Maria Skinner

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Archive for November, 2009

Mi Guitarra Y Yo

Last weekend  I got myself a guitar after 20 some-odd years of telling myself I am too old to start.  My son, Samuel, got his trumpet a month ago and every time I saw him take it out,  I felt something like jealousy. Or maybe envy. You know, those two sister emotions that one should never feel and certainly not about their son. Sam is 9. He can sing like an angel, a rowdy angel, and he has music in his blood. I can see it when he moves and when he talks. I keep telling him he was made to make music? Or am I talking about myself.  Could this have been me projecting my unlived self onto him? Parents do that, right?

A long time ago, in San Francisco, I went on a date with a sexy Cubano who played trumpet and spent a good hour of our evening insisting I make a sound come out of that horn. I spent about 50 minutes of that hour in deep belly laughter, with him saying we were not going anywhere until I played that thing. He played for me too that night. And it was the best part of the date. I left not wanting him as much as wanting his trumpet.

However, when I hear the soundtrack of my life, it is not a trumpet I hear. The sound I hear is a guitar.  Sometimes it sounds like a Spanish guitar, sometimes it’s Bossa Nova, but it is most certainly that strumming, plucking sound is what moves me through my world.

I played guitar for a short time in elementary school. Puff the Magic Dragon lives somewhere in my memory soup.  That guitar was a rental from PS206 in Queens, NY and I had to give it back. In my pre-teens, came piano lessons with Ms.Kost who had two inch long fingernails and really bad breath. Yikes! In both cases, I just did not practice enough. I was happier running around and dancing, moving my body.  As I let go of playing instruments and became the dancer, music became my partner rather than something I was making. I was making things happen with the music. And when that choice was made to partner rather than create, I began to get attracted to men who were the music makers.

I look at my chart and I see this, Neptune square Mars, Mars trine  Jupiter. All the men who drew me where artistic musical spiritual beings, but in true projection form, they were also a little warped. Drugs and alcohol, the disillusioned brothers of escapist bliss, were often present along with the guys. And instead of being drawn into playing with them, I was drawn into the world of substance abuse with them.

I went out with guitar players and drummers and pianists. I listened to them practice, sometimes danced to their sounds, and always, wanted to PLAY with them. But in the end, I could neither enter the world of jamming  nor  the drug world they were in for very long. Just in case you ever want to try it, dancing and drugs just do not mix. And when the guys were  gone, what I missed the most was the music and being in that space of play.

When I reminisce, I can remember each boy or man by the music he turned me on to.  One man, who was quickly in and out of my life, took me to both my one and only Grateful Dead concert and to see Cachao, the dinosaur of the mambo. Barry played guitar, congas and keyboard. The music he made touched me so deeply. He would make me listen to something he was composing and show me how he had created the layers of sound. I was so embryonic then, and felt like he was giving me the key to some kind of heaven that I would never understand.

Mark was a electric guitar player who loved Pat Matheney and Brian Eno. He was one of those men I loved to BE with, wanted to melt into and be in music with, but when it came to the light of day, we really had nothing to talk about.  We had a strange on and off relationship, he lived in NYC and I lived in San Francisco. One day he called me from a rave and said, “Now I understand what you feel when you dance. I get it!” And during that call, I could feel the center of the earth connect with the center of the universe through him. That deep resonance, that deep connection to what united us inside and out is something I will never forget. Mark lives inside me in this way.

The sexual/spiritual connection I felt with Mark and have always had with music is something I prize above all else in my life.  There is a place I can get to that is so private and intimate and yet so connected to God there that when I experience it with others, I almost feel shy. Like I am too exposed.  I have felt this with men I have danced with as well, sometimes being overwhelmed by the waves of passion and grace. Drugs, sex and rock’n’roll, there is a reason why these go together. But rather than these being the end-all, they are simply the symbols for something much deeper and sober. They are the way in which we, in these modern times connect to that place where we are all ONE guided by rhythm and motion and love.  I know this now. After years of wondering why the “real” men always left me wanting, I know that the connection that I have looked for outside of me has always been inside of me. But as with many other artistic endeavors, it requires reflection and manifestation to truly satisfy. And sometimes, it requires companionship.

Carlos Rosas, one of the co-creators of the Nia Technique and one of my most influential teachers brought me another piece of this puzzle. After teaching and practicing Nia for 10 years, I had this realization that he had been teaching us to beomce the instrument. Body as instrument. Honing awareness and organic skill, the ability to guide my body where I want it to go and yet also being an open empty vessel, ready to move and be moved by the sounds and silences in music and in life.

Also,  from Nia came the value of practice. I have seen how staying with something that I love has truly brought me to this place of mastering the work.  I feel ease and relaxation when I am sharing and teaching Nia. And this comes from hour and hours given to solitude and repetition and study of the Nia Technique. When I am teaching now, I feel like I am crafting with some fine tools.  Somehow, this realization brought me back to why not get a guitar? It took me 13 years to get here, I have at least that many years to devote to playing an instrument…

This past Sunday morning, I woke up to a voice in my head ayaing “today, you get your guitar.” I was overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude. I found my acoustic guitar at Daddy’s Junky Music just a few hours later. It called to me when I walked in the door. I walked straight to it. And as I took it out of it’s case when I got home, I wanted to cry. Why did I wait so long to do something so simple?

I am playing with it every day. I know I will learn in an organic way how to have my relationship with it. But I feel in me already the need to hone my skills. To get to a place where I can use my fine tool in the same way I use my body to move through space.

When I first became an astrologer, I had a good friend who also was learning astrology and was also an amazing guitar player (incidentally), and I said to her one day with pleading eyes, ” I love astrology so much, I hope I always have it in my life.” She looked at me gravely and said, ” If you love it, you will keep learning and you will always have it in your life. And one day you will be masterful.” It seemed like such a simple thing to say, but those words have stayed with me through so many things I fell in love with and came to hone my skill in.

I hear her words again with my guitar in hand. As Chad, my husband ever the pragmatist,  said when he saw me pull it out of it’s case that first day, “We’ll see how you are with it  in 6 months”, and there really is no way to know for sure. But I am definitely on my way back into myself.