September 15, 2022

Sep 15, 2022

Image: Kirsten Kautz


Earworm: a piece of a song or music that runs constantly through a person’s mind.

According to Google nine out of ten people have earworms. That is, they hear a catchy tune and all or part of it goes around and around in a person’s head until it is replaced by another earworm.

My mother was the Queen of all earworms. She could whistle or hum part of a Bach cantata one moment and thirty seconds later be humming  Benny Goodman, soon to be followed by a hymn. Sometimes it drove me crazy. Had she been able to stick to one song that would have been fine, I could have hummed along with her. But that was not the case.

Then in the summer of 2007 she fell and fractured two bones in her face. She was in York Hospital for two weeks and spent the rest of the summer recovering at chez Kautz. Over the summer I learned to gauge how she felt by her humming. A little: it was a bad day. A lot: she was feeling fine.

I have inherited Mom’s propensity for earworms. And I may have this peculiar condition far worse than she ever did. Name a song I know and it will immediately come to mind, and either fight for space with my current earworm or find a way to join it.  

Right now two sea shanties, one from each coast I’ve been listening to from one of my virtual choirs are fighting for room with the “For All the Saints,” which I’ve been practicing on the piano. [John Kanaka and the maggoty fish from their labors rest!]

The other day I came across a copy of John Rutter’s “For the Beauty of the Earth.” It is not the only version I know. I know at least two more. I hummed both. That said, there was one song stuck so far back in my brain—a song from my childhood I only knew I knew it. I tried hard, but could not even remember a hint of what it was.

And then it stole into my brain yesterday, “This is my Father’s World.”

           “This is my father’s world, and to my listening ear

           All nature sings and ‘round me rings the music of the sphere.”

 Hymn 651 in the 1982 hymnal. I do not remember ever singing it at St. George’s, perhaps because only the melody is printed in the hymnal.

That this hymn should come to mind now seems like a sign of God’s presence in my life. I had a mild case of covid in early July. Now I have the neurological version of long covid with fogginess, some dizziness, an intractable headache, and occasional difficulty remembering names. It is slowly getting better. That “This is My Father’s World” should come to me unbidden as an earworm says to me I am getting better. Thanks be to God.

Barbara Kautz