The patter of rain drops on leaves and the song of the thrush in the trees are the only two sounds I hear. Then in the distance, the chiming of church bells… the symphony of Salies through my studio window. Certainly a change from the loudness of the festivities yesterday when, during the annual banquet, the band blasted away on mostly wind and percussion instruments to the chagrin of ears everywhere; but they were young and so enthusiastic and played quite acceptably so everything was forgiven in the festive mood that ensued. Singing and chanting followed, probably dancing later when Salomé and I had taken our leave.
Unexpectedly, a siren sounds in the distance. I have been told it announces a problem somewhere –a fire, a death, a sudden illness, a flooding- and comes from a loudspeaker at the Municipal Building for the firemen to hear. Soon it fades: a memory but for those affected by the problem. Again the silence settles over the peaceful afternoon.
Suddenly a plane flies over, the sound of propellers brings back a long ago memory. Good God!!! A propeller plane! I must have been 8 or 9; it was the end of summer, perhaps the end of August, yes it must have been, and I was 9. I was playing in my grandmother’s garden in her house in Greenwich, Connecticut, and I believe I was making mud pies or something of the sort. It was that late, still hour of the afternoon that I have come to call “the Rembrandt hour” because of the golden light the sinking sun spreads across the countryside. I was playing alone, as I so often remember doing in my childhood, and suddenly the sound of a propeller plane flying over made me look up and listen. In those days (1951) planes were a rarity and it might have been one of the first ones I had heard or seen. Something about the sound made the world seem so enormous and life itself so wide open, as if the day just spread out about me in all its wonder and marvelment. And yet, it was also as if something were ending. I did not know it then perhaps, but something was ending, something very important. It would be no more than a month later that we would move to Mexico and my life would change completely; never again would I spend lazy summer days at my grandmother’s, never again would I see my great grandmother who took care of me during so many of those times that I spent at my grandmother’s house… Endings and beginnings, Salies and Greenwich… Nearly sixty years ago… today. A simple sound, memories, nostalgia, gratitude, only today, just for today.