Yesterday, I opened my violin case at the base of a tree in the Pioneer Square District of Seattle, Washington. Instantly I experienced the sensations of self doubt and my thoughts of how people would judge me.
The Pioneer Square area has changed a lot in the way of building restorations, beautifications, and new construction but, there still is an overwhelming presence of the downtrodden staking their claim on sidewalks and park benches of the original skid row like the uninvited black sheep of the family attending Thanksgiving Dinner.
The bending down on my knee at the base of a tree is humbling. How many dogs or humans have relieved themselves there, but I have learned from my past as a street performer to have my back covered by a significant object so that a desperate soul can’t act on their fear of scarcity and surprise me with a blunt object on their way to the money that was not yet in the violin case. Leaning on a tree was my security blanket.
Across the courtyard I could see people sitting outside a café point at me as I started to tune my instrument. From the first note of the tuning process, I imagined they were judging me. My energy behind this imagination is in so many ways a waste. Who cares? Why am I there? It’s not to make a living like the necessity of my young adulthood. I have received enough in the way of accolades professionally and personally. It was my desire to make someone’s day, week, month or lifetime in a special moment. Even if it was simply my moment. I was there to remember where I came from revealed who I was. It didn’t make me be who I was. The circumstances of my traumatic childhood and the traumas of my experiences educated me. On this day I was going to create a safe place for all concerned to feel their feelings. No matter what those feelings were.
After tuning, I stood for a moment and listened to the vibrant sounds of the city. I remembered that is what I would do almost every time before I would street perform. Just like the many times before I would listen to the most distant sounds I could hear. I would assess the room I was in, and the room I was in as far as I could hear. The jets making their final approach in to SeaTac. The ferries blowing their horn. The trains announcing their arrival into King Street Station. The distant sirens of emergency response units. The buses making their rounds with the traffic pulsating within the rhythm of the traffic lights. The sounds of people walking by in their various types of shoes hitting the irregular pavement. In order to make the moment special to me or others all of these sounds will be embraced not as distractions but a part of the symphonic resonance that I was about to enter like a soloist taking a cue from the imaginary conductor. The moment I focus on these things and my commitment to making this the best of this circumstance my fear of anyone’s judgment dissipated.
I place my violin under my chin and play the first slow note of one of my compositions. I adjust the dynamics of that note to kindly introduce my self to the sounds surrounding me. In a few moments I hear someone say in voice that they think I can’t hear, whoa he’s good. I think, why thank you, but this is just the beginning. Hear someone walk behind me and place a dollar in my case. They did this without a word. Without eye contact, but I felt the connection. It was as if they were showing the people around me, this is how you do it. Their dollar bill was leveraged by their example and people came forward from all directions of the courtyard. Many placed bills gently, but someone didn’t want to be close to me so they threw a coin from a distance. The coin bounced in and out of the case with a loud thud and the coin roll that ended with the familiar accelerando as the coin spun to a stop. That noise was very hard to fit into the improvisation so I choose to accept it simply as a surprised accent.
Then the moment happened. A four year old child stopped. She seemed to give permission for the adults to stop and enjoy the music. They did. They all did. A group of beautiful artistic women stopped with hands on their hearts and when I finished the piece place generous tips in my case and informed me that they were in an artist studio painting a floor up and they loved the music. They took me upstairs showed me their art and I was wholeheartedly reminded that generosity of being attracts the generosity of being. Nothing like art inspires the qualitative expression of being who we are. The child stopping, the people talking, and the artistic sharing all made for me that sacred moment that can only happen when one commits to the honor of the whole story told from the diversity of perspective.