I reached for the remote-control tuner to turn on some music.
Music and writing always go together well, so while I was writing the only decision would be what genre of music would best fit my mood that day; what notes would orchestrate pulling the words from my heart and push them through my fingers.
Jazz? Classical? Rock? Pop? Country? The choices are many.
I chose geese.
The window beside my writing place happened to be open while I reached for the tuner. As I leaned into my reach, my ear neared the window and I heard the faint abafando harmony of Canada geese moving somewhere between the crisp blue October sky and the rainbowed reds, gold, orange, brown and green of the covering the northern driftless area’s ridges and coulees. As they neared, their fluted calls turned to agitato — a mess of music crossing the sky — and then to affrettando as their tune gained order and hurried across the sky. Pianississimo, mezzo forte, forte, mezzo forte, pianississimo, their music came and went.
Why, I wondered, would I need to turn on the recorded music played on our electronic devices, when I have the live symphony of such a beautiful autumn day?
I cranked the window handle to open it to more sounds, then cranked another window open to hear it even more.
That wasn’t enough, though. I had a taste of the wonderful music echoing across our farmyard, and immediately was hooked. I needed more; in moments the door was open and I was stepping outside to drink in every cord and every note up and down the musical scales.
Listening to the rural countryside’s music through an open window was to hear it through a hand-cranked phonograph.
Hearing it with all the windows opened was to hear it on a portable stereo record player.
Hearing it while standing in the outside doorway was to hear it on a modern surround-sound system.
Hearing it while standing in the farmyard was to hear it while standing at the New York Philharmonic Orchestra director’s stand.
The music drew around me, its fingers and arms holding me with just the right strength so as to allow me to enjoy the moment without feeling overwhelmed by its enormous sound.
Another flock of geese – larger than the first – marched in perfect formation across the sky.
A squirrel chattered away with some harmony, and a red-tailed hawk whistled some notes.
Some percussion was added by a walnut tree, its fruit drumming the soil and rooftops as it was released on perfect cue.
A weaning summer calf bleated a solo, its mother answering again and again in bluesy tones.
I soon found myself in the symphony hall’s best seat, against the south side of a tree where the early afternoon sun warmed me and the orchestra between movements.
And then it was over – but only because I had obligations other than closing my eyes and allowing the autumn orchestra’s musical vibrations to lull me into a long nap. There was writing to do, and I’d found the music to accompany me along the way.
The words were bursting to get out of my soul and dripping from my fingertips by the time I re-entered the house. They would be words coaxed from me like few other and would quickly-but-purposefully flow from me like melodies caressed from an expertly played cello.
They were the notes and words of the northern Driftless Area’s music.
They were the notes and words of place.
— Scott Schultz