At the foot of my bed stands an old blue and brass trunk. It belonged to my grandfather, Clifford Bernard Ostergren, who took it with him to Europe during WWII. He used to push me on the swing he made from a board and ropes looped over the limb of a lofty pine tree. Up I would fly, my feet pointed into the sky, then pause for a breathless moment at the pinnacle, and rush down again into Grandpa’s hands.

He loved to work in the garden and loved to read. He did the dishes every night and brought Grandma breakfast in bed. He told the same jokes over and over.

At his funeral in an old church in Charlemont, Mass., I played Beethoven’s Violin Romance No. 2. Those notes spoke as words, faltering yet singing of my love for him.

A rich inheritance has passed to me. Inheritances of many kinds. I sit tonight in a house built in 1905, a memorial to over a hundred years of history. Today, with a friend, I imagined what I might see in this very room if I flew back a century. Who would walk into my bedroom? What would they be wearing? What would they say?

To all of us, the great treasure-house of art has been given: Homer, Plato, Brahms, Rembrant, Spenser, Monet, Bach, Dickinson. For us, the children of the future, they incarnated beauty and conveyed truth.

I am listening to opening measures of Bach’s Chaconne. And though the sirens wail on the street outside and the haunting presence of confusion lurks, suddenly I remember that some things are certain. These notes echo the patterns of this world – its painful complexity and its journey toward joy.

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