It appears that I have fallen in love with the mandolin. This was no overnight love affair, however. It kind of sneaked up on me.
As a longtime fan of the music of Antonio Vivaldi, I had heard my share of mandolins and associated the instrument with music from the past.
That all began to change when I attended a performance of Prairie Home Companion and heard the amazing Peter Ostroushko play. Nevertheless, I wasn’t ready to commit.
Then it happened. Last year, while listening to the weekly broadcast of PHC, Ostroushko performed the most glorious piece, something he’d written to celebrate a friend’s wedding. I promptly ordered his latest CD and The A and A Waltz has been a regular feature on the soundtrack in my car ever since.
I’ve been thinking about this slow love affair quite a bit because I suspect when folks hear about passion, they have a vision of being gob-smacked by something that grabs them by the shoulders and won’t put them down. Love at first sight, perhaps.
I don’t think it works that way. In fact, other than the births of my daughter and my grandchildren, I can’t recall any other times when passion was present from the first moment.
More often, it creeps up, like the mandolin, but it doesn’t come at all unless we expose ourselves to new experiences and possibilities. Passion isn’t passive, after all; we have to get involved.
One way of doing that, of course, is to pay attention to the passions of others. People we love dearly and admire genuinely may very well have passions that leave us cold. On the other hand, passionate people may get our attention simply because of their contagious enthusiasm.
I’m not particularly interested in cars, but listening to Car Talk is a frequent pleasure on my weekends at home. I’m also not much of a foodie, but John Curtas, a Las Vegas restaurant reviewer, is a delight to listen to on Nevada Public Radio and often has me making notes about places I really must visit.
Opening ourselves to things that delight others may deliver lovely surprises we hadn’t anticipated. At the very least, we’ll benefit from the power of enthusiasm that raises our own positive attitude simply by being present.
At the same time, we need to notice when a passion has passed its sell-by date. It’s extremely easy to spend time doing things out of habit because we failed to notice that passion has fled.
Sometimes when you partake in a longtime activity and find it no longer amuses or informs or entertains, you’ll begin to feel a bit of disappointment, as if you’d been jilted.
Some passions simply have a longer run than others. Just as closets need to be weeded from time to time, so do the activities that are worth our time and attention.
Thinking about collectors and collecting has had me contemplating the role of passion in a slightly different way. How do collectors decide what to gather? What’s the difference between those who build thoughtful and valuable collections and those who are simply packrats?
As I was musing about all this, I stumbled upon a delightful book called Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols, a British journalist and fanatic gardener.
The book begins with a bit of a confession: “Some fall in love with women; some fall in love with art; some fall in love with death. I fall in love with gardens, which is much the same as falling in love with all three at once.”
Nichols goes on to tell his story of finding a wreck of a place in rural England that required years of diligent labor to transform it into the garden of his dreams. Thus began a perpetual hunt for interesting specimens to add to his collection. It’s obvious that his passion for plants continued to increase even as the challenges involved expanded as well.
But, of course, passion is like that. It often has us doing things we never imagined we could do—or would do.
Whether that passion is for music, art, cars, food, gardens, social justice or any one of a thousand other things, ultimately passion invites us to become more, to do more, to be more. Eventually those enthusiasms infiltrate other areas of our lives.
“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings,” Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us. Passion is a pointer to where those blessing can be found.
When the mandolin plays or the antique doll at the flea market catches your eye, pay closer attention and see where it leads. Give it time and see if it grows into something spectacular.
And if that doesn’t happen, keep looking. Just don’t insist on love at first sight.