Autumn and Johann Sebastian Bach

As soon as the first leaves of Autumn flame into colour and begin wafting to the ground, I get an itch to listen to Johann Sebastian Bach.

There is something about Autumn and Bach that just go together, like the wafer and the creamy centre of an Oreo cookie. Take them apart and they’re yummy, but together … they’re fabulous!

I don’t know where this all started. Maybe it was that, in September, summer holidays over, it was time to get back to school and piano lessons. Back into choosing and preparing pieces for the next spring’s Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) piano exams. For those of you not well versed in RCM graded piano books and exams, let me explain: Every exam required one piece each to be prepared from List A, List B, List C, and in later grades, List D.

List A consisted of music pieces written during the Baroque period. And that’s where J.S. Bach fits. Naturally, the piano teacher would list the List A piece first in my music notebook, and I, being the strict item-follower I am, would study this piece first every time I sat down to practice.

I have always gravitated to Bach’s music. There is something so ordered, so mathematical, so solid and trustworthy in his music. He never lets me down. Most, if not all, of his piano pieces end on the tonic. We are not left hanging somewhere in limbo – a state of uncertainty where there is no freedom to let go of the breath you’ve been holding. There’s a solid Amen at the end. And by that I mean The End. Fine.

Does anybody else remember those short television episodes that played in the 60’s and 70’s? I don’t even know what the show was called, but the story was about a mouse – a real mouse. This little mouse traveled in a real, tiny boat down a tiny stream. In the background a harpsichord played J.S. Bach. As a girl, I was transfixed by those little vignettes. Maybe that’s where my great love for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach began.

For me, Winter, Spring, and Summer are straight forward seasons. Winter means snow, hockey, mitts and scarves, hot chocolate and fireplaces. Spring has one theme: spring forth! Summer brings warmth and more time for friends and fun.

But Fall!

As in Bach’s music, there is so much happening in Fall. Intricacies we are not even aware of. One day is warm, the next chilly. Whole trees will burst out in colour while their brothers right next to them hang on to green. Evenings, like Bach, are crisp, and foster clear- headedness and renewed thinking, rejuvenated and remolded ideas. There is laid-back urgency in the air. I feel I can achieve anything in the Fall.

Normally I listen to J.S. Bach’s piano works, but this year I happened on to some history on his cantatas:

– Between the years 1723-1729, Bach composed one cantata for every regular and occasional church service in the year. This is at least one cantata a week! More than 52 cantatas a year!! Considering the shortest cantata I could find online is 28 minutes long, this is beyond amazing.

– Of the 350 cantatas he composed, only 209 have survived. The rest were sold off in bulk to be used as paper to wrap meat, fish, and cheese. Insert horror-faced emoji here.

 

I’m gaining a new appreciation for Johann Sebastian Bach’s music. Maybe you will too as you sit by your fireplace or take a walk, music in earbuds, on a crisp Autumn evening.

 

Have a listen and enjoy:

Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 847, Anthony Newman, Harpsichord

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYw7UgO2usI

 

Canada’s own Glenn Gould plays the same Prelude in C minor on Piano

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkg0aQxsKlU

 

Cantata: Magnificat in D major, BWV 243

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38TS7EOGo9A

 

 

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Out of Boxes

 

You know those forms you have to fill out where you check the box in front of your age?

[ ]  20-30

[ ]   31-44

[ ]   45-54

[ ]   55+

 

Today I am checking the last box.

I’m out of boxes.

 

My thoughts progress from mild surprise, to contemplation, to downright rage:

Huh. No more boxes. I wonder what this means? Is life as I know it now over? Do I really have nothing to look forward to anymore? Who the heck decided this would be the last box, anyway? What is wrong with people? Don’t they know there’s life after 55?

 And why am I getting lumped in with the 90-year-olds!!!?

 

I take a deep breath, wipe the frown lines from my forehead. (Because, after all, now that I’m old I don’t need to encourage any more wrinkles up there)

I look at that checklist again. I have always had a kind of love-hate relationship with checklists.

I love making them.

We will do this and then we will do this and this, and when all the things are done, life will be grand. Falalalala lala   LA.   LA!

 

Once the checklists are made, however, my life has a certain stress until everything on the list is checked off. Many times I’ve made a list for the day, only to come to the realization (as I work like a mad scientist, trying to get it all done) that the list I’ve made for the day will actually take me a week, maybe more, to complete.

Because, I can make the list, but I can’t always predict how the list will go.

One of the things on my list could be as simple as

[ ]  Wash the dishes

Only, I didn’t know that the cat would throw up all over my new couch; that the dryer would conk out, forcing me to hang the laundry outside; and that chatty old Aunt Marg would drop over for tea.

I LOVE chatting with chatty old Aunt Marg. But you see, I have a list.

 

Over the years, through my

[x] 20-30’s

[x] 31-44’s

[x] 45-54’s

I’ve had to learn that lists aren’t the be-all and the end-all.

Sometimes you have to make room between the lines.

 

I look at the list and mentally check the box,

[x] 55+

Then the AHA moment comes …

Hey, the list is done! All checked off. Stress over!

And look at all the time I have left to do the fun things. Let’s see …

 Bucket List

  1. Sky diving …

 

Sensible Shoes

 

Dr. T looks at me seriously and says, “You should start wearing hi-tops.”

It takes a few seconds for this “pretty-shoes” loving girl to grasp the concept. I imagine Converse basketball shoes (vintage 1970’s) on my feet. The kind I have never, in my entire life, even thought about wearing.

 

 

I never hung out with the high school jocks. I was always on the music end of the school. The only time I even entered the gym was for enforced – excuse me – mandatory Phys. Ed., or when the school band had to play for an event.

 

And once, for the Tea & Fashion Show, where we modeled our projects from sewing class for mothers, grandmothers, and boyfriends.

 

 

I remember it now …

Silver tea service, dainties, serviettes – not napkins.

Striding to the end of the runway, slipping off the jacket of my sky blue 3-piece suit and swinging it over my shoulder just before doing a pivot turn.

I remember clearly the shoes I wore that day: Sandal wedges, strappy leather that buckled around my ankle. That fit my feet perfectly.

I loved those shoes …

 

But I digress.

 

I watch Dr. T lift the cuff of his pant leg to display his own dull brown hi-tops, and I feel my vanity take a nose-dive.

 

Shoes have always been a passion of mine.

 

And weak ankles have always been an impediment lurking around the corner.

 

Now, I’ve twisted my ankle one time too many and Dr. T, foot specialist, sits in front of me speaking quietly and matter-of-factly. Telling me that, besides the orthotics and the ankle wrap I’ve become accustomed to, and short of the surgery that is not very successful anyway, hi-tops are a great way to support weak ankles and combat the pain.

 

On the drive home I feel like Snoopy sitting on top of his doghouse in aviator cap, red scarf, and goggles. Fist pumping the air.

 

“Curse you, weak ankles!”

 

Against my wishes, I have been relegated to the world of sensible shoes.**

 

Some are born to sensible shoes, some achieve sensible shoes, and some have sensible shoes thrust upon them.

 

So this is it then. The end of an era.

No more 3-inch stilettos (seriously, when was the last time I even tried on stilettos? 20 years ago?).

No more wedges, or pumps, or cute open-toed with bows on top.

 

 

No more brand-new-Broadway-dance-type-shoes-in-my-closet, still unworn.

Sigh. I don’t even know who to be now. I know I won’t recognize this new hi-top wearing chick.

 

 

In the only time I have for shopping before I leave for a week’s frolic with Little Man, I resign myself to a certain pair of hi-tops because … pink racing stripes.

Then, because it’s buy one get one 50% off, I choose another pair. Suede. Mint green, with matching laces.

 

As the weeks of wearing hi-tops go by I catch myself looking down at my shoes many times a day thinking, who is this person?

 

But my ankle feels better when I’m wearing them and so I concede to Dr. T’s professional advice. He was right.

 

Still, I walk by shoe stores longingly, trying not to let my gaze waft over to the pretty shoe section. Until one day when something in the window catches my eye.

What’s this? Tucked among fur lined wedge boots, chunky combat boots, high-heeled fashion boots … there they are.

Low heeled. Lace-ups. Leather.

And Red.

Could I possibly follow Doctor’s orders AND soothe my vanity?

 

I duck into the shoe store to look for a salesperson.

 

Take THAT, Red Baron!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

** For the purposes of this blog post, the term sensible shoes should be understood to mean low-heeled (or no-heeled) lace-up shoes.

 

All shoe photos credited to Pixabay.com

Pattern: rustyzipper.com

Snoopy: my own photo of a comic.

What I Know For Sure

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Today is my birthday.

As a gift to myself, I will be spending at least an hour in a favourite bookstore. Then we will meet some family and friends at a restaurant where they serve varenyky and farmer sausage almost like Mom used to make.

The day is made even better because I’ve come to the conclusion that I finally know some things.

This is important to me because I have lived most of my life outside my comfort zone. Never completely sure of myself. (A common plight for introverts, apparently.) Most of my life – from choosing a breakfast cereal to parenting – has been I don’t know what I’m doing, but let’s try this. I admire people who are so sure of themselves, and I wonder how they do it.

Now, having reached the unremarkable age of 54, I am happy and relieved to say that there are actually a few things I do know for sure. Someday I may expand on them but for today, at the risk of being too simplistic, yet in an effort to keep it simple, here they are:

 

Life is a series of seasons. Some seasons are good. Some seasons are bad. That’s life.

The dirty dishes won’t go away. The baby will. Leave the dishes, hold the baby.

It takes less than a second for life to change forever.

Those you love the most have the most power to wound you.

Doctors are not God. They are just people, with a medical education.

Everyone must walk his own path. Most beloved, dearest child, friend, or foe, I cannot live their life for them.

Traveling the world is exciting, but coming home is everything.

The only way to learn perseverance is to persevere.

The way I respond to what happens to me is my choice.

God can be trusted with my life – even when I can’t see Him working.

 

So, Happy Birthday to me. Here’s to many more years of Joy!

 

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