Last Wednesday, March 21, was Johann Sebastian Bach’s 327th birthday. I know this because I was listening to a J.S. Bach extravaganza on my satellite radio while driving between home and business meetings and doctor’s appointments all day.
I clocked a lot of miles and heard a lot of Bach. Though baroque is not my first choice in classical, this proved a blessing. His music provided the perfect balance to the necessary and supportive but exhausting experience of seeing my rheumatologist at Boston Medical Center. I love all my docs at BMC and here at home—they are wonderful, dedicated physicians. But whenever we talk in great technical detail about symptoms and medication and diagnostics and what may or may not happen next, I’m always drained.
Scleroderma is so complex, involves so much to monitor, that when we discuss my latest issues, much as I probe and want to understand the minutiae, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to know, that just wants to treat it as the white noise in my life, annoying, in the background, to be ignored.
After my appointment, west-bound on the Mass Pike, as I sorted through our conversation, on came Bach’s Violin Concerto in A Minor. And I remembered playing it. Years ago, in high school. I could still feel the trace of fingering in what’s left of my left hand’s fingertips. As the soloist began the poignant second movement, I recalled the phrasing, how I had loved to bow those notes. Bach’s haunting, wistful melody has been cycling through my mind, since.
So here I am, more that three centuries after Bach composed his masterpiece, and the music speaks to me. And I’m grateful. And awed by the way that a great artist’s creation still resonates, feels fresh, inspires insight, so many years after he set down his pen.
And I wonder, what will I leave behind? I wrestle with this question often. It will be my 58th birthday in a few weeks. I don’t feel old, despite the way my scleroderma gnaws at me. But I do feel that each day is more precious, that I don’t want to waste time any more doing things I don’t want to do. And that I want my writing, my art, to be my main focus.
This is what gets me out of bed in the morning, even on a day like this when I’m still tired after a full night’s sleep and feel like I’m moving through a vat of glue. Writing. Putting one word next to another, one sentence after another, to see where it leads.
Bach described his art this way: “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” He reached his lofty goal note by note. I can’t say that I have as clear a vision for my writing, but I know I’ll discover it if I just keep at it, word by word by word.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.