Writers Abroad Magazine 6 May 2017 - Page 19

WRITERS ABROAD MAGAZINE: THE THIRD SPACE the distance. Here at last was an oasis, discovered on my farewell walk before my trip home to Los Angeles. But the grass was littered with modern-day trash, the stream clogged with refuse. The bluebird was in a cage, hanging from a tree, and the lovers sitting close together on the stone bench stared at their smartphones. Then I heard the thin, sweet notes of a flute, joined by a harmonica, and finally a deep baritone voice. Following the twisting paths through the park, I finally located them, a trio grouped around a table, the harmonica player in his thirties, the other two men, a generation older. They nodded as I approached, but did not stop. I am an observer by nature, but emboldened by the fact I was leaving in a few hours, and would never see these men again, I used hand signals to ask if I could sing with them. We took turns, the baritone fixing the small portable mic around my head while I sang ‘The Water is Wide’ and ‘Red River Valley’. We attracted a small crowd, a young college student among them who offered his services as a translator. He explained to the crowd that I sang of betrayed love and lovers parting, and while the flute and harmonica played, the student explained the man sang old, traditional songs about longings for far away homes, and, somehow not surprisingly, love betrayed and lost. The memory resides in my mind, sweet and strong. ‘How did you find China?’ someone asked me the other day. ‘How?’ I mused. ‘By accident, really.’ 18 | MAY 2017