This week Allison got a call from a friend of hers named Richard LePage.
Richard is a master violin maker - one of those true artisans who combines consummate skill with a passion for crafting incredibly beautiful instruments - rich, perfect tones sought after by the best violinists and fiddlers in the world. Among the artists who play his violins are some of Canada's most reknowned fiddlers, including Richard Wood, J.P. Cormier, and Natalie McMaster.
As you'd expect, instruments of that quality come at a price - or in the case of Richard's violins, one of three prices: $5,000, $10,000, and $15,000. If that makes you gasp, you should know that a premium quality instrument can take scores of hours to craft, using every skill garnered in years and years of training.
Allison first met Richard when she brought him her "baby" - a violin she has owned for 12 years. The best estimate of the age of her violin is around 150 years old. It has been a working instrument - over the 150 years it has been handled with loving care by some owners, but no doubt others treated it the way we'd treat any tool. In some places the wood on the top is less than a millimetre thick, and repairing it requires an artisan's touch. So whenever something has gone wrong with her "baby", Allison has driven the 30 miles out to the Fiddle Farm to take it to the best doctor she could find.
Since Richard is a gregarious type, and rightfully proud of the fiddles he has crafted, no visit to the Fiddle Farm would be complete unless he brought out some of his fiddles for Allison to sample. And after every visit she has said "Some day, I'm going to win the lottery. And when I do, I will own one of Richard's fiddles."
Richard was calling to tell her a story. A well-to-do American tourist had come to stay at the Fiddle Farm, and as do any of the guests there, was admiring Richard's fiddles. He asked Richard if there were any young players on Prince Edward Island who would benefit from - and appreciate - a fiddle from Richard but who couldn't afford one.
Richard nodded. The American pulled out his check book, and wrote a check for two violins. "You decide who they should go to," he said. "My only condition is that I will remain anonymous."
Last week, Richard called to tell Allison that she would receive one of the violins. We went out to pick it up on Friday. It is an exquisite instrument, with an amazingly deep, rich sound in the lower registers and the crisp, clean sound in the higher ranges that fiddle players so treasure.
Allison has been over the moon about her good fortune. She asks, "Why me?", and while Richard never answered her directly, I believe it's because in taking her "baby" out to him to be cared for and tended to, she got to know the man. She showed a deep respect for his work and he saw in her a burning passion not just for playing but for the instrument she plays.
I like to think he also saw in her a sense of responsibility. With a gift like this comes a duty - not just to honour the instrument and its maker, but to honour the generosity that brought it to her. She'll return that generosity to the world a hundredfold.
On Sunday night I went out to watch her play at an event - a benefit for a fellow university student who has cancer. When other performers failed to show on time, Allison stayed on stage for as long as they needed someone there. I was proud of her playing - and really, the amazing sound of this new fiddle enhances and frames her own considerable talent. But I was equally proud that she would keep on playing without once looking at her watch.
Somewhere, someone is out there who made a very generous gesture, and Allison is a direct beneficiary of that generosity. But I hope one day they will learn that their generosity wasn't an expenditure - that it was an investment in goodness that will reap dividends for years to come.
... this is still the best writing I have seen on the topic. Stark, honest, and poetic. A tiny excerpt:
I try to get my brain to deal with what my eyes are telling it, but
it's just not sinking in, and just then a hot fragment of something or
other lands on my head, and I duck my head to shake it free, and as I
do, I see a shirt cuff land gently on the sidewalk a few feet away. I
stare at that, too. "Dude, look at that, this is seriously seriously
bad," I start to say to Bob, who's digging in his bag for his tape
recorder, but I don't have time, because I've turned my attention back
to the building again, and the building has chosen that moment to die.
I re-read this piece every year. Click on the link and settle in. It's beautiful and awful.
Tomorrow, I've been asked to fill in for a half day at a local junior high school. It's unusual to pull down a substitute teaching job this early in the year, but I guess this one called for my special talents.
I'll be teaching grade Eight Students. The subject is Time Management.
It's still not part of the plan. But I guess that's OK. Not everything has to be part of a plan.
It's strange. A week or two ago, I resented the blog. I found it was just another weight on my shoulders, one more thing to answer to.
And it is. But the one I'm answering to is me. And as I look at my life, I realize I spend a lot less time answering to me than I really want to.
I faithfully answer to a host of people. I serve a lot of others' interests. But I do precious few things just for me, and this was one, and I gave it up because if I disappoint me, there are no repercussions. I'm very forgiving of myself.
So, screw that. I'll keep on going. And if I want to blog one day I will, and if I don't want to blog for a day, a week, or a month, I won't.