Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Silver Cliff Part I: The Mandolin Man

Hey, Mr. Mandolin Man, play a song for me....apologies to Bob Dylan...

A couple of weeks ago we spent three days near Silver Cliff, a "wide spot in the road" quite far north of the city of Green Bay. It felt like I finished the week of vacation that was interrupted last time. This time there was no "public" to speak of, just a bunch of people (about 30 lodges) playing "make-believe" (see the post below--I used to like to do that and I guess I still do) and having fun together. Much2Ponder and her husband, Little Too Much, went too, as well as J. and M. who are new to our church but not to fur trade reenacting. Wisconsin's "north woods" consists of miles and miles of forest and an occasional meadow...dotted here and there by tiny towns. It extends across most of the northern areas of the state. We drove through deep woods to the site, a beautiful place far from lights and traffic and noise. More about that later, but this post is about The Mandolin Man.

The Mandolin Man is not singing here. He is concentrating.


One sunny morning I strolled down the row of lodges and heard music with an Irish lilt. I stopped, and there sat an old man who looked like he was too frail to stand up. His skin, which looks pink enough in the picture, was white like parchment. He sat under the awning of a small lodge, plucking a mandolin like a professional, along with a younger man playing a fiddle and another playing a guitar.

Intrigued, I stopped. The Mandolin Man was clearly in charge of the trio of musicians. He looked fragile, but charmingly dapper in his vest and derby. "May I sit and listen?" I asked. No response. He looked right at me, so I spoke a bit louder, "MAY I SIT DOWN?" No response. His wife kindly said, "He doesn't see you or hear you."

I thought that was strange, and I wondered how a blind and deaf man could still play together with others so beautifully. "Have a seat" she offered, and I did, tucking my long skirt around me on the wooden bench.

When the song ended the old man seemed to see me for the first time. "Hello! I beg your pardon, madam" he said. "When I play I see the song in my mind. I did not realize you were here. I see the notes; I see the frets and the strings of my mandolin; I see and I hear just the song, understand?" I didn't, but I said I did, to be polite. He was a delight to talk with, and he even, somewhat reluctantly, allowed me to inspect his instrument--a beautiful, custom-made and hand-painted creation of gleaming red wood . He breathed a soft sigh of relief when I gently handed it back to him. He told me he had been playing the old songs, Irish and Russian mostly, for many years. After about half an hour I reluctantly left, but I could hear the music as I walked back to our lodge.

Sitting by a fire that evening, I thought about his single-minded focus on his mandolin and his wonderful music. How could he not even see me?

My prayer, God, is that I may seek you first, with the same kind of focus. That I will see and hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. I don't want to shut people out, but I do want to be able to turn my heart to you with no distractions. I want you to mean so much to me that all else fades, like the old chorus says:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in his wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of his glory and grace.

And when that happens, Lord, may my life provide spiritual music as sweet and uplifting as the music of the Mandolin Man.

Amen

7 comments:

chartreuseova said...

I'm only familiar with a few of the notes of your life through your blogwriting, but I must say the music is beautiful and inspiring.

I hear the mandolin. I hear the Singing Owl. And I am blessed.

I join you in your prayer for focus. For you. For me.

His Singer said...

Amen, Sister.

Amen.

HeyJules said...

What a beautiful thought!

Jim said...

Your "mandolin man" probably has a form of autism. It covers a large spectrum, the high end of which is quite gifted in some areas and well able to function within society. Interaction with people can be difficult. After five years of Special Ed, I'm still slowly learning the term; but it's for sure I would have loved hearing him play that mandolin.....

SingingOwl said...

That thought passed my mind when he was describing how he "sees" but I dismissed it because I had no idea that people with autism could be so charmingly social as well. We should all be so gifted!
Interesting possibility.

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