"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Jivin' with the Dulcimer

(By way of explanation--I'm in another online writing class. Our first assignment had to do with music, and various prompts to write about music, how it affected us, instruments we used to play and now didn't, etc. Here's mine.)

"I’m lonely,” says a small voice from the corner of the bookshelf closest to the stairs. The accent is redolent of the Appalachian mountains, coal mines, and hardworking people who do without what many consider the necessities of life. I pause to listen.

“You never play me anymore,” says Dulcimer. It leans against the belly of Folk Guitar, the one that gave up speaking a long time ago, and now stands in its corner, mute under a fine film of dust.

Dulcimer, chosen for its elegant, elongated teardrop shape, is a beauty. Its golden amber sound board is polished to a high brilliance. Dulcimer should be on display in a place of favor, instead of in the loft where few visit. Its four steel strings are out of tune, and the sound that emanates from them is not musical or melodic, but discordant and irritating.

“But I cut my finger,” I reply, extending the index finger on my right hand to show the triangular scar that once held five black stitches. “I have no feeling in the end of that finger. I can’t play music like that.”

“That’s the excuse you gave Guitar, and that was fourteen years ago. You remember Guitar, don’t you? Remember driving two hundred miles round trip once a week to study folk guitar and chord theory at the university? Even blizzards didn’t stop you.”


“You don’t need to feel my strings to make music. The music comes from inside you, not your fingertip. That’s only an excuse.”

“Well, I guess you’re right.”

“You’re fickle also. You brought Didgeridoo back with you from Australia, and you haven’t tried to play it for months.”

“But all I can do is make rude noises with it. I can’t get the haunting drone sound.”

“That’s another excuse. Didg knows why you bought it. It’s because it’s made of woolybutt eucalyptus,” accuses Dulcimer.

“Well, who COULD pass up anything made of woolybutt eucalyptus? And besides, maybe I like the Aboriginal kangaroo painting on it. Maybe I have good intentions of returning to it. How about that?”

”And,” continues out-spoken Dulcimer, “Didg is downstairs in the living room. Why does it get to be downstairs and we’re up here in the loft? Not fair, if you ask me.”

“All right, let’s not get childish about this,” I say. “You and Guitar are here for safekeeping. I put you in this corner so Sterling wouldn’t knock you over.”

“The dog died four years ago.”

“Yes, well. I just got used to the two of you being here where I could see you first thing as I climb the stairs to the loft. And another thing. You know the loft is my favorite room in the house, and where I spend the most time. That’s why I put a stand up here for Pablo the parrot, so he can sit with me while I work.”

“Work? Is that what you call it? You spend all day and half the night on Computer, playing Spider Solitaire. You could use that time to play with us.”

“Now wait a minute. You know I don’t spend all that time playing Spider Solitaire. I write most of the time. I only play Spider Solitaire when the muse and I are communing, before she has dictation for me.”

“Yeah, we know. That’s your new love—the writing. We’ve seen how you are when the muse is AWOL. You slump around here, all out of sorts. Did it even occur to you that maybe we could help lure the muse back?”

“No, I never thought of that. Do you think it could work?”

“Just think about it. When you played me, you never used any traditional forms of playing. You devised your own method from the finger-picking folk guitar style. Remember? We did pretty well when we played that song about Bonny Prince Charlie, didn’t we? And that Roamin’ in the Glomin’ was a kick in the frets.”

“Yeah, I remember now. But, boy, I’d have to learn all over again how to get you in tune. That isn’t easy, you know. And what about the arthritis in my fingers? And that one finger that locks up? That might cause problems.”

“You’ll never know until you try,” says Dulcimer. “And, we promise to help, too. Your fingers will remember. You know about muscle memory, right?”

“Yes, I know about it. You really think you could help me locate my muse if I play you guys?”

Dulcimer is silent for so long I think the conversation is over. Then, with a pout in its voice, it says, “If that’s all you’re interested in, fuhgedaboudit!”

“Okay, okay. Let’s not get snippy. You’ve made a good point.”

“Look at it this way. If you’re homing into that creative part of you, well, who’s to say the muse isn’t lurking there? Maybe taking a breather?”

“Yes, I see what you mean. But, really, I have no natural musical talent. That’s the real reason you guys have been…uh…set aside. No other, I swear. I reached the point where I could go no further, then I stopped.”

“We know. Remember that time you played Guitar in front of a room full of people? That time you experimented with weed?”

“HEY! No fair. That that forty years ago. Back in the Sixties.”

“Nevertheless, Guitar remembers you all sittin’ around smoking’ weed and singing. Far out, man!”

“Guitar’s memory is playing tricks on him. We didn’t smoke it. None of us smoked. The weed was in the brownies.”

“Oh. Well, why do you suppose Guitar’s memory is faulty? Guitar’s a senior citizen now. Use it or lose it, you know. Just like your playing abilities.”

“Okay, look. I know I’m to blame for your unhappiness. Would it surprise you to know that I bought a guitar course on CD at Costco?”

“We know. It’s been on the shelf for four months.”

“Yeah, well, I have other things to do, you know.”

“Would it hurt you to spend a few minutes with us now and then? I promise, it’ll open doors you never knew existed. We don’t care how well or how badly you play. We won’t laugh, or even titter. The whole point is that you’ll be tapping into your creative side, and that makes my fingerboard warm all over. I’ll bet the beeswax on Didg’s mouthpiece gets all soft and mushy, too. And Guitar? Maybe you can help Guitar get his memory back. At the same time, you’ll be expressing yourself in another medium, one you’ve always loved. C’mon, give us a try. I promise to be on my best behavior. Pick me up, set me across your knees, and let’s visit your soul together.”

Well, now, how can I refuse an offer like that?

1 comment:

  1. Anytime I want it to be quiet around the house I pull out my violin. Within a few bow strokes the wife has headed outside or to the store. That high pitched squeaking is music to my ears.