June 2, 2008
By Amy Clippinger, Mason, OH


There is a man in my neighborhood that plays the bagpipes. He sits under his tree and allows his music to rise above the drone of the coming and going traffic. The song is Amazing Grace—the only song he knows.
I am a musician; I have played the viola for nine years. But music can still amaze me. A brass tube with holes in it, costing $11.50, taught me that. A penny whistle. It could transport me to a place that was entirely my own. The first time I placed my fingers over those empty holes, my dog tilted his head in surprise at the resulting sound.
Days later, determined to produce a pleasing tone, I wandered into my room while punching notes out on the way. Setting up my chair in front of the mirror, I sat down and watched my clumsy fingers try to learn a new dance. My mind wandered and I could hear my friend’s mildly accusing voice.
“So why aren’t you going to the football game?”
I hit a high, shrill note.
“I dunno,” I heard myself say, “I’m too busy, I guess.”
The second time the note sounded clear and deep.
Here in my room, I did know. An unexpected calm trickled over me like a sticky-sweet syrup, slowly pulling at the worries that had cluttered my mind. I knew why I wanted to be here and not in a crowd of faces.
My grandmother’s condominium overlooks the Ohio River. So it was surprising to see, nine stories above the earth, a burning orange butterfly pass by the window. It fluttered along lazily, as if not aware it was climbing above buildings created to place holes in the sky.
The girl in the mirror smiled. My stress floated away; I felt content for the first time that day. After a little practice, the pitches began to march in harmony. Melodies poured from my little penny whistle. My fingers cautiously hammered out the notes that formed Amazing Grace and I was lifted above the commotion of the week.
My friends may think I am a lost cause, but it is they who will never understand how wonderful the view is from up here.

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