Chesterton Tribune

Wind chimes: Love them or hate them

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Of Wonders and Weeds

By PAULENE POPARAD

January is for ..... our love/hate relationship with wind chimes.

Someone recently told me they moved to a new home and couldn’t sleep for three nights because a neighbor had wind chimes on their deck and the sound, to my friend, was incredibly annoying.

Yet I went out on a limb this past Christmas and when asked to purchase a gift from a group of us for our boss, I chose wind chimes. What gives?

I used to believe the sound made by those little tinkling, jangling, nerve-grating metal tubes was not intended for the human ear. Perhaps for some deep-sea creature or elf princess of Middle Earth, but not us. I found no redeeming value in wind chimes at all.

That’s until I heard ones properly constructed and tuned as the musical instrument they are meant to be. I am now a believer. But that’s not to say our yard is a gonging, resonating cacophony of notes all summer long. Far from it.

We keep our lone wind chime, 49 inches in full length and tuned to the scale of A, indoors for two reasons. We initially put it outside but on a windy day it proved to be too much of a good thing. A perfect spot turned out to be indoors near the back door where in nice weather cross ventilation prompts a more muted wind chime song.

The second reason it’s fun to have them indoors is so the granddaughters can make them chime whenever they want. The ear-to-ear grin on Emma’s face, at 18 months the youngest, is priceless.

Fortunately, better-quality wind chimes are available in local stores like The Schoolhouse Shop and Chesterton Feed and Garden, the latter where employee Barb Weimer gave me a short course in Wind Chimes 101 on the Music of the Spheres brand they sell.

Company president and CEO Sara Neal Eskew later said there are two kinds of wind chimes: the musically perfect ones, and the ones that drive someone with good hearing and a musical ear that detects off-pitches nuts. “It’s like the difference between a yacht and a rowboat.”

Her late husband Larry Roark used his degree in music theory to combine the physics of sound and musical scales from around the world resulting in chimes in six pitch ranges/sizes for each tuning for nature, not man, to play.

Different companies like Grace Note, Majesty Bells and Spirit Song offer different options. Larry’s chimes resound in soprano, mezzo soprano, alto, tenor and bass, each one a different tubing diameter and length. By having several chime sets, said Sara, harmony can be created.

Her gracious explanation of other aspects of their chimes’ sound was above me as my own musical background is limited to eight free accordion lessons when I was 12, and having Sharon Lindquist teach me in middle school to play the first 16 seconds of “Moonlight Sonata.”

Larry used many special tunings to evoke musical and even ethereal moods and to conjure up faraway places like Bali and China. Music of the Spheres also makes the imposing more than 85-inch tall Westminster chimes that sound like Big Ben.

Some believe wind chimes have a calming, even spiritual influence. “Ours are literally bio-feedback,” said Sara. “When you hear a good wind chime that sounds really great, the tensed-up muscles sort of relax a little.”

Some companies market their wind chimes as being tuned to personalized astrological planetary frequencies or to special scales that can affect human health. Can a wind chime’s resonance, vibration and energy have physical benefits?

Sara said while her company makes no such claim for their products, they do have customers who hold to that belief.

Wind chimes have been around from prehistoric times. Today everything from glass, wood, ceramic and seashells to precisely precisioned powder-coated, aluminum-alloy tubing is used to make wind chimes.

Larry played the euphonium, similar to a small tuba but with a slightly higher range. Sadly, he was killed in a car accident a few years ago. A music scholarship was endowed in his name at the University of North Texas.

That way, said Sara, “His legacy is going far beyond people’s back yards.”

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This cold and snow makes me want to snuggle under an afghan and read some good books.

When at Thomas Library last month I checked out famed garden author Ken Druse’s “The Collector’s Garden” published in 1996. It’s written in such an enjoyable style I want to read his other books like “The Natural Shade Garden,” too.

The 28 gardeners Druse describes in “The Collector’s Garden” have made extraordinary gardens or influenced horticulture by focusing on their love of a specific plant group, like daylilies, or by finding or improving the plants we grow.

The photography is stunning and just what we need when the only green we can see are random chunks of grass gouged out by the snow plow.

Druse celebrates the plant-obsessed and probes what has driven, and what continues to drive, them.

He seeks out who were their mentors and why the collectors chose the garden paths (and career paths) they did. The accounts are inspiring and informative.

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An early birthday present was 2004’s “The Color Encyclopedia of Hostas” by Diana Grenfell and Michael Shadrack, a much expanded and updated version of her 1996 “The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Hostas”.

The $49.95 “Color Encyclo-pedia” from Timber Press lists more than 750 plants chosen by Grenfell and photographed by Shadrack.

Each gets a detailed description and a section on comments and special needs. Cultivation and design tips as well as hosta history and lingo (“lutescent” means becoming yellow) are a bonus, as are the location of hosta display gardens and where you can purchase hostas.

Grenfell and Shadrack are British but American hostas are the stars of their book, which carries a forward by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, alias Charles to you and me.

 

Posted 1/27/2005