I was a librarian sight-reading bagpiper. Once upon a time. Today, for example.
I was one of the lucky librarians to come along when you still had to crawl through miles and miles of shelves to find what you were looking for--if in fact your library had it--or, if not, wait weeks and weeks for interlibrary loan--if in fact it was lendable; but then somebody flipped a switch (seemingly), and it was as if the sky opened up, peeled back, and lo and behold there was heaven--all of it (or lots of it), just like reaching up and shaking hands with St. Peter and living to tell of it.
That was the Internet for me. I still can't believe it.
But before that there was already the ancient magick of reading: all the symbolic systems that we can look at and go "Aha!" and translate into words or houses or music. My Hogwarts began in first grade when I took slips of paper that smelled of mimeograph, each of them with a word, and transformed their blue shapes into sounds. That was abracadabra.
Not much later my patient mother showed me how little platelets on a grill could produce a song on a recorder. Just like that. Just by looking at the little platelets and their position on the grill and whether they were black or hollow or had dots or flags. It was as if they were elves that told me where to put my fingers and how fast to move them. Hobbits? Narnia? I was Merlin with a recorder.
Then when I went to library school I learned that even quieter than a library is the whole world after a bagpipe stops playing. But it's a hush that can't exist without the sound to summon it.
So today I was at a library droning on about the world of bagpipes (It was not an invasion. I was invited) when a fellow asked me if I knew the bagpipe music from a movie called We Were Soldiers. He had come to the program and wanted to hear two things: Amazing Grace and We Were Soldiers.
One does not wish to disappoint, particularly if one is a librarian. Amazing Grace is bread and butter, but what to do about We Were Soldiers? I did not know it.
The whisper of St. Peter ("What did you do with your life?"), and out comes the cell phone, and with not so much as a leap of faith I am in the Internet: The bagpipe on the We Were Soldiers soundtrack plays a tune called Sgt. MacKenzie; a fire department pipe band in Jacksonville, FL, has posted pdf's of their favorite tunes, which includes the aforesaid eponymic air.
"Here," I tell the fellow, "hold my beer I mean my phone [haha]." With phone as manuscript and him as music stand, from out of the darkness of complete ignorance, through the fine mesh of the Internet, with platelets on a grill directing my fingers (at elfin behest), I summoned an entire cloud of witnesses and held it motionless and timeless--though with good rhythm--there in a small room in a small library.
The tune completed, I stopped, summoning the silence beyond silence. And from out of the hush came the voice of the fellow, who said, "Yeah, that was it."