COLUMN: Winter wonderland? And playing the blues

  • Posted: Friday, January 18, 2013 6:51 p.m.

Calendar entry for Jan. 18, 2013: “The first daffodil of the year.”

It’s hard to believe that the first sign of spring has opened up when we haven’t really had any winter weather yet. Maybe there is something to this global warming talk.

During the morning walks with Piper and PJ, I had already detected the green tops of daffodils bursting through the soil. In one of the yards I pass by, there are dozens of the plants already six inches high and still growing.

But yesterday gave me the first view of a fully opened yellow daffodil. It was sitting alone in a yard on Evans Road slightly bent over on its stem, not quite strong enough to hold the full weight of the flower.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Already in the past two weeks I’ve seen other spring flowering plants beginning to show off their finery. A flowering quince, a redbud and forsythia have also become confused about the time of year. For that matter, some of the flowers in our garden from last summer haven’t stopped blooming yet.

There have been two irises that refuse to stop showing off their white flowers. Just since Christmas our zinnias finally gave in to the effects of one of our rare, frosty mornings.

Spring is my favorite time of year, and I really do dislike cold weather, but even I know that the warm weather that we have had recently is not natural, and the price will be paid later on in the year.

We will have either a late cold snap that will damage flowers and crops, or we’ll have a miserably hot summer with a multitude of insects to make a tough summer even more intolerable. Neither option is good. I’ll go with the sign on our front porch – Let it snow!

* * *

In the few weeks that I have been working on my introductory acquaintance with the guitar, I have discovered a new respect for those who are accomplished with the instrument – or any musical instrument.

So far I am simply playing the blues. No, not those blues that many great musicians can play. The blues about how I play this six-stringed instrument.

This is the first effort I have made at playing an instrument. I don’t count the ocarina I had as a child that I could play “Happy Birthday” on.

The book I am using for my instruction teaches the G chord first. Chords, I have learned, are several strings strummed together at the same time with fingers placed on various strings to make a pleasing sound. At least that is what is supposed to happen.

The G chord is played with three fingers put on specific strings and at specific frets. The ring finger of the left hand is place on the top string of the guitar at the third fret. Easy enough. The middle finger is placed one fret higher and on the second string. Also, not too hard.

The difficult part for me is the little finger, which is supposed to go on the same fret as the ring finger but on the string farthest from the ring finger. My little finger has been pretty much going along for the ride during these last six-plus decades. It has had a relatively easy life and has not done a lot of work.

At the beginning of these lessons, I had to physically place that left little finger with my right hand so it would sit in the appropriate place for the G chord. And then it did not always want to stay there. And when it did stay there, it did not want to press down hard enough to make a nice, clear sound. It often preferred to lift slightly and create a buzzing sound that ruined anything the other two fingers were doing correctly.

My tender fingertips have also received an awakening in the study of the guitar. Golf, lawn mowing and keying on my computer did not prepare the fingers for the tough tips that result from working with the instrument.

After a few days, the fingers hurt a bit. Then came a period in which they were numb and tingled as if asleep. Now they seem to have lost most of their feeling.

As my book tells me, each day I work a bit with the guitar. But while there is some learning going on, the process is slow – especially for one with no previous training and probably very little natural talent. And the book tells me it will take months to become somewhat proficient at just the chord changing from G to D to C.

If the writer of the book saw me, he might change that part of his writing to say that it might take months to become proficient at making the G chord – period! Come on little finger, get over to that string.

Jeff Wallace is the retired editor of the Aiken Standard.

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