It only has 4 strings. Even a child (or a 50 year -old) can learn to play it. But it can take a lifetime to master. The supreme example is Bill Tapia, the “Duke of Uke,” who passed away on December 2 at the age of 103. Link to his fascinating obit here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/arts/music/bill-tapia-ukulele-virtuoso-dies-at-103.html?_r=1&ref=obituaries. George Harrison, the gentle Beatle, was a uke man, too, but is it a coincidence that the ukulele is having a renaissance of sorts right now? Eddie Vedder released an album entitled “Ukelele Songs” this year. Does it hark back to gentler times?
Every so often I pick up one of the house ukes and pluck at it a bit. I’m not a guitar player, but it is a friendly and encouraging little instrument, fits nicely in the arms and almost tinkles with optimism.
Maybe it is the craziness and rampant commercialism of this time of the year, but the Napsters know I’m always seeing trends, and the passing of another artist this week made me think about simpler joys. Erica Wilson, needlework revivalist, passed away at age 83. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/nyregion/erica-wilson-dies-at-83-led-a-rebirth-of-needleworking.html?ref=obituaries. Now I know why my Mother-In-Law was the queen of crewel! She was part of the resurgence of the homemaking arts back in the late 50’s/early 60’s. I also recall getting a bunch of cross-stitch kits back in my early teens, and I’ll wager some of us remember hooking rugs (which would certainly be code for some sort of Facebooking activity now) from kits we’d get at the local yarn store. Are there even yarn stores left anymore? Like cooking and uke playing, there is just something so satisfying about creating something with your own two hands.
Ms. Wilson did turn her creative instinct into a business enterprise that has been compared to Julia Child’s, but neither she nor Ms. Child could be thought of as “omnimedia” giants like today’s Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray. And in some ways I think that Ms. Stewart and Ms. Ray take the juice out of creativity. If you can’t replicate what you see in their books/shows don’t even bother trying. (but please do buy all their books and paraphernalia) But a big part of creative joy in the attempt, the feeling you get when you see your creation take shape. Or the feeling called “flow,” when you are so totally in the moment you don’t even notice the passage of time. That’s how I feel about this blog from time to time, and it is a weak example next to Bill and Erica’s bodies of work.