When I was a little girl, I sat down at my cousin’s piano for the first time and simply played it.
I played actual music, before I had ever taken a lesson….before I had ever seen music written on a page.
I knew which keys to play, because the music was already in my head. Music was my escape. I used it to transport myself to wherever I needed to be when the burdens of childhood were too much to bear. To this day, it plays an enormously important role in my life.
I would often ride my horse along the Canadian River in the hot Oklahoma sun, from early in the morning until just before sunset. Horseback riding and thinking about music were two of the things that made me happiest. As I rode along the river, I remember wishing that I had a piano right there on the sandy river bed. After visiting the Pacific Ocean, the fantasy grew to be one about playing the piano beside the ocean. This is a fantasy that I would daydream about endlessly before going to sleep, or during those pleasant, quiet moments that one has when alone.
In 1993, I saw the magnificent film, The Piano, and in my dreams, I virtually became Holly Hunter in this scene. I would think about playing piano by the ocean endlessly after that. At the time this film was released, I owned a beautiful Yamaha concert grand piano that I had gotten from Sam Taylor, who was ZZ Top’s video producer. I went home after seeing this film for the first time, and played this song from beginning to end. I have always been able to play by ear, and was so moved by this scene that I instantly memorized Michael Nyland’s beautiful song. Although I sold my piano when we moved to Massachusetts about 15 years ago, I’m willing to bet I could still play this.
Please watch this little video clip:
All this, is leading to what happened to me a few days ago near Half Moon Bay in California. The sun was bright and I was walking along a ledge above the Pacific, shooting some pictures. A crazy skywriter was buzzing above in the azure sky, writing words of love for all to see. He was a real daredevil, flying faster than the wind, going straight up, straight down and looping to make the letters of the words he was writing.
I doubted the day could be more perfect….but that was before I came upon a stand of reeds that were swaying in the breeze. When I looked beyond the reeds, my heart almost stood still, and I was unable to suppress the joy I felt from head to toe. This is what I saw:
There, contrasted against the majesty of the Pacific Ocean, was this old piano….waiting for me. As it turned out, artist, Mauro Ffortissimo and a team of supporters had installed 12 pianos in idyllic oceanside perches on the San Mateo County coast from Waddell Creek on the Santa Cruz County border up to Gray Whale Cove near Devil’s Slide. At the time, I was not aware of this. All I knew was that my dream of playing the piano by the oceanside was about to come true.
This piano had many broken keys and rusty strings, but at that moment, it was the most beautiful instrument in the world. When I played, the music sounded like nothing, really, because it was so old and broken. However, this piano became my best friend. The music came from my heart, and as I played each key, I felt so honored to have been granted that moment in time. As I played, I thought of my beloved cousin, Stevie, and how he would have loved his whole scenario, had he lived to witness it. I thought of my cousin, Daina, who also plays piano, and knew that she would have felt the same kind of joy that I had felt that day. I thought of my old love, and wished we could take time out just to share this moment. I thought of another musician friend who struggles through life today, but who always manages to find something to smile about. I thought of Holly Hunter, and felt thankful for the art that is, “The Piano”.
I would just like to say, “Thank you!” to that old piano. You gave me one of the best days I have ever had.