A Glass of Chianti

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Tomorrow, January 30, is an anniversary of a fairly important sort for me. It was 6 years ago that I first picked up Whittaker Chambers's autobiography, Witness. I wish I could say that I had a teacher who recommended it to me or that I ran across it on a beloved relative's library shelves. In fact, I don't remember precisely why I was looking for it that day between Sunday (or, perhaps, Saturday) clarinet practice sessions, but I do remember that I needed a break from the Poulenc and went down to the bookstore.

From that day when I started with the foreward and for the next week and a half, I could think of little else than when I could arrange to read a few more pages at a time. Its central question of whether hope lies with God or with man (and why that question is not as easy to answer as it seems it should be) is more important than anything I have ever been asked to consider. It shows you why the stakes were (and are) so high and what really is being risked when we choose.

Anyway, go read the forward. It may not affect you the way it did me, but I'm hard-pressed to imagine anyone being unmoved by it. If you haven't read Witness, you should consider doing so. I know it's long. I know it's dark. I know that (if you are younger than, say, 30) checking it out from the library will put you on all sorts of crazy watch lists. I also know that you won't look at things the same way as you did before nor will you be able to use the same terms to describe familiar things. The passages that stick with me the most are the ones where he talks about his farm and his family. They're small moments, but when you're a girl on the cusp of 20 trying to figure out her vocation, they really can mean everything.