I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in
singing, especially when singing is not necessarily
prescribed.

– Mary Oliver, from “Evidence”

My downstairs neighbors sing opera. I don’t hear them often, as I am home mostly when they are gone. But every now and then, I hear one of them practicing scales or playing the piano. It’s an odd punctuation to otherwise routine days, to hear such unexpected music.

Some years ago, I was at a coffee house with my brother, sitting outside on a summer night. We were in a crowded area, close to a university in a city known for music. From the parking lot, a young man erupted into a brief opera solo. He was incredible. Everyone on the coffee house patio turned to listen. It lasted maybe a minute, at most, and everyone on the patio, on the street, or otherwise passing by stopped to smile and clap.

These days, I hear the little scraps of opera, when they surface in my day, as I heard the man in the parking lot. It’s an unexpected gift, a reminder of how much there is in the world just outside of ordinary, everyday awareness. There is a kind and mischievous part of my psyche that conspires to remind me of this. It’s no accident that I live here.

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