Fall and Budapest

It was Fall when I returned from Lockn.  Odd, that only the preceding day and 45 miles away, it was blazing hot and summer was in full swing.  That morning the ride through the hills... 45 miles as the crow flies, but a full two hours of winding around wooded mountain curves, down through hollows, past chilly streams, fields of joe pye weed and farm land… the morning ride was foggy and cool. And when I pulled up the driveway I was slapped in the face with the scent of pine and the changes in the huge trees near the cabin. In the evening as I sat on the porch swing the cricket chirping was louder than usual and holding fairly steady, but at a more deliberate tempo than before I left. 

I never have known what the other insects are that have made up my soundtrack since childhood, but they had all dropped an octave and it was somehow clear that they were singing their way on out.  “A band of angels comin’ after me…”.

I am reminded of the angelic choir singing an American gospel in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona earlier this summer, seeing clearly the wild green and gold light radiating through arched stain glass windows, framed with marzipan candy looking colored balls on top of pinnacled alabaster towers with a hint of pineapple… and then the cobalt turning into turquoise and Jesus sailing above the crowds bringing streaming light from the sky through his heart and spreading it through the cathedral.  It was pretty magnificent.  The next photos in my iPhone are of the interior of the Alhambra and though very little of my four-month trip was devoted to notorious tourist cites, despite the crowds I felt very alone in both of these buildings.  Was it the love and intention in the building of them or something inherent in the design that made the spaces sacred? A third possibility with the Alhambra was the influence of what happened there over the years. The walls must absorb some of the energy into its stone and clay. History was everywhere… in the arches leading to the castle above Salzburg, in Edinburgh, in Florence. It felt as though the dramas were too passionate to fully vanish and were still reaching out for some sort of consummation.

When I arrived back in the country, my son picked me up at Union Station in D.C..  I made it only as far as his apartment in Harrisonburg, where I slept for two days.  On the third day, I stopped for supplies on the way home, picked up our dog, opened what windows hadn’t been left open and plugged in the dehumidifier in the basement.  Then I called my parents.

“How did you like Budapest?” my mother asked.  “That’s one place we didn’t really get to stay.”

My father on the other phone added, “We were there for one night.”

Who doesn’t love Budapest?

I relayed with excitement the vitality of the city.  It was my second visit.

“We stayed between Buda and Pest,” grumbled my father.

“On Margaret Island?”

“No. On the Danube.  In a floating jail.”

The telephone connection was going in and out and I wasn’t sure that’s what he said.

“Why were you in jail?” I asked tentatively.

“Because I turned off the car,” answered my mother bitterly.

My father backed up a little.  “It was night and we were walking outside lost, so they picked us up.  You see, it was still behind the Iron Curtain then.”

I had been to the Soviet Bloc while it was still under Communist rule and pictured the stealthy black KGB jalopies sliding silently down snow-covered roads, the only vehicles out.  My parents would have been the only people outside late at night as well.  Wearing a long black wool coat with a fur-lined collar and a large fur hat, a large gruff man would have opened the door and pointing a gloved finger inside, demanded that they get in.

“So we were just sitting there and I had read that they just sit out all night in those cars and after awhile they turn the engine off to not waste fuel, so I leaned over the seat to turn the key and that’s when they arrested us.”

“That’s not why,” retorted my father.  “It’s because you got in the fight at the airport.”

I thought it was only recently that she was kicked off an airplane for fighting with someone. 

Before they got really engrossed into an angry debate of what was evidently a long term point of contention, I wanted to ask about the moment she decided she should turn off the ignition.

“Well, don’t you think that was rather audacious to turn the key?”

“I don’t know why I did it,” she answered.

“That’s not why they arrested us,” my father insisted.  “It’s because of the girl at the airport.”

“Well they had no right to treat her that way!” shouted my mother.  “They were dragging her and she was an American.”

“She was a spy,” answered my father disgustedly.

“I don’t care if she was or she wasn’t! No one should be treated that way.”

I interrupted my father’s rebuttal,  “Well, if you get a chance, you should go back.”