A Evening with Passion
Sometimes you find passion in the oddest places. On Saturday evening Jeffrey and I found ourselves at the door of a rather plain old house. Its 1940s mint green asbestos shingles vaguely reminded me of my grandparent’s house. We had arrived at the house by way of an invitation from Nancy, a petite, fit and trim woman with beautiful silver hair that matches her fiery personality. We had first met her several years ago when she came on the David B for a kayaking trip. This evening she had invited us and two other couples to the home of Don Stagg, a musician and a collector of pianos and pipe organs.
When we stepped up to the front door, it had been left open a crack to let us know to just walk in. I stepped inside first and was greeted by Nancy. She introduced us to her guests, Graham and Donna, and Lisa and Ken, then she introduced us to Don Stagg. He’s a tall man of 82 years. His thin ponytail was tied into a ball at the nape of his neck. He wore long-sleeves with cuff links, a tie and a green vest with a chain that was fastened to the middle button hole. The chain we learned later was made from his mother’s hair and held a pocket watch that chimed on the hour. While we chatted with one another, I surveyed the house. The furniture was heirloom, dark colored wood with red and green velvet. It had been reupholstered three times. A grandfather clock that Don had first seen as a young boy stood in the corner. The opposite wall held a watercolor portrait of a younger Don playing the piano. His strong hands and bearded face stood out from the white-washed background and instrument. Everything in the room and on the walls had meaning. As I looked around, I saw not just stuff, but a man’s life and the memories and the passion that drives him. While I listened to the conversation my eyes lingered on the things that made this house different from every other house I’ve been in — pianos.
Set though out the house were pianos, a clavichord, the world’s only double harpsichord, more pianos, and two pipe organs. Each and everyone had been rescued. When Don walked over to an insturment, he’d sit down and play for us. His hands moved with incredible speed and accuracy, his emotion in every note. His music makes you cry. Between bits of music Don would talk. He’d talk about living and working in Montana and Alaska. He’d talk about the mining camp where he was born and the hardworking mining couple that adopted him as an infant. He’d talk about the worthlessness of today’s throw-away electronic culture. He has no electronic gadgets, no television, no computer. He talked about his disdain for the universities and museums that put great instruments like the ones spread thoughout his house under lock and key where they cannot be played.
As he talked about his life and his passion for playing I couldn’t help but think about the passion that Jeffrey and I have with the David B. I knew that Nancy had invited us and the others who shared the evening together because each once of us held a passion for something, whether it was music, sailing, felting, publishing, or an old wood boat, it was our love for these things that we all shared and we all got to see in one another. There’s a magic in a person like Don who is passionate. His love for his music and for the care of his musical charges was inspirational. Passion kindles a fire that we all have within us. Some of us move forward with our passions, others keep them ready for some safer future time, but the things we live for are there. What made our evening with Don so special, was seeing him pursue his amazing passion with such simplicity and focus.