Monday, July 03, 2006
Ten years ago I had to start cutting down all the trees in our lawn which had shaded us (quite darkly, we discovered). Year after year more trees died off from the spruce bark beetle epidemic and I had to bring them down. It was a lot of work cutting them into firewood and cleaning up the branches (by burning them each winter). Since there are tens of thousands of acres of dead trees, firewood has become quite cheap around here, and it was a challenge to even give away all the firewood to friends and neighbors. Now, after so many years, only a few hardy trees survive. Once the logging was over (at least around the house - there are still more than 75 dead standing trees off the hill in the creekbed which must eventually come down, but they can wait - we can't see them anyway); getting rid of the stumps became the next challenge. Each year, instead of staying home and working on the yard, we took off in our motorhome, and traveled throughout most of the US (and Canada). After a few years of this I began to neglect the yard altogether - it looked so tacky with all those gray stumps. Finally, this year I've done it.
Keeping a lawn in this part of Alaska requires a lot of dedication. The soil is naturally acidic (due to its volcanic origin and the dominance of spruce trees), so we have to constantly add lime (Calcium Hydroxide with a little Magnesium Hydroxide), and then a high nitrogen fertilizer. We also have to water it every three days or so, unless it rains... The real dedication is that because of the lime, the fertilizer and watering, the grass grows quite quickly under our long sunlight hours; and we usually have to mow every five or six days. Unfortunately, if we don't do the lime, fertilizer, water, mowing thing every year the lawn turns brown and dies out quickly. You can't win.
One reason we want a lawn is to reduce habitat for mosquitos - and aesthetic appearance, etc. Without proper tending to the lawn the weeds take over quickly and little alder trees quickly pop up - their root system is quite extensive and no matter how often you cut them down, unless you dig up the roots, the darn things keep coming back - good for the moose (and mosquitos) I guess.
I'm working on second position, playing the various "Etudes" in Suzuki, the "Target Practice" drills in Mooney, and the "Countdown" exercise my teacher gave me - over and over and over. Every day, I spend about half an hour on this. Hopefully I'm training my second finger to find its new "home", and consequently all my other fingers as well.
I'm actually quite encouraged that I'm able to "find" the right place more often than not - and I can certainly tell when I don't! I'm not ready to admit to liking the new fourth finger notes - especially E (a-string) and A (d-string). It will take getting used to, I guess. I do hear ringing tones - even with the new high E (?) when I do get those notes just right.
Meanwhile, I've kept working on all my other pieces and lately I feel as if I've made jump-step improvements on several of them. Progress seems to come in fits and starts, rather than steadily. Some of these new pieces now sound quite smooth and clean. I'm able to play them at a pretty good tempo - especially the fiddle tunes. Also, working on second position has somehow helped me with intonation in first position.
I played studied and played bass when I was younger. I would like to play cello too, when I retire and have some time. I think cello would be best because I can read the bass clef and cello parts are a lot more interestng than bass parts.
How long have you been playing?
Thanks for your feedback. My retirement came by accident - my company was doing a major downsizing and rather than get caught by surprise, I volunteered. Fortunately the buyout package was quite generous, which carried me for several years.
I still hope to be working again, eventually, but for now, there are no decent jobs where I live, and I really don't want to move.
Learning the cello takes as little as half an hour a day - sort of like committing to an exercise regimen. You might not progress as fast as if you put in two hours a day, but think how far you'll be in ten years if you started now!
I began playing just seven months ago. In some ways it seems much longer, considering how much my life has changed because of it.
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