I just spent a month in France, where I didn’t think about small at all. Not once. When I returned home, I felt completely disconnected from the practice that had been central to my life.
The disconnect is understandable. I hadn’t felt the need for small my entire month in France, because I was happy and excited every single day. We were living in the medieval village of Pujols, in the Aquitaine, I was speaking French, meeting new people, discovering local treasures, and eating French food.
But when I got home, back to my ordinary life, with its demands and inevitable tensions, where even if everything is good, nothing is extraordinary, I needed small. But I couldn’t find it! I felt as if I had lost my closest friend.
Then last night, I was listening to Archie Shepp on the radio, and found a way back into small. Concentrate on the saxophone, I told myself. Just that one instrument. Listen as closely as you can.
I listened for a while, and began to feel all the disparate parts of myself, scattered during the month away, coming back together. It was as if I had become gauzy inside, all my internal pieces only loosely connected. Which makes sense after a month of encountering new sights, sounds, smells and textures. But now, listening to the saxophone, I was becoming more stitched together, more solid.
And then, I found myself concentrating on a single saxophone note, one long note, that was at the same time light and dark, sweet and sour, smooth and rough, solid and open, smoky and sweet, fragile and solid, breathy and throaty, immediate and oh so far off.
And I felt ecstatic. Small was back.