Notes on a Journey

Last week, I went to California. I have been many times, and there’s definitely a piece of my heart that calls that state home.

My first piano teacher, who is now 82, met and began teaching me when I was three years old. Aside from my parents and grandparents and various relatives, she has known me longer than anyone else in the world, and over the years, she has become what I fondly call my “musical Mommy”. I had my mom for the usual mother-daughter stuff, but when it came to music, she didn’t have a lot of the answers I needed, and my teacher, Emily, filled that place.

I planned the trip to visit with Emily, and about two weeks before leaving, I was asked to make a presentation at a conference on teaching Braille music. Usually, one takes more than two weeks to prepare a presentation for an annual conference, but I stepped in for a friend who couldn’t do the presentation, and, fortunately, it’s a subject I know “a little” about!

So, I spent the first two days of my California stay with Emily. It was wonderful playing the piano I had grown up learning on, even if some of what I played was a bit rusty due to lack of practice. One of the last things I played on the first day was the Schubert Sonata in A Minor, D. 845. Emily had heard the final three movements of this the previous June on a visit to our home but had never heard the first from me. The piece has grown on me, and I feel a very strong connection to it.

Now, that connection has been heightened. When I finished playing the first movement, there was an exclamation of pure surprise and delight from the other room. If you’ve ever studied an art form with a teacher you respect over many years, you know that you can work an entire lifetime to receive something like that, and many times, we never will. As long as I live, I will never forget how I felt when I heard that response. I’d played the piece from my heart while being keenly aware of what the composer was trying to express in it, and it had gotten deep into the heart of someone else, someone who just happened to be a true friend to me.

I had also composed Emily’s “Soul Essence”, and knowing I had done that and had the chance to give it to her in person was also very, very important to me.

The conference, as conferences often are, was a whirlwind. The presentation went well (I’ll write more on this in another post). By Saturday night, most of us were beginning to feel a bit frazzled.

The whole week, more than anything else, was about making connections, and many were only possible because of music. Whether you speak the same language as another person or can’t understand a word they say; whether you read by looking at a page of printed letters or by running your fingertips over a series of raised dots: whether you call Christ your Savior or are a Buddhist monk, music is universal, and it’s one of the most powerful forms of communication we have. The same series of notes can affect thousands of people in thousands of different ways. Whether we hear it sitting in a living room, in a hotel conference lobby, or alone in our bed listening to a recording, music can spark something deep within us that bridges cultures, breaks down barriers, dispels misconceptions, and cuts to the heart of our humanity.

This trip, I was fortunate to be the giver of this kind of music on several occasions, but I was also the recipient. In the end, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re playing or listening. The only important thing is that you experienced it, paid attention, and knew enough to grab the preciousness of it and hang on even as life continues to sweep us onward in its relentless course.

Just as I said yesterday, we never know how many more moments, days, years or decades we have. This past week, as I was keenly made aware of how temporary we all are, I learned the lesson of making the most of each moment very deeply. We are all touched by sorrow and joy. We can all benefit by the love of another person, whether we have shared it for thirty years or we only pass it on in a thirty second handshake in an airport. To look out into the sea of people around us and realize that each and every one has a life story full of delight and despair, to know, as a healer, that your job isn’t to “fix” anyone but to show compassion, to stand as an example of universal love to all, to truly listen to what someone is saying “behind” their words … this week, perhaps more than anything over the last year, was an education for me.

Now, I have the daily busyness of returning to my “usual” life: unpacking, doing laundry, returning phone calls and E-mails, making arrangements for upcoming student events and my own recitals … the list goes on and on.

But each day, I hope to nurture one connection between myself and another person, whether it’s my husband or an acquaintance from church, someone I’m working with as a healer or as a piano teacher. It doesn’t matter, as long as I make the connection. Life is uncertain and unexpected. So I plan to make the most of it.

Explore posts in the same categories: Family and Friends, metaphysics, music, spirituality

4 Comments on “Notes on a Journey”

  1. ombudsben Says:

    Welcome back, Stephanie. It sounds like you had a good trip! I loved reading about the pups in your prior post, too.

  2. Glenn Says:

    Welcome home. Thanks for being a blessing to so many people!

  3. halfnotes Says:


    Thanks for the welcome. I think I was a bit surprised that Kiefer took the trip so hard. I thought he’d kind of relinquished some of his attachment to me and had bonded more with my husband. But I guess there’s no subsistute for me in his heart, and I’m certain that, even with Ecko now taking over guiding duties and traveling with me, there’s no subsistute in my heart for Kiefer, either. He’ll follow me if it takes every ounce of willpower he’s got. I can’t find the words to explain how wonderful and heartbreaking this feels all tangled up together. But anyone who’s had a longtime friend in a dog will understand completely.

  4. halfnotes Says:


    As much as I may have blessed others, I was also richly blessed. It’s amazing to see the seeds of things get planted. Then, as we go through life nurturing the relationships we have with others, they flower in unexpected and delightful ways.

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