The First Note

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There is this feeling when I sit down to write. It is an odd mix of excitement and nerves. It is similar, in my memory, to getting ready for a big performance. While I have performed in a variety of different methods, from dancing in talent shows to public speaking, I particularly recall this exact feeling during piano recitals. I remember sitting down at a grand piano on a small stage. In a dark room, shining with large spotlights so bright it felt like I could not see into the audience. Although, admittedly, it may have just been the tears of pressure forming in my eyes. 

Lined up in a row with my fellow performers, I always wanted to look my best. I wore a slightly uncomfortable formal dress pressed so neatly that I was afraid to move. I would sit through all the performances silently, praying that nobody had prepared the same song, because nothing would be worse than a direct comparison to my nervous playing. 

When it became my turn, I was keenly aware that I did not spend nearly enough time practicing. I would always promise to practice more if only I could make it through this one performance, much like the prayer before you sit down at the dentist… I swear I will floss every day if I do not have any cavities today. Walking up to the piano, I would start to falter, and no matter how much confidence I had in my memory, there was always a brief moment when my hands hovered above the keys and just shook. 

At that exact moment, I would take a breath, close my eyes, and hope I hit the first note correctly. Even the memory has me sweating slightly. Then, I would simply play. 

I only played piano for three or four years. It was simply too much pressure for my little self to take. Yet, I still remember vividly, the first time someone complimented my playing. It was my final performance. I played a piece I had been working on for years and chose to play it from memory. A fellow student came up to me, her mother in tow, and they both, dare I say, gushed over my playing. 

I was overwhelmed with feelings, first shock, then excitement, then a little bit of stress. The shock came from the fact that they did not notice my shaking hands, the slightly off-timing, or the single missed note that rattled in my brain like nails on a chalkboard. The excitement was pure; somebody other than my mother enjoyed my playing! Followed then by stress, and the realization that someone was listening to me play. I had not been playing in an empty room. 

From my elementary years playing the simple piano, this story eerily mirrors my adult years writing this article. I still feel the shock, the excitement, and then the stress every time someone mentions my stories. People are reading what I write (and liking it!) 

To me, it feels like this season in the garden also follows the same flow. The spring is the gardens way of putting on a grand performance. I can tell that the Garden Corner is getting ready to perform, and this time, I get to be in the audience for a change. 

As I quietly sip my coffee, the sun shines down like a bright spotlight. The plants pay no attention to those of us watching. They are getting dressed in their finest leaves, shaking off the dust of winter. New arrivals come rolling in every week, lining up along the tables. Each plant is ready to put on an entirely different show, certain that no other bloom will play the same spring song. 

I cannot tell you if the plants get nervous, or if they wish they had practiced their growing earlier. Although, in my mind, there are a few varieties of plants that could use a little more confidence. This is the season where they are steadying their breath, closing their eyes, and getting ready to grow. 

Some will play beautifully, and we will enjoy their performance. Others will stay cute and small, and we will appreciate their efforts. Others will still make mistakes, and we recommend they try again next year. One thing is for certain: I do know that I will thoroughly enjoy watching as they hover silently in the yard, building a little hum of excitement, all waiting for the one of them who hits that first note: spring is here.