“Morning rain in Wencheng dampens rising dust.
Sprouting willows colour the guest house green.
Sir, let us drain another cup of wine.
Once you’re west of Yang Gate, you’ll have no friends.”
Seeing Yuan Er off on a mission to Anxi, Wang Wei (699-759)
translated Deng Ming-Dao, Each Journey Begins with a Single Step (2018)
This simple, if somewhat oblique verse has been bearing down on my thoughts in recent weeks. Ever since encountering it, it has stuck in my mind as a salient reminder of the importance of cultivating lasting relationships and savouring friendships.
It is also, in context, a poem about journeying. The writer entreats his travelling friend to wait awhile before taking the next step, not simply because it is wise to be circumspect, but because the security of the present moment provides the best launchpad into the uncertainty of the next.
Many will be starting out in new jobs, classes and positions as we enter a new academic year, or as the next concert season gets underway. We may, or may not, have friends lined up as travelling companions.
Soon there will be change, bringing fresh challenges, adventures and new faces into our daily lives. But for today, it’s important to treasure the friendships we have.
For those enjoying a holiday this month, I hope you will have a refreshing and relaxed time in the company of those close to you. I hope that you will linger in special moments, and craft wonderful memories that will strengthen you for the future and add incredible value to your life.
I have to confess that I too often rush my “goodbyes”, impatient for the next moment. But life does not comprise next moments; it is made up of the present ones. Let’s take time to enjoy them, and treasure our time with friends!
Lastly, it would be remiss of me not to draw attention to the metaphorical link between this verse and our piano playing…
There will always be new repertoire to explore, including the latest compositions we’ve discovered as well as the manifold treasures of the keyboard literature from generations past…
But there’s really no hurry. So before stepping into new territory, remember to spend time with familiar favourites: the Active Repertoire with which you can relax, express and enjoy yourself.
As in life, so too in our piano playing,
let’s take time to linger awhile with our old friends.
The Fermata Series offers short reflective posts, and a chance to PAUSE.
Read more from The Fermata Series here.