From Windows in My Father’s House: Growing Older and Donald Skrivin’s “Stars to Hold: Mvt. III Winter Stars”

In which Cinnamon Buns Flores Wolfert has a tumultuous holiday season.

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To my dear reader,

I first heard “Winter Stars” during my first concert with the Seattle based choir The Esoterics. The choir solely performs contemporary a cappella choral works, and this was the first in a concert series entitled Teasdale: Across the Endless Spaces. All music was composer Donald Skrivin’s settings of texts by Sara Teasdale, with different sections of the choir performing different works. “Winter Stars” was one that I was not performing, and of all the concert’s works, it struck me most deeply. The text, I later realized, concerns Teasdale’s grief over the violence of World War I, and the consolation she takes in the unchanging stars, but it resonated with me recently because of one of my family’s dogs, Cinnamon.

Due to health complications a few weeks ago, Cinnamon needed involved surgery. Even afterwards, her veterinarians believed she might be dying. This all happened in North Carolina without my knowledge, where my parents and sisters live with our two dogs, and so I was very surprised when my father, hoping to give me a chance to see her before anything happened, offered to fly me home. A few days after I arrived, we were all shocked and hugely relieved when a different vet told us that Cinnamon was expressing normal post-surgery symptoms, and would be fine. Before this, however, my family and I went for a walk, dragging her behind us in a wagon, and I couldn’t get one line of the piece out of my head: “Years go, dreams go, and youth goes too.”

It’s my favorite line in the poem, and my favorite moment in the music – all the choir sections finally singing together in homophony, as above them, the soprano soloist climbs up to her high F. The poem’s themes of war and grief mean little to me, but thinking about growing up with Cinnamon and watching her grow old while I stay young, this line gave a very bitter clarity to everything. Even though Cinnamon is already, thankfully, getting better, the line’s truth frightens me.

Unlike many people, I am actually very happy about getting older. As many scary and sad things that might await me (mortgages, divorce, saggy buttocks, etc.) there are so many things about being a child that I will not miss. These include but are not limited to…

  • FAINTLY UNBELIEVABLE CONSTIPATION that interrupted so many childhood events and couldn’t be remedied by all the fiber in the world
  • GLORIOUSLY INFLAMED ACNE that made lying on my back/sitting in a chair/existing an incredibly painful and often bloody experience
  • COMING OUT because everyone knew but I had to say it anyway

As silly as these things seem, I would rather deal with taxes than go through any of them again. I’m enormously optimistic about the future, and excited about so many parts of adulthood (marriage, having children, not having acne, etc). It’s only occasionally, like when I think about Cinnamon, do I wish that time would be a little more unchanging.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

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