December 4, 2006
Work like you don’t need the money.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance as if no one is watching.
Sing like you’re alone in your car.
— version of a sentiment spoken by Aurora Greenaway,
a character in Terms of Endearment, a novel by
Larry McMurtry, b. 1936, American fiction writer
As I write this I can see at the top of the composing screen the titles of two drafts of pieces that have not been completed. One is about the depression I felt descending on me in October. After I’d spent two days sitting in my study unable to figure out why anything was worth doing, I became alarmed that a major depression was settling in, earlier in the season and fiercer in force than I could remember since the unlamented 1970s.
Whatever I did to turn aside the depression worked. Tonight the whole concept of being depressed seems alien, as if I can’t imagine it, although I’ve certainly had enough experience of it. Tonight I am so full of love and joy and energy that I could burst.
I went gallivanting today, a trip I’d planned as a respite from heavy holiday preparation. I had several items on my agenda, none of them related to Christmas. I had some work to do in Special Collections and Archives at my university and some addresses to check at the alumni office. I has also arranged to have lunch with the editor of the university student newspaper, whose work had impressed me. And in the evening I was headed for a program sponsored by the Lancaster Mennonite Society on funeral customs and deathways among the plain sects. (Some people just have a knack for scheduling the fa-la-la!!)
The trip is fifty miles one way. I had thought of taking along Mannheim Steamroller for entertainment on the drive, but then, supporting the non-Christmas nature of the day and inspired by last night’s Sixty Minutes profile of Venezuelan-born pianist Gabriel Montero, I decided on Rachmaninoff instead.
On the trip down I heard the Third Piano Concerto (transporting — should be considered a hazard when driving) and the Fourth (not at all to my liking). I had a terrific day, accomplishing most of what I wanted to do. (My time in Special Collections was cut short, however. They’re supposed to be open until 8:00, but at 4:15 the librarian said she had to go to dinner and had to close since her student assistant hadn’t shown up. “You just can’t count on them during finals week.”) On my way to the church for the deathways program I had to pull over and just gaze in utter amazement at the full moon hanging over a field off Wabank Road, backlit by pink clouds and with a flock of geese flying across it.
The deathways program proved utterly absorbing. I left with two pages of notes and a deeper understanding of the culture that I study. For my musical accompaniment on the drive home I chose Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto and his Variations on a Theme of Paganini.
And I sang. Yes, you can sing along to classical music. (It’s best, while driving, not to use your hands as if you are once again in the second violin section of the college orchestra and a handsome young man has stopped by the rehearsal hall after basketball practice to give you a ride home in the rain.) I can sing all the parts of some of my favorites, simultaneously.
When I arrived home I pulled into the garage but I didn’t shut off the car. I had to hear the end of the song.
Was it the magical 18th Variation in the Paganini piece, or perhaps the high-energy Dies Irae theme at the end?
No. The truth is, I’d run out of Rachmaninoff about ten miles from home, and switched to the radio.
I just had to sing along to the end with “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”
I love Christmas!