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U3A Writing: Interlude

Shirley Buckley tells a story of flutes in harmony.

Nothing stirs me more than the crystalline notes of the flute. It is then that I feel closest to God. Each night as I lie in bed, the haunting strains of a melancholy tune lull me to sleep.

I picture the flautist outside his cabin, a shaft of light filtering out into the darkness. Justin is so accomplished that he doesn't require black dots written on paper to guide him with his repertoire. The melodies he plays come from his heart. I imagine wildlife being caressed by his music as well and wonder if their appreciation is comparable with mine.

The first time I met Justin we were both trekking through the bush. We chatted briefly and that was the beginning of our unusual friendship. I am old enough to be his mother and that in itself provides security for us both. My house is a respectable distance from my neighbors on either side and Justin's is nestled about halfway down the hill. As the colourful parrots fly, he is not far, but on foot it takes about thirty minutes ... a trip only ever to be attempted in daylight. Besides Justin has a regular evening appointment with his flute ... something he never misses. I've considered discussing its importance, but intuition tells me not to, that somehow this is sacrosanct.

Justin has joined me for dinner on a few occasions. He watches the time and like a true friend ensures that we have cleaned up before he leaves. Almost on the dot of ten I hear the first note. I treat his music with the same respect I'd show in a concert hall, not allowing anything else to distract me. Each time his performance is totally familiar, even the sequence of the melodies he plays. But I never tire of listening for each time I hear something I missed the time before. When Justin plays his final note, I allow my eyes to close. Perhaps some day he'll trust me enough to share what's behind his performance. He is so proficient that I can't help but wonder why he isn't touring the world with some renowned orchestra.

I was pleasantly surprised the first time Justin invited me to lunch. His cabin was spotless and though it lacked a woman's touch, he didn't neglect anything he considered important. I was intoxicated by the smell of freshly baked bread as I made my way down the gently sloping path and as he answered my knock, this aroma blended with the fragrance of vegetables and herbs simmering in a large pot. I sniffed appreciatively.
'Lamb shank and vegetable soup,' he announced as if answer to my dormant question. I'd brought a mixture of fresh citrus fruits ... lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit that I'd collected after breakfast and a bunch of English lavender tied with a rich purple ribbon. We liked to share the fruits of our labour. Justin found me a wooden bowl for the fruit and a slender vase for the lavender.

A fire glowed in the hearth and a furry black cat opened a lazy eye from its prime position on a woven mat. The walls were completely bare and within the open plan style living, the only items of furniture were the bare essentials ... a square wooden table with two chairs, a wooden lectern on which sat several music books, a couch that must have doubled as a bed and a bar fridge. The kitchen area was tiny but adequate. Incongruous with all of this was a rich burgundy velvet cushion on top of which lay Justin's flute. I couldn't help but wonder whether the woven mat was a compromise for the cat when the flute was in residence.

Justin smiled as he watched me take in his surroundings.

'Simple eh,' he remarked ... more statement than question.

'Comfortable and uncluttered,' I added. He smiled. Our relationship was like that ... free, easy and sensitive.

One afternoon I was weeding ... a time for throwing out... and as usual my mind began to wander ... to ruined relationships, broken romances, the events which had led to a more isolated style of existence. What was it that caused disturbing memories to resurface especially when weeding? Assimilation, I thought. Maybe that was why I put off this onerous chore until the weeds threatened to choke more than their immediate neighbours. So lost was I in my own thoughts that I didn't hear the young woman approach. It was her voice that raised my awareness and I jumped as it infiltrated.

'Helloooooo ... sorry to startle you ... I rang the doorbell but no-one answered. So I came around the back. You look as though you have quite a battle going on there.'

'You're right, with more than the weeds I might add ... my back is complaining and my mind is going in all directions.'

'Actually that's what I'm after... directions,' she said. 'I believe Justin Overton lives around here.'

'He does,' I said. 'But he doesn't like visitors, likes his space. Do you want to leave a message for him? I see him every now and then.'

'I would like to surprise him and I'm sure he'd like to see me ... well almost sure.'

That was the decider. Justin had made it clear he didn't want visitors. She seemed a pleasant young woman, but I was loath to break Justin's trust. She began to help me in the garden and time passed quickly. She came inside to wash her hands and somehow that led to an invitation to share dinner. She prepared the salad while I cooked the meat. We ate outside and only when the light had faded and the mosquitoes began to bite did we return indoors. Companionably we did the dishes and as she cleaned the last pot, I heard the first note of Justin's evening performance. She dropped the pot into the sink splashing soapy water everywhere.

'Sorry,' she apologized. 'I wasn't expecting to hear him before I saw him.'

I knew then that she was no ordinary visitor.

'Excuse me,' she continued. 'I need to fetch something from my car.'

I was not totally surprised when she returned with a flute and we sat together listening to music that enthralled. She fingered the notes as Justin played obviously completely conversant with the arrangements. I knew she could have left, could have used his music to locate him. But intuition told me there was some mutual respect here. As Justin played his final chorus, she moved outside onto the balcony. Raising the silver instrument to her lips she played in unison with him and when he finished, she began to echo his repertoire. I sat mesmerized by my good fortune ... a double rendition on the same evening. Her ability appeared to match his and I couldn't help but wonder if Justin sat not far away listening to the concert that she was performing for him.

She had reached the final chorus of Scarborough Fair when I realised there were two flutes playing, one above and one below. I remained inside ... knew not to intrude, knew without looking that the flute and her magnetism had pulled Justin from his sanctuary. When she came indoors I saw that she was crying. I hugged her, handed her a tissue and watched as she made her way downstairs. It was well past my bedtime and though I longed to know what was happening outdoors, I prepared for bed.

Sometime later that night I recall hearing a lone flute asking a question and the answer that came in quick response, then the brief, joyful duet before silence resumed. I smiled and allowed heavy eyelids to close out all that was happening elsewhere.

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