Monday, September 21, 2009

The Perfect Note

The golden hue from the west stoked the fire in the underbelly of the fair weather cumulus in the sky. The azure color deepened as the sun slipped slowly behind the rooftops. The beach was deserted. The crowds had all but left, save for a loner looking for treasure with his metal finder as he scanned the white sand. Footprints devolved into softened craters where the sand had partially refilled the hollowed spots forming tracks of behavior of the various visitors. Some small going in circles of happy independent and uninhibited thoughts, while others more determined created a purposeful linear line, some showed deviation from their linear trance to cluster nearer to the water presumably lone fishermen exploiting the ambience of the quiet and the rush of the ocean waves for a quick catch of the day.
His path was of a quiet, slow determination, the hollowed craters were deeper and each step measured. It was a remarkable frame of reference; his rhytmic steps to the persistent roll of the waves over the sandy beach, both in tandem with life’s rituals. With every third step the slow rolling wave would crest and then crash onto the beach, withdrawing in a series of bubbles, leaving behind artifacts from the days of yore. There was a rhythm to this human-nature dance, unplanned, unrehearsed and unnoticed by the players.
“This is life.” He says with a slow rise of his arms. With both palms facing the sky and the wisdom of his age lit by the departing sun, it felt like Moses at the Red Sea. But there was none of that of course, just a memorable unconscious act caught in memory.
“Yes it is.”
“You know,” he paused with his right hand caressing his weathered chin, “I don’t know a better time then this for a little music.”

The house was an architectural triumph. The large windows overlooked the ocean. The entire room scaled the breathed of the house. It appeared to have been built around this magnificent viewing room. It was immaculate in its whiteness. The only pieces of furniture; a lamp next to a large soft-leathered armchair perched against the window overlooking the ocean. Next to that was a concert grand piano, a Steinway in all its pristine glory, in a place all to itself. The lid was opened to reveal the enormous acoustic chamber and the complex arrangements of the strings. The ceiling had sound enhancing ceiling tiles. It was a musical chamber.

As the first felt covered hammer hit the string and made it vibrate, the flood of sound erupted in the room. The ambience changed somehow. The trickle of light from the fading sun briefly intensified and then all was rhapsodic, moving, exploding governance of the mind. The rhythmical flow of his hands over the keyboard was magical, swaying like branches of a tree to the whims of the breeze, barely touching yet eliciting a pluck on the heartstring with every note. Beethoven’s Fur Elise the first classical lesson to any student of piano music was being unleashed as a symphonic masterpiece under his fingers. The room and everything within it became one with the sound and the piano enlarged to encase the space and time. He changed from A minor to C major to a G major key through the 4-minute musical interlude. The echoes still remained long after the last key had struck the string. He was pleased with the silence that followed, for he sat there for a while.
“Thank you," he said in quiet modesty. Then he reached inside the lid of the piano and with a felt covered hammer he tapped away at the interior, plink-plink-plink as the string took the hurt. “A little off,” he said. Pressing one of the black keys in concert with the hammering. “Now that sounds better.” As if what had just been played had not.
“You know that is how I knew something was wrong with me. I could feel the change inside of me. The melody changed and I knew something was amiss.”
“Yup. The body is like a finely tuned instrument. Any instrument, if it is out of tune you’ll know it.” He shrugged his shoulders as if it was a well-known matter-of-fact commonly visited issue of life.
“I have never heard Fur Elise any better than today and yet you felt a note was off slightly.”
“In my shoes any inharmonic plays out louder. It stands out.”
“I guess you’re ears are trained to hear any imperfection. But how did you know something was wrong inside of you?”
“Harmony is not only in sound but in your body too. It gives signals from time to time. I remember sitting in a cinema theater when I was 10 years old and my heart changed its rhythm. It happened several times and then it stopped when I got older. Oh it would happen again once in a great while after drinking coffee and all. That is when I started to listen to my body. Not in some paranoid, self absorbed, hypochondriac sort of way. I just knew when things were not in sync.”
“Any special symptoms.”
“Not really. A little tired maybe and the emotional rise from the music was muted. The stars were crossed. The alignment was off a little. This might sound weird but I felt disembodied.” He said and the width of both his hands hit the first few chords of Beethoven’s 5th. It was his way of saying enough about that with the flare of a concert pianist. Later the ride back to reality was filled with sounds and melodies reverberating in space. The story of his illness was an art form in self-diagnosis.

Two years ago, It was a sunny summers day. He had just come back from jogging. With sweat pouring and a hunger for air, he quenched his thirst with cold water but for some reason he could not get enough air. He felt unsteady on his feet a little. The hunger for air lingered ever so imperceptibly that another person would ignore and move on. His vision perfect for his contact lens eyes seemed just a hair off in acuity. That day he went for a physical. After all the tests had been run, he was granted a congratulatory “in perfect health” word banner. But something still was not quite right in his world. His conviction resisted the desire to agree. So he decided to challenge his physician, looking for a malady that would answer the infinitesimal discord in his body’s metronome. After further testing and much searching a small colon tumor the size of a walnut was found which was subsequently removed by minimally invasive surgery and voila all his symptoms abated. Harmony was restored.
The concert of life is played out in all the keys. The inharmonic key will stand out for the fixing if we learn to look for it. Listen to the melody.

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