It is true, just as written in a 19th-century medical encyclopedia I remember browsing many years ago in the Irwin Library's Rare Book Room at Butler University down in Indianapolis, that the best antidote for sorrow is a change of scene. Sorrow, of course, has countless subtypes, and they morph, and they are mistake-driven, and they are broad reflections of our shared inability to see so many situations fully for what they are or will be. Sadness also comes from the expectation of loss, and may closely approach the echoing pain of bereavement with all its sense of permanence. Still the person has to acknowledge being self-entrapped in a situation that is not right in certain vital respects, and must own being powerless to do anything about it other than break away with a full complement of still more painful regrets. So the answer, fully endorsed by the antique medical reference that came with a long descriptive main title, then two more alternative long titles appended to it as was the custom two centuries ago, for me was to head off to Minneapolis. An invitation to attend a concert down that way had been timely.
It felt a bit thrilling to hit the freeway and car-power myself at cross-country speed, after driving only streets, state roads and a few bits of semi-urban freeway all the weeks since January...to visit another friend at her art gallery in the farming outskirts of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area...to land at the rooming house called the Alamo among other sturdily decrepit houses in the neighborhood known as Dinkytown, all the while beguiled away from the thoughts that lead, near home, between eddying ponds of doubtfulness. History would catch me up once I exposed myself to it; here was this concert over at Sundin Music Hall in my old St. Paul environs (see bachsocietymn.org) with six men and six women pronouncing old Latin and Hebrew texts embedded into the musical scores of J.S. Bach, Heinrich Schutz and an Italian composer, Salamone Rossi; what an embroidery, a labor, of lives and learning, discovery and re-discovery. These ancient languages, phrased forth in harmony by people still sleek-faced with youth, in an age when we communicate more and more in acronym and other computer-driven abbreviation. What work, what agelessness, an exhibit of things worth keeping when so much detail has crumbled away and shed both its poisoning and its nourishing properties--even lives and works proclaimed as exceptional during their own brief unrecorded heyday.
On the way back my Minneapolis-based friend and I came through another forecast torrent of snow as we traveled our two-lane route up across northwestern Wisconsin. Temperatures were a degree or two above freezing; nearing Siren, Wisconsin I felt the little car skidding even at reduced speeds and joined the few other drivers crossing up through town at a creep. Slush lay over the pavement and could be expected all the way up the seventy-some miles that remained till we reached the Twin Ports and the end of our run. But salt or other road treatment must have begun past the town of Webster, where we abruptly left behind the slickness to continue along shining wet blacktop like a beacon the whole rest of the way, having the entire road to ourselves probably due to the white-out that swirled on all sides. Once to the right I saw the orange breast of a woodcock wheeling up-over in some kind of startlement, wings triangular, mission his own version of safety. In enough regards the scene out our windows could have been November or December except for the long white light of a spring evening, blizzard-beset as it was, lingering towards its own strange dusk. Far to the sides of the roadway there were likely the season's first red-winged blackbirds and maybe a meadowlark or two nestling in the sogginess, knowing how to wait it out. This is a winter that through a sequence of big snows seems to beg to be remembered. And we've been needing that moisture.
Here at home a winter's piece of work is done, an image as much about weirdness as it is about repletion, or maybe about what happens when we take on more than our bodies or personal nerve networks can bear. But the overweight hummingbird is in his element of blossoms, or baggy nectar-pouches if you prefer, and hasn't collapsed yet. Everything is still beautiful. Right now I strive to believe that half of all anticipated troubles are never met with, because although they lurk, we refuse to go face to face with them, and instead act so as to ease the preconditions, and so something else which can be the best of all outcomes takes place, eventually. The pain of coping must relax, intensify, relax and transform into other states of mind.