I’ve never been much good at anything to do with numbers, and I can’t count the number of times I lost my place in the music. On occasions, I finished my part long before the rest of the orchestra and tried to hide the fact by miming. On others, I still had two pages left when the last chord was played. It was a frequent occurrence to have the conductor stop the whole orchestra and ask them to go back to the bar I knew I’d just ruined by sounding a note out of place. On other occasions, the viola section was sent to another room to practise alone. There was no hiding then; with only two other viola players and a couple of third violinists, my short-comings always shone through. Being part of an orchestra taught me an invaluable lesson; the pauses and the silences are as important to a composition as any note in any chord. Pauses and silences demand skill; it’s vital to listen and wait and know just the right moment to break them, and that involves not taking your eyes off the conductor.
Recently, as a result of a particularly vicious virus, I lost my voice. It didn’t matter what I wanted speak or sing, nothing beyond a pathetic croak left my mouth. Not that I felt much like speaking or singing, pinned as I was for almost two weeks to my bed. During that time, and in the slow period of recovery afterwards, it wasn’t just my physical voice I couldn’t use; I couldn’t read. And I couldn’t write. What physical resources I had were all focussed on repairing my body. Rest and brief interactions with family who ensured I was comfortable and hydrated, were all I could physically cope with. Sick as I was, I was tempted to succumb to frustration, after all, I had plans for time being wasted on illness. And then I remembered the pauses, the silences that are as much a part of a composition as the notes.
In my most recent pause, I have learned more about praying for friends who are going through far greater trials than me. I have had time to reflect on the countless (yes, I still struggle with numbers) blessings in my own life. And as for my writing? I have had insights and breakthroughs about the way to tackle some particularly tricky sticking points I’d come up against. When my next pause comes, I don’t want to waste time being frustrated; keeping my eye on the conductor, I want to listen to what it teaches me.