September, my birthday month, has its own inimitable flavor here in Northern California. There’s a golden tint to everything the warm afternoon sun touches. Morning and evening shadows have begun to lengthen, and night creeps in earlier and cooler. The Brahms Violin Concerto CD gets pulled out of my living room stash and placed in the car. I listen to my violin concertos seasonally, you see. Sibelius and Brahms and the various Bruchs until the chill and encroaching darkness of November bring out Beethoven, followed by Saint Saens.
Brahms comes to me this fall after a over-busy, vaguely unsettling summer (Von Dohnanyi, Bartók, Britten, Ravel, Debussy, Mahler). When I popped in my CD of Brahms’ Violin Concerto for the first time, ten days ago, a liquid sense of relief and pleasure washed over me like never before. Perhaps because summer tends to be the time I try and stretch my music tastes, beyond concertos, beyond the Late Romantics. In such close quarters with my thirteen-year-old son all summer long, to boot, the days and car drives incorporated much of his music, his teen boy preferences. Or perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve left the familiar world of a recently completed novel and am once again mining rough, unexplored terrain for new material.
Whatever. I only know that listening to the Brahms, a fierce tangle of emotions welled up in me and choked me. “I’ve missed you so much,” I wanted to cry out loud. I wanted to clutch at this perfect thing, roll around in it, breathing in every nuance and note. I wanted shut my eyes and freeze this moment of purity, of effortless pleasure. Since I was at the wheel of a moving vehicle, however, I opted to simply focus on driving. And listening.
I turn fifty today. I’d like to take the stance that “oh, it’s just a number” and “I feel no older than thirty-five,” but the truth is, I do feel this paradigm shift taking place in me. A waning of passion that has infused so many of my endeavors over the past decade. The understanding, now, that it might have been a finite amount of passion and energy, is sobering. Wrong word. A fifty-year old’s word. The thirty-year old in me is protesting, shouting, “no, no, this passion is what defines me and my writing, my efforts to play the violin. It’s me. I won’t give this up without a fight.”
Life, I’ve decided, is very tiring. I've developed a keener understanding of the finite nature of everything. I’ve lost loved ones. In our large, extended family, I am one of the younger ones, and there have been aging aunts and uncles who seem to be queuing up of late to take their turn at leaving this world. It’s sad. Draining. I hope the trend doesn’t continue. I hope many of them stay down here with us much longer. But of course it’s out of my hands, like so much of life.
The wonderful thing about classical music and the arts is how it can transcend rules and mortality and the grind of daily life. The Brahms comes to me, so timeless, ever magical. And if the past decade of writing and parenting has taken so much of my energy from me, leached much of the magic that youth carries with it, one thing it has given me is greater sensitivity and appreciation to music and art. Picking up nuance after nuance that had been waiting for the right time to speak to me. Sometimes the message revealed is that art is beautiful, timeless and transcendent. Other times, it’s a reminder to me that art can be fragile, as are the fires of creativity and life. Passion, happiness and pleasure are fleeting and you can’t clutch at them in your attempts to hold on to them. Instead you have to simply hold open the palm of your hand, let them come and go as they will.
I don’t particularly miss youth. The past harbors bumps and bruises I wouldn’t care to revisit. What I miss, though, is the feeling of newness, freshness, the abundance of new thoughts and feelings. Joining this online forum seven years ago exposed me to a thrilling new world and community. I’d log in constantly, tear through blogs and discussion threads, all so addictive, so interesting. I'd leap up afterward to go practice my violin, fired with enthusiasm. So much to learn, so many new thoughts and impressions for me to craft into words and essays. A blog a month. Where did the eager, ebullient words go? The hungry-to-learn musician?
I’ve missed you so much. That could apply to the flow of words, the Violinist.com community, the September violin concertos, the fire of enthusiasm for all things violin. And yet, here, today, is all of it again, resting on the open palm of my hand.
What a lovely fiftieth birthday gift.
© 2012 Terez Rose
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