by Cathleen Elise Rossiter
“Harp of the North! that moldering long hast hung
On the witch-elm that shades Saint Fillan’s spring,
And down the fitful breeze thy numbers flung,
Till envious ivy did around thee cling, Muffling with verdant ringlet every string–“
Sir Walter Scott, Lady of the Lake –
Many years ago, I spent six months in Salzburg, as many students do in cities all over the world, spending my junior year in college (“Uni” to my European readers) abroad. As a Political Science and German double major, it was perfect. Salzburg is enchanting; a place that felt like home before I finished plunking my suitcase on the bed and settling in. To this day, lo these many years hence, I still get homesick every year as freshly and deeply as I did when I first had to leave for home after my Time-of-Enchantment was over.
These feelings of adventure and homesickness for Salzburg have been stirred anew at the return of a dear friend from a trip to Sicily, Italy – one in which the place attached itself to her heart as Salzburg has mine. She even sent me a video clip of a violinist rehearsing in a church before a wedding which, naturally, brought back memories of the music of Salzburg and my own experiences attending classmates auditions at the Mozartium, or listening to these same classmates playing Violin for the crowds on a whim by the magnificent fountain in the Rezidenzplatz, or attending a concert of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik at the university.
Yesterday morning, I was out in the garden to tend to all the work that needed doing after being forced inside for much of the summer due to either extreme high temperatures or heavy rains. As I was cleaning out the fire pit basin, relieving it of the ashes of past campfires, I noticed how small the brick area underneath it seemed. “I could have sworn that I made this area much bigger,” I thought as I bent down for further inspection. As it turns out, with my neglect in tending the garden, the grass and creeping thyme had taken over; encroaching on half of the brick floor I worked so hard to lay in order to provide a safe place to gather around the fire.
In my efforts to reclaim my little fire pit’s brick safety flooring from Nature’s and Time’s progression, I began to realize that a similar encroachment had been happening in my life. With all the balancing of work, home, writing, family, friends, and health that happen in everyday life, I had become neglectful of my inner fire and its safety flooring. I had become complacent about keeping the grasses and creeping thyme at bay; from the envious ivy encircling its verdant ringlets around the strings of my Harp of the North, thereby muffling my melodies in the form of physical exhaustion, or of ill health, or of the need for mental down-time to clear away the demands of the day.
With this newfound understanding, I immediately turned to Herr Mozart and his Little Serenade to energize me with its uplifting tempos and remind me of my love of adventure and all the courage it took for me to make the trip to Salzburg all those years ago. I have been reminded, not only of a place far away that, after all these years, is home to me, but also of the home I have always had here and the need to connect with, maintain, and care for my home here and now. This home maintenance includes the maintenance of relationships, of my health, and of my writing. So, happily, I embark on a new journey that will bring me that much more joy and contentment, music and memories to last another lifetime mingling with those of years past, composing quite a little serenade of my own.