The Violinist and the Bagpiper in the Garden of the Gods
Posted Oct 04 2012 4:22am
Recently my daughter, Rebecca, posted a blog about a trip they took in Colorado to visit a place called the Garden of the Gods and related an unusual story that seemed slightly surreal. It sounded to me like a fable that needed an ending; so I wrote one.
After reading it I wrote Rebecca the following fable.
The Violinist and the Bagpiper in the Garden of the Gods
Written for Rebecca
September 16, 2012
From his bed the violinist could see the fire on the mountain. The first rays of the morning broke through his window; hues of pink, orange and grey reflecting on the walls. Standing he saw mountains of clouds forming above the canyon; the Garden of the Gods had awoken and was hungry.
For millennia the people of the valley revered and feared the canyon. Sometimes its incomprehensible power would interrupt their slumber with lights and thundering, followed by torrents that would scatter them like ants. They called it the Garden of the Gods because of its matchless beauty and unpredictable power that seemed to watch over them while reminding them of their place.
Many spoke of the canyon as alive and aware, as it would occasionally answer the errant wanderer who dared enter its walls with deeply spoken mysteries. But the violinist knew of no one during his lifetime to witness such an event. This morning, however, it seemed that the Garden of the Gods had spoken and, in so doing, awoken something in him. A power beyond himself drew him away from his chores; he quickly dressed in his best tunic, silently picked up his violin and bow and began his journey.
The fire in the sky shifted and swirled in waves of color and clouds as the sun rose over the peaks. After three hours the walls grew tall around him as he ascended up the canyon floor. The beauty surrounding him was staggering. The layered walls of rock revealed so many textures and hues, all flowing together as if they were notes on a staff. Wildflowers carpeted the path before him. There were so many unique blossoms that he had never before seen. Looking straight up, the clouds were in continuous motion; churning as caldron of boiling mutton. Everything was alive. He saw a small outcropping of rock just ahead and decided to rest there. As he gazed back down the valley he could barely make out his small village. The normal hectic pace of everyday life among his neighbors seemed so banal from this vantage point. His current surroundings filled him with awe. Automatically his violin found its place under his chin and the bow touched the strings. He answered back.
He closed his eyes and sent his poem into the Garden. The notes swelled as they rose against the hard walls; amplified by the receiver. The violinist continued for some time and then the sound faded as one final pull sounded the amen. Silence, beautiful silence as the last note was swallowed into the Garden of the Gods.
He opened his eyes. Above him the clouds were as still as a painting. Suddenly, he felt something; a vibration. He tried to figure out from whence it came; but it came from everywhere. And then he heard it. Like low thunder in the distance rolling fast towards you. As it increased in volume he thought that he heard a pattern. Beginning like tympani in an orchestra; a beat, a rhythm. The canyon walls repeated the harmonics as if each corner; each crevice had been tuned like a fine instrument. The thundering response was so loud that it would normal be deafening, but somehow the reflection and echo were pitch perfect and ultimately pleasant as nature marked its approval. The violinist was enraptured and lost in the moment when suddenly the air was assaulted with an ugly noise that broke the chord.
A high achromatic whine filled his ears with mud. He looked around seeing nothing. The noise continued in a feeble attempt to mock the melody that the violinist had just created moments earlier. Then he saw him, a wiry young man with a sneer on his face and a bagpipe under his arm perched high above him on a small ledge on the face of the cliff. The man had stopped playing for a moment and was merely laughing at him. The bagpiper somehow enjoyed stealing the beauty from the garden. Frustrated, the violinist began again. His new song, although quite nice, did not carry the majesty of his first. Just as abruptly, the bagpiper filled the air with an awful din of noise and squeaks to overpower the violinist. He made no effort to use his instrument for pleasure, rather to abuse it for sport.
As the sounds echoed up into the Garden, the canyon responded with a wail of subterranean tones which denied its inherent harmonies. No matter how the violinist tried, he could not surmount the bagpiper’s mockery nor the canyon’s response. Finally, he could stand no more and escaped the ugliness as he ran out to the valley below. After a while the moanings from behind him became no more than a sound of wind and he slowed to a walk. Soon, however, his frustration abated as he thought of the majesty that he had witnessed and that would always be his. A simple thought then comforted him. “Tomorrow is another day and I can begin anew.”
The bagpiper laughed as he saw the violinist run from below him. His sardonic scream filled the canyon as he said, “I don’t have to be better, just louder,” and laughed. To show his new found bravado, he adjusted the mouthpiece of his bagpipe and created a cacophony so ugly that dragonflies fell to the ground and all of the white wildflowers turned brown.
He felt it before he heard it. An angry rumbling rolled off the top of the mountains and spilled into the canyon. Bereft of harmonics, the amplitude increased as it approached him, the Garden responded with claps of thundering so loud that the air visibly shook. The pain in the bagpiper’s ears was unbearable. He dropped his bagpipe to cover his ears but the sound rattled his bones. There was no escape. Just as he was about to climb down from his ledge to run away, the Garden of the Gods let out one final burst that felt like the earth tearing apart. Suddenly, the bagpiper felt no ledge beneath him. The gravity of the situation had caught up with him as the earth pulled him, and the fractured rocks that had been his support, to the canyon floor below.
Finally, silence. He could see nothing in all of the dust. He gasped for air. Many minutes later the dust began to settle. His broken bagpipe lay yards away from him. He tried to move but failed. As he looked down he saw the boulders that were holding him. He was trapped. He yelled. Maybe the violinist was still nearby and would come back. He yelled and yelled until his voice quit and again, there was only silence. Broken, he cried. But even his tears refused to moisten his face.
And there he remained silenced and trapped in the Garden of the Gods.
All fables must have their moral, and so it is with the violinist and the bagpiper in the Garden of the Gods:
Beware that you don’t steal another’s thunder and be crushed by the weight of your own hubris.