Friday, July 02, 2010
I’m sitting outside working on a friend’s tune book--typesetting her Irish music on Coda Finale. It’s 8:30 PM and the traffic is light on Mishawaka Avenue. The usual dogs are barking and the birds are singing their territorial, courting, and feeding songs.
It takes very little effort to slip backwards in time to the early ‘60s when I used to roam about outside amidst the same repertoire of sound. The one that really takes me back is the call of the mourning dove. When the neighbors’ air conditioning compressor cycles off, it’s quiet, I’m fifteen again, wandering my family’s wooded back yard, wondering at that call, so lonely, so plaintive.
Dogs didn’t rile then like they do today. In our quiet neighborhood fifty years ago we befriended all the dogs: Wade Medlock’s chow, Tootie Oliver’s weiner dog, Dr. Lamon’s Dalmatian from across the street, our little black shaggy poodle. Everyone let their dogs out to roam in the late afternoon Georgia summer. They would gather in our front yard and sit in a circle, too hot to chase squirrels, gossiping, I’m sure, about who was sleeping with whom, and the foibles of their owners. Then at some mutual signal they would all get up and trot back home for the night.
The compressor cycles on again; I’m back in 2010. There are at least three doves this evening. Plaintive. Their accompanists are the hosts of sparrows nesting in the towering red oak in the back neighbor’s yard, in the tall evergreen hedge bordering our driveway, in the attic and eaves of the side neighbor’s house. As it grows darker the choirs of insects begin calling for their mates. Count the number of chirps and tell the temperature, so we learned in Cub Scouts.
1961 - I play over in my mind’s eye the feeling I experienced at the mixer dance at school when for the first time a lovely girl I was dancing with sighed, laid her head on my shoulder and put her soft arms around me. I had only just learned her name.
2010 - the jet airplane streaks across the sky, a star, lit by the sun now far over my horizon. I feel affinity with the doves’ calls, just as bewildered about love despite the intervening fifty years.
1961 - I play over the conversation with my friend about the civil rights riot we both watched on Cronkite the last night.
2010 - I play over the conversation with my friend about the G-20 riots in Toronto; that, too, is about poverty.
1961 – President John F. Kennedy - I attended his inauguration--it was bitter cold and snowy. I left full of hope.
2010 – President Barack Obama - I attended his inauguration--it was bitter cold that day, but me and a million others left full of hope.
1961 - I lay in bed with my little transistor and listen to WLAC-AM, the black-owned R&B station in Nashville, the ear bud in so no one would hear.
2010 - I listen to Celtic Connections, and continue working on the book.
1961 - American boys are dying in Viet Nam by ones and twos. It’s beginning to add up.
2010 - American boys, and girls now, are dying in Afghanistan, in ones and twos; It’s adding up.
The air conditioning compressor cycles off.
It cycles on.
The calls of the doves fade with the encroaching darkness, superseded by the crickets chirrupping. Cub Scouts count the frequency. Tell the temperature. I’m there and I’m here, only a short life away.