Sunday, January 29, 2012

January 28: Gulls and bagpipes

Walking the sidewalks of Portland waiting for my husband to finish up with an appointment, I could swear I heard the sound of live bagpipes playing "Scotland the Brave." Sure enough, as I got closer to the little park near Middle and Exchange Streets, the sound grew louder, until I could see a young man, standing behind a bench with a jar in front of him, playing the pipes. The music swelled and resonated in the space between the city buildings--bagpipes are not quiet instruments--yet people just walked on by, hardly giving him a second glance. Maybe he plays out there every day. I'm one-quarter Scottish via my paternal grandmother, so hearing this traditional Scottish tune always stirs my genes. I listened from about a block away, enjoying this unusual and not unpleasant din on the Portland streets. As he finished up, a flock of gulls flew overhead, giving voice as gulls do. As the last wailing notes of the pipes faded away in the chilly, late afternoon air, the gulls' cries seemed to prolong them in strange accompaniment.

He began another song, but I had to go meet my husband. I came back later when I had some cash on me, hoping to leave some money in his jar, but he was gone. Perhaps the bagpipes are too much even for the shoppers and street denizens of the Old Port. Or perhaps he'd played his repertoire. We were hit up for money three times as we walked around for an hour or so, but the piper was the only one I would have paid.

One wailing bagpipe
and a flock of crying gulls--
music amid noise.

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