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Music, war, and cups

October 14, 2008

Self-imposed deprivation somehow intensifies the need for renewal. If I can’t have something new, something old must regain its original luster of importance.

What we thought might be a rehearsal for leaner times turned out to be the real thing. Income decreased, and some expenses increased, while others simply stood fast, large, and in the way. “Our better off than most” outlook gradually yielded to “not this year,” and “it can wait.” And it’s good to realize that these outlooks are certainly valid for rolling good times, too.

I think of getting a job, but this requires thinking I’m 20 and can still get into astronaut school. I have to face that my future is behind me.

We don’t need more stuff; we could use fewer expectations, and a greater sense that not all that is fruitful leads to accumulated wealth. Paying property taxes, for instance, falls into this category; but then, so does playing music.

An inconvenient convergence: property tax is due, as well as a large insurance premium and a bi-monthly utilities bill. The latter two items go on the credit card. It will likely be necessary to carry over a balance this month, something we have seldom had to do. On the other hand, the card pays cash back on all purchases, and our eventual refund will more than offset the detested interest. We affirm God’s benign providence with a “We’ll get through this.” The expression is fruitful, because it instills grit. Alas, it does not accumulate capital.

I have played the recorder since high school. I played in a Musica Antiqua consort in college. I have taught the recorder to children and adults. I still play, but I forget to, because playing is no longer structured into my routine. The other night, I took out my tenor recorder and my husband turned on the organ, and we played hymns from the Trinity Hymnal for more than an hour. I’m not sure I can still negotiate the technical passages in the Telemann trio sonatas I used to play, but at least I can play something.  I’ve accumulated no capital playing the recorder, but I have accumulated a lot of renewal for such a time as this.

Shocking revelation: I do not like to read. I really don’t, not in the least. This is probably somewhat unusual for someone with nine years of higher education. I can read, and I do, but only when there is no other way I can obtain the information I want.

Recently I decided I wanted to know more about history, particularly the world wars, of which I knew next to nothing. The idea of reading about them was daunting. I always enjoyed ancient history, but modern history was my least favorite subject.

The library had DVDs of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. I don’t require expertise in these things, I only wished to know more about them. I loved the series. I finally understood something about the interplay of the different fronts and battles of World War II, and America’s role in the War, and why we entered when we did and not before. I’m not scholarly or even conversant on the subject, but more edified than I was. Like resuming my musical avocation, this provided a sense of renewal when our budget disallowed anything new. Watching the series was fruitful although it did not build capital.

I have a pair of demitasse cups that I bought when I was in college. They are hand-painted, by Herend of Hungary. I bought them at a spiffy crystal and china shop in Santa Barbara, a luxury somehow affordable, probably with a wad of birthday money. I think they were $20 apiece, and somehow it didn’t seem like much at the time, or in any case, they were worth it.

I looked up Herend online, and discovered that they still make my very cups. They have made them since 1860, and the patterns were a favorite of the Russian imperial court. I finally learned the names of the patterns, the Rothschild Bird and Fruits and Flowers. The cups and saucers are now sold separately. The two cups and saucers I have would now cost $375. I would never be able to buy them again. Just wrapping them carefully through the subsequent 18 moves I have made since acquiring them has paid off.

My Hungarian cups are vaults of aesthetic bliss. No new cup could ever be so satisfying. Memories and their accompanying tangibles are spiritual and capital riches.

One Comment
  1. Laura permalink
    October 14, 2008 2:24 pm

    From one in the throes of a relatively minimalistic, local move:
    18 MOVES???????????

    Congratulations on keeping the cups (and apparently your sanity) intact. This was a delightful post to read, the cause of it notwithstanding. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

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