Tuesday, August 22, 2006

MOZART INHABITS A MIDDLE WORLD where beauty surges in and ebbs away, where everything is contingent and nothing pure, where, as Henry James’s Madame Merle says, an envelope of circumstances encloses every human life.

(That’s Alex Ross writing, in the July 24 (2006) issue of The New Yorker, which I read online.)

The quote’s been on my mind for a long time. I ran into it up in Ashland, three weeks ago, about the time I last blogged here. It describes perfectly the last few weeks, unusually social for us. First there was the week in Ashland with three other couples, friends with whom we do this for a week every summer, staying in a house a comfortable walk away from the three theaters, seeing nine plays in six days, four of them by Shakespeare.

Then there was a week in Portland with family, partly to see Grace before she went off to University — in a favorite city of mine, Middelburg, where she’s enrolled in a special campus of the University of Utrecht, and will soon add Dutch to her English, French, and Spanish. What an amazing world this has become!

And most recently we’re back from a long weekend up to the Sierra, as you see above, where we walked to the site of a friend’s husband’s ashes, thinking all the way of transition and such, as one tends to do on such occasions, particularly when accompanying a family group ranging from toddlers to old-timers like us.

(And particularly, I might as well say it, when contemplating one’s own seventy-first birthday.)

“Counterpoint and dissonance are the cables on which Mozart’s bridges to paradise hang,” Ross points out — I would be quick to add consonance to his mix.

Living intensively with three other friends, particularly other couples and families, is a practice of that contingent “middle world,” and getting together with them, especially annually and for occasions like these, is a reminder of that “envelope of circumstances [that] encloses every human life.”

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