sad as an old nightcap

I think it’s okay for me to mention the impact a tragic death has had on my community since it’s now public knowledge.

Link:Aneurysm is cause of Hope College professor’s childbirth death

I woke up Saturday morning to read a disturbing email from my boss about a young professor struggling with giving birth to her child. My boss was with her and her family at the hospital. She described the woman’s condition as “critical” and sounded very distressed herself.

Later during the day, I received an email from Hope college along with the rest of the college community that there had been a death in the community. It was this same person.

The baby survived and was doing well. The mother had preeclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension) and eventually died of complications from a severe aneurysm. She attended my church although I didn’t see her often and didn’t know her well and have never met her husband.

She was however well known especially to people in my church from Hope College.  I went over to the church to do a bit of hymn practicing before my Saturday Jazz gig and discovered several upset people from the college preparing to meet together to share their grief.

One of these people whom I know a bit approached me and I gave her the needed hug and commiseration.  Interestingly she spoke to me about a totally unrelated subject saying “I don’t know why I’m telling you this now.”

It reminded me of this incident in Proust’s Swann’s Way:

“Several times a year I would hear my grandfather at the table telling anecdotes, always the same ones, about the behavior of old M. Swann upon the death of his wife, over whom he had watched day and night. My grandfather, who had not seen him for  a long time, had rushed to his side at the estate the Swanns owned in the vicinity of Combray and, so that he would not be present at the coffining, managed to entice him for a while, all in tears, out of the death chamber. They walked a short way in the park, where there was a little sunshine. Suddenly M. Swann, taking my grandfather by the arm, cried out: “Oh, my old friend, what a joy it is to be walking here together in such fine weather! Don’t you think it’s pretty, all these trees, these hawthorns! And my pond—which you’ve never congratulated me on! You look sad as an old nightcap. Feel that little breeze? Oh, say what you like, life has something to offer despite everything, my dear Amedee!” Suddenly the memory of his dead wife came back to him and, no doubt feeling it would be too complicated to try to understand how he could have yielded to an impulse of happiness at such a time, he confined himself, in a habitual gesture of his whenever a difficult question came into his mind, to passing his hands over his forehead, wiping his eyes and the lenses of his lorgnon.”

Proust is often profound about memory and how it works in our heads. I love this story very much because it describes something real about human behavior and coping. When my acquaintance said she didn’t know why she was talking about something unrelated to her grief, I felt like I was witnessing something a tiny bit similar.

I played well at church yesterday. But during the Haydn, someone disturbed our cellist by sitting too close to her and interrupting her bowing. She became very upset and we never quite recovered our equilibrium as a trio.  Too bad. I had the dang thing under my fingers.  I had already mentioned that I wanted to play through the movement we performed yesterday again in our weekly rehearsal, this time with the repeats (which we omitted for time’s sake yesterday). And then follow it with the other movement in the trio. All of this for our own satisfaction.  It’s difficult for me to keep musicians motivated when others barely notice we are there, much less appreciate what we are doing.

My theory is that people sometimes think music is something that comes out of furniture like the TV and through the speakers of their phone or computer.  They in effect reify this activity and don’t realize it is actually the result of effort by another human being. I feel like sometimes they see live performing musicians like speaker boxes. Or at least that what they are doing is sort of magic and not the result of effort.

Or maybe not.

Anyway, this inattention at church seemed to be related to the grief people are experiencing right now due to the death of the young professor.

It is ironic in another way because the trio and I were discussing the experiencing of performing music live. The violinist said she thought of live music like something knitted by hand and in effect not store bought. I mentioned the exciting energy of performing live music that involves not only the performers but the listeners and of course the music, itself. This energy is unpredictable and often quite significant to the quality of the entire experience.  I try to stay open to this when I am working with a live audience and follow it where I may. Little did I anticipate the direction this would head later that morning. Oy.


Letter I Clip Art


Warren Christopher, Lawyer, Negotiator and Adviser to Presidents, Dies at 85 –

This obit is worth reading. It describes a public servant who conducted himself with calm and decorum in his life-long career. Very inspiring to me.


Ringing In the Persian New Year, 1390 –

Porochista Khakpour, the author of this article tells a story I found engaging. It is about dealing with her Persian heritage as a new American, rejecting it and then coming back to reconciling herself to who she is. Well written.


The Japanese Could Teach Us a Thing or Two by Nicholas D. Kristof –

Kristof evenhanded prose  paints a rounded picture of the fascinating behavior of people in this culture.


The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg – review | Books | The Observer

Haven’t finished this review from the UK paper, The Guardian. I did like this quote however:

Her most famous slogan – “Freedom is also the freedom of those who think differently” – was adopted by student protestors in East Germany in 1988, a year before the Berlin Wall came down.


The American Conservative » Das Capitalist (Adam Smith)

Haven’t finished this one either. I picked up the link from Arts and Letters Daily. Their description interested me: “Adam Smith, far from being an apostle of free-market capitalism, advocated full employment, high wages, high taxes, and big government..”


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