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It is cold—very cold—and it is still winter.

Somehow that matters little in my warm study when enveloped within Winter Dreams, the subtitle of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 in G minor (1866) played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Yuri Temirkanov. The first movement, fragile and effervescent, evokes inchoate scenes. Like hesitant sparrows, words surface—putting something out there that wasn’t there before:

Moonlit snow-scapes—wind-startled frozen lakes—flocked mountain pines—brush-filled meadows—gust-sculpted cathedrals—critter-tracks meandering over hills—color-splashes angling down slopes and crisscrossing paths.

Beneath this frozen world, deep smiles thaw my imagination; trickles of water create wiggle-room for my breathing. Like the first morning of creation, Beauty still evokes such things through Tchaikovsky’s Winter Dreams.

Joy surfaces, again and again. We’ve only to receive it.

 

 

Tiger lilies are beginning to bloom. Talk of the Town, a popular species in our neighborhood, flourishes along fences and side gardens. Morning breezes excite their six-sculpted petals trembling with stamens and pistils; their orangeness ushers in summer’s brash colors. But in time, these rowdy adventurers will collapse their petals and wither and drop to the ground. Would that we could hold onto their beauty.

Looking deeper, we find this ordinary perennial rooted within the cycle of life and death. We, too, have a similar rootedness. How many springs have we experienced the pastel feathering of fruit trees, only to move into summer’s light-plays, followed by autumn’s chill and winter’s bluster? And quickened, yet again, with the return of kaleidoscopic color enlivening somber spirits?

So how can we relish such seasonal changes? Allow them to teach us? It seems to be about sacrifice: cutting away the unworkable for the fresh and untried.

Jesus talks about this when speaking of “the lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:28 +). He challenges his anxious listeners, ourselves included, to own their small-mindedness and to set their hearts on God’s Kingdom. Therein is experienced ultimate significance dressed in unchangeable colors, fresher than the first morning of creation.

 

 

 

 

 

It was over: David Robertson, the conductor, bowed his head and cradled the baton in his other hand; the musicians and their instruments sat motionless; the chorus and children’s choir closed their music books; the pre-recorded street sounds from Manhattan faded into silence. For twenty-nine minutes we had breathed John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls (2002) the “memory space” that he created to honor the victims of 9/11 and all who have had significant losses.

An uneasy silence stunned Powell Symphony Hall. Someone coughed. Others stirred in their seats. Still others swiped their eyes and wadded Kleenex in their hands or studied their laps. Finally someone began to clap; it did not stop until everyone stood. Cheers solidified our humanness, tweaked by significant losses, past and present.

Indeed, such classical music knows no boundaries. It seeps into the marrow of our souls leaving a residue of hope: hope that enlivens our spiritual faculties and quickens our steps. The apparent ending of On the Transmigration of Souls was just the beginning. Indeed, life is good as proclaimed by the Creator in the book of Genesis.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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