Four Lessons I Learned from Antonio Vivaldi: Spring’s Third Lesson
By Cathleen Elise Rossiter
(As this is part of a series and it may be helpful to see where it all began, here are the links (+ this) to catch up on my endeavor to learn something new from repeated exposure to a single work of art).
“Nature always wears the color of the spirit.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson –
After a week of rain and general dreariness, with the promise of more to come tomorrow and the following days, this solitary day of sunshine, with a cleansing breeze to dry things out, is a tiny piece of Heaven complete with singing birds, treetops chattering amongst themselves, and the fragrance of new life bourn upon the wind. This solitary day of sunshine and happiness brings with it a sense of hope, even in the face of further impending doom.
Antonio Vivaldi, through his expression of it in his Four Seasons compositions, clearly understood that life is a series of patterns and rhythms. Be it the patterns of the natural world in its daily, seasonal, or annual cycles or the patterns of the internal worlds of every human being as evidenced in our cycles of joy and grief in their varying forms, these cycles give us a built-in sense of hope, even in the face of further impending doom – if we choose to accept the hope we are offered.
Looking at the sonnets that accompany Signor Vivaldi’s seasons, Spring shows us that although the storms of our lives may feel as though they will never end or come into our live far too frequently, we actually have far more about which to rejoice than over which to sorrow. Storms have their time and place, yet their time is finite. With this in mind, we are able to ride out the storm – sometimes under the safety of cover, sometime getting soaking wet – and come through the darkness rejoicing in the light, a better person for our struggles.
Courtesy of www.baroquemusic.org
There is a second part of the joy/sorrow cycle, however, that we too often miss. In this modern world that spins at an alarming rate, rushing from here to there and back again making a dozen stops along the way, far too many of us are conditioned to feel guilty or as an unproductive failure if we take time to rest and regroup – particularly after a major loss. Yet, as Signor Vivaldi shows us, after the storm has passed and we have rejoiced, it is necessary for us to rest before taking the next steps in our newly changed lives.
Many years ago I met a woman whose husband (her best friend) had died two years prior to our meeting. She was in such a state of quiet distress at the fact that she “couldn’t move on with her life” as everyone kept telling her she must. After explaining to me that she had spent the last two years helping everyone else grieve the loss of her husband, she began to see that she, herself, had not been allowed to grieve. Now that everyone else was in the rejoicing-after-the-storm stage, they expected, nay, demanded that she be in the same place as they. “Mom, it’s been two years now. You have to move on!” her only child remonstrated endlessly. Finally, in the face of further protests from family and friends alike (those who didn’t want to actually deal with the messiness of helping someone else grieve), this woman rented a solitary beach house for the summer to give herself the time and space to face the storm, rejoice in its passing, and take the rest and recuperation time she needed in order to take the next steps in her newly changed life.
Grief comes in many disguises. A simple change in our lives can trigger a sense of loss and death hidden beneath an unrelated incident. For example, while in the middle of your routine housecleaning chores, you may find yourself in tears or an agitated state because you knocked over and broke a dish. It was an accident. You didn’t mean to break it. It isn’t until you look at why you are behaving in such a way over a simple mistake that you connect the fact that the dish was a gift from your sister during a time when you were the best of friends. Your relationship has suffered over the years and the broken dish brings back to memory that something you did was the cause of the brokenness in your relationship.
The situation may seem dark and painful, especially in the light of this new revelation that requires you to make the first steps in order to heal the relationship. Yet, if we remember Signor Vivaldi’s example, we will know that the storm is necessary for new growth and that it will not last. The important thing is that we face the storm, rejoice in its passing, and take the time to rest and recover to ensure that the healing is permanent.
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