• Steven A. Smith

The Cello Sherpa


Being a cello sherpa is one of life's great joys, especially if the cello belongs to someone you adore. Some dreams manifest more gracefully than others. Playing the cello remains a dream of mine, but the conditions for this dream to materialize have yet to fall into alignment but I chose develop close relationships with a racing bicycle rather than a cello. But being able to carry a cello is a magical experience I have now been able to enjoy on several occasions. For a few years I was able to work as a cello sherpa for a beautiful, luminous soul who gracefully and generously shared with me her world as a musician.

Working as a cello sherpa requires many important skills. For instance, one must understand that a cello is an intimate friend to its owner --This can never be overlooked. Knowing the cello is an intimate friend to its owner became especially apparent on one specific occasion. I volunteered to be the cello sherpa for my friend on a balmy Saturday in early June for the Seattle Folk Life Festival several years ago. She was going to perform with a tango orchestra during that day's festivities.

The possibility of carrying a cello for this person filled my heart with joy and pride. Men possess a very strong desire to be of help to the woman they adore. And carrying this instrument in its black hard case dappled with stickers from various orchestras gave me strength. It revealed to me that if one's motivation is to genuinely be of service, then work becomes almost effortless and even joyful. It also allowed me to experience what it would feel like to have a cello of my own one day. It was a natural fit from the first moment I picked it up.

Realizing how deep a connection exists between this cello and my friend became crystal clear when we boarded the monorail in downtown Seattle destined for the Seattle Center. The ride from the Eastlake neighborhood to the monorail station was seamless and so was boarding the monorail until my friend discovered there was a problem with her ticket. She looked at me and asked if I thought she had enough time to address the problem. I said yes, so she disembarked and made her way to the ticket window. Just as the ticket issue was resolved, however, an alarm went off indicating that the train was departing. I saw the panic on my friend's face and very quickly realized how deep a connection existed between her and her instrument. It reminded me of seeing women being separated from or losing sight of a child. This panic soon became desperate terror as a metal bar the size of railroad tie blocked her access to the monorail. And within seconds the door slid shut and the train began its silent journey north leaving my friend behind while I watched her disappear as the train soon turned a corner.

My body tightened with awareness and sensitivity and my eyes became focused with hawk like vision. My ancient cello sherpa instincts immediately percolated to the surface. Rather than simply carrying a plastic case and a beautiful musical instrument, I quickly knew that I was now the guardian of my friends's heart and soul. The human heart is both powerful and tender. To hold someone's heart requires the greatest kindness and sensitivity and ignites a unique strength to protect. My friend and her cello gave me a great gift. To have such a revelation, on a monorail train no less, was a surprise I never could have predicted.

The monorail journey lasted only a few minutes, and soon enough I was standing on the concrete platform waiting for my friend. She took the next train and soon arrived with a relieved smile on her face while shaking her head in disbelief over what had just happened. My duties as cello sherpa continued throughout the remainder of the afternoon and evening as well as on occasion over the next few years. Only time will tell if I ever work as a cello sherpa again for either myself or anyone else. The friendship between me and the cello's owner has entered a new season where I am no longer needed as a cello sherpa.

Old musical instruments have mysterious pasts which are only truly known by their lineage of owners. Whether I learn to play the cello or not remains to be seen. But if I do not, my hope is that I may be reborn in the next life as a tree which may be a home to countless birds and other creatures, provide shade for those who need shade and create music as the wind blows through my limbs and leaves. And eventually I hope that my wood will be used to make a cello so that music may be allowed to grace the world and help heal the hearts and souls of all who hear and play me and to share my wisdom with a simple cello sherpa who has the chance to carry me for someone he adores.