Guitar, guitar everywhere – nor any chance to pick.
That bastardized line from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner described my situation a couple of weeks ago: my wife and kids had bought me a beautiful, brand-new Taylor guitar for my 40th birthday, but I wasn’t allowed to play it.
OK, I wouldn’t allow myself to play it.
We spent my birthday weekend in a tent at a rustic campground in Kananaskis, y’see, and I wasn’t about to expose a high-quality, precision instrument like my new Taylor to campfire smoke, rain and flankers (a Newfie word for small, red-hot hunks of burning wood that pop out of the firepit when logs crackle), in the dark when I was enjoying a few beers. A recipe for damage, methought…
So when my family presented me with the guitar, I looked at it, gushed, swooned, said thanks a dozen times, strummed it once and then promptly put it back in its case and in the trunk of our car, where it stayed for the next three days!
Play me, Baldy. Pluck my strings. Slide your fingers up and down my fretboard. I want you to make me sing …
… and so on.
Instead of the Taylor, I was stuck playing my usual campfire guitar – a junior-sized Yamaha that’s small and light, cheap and durable, and therefore ideal for the great outdoors. For its size and pricetag, it’s a pretty good guitar, and I’ve never regretted buying it. But playing Campy when you have a Taylor with you is like choking down an under-marinated flank steak when you’ve got a stack of tenderloin in the fridge.
Still, I stuck to my guns – or my axes, in this case. I played and sang our favorite campfire tunes – an eclectic assortment of country, folk and rock, from Crazy Train to The Rainbow Connection – for an hour or two each night we were there. It was great fun. We enjoyed some wonderful hikes and prepared some tasty food; in general, the weekend provided what was probably the best camping trip I’ve ever had. What a great way to turn 40.
And yet, the whole time a small part of me was pining for my Taylor. But as we were packing up to leave on the Sunday morning, God reminded me that Campy’s still got something to offer.
An older fella from the next campsite came over to thank me for the music. He’d previously been pretty outdoorsy, but this was his first camping trip in a long time. As he explained it, he’d ‘dropped dead’ four years earlier, presumably of heart disease, but he didn’t specify. It had been a long road back, but he was finally healthy enough to go camping again. His adult son meticulously planned the trip for himself and his dad, and they were having a great time. They overdid it with the hiking on Saturday, and went to bed early. As they were bunking down for the night in their tent, they were enjoying the music Campy and I were providing. But soon after, I put down my guitar for a while to have a snack or something. He thought I was done for the night and was disappointed.
About 10 minutes later, I picked up Campy again, and played a bunch more songs. The neighbor guy had been a musician at some point in his life, and said on Sunday morning that he used to play a lot of the same material I’d fumbled my way through the night before, and it brought back some great memories for him. I was just doing my thing, but it made my neighbor’s day.
And then he made mine, when he took the time to walk up to a stranger and say thanks for a gift that wasn’t even intended for him.
At least not by me …
‘People don’t say thanks for the little things often enough anymore,’ he said in explanation.
He’s right. We don’t. Let’s do better.
Peace be with you.