The piano ended up in the bush for a video shoot. A week later, it’s still there. It was left out among the trees on a whim–although I’d thought about the idea of weathering the piano on purpose, seeing it really happen has filled me with mixed feelings. I’m intrigued, impressed and saddened, all at the same time, by how it looks after only a week in the elements.
A couple of months ago, I decided to look for a prop piano. We picked this one up for next to nothing from a local couple, after a brief search through the online ads. They told us that it was already old when they’d bought it for their kids, and that it hadn’t been played in 30 years. It had enough internal problems that I decided it wasn’t salvageable as a working piano, which meant it was perfect for what I wanted. The wood finish was mostly intact, the ivory keys only a bit stained, and to me, it was beautiful, in an unassuming way. Until last weekend, it sat safely in a shed, and then, abruptly, it met the forklift.The piano valiantly endured several moves, from the foot of the maple tree along the drive, to the edge of the cornfield, to the open field of grasses, wildflowers and young trees. The last stop was in the middle of the bush, propped gently against a tree because the ground was a bit too uneven for it to stand on its own. Under the heat of the early autumn sun, I played my song on its out-of-tune strings more times than I can remember that afternoon. During the last takes, one end broke off the bench, and although we cobbled it back together the best we could, it was beyond repair.The front of the piano itself had a few deep scratches from the moves on the forklift, and I was feeling a bit sad about it.
After we picked up the piano from that couple, I had wondered aloud about how it might transform if we left it out in the weather for a season, or longer. I had even looked up pictures online to see what other people had done with old pianos, and found many images–some beautiful, some humorous, some sad. I love pianos, to the point where my family has asked me to stop collecting them, and I knew there was no room for this one in my home among the others. So, after the last take, when my husband suggested leaving it there, I hardly considered moving it back into the shed. The sunlight was beautiful, the clearing peaceful and quiet. I agreed that it could stay there, and walked away from it with barely a second thought.
A few mornings later, I awoke to the sound of a gentle rain through the open window. Not surprisingly, I had some misgivings about my decision, but it was too late to reconsider. This afternoon, I finally had a bit of time to go out to visit it. The keys are already uneven, the felts swollen, and some of the panels are stuck in place from the excess moisture. It really does fill me with mixed feelings to let it deteriorate, and I’m not sure how long I will be able to stand it. As one who loves order and safety in many areas of life, leaving it out there to be weathered by the hand of nature feels risky and big. It upsets me and excites me at the same time. It breaks the rules, and so I am challenging myself to let go and let it happen.
I wish I knew more about this piano’s story, because every instrument has one. Maybe if I did, I would change my mind, because that history would need to be honoured, but it’s impossible to know. I am sure this piano will be featured again in the months ahead, for as long as I can stand to leave it out there, giving of itself for the last time. Related: