little things

I’ve learned to practice myself in little things —

This afternoon I’m loosening old strings until there’s no tension left, and with wire cutters cutting through all the strings one at a time, down near the sound hole.

Next I’m removing the tone pegs from the rear of the bridge where the string disappears into the body, and unwinding the strings from the tuning pegs.

I’m locking new strings in place now, trimming the low E, followed by the low D, then the treble strings as I go … inserting string in post, tuning string to pitch, wrapping down the posts … pushing the tone peg down into the hole, ensuring the groove is facing toward the headstock,  and pulling up on the ball end until it catches.

E A D G B E. My fingers begin to pluck single notes, random at first and then combined.

I’m plucking out the gallop of a new song now. It wafts through the house. A hover like grace appears.

And suddenly, little things … are big things. It’s the little things that seem to be saving me today.


“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.”

– Luke 16:10



There’s so little that I want to do in this life, other than what I do.

If I didn’t have singing and songwriting, I’d probably never leave my town. I’m creatively restless but I’m content in every other regard.

I would still have had a little following, still had faith … and hope, and love (and my share of scars). I would still have trusted my unknown future to God.

I would have surfed more, maybe.

I would have lived quietly … much like me, with less deep contentment.

Maybe it’s possible to live without making up songs. But to die without it … how painful I would find it.



Driving home from a show late at night with the windows down offers its own music if I’m paying attention:

A frozen lake breaking apart in the middle of winter …

The angular song of an unseen screech-owl …

Half-crying stars out on the interstate, semis blowing their horns below …

The sound of the highway brushing against the car window, with daylight
still miles away.

A train blazing the tightrope strung across the interstate doesn’t sing her song so much as murmur it beneath her steely breath in a whisper bordering on an ambient hum. Her words, those sparks flying off into the still dark fields, remind me that I’m held aloft on a tightrope myself, and the rest of my life is far below me. For this moment I know where I’m going, just like that train, but who knows about tomorrow?

The owl, the stars, the train: Life is filled with sweet message bearers, bringing and imparting grace. You have only to wait, they will find you. And when they do, you will keep searching for them everywhere, for years,  while right beside you, the tracks they are leaving resemble notes of a mysterious song.