Today I went to an event, a gathering of people. It was fun. I talked to people. I laughed.
But I was so exhausted when it was over with. I felt somewhat pushed down into the ground, not fully myself.
That’s how I feel a lot of times when I’m with people for a while. There’s effort there, and it makes me tired. Not that I don’t like to be around people–I do. I love being with friends, making new friends, learning from people, and making that effort. But sometimes it’s hard.
I came home, and I went to the store to pick up some pictures and something for my mom. Then I went to the church building and into the chapel. I turned on the lights. I walked up to the organ, and I slid the lid off.
I put on organ shoes, and I turned it on. I realized I was alone, and no one could hear me, so I pushed down almost all the stops (each stop is related to a specific set of pipes or a specific sound).
I took AP music theory in high school, and we learned about chord progressions. That is some of the most useful stuff I have ever learned. I can pick out a key on the piano (my favorite is E flat), and just play. No music or direction. Just me and my invented melodies, the chord progressions, and whatever happens to come out.
My sister taught me the organ a few summers ago. I played a few hymns, worked on some technique. At church, I would practice pedaling the bass line with my feet.
Last week, I sat down at the organ and I didn’t want to play hymns. I didn’t want to work on technique. I just wanted to play–without music, without direction. I discovered improvising.
I was free today to play whatever I wanted to. I love the huge sound of an organ. At first, I played in G major, a key that to me sounds grand and assured. Then I switched all the stops, calming the sound down, making it soothing. I switched the key to E major.
I sat there and played for an hour. I made stuff up. I improvised on a few hymns. It didn’t sound really great, but my playing took my exhausted self and made it light. I kept playing and playing because I felt happy. I felt like me.
There are certain things that make it easy for me to live. They recharge my system. They inspire me to do better. Improvising on the piano and especially the organ is one of those things. Writing is one of those things. Walking around and taking photographs. Reading a really good book. Gardening, sometimes. Pruning trees. Running.
They are all solitary. They enable me to face the world. The give me the energy I need to interact with people. They make me feel connected to the right things. They build up who I am. They allow me to let myself be happy.