Running happens most days. I wake up, drink coffee, read a little, run. That’s the story of my morning once Texas gets too hot for afternoon runs, which are my preference. In the summertime, my alarm clock gets set earlier and earlier in an attempt to beat the thermostat rising to above 85. Things get dicey once it’s 85 outside. When life is busy or relationships are hard or everything is perfect, I run. It clears my head. It wakes me up. It helps me remember I am alive. My feet pump a one-two rhythm. My lungs breathe. This body works its way towards health aware of the presence of God and humanity in a way that is rarely as striking during other activities.
Routine creates consistency. Consistency creates security. Security is helpful. Security is dangerous.
Tonight my guitar needed restringing. It’s needed restringing for, oh, about six months. Mexico next week, though, means I will actually pick up said guitar and use it in the presence of others. I got out the trappings needed for the process.
My guitar has a story. It was made by an old man in the Czech Republic. I drove with some friends from Poland to the shop where this old man, he played guitars. And he made them. He handed me guitar after guitar. I don’t remember if he spoke English. I selected a monstrosity of an acoustic, and he customized it for me while we went to a nearby McDonald’s for lunch. My friend Emily bought a guitar as well. I already had a guitar when I arrived in Poland, and in order to fly home with two guitars, I used a lot of duct tape to secure one to the other. It was before 9/11 when checking a guitar still seemed like a good idea to my globetrotting self. Now I leave my guitar at home.
When I pick up my guitar that story comes back, and I remember my guitar matters to me because of the way I obtained it. It is a beautiful instrument. When I restring it, it is ritualistic.
First, I take all of the old strings off.
I polish it and clean the bridge. I open the new strings. I wind them in the same way the man in the Czech music shop wound them, because when he strung my guitar, he was fast and confident. I love the pegs of my guitar. They are really small, and they are strong enough to endure the tension created by tightening the strings against the neck. They enable its use.
After I tighten the strings, I tune my guitar. Then I stretch the strings. The tune doesn’t hold until the strings are stretched. I then tune it again, and then I play a chord or two. It always amazes me just how amazing my guitar sounds when the strings are new. I play a while, usually longer than I have in a long time. I commit to play more regularly. Then I put my guitar away and move on to other things.
It is the same every time. Between this morning’s run and this evening’s restringing of my guitar, other routines and rituals transgressed. In between all of that, though, there were conversations and prayers and stories and hope and life. And I need the routine to get me out of bed in the morning. And I need the ritual to help me value the things that matter a bit more. That’s what I thought about tonight when I restrung my guitar, which maybe means I was characteristically over-thinking things.