Heinen: The art of reflection

Reflection accompanies the end of a year
Heinen: The art of reflection
Wikipedia Commons
Dante Marioni Glass at The Tacoma Museum of Art

I have always enjoyed the reflection that accompanies the end of a year. It feels important to take stock of one’s life, to appreciate the joys and reckon with the sorrows. But inevitably the window for making substantive change (resolutions?) in response to a year of decisions and happenings begins to close as one ages. For me this year, I found it most pleasurable to reflect on the significance of art, music and poetry. While I appreciate the principle of Stoic philosophy — that while we can’t always control what happens, we can control how we respond to what happens — the ugliness of so many current events is hard to avoid. So discovering beauty becomes all the more important. And the nice thing is it’s there to be found.

I’m especially appreciative of public art and art made accessible by either artists or people who believe in art. Dane Arts Mural Arts is a wonderful example. Murals this year at Willy Street Co-op, the Dane County Job Center and the wonderful Hawthorne Tunnel Mural are all gifts that lift one’s spirit through the simple good fortune of wandering by them.

Happening upon good music is another example of fortuitous grace. This fall, an early morning walk I took along Lake Lucerne in Switzerland was made even more pleasant by a free concert by a small orchestra in a park.

Later that day we lingered at a rehearsal for an opera where the company had graciously left the stage doors open. For 20 minutes or so a small group of us shared the impromptu performance and reveled in the experience.

As for music I paid to hear, nothing in 2019 topped Neil Young’s concert at Overture Center for the Arts. Young has been one of my all-time favorite musicians for 50 years, and unlike many his (i.e. our) age, he’s still got the chops and an unparalleled song list.

My wife Nancy, with her finely tuned eye for design and artistry, helped me come to love glass art. And in 2019, we appreciated Richard Jones’ careful repair of our vase by the extraordinary glass artist Dante Marioni. Our dog, Macaroon, knocked the vase to the floor in an unfortunate moment of unimpeded exuberance. To fill the hole in our hearts and home, we traveled to Seattle where William Traver from the Traver Gallery arranged a visit to Marioni’s studio. Marioni showed us his most recent, breathtaking work. He also told us that his father was once invited to succeed Harvey Littleton, founder of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Glass Lab — considered by many to be the birthplace of American studio glass.

A lot of the music that made an impact on me in 2019 was not actually released this year. In 2018, Richard Thompson released “13 Rivers” and Mark Knopfler put out “Down The Road Wherever” — terrific guitar albums that soothed some occasional frayed nerves of mine. I love UW–Madison Director of Jazz Studies Johannes Wallmann’s “Day and Night.” And Brittany Howard’s “Jaime” was worth the wait and the risk she took making the solo work. I officially like everything Howard does.

For the most part music is message enough. But sometimes there is a message in the music. At his second annual 75th birthday party and concert last August, Ben Sidran played his song “We The People.” It is an antidote to these times. Find it on YouTube.

And finally there was Brenda Shaughnessy, Forrest Gander and especially Joy Harjo, the poets who guided me through 2019. Harjo, the current U.S. Poet Laureate, says when there’s uncertainty and we look for meaning beyond this world, we need something to counter the divisiveness. That’s possible with poetry. And it is.

Care for All

We’ve come a long way in our understanding and appreciation of end-of-life care. Here in Dane County, Agrace has played a huge role by providing exceptional hospice and palliative care services.

Agrace has been working to ensure free or discounted care to those who need it through the Care for All Endowment Campaign, a successful five-year effort to raise $15 million. Proceeds from the investment will cover the costs of providing charitable care for patients with financial need.

Agrace has helped countless families with end-of-life care marked by dignity, compassion and comfort. The Care for All Endowment makes that help predictable and sustainable.