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Marimba

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Marimba

While in Asheville, NC last week, I went to a Goodwill store. I very quickly noticed a lovely wooden instrument. You might call it a xylophone or a glockenspiel, but this is neither; it is a marimba. I know this because it says Guatemala across the front of it. The marimba is the national instrument of Guatemala. I didn’t realize that, but Google can be very informative.

There was no mallet, so I hit some of the keys with my fingernail. It sounded so pretty. The keys were smooth on the top and a little rough on the bottom; I thought they might be hand carved. I knew the platform it was on was handmade. I ran my hand across the keys and it was dusty. It had been a while since this instrument had been loved. "What is your back story?”, I thought, “Someone needs to love you again.” I wondered if it could be me. When I looked at the small end and saw the price, I said, “You are going home with me!” I carefully picked it up and put that beauty in my cart. It was two days before my birthday and I decided this would be a gift to myself.

When I got home, I brought the marimba in my house and got out some wood cleaner and a soft rag. It took a little elbow grease, but, oh, she is pretty. I found a couple of small dowels and put wood knobs on the ends to make some makeshift mallets so I could truly hear the sound of the keys. I LOVE IT. Listening to it makes me happy. I have a new instrument to learn. I think that Google might help me out again with some tutorials. The only thing I know about my new marimba is that she was made in Guatemala. How she made it to the United States, North Carolina, and then to Asheville, I’ll never know — but what matters now is the moment. Oh, she is a pretty instrument!

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 Dancing with the Stars LIVE

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Dancing with the Stars LIVE

A week before Christmas our youngest daughter, Carmen, called and asked what my husband, Steven, and I would be doing for New Year Eve. I asked her what was up and she said she was trying to get her plans together for the night. It set me back that she was interested in spending that evening with us. When we had our family Christmas together, Carmen handed Steven and I an envelope and inside were tickets to go see Dancing With the Stars Live on New Year’s Eve. It was such a lovely surprise.

As Steven and I watched the dancers coming on and off the stage with different costumes, different music, and set images I took note of the stories that were being told. Some were dramatic, some a little silly, others romantic. The ease and flow between transitions were striking to me and before we knew it 2 hours had gone by and the dancers were taking their final bow.

To me, the night was lovely and so joyful. I got a little dressed up and was able to sit back and enjoy the date hand in hand with Steven. To appreciate the love and generous hearts of our children, and to be thankful for the artists of the world. I took a few pictures, they might not be perfect, but they hold a memory for me.

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Live Out Loud

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Live Out Loud

Summer reading this year is a music theme, titled Libraries Rock. So I wrote a program called Rhythm & Rhyme and Note-able Narratives. I've been doing shows at several libraries this summer and it has been fun. I've included some puppets and instruments from different countries and continents. I introduce the instruments to the audience, then tell a story from that country; a thumb drum from Africa, rainstick from Equador, dulcimer guitar from North America, and a couple of others. I have also made a bunch of homemade instruments, so everyone in the audience gets to play something. 

My favorite part of the program is showing everyone how to whistle on an acorn top or turn pine cones into a musical instrument. I learned those little techniques by living on a farm, but there is music all around us. You can hear it when the wind rustles the leaves on the trees, the ding of an elevator door, the cadence of a walk. Even my washer and dryer play tunes when they are finished. 

Learning a new instrument is enjoyable for me. In the past, I haven't played my instruments for audiences; I really am not very good. But then I took to heart one of my mantras — LIVE OUT LOUD. We should make a little noise now and then. Now, I am not saying that we should whistle in the middle of a movie or sing in a waiting room; what I am saying is that we should enjoy our lives.

Make music, ask questions, try something new. No matter your age or gender, you don't have to be good at something to enjoy it. Live Out Loud!

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Listening in Color

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Listening in Color

I really like documentaries, especially those about unique things or trivia. I’ve been watching a series on Netflix and came upon an exceptionally unique individual who caught my attention. His name is Neil Harbisson and he was born with achromatopsis. In simple terms, he was born severely colorblind. He only sees in grayscale. Seriously, it’s like watching the beginning of the Wizard of Oz 24 hours a day. (Yes, the beginning is in black and white. Go back and watch the opening scenes; it becomes color after the tornado.)

Neil wanted to do something about the lack of color in his world, so in 2003 he started working with doctors and a scientist to develop an electronic eye that detects color. It picks up on the light frequency and translates the color into sound. He had this implanted in his brain so he now actually listens to color. The eye looks, to me, like a single antenna coming from the back of his head and bending to his forehead. 

I became so intrigued, I looked him up on the internet and... hey, he did a Ted talk! So, I clicked on it and listened for the length of the talk, 9 minutes and 35 seconds. I was impressed. This man has got a great sense of humor!! I laughed with him all the way through his talk. 

Neil talked about getting dressed in the morning: “I used to dress in a way that looked good, now I dress in a way that sounds good. Today I am dressed in C major.” He made this statement as he drew attention to his yellow pants, blue shirt, and pink jacket. Honestly, I liked the combination.
“Supermarkets are like a night club,” he went on to say. He then continued with telling the audience that he especially enjoys the cleaning supply aisle because of all of the bright colors. 

Because colors show themselves in sounds and notes (music), he now listens to a voice and hears the color of the voice. Neil has become an artist and paints the sounds of the colors he hears. He showed pictures of how voices of different famous people look in color. His artwork is simply lovely. Makes me think about the phrase, ‘Your voice is like music to me ears’ — to him, it really is! 
When he listens to music, he hears it in color. He also said can hear the color of a person’s face and it has changed his perspective of beauty.

This got me wondering, when he describes people does he say something like, ‘His face was a C# but his clothes were a B minor?’ 

As I watched him talk, I was really struck by his presentation of confidence. The third eye he has on his head will certainly grab the attention of all of us. We might take a second or a third look, but when he looks back at us, what color and what notes does he hear? 

When we get to the bottom line, it seems to me everybody has something challenging in their lives. Neil took his challenge and developed an opportunity for himself. Frankly, I decided I am going to listen for the color of my challenges, how about you? 

You can hear Neil (in color) below.

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