Wednesday, May 20, 2015


When I was little and we went as a family to the beach my father would leave us to go on what felt to me an endless swim. I watched him walk down to the water, hitching up the navy blue swimming trunks that my mother, never a craftsperson, had knitted before I was born. The swimming trunks had no elastic and always needed help. I watched my father’s black head of hair advance into the waves, through the crowd of people squealing, jumping and doing normal things, and now he is swimming, purposefully, past everyone, out, in a straight line further and further and further than anyone else even thinks of going, my father, now just a black dot, disappears from us into an expanse of time so long I lose track. He is gone. Until, later in the afternoon, long after I have not forgotten but become absorbed in 100 other things closer at hand, he returns, water streaming, a laugh of pleasure on his face.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Last week some time one evening when the windows were open I heard the sound of a saxaphone. Someone was playing a sax – I was pretty sure it was a sax -- somewhere nearby. I felt like I was in a movie: soft evening summer light, the sound of a lonely saxophone. It played no real melody, but you could tell it could if it wanted to. It went on for about 30 minutes, someone making something up as they went along, plaintive and sweet as I washed the dishes as quietly as possible.

Maybe it’s that guy who lives next door, I thought. For the last year or two or three I’d caught sight of him in his yard; and then one day during the winter he came to the door, introduced himself as Norm, said he lived next door, and asked us to clean the snow and ice from the end of our driveway because his wife was having trouble negotiating it with her wheelchair.

Maybe it’s Norm, I thought.

This Saturday morning I was pulling out of the driveway and I saw Norm with a small white dog at the end of a retractable leash making his way through his yard. He walked with a cane, awkward and bent over though he is not elderly. I stopped the car, got out and approached him.

I began with a wave. He waved back. I asked him if he’d been playing the sax the other night. “Yes,” he answered, “who are you?”

“I’m Marta,” I answered, “I live next door,” and I pointed.

“Oh, yes, yes!” he said, brightening, remembering.

“Your music was beautiful,” I said. “I felt like I was in a movie, hearing it.”

“Thank you,” said Norm. “That really feels good. Thanks for letting me know. I used to be a pro, you know, played all the time. But now, well, life is full of chores.” Here he paused and untangled his dog’s leash.

“Yes, it is,” I assented. I had to agree with him. Life can sometimes feel very full of chores.

“Listen,” he said,” “I’ll tell you a story. I used to have a tenor sax, but I lost it about 10 years ago.”

“You lost it?” I asked.

“Well, I sold it. I needed the money. “  And immediately I saw his ill-health, his wife’s. I saw the need for money, had a sense of what he had been through. Here was a person who had been up against it.

“So I played a lot of wooden flutes, Indian flutes, things like that. Then last year my daughters got together and bought me an alto sax, and it’s like I got my soul back.” His voice and his face were elated now as he spoke. “Thank you so much,” he said again, “for saying you liked my playing.”