wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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The Old Zither

No, it’s not an autoharp, but it looks like one and is played similarly. You might notice that the strings on the left half of the instrument are thicker (thus deeper-sounding). These are the chords that would be strummed as the harmony to the melody which is played on the thinner strings on the right half of the zither.

I remember my father playing these chord strings, often in an oom-pah-pah rhythm, but not necessarily always so. Using his thumb, he’d play a thicker light-coloured string once for “Oom” and stroke the three strings to the left of it twice for the “pah-pah.”

This would be timed to go with the notes of the melody played with his right-hand thumb which wore the “pick” you see beside the zither, just above the big tuning key.

This zither came with us to Canada in 1953, packed in its box, along with music sheets printed especially for the zither. The music sheet would be inserted under the strings and lined up so the heavy line lay under the C-string. That way it was easy to pluck the strings marked by a dot on the paper.

You would start at the top of the page and basically follow the line to the next dot and play each dot as you came to it. In this way, even a beginner could play a passably good version of the song. Of course, you could play tunes without the crutch of these music sheets, or even make up your own sheets if you had a favourite song.

But what about the accompanying chords? Even those are made easy. Each of the five chord sections are numbered, as you can see in the first photo, the numbers going from the middle to the left side from 1 – 5, and with the letters of the chords listed as well. Those same numbers show on the music sheet, so you can know which chord to strum with which notes on the melody.

This zither has a lot of history. It had a lot to do with how my father met my mother. Basically he serenaded her with it. Later when they married and had children, the zither was still a part of the family.

I have such fond memories of evenings when I lay in bed and (before the days of TV), my dad would bring out the zither and he and my mother softly sang their old folk songs in the semi-darkened living room. It was the most beautiful music I had ever heard and I still hear it in my mind, mixed with those tender emotions of love for my parents.

I borrowed the story of how they met, and the role the zither played, in my novel Julia’s Violinist. It is a fictional book but I wanted to include the zither in the story, so you can find it there is you ever choose to read that novel. Just click on the image of the book cover at the side of this page.


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Dinner at the Diner

I wonder if there’s a restaurant up there. They dropped some food here on the floor, but maybe there’s fresher stuff up top.

Ah … this is more like it. A real borgasschmord of meaty worms and grains. Looks like a zinnia dropped some seeds here, and a bunch of other weedy things left promises of more weeds in the spring. I could help Anneli out by eating the weed seeds. But it might be easier to go dine at The Suet Block today.

Uh-oh! Looks like Mr. Darling Starling is already tucking in.

“Hey, Star! Don’t you know Anneli doesn’t want you here?”

“And why might that be, you little piece of Junc-o?”

“Well … she says you gobble too much food and don’t share, and anyway, she doesn’t like feeding baby killers. You know you’re a nest robber.”

“Harrumpf! Watch it, Twirp, or I’ll peck your eye out. And anyway, you’re not social distancing.”

“OMG! OMG!” said Harry, the hairy woodpecker. “I’d like to go down there, but – sheesh! That starling is star-k raving mad! … and-and-and he’s m-m-mean too.”

“I’m being good, Mr. Starling. See? I’ll keep my distance. I’ll just sit here and watch until you’re done.”

“Well, Twirp, you should have brought a chair. I’m gonna be a while.”

“Heh, heh, heh. Here comes Anneli. Look at that coward fly. He’s a “star” at running away. Coward! Heh-heh-heh. Wish Anneli would sit out here in the rain with us … sigh….”


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Good Ole Mother Nature

You’ve seen pictures of my woodshed before, but take a closer look at the wood. It is dotted with birds, most of them Oregon juncos and pine siskins all trying to find shelter and food to keep enough warmth in their little bodies to survive until the fury of the storm has passed.

The rain lashed out in torrents and blew into all shelters sideways. The feeder is blurry, in constant motion, blown by the howling wind. The Captain and I made up a hanging cage for yet another suet block and moved two birdfeeders farther into the woodshed under cover. As we worked in that screaming wind we noticed more than one tiny bedraggled siskin huddling under pieces of firewood, feathers soaked, desperate to get out of the piercing wind that slapped icy water onto their wee little bodies. I could have cried. But we did what we could and had to let “good ole Mother Nature” do what she does best – kill off the weak. Survival of the fittest is hard to watch sometimes.

I took two quick videos of the storm from the deck of our house. In the onslaught of the wind and rain, I kept pressing the wrong button to stop the video and as I lowered the camera I caught an ugly picture of my slippers and an empty flowerpot. Not Academy Award film quality, but you’ll get an idea of the force of the storm. What you won’t see are some of the gusts that were way more violent than what I captured here.

If you turn on the sound, you’ll hear only the music of nature.

Today the birdfeeders are empty again. I’m refilling them a lot but if it will help some birds survive, I will keep on filling them as often as needed.

These little birds make me happy all year, so I want to do what I can to help them out when they need it.

No poem today. I’m too unhappy about watching them suffering yesterday.


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Windblown, but not Sun-tanned

When I was a child I really liked a song by Cole Porter. It was called “True Love,” sung by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly. I was too young in 1956 to be a fan of these oldies, but the song was around much later and I always liked it.

It goes like this:

Sun-tanned, windblown, 
Honeymooners at last alone,
Feeling far above par,
Oh, how lucky we are.

While I give to you
And you give to me,
True love, true love.
So on and on it will always be,
True love, true love.

For you and I 
Have a guardian angel on high
With nothing to do,
But to give to you
And to give to me,
Love forever true.
 

If you don’t want to watch the 50s style banter of the movie, “High Society,” just advance the video to about 1:06 to hear the beautiful old love song, “True Love.”

You don’t have to be Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly to be in love. Just look at these pigeon guillemots, resting on the bow of the MV Eden Lake off the west coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands. They are also in love, just resting for a while, and whispering “sweet nothin’s” to each other.

Fast forward to Anneli’s place on Vancouver Island. The last of 2020 is going out “big and ugly.” One of the trees outside my window is leaning and would have fallen except that a bigger tree-friend caught it.

It’s a winter storm to match the one we had in mid-November. Blinding rain blowing sideways.

But, like Covid, it can’t go on forever. Better times await us in 2021.

All the best to you my blogging friends. May we all have a great year ahead.

And love will prevail.

 


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Christmas Acrostic

Merry Christmas!

My effort at a double acrostic forced me to forego the rhyme factor, but I’ve tried to put together a Christmas message, using the first and last letters, read downwards. If we keep these things in mind, maybe we’ll help to improve someone’s life just a little bit.

And before you ask, no, it didn’t snow here, except up in the hills. This varied thrush visited the feeder a couple of years ago, but he looked so pretty on the snow, I wanted to put him in this post.

Knowing Yule is cominG,
It's time to trim the treE,
Now that I am senior, and the claN,
Depends on mE.
Need to fill the lardeR,
Extra goodie-food will be, sO,
Special in the coming dayS,
So smile and so will I.  
(Yikes! Where's the rhyme? Gone to the North Pole.)
And when it comes to Christmas nighT,
No stores will open staY,
Done with shopping, all's class A,
Good times at home remaiN.
If Christmas music fills our minD,
Vast troubles leave us alL,
In giving freely, as we dO
No need for price on luV.
Good will's enough and that is freE.

Ta-dah-dahdah-deedee.

Merry Christmas even without snow.
Ho-ho-h-h-h-h! I think I see Santa!

Y’all have a wonderful Christmas time, y’hear?

And don’t pay too much attention to what those birds say. Their jabbering is for the birds.


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The Jolly Holly

Same old holly berries, same old food. Where’s a juicy earthworm when you need one?

Sigh…. Well, there’s nothing to do but to go for it. Hmm … let’s see … I wonder if they all taste the same.

I don’t have teeth, so I guess I just have to swallow the thing whole. Not very ladylike, but here goes. Gulp!

Oh man! These are big enough to choke a horse. Good thing I’m not a horse. Do I look like a Christmas decoration?

This is the last one … OOPS! Just about fell off my perch. I guess that means I’ve had enough.

Have you tasted holly berries?
Oh, of course, you did.
Little ones, and
Luscious ones,
You're sitting right amid.
But it is best if you're a bird, as
Everyone does know,
Red is pretty
Red is ripe
Yet stomach aches can grow.


So snag the berries off the branch,
Nab that one by your feet,
And after tasting, 
Can you tell,
Keen as you are to eat?

"These berries certainly are great,"
I heard the robin say,
"Mushy, minty, maybe I'll 
Eat all I can today."

If you’ve managed to get through my little rhyme, you may have noticed that the first letters of each line, read downwards, give a little message. Do you see it?

If you would like to have a quick review of some apostrophe problems many people have (and many don’t even know it), please have a look at my latest writing tips on my other blog, anneli’s place. https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/


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Deadly Windows

I wonder how often you think about your windows and skylights and the bird traps they can be.

Yesterday the Captain was doing some jobs in his workshop. He had the regular door and the garage door to that building wide open as he was going in and out a lot. After he’d been in the house for a bite of lunch, he went back out to the workshop and saw this little nuthatch flying against the workshop window, trying to get out.

The nuthatch had come into the shop and then, fooled by the light, thought he could get out through the window. He kept flying at the pane of glass, trying in vain to escape, even though the door and the garage door were both still wide open. All he saw was the window and he couldn’t get through it.

The Captain used a soft trout fishing net to capture him and bring him outside. I noticed that his beak had a lot of spider webs on it. The Captain acknowledged that his workshop window is a bit cobwebby.

Luckily the nuthatch was only a bit stunned, and not seriously hurt. He sat in the Captain’s hand for a few extra seconds after I took the picture and then he flew away. I think he was one happy bird!

Do you have a skylight in a breezeway or in the covered entrance to your house? Check it for trapped birds.

If you hang a basket of flowers there, especially pink ones, you’ll kill countless hummingbirds. Even without the flowers to attract them, hummingbirds can fly in and then not realize that the sky above them is blocked off with a glass pane. They will try and try to fly up and out through that closed skylight, sometimes injuring themselves and exhausting themselves until they fall down and often times die.

This fellow is one of the two lucky ones that I helped rescue from a neighbour’s skylight.

It also reminded me that I should have kept my hummingbird feeder up especially in this colder weather. We have had hummingbirds overwinter here on Vancouver Island in the last several years, so it helps to supplement their diet when their natural food is scarce.

Flying up into the sky,

I was stopped and don’t know why,

Up I flew repeatedly,

But it soon defeated me.

I was panicked, I was tired,

Minutes more, I’d be expired.

Holding on for life so dear,

I saw Anneli coming near.

Up the ladder she did climb,

Capturing me from behind

Softly she held onto me,

Wobbling down so carefully.

Dark and warm and safe I was

Then she let me go to buzz,

Back to my own territory,

Now she’ll tell the world my story.

Please beware the window pane

Skylights fool us time and again.

Please don’t kill us with these traps

You don’t mean to kill perhaps.

But we birds are easily tricked

By the choice of panes you’ve picked.

Meanwhile we’ll be careful too

Knowing what these panes can do.


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The Car Thief – a True Story

“The car sure is nicer to drive than my truck.” I relaxed into the velour seat back. “It’s like a luxury limousine.”

My mother-in-law smiled. “Harris loves his car. Keeps it in good condition.”

“He’s a real car buff, isn’t he?”

“Oh, yes. Always has been. Ever since we were married, sixty-six years ago,” Myrtle said. “He’s very fussy about his cars.”

“I’m surprised he let me drive it. But I guess he wants you to be comfortable .”

“That’s right. Now don’t take this the wrong way, but Harris thinks ladies shouldn’t have to ride in trucks, and I know you don’t have a choice.  But it is a long drive to Nanaimo and he thought we’d enjoy it more if we took his car.”

“It’s a treat to drive a car for a change. Feels like we’re floating along in a dream.” I was pleased that Harris trusted me to drive it. He had it all shined up on the outside and vacuumed inside. “You wouldn’t know it was ten years old. You still see lots of them around but not many in good shape like this one. It’s like a brand new car.”

“He spent hours on it yesterday,” Myrtle said.

“It’s our lucky day. Parking spot right by the door. Doesn’t look too busy yet either,” I said as I looked through the large plate glass window of our favorite bakery.

Lunch was delicious as always, and half an hour later, we came out of the bakery loaded down with bags of rye bread and buns.

“Hope I can still fit into some clothes after that lunch. Where would you like to shop first, Myrtle?”

“You lead the way. You always find good quality places to shop.”

“Hang on a sec,” I said. “Here. Can you hold the bread while I get the door for you?”  I fished Harris’s keys out of my purse. “I know one of these is for unlocking and the other is for starting the car,” I mumbled to myself as I fit one of the keys into the lock.

The door wouldn’t open. Myrtle stood by the car waiting patiently.

“Must be the other key. Don’t worry. I’ll have it open in a sec.” I flipped the keychain around and tried the second key. It too, was sticky going into the lock. “Maybe I had it upside down.” I turned it and again jiggled it in the lock. No luck. “That’s funny.…”

“Anneli. What does that man want?” Myrtle pointed at the bakery window.

A middle-aged man inside the bakery was leaning over the bench seat, banging on the window with the palm of his hand.

“I don’t know but he looks mad at us.  Why’s he pointing at the car?” I looked up at him with a puzzled frown.

“Now he’s pointing at himself.”

I looked at Harris’s keys, then at the angry man at the window. He was still pointing at the car and at himself. I turned to look at Myrtle and that’s when I saw it. Parked next to the vehicle I was trying to enter—Harris’s car.

*****

If you are interested in easy writing tips, please visit my other blog https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/


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The Challenge of Change

A new birdfeeder presented unexpected challenges for some birds. The seeds were visible, but access to them was different from the way it was done in the old feeders. All the outlets for the seeds are near the bottom of this new feeder.

Very simple for most of the birds. The sparrow has it figured out. “Come on down,” he calls, but the towhee, on the top right, is still puzzled.

“Nice seeds, but how in the heck do you get at them?”

“Whatcha doin’ up there, Rufus?” the Oregon junco called.

“ARRRGGHH! These are the darndest things. I can see them. Why can’t I get at them?”

“You just stick your head in the red dish … look … like this!”

“I just don’t get it. I’m looking right at the seeds, and I can’t get them.”

Honestly, I don’t know what else to say to him. What a dimwit.

“I guess you could always have some suet, Rufus.”

Brand new feeder, brand new seeds,

Specially made to suit their needs.

High-tech model, high-tech spout

Way too hard to figure out.

Rufus hammers, Rufus picks,

He’s exhausted all his tricks.

Junco coaxes, junco shows,

Why is it that junco knows,

How to get them, how to eat?

Rufus must admit defeat.

He can’t get it, he can’t do it,

Junco points up at the suet.

Don’t go hungry, don’t despair,

Eat that suet over there.

Feeling stupid, feeling dumb,

What a birdbrain I’ve become.

Rufus gorges, Rufus gobbles,

Now so fat, his flying wobbles.


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Spider Hideouts

Spider Hideouts

With all the bad weather we’re having, I took a mental trip back to sunnier days when we were in Mexico for the winter about twenty years ago.

Camped at Chacala, 360 kms south of Mazatlan, we often bought our fruit and vegetables from the produce truck.  One day, I lugged home three big bags of fresh vegetables.

“Coming to the beach?” the Captain asked.

“You go ahead. I’ll be down right after I clean these veggies,” I grumbled, slapping at the tiny biting flies. I soon gave up trying to work at the table I had set up outside and brought the vegetables into the bug-free trailer to clean in my little kitchenette.

Done at last! Now for the beach and a cool swim. I hurried outside to bring in my bathing suit from the clothesline we had strung between two coconut palms. I was about to step into it, when I let out a shriek. A furry eight-legged critter about the size of a wolf spider was eyeing me from inside the bathing suit bra.

Anyone passing by must have gawked at the bathing suit flying out the doorway.

I was late getting to the beach that day, and although the water was refreshing, I couldn’t relax. Other swimmers must have wondered at the woman who kept pulling away the top of her bathing suit to look at her boobs.

That evening, we sat at the kitchen table in the trailer, playing cards and relaxing with an Oso Negro gin and peach juice. I tidied up the last few things before getting into bed.

The Captain had just finished brushing his teeth and as he came out of the bathroom he heard me GASP! His eyes followed my arm as I pointed to the corner of the trailer. There, clinging to the ceiling, sat the biggest spider I’d ever seen. The hairy dark brown visitor had a body the size of my thumb, and his legs could easily straddle a saucer. If I had been a screamer they would have heard me all the way to Mazatlan.

“And I’ve been sitting there playing cards all evening with that thing poised right above my head,” I wailed.

I handed the Captain the fly swatter, and, in a shaky voice, told him, “If it gets away, I’m not sleeping in here tonight and I’ll be on the plane tomorrow.”

“It must have come in with the vegetables,” he said, as he tossed its crumpled body outside.

And where had it been while I sat there cleaning them? I wondered. Hiding in the cauliflower leaves? How close had I come to touching it? Shivers ran down my back.

It seems spider experiences run in three’s.

The next day we visited an open air market in a nearby town. I admired the handmade wooden cutting boards and picked one up to study the grain. Something ran over my hand. I threw the board into the air and squealed, “Una araña!” The vendor laughed and seemed unperturbed as I pointed to the gigantic spider running in his direction.

I was having serious thoughts of home. But imagine missing all this fun.