Wonder 24



What a help Charlie is around the house! No surprise–he’s always been considerate and helpful, even when he was a little kid, and now that he’s a teen, he’s capable of actually helping, rather than getting in the way with a smile.

The day after Mae’s birthday, I insisted that Charlie take a break from chores.

“I know you really want to work on that song you’re composing,” I told him. “Do it! Leave the dishes to me.”


My secret is that doing the dishes is one of my greatest joys. It grounds me. I walked through the yard, gathering the plates, cups, and forks resting on every flat surface, and I felt the earth beneath my feet, the bay-cooled air on my arms, the scent of poppies and wildflowers, the weight of the stack of dishes in my hand: I felt myself settle into me. It’s my selfish pleasure, not a chore.

Charlie joined me for lunch.

“What’s on the agenda for this afternoon, spud?” I asked him.

“I finished that piece, the quadrille,” he said. “Maybe I’ll write another.”


“Do you want to?”

“Not particularly. I don’t feel that special inspiration yet.”

“Maybe you could help me,” I suggested. “I want to improve my bowing.”



We talked about violin technique. Charlie said that his teacher stressed bow angles, but that he always felt that breathing was more important.

“It’s fundamental,” he said. “Think about it: you’re part of the instrument. Its sound waves travel through you, through those spaces in your bones, even. So if you’re tense and not breathing, then the sound will be tense, too. You gotta learn to relax. That’s a thousand times more important than the angle at which you’re holding the bow.”

“Everything’s like that, don’t you think, Chazzie?”

He thought for a moment.


“I guess so,” he said at last. “I was thinking about futebol. First I was thinking that I needed to be tense to play, but my coach is always shouting at us to relaxe. And think about how Pai plays, total relaxation.”

“I’m always relaxed when I’m painting,” I said.


Chazzie insisted on doing the dishes, and while he cleaned up, I lay back on the bed, looking up at the ceiling and tracing the pattern of the elephant I always find in the plaster. The elephant looks relaxed–his trunk is drooping, ears sagging.

When I relax, I feel calm in my stomach, so then when I get a creative urge, and I feel it traveling up through the soles of my feet, there’s no obstacle in the way. It just flows right through to my arms, through my paintbrush and onto the canvas.

Now to learn to do that while playing the violin.

“Relax, breathe!” Chazzie said.


It’s hard to do when the music sounds so bad!

<< Previous | Next >>