As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things I’m trying to do during my sabbatical year is to reacquaint myself with the flute. Back story: I played the flute pretty seriously in jr. high & high school, All-State and youth orchestras and all that. But I have not played–at all–in over 20 years.

So I called upon David Lavorgna, a neighborhood guy, fellow dog-walker (our dogs are not friendly with each other & so we have a mostly just-waving acquaintance), and Loyola colleague, to help me back on track. Actually, I should say I was thinking about calling him, planning to call him, really meaning to call him. Then, I literally ran into him at the Giant in front of the pre-shredded cheese case, and decided to take this as a sign and just set things up then and there. We decided to start lessons in June, which would give me a few weeks to get my embouchure back as well as the fingers working again.

He stressed several times that I should not do too much. Being raised by Type-A Superachiever Korean parents, this was like “your mouth is moving and I hear sounds, but please use words” to me. What?

“Okay, I’ll just practice for a half an hour, then,” I remember saying.

“No more than 15 minutes. Twenty, tops,” he said. Huh? “I want you to enjoy this and have fun,” he said. “Stop playing when you stop enjoying it.”

I didn’t really get it, but being an Obedient and Well-Trained Korean American Daughter, I did what he said. Fifteen minutes a day, 20 tops. In a week, I was able to work intervals that were impossible on days 1 and 2, and reach everything up to the B before high C. Amazing! Success! All in 15 minutes a day! Later, on the phone, he explained his method. He had a teacher from California, very laid-back, very Zen. With his help, he realized that to really get the most out of playing, you had to be relaxed, enjoy it, just sort of letting it happen instead of forcing it.

“Why play if you are not enjoying it?” he said. Hm. Good question!

Well, it has been quite enjoyable so far, though I can’t speak for my neighbors. And I hit high C today! <high five> I didn’t even realize I had done it until it happened. I guess I got all Zen on myself … despite myself! Which in itself, I guess, is quite Zen.

It hit me that David’s advice about practicing 15 minutes per day is almost exactly the same as Inside Higher Ed columnist Kerry Ann Rockquemore‘s advice that to become a more productive scholar, you should simply write for a short period, but every day. I am an unapologetic “binge writer,” but seeing this connection between music and writing–it’s all about practice, duh– does give me pause. But I still can’t imagine writing for 30-60 minutes every day, as Kerry Ann recommends.

That said, I did toil away for a couple of hours today trying to write an abstract for CAA (College Art Association) on comics and modernism. I was hoping it would write itself, but … it did not. It’s only about halfway there. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day.

Kevin at Downs Park
My brother Kevin on the beach at Downs Memorial Park (Pasadena, MD) where we will be setting Dad off on his next life’s adventures.
Downs Memorial Park
Another view of the beach and the fishing pier.

And to end this installment, here are some pretty pictures for you. Yesterday my brother and I went tooling around scoping possible locations for releasing our father’s ashes. He passed away 3 years ago, and our mother is finally ready to let him go. She wants to do a water “scattering” (apparently that is the term used in the trade), somewhere near here but close to or on the ocean. We are all set to do it, along with our older brother Keith and our respective spouses/spice, week after next. But where? It’s amazing how little public water access that isn’t, you know, too public, there is around here.

Thanks to my colleague Kathy Forni, medieval literature scholar and erstwhile sailor, we discovered a super-cool park on the Chesapeake Bay that I had never even heard of before: Downs Memorial Park, near the suburb of everyone’s dreams, Pasadena, MD. I am sure I am not ruining the park by publicizing it here (I hope I’m not)– it’s really beautiful, and very very quiet during the week. I think I will come out here sometime soon to do some more painting. Maybe I can paint the scene and give it to Mom as a remembrance.



7 thoughts on “Zen flute master

  1. Love your blog, Jean (which I will be following), love love love your having a sabbatical – and also I found the words about your father some of the best I’ve encountered about loss and mourning. Setting him off on his next life’s adventures is such a sweet way of looking at it, and your whole family’s way of dealing with this fact of life is so gentle and beautiful – as is that beach. Warmest best wishes from the Winnie DNA.


  2. Hi, Jean! I just started following, and this was a great post. I follow a similar principle with homeschooling…a little bit every day, but only a little bit. (Leave ’em wanting more, is my motto.) It can be frustrating because it seems like we accomplish so little in a day, but tiny steps will eventually get you to your destination.

    I didn’t realize until reading your post that this technique was actually a thing.

    Can’t wait to read future posts!


    1. Hi Vida! Did I know you were home-schooling? It is ringing a bell, faintly. What a tough job! I agree, you have to do tiny steps every day. I’ve also read that keeping a log or journal of what you do/accomplish every day will help you see (later) the incremental progress that is invisible when you are just living it from moment to moment. Great to hear from you!


  3. While the first words that come to my mind when I think of you, Jean, are not “obedient Korean daughter,” I also see that it’s true! Love your blog, love your father’s final resting spot, and love that you and your mom are close. I still remember seeing one of her watercolors in your home, and I always thought it was beautiful. Oh, and by the way, your profile pic rocks!


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