The houses north of the downtown area are not closely placed. There are wide lots, and sometimes there are vacant lots between houses. There are sidewalks. On one street, someone, perhaps a child or some children, has drawn hopscotch squares. They stretch down four of the six houses of the block. Three are made with ten squares, all in white chalk. Then there is the grand one, with colors of green, pink, white, yellow, with 400 squares! The squares are slightly smaller than my size 12 shoe. It would be a good cardio workout for me to hop the 400-square one, if I could. But I will not try. Good to have colorful childhood art on town sidewalks, yes.
The Moon and Street Lights.
Two mornings this past week I awakened at two o’clock. Having trouble going back to sleep, I went to the kitchen to pour a small drink of milk. I opened the blinds from the kitchen, looked to the east, and beheld the dull orange moon, appearing in the top branches of winter trees. Below the moon, to either side and below it, shone two white street lights. A good winter picture, perhaps, but I wanted just the moonlight.
I Have Always Fancied the Sea.
It’s one of the things I like to say, a harmless affectation, when the idea of the sea comes up in conversation. As I drove to the gas pumps to fuel Red Car, driving rain blew into the area, soaking me. I pretended that I was on a ship, doing some mechanical work, perhaps with pumps and engines, as a storm blew rain and sea water, saturating me. I almost laughed at the pretense. The man working at the pump next to mine said, “Damn, that’s wet. I’m soaked. I saw the cloud coming, but I had started when it arrived. It’s damned uncomfortable.” I answered, “But it’s fun.” I did not look at him to see his reaction. I finished fueling, got into the car soaked, turned on the defroster and heater, and slowly left the ship deck and drove home to hang up wet clothes and towel off and dress in dry clothes, happy to have experienced a sea interlude.
I spent a good day in Winston-Salem with an old friend. We had not seen one another in almost a year. We decided to meet in Winston-Salem. She had questions for me.
We met at a used book store, where she was selling books and finding others. We left her car there, and we went out in Red Car to explore around. I asked if she would like to see an art exhibit at Reynolda House, a special exhibit of the Modernist movement from the Brooklyn Museum of Art. On the way she wanted to know why I became Catholic.
It’s a long story, too long for the drive to Reynolda House. I told her the first part. I talked and I talked and I talked and I talked. We saw the art exhibit. She wanted to photograph me there to put on her Facebook page, but I refused. (I have an aversion to Facebook.) We played one of my favorite games at the art exhibit. In each gallery, we exchanged comments on which painting we liked best in that area. And there I was talking more.
We decided to go to Wake Forest University, and on the short drive there I continued my story of becoming Catholic. I talked and talked as we drove through campus looking a visitor parking space.
As we walked on campus, I told of college antics, dorm life, professors, classmates, changes that have occurred since I graduated. I talked and talked and talked.
At lunch on campus, she asked me to continue my story of Catholicism, and I talked and talked. I was becoming tired of my talk, tired of hearing my voice. How many students, I wondered, over thirty-four years of teaching felt the same way? Then I told her about a professor featured in the alumnus magazine I wanted to meet because he had never had a car or driver’s license, had never owned a television. A retire teacher and friend, who knew him, said I should just stop by his office one day and say hello. I told my friend about him and talked and talked.
She asked if the ring I was wearing had significance. And I explained, talking and talking.
We found the professor in his office; he was there because his class was taking a test that day. He invited us in and we talked. And I talked about our mutual friend.
We decided to go to the retirement community and visit briefly with that mutual friend. More talking, yes.
Later my friend wanted to know why he was in the office if his class were taking a test. I told about the honor system and I talked and talked and talked.
We stopped downtown for a snack, shared a cinnamon roll, and I had a Pellegrino water flavored with grapefruit. I asked her questions so that she would talk.
We parted. I drove an hour home. I didn’t want to talk. I was tired of talking. I wanted quiet. I realized the blessings of a vow of silence.
I realized that most times I don’t talk. Some days I speak to no one. Some days I talk only to a bank teller or a server at a restaurant. When I talk a lot, though probably no more than most people, I become tired. I was hoping I had not offended my friend by so much, so much talk. I will try to be with people and talk little. Perhaps just be with them and be quiet. That might make them uncomfortable, though.
At the 37th Annual Christopher Giles and Lucille S. Harris Competitions in Musical Performance, Wake Forest University, Saturday, February 22, 2014.
I learned about the event by seeing a poster in my retired friend’s room at the retirement center. I had never been to a competition.
For many years, Mr. Giles and Mrs. Harris were the piano teachers at Wake, including the years I was there, 1966-1970. Mr. Giles was my teacher. Because the department was small, Mrs. Harris became my friend. I was glad that there were competitions named for them.
The morning session, from 10:00 until about 11:30 was piano competition. Six young performers presented pieces by Brahms, Schoenberg, Bartok, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn. I found it interesting that four of the six performers were Asian-Americans.
I particularly liked the three short pieces by Schoenberg. I was pleased to learn that Schoenberg was being performed and studied by undergraduates. The open tones invite meditative responses, and the repeated and definite rhythms invite imaginative response. I happened to see the performer as I was leaving for lunch, and I chatted to learn his interest in Schoenberg. He said he had studied all of the pieces in the set, but he thought he played these three the best. I learned that he’s a music major, and I wished him luck in his career.
The afternoon session, from 1:00 until about 4:10, were competitors in voice, flute, saxophone, violin, clarinet, and trumpet. I enjoyed hearing pieces I did not know, especially “La courte paille” by Poulenc, a song cycle for soprano. Ms. Hill presented the material with deft musical ability and interpretive skill. I want to find a recording. (A piece in the set, “La reine de Coeur” [“The Queen of Hearts”] is magic). I enjoyed three pieces by Roger Quilter performed by a tenor with mellifluous voice and understated interpretation. My favorite was the Schumann piece, “Du Ring au meinem Finger,” sung by soprano Samantha Boures, whose interpretation of the idea that the ring represented the love and passion she felt for the beloved, was simple and sincere and moving.
If Mr. Whittington, the Schoenberg performer, Ms. Boures, and Ms. Hill are giving senior recitals, perhaps I can attend.
One of my initial responses was admiration that everything was memorized. But then I considered myself at that age. The senior recital I played in 1970 consisted of a seven-piece contemporary set, two preludes and fugues by Bach, a three-movement sonata by Beethoven, two short pieces by Scriabin, and a three-movement sonatina by a contemporary composer. I don’t remember having any problem in memorizing that program. Youth, yes!
It was a grand way to spend a late winter Saturday.
Four random reflections.
(1) I love the light between 6 and 6:30 pm this time of year. It is clear, calm, sacred light. I like to walk in it.
(2) On Tuesday mornings the houses of our neighborhood show uniformity, each with a green garbage container neatly placed at the curb for pickup. My new mailbox is the best of those on the block, with its cedar post, shiny black box, and bright red flag I have fun raising when I post mail.
(3) There are just a few more weeks to admire winter trees, to admire the architecture of trunk and soaring branches.
(4) Most evenings, after projects are done, I am alone and quiet. The only light in the dark room is from a floor or table lamp by which I sit. I feel blessed to know solitude, quiet. As I sit, my mind stilled, I gratefully accept the peace that is there.
Thank you for reading. I hope that your week will be good.