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Making a Harp - Part 2

Joanna Campbell

"Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco" by tvol is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Read Part 1

I’ve learned not to expect Dennis, my harp maker, to have the same needs and desires as I have. I often invite Dennis to walk with me on the beach. The answer is usually, “Sure, at some point.” We don’t need to have the same tranquil, renewing, or magical moments. I’m not twenty-one. I’m forty.

As I write in the back bedroom, Dennis wanders in with a cup of coffee. “I thought you might like this,” he says as he hands me the cup. “Oh, I forgot to tell you,” he continues, “I found a bunch of shells.” I assume he means he opened a drawer somewhere in the condo and found shells. “I walked to the end of the key early this morning, and I picked these up along the way.” Suddenly, I have no interest in writing. In our five years of marriage, I’ve never known my husband to walk on the beach by himself. My invitations to walk together usually mean tearing him away from a book or a project or cooking. “Come see what I found,” he says.

He lifts up a large and intact cockle from a pile of smaller shells. “I need to wash my vest because I filled my pockets until they bulged.” Dennis shows me ponderous arcs, oysters, scallops, and clams. There are dozens of cross barred venuses. I wonder if this is the same face he made on Christmas mornings when he was a kid.

“I had an idea that I could shave down the broken ones and use them as inlay on the harp.”

“Really?  You can do that,” I ask.

“Sure. I’ve got all the right tools.”

“What about these?” I show him the jingle shells I’ve been collecting. They are paper thin and iridescent.

“Oh wow,” he says, “These are beautiful  Let’s find more of those.”

My earlier agitation at sawdust and noise feels puny. My pettiness is a freakish chin hair that keeps coming back no matter how often I pluck it. I give up on writing at the beach. Instead, I walk the surf and collect shells for my husband. They will make us so much better