“I love your peaceful setting,” said a man walking by my house a half hour ago. He meant the wide lawn with the little brown house in the middle of it; the fireflies flashing against the dark green of the forests on either side of the lot and the light green of the azaleas and hollies in the yard; and he meant the dreamsicle cat who appeared out of nowhere a week ago and put our house on its circuit.
The cat — a well-tended ‘thesdan — sat purring in my lap, and I thought, Yes, even a cat… As if the scene needs more icons of ease… Gray weathered Adirondack chairs and waves of pachysandra with topiary bulls. Almost no cars, because we’re close to the end of a dead-end street; a few trains, but not long freights with loud whistles. Little commuter trains that chuff in, pause to let people off in Garrett Park, and toot goodbye. Trains out of a children’s book.
Lots of walkers pass by, taking in the warm evening, listening to the wood thrush on Rokeby Avenue. They can’t see the sky. You can’t see the sky here for the trees. Sometimes it bothers me, and I wish I were at the beach, or at our little house in the mountains, where it’s all sky. But the peacefulness that man felt — it’s about enclosure. Our house is closed in by forest, by enormous trees that make us feel hidden, by a split rail fence. And all the absurd animals that dot the lawn — the cat, the rabbits at the hosta, the mourning doves and the robins — they add to this sense of self-containment, this Henri Rousseau simplicity and safety.
A piece of music played over and over in my mind as I sat in the chair holding the cat. Henry Purcell’s harpsichord ground in C minor, which I play a lot, and which I found on Youtube via this article in Harper’s about Purcell’s song Music for a While, my favorite piece of music. Either you like the messy heavy chords of Romanticism, or you like the highly clarified separate notes of the Baroque. I like the Baroque, and the simple self-contained motion of that ground curled up in me and purred.