Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Spring Sonnet

Spring Sonnet, already a little out-of-date, as today we are greener than yesterday and white and pink blossoms all over the place. So this was last week, just before it all busted out:

Come puffs of wind from all sides & above
Come sun on eyelids breathing glowing green
Come buds not yet burst out in summer love
And father-robin breasts all orange sheen.
I’m lying on our lichen covered bench
Tickled by air and life on exposed skin,
Yearning to stay out here, not have to wrench
Myself away to busy tasks within.
So rarely do I pause and steep in sun–
My days bereft of time to see and hear
Like this, to let the to-do list be done:
My life my body centered fully here,
While Chaucer’s little fowls make melody
In April, I, aware awake, in stillness free.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Crum on Tape

I took my long drive today, listening to Ross Ballard's MountainWhispers.com CD version of Lee Maynard's Crum, one of my all time favorite books. Ross Ballard, is the voice actor and producer with a mastery of regional dialect and the age-old art of fine storytellng. Crum makes a terrific audiobook. Its episodic quality and rambling series of incidents totally engrossed me--You trust the storyteller (that's Lee channelled by Ross) to twist and snake around all those characters and funny and tragic incidents and then return to its stated themes of escape and extremelly reluctant celebration of a time and place. If you haven't read Crum, do, but even if you have, enjoy it again this way. No one ever forgets forget Ruby's apple slice or the Great Meat Robbery. And a lot of other things.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In Shinnston

I drove over the mountains today-- leaves coming out in Maryland around Hagerstown, and then up on Big Savage Mountain-- snow-- not groundcover, but strips and patches and a few piles. And over here, in Shinnston, it looks about like New Jersey: very green on the hillsides but trees a passage of gray, barely pink at the tips, so close to bursting out!

Aside from visiting and checking on my mother, my big job here is to get her computing, and I'm writing this on her Lenovo, which is a nice little machine, square faces, which I probably like better than my laptop, which is just back from the shop.

Things are good here now, although I’ve been totally embarrassed by not being able to get the dial-up to work, and finally discovering, after calling AOL, that I had the phone wire plugged into the wrong place–the ethernet, I guess, instead of the lineout. I have worked so hard to get this up for my mother–the computer functioning in a way she can learn. So far, she has actually done better than I expected. I think she wants to learn. At 88. Very exciting, really. Also, a diversion when she’s alone.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Our Relationship to Books

Alice Robinson-Gilman and I did one of our interactive member platforms at Ethical Culture this morning. It was raining hard already, but we had an intrepid twenty people or so, mostly circled, and Alice did a great job of speaking about her personal deep relationship with reading. I had some amusing quotes from people like Ambrose Bierce (“The covers of this book are too far apart.”) and Frank Zappa (“I think it is good that books still exist, but they do make me sleepy”) and Dorothy Parker (“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force”) as well as the famous Groucho Marx one (“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”)

So Alice provided the passion and I provided some amusement and serious comments as well– I got to read a page from Higher Ground where Blair Ellen reads Crime and Punishment and walks around through the Christmas holidays feeling like Raskolnikov. Then we had a good twenty or twenty-five minutes of discussion about all kinds of good stuff– Jill didn’t become a reader till adulthood; Terri sent Essex County Community College students off to read the Great Books, etc. etc. Very satisfying.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I finished my anti-deer garden web!

You can't tell too well, because it was getting late when I took the photo on this cold Easter, spitting snow, but the view is to the northwest, the corner of the carriage house plus the home of the Misses Magliaro. If you look closely you can see the shadows of the netting, a fine net that even heavy wind goes right through. It totally tents the garden. My objective this year was to make it so I could actually stand everywhere in the garden--last year I was always stooping and lurching, but this time, with two more of the posts from the swing set planted in the ground, and with sunbrellas (like the ones over wintered over vegetables on the ground in the picture)-- but old ones with the plastic torn off, dropped into the posts and used for slinging the net-- well, all I can say is, I really hope that *&@@!! Darling Bambi gets the message and doesn't eat my vegetables.

About Easter

It's Easter, which was never my favoritechildhood holiday. The chocolate bunnies and marshmallow peeprs were nice, but my mother had extremely mixed feelings about the candy and new clothing being in conflict with the Easter message. Should we really be trading jelly beans when the day commemorates the triumph over Death? A very heavy holiday in a lot of ways, scary too: the crucifixion, the betrayal with a kiss, the rock rolled away and the creepy empty tomb. There is so much more theology attached to Easter than to, say, Christmas, where the myths and traditions are all somehow lower key: it's a celebration, not the feverish praise of Death Having No Sting No More Hallelujah!

My favorite holiday in childhood was Halloween, which for low church protestants had no religious significance left at all. Halloween was dressing up and walking around after dark in crisp October air knocking on the neighbors' doors; Christmas had some pressure involved, but was mostly magical. But Easter was all about Don't eat the whole two pound chocolate bunny, you'll get sick and besides, you're supposed to be thinking about how Jesus died for your many, many sins and is now arisen and watching you!

Easter is about a theological conumdrum: that Jesus the teacher and man became or always was Christ who is also God.

What I like about Easter a lot is some rousing songs ("Up from the Grave He Arose! With a Mighty Triumph O'er His Foes!"-- on Friday, Lennie Lopate played terrific Easter gospel numbers on his radio show). I also am moved by the various versions of the story itself, the narrative of the popular new leader being arrested and deserted by the people as well as by his closest friends, then executed brutally and in a way reserved for the lowest of society. One of the great strengths of the Jesus story has always been the uplifting of the poor and humble and normally sinful. And then, whether you take it literally or not, there are the women discovering the empty tomb and the subsequent rise of an enormous religious and social movement. Fascinating stuff, however you slice it.

Today's New Jersey Star-Ledger has an interesting oipinion piece about the meaning of Easter for non-believers. The writer John Farmer emphasizes the message of love that Jesus said trumped everything else. I've always seen the drama of the Easter story as a story about Hope in the face of despair.

Hope and charity, then, even for those who aren't literal-minded Christians. Which leaves Faith, and I guess that anyone who can love and have hope without explicit guarantees of a prize at the end probably has to have more faith than the ones who believe Death will be followed immediately by a big reunion with family and friends and pets with no dog hair on the couch and no arguments with the family.

Happy Easter to All of Us!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Lots of Living Things

Geraniums eager to move outside...

I get so much pleasure out of this silly little fleck of yellow-green life with the blue cere and blue patches on his jowls. He is all about musicality, listening intently to jazz on the radio, to my whistling. He makes love to anything that is shiny or clicks, including dishes in the drainer, the radio, the hanging lamp, the plug on the toaster over, my fingernails, the zipper on Andy's jacket. He just chortles and sings and, like the guy who drank Love Potion Number Nine, kisses everything in sight. What is not to like? Well, I wish he would pose a little better for his pictures, as he insists on coming closer and closer to the camera, sitting on it if he can. Thus, always in-your-face-and-out-of-focus.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Spring Stuff

Farewell, bare branches.
Now, the moment before green--
Look!-- touches of red!

We had a very nice Seder Monday night, even without Andy’s family. The Graveses came, and Boe Meyerson and Betty Levin and Mary Sciaino! It has become fairly routine for me, the preparations, especially when we have eight or less people. There are matching napkins and plates, etc., and I don’t have to clear out the dining room plants. In spite of all the shabbiness here at the manor, the chandelier in the dining room glitters, and there's Andy's mother's Acapulco pattern plates and her cobalt blue Mexican glasses (and of course it’s her brisket recipe). But my own homegrown parsnips were in the vegetable roast, and my salad from the garden–the entire salad this time, as the lettuce has begun to make its rosettes after shivering under the plastic for the winter. It is an endless delight to me to know that the m√Ęche and the Winter Marvel lettuce and the radicchio and some bok choi and red giant mustard and a little kale have wintered over and are beginning to grow– even faster than the weeds around them!

Andy’s Seders are always short, without the half after the Festive Meal. He emphasizes the fact that it’s about ending slavery, and that he likes to know we’re doing part of a world wide tradition: David and Ann have Jennie home, and they’re at the Gellers; Joel and Sarah are at her aunt’s house.

Our quirk is that we often have more gentiles than Jews: last night we actually had more Jews! Although Lorraine Graves, who is a Jewish-humanist, had to leave for a while to go over to Our Lady of Sorrows (Mary Sciaino’s church) for choir practice, as she sings in the choir and last night was a big rehearsal for Sunday’s Easter singing! It’s all good.