Good News and Bad News

Despite the fact that I’ve drawn and painted since I was a child, majored in visual arts in college, and have spent the past 21 years as a textile designer, the sad fact is that I have almost no ability to visualize something in my mind unless I see it with my eyes. So it is, then, that since my last post I have spent hour upon hour Photoshopping pictures of Floyd onto pictures of Miller guitar headstocks and fretboards, trying to come up with even a general idea of an inlay design I might like. But alas, it was not to be.

Fortunately, I have had much better luck with my other idea. Throughout these weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to find several Tibetans willing to share their time and teach me to write “karma” using Tibetan characters. I found there are many words and phrases in their language that mean or refer to karma, and the project pretty quickly became a matter of winnowing down to just the right word for the task at hand. After much research and numerous emails to monks and scholars all across the country, I’ve settled on the Tibetan word “las” (in some contexts pronounced “lay”), which is the direct Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit word “karma.” It’s a short word with the correct meaning, has aesthetically pleasing calligraphic lines, and is compact enough to fit entirely on the 12th fret. It will be the only marker on the fingerboard.

I am greatly indebted to Ganden Thurman and Tashi Delek at Tibet House in New York City, who got me started with several words and phrases; Pema at the Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association, who, along with Michael Dunn of the Asian Classics Institute, verified and clarified whatever information I found; and most especially to Karma Tashi at the Association Cognizance Tibet in Raleigh, NC, who methodically and painstakingly explained the words, meanings, grammar, usages, and punctuation until I got exactly what I was looking for.

At a point in all this research, I also contacted Ken Miller and brought him up to speed on the ideas I was working with. During our email conversation, he confirmed that work on my guitar would begin at the end of this month or the beginning of February. Niiiice!

So that’s the good news.

The bad news is that on Monday, January 12, I learned that I am among a group of peers at work whose salaries have been reduced in response to the ever-slowing business climate. As a result I’ve had to cut back my guitar lessons from every two weeks to just once a month. I don’t want to bellyache about this because clearly many people have taken much more severe hits than I have over these last months, and I know I am extremely fortunate that my situation is no worse than it is. Contrasted against the lost homes and lost jobs that many have been faced with, my current plight registers as less than trivial, and I know it. I mention it here not to moan and groan, but because this is meant to be a chronicle of all my experiences, good and bad, along this musical path.