Week 12: Bagpipes
Hear ye! The bagpipes:
Visiting my aunt and uncle in Utah last week, the topic of bagpipes came up. I don't know how, even though I was part of the conversation. I think my aunt might have mentioned her idea to start a family 'McDonald Marching Band' (my mother's a McDonald) and said she'd bought several practice chanters. (Practice chanters are bagpipe elementary school.)
My mother and I went to the ScotsFestival in February at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, and the bagpipes. The bagpipes! They were part of the reason I went, and, their notes carrying over to the parking lot, the first indication that we had arrived in the right place.
The sound of bagpipes has always wound it's way into my heart, along with the sound of the violin. They hold profound capacity to carry the depth of many human emotions, ranging from joy to sorrow, all at once.
My aunt did not know that I have an attraction to the bagpipes, and when I told her I wanted to join the yet unformed marching band too (I don't think anyone knows how to play bagpipes quite yet, or march), she gifted me a practice chanter!
This obviously caused joy, so after we went back to California on Sunday, on Monday and Tuesday we started looking for bagpipe teachers in the Los Angeles area.
Interestingly, no instructor came up in Google searches, although many professional bagpipes services for weddings, funerals, etc. did. Those professionals had to learn somewhere, or be teachers themselves, right? Still, nothing came up.
On Wednesday, my mother took her friend's dogs to the park. It's a wooded park, across from my high school. And she heard music, emanating through the trees.
She thought it was coming from my high school - a student practicing (although I don't remember bagpipers in those good ole days of yore). Then, she chanced upon a man playing his pipe in the park. Practicing.
I'm not kidding. In all these years in this town, neither of us have ever heard a bagpiper practicing, in the park or elsewhere.
He told her the name and website of his teacher, John. (http://bagpipetamer.com) I emailed John the same night, and now, a week later, I have taken my first bagpipe lesson. Only in the next town over.
John is a natural teacher, and he told me people would tell me I am crazy for taking up the bagpipe when I have not formally played an instrument before. Still, he doesn't mind - really, he seems as enthusiastic to teach me as I am to learn.
I've been rummaging through my Celtic heritage more and more, and I know that this bagpipe adventure is happening so fluidly because the instrument is more than just a pretty sound to me. Through it, I feel connected to my ancestors, and that means a lot to me.
By some grace, relatives of mine traced our mutual family history directly back to the early 1800s. They published an informal, 2-part book in 1993.
In 1846, my great-great-great-grandfather Andrew McDonald immigrated from the county of Kilkenny, Ireland to Quebec, Canada. He soon married Amelia Walsh, daughter of a Scotsman and an Irishwoman, and they went on to have Michael, my great-great-grandfather, and so forth. My ancestors preceding Andrew were Scottish Highlanders, and likely came to Ireland in the 1770s and 1780s.
The idea of living off the land is so appealing to me, and knowing that part of our line came from people living off the mountains is...it makes my heart soar. I wonder if the part of me that is so called to that lifestyle is preserved through the bloodline, because even in the generations since then - and I am so fortunate to have access to their names, grainy pictures of their faces, and even some of their stories, going back to the mid-1800s - my mother's father's side of the family has always held deep connection to the land.
Anyways, the bagpipes - I love the sound, and more than that, there is a deeper part of me that is doing this for my heritage and for my ancestors. It's accessing a part of myself that I've never spent time with before.
And second, the incomprehensible synchronicity of life...to offer us what it does and what we need.
I can think of so many things I want - things and experiences that don't melt into my life anywhere near as fluently as this has, and sometimes not at all.
Some of those things (a lot) are superfluous, and some of them are deeply seated in my heart but don't come easily, and for those I have lessons to learn in fighting for them. Then some things - what we call 'synchronicity' - fall right in line, like my riding and my bagpipe lessons, and lately, so many others also.
BUT. The operations and undercurrents are still as in play when things are clashing - going wrong - as when we have breakthroughs. Those trying experiences have a different flavor and don't feel 'in the flow,' but that doesn't mean synchronicity is not behind the churning nuts and bolts.
I don't know why hard things happen, why we sometimes are ungranted what we, at heart, yearn for. Sometimes, we learn hard-earned lessons down the road, sometimes we eventually receive what we crave, and sometimes we suffer in pain for a long time...only guessing at the why of what we can't make sense of. I don't know why other experiences happen so 'effortlessly,' even when they are fully unanticipated.
Why the cards fall in line, at times, so perfectly, I don't know, but I do believe that they are always shuffling in a synchronizing way, even when we are dealt what we might call a bad hand. And I am, of course, grateful for the ebb and flow of ease...when we don't effort to 'make things happen' and they still happen, when we yield to life while maintaining inner integrity.
I am also grateful to the lessons learnt by choosing the difficult path when it is the right path. Traversing that plain gives way to a life where meaningful currents of ease become abundant...even as the difficulties of our challenges also increase.
I feel grateful for living a life of negotiating tension and release - allowing them to find balance, and grace, in turn, finding me.