Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Thank You for the Music

I have a hand-made flute on my desk that was a gift of a native American friend of mine. We met Mark Barefoot at City Stages several years ago. He was a big guy with long black hair and obsidian eyes. He talked as if he considered the weight of every word before speaking. When you asked him a personal question he would look off into the distance as if he was seeking approval from the spirits before he responded.
I passed several slow hours asking about his family, where he lived, and how he made his living. He told me that he and his wife traveled around to festivals all over the south where she sells her handmade jewelry, mobiles, picture frames and other beautiful things. Mark sold hand carved sculptures and beautifully hand crafted flutes. He made some flutes made from bamboo and others from cedar. Both kind of flutes were beautiful. He did not use modern equipment such as electric saws, lathes, or drills. Each flute was hollowed out by pressing hot stones down the end of the bamboo or cedar.
I admired his work which was really a piece of art. I pointed out that he could make them more easily buy using modern tools. Again he looked off into the distance as if to get instructions from the wind on how to fashion a reply. He simply looked back at me and smiled kindly and said "I use hot stones." He held the end of a cedar flute up for me to smell. You could smell the earthy smell of charred cedar. I had to admit that you couldn't get that same aroma by using a Black and Decker.
As luck would have it, I had my guitar with me that weekend and I asked Mark if he'd like to play some music. He smiled and picked up a flute. I played the pretties chords I knew and some of the most haunting sounds I have ever heard came from that flute.
Some customers came up to listen and when the song finished they asked about the price of the flute. Mark gave them a price which was apparently too steep for these particular customers. "These flutes are hand carved," I explained. "He uses hot stones to burn the hole so that the sounds that come out of it will be like no other flute." Mark turned and smiled at me. The customers still walked off so we sat back and played more music.
He did sell several flutes that weekend to people that actually recognize art when they see it. Before he left on Sunday afternoon, he came by our stage and handed me a beautiful bamboo flute. I looked at him in amazement..... at his gesture of kindness. Thank you, I said. He said "thank you for the music."

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