November 25, 2009

As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m thinking a lot about what I have to be thankful for.  We have a tradition in our family for Thanksgiving dinner: we go around the table, and everyone says one thing that they are thankful for.  It shouldn’t be something that you thought up on the spur of the moment, but instead something that is well-thought-out and highly meaningful.  I’m always so thankful to have friends and family around the table that it’s hard to move beyond that and find the things in my life that are not at the forefront at that moment.

We live in a time when we have plentiful food, state-of-the-art medicine, clean and warm (or cool) houses to live in and many more advantages of modern life.  When I compare that with how people lived a thousand years ago (just read the book “The year 1000″) or even 100 years ago (shortly before my parents were born), I am grateful to be living in this time.  That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement – how many people in the world don’t have the advantages I just mentioned?  How might we improve health care delivery (don’t get me started!)?  How can we eradicate grinding poverty?  I’m thankful for the opportunity to make dents (however tiny) in those problems as well.

My family is a joy to me.  Even though Ian and David live relatively far away, I take extreme pleasure in communicating with them, and hearing about their daily lives.  Facebook is both a curse and a blessing for that purpose.  (I spend too much time on it.  I feel I have to be so careful about saying anything that might offend someone, or be taken the wrong way).  Craig is a constant loving presence in my life, supporting me in every way, and creating happiness.  That’s not to say that every moment with family is wonderful – but what would life be without some down times to contrast with the good ones?

I am so fortunate to have a good and rewarding place to work.  It’s a way to get money, and assure our future, but it’s also a place that supports me intellectually.  Even though I don’t agree with every position taken on a case or every opinion expressed by a colleague, my brain likes to light on fire with the challenge of it.  I worry a bit about what I’ll do for intellectual stimulation when I retire (which I hope – or maybe fear – is very soon).

How can I go any further without mentioning music?  There is such pleasure and reward in making a beautiful noise and conquering new challenges, and hearing appreciation from others.  My cello has been my close friend since I was a child.  This particular instrument – which I’ve had since I was sixteen — is my cherished companion.  It will live longer than I.  I wonder about its history, since William Forster made it in 1790, and I wonder about its future.  Who has played my cello before me?  What luthiers have made the repairs that I see evidence of?  Who put those scratches in the back, and how?  What does that wax customs seal on the scroll mean, and what kind of traveling did it do? Who will play it in the future?  Will the next person get 50 or more years out of it?  Lots to think about.

I’m thankful for individual musicians I play with – my quartet – now in some kind of unfortunate hiatus, but hopefully to spring to life again soon – Lori, Cynthia and maybe Tatiana.  I’m thankful for a relatively new relationship with Kristy, and the wonderful cello/piano music we make together.  We come from such different lives, but find a commonality in music.  I’m thankful for my musical times with Craig’s sister, Deb, and the new musical heights to which she challenges me.

Then there are the groups I make music with – Newport Symphony, Columbia Symphony, Sinfonia Concertante, and other, less frequent ensembles.  Full of good people and a willingness to overcome all sorts of difficulties.  We do extremely strenuous and difficult music, and achieving a good performance level is so important.  If only there were more hours in the day and more days in the year, and I could do more.  But would this aging body be willing?  Perhaps I have only so many notes left in these shoulders and arms, and I should portion them out carefully.

I’m thankful for the people around me – extended family, close friends from past and present, work colleagues, other musicians.  And not just the people I see every day, but people who are far away and not so often in contact.  I remember, and am grateful, for past contacts and friendships, and wish for them to spring to vibrant and constant life again.

People from my past who are now gone are also in my mind and thankfulness.  Most especially, that includes my parents, who gave me life, and gave me such a rich and nurturing upbringing.  (“Rich” doesn’t mean money.  Anything but.)  I hope to share my remembrances of them through writing and sharing.

So, what, among all these things, will I say as we gather tomorrow around our Thanksgiving table?  I’ll probably think it up on the spot.