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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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A chance listening to a mountain dulcimer and a string orchestra performing Connie Elisor’s Blackberry Winter (1997) played upon my imagination: it was all about paradox. Poets like T. S. Elliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins are known for such word-joinings; its experience, in music, however, opened me to other realities.

Juxtaposing succulent blackberries with frigid winds erupted into a honied ache, a puckering of the lips, a twinge of sweetness.

Still other associations flowed: the interlude between hesitant frosts and the full coloring of spring; between the locked door and the opened door; between the angst and discovery within the creative process; between thought and action; between labor and delivery; between losing a significant other and fresh heart-healing; and between the rigors of dying and ultimate surrender: “fall, gall, gash themselves, gold-vermillion.”

It seems like our lives are a succession of blackberry winters.

Such is the glory of our humanness and when overwhelmed, let us not lose heart in our Composer who resides within. Change always comes if we allow it.

 

 

In recent decades a simple earthy woman has been emerging from obscurity, a woman who styled herself as “…a small sound of the trumpet from the Living Light.”

Dependence upon her visions, received in full consciousness, uniquely fitted her to serve others: she founded a community of like-minded women, designed and built housing to accommodate their needs, composed hymns for prayer and worship, authored the first musical morality play, put out major books on theology and treatises on herbal remedies and gynecology and sexuality, corresponded with world leaders in government and religion, counseled the distressed, preached from pulpits in major European cathedrals, agonized over armies spoiling the fertile earth for material gain, and scolded lax Popes during her eighty-one years of life .

A seer of the Unseen, she bothered many. So much so that after her death, the proper authorities successfully blurred, then obliterated her far-reaching influence. Her violent world, like ours, reflected the Titanic clash of spirits: spiritus contra spiritus.

But the Feminine Spirit, once expressed, cannot be silenced. The work of this Encyclopedist continues firing the imaginations of present-day scholars delving into her extant works and exploring fresh vistas into the cosmic dimensions of all life. Only at this mystical depth can healing occur.

In 2012, Pope Gregory XVI canonized her and named her a Doctor of the Catholic Church, one of only three women to hold this distinction. Indeed, the “… small sound of the trumpet from the Living Light” still finds resonance in humble hearts today.

Her name is St. Hildegard of Bingen, German Benedictine Abbess (1098 – 1179).

 

 

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