When I saw the house, I was immediately glad I had come. A high adobe wall abutted the uncurbed road and surrounded the front courtyard. High cottonwoods, their leaves brown and rattling in the wind, arced over the top, and a faded wood entrada stood open, the ornate estate sale sign’s arrow pointing invitingly inside.
I found a parking place where the road dead-ended at the acequia and walked the half-block back to the house. The weather was such that you know you will remember it forever after as the distinct feel of a certain type of November Saturday morning, the wind both a threat and a promise, and the air unusually damp, chilling even the bones.
But inside the wall, everything changed. The agents had set the outdoor items for sale in neat rows — Adirondack chairs and huge terra cotta planters with browned stalks withered in their dirt, chile ristras of all sizes hung on metal coat-racks, and garden implements leaned tidily against black wrought-iron tables.
The brick path led to an open front door, which was painted a lovely sky blue — azul, the Spanish word, fits this blue so much better — and I followed it in. Both the merely curious and the more serious sale aficionados milled inside, moving from room to room, inspecting furniture and the smaller items set out on tables. Discrete agents offered help without being pushy, and I asked one, a young woman with a blonde buzz cut and flowing flowered skirt, about an abalone dresser set that reminded me of one my mother had once had. I decided I did not need it, at the price. The house was somehow familiar, in that way strange houses sometimes are. It was almost as if I had been there before, in a dream perhaps, though I am not, like so many in New Mexico are, one who puts much stock in such things.
The piano was in a conservatory at the back of the house, and the conservatory itself was both unexpected and perfectly suited. Although it followed the eastern style — large, windowed, facing out to a well-kept garden — it was southwestern as well, with thick adobe walls, viga-beamed ceilings, their wood dark and weathered, a kiva fireplace in one corner in which an inviting fire was indeed burning. The floors were a dark Saltillo tile, covered with worn Navajo rugs, and bookcases had been built into the walls, bookcases that now displayed neat stacks of what looked to be very old papers.
I asked the agent in that room where the lawyer was. The agent was an earnest middle-aged man, a white carnation in his lapel — he rather reminded me of Tony Randall — and he led me to a man seated discretely at a table in a far corner. I introduced myself, and he snapped open his briefcase without further conversation, then carefully lifted out a stack of plastic-encased scores. All at once I had to hold one myself, and I reached for one, nearly grabbed for it, and he seemed to jump back, though of course that is not as it was at all. He handed it to me carefully, as if it were a flower long-preserved which could quickly turn to dust. I touched the music through the plastic, and then I heard it, an arrangement unlike any I had ever heard before. The first touch of music is quite unlike any other in its echoes, in its evocation of memories not yet known.