Trees. Saturday, Ground Hog’s Day, there was heavy frost at nine o’clock in the morning, when a friend arrived with his truck. We went to four stores that sold trees and then returned to the second one we had visited, where I bought a willow oak tree, a gingko tree, and two large bags of soil conditioner. When we arrived back home, the frost was gone, the day was bright and cold, and we dug and dug and dug. The trees are large, so we kept digging. We broke up clods of red clay. We encountered helpful earthworms. We added soil conditioners. We st the trees and completed the planting. It was fun. In the backyard, we planted two whippets of Chinese chestnut trees from my friend’s farm. The winter honeysuckle in the back was blooming. It was a good, good day.
At massage therapy. The massage therapist/Reiki practitioner asked, “Have you recently had flu or something?” I answered, “Three weeks ago.” He said, “Your energy level is low, and your stamina is low. I don’t think you’re over the flu, unless there’s something else going on. You should rest so that your energy will achieve balance.” I’m taking his advice: rest (I’m not fighting the urge to have naps; I’m not feeling guilty about early bedtimes), light to moderate exercise (my daily walks are less strenuous), good diet, and plenty of water. He asked when my problem with Dupuytren’s disease first flared again. I realied it was the time right after the flu. Perhaps I started normal activity too soon after the flu. A full body massage and special treatment to my hand have helped. And the rest–so far this week–has been a blessing.
A night walk. At twilight I began a slow walk up to town to have dinner at a local restaurant. It was a cold evening with light breeze. The six-block walk with cold fresh air felt good. The atmosphere in the restaurant was warm, the food was good, and the service was efficient and friendly. I decided to walk a long way home. The sky was bright with stars, bright even above the town lights. I encountered nobody, not even in trucks or cars. I was soon feeling lonely and cold, not an entirely unpleasant feeling. I enjoyed the cold and loneliness. I thought of Thomas Wolfe’s description of winter in Of Time and the River: ” . . . the winter’s grim and stern protraction of the soul . . . .” When I arrived home, instead of writing an introspective essay, I decided to listen to Schubert.
A winter journey. One of the best celebrations of winter is Franz Schubert’s Winterreise, a song cycle of twenty-four pieces, music set to the poetry of Wilhelm Muller. They bear witness to poet Shelley’s often quoted, “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.” (“To a Skylark”) Since I was not feeling lovelorn, I turned to two philosophic songs,”A Stormy Morning” and “Courage!” These translations are from the CD brochure, translations by William Mann, 1985 copyright.
“A Stormy Morning” Look how the storm has torn /the grey mantle of heaven! / The cloud-flecks flutter / about, sparring feebly. / And tongues of red fire/ flicker among them. / This is what I call a morning / really to my taste!/ My heart sees in the sky / its own painted portrait: / it is nothing but winter, / winter chill and savage.
“Courage!” When the snow flies in my face / I brush it away; / When my heart cries out in my breast / I sing bright and cheery. / I don’t hear what it tells me– / I have no ears; / I don’t sense its complaining–/ complaining is for fools./ Stride into the world gaily, / against all wind and weather!/ If there is no God on earth, / we ourselves are gods.
My recording is of Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau, baritone, and Jorg Demus, pianist. The music is incomparable.
At the North Carolina Symphony. My friends had bought the best seats in the house: the first row of the upper balcony. We had a full front view of the entire orchestra, seen from above. Excellent. We enjoyed a classic concert with William Henry Curry, Resident Conductor, with the North Carolina Master Chorale, conducted by Alfred E. Sturgis. The program was music used in movies and television for space-themed programs: Richard Strauss, “Fanfare from Also sprach Zarathustra,” Johann Strauss Jr.’s “On the Beautiful Blue Danube,” (both used in 2001: A Space Odyssey), John Williams, “The Battle” from Star Wars, Calvin Custer’s arrangement of music from Star-Trek. After intermission was Gustav Holst, “The Planets,” shown with video from space. It was a fun program. The symphony played well; the house was filled.
Reading. I am reading The Long Valley, stories by Steinbeck, and certain units in a 1940 literature textbook for ninth graders. A colleague, many years ago, asked why I read old textbooks. I answered, to gain perspective and to learn things. This text, though lacking in vocabulary study, offers excellent reading and interesting questions and opportunities for further reading and projects. Perhaps next week I’ll make some reflections.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments. Enjoy the winter!