Album Leaf No. 1
Evening on the patio. The garden walls and house walls stretch up to a troubled sky. “Rain,” whispers the wind. But heat says, “Not here. Not yet.” In the desert that means, “Maybe not at all.” The scent of moisture in the air is tantalizing.
From across the wall I can hear traditional New Mexican music — a tease of high trumpet, just on the edge of earshot. A live band, maybe in Old Town Plaza or at the museum. I used to keep track of the concerts, even knowing I couldn’t attend, but I haven’t lately. Still, it’s lovely to picture the crowds wandering around the plaza with their ice cream cones, enjoying the music in Friday night ease.
The dog behind the walls next door has a new squeaky toy and is working hard to find the squeak. Luther was the same with his toys — intense, puzzled. Excited over the Great Mystery of Squeakiness. Let down once it was solved.
The breeze carries the trumpet to me again. It’s been joined by a couple of tenors, a little bit of cowbell.
Cowbell. I snort into my iced tea. Because what we really need is a little more cowbell:
Is the schtick all that funny any more? I can’t tell. But with that brief moment’s laughter I’m engulfed in a paradox: that you can both be walled off alone from the world and joined to it by the things you share. The cultural references, the memories. Small things: “I, too, had a dog who loved squeaky toys.” By the empathy of Friday night enjoyment, the communion of fellow-feeling, even if you’re not present with the others feeling it. Maybe even if you’re the only one feeling it.
Metaphysics. It’s fine in its way, but is it enough to overcome the physical barriers of walls and illness? (Walls and illness: forever linked in my mind.) I don’t know. Tonight it is. Maybe that’s all we need to ask.
As dusk gathers, the tip of one cloud catches fire in the last light, just out of reach of darkness. The dog has conquered the squeak in its toy and is pawing at the door to go inside; the Great Mystery of Peace and Quiet isn’t really its thing. I settle into the cushions on the Adirondack chair, listening hard past the crickets, hoping to hear just a little more cowbell.