April 10th, 2002

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Greenleaves, greensleeves

Leaves just appeared last week, as if they did not grow so much as materialize. I wish that some Spring Saturday I could spend the whole day watching leaves grow, because I'm convinced that some of these trees had noticeable movement. The only time I can remember a plant having noticeable movement is the sensitive plant at the Cleveland Avenue School in Camden, Arkansas. Touch the plant and it closes its fern-like leaves. My grandparents' home was a few blocks from the school--my grandmother taught there. My grandmother's place was full of cool nature--roly polys (sowbugs) I'd capture and use to stage huge "races" on the porch,
Texas grasshoppers, all black-metal-armored looking, which we'd avoid because an untrue urban myth said they were poisonous to the touch.

When I lived in La Crescenta, CA, I got to see a Jerusalem cricket. A huge cricket that looks
like a giant ant, but mostly lives buried deep underground. The news last week said that they had discovered a new huge species of this cricket.
Last summer, at Lake Ray Roberts, a gorgeous
state park an hour and fifteen minutes northwest of here, I saw scads of velvet ants. Velvet ants are really wasps (every child in the south has found this out in a paintful but decorative way by picking one up and meeting with a stinging education), but they look like child's paintings of giant ants. That same park has zebra butterflies, black and yellow stripes--only
a sliver of Texas/Oklahoma and the Florida Keys have this kind, and I was delighted to see some in Key Largo. It's time to plant a butterfly bush here.

When I was a kid, my mother was musical.
She had been a marimba champion of some sort
in high school, and even had a sort of jazz band (read: popular swing) that played her local small town radio station one evening a week, for which they were paid the wages of a steak dinner. Her father had bought the marimba second hand, from a travelling evangelist, whose obligations had outrun his grace, and had to sell on his way to find more fertile fields for the gospel [parenthetically, Camden, Arkansas, is the home of the postal employee who successfully lobbied to get "In God We Trust" on the coin, which may sum Camden up in one line].

My sister, who is artistically skilled in nearly every way, somehow came "out of the box" playing music by ear. Like some savant, she even plays extraordinarily ornate arrangements by ear. My brother and I were much less gifted. He played the recorder for some time, and may yet be able to play. I took years of piano lessons, to almost no effect.

My mother got a chromaharp, which is a kind of autoharp, when I was a teen. I took it off to law school, and taught myself to play. This is no difficult feat, as basic chording of an autoharp is not very difficult. When I got out working on my own, I bought a used electric autoharp from a musician who advertised it in the greensheet. He looked sad that he had to sell, and I suspected that if he marshalled his assets more wisely
he might not have had to sell. But I plunked down my hundred dollars, and in the novel of my life
we leave this character behind without ever knowing if he *had to sell* or if he really just *needed rehab* or *needed to stop pretending to earn a living at music and get a job*. I don't play with my autoharp as often My Inner Critic says I should, but it was fun during Christmas to pull out my mom's autoharp and play a few things, including Greensleeves. "Alas, my love....".
  • Current Music
    Arlo Guthrie's version of Goodman's "City of New Orleans"
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reports from the musical fossil kingdom

Why does Bill Nelson's guitar solo interplayed with Clark's electric piano on "Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape" still captivate me 20 years since I first heard it? Why does Santana's "Flame/Sky" solo have the same effect on me, but I nearly never listen to it?
  • Current Music
    Be Bop Deluxe, "Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape"