Last night, cleaning up in the kitchen, I caught the tail end of Bruckner 8. I didn’t know about Bruckner until college, but the first time I read through his 7th Symphony I knew I had been waiting to hear and play this music all my life. It is music I wish I could crawl inside of, especially those big, glorious endings.
I wanted to share it with you—this ending I heard at the end of a long day, after casting about with a prayer that amounted to show me something beautiful. Remind me.
The music was beautiful. I got to crawl inside it just a little bit, and then I finished loading the dishwasher and got on YouTube. And I found this version. The coda (ending) starts at 4:00, and the piece ends about 2 ½ minutes later, and there’s a moment when the music stops, before the conductor lowers his baton—watch his face. Do you see it? Something of a crumbling, a moment suspended between two worlds, and finally release—it is done. He was deep inside that music. I have felt what I saw on his face, although not as often as I'd like. Making art doesn’t always work like that, not in my experience, at least. There are too many things that can get in the way. But sometimes it does work that way and you find yourself deep inside, and that is a wonderful, soul-feeding moment.
I’m thinking now of a favorite passage in Winnie-the-Pooh when Pooh gets stuck half-in, half-out of Rabbit’s hole. Christopher Robin tells him they will have to wait until he gets thinner for his friends to pull him out:
“I’m afraid no meals,” said Christopher Robin, “because of getting thin quicker. But we will read to you.”
Bear began to sigh, and then found he couldn’t because he was so tightly stuck; and a tear rolled down his eye, as he said:
“Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?”
I figure I can look at art as an escape, or a distraction, or even just background, but I know better. I think in reality it is more like water or air—sustaining, life-giving, essential. A reminder. A place to crawl inside of. Whether we are Wedged Bears in Great Tightness or not.
Next time you find something beautiful, show somebody else. And maybe tell me about it, too.