Writers have these moments (not often enough) in life where something happens that we're like, Oh oh oh I am sooooo going to use this in a story someday!
This little moment is not clever or exciting, it's just a tiny slice of life with no rising action or dark moment of the soul, but it was rare and strange and beautiful, so I just have to share it.
Last Wednesday I was sitting in my office at work, the third floor of a University of Wyoming building, trying to puzzle out some web mapping code and trying to not be distracted by the Army ROTC unit doing drills outside my window, when a hauntingly lovely sound came floating up from some part of the building.
I work in the Agriculture building. I used to believe it was inhabitated by gnomes (there's another story about that), but I think they have departed due to some unspecified University policy, so there is nothing haunting about my building, unless you count the insect lab in the basement and the collection of butterflies pinned in a case.
Nothing ever exciting has even happened in my building, either, unless you count when students pull fire alarms to get out of taking exams.
So I was quite startled by the etheral sound suddenly wafting through the halls. A violin playing.
Possibly just a recording someone was playing in a classroom? We are long way away from the Fine Arts building where an actual violin player might be found. But I couldn't resist. I headed out of my office to track down the lovely sound.
Down the second floor; nothing there. Down to the first floor. Oh yes, getting closer.
If this was a recording, it was very impressive. I have NEVER HEARD SUCH A LOVELY SOUND. I had no idea the acoustics in this building were so amazing. (Actually, I did know it had impressive acoustics. You don't dare have a conversation on your cell phone in any of the halls; every word can be heard from adjoining classrooms and offices. Eerie acoustics. Might be the gnomes again).
I poked my head around a corner and discovered a girl reading flyers on a bulletin board. She has long hair, 5 inch heels, and a short skirt. While reading, she played this haunting melody on a violin.
Not just any violin. I have never heard such beautiful sound. I have been to violin concerts in fine auditoriums. I have endured two years of my daughter practicing the violin (wait. that is not a good example). We have had several impressive violinists who have done solos at our church.
One of the church soloists sometimes sits for me during summer when the girls are home a lot more. She is 15 years old, and has a rare form of macular degeneration which means she can only read if she holds a paper within an inch of her face. She will never be able to drive a car. (Side note: she is the most amazing teenager I have ever met: creative, smart, loves history, scorns other sitters who just play on their smart phones when they are supposed to be sitting kids. She doesn't just play with my kids, she INVENTS games for my kids).
She is saving up money to buy a really good violin; one that will cost her over $10,000. I totally applaud her goal and wish I could give her a raise so she can buy this violin sooner, though I'm already impressed with the $2000 one she plays now (I fully admit I don't have a discerning ear for fine instruments).
Back to this random violin-playing girl in the Agriculture building, reading flyers on the wall while producing this heavenly sound.
She was an amazing violinist, and her violin must have been of the $10k or better variety, because I have never heard such beautiful sounds. It is was if a violin was a living creature singing. A fairy dancing inside the wood, weaving strands of musical gold from straw (or rather, from agricultural building molecules) like the miller's daughter in the Rumpelstilskin fairytale.
I stood in the stair well (out of sight) just listening, drinking it in, this unexpected, out of place moment. This is something you'd expect to happen in Paris, maybe. Or at least in the Fine Arts building.
Not in the building where I work.
So while I'm standing in the stair well with a goofy grin on my face, an agitated lady stomps down the hall and I had this terrible premonition that she was going to accost the violin girl and ask her to stop because she's disrupting a class or, heaven forbid, distracting an accountant trying to balance a grant budget. I almost tried to stop her before she stopped the violinist, but I head back up to my own floor (because I'm hopelessly non-confrontational).
A few moments later the loveliness ends.
But for the next few days, I haven't been able to get it out of my head.
Even if I never find a story to write this semi-magical moment into someday as scene, at least I have captured it here. And at last I have heard a violin worth paying $10k, maybe even $100k for. I have heard somthing in an entirely new way, in an unexpected place. A gift.
Did you catch that viral video of a meterologist who caught thundersnow on video? Apparently thundersnow is a very rare (and complicated) weather phenomeon and this guy had waited his whole life to see it (or he was just super excited to have finally caught it on video). I think it is absolutely wonderful how our world is peppered with events like these, discovering the purest violin music in the most ordinary place, or catching thundersnow on video and then dancing around cheering like mad.
I love capturing these moments in my writing. It reminds of the truth of one of my favorite writing quotes: "We write to taste life twice."
Catherine Egan, author of JULIA UNBOUND, on writing through distraction - JULIA UNBOUND is the final book in the *The Witch's Child* series, and we're thrilled to have Catherine Egan here to tell us more about it. *Catherine, wha...
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