Sunday, May 21, 2006


Black Bear!

We were driving on Skilak Loop out to the highway from the Hidden Lake campground yesterday morning. The road was still pretty bad from breakup, so after we had slowly driven up a hill about a mile from the campground entrance, we came around a corner near the crest and saw a huge black bear standing in the middle of the road. [We didn't get a picture of it, so I downloaded this image from Google].

This was one of the biggest black bears I'd ever seen! (I've seen dozens along the roads in Alaska and Northern Canada over the past 30 years - but this one was big!) After looking at us for a minute or two, the bear slowly ambled off road and quickly disappeared into the brush. It's kind of eerie knowing that this monster was less than a mile away from where we had been camping overnight. About a half mile further up the road, at a pullout for a trailhead, a van full of hikers was gearing up for a day's outing. We stopped to warn them of the nearby bear - but they didn't seem that concerned.

Although the Hidden Lake campground is only an hour away from home, it really feels like one of those campgrounds in the Smokey Mountains - Cade's Cove was always one of my favorites - that we used to go to every other summer when I was a kid - peaceful, quiet, well laid out, lots of trails and rocky outcroppings to climb. We burned a fire all afternoon and evening, until the wind finally drove us indoors just before bedtime. The fire did keep the early season bugs away. I really like this campground, we'll try to go back at the end of the summer (after the tourists and fishing crowd has thinned out).

I must have inhaled too much smoke standing around the fire all evening, because my sinuses were all closed up and I woke up yesterday with a splitting sinus headache that lasted all day. That meant I wasn't able to play my cello yesterday :(

Friday I polished my cello for the first time since I'd bought it. Ifshin Violins had included a small bottle of polish and they recommended I use it no more than once a month. So, after three months, I finally worked up the courage to try it. The cello sure was thirsty! But the polish quickly rubbed in with a nice rich lustre. Wow! I sure wish I had done this before the recital last week.

Today, I played more than 2-1/2 hours. It was a good session, the cello sounded so nice today (the polish?). I found all sorts of sweet notes with ringing tones. I like how some notes vibrate against my chest and others against my knees. Lately, I've been warming up playing each of the scales: D, G, Cx2, and F. I play them slowly at first, seeking out those mellow ringing tones. Then I pick up the pace, and try different rhythms, etc. Then some arpeggios.

I can't quite put my finger on what was different today, but I really felt as if I'd made a breakthrough. For the past few sessions, I've been concentrating heavily on the "tough passages" such as the G# fourth-finger extension on the Bach Minuet, the C# fourth-finger extension in Parson's Farewell, and the F# fourth-finger extension in Galopede - a tough one. Also the "D (1/4); C (dotted 1/8) - D (1/16); C (dotted 1/8) - B (1/16)" passage in Country Gardens, which has several rapid string crossings.

Whatever, it was immensely satisfying today to play several of these pieces cleanly.

No lesson tomorrow, and we haven't yet scheduled the next one. I'm waiting to hear from my teacher... Yesterday, coming home from the camping trip, we stopped in town to buy some of the 4H trees (arbor day - a little belated). [We got a handful of larches to plant on our new property after the driveway is put in - supposedly next week.] One of the 4H kids helping out was the cello student from town who played in our recital last week (I'd only met her once before at a rehearsal). She told me she's been learning the cello for five years, driving 150 miles roundtrip to her lessons every two weeks! She said there was an adult cellist who apparently lives north of town somewhere, but didn't recall the name.

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