The Sound of Pears, the Colour of Moths & the Heavy Hush

Friday, 13 July 2012


the ear finely attuned
to the extravagant music
of yellow pears ripening
in the scrolled light
of orchards as if the world
were perfect
hears the cicada burst its shell

the quiet man sits
touching his cheek
in a room delicately walled
with the sound of rain

-From Nine Verses of the Same Song by Wendell Berry.

These verses remind me of my grandfather sitting in his tiny upstairs study in Israel, crammed with books and newspapers at every corner. He used to hide my birthday presents there when I was little. I always found them.


Issue 200 of The Paris Review features something quite beautiful for a word lover like me who also responds instinctively to colour: Literary Paint Samples created by Leanne Shapton and Ben Schott, in which the colours are sourced from literature. My favourite is the brown/pink colour called ‘Moth’, taken from one of my favourite passages from Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion:

He will not open the screen and capture their pollened bodies. He did this once and the terrified thrash of the moth—a brown-pink creature who released coloured dust on his fingers—scared them both.

We tend to have our d├ęcor dictated by trends, I much prefer to have it chosen from Ondaatje’s words. And I wonder what the colour of touching your cheek while listening to ripening pears is?


Sitting in the audience is a contradictory experience of bodily awareness and imaginary flight. The first thing I notice when the curtains come up and the lights dim is my own body, hushed in a congregation of strangers. I’m suddenly aware of the slightest movements of those around me: a finger twitching in sympathy with the music, a head bent forward toward the dancers’ movements, the slow exhaling of a bated breath, the shuffling of carefully chosen shoes upon the theatre carpet. Time begins to stretch, and all the insignificant movements we make as human beings are brought into sharp focus. It’s not just the dancers on stage whose bodies become fascinating.

-From In the Audience, written by me. It’s one of my favourite articles I’ve written for The Australian Ballet, so read on, if you’d like.

dark hush

By the way, did you see wordpress put my guest post for Jessica’s blog on their front page? I can’t believe a feminism post made it to freshly pressed.

Image source:  Portrait of Duranty by Edgar Degas.


amy said...

such a lovely idea!

Jo said...

Just wanted to say BRILLIANT BRILLIANT AND BRILLIANT! Wonderful news that your post made it to the front page. I just love that a feminist post made it to the front. But then it's so well written, how could it not. Congrats and keep up the outstanding work.

Mirabel said...

I have been thinking about the extravagant music of yellow pears ripening for days now.
Thank you for yet another jolly good post that makes me think.

Tracey said...

Your behind ballet feature was wonderful Hila ... you have such eloquence with your words.

Congratulations on the front page feature ... that's really great, and what a fantastic piece for them to feature!! :)

PS. Moth sounds like a beautiful colour to me.

CloudyKim said...

Wow, I love the mixture of sounds and colors in these quotes - such beautiful combinations :)

Rambling Tart said...

I got to the end of "The Audience" snipped and wondered, "who wrote this wonderful thing??" and it was you. Of course. :-) Such a delight to discover that beautiful things are created by people you like. :-)

Hila said...

amy: I know, I thought you'd like it :)

Jo: thanks so much!

Mirabel: my pleasure.

Tracey: thanks Tracey, it was so much fun to write.

CloudyKim: me too, I think they're beautiful.

Rambling Tart: aww, thanks, you're too kind :)

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

I'd always choose Ondaatje's words over trends. He's one of my favorite authors.

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

I just finished the rest of In the Audience. Wonderful!

Michal said...

I really enjoyed your 'In the Audience' article. I love that experience of awareness you receives once the lights go down-- of yourself and everyone around you. Your senses become hyper-sensitive. The first time I went to see my modern dance troupe perform after I had stopped dancing, I had such an intense reaction. I was used to being on stage and I was surprised and overwhelmed with how much I felt just from sitting in the dark and watching my friends' movements.

Alia et Libris said...

Beautiful, beautiful words xx

odessa said...

oh hila, that poem brought tears to my eyes. it described my grandfather so perfectly, too. yet another thing we have in common: grandfathers who cram their rooms with piles of books and newspapers and love to give birthday presents. i used to think that his room was the most magical place in the world.

Hila said...

Denise: thank you! I found it embarrassing to share that piece, but I loved writing it.

Michal: yes, exactly. It seems almost self-indulgent to write a piece about this feeling, but I'm all for a good dose of indulgence every once in a while.

Alia et Libris: thank you so much.

Odessa: I have such a clear picture of his study in my head. It's one of those pieces from my childhood that I remember well.

Kate said...

I don't know how I missed this post. I've been returning today at intervals to re-read it. I love every section of it - the juxtapositions are perfect and it's set my mind spiralling. And your beautiful article is so evocative I feel I'm sitting in the theatre.

Hila said...

Kate: thank you Kate, I often re-read your own posts too.