Mountain Dulcimer

Mountain Dulcimer

Do you know what a mountain dulcimer is? I didn’t know what one was, until the day I walked into a gift shop and the owner was playing one. I fell in love with it. He told me that if I bought it and could not learn to play one tune, I could bring it back and my money would be returned. I took it home, learned to play Twinkle Little Star, and I kept this beautiful instrument.

Little did I know that chance encounter would change the direction of my world. I was in my 20’s, just graduated from nursing school and was looking for adventure. Every two to three years I would move to a new area of the country, get a job and explore the place I temporarily called home. I took that dulcimer with me every time I moved.

I lived in Durango Colorado for almost two years. Fort Lewis College, the four year school in town, offered a semester in, yep you guessed it, the Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer. I took the semester and learned to play reasonably well. Our teacher had the class perform at different events. It was fun. I made new friends and was introduced to folk music and dancing of all kinds.

During this semester we had a guest teacher come for a few days and help us improve on our skills. I was rather shy about playing in front of someone who could play so well. I would sit off to the side and play very quietly. Every time Neal, the teacher would come close I would stop playing. I don’t remember exactly what happened but he gave me a 6 string dulcimer to “try out”. What I remembered later is that the six string instrument was louder and he no longer needed to come too close when I played.

Enter the second dulcimer in my life. I now have a three string traditional dulcimer, made by Clifford Glen in Boone, North Carolina and I have a six string made by Blue Lion from California.
Even more important than the instruments, Neal Hellman, the dulcimer teacher became my friend.

Neal and I have been friends since the early 1980’s. We never lived close but we traveled in the same circles. He taught at music festivals and I attended them. The two of us would catch up over dinner or if time was fleeting I always took time to sit behind his sale table, and find out what was the latest happenings with my friend. I always enjoyed our encounters. E-mail also helped us stay in touch.

Neal and I are not too much alike. I think that may be what makes me like him. He is the only person I know who is able to make a full time business out of music. He plays, he records, he produces for other musicians and he sells a wonderful selection of music. He is the owner of Gourd Music. (click on the link to see his web site). He is funny and smart and fun to be around. He is a kind soul.

When he is on stage or teaching he is gregarious and entertaining. He makes everyone feel like they are the best musician in the room.

Over the years we stopped communicating. There is no reason for this, it is what sometimes happens with friends. Our lives move in different directions. Yet even though that happens, when friends get together again it is like we just saw each other yesterday.

Neal & janet

Neal & janet

Neal lives in Santa Cruz. Three days ago I reconnected with Neal. We visited, rode our bikes to Wilder Beach State Park, had dinner and watched the DNC that evening. I camped in his driveway. It was a great moment on this trip. I love seeing my friends. I especially loved seeing Neal after all these years. I have no idea why friendships happen and it really is not important to know, but I am certainly glad that he and I became friends. I am glad we remain friends still.

Friends support each other. I think they can bring out the best in each other. We can laugh together, share sorrow together and grow together and just have fun together. A lot has happened in both of our lives and I am glad we have had time to catch up. I am glad he is my friend.

Neal sitting on his deck in the Redwoods.

Neal sitting on his deck in the Redwoods.

And…You should see his yard. He has three redwoods in the yard. I am kind of enthralled by these trees.

Since this post I have been meandering up Route 1. When everything east of here is pretty darn hot I don’t mind being along the coast, in the redwoods and it maybe is 70 degrees. I am now camping near Crescent City, CA. It is near the Oregon border. Tonight I am meeting up with another good friend. No more solo camping for me, for a while. A new adventure is about to unfold.

Today I am thankful for friends, new and familiar. I am so glad Neal and I connected once again.

Hanging Ten

Me at the Mavericks festival

Me at the Mavericks festival

OK I’m hooked. I love big wave surfing. Friday was such a great day. I loved camping where I did. I could walk everywhere and I love that. The first thing I saw when I got up in the morning were the different San Francisco news vans getting set up. Well that was kind of cool and exciting. Then I walked over to the Mavericks Festival. There were big screens set up so that those who were not lucky enough to go out on the boat could watch the contest. There were all kinds of food and beer, of course. People just showed up with their beach chairs and positioned themselves for the day. Everyone I met was so nice.

At 10:30 a.m. I stepped onto the boat. Now here is something to remember. When the waves are big out at the break, they are also big when you are going out into them in a small fishing boat. It was a great roller coaster ride. Thank goodness for bonine.

big wave

big wave

Mavericks, the break, is about 2 miles out in very rough seas. When we arrived I was so amazed at the number of people and boating equipment that was there. There were kayakers, a sculler, people on surf boards, private yachts, small fishing boats, rafts, paddle boarders and more. The most important boats there, were the coast guard that kept everything in as much order as they could. The coast guard created a loose circle that all the boats had to go in so that everyone had a chance to see the surfers.

catching a wave

catching a wave

I soon realized that taking photos was going to be really tough. I took a few but then befriended Ben who had a cool looking camera and when he downloads them, will share his photos with me. I was pleased with this arrangement as I could then do what I came to do and that was watch. And watch I did. Even though we were close to the break the surfers still looked so small on those big waves. It was cool.

The waves were 30-40 feet high. I have decided as exciting and fascinating that I find this sport, I personally think these guys are a bit nuts. By the time those surfers are surfing down the face of a wave that big they are going up to 35 mph. Whoa.

IMG_6002The immediate kinship everyone on my boat felt with each other was very heartwarming to me. We were all in this together. Everyone shared talk of cameras, even the professionals. There was always room for one more at the rail. If you were trying to walk and were weaving too much someone gave a hand to help that person out. I enjoyed the company as much as I did the event, if not more. I like meeting nice people and giving them the chance to be nice is good too.

After 3 hours and the final was complete the boat surfed us back into harbor. It amazes me that the kayakers and scullers came out through this break. The day was done. I got in my RT and headed south.

My campsite for the night before the competition

My campsite for the night before the competition

Main judges boat & surfers boat for the competition

Main judges boat & surfers boat for the competition

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Driving RT 1 south of Half Moon Bay

Driving RT 1 south of Half Moon Bay

I spent 2 days traveling down Rt 1. What an amazing road. The road between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz was gorgeous. It looked a lot like Big Sur. I had never been on that stretch of RT 1. I have now decided that I need to travel the northern part of that RT. I like the feel of independence the people who live in these spaces exhibit. There is a part of me that feels that independence within me as well. And for my friend Zoe, you should see the vistas.

 

Sunset at Cosanoa.

Sunset at Cosanoa.

Hiking at Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Hiking at Big Basin Redwoods State Park

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The last day of this trip was spent meandering down the Big Sur Coast, one more time. I have not been on this coast for several years and in the past year I have traveled this stretch of the Pacific Coast at least 5 times that I can count. I love this coastline. It never ceases to amaze me. Each time I have traveled here it has been different, I have been different. I really like the fact that I feel that even though it is a long ways from home, I can casually meander the coast in the morning and still get to San Diego not too late in the evening.

Big Sur Coast

Big Sur Coast

Each trip I take is different. Every time I venture out I feel different. This trip was so much fun yet I found that the leaving and the driving north was hard for me emotionally. I felt alone and concerned about that state. What if no one spoke to me? What if I didn’t know what to say to strangers? What if I didn’t have a good time? What if, what if, what if.  I find that since Jim is no longer with me I have been having to find a new balance in my life. Sometimes it is spot on and I am good. Then there are times like this trip that I struggle to figure out my place as a single woman in my world and in the broader world. It is OK to be this way, I know this, still it can be a struggle. I am glad to be home. 

Every time I've traveled the Big Sur Coast I think this bird is waiting for me. I see him in the same spot each time.

Every time I’ve traveled the Big Sur Coast I think this bird is waiting for me. I see him in the same spot each time.

sea gulls taking their morning bath

sea gulls taking their morning bath

   Still slowly moving forward and finding strength.