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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Tale of Two Ladies. by John von Daler

                The garden was in the middle of town. Middle because the town had grown up around it since the 1860s when the house was built by a rich man outside the old walls of the inner city. He put the heads of sea gods and other mythological characters on the walls of the four-story building. They peered imperiously into and across the small patches of grass. If you sat on our side of the lawn on the bench at the white wooden table under the birch tree, you could look through the dangling strings of leaves up towards our neighbor's slavic tower, possibly a remnant of the trading days with the Baltic lands, and see the heads, the tower, the leaves and the blue sky. Then we would sit, we and our neighbors, into the night with wine, words, and the occasional guitar or violin.

                When we moved in in the 1980's it was in the garden that we met with M. She was the stepdaughter of a famous Danish composer known for his whimsical and unpredictable compositions. This tradition did not perish with her because she could surprise you with a bon mot or a quirky thought that would get us all laughing. People passing the natural picket fence of parallel pine stems would hear the patter of our voices in the summer night.
                M lived her life mostly on the basis of her intuition. She would never have considered thinking something through intellectually. She turned on her whole sensory apparatus like some prowling scout and intuited her way to her decisions through the forests of her mind. 
                This was a way of thinking that I knew from my own mother who instinctively felt her way through life in defiance of mere logic.
                Of course when we moved into the old house and started to get to know M, I began a friendship with her that in fact was a continuation of my relationship with my mother and which drew on the same understandings and habits.
                Once my father and mother came from England to visit us in Copenhagen. As their taxi pulled up at our house M came out on her way to a party. She looked like Rita Hayworth and Loretta Young rolled into one, with a wide, light-blue dress and a large straw hat with a white ribbon around the top. She came through the gate in one elegant 360 degree spin just as my mother stepped out of the car. As M closed the gate, she turned around and faced the old lady for the first time.
                My mother in her pants suit from Lord and Taylor, all chaneled and ruby-lipped, stepped out of the taxi and looked up at M in her summer dress, hat and high heels.
                I've known you all my life, said Mother, and walked past M and went into our building.
                An hour later I found on the landing outside our door a champagne bucket filled with red roses from M.
                Such were the eloquent reactions of two intuitive ladies who, having met in our old garden, needed as few words to show their respect for each other as Gary Cooper and John Wayne meeting on Main Street in Laredo.

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