnitudes larger than where they had once been, she coyly looks at me causing me to marvel too, and suddenly we both see the number of her possible songs, if only played for a handful of minutes, adding up to more than the very sand grain atoms of the entire universe we’re listening to a storm within.
Disarmed, yet puzzled, I ask her about whether Pythagoras had ever finished with a body for his strings, something to contain the mysterious resonance he so passionately experimented with. She seemed to have heard this question from somewhere else before, but strings needed to be strummed before she would offer up an answer.
While holding her gently in the moonlit darkness, pressing randomly a first note and then allowing intuition to guide and find another, her answer slowly began to speak and tell the story, of the first day a young boy named Pythagoras dreamt of leaves he saw waving by the river’s edge, and how within one glance he saw all the different tones at once, singing inside the single belly of this beautiful flowing water, wrapped and resonating from a mysterious source that maybe he might understand a little better, if he could only touch a string.