Just in case you need suggestions for how to pass a Sunday afternoon, listening to your sister practice piano is a delightful option.
In addition to being the center of academic learning, our family's homeschool room is the location for Daddy's 100-ish year old upright piano. It has been part of my life since I was about four years old and each of my siblings and myself has spent time sitting on the bench plunking out keys for our own amusement while Daddy plays his repertoire of hymns and praise choruses. He didn't play very often because of a very busy schedule, but we all recognized the sound of the heavy lid rolling back into the piano as the cue to come dance around the living room and sing. Such is life with little girls.
Of the eight of us children, five have taken at least a year of piano lessons. Anna and Emma are the only ones who are currently sticking with that instrument, the rest of us are hoping to develop talent in other musical areas. Between two people who take lessons, the others who occasionally like to pretend they know how to play, and Daddy, Anna, and myself preparing for church worship music, the piano bench has been kept very warm over the last few years. It is still fun when Daddy plays, but Anna is our primary accompanist and resident soloist. She is the one of our family who is the most gifted when it comes to her particular instrument.
When Anna touches those keys, something wonderful happens. The rest of us sit down and read notes and a melody and that is all we play. Anna turns the notes into a living, breathing entity. Her fingers infuse the melody with emotion and make it into something memorable.
This afternoon, I was thumbing through one of her piano books and found an arrangement called "Longing" that came at out of George Winston's "Autumn" album. I hadn't heard the piece, but seeing as it fit our current time of the year, I asked if she'd try it. She wasn't familiar with it either, but still sight-read it beautifully. Wistfulness and poignancy began wafting through the air and I was again left wondering how music is capable of expressing and provoking emotion. What is it about mere notes and sounds that makes me so intoxicatingly happy in the present moment and yet makes me yearn for something else, something more?
C.S. Lewis accurately describes the emotion through the character of Psyche in "Till We Have Faces": "It was when I was happiest that I longed most. .. And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche, come! But I couldn't (not yet) come and I didn't know where I was to come to. It almost hurt me. I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home."
Is it the longing for heaven? For home? For the beauty there that makes this world seem like a scanty reflection? For the joy that will be beyond anything I can know here? A reminder that I have not yet attained it? Is it the smallest taste of what is to come?
"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Romans 8:22-25