January seemed like a long month, and a month that lacked any kind of rhythm or recognizable meter. It limped along in a kind of 5/8, alternating between 2+3 (Thomas Jefferson) and 3+2 (Benjamin Franklin) in no discernable pattern. I had more traveling than usual, which meant more days in between trips where I was simply trying to catch up again: do laundry, water the garden suffering from 100+ days without moisture, order music for students, clean out the refrigerator. I had a number of programs to learn, rehearse and play, which meant a greater demand on both my time management and organizational skills. I came down with the second round of a bad cold. This, more than anything, made me cranky, and prone to whine to anyone who might listen to me list my grievances.

The theme behind every one of my grievances was that I wasn’t getting anything done. Nothing. Nada. But of course, that wasn’t exactly the truth, and in this age where we seem to have a suspect relationship with the truth, it occurs to me that we should care more about the little ways in which we tell the truth (or not) about our world. In other words, it’s all in the details.

I am reminded of this on a daily basis when I study the practice charts of my students. Sunday 5:03-5:47. Monday 6:01-6:31. Tuesday 4:34-5:02…Some kids are quite exact. “How do you know so precisely your practice times?” I asked Max the other day. “I wear a watch,” he replied, looking at me with this “isn’t this obvious?” kind of expression on his face. I suspect other students are less accurate with their practice times: Sunday 35 minutes. Monday 35 minutes. Tuesday 40 minutes. Wednesday 40 minutes. “How do you keep track of your practice times?” I asked Jake yesterday. He shrugged, but offered no explanation.

Telling the truth about our practice times may be the first step in telling the truth about our practices in general, as uncomfortable as that may be. “Horrible week!” reported one child. “I had my birthday and I was sick!!!! No good practicing!!!!” This was written across her practice chart in lieu of any days, times or sight-reading pages. Normally, this child practices consistently and well, so I let it go, but I found myself recognizing the sentiment all too well: Horrible month! I was traveling and sick and out of sorts!!! No good practicing!!!!

But that isn’t quite the truth, although the whiny part of me would like to believe that I suffered great hardships that left me unable to function properly the last few weeks. Yes, there were several long-term projects that I had to set aside for the month. It is also true that at times, I might have been tempted to abandon my to-lists by the excuses of sickness and my normal 4/4 rhythm being forced into a non-symmetrical meter. But although I am rather fond of my dramatic exaggerations, generalizations are unfair and inaccurate, both. The specifics tell the real story.

The truth is that most days I practiced, and some days well. I started the long slow season of garden cleanup: trimming back plants, piling up leaves, working manure and compost into flowerbeds. I maintained enough of the business side of my studio work—the bookwork and accounting, the music sorting and filing, the performance class preparations and recital music planning—to keep myself not just above water, but swimming along. I kept the birdfeeders full, the cats and fish alive. I read several books and saw a couple of movies, in the theater even. I swam laps, went to yoga classes, biked to the library and to the grocery store. One chilly Sunday, I made a big pot of green chile stew that fed not only the two of us, but also my parents and brother for days. A friend sent a box of chocolate-covered pecans from Texas. I had an essay accepted for publication in a pedagogy journal. For the first time in several years, I heard from a former student that I knew had been struggling. He sounded happy, and well. There were two full moons, inspiring all sorts of lunar-themed compositions in the studio. On the evening of January 31, a student and I watched the Super Blue Moon rise, the view spectacular through the window next to piano. “I can see it moving!” Harry said. It was true. In a matter of minutes, we could literally see it rising up behind the darkness of the mountain range. Harry is a seventh-grader, wading through the muck of middle school angst. I hope he never forgets the night he watched a Super Blue moon rise during his piano lesson.

Just that same morning, my mother delivered my ginormous amaryllis, which had spent the last few months in her cellar. Over the next few weeks, we will enjoy the annual tradition of watching the bulbs come to life. It will grow so fast that some days we will swear we can see it inching upward right before our eyes. That will be a lie, however.

It was hardly a lost month, much less a horrible one. It is the details, the specifics of our days and practices that give shape and clarity to our lives. Truth matters.

*The title of this post comes, not from the lunar events of the month, but rather from the lovely pedagogical piece by my dear friend Dennis Alexander: “Full Moon Rising.”