Nature conducts a symphony on our farm

I had never thought of our rooster as a particularly musical being until a childhood friend and gifted violinist came to visit with her instrument and struck up an early morning duet with the bird. The rooster starts crowing at about 5 a.m. this time of year. By 7 a.m., Mary, having lain sleepless for a couple of hours, was up with her 18th-century Georg Klotz in hand, answering his calls. He seemed as surprised as I was by this sudden lilting accompaniment. I have never heard him put quite so much effort and variety into his morning exercise as he did then.

Mary went on to evoke the passage of the night train, the chirping of the morning birds, and the ticking and chime of our kitchen clock, recreating and weaving all the sounds of the place in a spontaneously composed response to their newness for her.

It struck me that I hadn't really "heard" these sounds with fully engaged ears for quite some time. And in the 37 years since we had last seen each other, I had forgotten how fully Mary listened to the world and how easily she transformed what she heard into her own music.

The rare violin accompanied us on a tour of the farm, coming to life again in a hillside concert that Mary dubbed her "thanks to the valley," a haunting melody I am unlikely to experience again, given my friend's penchant for playing to the moment. The most she ever wrote down were a few notes on what she called her "cheat sheet" - in order to revisit a theme a time or two. Then, I presume, it is gone with the wind.

Our dog Susie was rewarded with her own song as she clung to me on walks and leaned into me on the back porch, where we brought our meals. Mary sang as she played the simple four-line melody, a thrice repeated "I want to be neeaaaar you...." And a high extended finale, "pleeeeeaaaase!"

The dog listened with an almost worshipful expression, as if thankful that here was someone who had looked into and appreciated her very self. Our newly adopted hound puppy yipped his own plea for attention, and Mary's strings yelped back.

When the rooster took up his crowing again, Mary grinned. "He's changed his key!" she said, then adjusted her answer accordingly.

For a time after she had gone, the farm seemed almost unnaturally quiet. The rooster crowed and Allie yipped unchallenged. Susie leaned and snuggled, and the valley, where the stream makes its sweeping "S" curve, lay in its deep shade with no violin accompaniment. But gradually the music embodied in it all became more apparent to me than it ever had.

Before she left, my friend wrote out a few words of advice for Charlie's granddaughter. Erin is just beginning violin lessons and when she came visiting with her mother and sister one afternoon, Mary greeted her with a rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and a playful Cajun melody - then let Erin try the beautiful old instrument herself.

Mary left this reminder for the budding musician: "Always remember that the rests in music are as important as the notes. If you know that, then the spaces between the notes dance with fireflies. And you make everyone happy."

It had been too long a space between the notes from Mary's violin for me. It was good to catch up with this childhood friend ... and to realize just how much of what I hear everyday and into the night is, in essence, music.

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