A Small Tragedy

Spring has seized the region and everywhere animals play out their old, old urges.  High in the sky, two hawks cavort around each other delighting in the sweep of the warm breezes as well as each other’s company.  More earthbound, a lush red squirrel gives her would-be lover a breathless chase.  She sidles up trees, dashing limb to limb, ever staying one branch ahead of his lusty attentions.

By my window, three small sparrows swoop and fetch.  It takes a moment to decipher but as the game plays on two males boldly wrestle and bristle, squawking ferocious challenges to each other while a tiny female looks on with jaded eyes.  After posing and strutting, puffing and fidgeting the two take chase again.  One of the males takes a momentary lead, rapidly overtaken by the other.  To their fierce competition, the small gray she is now a fleeting blur that sails just ahead of their wingspan.  Just before reaching her, the males stop and replay their elaborate choreography.  It is not enough to catch her.  They must win her small rapid heart as well.

Stop and chase, stop and chase – the game swoops high into the trees and low to skim the lowest brushes.  Each pass sweeps a widening circle through the yard.

Perhaps she has chosen.  Perhaps the song of one or the head tilt of the other has melted the cruel coyness of her spirit.  Perhaps the males are wearying of the chase, wondering if the small she is worth the effort.  The threesome assays one last broad pass to skim the flagstones on the deck.

A jarring thud.  A small forlorn squawk.  The tiny female lies broken at the base of my broad window.

The two pursuers land at her body.  Each male gives a pallid shadow of his courting display.  Each male tilts a befuddled head at the responding stillness.  With a wistful chirp, each male flies off into an opposite sky.


Back On The Chain Gang

Once, during a summer when I was immersed in intensive organic chemistry, I found myself alone and lonely.  In an effort to connect back with life, I played my then favorite song, The Pretenders’ Back on the Chain Gang, on the stereo I was boarding for my roommate.  As the song would end, I would replace stylus to vinyl and listen again.  After the sixth play, with behavior bordering on obsessive, I reluctantly switched over to the FM band.  In one of the odd serendipities that play in my life, the tune sang out from the airwaves for a seventh time giving me a sense of inevitability, solace and finality.

“Music hath charms” but the magical charms are bittersweet.  On that long-past summer afternoon the instant of sheer satisfaction in my favorite phrase (“Those were the happiest days of my life”) gave my heart each time a warming thrill.  But each instant also left it yearning.  I could anticipate the moment, I could revel in it as it occurred, but I could never hold it.  Music is forever touched by a reflection of an emotion.

With the possible exception of sculpture, where you can physically grasp the object of beauty, most art is enhanced by redolent echoes, the nostalgia for the sensation which you have encountered.  With painting or printmaking, you can stare and dream as long as you wish, but you can never reach in and immerse in the beauty.  In dance or in theater, or the spoken word of poetry, the moment strikes you and then passes.

Writing may be the most permanent of arts.  The word is always on the page and the page can always be in your hand.  In my favorite works, there is always a moment where I pause and savor before moving forward in the story.  In some, I will return to a passage or a chapter even after I have finished the book for the first or fiftieth time.  I will read and relive the moment, attempting both to hold onto and be held by the stirring sensation of completeness.

Perhaps after the seventh time, I will have achieved my goal.