A Reel

I hunger for sound. A song. Sustenance.

I’m not the sort to sleep, but I do pause. This was a long pause for me, halfway up a hillside amongst outcroppings of moss covered limestone. Small crowds used to gather here to watch fiddlers standing upon the stones and weaving their tunes with the sounds of the river burbling below.

As I unpause, I can see that fiddlers don’t come here anymore. There are no well-worn trails or recent refuse of humans. Even if they did still come to my perch, no one could fiddle on a day like this. The bare oak branches are covered with fine snow, and sleet pats off of my rocks with a rapid rhythm. Cold grey clouds cover the sky. The smudge of light behind them is low to the horizon. Morning, I assume, though I’m not sure.

The people will work in the cold, since they must, but they will not linger and play a song in it. I know that I must find a warm inside place, a cabin or a barn, where a mountaineer at ease may pass the comfortable time with a song. If I’m lucky, perhaps I’ll find a barn dance with a full string band.

I flit through the indifferent trees, so changed from when I last saw them, and know that I must have paused long indeed. The cabins that I recall no longer puff smoke into the winter. They’ve been reduced to mounds and depressions marked, I sense more than I see, by lilies just beginning to awaken in the cold ground. The barns where I used to dance unseen with the young couples are vanished into pasture ground and hayfields.

I need a song after my long pause, and soon, lest I fade away into the sky and clouds. Though incorporeal, I am limited and expiring. As I told my old friend Walt—surely he is is at his rest now—the music is filter and fibre for me, even if I don’t have blood.

I despair as I seek the music that sustains me, creeping over hills and hollers and water falls rimmed with ice. The people, my music makers, have changed. They’re sparser on the landscape now, but more concentrated in the places where they clump together. There are no more open wagons with space in the back to fiddle and sing on a long three mile trip; instead there are machines of metal and glass, enclosed and tight and echoing with some sonic lightning that suits me not at all.

The dim sun is setting as I seep into an old store, long closed as humans reckon the passage of time, with dusty barrels and crates that remind me of something dusty in a back room. Places like this used to be full of laughter, gossip, and music, but it’s silent now. I settle my tendrils and ponder.

Then one of those wretched machines approaches, lanterns blazing its way, and stops outside the store. A man extracts himself from the machine with a fiddle case in hand. Soon more of the machines bear humans to the abandoned store, humans bringing fiddles and mandolins, banjos and guitars, enormous bass fiddles, and even dulcimers of different sorts. My soul pants with anticipation.

They circle up amidst yesteryear’s remains as I so well remember. Then a pair of fiddlers step forward to rosin their bows, one a young woman with hair of gold cascading in curls and the other an old, white bearded mountaineer. The old one puts bow to string in unison with his granddaughter, and then the entire circle of musicians join in St. Anne’s Reel, the sort of music that I followed across the ocean so many pauses ago.

Unseen in the center of it all, I eat and dance.

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