My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A lesson learned in the garden about practicing

Sometimes we learn important lessons from the oddest places.  In this case, my lightbulb moment occurred in our garden while doing my least favorite chore, weeding.*  First, some background...

I have a bit of a history of weeding.  My mother taught me early on the value of weeding, conning me into doing this dirty work by offering to pay me 5 cents for every weed I pulled that still had its roots.  Even though it was hard work, I ended up making quite a bit of money with this deal.  And my mother?  Well, she didn't have to pull weeds for at least several years - smart woman!

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Now fast-forward 25 years or so and picture this.  I'm kneeling in the dirt, gardening gloves on the ground next to me, and I'm faced with entirely too many weeds because, well, I kind of procrastinated.  Anyway, at first my technique is flawless...I take my handy dandy tool and carefully dig around the weed, being careful not to cut the stem.  Every couple of seconds, I gently hold on to the stem near the ground and pull with a small wiggling movement back and forth.  If I sense that I've dug down far enough I continue this action until voila! - out comes the weed, roots and all.  I do this with about 4 or 5 weeds and then what happens?  My oh-so-careful weeding technique begins to evolve into more of an impatient activity rather than a delicate science.  After a few minutes of improper weeding something occurs to me - that if I continue down this path, I will have completely wasted my time.  In a few weeks those roots that remain in the ground because of my impatience and laziness, will sprout yet another weed that will need to be pulled.  I will have accomplished virtually nothing except for a few days of weedlessness.  

Hmmm...the dilemma I faced in the garden, confronted with all of those nasty weeds, is somewhat akin to what we as musicians face when we are practicing and hit upon a problem spot.  We can either choose to carefully analyze what is going wrong and then thoughtfully solve the problem, pulling the weeds out with their roots intact so that we are less likely to ever see them in that exact same spot again.  Or we can just reach in and yank the weeds out at the surface, solving the problem for a little while, but setting ourselves up for a garden still full of weeds.  Hmmm...

So here's my summertime question for you: faced with a flowerbed full of weeds, what would you choose to do?  Pull them roots and all, which might take a bit more time, or just yank those suckers out and be back in your cozy house in no time at all?  Or perhaps I should put it this way: when it comes to performance time, would you rather have a clear flowerbed of a mind, or one full of potential weeds?


*What's with the term, "weeding"?  It has bothered me ever since I was a wee one.  I had a good laugh while reading Amelia Bedelia Helps Out to my daughter the other day.  Amelia decided that weeding meant planting weeds in a bed of flowers.  Very funny!

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