I got a little distracted…
Okay, itâ€™s true that Iâ€™m not done with all the points I wanted to make on stories and storytelling and the creative impulse. But I got all distracted, see. By this.
Thatâ€™s my new mountain dulcimer. You wonâ€™t believe me if I say this didnâ€™t come out of nowhere, because it more or less did.
I took piano lessons when I was little and decided I was not musical, because it didnâ€™t come easily to me. For a lot of reasons, failure was one of the things I was most scared of, so I spent most of my youth avoiding things that were difficult.
As an adult, I started learning how ridiculous that was, and little by little Iâ€™ve tried to become one of those people who, if she did not exactly embrace challenge, would still not run screaming from it. I took guitar lessons for several years and I am very fond of the guitar, but it doesnâ€™t feel friendly. I worked and worked and worked, and I gained a good set of skills, but the guitar is still not a place where I feel like I can go to express myself, or just let myself have fun.
In the past few days Iâ€™ve had mountain dulcimers on the mind, because a friend of mine got one for Christmas and posted a little video she made not a month later. We emailed back and forth a bit and I started reading up, pricing, thinking, sleeping on it.
But only a few days. Because I decided the thing I had to do, that I did not do with my guitar, was put hands on the instrument before I bought it. On Saturday I walked into the Appalachian Bluegrass Shoppe secure in the knowledge that I would not buy a dulcimer, and 40 minutes later I walked out with a dulcimer in a gig bag.
Itâ€™s â€śused,â€ť in the sense of â€śpreviously owned,â€ť but it doesnâ€™t seem like it was played much. Itâ€™s made of cherry wood and I think itâ€™s just beautiful. It was hand carved by a local craftsman. A real selling point was the head piece which is carved in the shape of a frog.
The shop owner said, â€śI think itâ€™s spent more time on someoneâ€™s mantelpiece than being played.â€ť I can see why someone would display such a lovely thing, but thatâ€™s not my aim. Iâ€™m already playing a few things, but importantly, Iâ€™m having fun with it. Iâ€™m letting myself experiment, try, and fail. Tuning it is a challenge: hand-carved means hand-carved fitted tuning pegs, which are the devil to hold steady and tighten without the note going flat. The neck is narrower than some of the other ones I played meaning some fretting tends to slop over the edge. But itâ€™s so much fun, and so immediately rewarding: the kind tones sound pretty even when youâ€™re not sure what youâ€™re doing.
Maybe I acted too quickly, but I donâ€™t think that matters. I think the fun in trying, even the fun in failing, is what matters. And that cute little frog, he matters too.