Opulence in E-Major

April 19

Granada looks as if she were carved out of the mountain by termites. The stonework is entomologically intricate. The city’s façades, balconies, archways, and French doors are microscopically detailed. They are labyrinths in miniature. They are symphonies in stone. They are a meditation.

Beneath the lacelike façades of the old silk market, merchants sell glass lamps that glow like gemstones in the cavernous darkness. In ruby, citrine, sapphire, emerald, and amethyst, the lamps suggest the subterranean opulence of Ali Baba’s cave of forty thieves.

In the thick of the Spanish afternoon, I walk along the Paseo de los Tristes, a lane that winds beside a parched river. Lush tapestries of wisteria canopy the café terraces and the Judas trees are plumed with pink blossoms.

A gust of Vivaldi’s Concerto No. 1 in E-Major flutters on the still air. The violinist’s hair is combed back into a greasy mane but his bow hairs are unkempt, with fly-aways bristling at the tip. He negotiates the music with his fingers, sacrificing a few trills for rhythm’s sake. The melody struggles for breath, alive but just barely, its pulse slow. His music lives a damselfly’s short life, darting over the rim of the bridge and following the current downstream.

Shimmering with this iridescent violin solo, the promenade along the river is a distillation of Mediterranean spring. I miss the steel of violin strings under my fingers.


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