The bluegrass backyard of my childhood home ended in farmland. Beyond a pair of fields and fence rows was a deep ravine. The sides were terraced with Oak and Maple and Beech. The leaf litter loam on the sides was never firm enough to sustain a child’s weight which was fine with me as I bounded toward the slate floored brook below.
I still dislike Ohio winters but loved winter in the ravine. In the tumult that was labeled adolescence, I often sought and found solace among its brown and gray colonnade. When the ashen skies gave up the big flakes, the only sound in the ravine was the periodic and entirely random “pwoof” as clumps of snow, free falling from the branches, landed in the powder below.
It had a sound all of its own.
My job takes me and my adult problems all over the world and far away from the ravine’s relief.
Everywhere I go is a jambalaya of cultures. Whether on a street corner, in a hotel, at a work site or in an office building, a turn of the corner is a jet way to another new sensation.
I’m in Iraq now and have been here for uncounted days and nights. Iraq is an assault upon my senses. The boldest smells waft from unseen kitchens to tease my nose and make me imagine the tastes awaiting the diners. From a helicopter, unbounded horizons of desiccated talc-soft sand are punctuated by date groves and tea colored huts. When it rains, the mud clings to my boots, sticky like farina to a breakfast spoon but without the sweetness, warmth or sustenance.
The violence has a sound all of its own.
Iraq makes me miss my teenage troubles.
Christmastime, 2007, I stayed at a compound populated by a number of Ugandans. One Sunday night, they unknowingly whisked me back to the ravine, instantly vanquishing six thousand miles of continents, oceans and adult problems.
Christian worship was underway. From the makeshift sanctuary I heard the men engaged in the rituals of my Faith. A western melody, sung by one, filled the space between the stars of the desert sky with “Silent Night”. The sounds were as rich as if I had been strolling past a parish in Kampala. Accompanying the soloist, a chorus of men lifted their tropical bass and baritone voices, four staves, a cappella. The African harmonies and rhythms made the night air fat with hope. I imagined Cherubim and Seraphim beaming in delight while blushing at being bested by mortals.
In a Midwest ravine or Mideast desert, Peace has a sound all of its own.
Just a quick note. I'm in Iraq, which you probably figured out by now. If you call my number you will probably get voice mail because of the time difference. If you need to leave a message, I'll get back to you ASAP. Email is usually best. Also, the mailing address is my brother's house. It's where all my bills go to so that makes it home, I guess. Thank you, Dave Worster