Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter

I missed Bassoon Day at IU last Saturday. It’s too bad. According to Facebook, I need bassoon lessons. FB provides invitations for bassoon lessons to me on a regular basis, apparently because I “like” the posts of my bassoonist friends. Or else they have heard me play.

I’m sorry I missed Bassoon Day. Some of our funnest times in Bloomington, back before we lived here and got here only once in a while for a weekend, involved bassoon events. Once we stumbled across a 13 bassoon recital in the big lobby of the then-new Musical Arts Building, where they do the operas and symphonies and such. Thirteen bassoons in one place! Hardly ever heard of. We just sat around wherever there were seats and the bassoonists strolled among us as they played.

It’s hard to play a bassoon while walking. It’s hard to play the bassoon and do anything, including playing the bassoon. I found that out the hard way.

I really wanted to be in the band, but my family was too poor to buy an instrument. There were some instruments, though, that every family was too poor to buy. Or else they were too big. So the school bought tubas and string basses and bassoons. Because I was too poor to buy a cheap instrument, I got to play the most expensive.

I had to buy my own reeds, though, and double reeds are expensive. I always worked, though, so I had money for reeds. And a place to buy them. Troutman’s Drug Store. It was a real small town drug store. In addition to medicines and medical supplies, it had a soda fountain. It was the bus depot. And it sold reeds for musical instruments. Think you’re going to find a bassoon reed at a CVS or Walgreen’s?

One of the bassoon greats is Kim Walker. We heard her a few years ago when she was on the IU music faculty. She had been the principal bassoonist for the London Symphony, had a neat flat in London, was quite satisfied with her life. Then IU asked her to come talk about being on the faculty. She said, “I had no intention of accepting a position, but it was Indiana University! If the IU school of music asks you to come talk, well you just don’t turn IU down. I came out of obligation. I stayed for the trees.”

Fascinating, isn’t it? Possibly the best school of music in the world, but it was the trees that caught her and held her.

I thought about that as I walked among those trees these autumn mornings this week, dappled sunlight on little fans of red and gold. I know what she meant. Trees are the only things in the world that always do good and never do harm.

Unless they fall on you. But that’s the fault of the wind or the lightning.

They provide beauty. They provide shade and shelter. They hold the earth against the flood. They provide fruit and nuts. They scrub the air clean. They are the only place where you can build a tree house.

Maybe the best thing an old person can do for the world is to plant a tree. Sure, we’ll never see it in its full-growth grandeur, but we’ll know we’ve done something good for the world. If you can’t play the bassoon, or even if you’re one of God’s elect who can, go plant a tree, either in the soil of the earth, or in the soul of a child.


I tweet as yooper1721.

Here I come to save the day! No, not Mighty Mouse. Yuri Strelnikov, the boy genius of Katie McFarland Kennedy’s delightful Learning to Swear in America. Buy it or borrow it, but read this book! [What do you mean, you’re not old enough to remember Mighty Mouse?”

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