An indisputable novelty of staying north for the winter is the very nearly imperceptible remake of the seasons. Travelling south at this time of year has characteristically exhausted the delicacy notwithstanding the taunting though evanescent insinuations of the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Mountains en route.
What by contrast awaits those of us who linger “up north” is an almost daily transformation from varying levels of verdancy and colour. As a matter of pure science the look changes commensurately with the alterations of diminishing sunlight through the vanishing foliage. The result is a new tableau each day.
We had our own rendition of Nature’s shifts when cycling this morning. For the first time of the season we’ve graduated from jersey to parka! It naturally made me wonder how I shall replace this privilege in the coming months when the snowmobiles overtake the trail. Meanwhile I confess marked anticipation of an excuse to avoid exercise! To pretend that my old body invites such routine and mounting hardship is a total deceit! Though I as readily admit that the trial once undertaken is always replenishing. Such is the tarsome fallout of the Protestant Work Ethic!
It’s Sunday. Herr Brahms penetrates my wayfaring soul. Having engaged in what I elevate as the Spartan custom of dry toast and a morsel of subtle Brie for breakfast I now sip with smug impunity my exceedingly strong, chilled espresso coffee.
Two Motets (Zwei Motetten), Op. 74, are two sacred motets for unaccompanied mixed choir by Johannes Brahms, published together. Number 1, composed in 1877 in several movements, is Warum ist das Licht gegeben dem Mühseligen? (Why has light been given to the weary of soul?), based on Biblical texts and a chorale.
The religious tradition of sacred music on the seventh day is a long-standing one for me. When I attended St. Andrew’s College we literally attended chapel every day and twice on Sundays (Matins and Vespers). During the week the morning chapel was merely sufficient to ensure the evaporation of students from the Great Hall after breakfast and then afterwards to launch the school into a day of relentless instruction, field practices (cricket, fencing, soccer and football), evening study and bed. The religious production mounted as we approached the Christmas holiday. In my day – I can’t believe I said that! – the school had just 300 students most of whom were boarders. The Christmas Pageant was always held in the chapel, usually three services – Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening. Now that the school has about 600 boys the ceremony – like the annual cadet parade – has graduated to the Anglican cathedral on Bloor St.W. in Toronto.
Now I content myself to recall the misty stores of the past. I have never consciously presumed that I have somehow removed myself entirely from the fibre of bygone days. No doubt everyone one of us – no matter our history – succeeds eventually to embrace both our talent and limitations. Of necessity these sometimes disparate forces enable or create models which differ remarkably from what may have piloted before.