I met a painter recently. He takes travelers on tours through the city, showing them how to document their experiences through artwork: instead of snapping photos, they paint pictures. He and I talked about how you can have a richer sense of a place if you take the time to sit and paint it. You're there for an extended period of time, and can watch the scene change as the hours pass. For example, he was painting the Plaza de Armas in Cuzco, and just before he finished, a group of school children arrived—so he added them to the piece. You don't know what will come into frame if you take that extra time to watch and listen. Battling Lucho's Piano Back at Lucho's café, I was taking some time to tune his piano. The work was going slowly, and it was not easy. Still, I kept at it. I had three sessions with the piano, each one lasting for a few hours. Because the piano has a fixed action and no adjustment screw, it was taking longer than usual, while feeling less precise. Many of the strings actually snapped, but fortunately enough survived that all the notes were still playable. After several hours plugging away, I started to wonder if it was worth the effort. Maybe this instrument was just a lost cause. Maybe I should forget about it. Sharing a Drink, Opening the Heart During one session of tuning, I was starting to get really hungry, so I got ready to head out and find something to eat. Before I did, Lucho's sister offered to share her lunch with us. It was a really nice meal with fava beans, potatoes, rice, and a creamy pumpkin sauce. As we ate and chatted, we somehow got on the topic of drinking, which is something I don't do much of. Lucho eventually brought out an array of bottles containing various spirits and liquors. One by one we smelled each distillation, taking in the aged aromas and flavors. I once heard someone say that sharing a drink with others opens your heart. I found that to be true as we sipped and relaxed. Lucho poured a dram of Scotch that was fifty years old, and here it still was, bringing smiles to our faces. Gratitude and Appreciation There's a difference between gratitude and appreciation. Gratitude can be a warm, simple acknowledgement: I'm grateful for a meal or a drink with a friend. Appreciation is more active, more visceral, tied to the details of a savored experience. As we shared that lunch and sipped form those glasses, all of my senses tuned in. I watched sunlight peer through the whiskey, I inhaled the sweet and earthy scent of the wine, I admired the array of bottles with their various shapes and colors. More than anything, though, I enjoyed sharing the experience with Lucho and his sister, and I felt present and connected. I've tried keeping a gratitude journal, in which I write down three things each day that I'm grateful for. It's helping to put me in a mindset where I'm more able to stop and appreciate what's around me. To breathe it in more. As time passes, I see deeper layers of the people I've met in Peru. The nature of these friendships shifts and grows. Whether it's clanging through the chorus of an old song, or raising a glass on a warm afternoon, more details are added to the picture of my experience. I Will Survive I've played the piano a couple times now since tuning it. The first time was at a barbecue, where we played "I Will Survive." As I struck the chords, I really did feel like I was trying to force this dying piano to stay alive! The second time was for [a concert a few nights ago]. I had to ask all the other musicians to tune down their instruments to match the piano, and I was worried about whether this was going to work out. We forged ahead. Well, it actually turned out to be a lot of fun. Even if the sound wasn't totally perfect, it didn't matter. We were all there playing, singing, and enjoying every minute of our concert, sharing the music with our happy audience. Full Potential Some tuners won't bother with a piano that seems beyond repair. On the one hand, I understand that—it may be a lot of effort for disappointing results. That seemed the case as I tried to force this tired old piano to regain its youth and excitement. Still, despite all the pain it took to tune it, I can't say it wasn't worth it. I just had to accept that this was the best version of itself for now. We all had fun playing it together, despite the flaws and limitations, so it still proved itself successful at doing one thing: bringing joy to people. Just as with athletic abilities or economic investments, not every single piano is going to be a top-notch player. But I don't want to completely accept that. If only the finest pianos receive care and upkeep, while the rest are left by the wayside, then how will we gather in small cafés like this, singing into the night? I'd like to help, however I can, to make sure anyone who loves music can have their piano brought to its maximum potential. Some might think I'm fighting a losing battle, or that I'll never make any money like that. Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, I'm making friends, sharing stories, and learning to better appreciate the things that do come. I feel that more and more with each passing day.
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