Rainy Sunday afternoons often mean a date with Jane Austen. Probably my most favorite lady, second only to my mom (maybe even my abuelita). Whether it’s the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice,” Ang Lee’s “Sense & Sensibility,” or even an Austen-like film (“Clueless” or “Bridget Jones’s Diary”), there’s sometimes no better way for an escapist with no desire for self-reflection to spend a cold, gray Sunday.
But having bought tickets in advance, I was forced off of my favorite corner of our couch and into a seat at the NY Philharmonic.
Despite a pair of broken umbrellas, not eating ahead of time, and the dysfunctional MTA, we made it in time to hear the Principal Brass Quintet and the West Point Band play new and classic holiday music: from Sleigh Ride to Ave Maria to Hannukah swing numbers by Kenny Ellis (excellent by the way).
It took me some time to be present. Once in my seat, I fussed and fiddled with my cell phone, wet coat, and program. I noticed the older music lovers that covered the orchestra floor with a blanket of gray and white atop their heads, and that the young band was in service attire. Intermission came and went. I felt disconnected, longing for a more familiar distraction.
The band started to play again, and I finally allowed myself to forget my routine. Bach‘s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring began to fill the room, and before I realized it, I closed my eyes and sunk into the music. My thoughts were gone. Neither Austen nor food nor anything else existed. My heart, breath and ears the only reminders of a body. For those few seconds, I allowed myself to melt into the moment.
I often reserve days like today for escaping into world’s like the one Austen created or inspired. An excuse to forget, to avoid the moment while sequestered indoors by the weather. But it is an escape I can and often do repeat again and again. When the bands played Bach today, it wasn’t a moment I could ever truly replicate, and it wasn’t a moment in which I could live in someone else’s world. It was a glimpse into my inner self, a momentary respite into a part of me that was quiet and peaceful; a place which I thought I could only find by disengaging, and one to which I have only just allowed myself to return.