Wind Chimes

Walk along any street in this residential enclave, a low-rise affair of cottages and garden apartments. Admire the well-trimmed hedges, the mature oaks and beeches, the pervasive sense of quiet. The occasional car glides slowly past, rubber tires on smooth asphalt. The vehicle, likely as not, is electric-powered. It sneaks up on you and passes, faintly whirring.

Hear the birds chirp and warble. Hear the squirrel sigh from the telephone pole, like a miniature hermit atop his column, doing public penance for private sins. Hear the pressure ease from your head like air escaping from a balloon, as you pause on the brink of communion with nature. “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought,” as Shakespeare says in Sonnet 30.

A mysterious tinkle steals upon your ears; a jingle-jangle creeps into your mind. Like a wisp of incense, it carries the hint of a Chinese temple, a pagoda wreathed in mist in a mountain landscape. Like a clash of finger-cymbals, it suggests a dancing-girl, a spirit from the desert sand of Arabia. Or you think of a glockenspiel gone astray, or an unhinged music box. What in the world is that tuneless sound?

Look right and left and furtively behind. Glance up at the sky, as placid as a pond. Then from the very corner of your eye, catch a glimpse of movement, a gleam and a tremble, a silvery flash. From the front porch of a bungalow, suspended from the beam that spans the stubby obelisks—yes, there, over the potted geranium, the wind chime dangles and dribbles its song.

A puff of breeze sets it in motion; a breath of air breaks its fragile peace. Then a rattle of spoons, a merry crash as of breaking glass, another chime in a discordant key. Once you identify the source of pollution, you hear it from all quarters. The neighbor’s porch has a wind chime draped from the wooden gingerbread. And the house beyond has three in front, two on the side, and at least one more on the deck in back.

In this oasis of calm, this suburban paradise, what demon suggested that a wind chime was required? To what troubled soul did it seem like a good idea? Surely, he will have his reward. People purchased these unmusical instruments; they ordered them from catalogs and hung them from hooks; they received them as gifts and put them on display. With good intentions, they were like settlers transplanting an invasive species.

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