You know, I thought I was really getting to know this place. I'm learning the schedule, getting used to wearing this weird clothing...I've gotten my test results, I'm starting to think about who I want to work with in the mastery areas...and then the unexpected happens.
But it is staying light later, now. There are three class blocks per day, of three hours each, though the evening block is usually empty or filled only with what I guess count as extra-curricular activities--poetry readings, little campus concerts, and so forth. I work during the first block and take whatever talks and seminars suit my fancy in the afternoon, and then there's dinner in my dorm, or with my therapy group, or sometimes I'll bike into town to eat. It's only about two or three miles. Anyway, when I started here, by the end of the second class block it was already starting to get dark. Now, I can go for a walk after class, and there's still some light when I head back to the Mansion for dinner.
So tonight I went walking, looking for tracks (I hardly found any, it's really better to wait until the nocturnal animals have had a chance to walk around) and I was just coming back for dinner when I came around the edge of the mansion to its south-west side and practically ran into the sunset. I mean, if the thing had been made of paint I'd have gotten some of it on my face. And it was a complete surprise, because I'd been walking along with my head down and my mind a million miles from anywhere and then there it was, the entire west end of the sky streaked with yellow and orange and purple spots, the spots being shadows cast by little cloudlets upon the main banks of broken orange cloud above.
And it was really cold. I was wearing long johns, my uniform, both of my wool cloaks, and the oiled canvas poncho over that, plus two pairs of socks and two sets of gloves. And the hat my sister knit for me with that stupid doodly-bob on top. And I was still getting cold. My toes were cold and my knees were cold, and the cold and the scent of the snow crept in under my jaw and burnt my nose-hairs. But the startling bite of the weather felt the same way on my body as that sunset did on my heart, and anyway, I knew there would be hot chocolate and a hot shower waiting for me when I wanted them and so I stayed there, right there where I stood, to watch.
Sunsets don't actually last very long, so as I watched that amazing electric salmon color drained away leaving purple, and then that drained, leaving the drifting clouds a kind of translucent grey. The sky behind the clouds, once yellow, became a kind of sea green, then deep blue, deepening towards black. The first and brightest of the stars came out.
And just then, I heard a whistle. It sounded almost like a bird, at
first, though it was hardly the season for birdsong, not in weather this cold, anyway, but very quickly
the sound made itself into notes of human music, played on a tin
whistle--somewhere. I looked around and couldn't see anyone playing.I looked above and behind me, where the sound seemed to be coming from, and the balconies of the student and faculty dorms were up there. It was already too dark to see if anyone was standing out on one of the balconies, and none of the room lights were lit. But I didn't know anyone who had a tin whistle, and anyway, who
would be crazy enough to open a balcony door to play on a night like
this? And why?
The unknown whistler plays scales at first, up and down, then a series of exercises, obviously practicing or warming up, though the tone sounded clear, sweet, and well-controlled. Then show tunes, campfire songs, just a line or two from each, here and there, and then Amazing Grace.
The melody repeated itself three times--there are at least six verses
to the song--before breaking off near the beginning of the fourth verse.
There was a pause, and then--it took me a moment to place the new tune, but I could remember the words:
Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me;
starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee....
The sound was crisp and clear and sweet and flawless, lingering over the swelling notes, like....
I ran off to get my hot cocoa, moved and embarrassed in a way I could not name.
[Next Post: March 4: a green campus and a new student]