Thursday, April 18, 2013


April 15.  9:12 a.m. Vienna. Perfection.

We awake late this morning to an unfamiliar sound.  Groggy on a Monday, I ignore it, get coffee and open the laptop to catch up on news.

Still, the sound of a woman’s voice singing an elegiac melody accompanied only by what sounds like a concertina, doubling her simple line, continues to infiltrate, seeping through the windows and doors still locked against winter’s chill, habit.

Jim looks up, “Is that live?”

The Windows
I open the double windows I so love in this apartment to behold Uwe’s jungle, the barely budding trees and an evergreen obscuring the view from where the voice emanates.  Yes, the voice, amplified and sonorous, caressing the mysterious tonality of the Middle East, is coming from the backyard of the Israelis.

 A few children are laughing.  The two unseen musicians are rehearsing, not performing.

I look down.  At last the turtles are out, atilt with bellies nudging the stone wall to bask in the sunshine that has eluded Vienna and most of Europe for far too many months.  Nefertiti, the impassive cat—gorgeous as her namesake-- has joined the turtles,
The Turtles
nestled in the sunshine.
The Cat 
I listen closely, and the clucks of the hens caged along the back fence provide a natural ostinato.  I strain to hear the buzzing of the bees that have finally staggered, drowsy, from their winter hives, trying to recall what it is they’re supposed to do now.

A ridiculous range of remembered music floods my morning brain: Oliver , “Who Will Buy This Wonderful Morning, “ Mr. Rogers, “It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, “ Vivaldi’s Four  Seasons and the Bach Brandenburg Concerto I heard for the first time  while sitting in a junior high classroom, gazing through tall windows framing the lilacs in bloom, sublime.
The Bees
I’m reminded of the line we discussed in my American Jewish Literature
The Hens & Israelis
class almost 40 years ago: the Jewish people have their feet in the cloaca, their heads in the stars.  I’ve always thought, not just them, all of us who are alive to complexity and contradiction.

9: 37 a.m.

The spell has broken.  The turtles have warmed up enough to feel greedy and territorial, bashing shells, nipping necks reluctant to withdraw into the safety of the shell, clumsily copulating, emitting little turtle moans; Nefertiti has tired of my teasing “Here, kitty, kitty” as if she could simply leap up the 10 feet to the window sill, the soulful Hebrew ballad has been replaced by recorded pop music, the whine and thumps of construction work in the neighborhood cleave the air.

The hubbub in the Israeli backyard has risen to not quite a din. Another instrument – a violin – is tuning.  Now, a clarinet.

As poet Blake wrote, “Kiss the joy as it flies.”

Winter has finally bidden us goodbye, the yin, the yang and whatever exists in the in-between of the human experience will be in fuller view to be savored for a few too-short months.

Close the laptop. Say yes to doors ajar.  Fling wide the windows.

Spring has deigned to grace us once more.


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