Strum

My younger daughter returned to her home in Kauai yesterday, freeing up my writing space so that I may perhaps get in another journal entry or two before this month is out. We arose at 4AM to get her to the airport for her early flight to LA, then off to Lihue. She tells me the flight was delayed because one customer had to be turned around when he learned he was not going to Maui. It is amazing how some one can get that far along through the process of boarding a plane and end up being on the wrong plane. I sometimes wonder if I didn’t come through the wrong galactic portal when entering this world.

The new story that caught my imagination this past week was the large meteorite that crashed in a remote location in Russia. The largest, apparently, to strike the Earth in a hundred years. The last big one, also striking Russia, was the Tunguska meteorite of 1908. I remember reading about Tunguska when I was a kid and was fascinated with astronomy. At that time, there was a popular notion that earthlings would see travel to other worlds in my life time, but the notion turned out to be mere science fiction. This Russian meteorite of last week stirred up some of those hopes and expectations from my childhood of visiting another world.

But the story of the meteorite slips out of the public mind this week as we move on toward other forms of amusement and speculation. I only loosely follow the news because it seems to me to be a repeat of what I have already heard. I seldom learn anything new from the news. More DC idiocy, more cowboy-style gun shootings, and, gee, a snowstorm in the winter!

This day should be warm in California. Yesterday would have been nice, except a stiff, cold offshore breeze whipped at all my uncovered flesh, as I stood on the cliffs watching surfers on the point. A few well-shaped waves have been in town the past few days, and the offshore wind held them up quite nicely, providing a wave of spray that blew off the back of them as they advanced forward and into the cliffs. In the water, looking through the spray, one can see a rainbow.

If the wind will relinquish, after I hack away at my tax forms for awhile, I may go back to the beach with my ukulele and practice my strumming. My fingertips have become calloused from hours of practice, so I suppose that means I am advancing in my skills, or, perhaps I am just perpetuating a few bad habits. At any rate, the ukulele is fun to carry with me and make it to talk to me. At times, it nearly feels human.

While my daughter was visiting this past week, I bought her a smaller ukulele, a travel version, so that we might play together. My wife felt left out, and she is the one in the family with the musical background, so we returned to the ukulele store the next day and bought another one. I’m afraid this is getting to be a sickness around here, the rapid-fire purchase of instruments. Now I want a concert uke to complement my soprano uke!

The challenge for me, and I am learning is the same for other novices, is in learning how to keep a beat. I tend to strum at a steady pace for about a minute, and then unconsciously speed up the tempo, until after about five minutes of strumming I am going at double the pace I was going without ever noticing it. I wonder if my whole existence hasn’t been something like that, unconsciously winding up faster and faster. My uke study is training me how to slow down, watch out for, and correct this out-of-control industriousness. But it is fun to watch a master of very fast strumming:

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