Siege Diaries 11/24/2020


Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: How can I see my loved ones as gifts, not possessions?

“Loss is one of our deepest fears. Ignorance and pretending don’t make things any better.   They just mean the loss will be all the more jarring when it occurs.”  The key here is to be aware that every person you love is fragile and mortal, and that their time with you is a gift to be cherished, not taken for granted.

A past me struggled a little bit with possessiveness–well, not really possessiveness, but a tendency to mope if things didn’t go my way or I thought I was being ignored.   This is not behaviour I’m proud of.  I eventually did grow out of it, realizing that not only did my friends and partners need room, so did I.  If anything, I struggle with the opposite–assuming that people are really not interested in spending time with me at all.   I’ve seldom taken anyone for granted in the past, say, 20 years so much that it verges on a feeling of “ownership.”  I don’t know whether that coincides with my mother’s death, but it very well might.  People who seek me out, who want to spend time with me?  Absolutely treated as the gift it is.

Yesterday, I received a dress I ordered.  It’s likely months away from the point where I will be able to wear it out to anything, but it’s special–a blue velvet ground, covered with silver, eight-pointed stars.  I decided that even if I had no place to wear it other than home for now, it was too good not to take the opportunity to purchase.  It fits me perfectly.


I am now back in that liminal space between big projects.  There’s a small project I want to attend to–embroidering stars for a friend’s wedding dress–but I can’t find the copper-coloured metallic thread I was given, and I’ll need to wait until some more is sent to me (unless the missing thread magically manifests).  At least while searching for the missing thread, I’ve managed to clean up my desk.

Today, I received some bling from my favourite historical jewellery merchant, Armor and Castings. They’re in Ukraine, so things take awhile to arrive.  They’re both pieces appropriate to 13th century Rus’.  The one on the left in the photo at the top of this post is possibly some kind of officer’s badge, and was actually found in Novgorod and dated to the 13th century;  the motif is the trident shape used by the Rurikid princes. The item on the right is an annular brooch.  And yes, it looks a little like a coronavirus, which I didn’t think of when I ordered it.


Catching up from yesterday, the link below is an excellent program from 2018 which discusses Shostakovich’s antepenultimate work, the op. 145a orchestrated version of Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarotti in the context of Michelangelo’s work and Russian conceptions of the artist.  Before a complete performance of the work, major themes in each of the 11 songs are performed and analyzed in the context of both Shostakovich’s life and Michelangelo’s, followed by a slide show of some of Michelangelo’s works that were part of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.   Some consider this work almost like a 16th symphony, partially because Shostakovich did the orchestration itself, and partially because it feels a little like his 14th Symphony, also a cycle of songs.  But where the theme of the 14th symphony is definitely death—unnatural death—the theme of this cycle is the life of the artist, through the words of one such artist and the music of another, including truth, morning, love, separation, anger, the poet Dante, exile, creativity, night, death, and immortality.   I find this work, along with the following two, very different in overall feel than the immediately preceding String Quartet no. 15—it really runs a much wider emotional gamut and ends on a wistful note.  The final song, Immortality, is set to a tune Shostakovich composed as a child (possibly as young as 9 years old, the year he started piano lessons).  This was only, of course, discovered after his death.  It’s utterly charming, and just sort of fades out into the ether.

Listen for the guy at the end who very passionately states that he sees this work, which he’d never heard of, as a “requiem for the Soviet Union”, and get rather definitively shot down by conductor Leon Botstein.

And I kept wondering why the baritone, Tyler Duncan looked so familiar.  Part way through the performance, I paused it, went to grab an old program, and laughed out loud:  I’d seen him perform this exact piece in 2019 (with piano accompaniment) in a tremendous unicorn of a program—I’d purchased the ticket for the op. 145, but the rest of the program was not revealed in advance.  I also got four of the op. 34 preludes performed by a boy of about nine or ten, three songs from Moscow, Cheryomushki, and the Piano Trio #2—in which the violinist broke her E string part of the way through the final movement and still managed to perform the majority of the remaining part on just three strings. (She, as it turns out, is also a violist, which likely helped.)