This is a Journal entry by Blue-Eyed BiPedal BookWorm from Betelgeuse (aka B4[insertpunhere])
B4 - Where Were You Just Now? - 1 Jan 2012
Blue-Eyed BiPedal BookWorm from Betelgeuse (aka B4[insertpunhere]) Started conversation Jan 18, 2012
It’s winter in Columbia, Missouri, right in the very heart of the USA. The folks here celebrate the out-going year / in-coming year with a big to-do called “First Night.” It entails a myriad of artists--whether musical, visual, dance, or otherwise--showcasing their specialties in the downtown area known as The District. The shops stay open later, some of them hosting the artists. Other wannabes and also-rans try to draw attention by performing on the sidewalks or in the open plazas. The culmination of the whole affair is the massive fireworks display at midnight.
Four couples from our church fellowship have come “into town” for the event and we’ve just finished dining at a fabulous Italian restaurant called The Rome, at 114 South 9th Street, halfway down the block south of Cherry Street. We step out into the gathering evening atmosphere, held at bay by the abundance of city lights from lampposts and from the corridors of shops. The temperature is still unseasonably warm, slowly tapering off from the near mid-60s high of the daytime. Knowing it wouldn’t be bitterly cold as in past years was our impetus to come out to enjoy the festivities. The other couples decide to grab a cup of coffee first, so my wife and I part company from them for the interim. Everyone else heads to Lakota Coffee, about a block north up the street; A--- and I proceed to our intended goal: the Columbia Art League Gallery at 207 South 9th Street, on the other side of the street past Locust Street. She wants to contact a harpist she met when she home-schooled our middle daughter, B---, and the lady is performing at the gallery.
We pass the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, come to the glass-front art gallery, and step through the double doors. M--- is seated against a south wall, supporting her harp, head down, tuning a series of strings. My wife waits patiently until she’s done, then engages M--- in a short conversation. I catch snippets of it as I make an arc around the room. It’s a litany A--- shared with me before we came: she wants to learn to play one instrument in her life; our youngest daughter (Y---) isn’t using the expensive investment we made; even if it’s just “Twinkle, Twinkle” she wants to be able to play ~something~ for our fellowship next holiday. I see she’s finishing up and seems to have gotten some agreement for M--- to teach her to play, so I make my way back to her. We sit on a wide deep-brown wooden bench overlooking the venue and M--- begins to play.
To my surprise, it’s Celtic music. M--- plucks the strings in a jaunty rhythm and the tune swells from simple bouncing individual notes to flowing chords with a melancholy background. We applaud several times before I let my wife know I have to take a short break; I squeeze her shoulders and kiss her cheek before I go. More people are wandering into the gallery and several folks find space on the wide bench I just vacated. Some of the patrons are meandering between the gallery and the theater because there’s a pass-through connecting the two establishments. I make my way into an alcove and find the bathroom locked.
There’s plenty to look at while I wait. Local artists have their work on display on multiple partition walls, providing ample viewing and elbowroom. Many of the paintings are still-life studies, some are impressionistic, a few are character studies, some simply play with color and contrast. Most are clearly works of intricacy and detail designed to intrigue the viewer, while a handful are obviously haphazard concoctions churned out to make a buck. I notice a sign stating: “Ask about CAL's art-purchase payment plan and take home the artwork today!” It intrigues me one could market paintings and sculptures that way. I make my way along the waist-high L-shaped display case where local artisans have jewelry on display. A--- is so enthralled by the music, she doesn’t even notice me perusing the baubles on the shelves behind the display case. And there--right there--is something to bless her. She wants pink this year; she told me this quite plainly not even a whole 24 hours ago. The set of dangling, multiple stone, pink earrings on silver J-hooks are just the thing to bless her. And the price is reasonable for our budget. I make the decision to buy them, but don’t want to tip her off.
I walk back to her, whisper to her the bathroom was occupied, but that I’m going to try again. She smiles her gorgeous smile and adjures me to hurry back. I wink, and walk past the broad square column beside the bench. I notice it hides her from my view. Perfect! I do go to the bathroom, but before returning, I flag down the attendant behind the display case. In hushed tones, I let her know I’d like to purchase the pink earrings, the ones beside the large pink circle that looks like a buckle, and she goes to fetch it. Where I’m standing, the column completely hides my doings from A---’s view. The attendant verifies she’s brought me the correct item and we conclude the purchase. She places the earrings into a small red gift pouch, and I thank her. The gift goes into my right shirt pocket; I’ll give it to A--- in the morning, as the first gift of the New Year.
More and more people have come into the gallery, including the other couples who’d gone out for coffee. The bench is full, with six people lounging upon it while listening to the lilting tunes from the Celtic harp or glancing around the room at the various objets d’art. There’s only room enough for me to put one knee up beside my wife and balance against her. Finally, I let the music wash over me and I sway with the ebb and flow of the melody.
That’s when I notice it. Or rather, it’s when I notice them. People in the crowd are experiencing something similar to me--they’re being swept along by the song. I look around and two people in particular catch my eye. There’s a white-haired lady--thin, older--tapping her toes and gently swinging side-to-side; there’s a middle-aged gentleman in a green fedora whose vision is focused somewhere far away. Their response to the music draws me out of my reverie and I watch them for a while. I observe the white-hair lady for a bit longer and a question begins to surface in my mind. It niggles at me and at first defies articulation. I coax it and cajole it, but it’s sly and slips through my grasp like the ephemeral tune M--- is producing on her harp. Suddenly, she stops. There’s applause, and she lets us know she’s taking a pause in her set. The question is taken by surprise, laid bare without the cover of the melody, so I pounce upon it. Yes! That’s what I need to ask these folks.
The man in the fedora is navigating the crowd and it won’t take me but two or three steps to intercept him. The revelation scant moments ago emboldens me and I make a bee-line toward him. I place myself just on the edge of his intended path.
“Excuse me. May I ask you something?” His gaze comes up and he’s mildly startled to be accosted in this fashion. I see his expression change to quizzical interest and assent, though he hasn’t said a word yet. “Where were you just now?”
His questioning smile turns to disbelief, as if the answer was blatantly evident. “I was standing just over there, by the wall.” He points to the place he’d been, with the far-away look in his eyes.
“No, no. I mean, while you were listening to the music, where were you in here?” I tap my temples with two fingers. “What was going through your mind? What did you envision? Were you thinking of some other time or some other place in particular?”
He looks down, chuckles, then looks up. “Oh, I see what you mean now. Let me think about it for a second. Where was I?” I take the short pause to look him up-and-down. The lime-green fedora has a tan band with thin red piping atop and below. There’s a small feather canted low (not high) on the right side. His blazer is taupe, with a striped shirt beneath; his trousers are dark charcoal, and he’s wearing cream & brown spats. His angular face is framed beneath a salt-and-pepper mustache and beard, neatly trimmed. “Where was I? On a coastline.”
“Yes, bright waves, water. A coastline.”
“Anything more specific than that? Rolling breakers against rocks? Tall cliffs in the background?”
“Ah, well, no. Nothing more specific, I’m afraid. Why do you ask?”
“I was watching different people in the crowd respond to the music, and it seemed to me you were transported to some place far away from here--that you were imagining a place you’ve seen before.”
“A coastline.” He says it with emphasis and finality.
“Thanks for sharing that with me. If you’ll excuse me, I want to ask this other lady over here the same question.” He nods and smiles, shaking his head. I wade through the throng and step up beside the small frail woman with the white hair, biding my time. She’s just finishing a conversation with someone else, and turns at my presence.
“May I help you?” she asks.
“Would you answer a quick question for me? Where were you just now?”
“Listening to the music. Is that what you mean?” She tilts her head the slightest bit and the straight fringe of her bangs covers one of her dark bird-like eyes. Her black leather jacket’s straight lines cover a plain white shirt. Her black close-fitting pants end in gold-tone pointy shoes.
“Well, sort of. Where were you inside…in here?” I do the same tap-my-temple routine as before.
“Nowhere in particular. Why do you ask?” She tilts her head the other way, uncovering the other eye, but veiling the one she’d used to look up at me initially.
“I was observing the crowd, watching the people respond to the music, and it seemed to me you were remembering a different time and place. Perhaps long ago, dancing with someone special, swirling in a beautiful gown?” I raise my eyebrows, hopeful I’ve guessed her imaginings.
“No, that’s not it at all. I was only copying what I saw someone else doing, tapping his toes, so I did it, too.” She looks directly at me, both eyes peeking from under her straight white mane, and lets me know, “But if ~you~ want to imagine that’s what I’m thinking about, it’s okay with me.” She graces me with a kind yet condescending smile.
“Um...well, okay. Thank you for clearing that up. I appreciate you indulging me for a few moments, but I’ve got to get back to my wife.” I point across the room to where A--- is now standing beside the wide bench. “Thank you.” Her eyes completely disappear beneath her white bangs as she nods, then I make my way back to my darling.
“Where were you just now?” she looks up at me with her large hazel eyes and I smile.
“Funny you should ask…” I tell her what happened with the music and the nagging question. Then I recount what each of the people shared with me. She laughs about the whole thing and puts her hand on my arm. “How about you,” I prompt her. “Where were you just now, while the music played?”
“Mmm… I was floating,” she says.
“Floating? In water?”
“No, in the air. The music made me think of floating up in the sky, among the clouds, in a sunny blue sky. Silly, huh?” She dips her head, but I lift her chin gently to gaze into her eyes.
“No, honey, that’s beautiful. ‘Floating in the sky.’ I like that.” I look over my shoulder toward the harp and the musician. “The way M--- was playing the tunes, it conjured up a lot of different images for different people. I guess it affects each of us individually.” I turn back to her, place her hand in the crook of my arm, and lead her toward the door. “Let’s go home. How about I turn on the CD player in the car and we can ‘float’ home?” She giggles and nudges me as we step out into the city’s version of nighttime.
Okay, now it’s your turn.
What genre of music truly stirs your soul?
Are there any particular songs that always bring certain things to mind?
Have you ever let a tune transport you to a place in your imagination you’ve never been before?
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