Ready to Greet Eternal Spring
In his poem The Preludes, Victor Hugo expresses his sense of nostalgia about his youth as an old man as well as his anticipation of approaching death.
Winter is on my head but eternal spring is in my heart
I breathe… the fragrance of lilacs, violets, and roses as twenty years ago
The closer I approach to the end the plainer I hear
The symphonies of the world that invite me.
For those who have no clue what “winter” means also don’t understand the “eternal spring” the French thinker, essayist, and novelist talks about. Eternal spring has something to do with the fragrance of the flowers in one’s memory, and a time when everything looked green and promising. Eternal spring for Hugo was a time for longing and reflection.
I too think about the spring time of my life.
After my retirement from the Kansas City Symphony in the late 1990’s where I had played cello for 30 years, I thought I was done with music and stumbled into many hobbies, including pottery. Though I’ve enjoyed working with clay and I received a few ribbons from local art show organizers over the years and a talent scholarship from a community college, my heart wasn’t with clay. There was something missing. Was it because my sense of nostalgia for my days as a musician has its grip on me? After all, music was my first love.
Wouldn’t a retired soldier have the same sense of duty to his country as he did as a young soldier? Wouldn’t a sailor hear the ocean waves calling him back even after he had settled on land? An old musician wanting to play music again is the sign that eternal spring is in his/her heart.
The difficult passages you’ve practiced over and over until your fingertips hurt would suddenly wake you in the middle of the night, demanding to know whether you can still play them. When you hear a familiar melody on the radio while driving, you’d see the green Bohemian hills or the sparkling Rhine River or the thick Vienna woods that had inspired the composer to write, through your windshield, instead of the flat Kansas landscape.
I missed playing cello and missed listening to the works of great composers echo through the walls of the concert halls we had performed.
Today, I took my cello from the closet where it had been collecting dust since 1997, changed the strings, and made some adjustment, and we were reunited, the cello and me. After a few hours of playing scales, etudes, arpeggios, I decided that I can still play. My fingers are still limber and responsive to the music’s demand. They might not quite make 70 MPH on the fingerboard the way they used to years ago but 55 MPH is no problem. The fact that I will be playing with a community orchestra, not a professional one this time, wouldn’t bother me because, while playing, I will be able to get a glimpse of the composer’s world at the time he wrote the music, and maybe even hear his message of hope, love, and yearning for peace through the notes and rests.
A few years of playing music will enrich my remaining years here on earth, and as I get older, I am sure I’ll hear the symphonies of the world that is waiting for me. But for now, all I want to dwell on is the fact that my “end” wouldn’t be here soon and that my eternal spring fills me with a sense of wellbeing.
The Kansas City Star Commentary
The Best Times