Winter Lessons from Vivaldi


by Cathleen Elise Rossiter


New York City Ballet – The Nutcracker

Allegro
To tremble from cold in the icy snow, 
In the harsh breath of a horrid wind; 
To run, stamping one’s feet every moment, 
Our teeth chattering in the extreme cold 

Largo 
Before the fire to pass peaceful, 
Contented days while the rain outside pours down. 

Allegro 
We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously, 
for fear of tripping and falling. 
Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground and, 
rising, hasten on across the ice lest it cracks up. 
We feel the chill north winds course through the home 
despite the locked and bolted doors… 
this is winter, which nonetheless 
brings its own delights. 

Winter, from Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons              
As another year concludes, I find myself in the predicament of having not written for a bit more than the year that has slipped by me, day upon day piling up like snowfall on a mid-winter’s night.  Thus, I felt it fitting that I begin and end this year with a tribute to winter and the lessons I have learned in the time since my last visit to the written page.

I find it also fitting that I frame these lessons in terms of Vivaldi’s fourth season, so as I write, Winter plays on a continuous loop (here is the link to the piece). As many of you may remember, I posted a series about the four lessons I learned from Antonio Vivaldi’s composition of Spring from his Four Seasons concerti.

The past year and a bit has been rife with obstacles to my writing, either physically due to severe constraints and demands on my time or presence elsewhere or emotionally due to too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen sapping me of my creative energy and motivation, depriving me of the space I need and the oxygen that writing is for me; creating a fear of writing because one or more of the proverbial cooks will criticize it for this or that reason or miss the point entirely. I felt as though I were in the midst of the Blizzard of ’76 stuck outside in the ice and cold as the snow poured from the sky, covering me entirely, rendering me invisible.

Simultaneously, my tenacious creativity poured forth its own blizzard of ideas that (unlike Signore Vivaldi’s snow and rain which fell on frozen ground) quickly melted as they fell to the terra firma of my mind burning with the aforementioned fear of putting thoughts onto paper. Strangely, the feeling of being cold, wet, frozen, and limping from a fall on the ice with the ever-present fear of the ice cracking underfoot is strangely similar to the emotions I feel as I listen to the symphony playing in the background.

Yet in the midst of all this cold, isolation, and fear, I recall that I have been happy and hopeful; that I have seen beauty in the snowfall and comfort in front of the fire despite the wind’s defiance of the doors securely bolted against it. I find comfort in the sense of protection that being snowed-in produces, as if wrapped in warm blankets safe from assailing forces outside. I find many reasons to dance among the snowflakes, celebrating each one’s unique beauty, grateful for the life-sustaining water they provide for all the new growth that will happen in springtime.

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