Siege Diaries 2/21/2021

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Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt:  What can I stop yearning for?

Here’s a truth:  I am not going to stop yearning for the day to come where the pandemic is behind us.  There are so many reasons for that, both personal (concerts! travel! seeing friends! SCA events!) and societal (people not dying of this f*cker of a virus! people not getting evicted because their job vanished!)   And from a Stoic sense, there’s not a lot I can do about any of that, because it’s beyond my control.  What I can do–as I’ve mentioned in previous posts–is to find ways to do things that scratch those itches, and to find the joy in what I can do.  It’s also meant ramping up things I might not have had as much time for before–whether that’s writing or embroidery or reading.  I can find a way to reach out to friends just because (as I’m am doing with a quick art project this afternoon for a friend with a special day upcoming)  And above all, it’s being realistic.   I can be hopeful that by, say, September we all may be in a better place, but I’m not going to start planning things now.  I’m keeping those future hopes abstract for now, and have steeled myself for the fact that there is a not-zero chance that things will take a very long time to resolve, and possibly never, ever get back to the way they were.  Could I survive that?  Of course I could.  I’m not saying I’d be happy about it, but neither would it push me over the brink into utter despair.  

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As you can see, we have some serious icicles. It was a bright and sunny day today, which means the snow on the roof must be melting just enough for this dramatic result.

Today:  A little painting (a special birthday thing for a friend) and the usual Sunday night Pathfinder (where we were all down to fumes as far as magical items and bombs (I was pretty much out of the pre-made stuff) but managed to make it through enough to do an overnight rest and get our strength back.  Our fighter died twice and the rogue did a lot of bleeding.  While all of this was ongoing, I made some good progress on Rocket Cat.  I’m much happier with this new approach and the use of the silk thread instead of cotton.   

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Musical work of the day:  Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor, BWV 582. I have had the CD I own of this for probably 35 years, and what attracts me to it, as it did then, is the relentless, building of a monumental edifice of sound over the ostinato theme first introduced on its own in the first few bars–the passacaglia of the title. That theme is then embroidered, fractured, inverted and transformed. There is a relatively quieter section in the middle, where the embroidery tinkles up into higher-pitched registers, only for the bass to thunder back in a massive response.  By the time you reach the conclusion, the edifice is towering, and the bass is so thundering in its resonance that every step of the passacaglia theme rips through you like an earthquake.  The fugue that follows (based on the passacaglia theme) is a spectacular Bach double fugue, with its own monumental, even more earth-shattering ending, but it’s the passacaglia that does it for me every time.  Here’s an outstanding article on it (with a link to a good recording).  But the recording below is the one I own, where the piece begins in a kind of deep shadow and emerges slowly into a kind of blazing light of glorious c minor, that most dramatic of keys.   

The organist, Michael Murray, was a bit of a local legend in Columbus, where he served as organist at St. Mark’s Episcopal until 2014.  He’s retired now, but this particular recording is still cited as one of the most important recordings of the Passacaglia and Fugue.  

And I’m finishing out the day with the Shostakovich 8th Symphony, because between reading an article about it and the general passacaglia-on-the-brain thing, it was sort of inevitable.  Ooh, the Michael Sanderling is so intense it almost burns.  But this is one thing I yearn for that I can have at any damned time.

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