Stephen Horenstein
Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

Strange occurrences on a sunny fall day

At the shore (photo by the author)

Today the door knocked, but there was nobody there. The birds were silent. Stray wanderers outside my window walked to and fro, seemingly lost. I bit my tongue eating a chicken leg, then slurped some water. Suddenly a man on a ladder appeared, but then disappeared. I had decided to stay in my bathrobe until noon–breaking my usual habits of comfort. Outside I heard the incessant barking of the usual mutts and crying of stray cats, hungry, hot. Soon the door knocked again. But no one was there. I looked for a tax document I needed but luckily never found it.

Yes, so far the day was basically uneventful, until the third time the door knocked. I opened and to my surprise saw a man selling umbrellas. This was especially strange because it was not raining. He began to open one up and I yelled for him to stop. “Please, my grandmother taught me that opening an umbrella indoors brings bad luck!”. The man was taken aback but understood.

As he stood there, I suddenly felt faint and short of breath, I could smell the new umbrella’s fabric and glue, I felt strange and wobbly. I purchased a blue umbrella and paid the man. I smelled the dampness on his shoes and heard his steps fading away in the distance.

I returned to my kitchen and put the umbrella aside. The more I tried to forget it was there the more it plagued me. Suddenly I thought I saw the umbrella move–I looked away–looked back–and noticed that it was slowly rising, first straight up and then sideways. My eyes followed it while I contemplated my life’s dream to fly over deserted beaches. Suddenly without warning, my feet left the ground and hovered ten inches above the floor. I was weightless.

Suddenly there was another knock on the door. I opened it. A picture of a gigantic seashore with the setting of a sun floated in mid air! I followed its flight, down the stairs and into the street. Slowly my feet rose from the pavement, up and around, propelling me forward and upward. Soon I was seeing all of Jerusalem below and noticed that I was traveling westward toward the shores of Tel Aviv. I flew swiftly, not fearing the strong currents of air, until I finally saw the shore. I was in a state of bliss.

When I finally landed on shore I decided to have a snack, a fish sandwich. While relishing the taste I thought to myself: “Life is certainly strange! Why would a man be selling umbrellas on a sunny day? Why would a door simply knock? Why were the birds so silent this morning?”

The next day brought more surprises. A circus arrived to town. Trees suddenly grew faster. Hundreds of umbrellas appeared for no reason on a main city street. People were actually smiling at each other. A wine salesman gave out free samples while a flock of geese walked by. Everyone was citing poetry while the local playing shesh-besh. Later I had heard on the news that there was no crime that day.

Swirling in the air (photo by the author, architecture by Antoni Gaudi)

I thought to myself: “I wish life was like this. I wish life was filled with surprises and strange occurrences that would knock us out of our comfort zone. I wish I could fly. I wish I lived by the raging sea. I wish people smiled more. I wish every day was an adventure. I wish we were all constantly showered with love. I wish people would make eye contact with each other. I wish people worried less.”

Yes, it was an eventful day. I lay on the floor, closed my eyes and admired the constantly shifting shapes and patterns flashing in and out of my field of vision. I took a deep breath while reflecting on what tomorrow might bring.

From the distance I heard a children’s choir chanting and one hundred saxophones playing. I heard dozens of percussion players and strange bass sounds. I looked up and saw an orchestra in the sky. Yes, I said to myself: “Tomorrow will be amazing, for sure!”.

Orchestra in the sky (photo by Malu Tzion)

Suddenly there was a knock on my door….

Coda
Time is no longer time
but a shadow, a relief
with touch, taste
unpredictable, relishing
disappearing.
We are here, then not,
passing through portals
sporting our spirits
the grand mysteries
of this, our life.

About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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