In grade school, I remember sitting in music class and listening to “Peter and the Wolf.” Fascinated by the idea of different instruments for different characters in the story, I was still confounded by the task of picking out the sounds of each within the whole.

In college, Patrick introduced me to an amazing variety of classical and modern music, and urged me to listen to the individual sounds. I tried so hard, but the more complicated the pieces became, the more frustrated I got; it all seemed to blend so well that I couldn’t focus on any particular instrument.

Older still, my ear for music is no less of a meat-grinder, smushing up all the delicacies into one enjoyable mass. But occasionally there are moments when I can latch onto a slithering viola, a yearning cello, a prancing violin. When these moments occur, it finally dawns on me just how important they are together.

Without further adieu, I present to you my string quartet.


Béatrice, First Violin When Tony and I became friends, I hoped so fiercely that Béa and I would too, by virtue of Tony’s connection with her. “Fiercely” is an apt adverb for Béa: she is fiercely protective, fiercely loving, fiercely honest. She intimidated me with her wisdom, her loyalty, and her absolute avoidance of bullshit. And now these are the traits of her I most admire and emulate.

Béa embodies the passion of children, her English tinged with Tony’s birth in Dublin, her laughter the force of thunderclaps. She is the easiest for me to focus on, because she simply draws focus wherever she goes. Yet no matter how much focus she draws, she gives that same focus back tenfold to the people she loves.

There is a part of Béa I envision standing in front of a violent, overflowing river, gauging how she will cross it. Not if she will cross it, but how. That’s Béa.


Roe, Second Violin Delightful Roe, charming and sweet, more subtle at times than even I fancy myself to be, and still powerful. Her measure begins with a complimentary email and slowly builds into an integral counterpoint to Bea; while Roe and Bea are similarly forthright, Roe is gentle where Bea is hard.

Within the quieter, subtler notes of Roe, there is still inimitable strength. She soothes and listens, but shares the tempo, adding her own words for inspection with an openness and a willingness to be human.

Compassionate without being overbearing, supportive without being hypercritical – Roe has a handle on the balance of emotion both internal and external. She does not ask more from me than I can give.


Rebecca, Viola Almost a year has passed since I met Rebecca, also online, in the alabama.birmingham.general newsgroup. We were both reaching out for someone, anyone, to pass the time with during a few games of Scrabble. From these outstretched arms came the Birmingham Boardgamers, my social “family.”

But there is an aloofness to Rebecca I have been wary of. From the start, I doubted whether or not we could be friends because she didn’t appear to need anyone new in her life. Instead of trusting her with that decision, I made it myself, and kept myself distant from her, too selfish to want to see what she needed.

People affect Rebecca intensely, more than I know even now, but now I have the chance to learn if I listen carefully.


Sharyn, Cello And underneath, alternating between mournful and inspiring, there is Sharyn, giving her advice while never assuming absolute Rightness. My favorite memory of Sharyn is a phone call we shared some months ago; she asked me questions. How did I feel about this, what did I think about that. I never suspected her of having ulterior motives, although if I did I’m sure she would reply that she doesn’t have the time, don’t be ridiculous.

Sharyn claims she is not classy. She is elegant, striking, witty and bright. If this isn’t class, I don’t care to know what is.

I am most in awe of Sharyn, for what she’s been through and for what she accomplishes on a daily basis. As a result of my own awe, it’s hardest for me to talk with Sharyn because I am afraid of disappointing her with my naivete, my lack of a career, my youth. But I haven’t disappointed her yet.


When I don’t hear the individuals within the whole, I still know they are there. While I don’t have the sheet music before me, I still trust they will play true. Upon a sour note, I do not cringe, but am reminded of my own sour notes, and commiserate, knowing that it is not enough to unravel the entire composition. Together, these four combine to amaze and strengthen me; separately, the loss of one would detract from the melody I have come to depend on.

Perhaps I have an ear for music after all.

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.