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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.

 

 

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“I can dance! I can jump! I can run! I can work! I can play!” so sings the ecstatic Amahl, the lame shepherd boy, in Gian Carlo Menotti’s one-act opera for children of all ages, Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951).

Set in Bethlehem, a fiery star, “as big as a window,” lures Amahl into the December hills where he pipes his heart out, one melody after another. An impossible dreamer, he frequently frustrates his widowed mother, further impoverished by the recent sale of their sheep. Piercing cold, hunger, no fire in their hearth, only sleep’s oblivion keeps death at bay. However, from out of the night emerge Melchior, Kaspar, and Balthazar, kings/astrologers and their page, seeking lodging in this widow’s hovel. Stories of their star-quest for another king quicken Amahl. Like their visitors, he will bring a gift, his crutch, all that he owns. In that decision, his withered leg throbs with new wholeness. He stands tall. He will have a life. He sings.

What was it that compelled Amahl to disregard the need for his crutch, without which he remained immobile, this reckless heart-gesture that gave its all? What did he see in that moment? What empowerment that changed everything?

Unfortunately, many of us still hold on to crutches, of whatever stripe, to inch us through challenges, to enhance functioning, to conceal our human foibles from others and ourselves. What would it be like to stride free from such hobbling compulsions and enjoy the sun’s warmth on our backs?

Perhaps in 2019, we’ll find out. May it be a very Happy New Year for you and your loved ones!

 

Like a cunning lover, last week’s snowfall wooed autumn’s dismantling within the rigors of winter: Leafy branches sported white overcoats; spindly shrubs stooped in supplication; fence posts peaked with medieval turrets. A solitary cardinal flashed toward a neighbor’s woodshed, then alighted and preened like a celebrity caught within the blitz of paparazzi. From a snow mound poked the handle of a red wagon. Flurries outlined swirls of breezes that fashioned ghostly images upon the asphalt street and tousled the green muffler flapping around the snowman’s neck nearby. Only random cars moved about.

All was still: Its pregnant hush evoked an OH! The first morning of creation must have felt like that.

Such OHs burst with silence, trip breathing, balloon joy, and open onto the companioning Sacred within our depths. Yet a tinge of sadness lingers in their wake, such OHs! so fleeting and evanescent. Would that we could hold onto them. That being said, we can still watch for them and give thanks when experienced.

And this year, do watch for OHs! around Thanksgiving tables, graced with family and friends. Go beyond well-worn traditions and bring something new: a new dish, a new prayer, a new listening.

“Bidden or not bidden, God is present.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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