Last night I practiced: some scales, and then the Prelude of the first Bach Suite. Something always catches inside me when, at the half-way point, you reach the return of the G-D-B chord after all the journeying out from those notes that had opened the Prelude. The recognition of home, the same but different, after all that's come before. Then, as I paused on the long high D before the waves of scales start, I thought I heard applause from the street below. I carried on. This morning, as I left the house, there was an envelope on the porch, in front of the doormat. A slug or snail had clearly investigated it in the night, taking a few nibbles from the top.
I opened the envelope as I walked to the bus stop. A neighbour asking me to be quiet? Inviting me to join their garage jam opposite? As I read, my eyes filled with tears.
Dear Anonymous Cello Player,
Tonight you saved me. I cannot explain how or why, but you simply saved my life tonight.
Recently I had been planning to take my life and leave this world. But the music that flowed from your window stopped me, it paralyzed me. And in doing so, I was completely caught off guard.
The woman I love left me heartbroken and tortured, but the song that breathed on the air of this night reminded me that I would be leaving far more than just this world. I would be leaving so much more behind as well. Beauty, pure unparalleled beauty.
In saying that I cannot thank you enough. Tonight I heard the most breath-taking music I have ever heard. Nothing will ever compare. The memory of that sound, the reminder it gave me will never leave me.
So thank you. You have shown me that there is more surprise to this world than I have ever known.
Again, thank you for saving my life. I will never know you and you will never know me, but know that music, and the perfect night, are there.
A Listening Stranger.
That the simple, beautiful designs of Bach can issue into the night from the cello of a novice and be -- music -- act as music in the world -- that, truly, is miraculous. That in one unwitting moment and for one accidental listener, I could be a musician and let music into somebody else's world -- with that, too, the letter-writer has shown me, in turn, that there is more surprise in the world than I have ever known.
I wish the Listening Stranger well, and may future happiness be his.
* * *
A day of unconventional mail, art again moving through the world and making its effects felt in unexpected places: also received today, from dear Matthew, in California, who taught me to play, a painting. It sat on top of his piano, and the window whose view inspired it was behind me as I sat with my cello. The light on the San Francisco Bay luminous in pastel as the framer carefully cuts it free of the packaging. He looks it over admiringly: "every inch is expressive, is an integral part of the work...." I tell him that if one knows, then this impressionistic light and colour is unmistakably the Bay, seen from the hills to the the east. The rise of Angel Island in the foreground, the contoured mass of Marin in the right-hand background. "I used to live there," he said. "This gives me goosebumps."