Thursday, September 13, 2012


(Sonata no. 2 in A minor for solo violin, 3rd movement, J.S. Bach)

It is tucked between a difficult fugue and a fourth movement that really wants to fly, quiet and lyrical and probably my favorite movement to play. This morning it is what I most want to listen to. I think it is the heartbeat threaded through the whole thing that appeals so much. That continual pulsing beneath a fluid upper line—this music tugs at me. Somehow, too, it glows.

It is cool and cloudy and wet outside. No rain right now, but I can hear the wet under the tires of the cars driving past. My feet are cold, but my coffee is strong and dark and hot. My microwave is a faithful friend, allowing me every day to drink my coffee as slowly as I want, but still enjoy it hot.

I just learned that today is Clara Schumann’s birthday. She is somebody I think I would have liked to get to know over coffee. Did you enjoy practicing more, or less, once you had children? Did you ever fall asleep while you were writing? How frustrated did you get when that thought was finally just making itself visible and somebody came in and they absolutely couldn’t wait for you to get it down on paper? Tell me what it was like for you, all that balancing. Did you end up being the person you wanted to be, in the end? Maybe when I was done with my questions I would confide in her. I just had a birthday, myself. I remember feeling shocked that 16 didn’t seem nearly as old as I thought it would, once I got to it. I still get that feeling, every single year.

That heartbeat carries you through, but it is also a touching point for the lyrical voice. Something to keep coming back to. A steadiness that allows freedom. Violinists don’t often get to be more than one voice at a time, but Bach makes it possible here. There is something about that pairing of steady and free, solidity and fluidity. Getting to be both, at the same time. It feels very peaceful.

And so I listen to this one movement, over and over again, and allow it to sink in deeply. I keep re-heating my coffee, and wrapping my cold fingers around the mug to warm them, and drinking slowly in order to enjoy my morning allotment as long as possible. I try to hold myself in one place to write, but find that my mind, as usual, is much happier to weave around, instead. It comes back to rest often, on how the music seems to glow, and on the heat and strength of this slow last cup of coffee, and on that recent birthday and how time keeps moving forward and how could I still feel so new at it all?

I’m not sure when the thought hit me, exactly, that if I wanted to be a certain kind of person someday when I was old, I might as well start living as if I were already her. At the triathlon I participated in on Sunday—my first, as part of a team—one of my teammates and I watched the very last swimmer come out of the water and get on her bike. She was at least 70. “Hey Karen, that’s gonna be you,” he said. Oh, absolutely. I would love to be that kind of woman.

I hope I still have more years ahead of me than behind. But I’m starting to believe that they go fast. I want to keep feeling new—at some things, at least. But maybe the fact that everything keeps moving forward is okay. The thought of stagnancy seems ominous. Maybe that pairing of steady and free, solidity and fluidity, that I’m listening to is a good thing to emulate. Maybe the key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with the color of your hair or how well your body works, but more to do with what you are creating, what pulses within you, what you touch back on. Tell me it’s about the warmth and strength and light.

Subscribe to Dreamer by Email


  1. "Maybe that pairing of steady and free, solidity and fluidity, that I’m listening to is a good thing to emulate." You know, that tension between opposites is something that I feel like we keep running into constantly in life and in God. God is in control but we have free will. We can rest completely in grace yet we should strive to be perfect..

    Your post and that piece are such a beautiful example of two generally opposing things complimenting, no more than that, enhancing each other. It somehow makes my soul take a deep, calming breath to read this.


I love hearing from you!