Lullaby of birdland
by JoEllen Collins
is the reminder that everyday has some beauty in it, and that we must
enjoy the fleeting times of sacred beauty when they happen.
convention of birds visited me in my garden on the Saturday before
Thanksgiving. Itís been a long time since I have actually listened to
the world around me; fortunately, I was rewarded for my still acceptance
of the place I am inhabiting.
I had just
come "home" that morning from two weeks of intensive language
schooling at the wonderfully named Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci in Siena, a
city I have grown to love. I was adapting to the solitude once again, a
subject I have shared in previous columns, when the air darkened and a
swoosh overhead made me look up at the huge flat-topped pine tree that
dominates the courtyard adjacent to my small apartment in Umbria.
exaggeration, thousands of small birds swooped in to take a rest in my
tree, and they chattered and sang for a good 10 minutes before reaching an
agreement to visit the freshly harvested fields nearby. With an audible
"whoop," as though a wind tunnel had been uncorked, they
gathered again and took their sweet trills elsewhere. I waited for several
minutes, hoping they would return, but they had moved on to the next
attraction, like happy shoppers in a mall.
November 17, and you will be reading this several weeks later, but perhaps
my little vignette will serve as a holiday present. The gift is the
reminder that everyday has some beauty in it, and that we must enjoy the
fleeting times of sacred beauty when they happen.
On my last
afternoon in Siena, I saw an advertisement for a concert series to be held
in the centuries old Teatro del Rinnovati. The Teatro occupies part of Il
Campo, the grand piazza at the cityís center, in a structure famous for
the tower from which one can view the bella vista of the surrounding
Tuscan countryside. The first presentation listed was Brahmsí Requiem,
Tedesco (in German) followed a week later by Rigoletto. I managed to
decipher the ticket purchase instructions, a rather daunting chore, and
set aside some time to return and arrange to see these performances.
I rented a room in a small hotel in Siena and once again settled into an
appreciation of this sparkling city. While exploring the narrow, winding
medieval streets, I heard pipers playing. I turned a corner, and there
they were, celebrating Sienaís own St. Catherine with music appropriate
to her time.
friends back home were just beginning to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, I
first joined the throngs of Italians taking their nightly stroll down the
avenues and then went to see the Requiem. For one splendid hour I was
awash in the rich sounds of Brahms, ensconced in a fat plush red velvet
seat in the jewel box Teatro. I even read enough of the program notes to
realize that my Italian had improved. I didnít feel alone at all, rather
part of an eternal tradition, the sharing of music. I almost even poked
the older lady in the fur coat sitting next to me as we were both
applauding and exclaiming "Bravo" at programís end. I wanted
her to know how much I had appreciated the talent of her fellow Sienese!
of my earlier bouts of loneliness, I realized that I was missing access to
music. In my desire to simplify my life I had neglected to bring any CDs.
There is a TV in my apartment, but it is almost always filled with news,
mindless game and talk shows and soaps, all in Italian (good for my
language but not necessarily my sanity). I did happen upon one broadcast
of a concert, but that was about it. So I bought a tiny radio and thus can
listen to an Italian FM station that plays a combination of opera, other
classical music, American jazz and a happy melange of international music
like Brazilian bossa nova, French chansons and Portuguese fada. Now most
of my solitude has been made easier by the companionship of music.
morning, as I walked back to my car, the wheels of my overnight bag
rat-a-tat-tatting on the cobblestone streets, I was thinking about how
much I enjoyed the evening. If I have a chance, I would love to go to La
Scala, but I understand that is nearly impossible. For sure, I will call
during the six hours the tickets are available and then go to the post
office to send a money order to Siena so that I can see "Rigoletto"
next week. Whatever is near I plan to find.
As I neared
my car, I heard from somewhere a beautiful tenor voice singing "The
Star-Spangled Banner" in Italian. I peeked in a door to see who
possessed the voice. Turns out it was a fruit vendor arranging his wares
and singing to himself. He looked up, and I thanked him, explaining that I
was from America. He laughed and beamed in pride, and we mutually showed
our happiness with this universal language of the human spirit. Hearing
Pavarotti couldnít have been any better!
Thanksgiving was as wonderful as mine was and that your days, too, will be
filled with the beauty of a little night music, maybe some Ella, and the
chatter of tiny avian friends.