While in New Harmony, I wandered into a store that claimed to sell antiques. Once inside, I quickly realized that the store actually sold hand-made items like jewelry, art like paintings and instruments like dulcimers. The store owner started talking to me about the various items for sale. His daughter-in-law makes the jewelry. He paints the paintings. His friend across the street makes the dulcimers.
This friend gets the wood as scraps from a guy who has a lumberyard and sells floors to “rich people who pay bazillions for the stuff.” The owner told me the quality (and beauty) of the wood is the reason the dulcimers are so expensive, like $600 plus. He started playing his for me and I just fell in love with the sound. If you don’t know it, the dulcimer is a five stringed instrument that you play like a guitar (strum with a pick and make chords on frets) however the tuning is much simpler (of the five strings, four are tuned to D, three of them the same D and one an octave lower) and you play it on your lap.
I knew I couldn’t afford one but I let him tempt me anyway. He told me all about Appalachian people making dulcimers and playing a standard called “Boil Them Cabbage,” and then he told me the story that sold me completely. He teaches classes on the dulcimer in town. People come from Newburgh and Evansville to learn from him. One lady sat with her dulcimer on the first day of class. When they started to play, she started to cry. The shop owner/teacher was very concerned because he didn’t normally have criers in his classes. He was worried she was upset about the quality of her playing as a new student. When he went over to her, she said, “I used to be a violinist but I started having trouble with my hands. Eventually I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and I couldn’t play at all. I’m so happy because now I can make music again.”
If that wasn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. I met the hubs, brought him to the store, and we looked over all the dulcimers. A simple one caught my eye. “That one was made by my other friend. He dislikes all the fancy carvings the rest of these have. He says he makes ones that make music.” Sold. (For significantly less than all the other ones yet still very pretty in its own way).
So I’m learning the dulcimer. I’m inspired. I’m making music. (I’m one of those people who quit playing the piano, my mom said you’ll regret it, and I do). Day 252 was my first day of real practice and I am working on strumming and chords. I can also play “Boil Them Cabbage” and am working on “Kum Ba Yah” for an upcoming camping trip.