Friday, July 15, 2016

In a Summer Garden

It is a warm Friday evening.

It is the midpoint of the month of July, and I sit in an open white shirt, half-linen half-cotton. A floor fan moves the air. Ice cubes jostle slices of lime in a glass on the end table beside me.

For the third time I have picked up the arm of a phonograph and placed the needle back at the first band on the long-playing record. Until a month ago the 1969 recording of In a Summer Garden was in a box six miles away on the floor of a small shop stocking vintage vinyl.

The original owners had taken care to keep the atmospheric music of Frederick Delius relatively free of scratches. The open windows of my second-floor apartment are not going to occasion a disturbance to neighbors if I keep the volume in the middle range.

What Delius wanted to suggest about his 1909 garden in a small town in France soothes this summer evening in New England over a century later.

Meanwhile across town a friend has been working on a garden all day. The garden gives a colorful symmetry to part of the lawn of an historic home. A Loyalist family walked that lawn mornings and evenings in the years leading to the American War of Independence.

An event a month ago brought a group of historical reenactors to the same lawn. They walked up and down the beds of the garden, mulling the issues of a family over two centuries gone from the property. Political turmoil would send them away from a home they had worked to maintain in order and loveliness.

There is no Delius playing for the friend at his volunteer work in that garden tonight. Nothing will soothe his summer evening until he makes his way on a bus to his basement apartment. There a shower will help him get clean enough to fix a meal and go to bed.

If these words suggest a summer evening in 2016 New England, they might create the kind of atmosphere that sometimes arises from music. They might also give the flavor of soil being worked and roots being watered and beds being readied for a night's rest and the morning's freshness.

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