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Waterfall

And so it goes, we travel to discover, to leave ourselves only to return again.

I left my four children and husband two weeks ago to tour England, Scotland and Wales. And now I'm flying home.

I found a fallen leaf in Windsmere, Lake District. I took it back to our hotel room that night and pressed it between tour books and castle fliers, hoping to keep it whole.

The leaf is like my time here - tenuous, mortal, ticking.

I found a gray, circular stone in Braemar, Scotland, the size of a quarter. I thought it could be an ancient Roman coin. A geologist in our tour group confirmed otherwise. I don't care, it's still in my pocket.

I'm taking home a feather from St. Andrew's castle, the ruins of a romantic place on the edge of the sea. The castle is missing most of its stone walls as villagers took them from the castle to build their own homes over time. To me, living in a house built with the remains of a castle is unthinkable, but it would probably weather better than my stucco back home.

We visited the National Gallery, from which I'm taking home mental pictures of the impossibly bright sunflower yellows of Van Gogh, the dotted bits of sea side pastels from Seurat, and the soft green bridges of Monet. I left them each a tribute in tears, a tithing of gratitude.

Some distant day next month or next year, I'll sit at my kitchen table five thousand miles away from here. I'll hold the leaf, the stone, the feather, and then squeeze this truth from them: There is life beyond the immediacy of my normal life. There is beauty in every day living, in my children's four faces and a simple dinner of beef stew and broken bread. But there exists a life beyond that, too. I've been there.

Last night, our last night in Britain, we took a taxi to down town London. We went to Saint Martin-in-the-field's Church. Trafalgar Square, its neighbor, heaved with people. Cutting through the traffic, we half ran, half walked through the stone entrance. We were still thirty minutes late. We didn't care. Without hesitating, we took the seats for six pounds, the ones the ticket lady confessed “are not very good, you won't see anything.” It didn't matter. We weren't there to see. We were there to hear.

We climbed up the wooden steps, creaking to the top, the south galley. The chill reached through the windows and touched our necks with icy fingers. We still wore our wool coats, hats, and scarves. It didn't matter. We were there for Beethoven's Eroica symphony (Third Symphony in E flat), performed by the London Musical Arts Orchestra. If we sat up very straight, we could see from our seats on the last row the heads of two violinists and the tops of their bows, and the backs of the heads of every one else watching.

I sat there curious, trying to find my breath, next to my brother who had picked up the flier for this concert earlier today. A flier that I'd ignored. Looking up I saw cream columns leading to rosettes laid out in lines across the beautiful, arched ceiling. Ahead of us a dark-haired young man swayed with the music as if in a trance. With quiet hands, he conducted the orchestra from his seat on the second-to-last row. His eyes were closed, as if in prayer.

Then we discovered we could stand. With no one behind us, who would care? The windows? So we stood for the entire last movement, watching what we could: Five violinists dressed in black, working their bows, so certain, so passionate, as if they were chiseling new rosettes in the ceiling with each note. The sound from the flutes, trumpets, violins and bass washed upwards towards us, then, like a backwards waterfall. As the symphony continued, we were drenched.

The crowds passed outside, shuffling by in their ties and skirts to this play or that pub, unknowing. And there we sat, listening to a symphony by a composer who was deaf and depressed much of his life. And, beyond all reason, each note soared. There I stood, the music filling me, a waterfall of it, while my husband, a violinist since age five, was home, across the ocean, a world away, helping our children with math homework or making ham and cheese sandwiches for their lunch.

There was no logic in this moment. No logic in sitting in an old church in the middle of London on a Saturday night witnessing a masterpiece of the ages. No logic in hearing it as if it were composed for me and no other. And knowing with each note falling like soft rain, filling the church, filling me, measure by measure, that it was somehow sacred. And that I almost missed it. It didn't matter that we couldn't see much, we could feel even more. For that night, that hour, that moment we witnessed a waterfall in the middle of London, pouring down in Saint Martin-in-the-field's Church. And we were there.

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Terresa Wellborn is a writer, librarian, and student of life. She dishes on panic, poetry, mothering twins + 2, and chocolate addictions. For the record, she has some degrees {BA, MLIS} but doesn't use them enough. She writes late in the arms of the day, speaks Spanish to annoy her kids, and happens to love hot rollers, thrifting, skinny jeans, and Mucha. She blogs at The Chocolate Chip Waffle.


 
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