Snow is falling softly outside my window. It’s supposed to pick up as the day goes on, but for the moment it’s very soft, very benign. It prompts this question: living in a magical, historic schoolhouse in a beautiful town in a beautiful state making beautiful music (I do my best) with people who seem to share many of my aesthetic values, am I living in some kind of snow globe of unreality?
This can be a vexing question to those of us who have chosen to live in Vermont. I’ve also heard it expressed by those who know of Vermont’s charms but have chosen to live in other places and pursue less woo-woo activities than classical music or fine art. Could this beautiful snow globe turn black?
Sure it could. But should I try to disentangle myself from this beautiful, fortunate moment in my life and seek out some ugliness out of solidarity with the billions of people whose lives are, at this moment, less beautiful? I have to say that doesn’t inspire me.
I’m not going to do anything at all. The moment will pass. Ugliness and pain will find me, and I’ll be grateful for whatever reserves of joy and humility I’ve managed to put aside.
That makes me sound like some crazy survivalist, but J.S. Bach was no crazy survivalist and it was his understanding of the fragility of life that enabled him to compose so knowingly. Orphaned at age 10, and living long enough to bury 10 of his 20 children, Bach appreciated that no “moment” of joy was permanent. And so today I invoke Bach as he set so memorably in the tenor aria in his Cantata Erhub sich ein Streit im Himmel, “Stay, ye angels, stay by me!” (The tenor aria begins at 10:32.)
Let me enjoy this moment in this fragile and precious snow globe.