Violin heritage

Yesterday was a multi-task day of juggling the errant website, laundry, working on today’s sermon, and trying to make headway on the article. Laundry was successful. By evening I was too tired to continue trying to think let alone write cohesively. So I went to bed instead of posting, and it felt great.

Today was the beginning of getting ready for Christmas music season. We had a two hour practice starting at 3. It went way over two hours. I got home about 6:30. In the past month I’ve played the violin three or four times for very short periods. Not really playing any specific music, but working on bowing, intonation, and finding those sweet spots that makes the violin resonate.

Last week I pulled out my three violins to determine which one I should loan to our granddaughter, Faith.

Yes, three.
How is it that someone who’s only an amateur player, one who didn’t even start learning how to play the violin until age 37, has three violins?

First, this old beauty, the first violin I learned to play.
She was my mom’s violin from the time she was about 12. Her aunt handed it down to her (Anita) when she wanted to join the school orchestra. Her Aunt Maude had played it since she was in high school at the beginning of the 20th century. I do not know its history before then but the tag inside has the date of 1813 or 1818 – there’s a bit of rubbed out area on the inside of the final number.
(Faith is the 4th generation violin player spanning about 120 years.)

Around 2000, as the band I play in, Crooked Finger, was preforming more often, even getting paid, Ed felt I needed a better violin. Mom’s violin is nice enough, though slightly high voiced, but it doesn’t project well in a big space. At that time we knew the owner of a music store specializing in bluegrass / folk music instruments. After playing all the violins in our price range (definitely amateur prices!)
I settled on this one, which I named China. (very unoriginal!)
It was made in China in 1996 and I’m the first owner. It has a pleasant, and carrying voice. It’s a bit bigger, with wider fingerboard than the Amati shaped violin of Maude. It’s been a very good violin for me and I played it exclusively for about 4 years.

The marks on China’s finish makes me sad for I took very good care of it. But I loaned it to a young friend who was rapidly moving up in the ranks of the Salem Youth Philharmonic and needed a decent violin. She played China for over a year until she gained First Chair in the SYP and was loaned a quality violin from a patron.

Last but not least: Nellie.
A seminarian at Mt Angel Abbey stopped by the Abbey’s library circulation desk one morning when I was working there in 2005: would I be interested in buying his violin? He’d played all during high school and in the Chicago youth symphony. He loved it but hadn’t played it in over a year. He was at the place where he felt that he was leaving that part of his life behind, besides, he needed the money. He was asking a very fair price, and offered to loan it to me for a week so I could test it and get my violin teacher’s opinion. Having recently retired from a career in the Oregon Symphony she understood what a good violin sounds like. With her approval Nellie soon became my primary instrument. She’s the one that waits next to the wall in the beautiful upright violin box Ed made, easy for me to pick up and play at a moment’s notice.

A happy experience took place a few years after I’d bought Nellie: Crooked Finger was playing at the St Patrick’s dinner gig in Milwaukie (OR). We’d finished a piece when a person approached said “Hi, it’s great to see you playing my old violin!” I was surprised and delighted to see him. He was thrilled to know it was being played. We chatted a bit and I offered to sell it back to him if he missed playing the violin but he was content with his decision to sell it to me.

Each were played in turn as I tried to decide which to send with DD to take to Faith last week when they went to spend Thanksgiving with them. They each have merit, and while none of the violins are expensive violins they do have worth: sentimental, tonal and monetary.

Nellie was fitted with fine tuners for each string – a real bonus! But the pegs of both Maude and China hold very well, remarkably the strings often need no tuning adjustments between sessions – Maude especially so.

In the end I sent China to Faith. She’s already been loaned to one young player and has a few dings to show for it. I also have the feeling that Faith will like the looks of it. I’m endeared to China since Ed bought her for me, a fact that gives it more meaning to Faith who loves her grandpa.

Grateful for
– three violins that each hold special meaning
– ability to play them
– my granddaughter’s desire to play the violin


Black Friday contemplation

I was saddened, and appalled, to see on the news people pushing, shoving and fighting over merchandise. Who does this? Even more importantly why does anyone allow themselves to get into a rolling in the isle, hang on for dear life, tug-of-war for a mass produced item? Seriously. Two women going at it over some sort of cooking pot in a very crowded store.

It seems strange that anyone would want to venture out to shop on Black Friday, especially at a box store. Yes, there are tremendous bargains to be had but at what price?

We used to cringe when shopping at markets with a relative who took great pride in talking the maker down in price. To her it was all about saving herself as much as she possibly could. We’d watch the face of the maker caught in the conflict of needing to make money yet needing to make a decent earning for their materials, time and skills.

I did buy two gifts online today, full price, directly from the maker. I hadn’t intended to buy anything today but when I saw them I immediately knew two people who will love the items. The maker is very skilled and I wanted to show support for her.

Christmas is still just over 4 weeks away. We can each make an effort to honor others in our interactions with them, whether buying directly from a maker or grower, in line at a the busy checkout counter, or driving through congested streets. We can chose to smile and a give bit of space so others don’t feel crowded or threatened. A kind word, a simple smile can make a difference to a person’s day. Let’s resolve to be thoughtful, courteous people extending grace.Grateful for
  – the good rain that lasted much of the day.
– the ability to stay home all day
– a long conversation with a friend of the heart
– the a long practice of keeping Christmas gift buying simple and within means.

Thanksgiving Day

I’m very thankful that Ed prefers simple meals! He groans when there are more than four different items, not including pickles and olives, to eat in one sitting. (A sushi meal is an exception.)

Instead of turkey, Ed opted to Traeger (grill) a leg of lamb. Cut potatoes were roasted and asparagus rounded out the meal with pumpkin pie served a couple hours later. An easy meal to fix, serve and clean up.

With the need to get spindles into the webstore the majority of the day was spent taking spindle pictures, editing and uploading them to the website to be ready to appear tomorrow and Saturday mornings about 9:30.

The sky was overcast and a raw wind was blowing during the morning walk. It’s rained off and on today which is great for snow in the mountains and the water levels.  It was sobering to see the creek as low as it is. Usually by this time in November it’s quite high with water flowing briskly through the concrete swimming / wading area / top of the fish ladder, which right now is    completely dry. The current water level is more like late summer. We need the rain.The future on the wings of a leaf.

Grateful for
   – the simple bounties of life
– a warm house protecting us from the elements
– good food
– grace


I have an article deadline just over a week away. When I submitted the proposal I was anticipating a relatively straightforward article.

Until, Ed suggested a certain reference book for more in-depth understanding.  It came and I plunged down a rabbit hole.

Ideas and concepts swirled in my mind but with only vague understanding I turned to an engineer friend to help me get a better grasp on what I was learning. I read, thought, and made observations all the while sinking deeper and deeper, floundering, becoming stuck.

Ed advised me to forego the scientific angle, to keep it simple, stick with what we know.

Today just as I’d begun assembling ingredients to make a pumpkin pie, with the goal of tackling the article this afternoon, Ed came home bearing a huge bag filled with a dozen turkey necks, hearts, livers, gizzards, tails all needing immediate attention. The Wednesday dinner crew were making a traditional Thanksgiving dinner to serve tonight but they didn’t have the time or space to deal with the cast off parts and were going to throw them away.

The afternoon went sideways from there; I never did work on the article, or accomplish some of the other must-do work tasks. Picking the meat from the roasted neck bones I was reminded of helping my mom remove the meat for the rich gravy she’d make with the long-simmered parts. Enjoying the broth in gravy, the rest in soups made from broth that will be frozen into cubes tomorrow, be well worth the effort and time it took today.

From fretting about the change in schedule to gratitude for the unexpected bounty.

Tomorrow it will be just Ed and I, and that’s okay. We’d invited several people to share our meal with but they had other plans. Our daughter and husband were able to take several days off from work so they could spend time with our son. Without the need to prepare for friends or family we’ll have a quiet day and I’ll perhaps wrangle that article into submission!
One of the Wednesday helpers walked into the kitchen wearing a scarf that immediately grabbed Ed’s attention with its bold colors. He told her he liked it.

Next thing he knew, she was wrapping it around his neck telling him he could have it! She’d knit the wool scarf and fingerless mitts. Ed rarely wears scarves or mitts but I have the feeling this set will be well loved.
Grateful for
   – unexpected bounty, unexpected gifts!
– a calm, quiet day tomorrow

May you each have a day of contentment and thankfulness.


The large fig tree in our neighbors yard has late ripening figs. The hot, dry summer followed by a mild autumn seemed to prolong their ability to ripen until mid-November. Some years they’ve been a delicious treat. Just looking at one it was easy to tell if it was ripe or not.

This year the figs never really ripened. Sure, they dropped off the tree to make great messes on the ground. The bluejays slashed bites out of them but didn’t gather in the tree in the great numbers as they do some years.

I spied my neighbor raking and shoveling the splattered figs so went through the gate the guys had installed between our properties in the hopes that they were finally good to eat.
They were not. Figs in season but not edible.
Figs clinging to bare branches high against the sky.  Looking at the tree was a reminder that all things have their cycles of goodness and rest, buffeted at times by heat and drought but when roots are sunk deep, hope is present.

In front of my daughter’s house, which is much higher in elevation and exposed to the winds, is this vibrant plant bursting with flowers and colors! She planted a tiny little plant early in the summer and in the past few weeks it exploded with growth and color.
Grateful for
– life lessons which abound in nature
– tenacious hope


Silk Scarf

For three years in a row I managed to post every day in November, a tradition I was determined to keep this year, until yesterday.

The day was a good one, and utterly exhausting. Along with regular Sunday morning responsibilities was the Scotts Mills Friends Thanksgiving dinner right after church.

The hours between church service and returning home passed quickly: Setting up for the meal then leisurely eating and chatting with friends.  By the time the remaining people had removed the tables, swept the floors, moved pews into place, washed last dishes, and the lights turned off, I was exhausted. A short nap, followed by taking some food to an elderly couple, then an evening of mindless knitting while listening to an audio was all I was capable of doing.

The silk scarf pinned out to block and dry this morning.
As anticipated by the amount of yarn, it’s a short scarf. Soft with good drape. Perfect for wrapping once around the neck and securing with a pin.

Trying it on for size and feel, an old memory of my aunt came to mind. In the winter she liked to wear small woven silk scarves. She didn’t like long, dangling scarves. I wish I could go back in time to look at her scarves and ask her about them.

The pattern: Purl Soho’s Open Air Wrap   28 stitches cast on.
Yarn: 106 yards 100% Tussah silk spun from 1 ounce of The Dragonfly Yarns fiber
Needles: US4 / 3.5mm   Pink Ivorywood circs made by Ed
Length: 38″, Width: 7″

Grateful for
the soothing, and deeply satisfying, process of spinning and knitting
– finished projects
– a sermon that was well received by attentive listeners
– gatherings of food and friends, even when they take me out of my introverted comfort zone
– another beautiful day of sunshine and autumn colors