Who will be the future apprentices—the ones who will put in the time? Hammer the metal one thousand blows to make the perfect horseshoe? These are things I think about when I despair about smart phones and sound bytes and plastic debris filling the oceans.
When my daughter was six she asked to take fiddle lessons. In order to help her learn and practice, I took lessons too. I had latent fantasies about being the next Natalie MacMaster. We went to lessons. We squanked and squeaked. We progressed and played publicly a few times. We weren’t on a meteoric path to the big stage, but we did have fun and we learned the value of sticking with something. Around middle school she gave it up, and I lingered on for another year after that and then gave up lessons too. I haven’t played for several years, but my fingers can still remember many different tunes if I sit down and try.
The truth is, I realized that—much as I wanted to be a good fiddle player—the effort needed for me to progress was keeping me from the creative work I really wanted to do.
My apprenticeship lay elsewhere, and I didn’t have time for both disciplines.
As I get older the lesson of the fiddle pops up over and over. As does the vital truth that being good at something requires hours of time, discipline, failure and learning. And here I am, still making things with my hands and the tools at hand. Some days the result is better than others, but the triumphs are built on the work.
Today I put on my 50 mm lens and gathered lilacs, violets, lily of the valley and the first blooming centaurea montana. The fragrant world was calling to be photographed, close-up, with low depth of field.
My daughter didn’t become a fiddle sensation, but she has spent hours, days, months and years working with somewhat wild horses. This is her calling and her chosen apprenticeship. We may not be the fiddlers, but the music plays on while we continue in our labors.