September 2012 021

The boys and I have been playing lots of piano lately. (Or I should say: I play while one bounces on my lap and the other bangs on the bass or slams on the treble, depending on his inspired accompaniment.)

During the day we play all the old favorites, the childhood standbys: This Old Man, The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, every tune Woody Guthrie ever dreamed up. The toe-tapping, hand-clapping, doesn’t-matter-if-mama-messes-up-that-key-change-we’re-rolling music that I always dreamed would come when we had a piano in the house.

But at night, after the winter sky sinks dark and the boys are wrapped in bed, I’ve been sneaking down to play alone.

Foot pressed down on the damper pedal so I don’t wake them, I settle into my own old favorites: the Beethoven and Mozart of high school, the Rachmaninoff and Chopin of college. A practice equal parts delightful and frustrating; nothing so humbling as seeing how quickly skill slips away without careful attention.

If I want to sit down and race through a piece without thinking, I’m stuck back around 9th grade for now. To tackle anything I touched in college, I have to take a deep breath and go slow, no matter the marking. Lentissimo.

And if I do slow my rhythm down, slow way down, painfully slower than my normal pace, then and only then do my fingers relax into what they can handle. My mind relaxes, too, slipping back into the deep memory of what these fingers still know: the tricky passages, the troublesome chords. My hands, my feet, my whole body can remember how to play, but only if I slow way down. Lentissimo.

What do I bring to Lent this time around? What do I crave, what do I need? Where is God’s call to go deeper, draw closer?

What might I find if I slow way down into the space set apart, step out of life’s ever-tempting swirls of more-more-more and remember how often I encounter God when I do less?

What would happen if I go lentissimo into Lent this year, simply slow down and let my mind, body, spirit and soul re-remember their way in this world?

It’s aggravating work, this deliberate halting, this restraint of a racing mind and antsy fingers. Lent is aggravating, too, when done right. Why not just binge on chocolate and gorge on Facebook and neglect prayer and forget about justice and ignore the nagging thought of millions of millions who will not settle into such a peaceful sleep as mine tonight?

Lent is humbling, hard work. I need to go slowly and deliberately into these forty days, if I go at all. Lentissimo.

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