“Tarry here.” It’s one of the most beautiful expressions in the English language. It’s old-fashioned both in usage and, I suppose concept, in what seems to be the increasingly frenetic pace of modern life. Teenagers might disagree as they seem to prefer to tarry with their smart phones, texting away at a pace I could never hope to match.
I looked up synonyms for the word tarry in a couple of online thesauruses. Some of the words these sources noted were loiter, procrastinate and dawdle. Ugh. Others I found were linger, sojourn and abide. That’s more like it, but none of those is quite as evocative as tarry.
I tarried last night at dinner with my husband and four other dear friends. Five of the six of us had just sung at a concert at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham. It was an annual fundraiser for their music scholarship fund. Terre Johnson is the Minister of Music there; you may remember his name from when I wrote about Carnegie Hall a few years ago and Florence, Italy last summer. He composed both of the works performed yesterday, including Song of the Captive, which had its world premiere in Florence last June. Those of us who sang in Florence were invited to join his choir and the Vestavia Hills High School Honor Choir to perform it again, and it brought back so many wonderful memories!
We went to an Italian restaurant after the concert and shared stories, jokes and reminiscences. We tarried over dinner. “Do you remember…”
“…that restaurant where you bought the wine and olive oil? Was it in Montepulciano?”
“We’re about to finish the olive oil. We’ve been careful with how we use it.”
“We have some of the wine left.”
“And that restaurant in the basement in Florence? It was touristy but fun because we were all together.”
“You guys should have gone with us to that restaurant on the mountain. The food was great!”
“I thought the restaurant we went to that night, just down from the hotel was really good.”
“And the sky coming back was incredible! The pictures I took look enhanced but they aren’t.”
“…the night we got lost in Venice?”
“Really, really lost.”
“Did we drink two or three bottles of wine?”
“I think it was three.”
“It looked like three when we met you.”
“Do you remember the water taxi driver pointing out landmarks? He waved at the Museum of Modern Art and said, ‘You know, anything after 1750.’”
“We need to go back and get lost again.”
“Yes, we do.”
“…the incident with the rental car in Florence?”
“It only affected those two people.”
“You’re forgetting the kid in the stroller.”
“If they don’t like the way I drive, they should stay off the sidewalk.”
“And then we drove down those stairs in Rome.”
“They were just little stairs.”
“Yeah, and we didn’t have to pay to get out of the parking lot.”
“Oh, we once drove across a footbridge—“
“Let’s not tell that story.”
But, of course, they did. Stories of Italy led to stories of other travels, along with jokes and discussions of plans for the future. We tarried together.
If you’re a traveler, then you’re probably always planning the next trip. Maybe you plan trips that you’ll never actually take. It’s good to take out the old trips once in a while and dust them off, too. My recent Rothenberg blog, and an upcoming one on that same trip, has allowed me to relive some wonderful times in Germany. I’ve had a wonderful time tarrying with those memories.
What does “Tarry here” evoke for you? Sitting on a warm, white beach at sunset or the top of a mountain on a crisp fall morning? It may have nothing to do with travel. Maybe it’s a hammock in the backyard, slung between two trees. It might be the pew of a church you wander into from a street you’re walking for the first time, or one you sit in every Sunday. Does your perfect tarry experience include a companion or do you prefer solitude? Possibly it involves a combination of an armchair, a book and a cup of hot tea. One of my favorite storytellers, Andy Offutt Irwin, has a song called “Tarry Here” that’s about storytelling, about simply gathering and listening to other people’s tales. It’s one of my favorite ways to tarry. What’s yours?
(By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, we realized later the restaurant where we bought the wine and olive oil was actually in Monticchiello.)