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Coming of Age High School

 “La Primavera” or “The Spring” in English, is probably Vivaldi’s most popular piece from the “The Four Seasons” violin concertos. Or “Le Quattro Stagioni” in Italian. It was composed between seventeen eighteen and seventeen twenty by Antonio Lucio Vivaldi during the Baroque period, which was my favorite classical period. I preferred the basic structured approach to the Baroque period, versus the Classical or the Romantic but that’s just me…

It’s a popular piece at weddings and if you you’ve ever been to a function that had a string trio or quartet, you would hear it. Before you write me off as a strait-laced boring academic or musical snob, I’m definitely not that! I have “La Primavera” right after “Toosie Slide” by Drake on my play list, which is just before “More Than A Woman” by the Bee Gees. I just like the music I like.

It happened to be late spring and I had finished High School, so to quote Alice Cooper “Schools out Forever.” I drove my silver 1973 Datsun 240Z coupe through the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia and played “La Primavera” on my high-powered car stereo. Just letting the music wash over and lift me, while I headed to the south coast. Specifically, to Jervis Bay, which was a beautiful bay filled with crystal clear water and surrounded by some of the whitest sand in the world.

I had been going down there since my early teens with my parents, but this was the first time I went down by myself. I needed solitude and peace, as I had to make an important decision about my future. During the next few weeks, I had to either follow my head or my heart, which lead me in two opposite directions.

On the passenger’s seat of my Zed, was my sports bag crammed with clothes and in the foot well was my violin, which I had named Donatella. Like the music I listened to and the current season, this was my spring, as I was eighteen years old and had just became an adult. I currently had no real cares, worries or responsibilities and just enjoyed my life.

Signs for Kiama were just ahead, which was a coastal town famous for its blow hole and the landscape around there, was like a children’s picture drawn with crayon. To my left, was the dark blue, grey of the Tasman Sea, which a lot of Australians mistook as the Pacific Ocean. Directly above me, was the light blue of the sky and to my right, were the dark green of the rolling hills.

The windows were open, and I allowed the warm, fragrant country air fill the car but it wasn’t long before I reached Huskisson, which was my destination. Before I stopped in the actual town, I drove straight to the beach and from where I parked my car, I could see the entrance to the bay, which was quite some distance away. As the humidity was low, the horizon was clear and defined.

I removed my sneakers, got out of the car and walked onto the fine white sand, which ‘squeaked’ as I stepped on it. It squeaked, as it was very fine and even in the middle of summer, the sand would be cool to the touch, because it was so white.

I walked until I was ankle deep in the cool clear, water and as the swell was quite low, there wasn’t any risk of getting splashed. The calm water also meant that it was eerily quiet and all you could hear was the rustling of the eucalyptus trees behind me, a lone seagull above and the lapping sounds of the gentle waves as it reached the shore.

The sea breeze was warm, dry and I felt it carry my stress away, then I walked back onto the dry sand and just sat and watched the bay. I really wasn’t dressed for it, with my black jeans and black t-shirt but I didn’t care. Not that there were many people on the beach to see me, as even in the height of summer, there would only be few people around.

At that moment, I observed a jogger, an elderly couple looking at seashells and an old man fishing. The old man had two ‘rocket launchers’ which are so named, as they were fourteen-foot long Beach fishing rods, that could be used to cast long distances. Both were currently in rod holders in the sand, while he inspected his catch in a large bucket so I walked up and talked to him about his luck.

“Good morning, mate! Catch anything good?”

“Just one whiting but at least it’s legal sized.”

He responded. The old man was a little shorter than me and wiry – had salt and pepper hair under his faded captain’s hat and wore a white t-shirt and shorts. His face was wrinkled, and it looked like he hadn’t shaved for a few days but then again, why would he? I then inquired,

“How long have you been out here this morning?”

“About an hour but the tide’s turning and I’m hoping that they’ll start biting soon. Do you fish?”

He asked,

“I used to fish with my dad, but we haven’t gone fishing for years. My name’s Alec, by the way.”

Then I extended my hand to shake his, which he did readily.

“That’s funny… My names’ Alec as well.”

Old Alec looked me up and down and asked,

“Are you from Sydney?”

“Yeah! I’m down here for a few days… just by myself.”

He nodded his head and said,

“Sounds like you have some thinking to do. This is the place to do it, I can tell you that for sure!”

The old man looked toward the horizon, where a small pod of dolphins caught his attention. A few moments later, a lone cloud drifted overhead and momentarily blocked the sun. Apart from the dimming of the light, it blocked the warmth, so it got a little chilly for a moment. Alec then continued,

“I remember coming down by myself… I was probably your age and had to do some thinking. I needed to work out what direction to take in my life and thought I should be alone and away from my parents. They wanted me to go into law and in fact, I had matriculated into Sydney Uni, but… I loved music.

I was in a band at the time and we did a few pubs on the weekends. God, I miss that band. You know, everyone says they love music but not everyone gets that… raised hair on the back of your neck feeling when you hear a special song. I used to get that feeling but it went away, a few years after I started law. Maybe… the part of the soul that allows you to feel music, leaves you when you turn your back on it.”

I thought about what the old man had said, as my choices were either to become a Doctor or play the violin for the Sydney Symphony orchestra. I knew the feeling he was talking about and he was right. It’s actually a genetic thing to be able to be physically affected by music and I had never considered that it could be possible for it to go away.

I observed the old man as he gazed at the horizon and I asked myself, was he looking at the line between the water and the sky or was he looking back at his past. After a few moments, I asked him,

“If you could do it all again, would you have stayed with the band?”

He rubbed his stubbled chin then said,

“If I could keep the family and friends that I have now, then yes. Even if I never became successful and had to struggle financially, I would choose music. I’m in the winter of my life now and one day, I’ll leave this place behind – the only things that will come with me are my memories and love but it’s a pity that my love for music, will remain.”

Just then, one of his fishing rods dipped down, with what may be a decent strike, so I thanked old Alec for his time, wished him good luck, then walked down the beach.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that Alec was a message for me, as he was a man who made a very similar decision in his youth… his spring. He made the smart decision at the time but sometimes, the smart decision is the wrong one to make.

I retrieved my Air Pods from my pocket, opened one of my playlists on my phone and selected, “La Primavera” once again, then heard and ‘felt’ the music. I decided not to become a sad old man on the beach and when I leave this world, I’m taking music with me.

November 13, 2021 04:47

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