When the old, broken stringed instruments were brought out of storage, certain artists were asked to bring new life to them as a work of art. I decided to attempt a final painting. It would be my swan song, one last solo.
I had spent many months suffering excruciating pain in my neck, resulting in nerve damage and loss of feeling in both hands. The very real possibility of losing my ability to paint shook me deeply.
The old viola seemed to ask for a peacock. With painfully slow movements, I was able to make small shaky dots one at a time. It took many hours before I finally completed the image, fighting through the pain with awkward braces on both hands.
The old, scarred cello was warped from years of dusty silence in storage, its rich, deep voice forever stilled. A month or so before my neurosurgery, I lay it carefully on the table, unsure if I could ever complete it. I would call the painting “A New Song.”
Over the weeks I simply studied it, struggling with how tell its story so it would finally “sing” again. I wondered how I would find a new song if I lost my ability to paint. Inspired by William Wordsworth’s poem written below, it came to me that there are so many other ways I could celebrate my life. I completed the old cello just before leaving for Texas to have surgery. When I left, it lay quietly on the table, ready for a new life.
“I listened motionless and still;
And as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.”