Autumn is in full swing here in the UK, and the usually green city of Milton Keynes is now presenting itself in astonishing hues of yellow, orange, red and brown.
I’ve just returned from a walk in the woods (the wonderful Linford Wood, shown in my photo above, is just five minutes from my door on foot) with our puppy, Bella Bardóg. The best word I can think of to describe the vivid beauty here today is … invigorating. I’m not much of a photographer, but hopefully the picture captures it.
We sometimes think about Autumn as a season of decay, of decline, in which the weather turns drab, and the nights draw in. And for those of a melancholic disposition, the words seasonal affective disorder loom, an ominous spectre.
But I prefer to see the Autumn as a time of dynamic change and possibility, the old giving way to the new.
Any gardener will tell you that plants sometimes need a good pruning, and the spectacular feast of colour in Linford Wood today serves as a vivid reminder of nature’s inbuilt commitment to change, vitality and new beginnings.
What better time for us – as pianists, as teachers, and simply as people – to reflect on those changes that may be needed in our own lives?
- Which “leaves” are turning yellow, and will soon need to drop off?
- And in which areas of our activity do we enjoy evergreen successes?
Here are some questions which I am asking myself at present – you might want to consider them too, and will no doubt also think of others which are more applicable to your current journey…
To Reflect on this month…
As John Kirkwood writes in his book The Way of the Five Seasons (2016, Singing Dragon):
“In autumn everything is falling: the leaves, the temperature, the angle of the sun. Following the prolific expansion of summer and the warm fulness of harvest time, autumn begins the descent, the turning inwards. There is a sense of quieting. Autumn invites us to ponder the impermanence of all phenomena.”
Pathways for Playing
- What projects are still on the go, but which I really need to finish off?
- Are some of the pieces in my Active Repertoire “yellow leaves”, on the turn? Should I remove any pieces, and make way for new ones? What can I play?
- Do I have bad habits which inhibit my development as a player?
- Are my present strategies for progress working? Is it time to reevaluate my overall discipline?
- Who are the “evergreen” composers, whose music I continue to enjoy playing and would love to explore more?
- Is there a teacher who could particularly help me move forward?
Pathways for Teaching
- Are some of my lesson routines becoming stale? How can I refresh my teaching?
- Are there students with whom my approach is becoming negative – and if so what behaviours, language or approaches do I need to reject?
- Are there pieces I am bored of hearing over and over? Books I would prefer to lose from the teaching repertoire, and replace with something new?
- Are my students bored with the pieces they are learning? Can we agree to leave them and move on to something fresh?
- Are there any pupils who would do better with another teacher, whose teaching would be a more appropriate fit at this stage in their journey?
Pathways for Living
In Chinese medicine, the autumn season is associated with the lungs, which in turn are linked to the emotion of sadness and loss.
- Do I breathe deeply? (pianists might want to try these exercises).
- Where would be a good place nearby to go for a walk in the woods and enjoy the fresh air and Autumn colours?
- Is it time to reorganise my home, and throw out clothes I no longer wear, and stuff I no longer need or use? Who do I know who could make better use of these things, or where can I donate them?
- What changes can I make in order to let go of and avoid negativity in my life?
- What would be good seasonal foods to eat at this time of the year?
On a personal note, I will be applying these reflections to the Pianodao site over the next few weeks. A few “yellow leaves” will disappear, including old posts that have no ongoing relevance.
With some gentle pruning, it will hopefully be even easier for visitors here to quickly find the best stuff that the site has to offer! But also – there’s a great new element coming here very soon!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this short reflection, and found the questions it raises helpful.
This new series of reflective posts will continue monthly here on the Pianodao site, so do stay tuned and subscribe so that you receive email updates.
And finally – perhaps the moment you’ve been waiting for! – here’s a picture of Bella Bardóg for all who are interested…