I’ve never owned a hand-built musical instrument, but that all changed this past Saturday.

Some months ago, I was playing a set at our local Co-op when this friendly, leprechaun of a dude walked up and asked me ‘whether I’d be willing to test one of his bouzoukis’. Well, duh…

As it turned out, I have a skilled ‘luthier’, with a specialization in Irish bouzoukis, living two streets over from my house. As the man in black would say, ‘I am often amused at life’s little quirks’.

(No, not that ‘man in black’… the one on the right).

For those who don’t know, a bouzouki is a jumped up mandolin with a greek pedigree. The Irish adopted it in their usual polyglot ways. They cut off the Greekly curvaceous backside and changed the strings aound.

I originally fell in love with the instrument because of this song.  Irish bouzoukis have a rich, layered voice that somehow evokes a banjo, guitar and mandolin all at the same time.

I bought my first version- a Trinity College model- back in 2006. I’ve been noodling on it ever since, to the point where I can gut out a few jigs and reels at the local session. One of the songs on my CD features a bouzouki lead melody- a pretty primitive one, if I’m honest with myself.

Anyhow, David Ackley (our local luthier) has been spent the past few months building a bouzouki for me. In addition to building lovely instruments, David also works in inlay. He agreed to incorporate one of my seal designs into the headstock of the instrument, and added other totems (waves, kelp, a canoe paddle) in other places.

It’s light (dare I say ‘silky’?) to the touch. It has a deeper, more layered voice than my Trinity instrument. It feels alive.  I’ll cease now, lest my wife get worried.

I've been playing it obsessively for the past week.

I’m honestly left speculating about whether inanimate objects can have souls… or whether they can be ‘granted’ souls if loved intensely enough.

Conventional Christianity would seem to deny this, but there have been plenty of outliers (including Thomas Aquinas). Certainly, the tapestry of human spirituality is laced with Animism… with recognition of the divine in the very rocks themselves.

Heck- even Joss Whedon jumped on the bandwagon in Serenity.

Love. You can learn all the math in the 'Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurtin' 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

I owned a hat when I was twelve- a black felt fedora. It was one of my many conscious quirks (I was a weird kid). I wore it to school, wore it through thunderstorms in the Boundary Waters, to the top of Hagues Peak in Colorado.

When the hat vanished on a ski trip (yes- I wore it skiing in 10 degree weather) I honestly felt like a fraction of my soul had been ripped away.

The cynic would argue that this was a wholly subjective bit of sentimental pap… but I’m not sure.

Anyhow- a big thank you to David Ackley for his craftsmanship… and a prayer for patience from my family. It’s going to be noisy around the house for a spell!

Please visit David's website if you have any interest in handmade musical instruments.

Oh… if anyone wants to learn the bouzouk, my Trinity instrument needs a good home. It, too, has had a lot of love invested.



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