In honor of my birthday month, I have picked up my banjo once again. Over the years, I have discovered that I am not an apathetic individual. When an idea makes itself known to me, I tend to want to roll with it fairly readily. This means a few things. For one, it means that I have about a thousand goals to complete by the time my number on this planet is called. It also means that I often grow so very overwhelmed and paralyzed by the sheer number of tasks I have set out to accomplish that I do not accomplish anything.
This does not make for a sustainable moment.
Sometime in college, I decided that my two life goals were to learn another language and to summit Mount Kilimanjaro as my father had some 20 odd years before. He told me stories of visiting Africa when I was a child, and I longed to go. After watching videos for a high school Biology class of the horrify parasites one could fall victim to when spending time in Africa, there was a brief period where I succumbed to fear and decided with sadness that I would probably never travel to the dark continent.
Yet, when my mom was invited to speak at a world conference on HIV and AIDS in South Africa during the summer after my freshman year in college, I threw caution to the wind and accompanied my family members to the southern tip of the continent and on up to Tanzania to march up the mountain of my dreams.
One dream down, a second to go.
My sophomore year in college, I took my first French class. That following year, I studied in West Africa and attained a working knowledge of the language. Not long after graduating from college, inspired by working for the Forest Service with a fellow from Bretagne, I traveled to France and taught English in three elementary schools, solidifying my handle on the language for a spell.
When Bush was reelected in 2004, I entertained the idea of staying in France until a time in the future when the American political climate might change (I would likely still be there now if I had). But love and memories of my home in the Cascade Mountains drew me back.
Working at national parks offers many opportunities to practice, so I have managed to maintain a fair ability to speak French despite forgetting much of the everyday vocabulary.
And so I move onto to new dreams and projects. I bought a matte board cutter, used it once to make an even frame, and have not used it since.
I bought materials to make linoleum stamps, made wedding invitations, and have not used it since.
I bought a banjo, which I pick up about every two years, learn the same four chords, and tuck it gently back away into its case for a rainy day.
There are moments when I see an idea through from start to finish. My ukulele case has gathered little moss since discovering the magical instrument almost exactly a year ago. The uke has become as an extension of my small being, and I have had little interest in playing any other instrument since.
Monday and Tuesday are my lieu days from work (we don’t call our weekly holidays a “weekend” because hardly anyone actually has Saturday and Sunday off).
This particular Monday, I woke up feeling relatively fine. I started my day by cleaning some nasty brown dripping stuff from my garbage can and then cleaning the dishes. Cleaning for me has been therapeutic for about as long as I can remember, so this kind of start to the day was comforting.
I wandered around my apartment in the gritty city, sweeping here and folding laundry there. Something seemed to be nagging at me. I knew I should go outside for a walk in the woods, but I just kept putzing around from room to room and tidying up.
For some reason unbeknownst to me, this afternoon—hot, sunny, humid and about as far from a rainy day as I am from Alaska—I felt inspired to pick up my banjo once more. Lately, I have been feeling a bit rough around the edges. My ukulele has a nice, soft, gentle sound and feel to it, but singing the blues seems to call for something a bit more scrappy sounding. A banjo with a loud, tinny twang is just right.
I tuned it and started strumming a few chords I relearned from my instant banjo book (a narrow, slender bind that is easy to pack and has thus traveled a fair number of miles in my possession).
In a few minutes, a song just seemed to jump out, and I was off and singing the Monday blues. No sooner had I made a few recordings and set the banjo down, the heavens opened and rain began cascading from the sky in a summer deluge. Maybe my soul just knew it was going to rain and that some banjo playing would lift my spirits.
Just as the blues can pass as mysteriously and quickly as they came, the sun shines down upon the Spindle City once more.
For anyone feeling there own version of melancholia or simply wanting to wail a bit, I am including a rough recording here. Please accept my sincere apologies for the trite melody and fairly funky strumming.
As always, I am thankful to you for reading!