>Violinist in the Subway
A man sat at the L’ Enfant Plaza subway station in Washington DC and started to play the violin. It was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes, starting with the difficult Chaconne in D-minor. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the violin case and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes after that, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for something.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy.
His mother tugged him along but the kid stopped to look at the violinist and listen anyway. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time to look back.This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32,17. When he finished playing after 43 minutes and silence took over, no one noticed.
No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this but the musician was Joshua Bell, one of the foremost violinists in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written… with a Stradivari once played by Fritz Kreisler, worth 3.5 million dollars. Two days before playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the ticket prices averaged $100 each.
Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the subway, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities. The outlines were this: In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we even perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?
Today I realized that macrame is still around – a special group in Ravelry and plenty of sites on the Internet. It reminded me of the sixties and early seventies, when macrame was hot and if you did not sport a planter in your living space you did not qualify for being hip, as it was called back then. I taught myself with the help of the useful book The Ashley Book of Knots – 3000 of them. And there was “Far beyond the Fringe“, hinting at the extremely popular, totally crazy 60s series “Beyond the Fringe“. For the girls I macramed a rope tent, hung from the ceiling. Never made a pot hanger though. The pictures shows one of six napkin rings I made for my Mom in 1972, the colors matched her tea china. It is about 40 cm long and held the napkin in the wooden ring; once the napkin was taken out it served as a table decoration.
>Sizing Down – this does not refer to reducing my pack-rat yarn stash, oh no! And books cannot be thrown out anyway, they have an invisable pass-on label stuck to them right at the time of their purchase.
But I am actually disposing of things, passing them on or channeling them to suitable recycling places: stacks of decades-old newspaper clippings with then important news. Recipes I never made. Letter openers. Old calendars. That magnificent pen that doesn’t smudge but has no refill, unless I use it to make a more hand-friendly crochet hook. Fabrics I had saved for decades to make just that dress. My first ca. 1950 camera, an Agfa Box, in perfect working condition but no available films any more, such as with our Polaroid camera from the late sixties – the production of suitable films ceased this year.
Sizing down a library – almost as impossible as reducing my yarn stash. There are antique books, classics and modern literature. There is National Geographic, every issue since 1965. I set some books free on Bookcrossing but sadly the finders did not continue the thread – now I will take some to the Village of Books (Wiki). Favorites will go into the library of a friend who is planning his years of the third life-cycle – for him I create a list of all books I want to donate. And many will find a home with family members.
And while noting down title and author I noticed that so many books claim “The Greatest Novel of Our Time”. Our time, a vague and continually changing concept. Many great novels of their time remain as such only in the minds of their also aging readers. For everything there is a season…
Sizing down on china – now that is a really worthy project! All those candle stick holders, small vases, little pots of enormous variety, the umpteenth coffee mug, all precious and wonderful gifts from dear friends and nice visitors. How to keep all this? Downsizing gifted things is most difficult, 40 years of hanging on accrued substantial cubics of items. And alas, once we have passed away that little crystal-cut vase for violets will not be remembered as a special birthday gift from my mother who sent it to me when I was an Au-pair girl in England. The postage itself was so high she must have thrown all thrifty thoughts to the wind at that special moment when she mailed it to me.
So I am leaving small vases, little pots, candle stick holders, mugs and the odd cup and plate on the vendor tables during the occasional flee-market, vide-grenier, Flohmarkt for others to pick up and have their own story behind their finds. I leave them on park benches with fresh flowers in them or gift-wrapped and filled with flower seeds from my garden. I ask family and friends to take their pick – and so the china stash lives on somewhere else!
I am also adamant, or at least try to be, about NOT buying any more things that I do not REALLY need to STASH – with the yarn and book exception, of course.
Clothing: T-Shirts – just how many do I wear in comparison to what I have? Heavy Jeans a tad too big – will I grow into them again? I doubt it. Age-shrinkage has set in. Shoes: a big foot size with a yearning for elegant heels… long since given up and passed on to ladies with a penchant for balance.
Definitely living on with me are those shawls and shrugs and wraps that defy style, age and fashion. They are indeed ageless and never go out of style and fashion, at least if they were not made under the constraints of an annual fad. A perfect example are freeform garments, on the forefront of those the lovely non-patterns by the Queen of Free-Spirited Colors, Jane Thornley.
Pictures and photographs – now there are difficult decision to make. I started putting names and dates on the back of old family photographs, lest I forget or the children have no notion of who that person in the picture was and what was the occasion. Unless they are in scrapbooks, pictures of general interest simply go into boxes, labeled year-wise, or approximately so. Pictures that would mean nothing to anybody else but me find burial in the paper bin.
An age process, I suppose, of which one becomes more aware with every year past 65 or so. Starting to seriously face the prospect of eventually leaving a larger space in exchange for various and continually smaller ones. So I am parting with things the way I want to, a slow denuding process to be sure, but bit by bit… The pack-rat behavior of a child having grown up during war and post-war times, when one just hung on to everything irrespective of its inherent worth, has changed to the desire to do without.
On travels one now commits impressions only to memory, knowing full well that this is and will also be a transient process. But what more vivid impression is there to take but a 360° view of a wonderful landscape? The green lushness framing a waterfall on the Big Island of Hawaii? Listening to baroque music played in a park on a summer evening? The sight of Indian women walking along village streets wearing nivi-style sarees of stunning colors, the enrapturing red color scape of hues of a sunset on the walls of a village in Morocco… all this would be hard to capture with a mere picture anyway, as all these events touch all senses.