|The Gift, by Drew Doron Noll, All rights reserved © |
The sound of wailing broke the silence one evening, as I sat on the deck watching the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea. It emanated from the nature reserve nearby, but wasn’t the typical howling from jackals that we had all become used to. It was a sound as distinctive as bagpipes from Scotland; and … as a matter of fact, it was exactly that, but it was coming from the darkening woods of Baron Rothschild’s burial plot, Ramat Hanadiv. The sounds carried over the crisp air in a ghostly manner, as if they didn’t exist on the same plain that I sat within. It was exciting and spooky at the same time. I thought, then, of making it a painting, or of writing about it, or even hiking into the woods to follow the sounds over the hills and through the trees. Someone was out there, wondering perpendicular to the trails, playing with the Universe. The sounds faded, eventually, but would return occasionally as the seasons changed and the green began to sprout. Other times the sounds would erupt unseasonably, and the rumors began to ruminate throughout our sleepy neighborhood enclave. It was a girl, I heard, she was tall and blond, she was playing bagpipes, she was an apparition … I heard. I spoke of it too, to my children and friends, and to others. I passed on the stories I’d heard, and I passed on my own experiences listening to the wail wondering across the setting sunlit shrubs in the nature reserve.
My son had graduated from high school and was now training hard to get into the IDF. He would disappear into the nature reserve and run, do pushups, find a tree to do pull-ups on, and walk through the bushes carrying a log over his head, challenging his mental and physical abilities as far as he could push them. I told my son about Bagpipe Girl, like I’d told others, so I wasn’t surprised to find out that he’d also heard of her … and heard her playing in the woods, as well. Bagpipe Girl was becoming famous throughout our neck of the woods. Someone said she was from Benyamina, a town nearby; another said she was from Zikhron and that she played bagpipes professionally. I pictured a parade, then, meandering down the Midrakhov, our local walking street that overtook the founder’s road in the middle of our town. Bagpipe girl was the leader in my vision, parting the crowds of tourists as the parade progressed down the cobblestone paved hill, followed by high school marching bands and stilt-walkers, as if the Purim circus had come to town.
Bagpipe Girl also entered my son’s repertoire of stories. He told me once of his encounter with Bagpipe Girl. He had a perplexed look on his face when he told the story, like he wasn’t sure it was the same bagpipe player that ‘he’d’ heard stories about. When he told the story it was a matter-of-fact kind of process, with my son explaining how he just decided to walk towards the wailing foreign sounds he’d heard emanating from across the nature reserve. Then he began to express frustration as he relayed how he topped the hill in front of him, all the while carrying the log over his head, and then realized that Bagpipe girl was still beyond the next hill’s horizon. So he continued on, the sounds consuming the mist around him, towards the eerie music emanated from somewhere off in the distance. He climbed up the next hill, watching the trees round over as the horizon flattened them all into visually rolling plains. Then he looked down into the next forest depression, the valley below. Bagpipe Girl was still beyond sight and understanding … it had to be the next valley over … he must have thought, so my son trudged on, and with log overhead he put his back into solving the mystery once and for all.
I know the woods throughout the nature reserve intimately, having walked off-trail for years now, attempting to discover dens of jackals, hyenas, and moles. I’ve seen gazelle grazing and galloping, and I’ve seen families of wild boars trotting into the underbrush away from foreign interlopers. A variety of ants, scorpions, and dung beetles are always underfoot in the nature reserve, with birds of prey, their predators, circling above. The central gardens, where Baron Rothschild and his wife are buried in a cave, I’ve only had the opportunity to visit once or twice, but I know every section of the garden’s exterior wall, lined with shrubbery and electric fencing to keep out the ‘wild’ animals. There are bush trails made by wild boars foraging for grubs, then entrenched by visiting cows from a nearby ranch to reduce foreign vegetation and weeds in the reserve. I have spent time maintaining these pseudo trails, moving wayward stones and clipping encroaching branches, so have a good idea of exactly where my son and Bagpipe Girl met that day.
Like wondering planets hovering with atmospheres bouncing and circulating, my son topped a hilltop bristling with trees … then the vista before him opened wide—a wide expanse between trees from horizon to horizon. The clearing unveiled itself, spotted with stones, lonely shrubs, and rotting branches, only to feature Bagpipe Girl placed in its center. She was wholly alone, and entirely happy. Surprised, she lowered her instrument from her lips and stared. My son did the same. He had anticipated Bagpipe Girl; so … with an escalated heartbeat, and an endorphin/adrenaline flooded bloodstream, my son’s jaw dropped, as did the log over his head. They stared at each other and a knowing smile crept upon their shared face. My son learned that Bagpipe Girl had brown hair and was of a normal height. I know this because I, much later, also witnessed her stepping from between the bushes with her instrument toted aside. We, too, had a smile, but I sense that it was a different sort of smile. The face that my son shared with Bagpipe Girl was unified into a collective grin. Atmospheres had collided and a knowing wonder had been set free. The moment was momentary … then my son turned, as did Bagpipe Girl, and they both disappeared, once again, into the shade of the forest.
My artwork is currently showing in the group exhibition: Tehudat Zehut - Resonance of Identity, organized by Ramat Hanadiv, that explores spatial identity and regional sustainability. Please come and visit the various exhibition sites around the region!