Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The blog site indicates that I have made 229 postings since I began the blog.  This, the 230th, will be the last.

I began the blog as a way of developing mindfulness and practicing the process of writing.  I no longer need the blog to help with these goals.

I will continue to write, to read, to listen to music, and, in general, to experience good things.

I have appreciated your reading and leaving comments.  If you’d like, be in touch.  Please email,  or send a card or letter, or telephone, or use telepathy.  I will be glad to hear from you, and I will respond.

Fare well.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

At the Mall.  

The afternoon was overcast.  The humidity was almost 100%, and the temperature was nearly 80-degrees.  Since I did not know what contagions the moist, warm air might hold, I decided to go to the mall for a walk.

On a forty-minute walk.    When I passed a store named the $10 Store, I remembered dime stores.  When I walked through the Food Court, I realized that it would’ve easy to lose one’s appetite by the smells there.  I passed by Victoria’s Secret, with its pretty, sexy unmentionables on display in the window.  I glanced at the windows of Godiva with its chocolates “too lovely to eat,” but I would eat them.

After the walk I went into two stores.  At a toy and games store, I looked at a quiz game, “Santa Vs. Jesus.”  Players or a team chose either questions about secular Christmas or religious Christmas.  The most correct answers in a round won.  If I were a betting person, I know on which side I would bet, given the general populace.

At Build-a-Bear Workshop, I saw in the window bears in various Halloween attires:  a pumpkin bear, a skeleton bear, a vampire bear with a cool cape, a witch bear, a scarecrow bear, and a mummy bear.  The clerk said that there were no nautical bears:  no sailor bears or Sea Captain bears or pirate bears.  So no bear purchase for Billy Boy!  (Maybe at Christmastime Santa will take me to the shop or to another toy store to buy a bear, just a basic bear, if such things are still made.

Notes on Reading.  Fiction.  Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground.  Facsimile edition from 1886.  Pavilion, 1985.

This is the first version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  It was hand-printed with drawings by the author and presented to Alice as a Christmas gift.  This edition has a foreword by Mary Jean St.Clair, the granddaughter of Alice Liddell (the Alice of the books), an informative introduction by the editor (Russel Ash), and photographs of the three Liddell sisters, Robinson Duckworth, Lewis Carroll, and Alice Liddell at ages 7 (1859) and 80 (1932).

The book is important to me not only for my academic interest in the Alice books but also that it was a gift from friends who brought it to me from their visit to London in the late 1980’s.

Notes on Reading.  Nonfiction.  J. Brent Bill, Holy Silence; The Gift of Quaker Spirituality.  Paraclete Press, 2005.

“Friends believe that Christ is actually present . . . When our hearts, minds, and souls are still, and we wait expectantly in the holy silence that the presence of Christ comes  among us.”

“Quaker silence encourages us to relax into the love of God until we hear the Spirit’s voice whispering softly into our soul’s ear.”

“We believe the Christ comes in a physically present way that Catholics believe that the host . . .becomes the literal body and blood of Jesus.”

Bill uses many personal examples to comment upon the simplicity, beauty, and effectiveness of Quaker worship.

Live Broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera in Cinemas.  Bellini’s Norma.

I was impressed by the demands of the opera and by how well the three major singers  (Sondra Radvanovsky, Joseph Calleja, and Joyce DiDonata) performed.  The large male chorus sang mightily of the promise and need for war, bringing to mind contemporary, less noble, rantings and threats.  Norma is a demanding work of high passion, requiring tour de force performances.  It was a pleasure to be in attendance.

 

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Monday, October 2, 2017

New Car.  I have had the new car for about a month.  Just recently, as I was driving down a country road, the car let me know its gender and name.  Gender: male.  Name: Bolt

At the Bird Bath.  Two Eastern bluebirds frequent the bird bath in the back of the yard.  One perches on the side while the other splashes an energetic flurry of blue and white feathers and sun-flecked silver water!

Mouse.  Near my back door on the patio lay a dead mouse.  There were no signs of injury.  It was about four inches long.  The fur was shades of white and gray darkening to the blackish-brown of its back.  It had a whitish-pink tail.  I took it to the back of the yard, where I feed crows, that they might have it.

Feedings / Yard Colors.  Stately decorum of black.  Silvery revels.  Staid and bobbing grays.  Crows, squirrels, mourning doves.

Songs New To Me.  The new car brought a trial subscription to Sirius Radio for both my car and iPad.  I have learned four songs, new to me.  “Big Ass Rock,” from The Full Monty, is a hilarious commentary on the extremes of friendship (assisting in suicide) and becomes a hustle to have a new person in a cast of male strippers.  “Some Girls,” from Once on This Island, is a celebration of the feminine, a love song, and a proposal of marriage.  “Winter’s on the Wing,” from The Secret Garden, uses a simple melody and specific images too show the effects of the anticipation and arrival of spring.  “New Music,” from Ragtime, epitomizes the genre and its musical appeal.  All can be found on YouTube.  It will be difficult for me not to renew Sirius.

Pianist Rebecca Penney in Recital.  Pianist Penney gave blessings for ear and soul with a big program.  There were the clarity and elegance of the eighteenth century (sonatas by Soler and Scarlatti), the soaring feelings of the nineteenth century (intermezzi and ballads by Brahms and a nocturne and a waltz by Chopin), and imaginative and entertaining new music of the twentieth century (rags by Albright and Bolcom.) It was a grand way to spend the last night of September.

Notes on Reading.  Nonfiction.  James Beckett, The Path of Paganism.  Llewelyn, 2017.

This excellent book presents spiritual values, not only in the various kinds of pagan practices and beliefs but also in religions in general.  Readers learn qualities of good religions, including how religions help their followers.  Beckett presents guidelines on which to evaluate the effectiveness of religions.  He presents ways of developing spiritual lives, including dealing with uncertainties.  He articulates advanced practices related to pagan beliefs.  Beckett writes with authority and in a clear, articulate style.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017, the Last Day of Summer

From the Past

Reflections from Homilies, Fr. Paul Gabriel.  Blessed Sacrament Church, Burlington, NC.

. . To lower expectations and raise hopes.  (2013)

The Divine Spirit is within us.  We must activate the gift.  What are we doing with the empowerment?  (2014)

From a Spelling Book.  H.F. Harrington, A Graded Spelling Book in Two Parts.  American Book Company, 1880.

“Charles, what is that horrid thing in the cornfield?” asked Luther, who had always lived in the city, and had rarely or never been in the country.  “How it dangles its arms, and what sprawling legs it has!”

“Pshaw!” replied Charles.  “Don’t you know a scarecrow?  It is only a pole with strips of tattered cloth, a battered hat, and a pair of worn-out boots packed on it.  It is to cheat and frighten the crows that come to pull up and destroy the corn.

Horace is a wretched scholar.  His writing is awkward, his painting is a daub, in reading he drawls, in spelling he blunders, and he makes mistakes when he recites his language lessons.  But he never gets angry when he is corrected.

Once I saw a frightful tempest.  The branches of the trees were twisted off and tossed about.  Clouds of dust were driven before the furious wind, and the leaves were blown hither and thither.  Hail and sleep beat against the windows, and the air was keen and piercing.

In Thomas Hardy Country.  Spring, 2008.

I had not seen a more beautiful countryside.  The land is hilly and agricultural.  Hedge rows serve as fences.  There are stands of woods with huge old trees.  The fields and woods stop at the town limits of Dorchester, which is thus framed.  The downtown is thriving commercially.

We took a self-guided walking tour and saw part of a Roman wall and a Roman country house which is being excavated.  The tiles were like those I’ve seen in Latin textbooks.  We saw a handsome statue of Thomas Hardy.  I stopped in a church, where a Holy Week service was ending and talked with a man who identified himself as a former minister, who began work at Coventry when the church was being built from the ashes of the bombardment in World War II.  He had long since retired and was serving as a chaplain at the prison there in Dorchester.  He had visited Denver and had visited Trinity United Methodist Church, where I was a member for many years.

(From there we went to the coast–Torquay, Penzance, and Lands End–and from there to Avebury, Marlborough, and on to London.)

A Student Paragraph Illustrating Description by Cataloguing.  From a student in a creative writing class I taught in 1973.

At Hattie’s, by Ruth McLean

     On what used to be the main road, now replaced by an interstate highway, is a beer joint know as “Hattie’s.”  As you enter, the heavy wooden door closes behind you with a bang.  The ceiling on this cement block building is low and the rooms are filled with noisy people and smoke.  Pin ball machines with flashing lights crack and pop.  Crowded around the bar, people choose their favorite beers.  Drafts in big glass mugs, brightly labeled cans, and brown tinted bottles go out.  Wines in beautifully shaped bottles from every country line the wall.  A single lit light bulb hanges from the center of the ceiling.  High-backed, thickly stuffed booths hide the faces in the dark.  A juke box plays and sticks on the words.

Denver.  The Dragon Boat Festival.

One of the reasons I love Denver is that the city celebrates all kinds of groups in well-attended celebrations throughout the summer.  The Dragon Boast Festival is a celebration of Asian and Pacific cultures.  I attended with my friend Masaki from Japan.

It was a huge festival.  Three city buses were making trips from Invesco Field’s parking lot and light rail station to bring in participants.  I had not previously know about Dragon Boat racing.  As we were watching a race, I observed that the races did not take long.  A woman standing next to us said, “About 70 seconds.”  I learned that she was a participant.

Denver has 49 teams of boat racers, 21 people to each team.  There are 18 rowers, nine women and nine men, a captain, a flag retriever, and a drummer for each boat. They practice two times each month on dry land and once in the water before the race.

The boats are beautiful with carvings, some of them complex.  They are thin and sit shallowly in the water.

We enjoyed food booths, booths selling trinkets, booths giving out information about Asian cultures in Denver, and three stages where cultural events were happening.  We were particularly impressed by traditional Japanese drumming by food young women from Arvada, a Buddhist dance performed by monks, and a dancer doing traditional Chinese dances.

In Physical Therapy Following Elbow Surgery.  June, 2009.

The physical therapist, Barclay (pronounced Barklee) warned me about overdoing.  If I did not rest my arm often, recovery will be delayed.  He warned me about exercise in general.  No hour-long walks.  Twenty minutes, a maximum of thirty minutes should be in order.  When the heat and humidity of summer arrive, no more than twenty minutes.  I asked him about yard work.  “No, sir,” he said.  “You are not going to pick up a shovel or hoe or use a mower for six months.”

Yesterday, after therapy, he put an ice pack on my arm.  It stung with cold.  I asked him if it were supposed to be so cold.  “I’m hearing this from a man from Denver?” he said.  I shut up and endured the intense, burning cold.

 

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

At a Church.  The speaker, introducing a book for discussion at a reading group, read from it, “The soul is tender….”

Yes, the soul is tender.  And there are times that we need to be attentive to that need.

The soul is also bold, resilient, and strong.  These are the qualities I want to read about.  Where do I do so?  Emerson, Thoreau, Tennyson, the minor, didactic poets of nineteenth century American literature, the epics from classical literature.

Spearmint.  The spearmint I planted last spring is reaching out of its container.  I will soon transplant it into the yard.  It is not good to hold back living things which want to grow.

Notes on Reading.  Fiction.  J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Scholastic, 1997; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Scholastic, 1998; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Scholastic, 1999.

The first three books of the famed series are fun.  The plots are exciting, the characters are well-drawn and memorable, and the details of the fantasy are vivid.  The sense of wonder is in close proximity to the reality of evil.  Favorite character: Ron, for his understated, wry sense of humor.  Throughout the series there is a thematic emphasis on the consequences of choice and the importance of friendship.

Notes on Reading.  Nonfiction.  Joyce Rupp, Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lesson from the Camino.  Orbis, 2005.

Rupp and a companion became pilgrims on the Camino from Roncesvalles to Santiago, Spain, a thirty-seven day walk.  She tells the story, not chronologically, but through perceptions and insights about life from her experiences.  These “life lessons” are titles for the twenty-five chapters; one of them is the title of the book.  She illustrates her learnings by interesting details about the experience, including diary entires.  The book enhances the spiritual lives of the readers.

Notes on Reading.  Fiction.  Kent Haruf, Benediction.  Vintage, 2013.

Set mainly in a small town in eastern Colorado, this is a novel of ordinary people doing what they can with the circumstances they have and choices they have made.  There are a dying man, estranged from his son, hoping in a unsettled daughter; a good minister frustrated by his mission, and his disgruntled wife and suicidal son; a lonely widow of thirty years and her daughter, a spinster teacher; a neighbor bringing up her grandaughter.  All illustrate Thoreau’s lives of quiet desperation.  It is a work of solemn beauty.  (Haruf does not use quotation marks for dialogue.  I do not use them to indicate quoted text.)  Quotations from the work:

He sat and drank the beer and held his wife’s hand sitting out on the front porch.  So the truth was he was dying.  That’s what they were saying.  He would be dead before the end of summer.  By the beginning of September the dirt would be piled over what was left of him out at the cemetery three miles east of town.  Someone would cut his name into the face of a tombstone and it would be as if he never was.  (P. 5)

It’s all so pointless.

You’ll get better, dear.

How will I get better?

. . .

You forget after a while.  You start paying attention to your aches and pains.  You think about a hip replacement.  Your eyes fail you.  You start thinking about death.  You live more narrowly.  You stop thinking about next month.  You hope you don’t have to linger.  (P. 48)

I’m doing the best I can, Mom.  That’s all I can say.  I’m getting along the best I can.  You can tell Dad that much too.  (P. 153)

She became part of the history of the town, like wallpaper in the old houses–the aging lonely isolated woman, the unmarried schoolteacher living out her days among other people’s children, a woman who’d had a brief moment of excitement and romance a long time ago and afterward had retreated and lived quietly and made no more disturbance.  (P. 178)

They bowed their heads.  May we be at peace together with Dad Lewis here.  Lyle [the minister] said softly.  May there be peace and love and harmony in this room.  May there be the same in all the difficult and conflicted world outside this house.  May this man–he stopped and spoke directly to Dad in the bed–may you leave this physical world without any more pain or regrets or unhappiness or remorse or self-doubt or worry and may you let all your trials and troubles and cares pass away.  May you simply be at peace.  May each of us here in this room be at peace as well.  Now we ask all of these blessings in the name of Jesus, who himself was the Prince of Peace.  Amen.  (Pp. 236-237)

[the ending] And in the fall the days turned cold and the leaves dropped off the trees and in the winter the wind blew from the mountains and out of the high plains of Holt County there were overnight storms and three-day blizzards, (P. 258)

 

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Another Kind of Almanac.  A friend, who grew up in Pennsylvania, told me that his father had his own way of determining seasons:  winter began on December 1; spring, March 1; summer, June 1; autumn, September 1.  He thus varies about three weeks from the regular almanac.  Though this practice may seem solipsistic to some, I like the idea.  Why should we not follow our own seasons and celebrations of them?

Late Summer.  Summer has become tired.  Days are noticeably shorter.  Blazing and baking heat have receded, though September here can be as hot as any other summer month.  Crepe myrtle trees have finished blossoming, and the blossoms left, at least on some days, are muted in color and more noticeable because of the lack of other blossoms.  The leaves of dogwood trees, even after rains, have begun to curl inward, seemingly tired of the outward thrusts of growth.  Annual flowers in my hanging baskets have stopped blooming, and the leaves are dying.

Endings.  We are good at celebrating beginnings: births, New Year celebrations, first signs of changing seasons.  Do we do as well at celebrating endings?  An inspiriring celebration of a life at a funeral service  or a joyful wake in honor of the departed is always welcome.  A celebration to end a season with thoughts of what has occurred can be a positive punctuation of time passing.

Notes on Reading.  Fiction.  Phillip Lewis, The Barrowfields.  Hogart, 2017.

I am impressed at the craft and power of this novel.  (1) Lewis makes references to Poe, and like Poe, he can sustain a mood that results in a powerful emotional response.  For example, a mood of student jocularity caused me to laugh aloud at the conversation at a drinking party.   A mood of sustained foreboding resulted in my eyes watering when I found the tragic outcome of one of the main characters.  (2) The book explores family relationships and influences, both positive and negative, that children carry into their adult years.  (3) There is an obvious love of dogs and horses.  (4) There are moving descriptions of night skies at the ocean and in the mountains.  (5) Lewis explores the idea of the relationship between home and identity, using references to Thomas Wolfe.  (6) There are several deftly drawn memorable episodes:  the despairing, noisome conditions in a nursing home; a book burning in the mountains, led by a nefarious preachers; lovers lost at night in the mountains, threatened by horses; a harrowing descent into madness because of depression and alcoholism.  With vivid and convincing details, Lewis holds the reader’s attention throughout this well-written novel.

Notes on Reading.  Nonfiction.  Adrian Owen, Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death.  Scribner, 2017.

Are people in comatose, physically unresponsive, vegetative states aware?  Research tells the author that about 20% of those he examined are.Is communication with them possible?  Yes. The book explains recent breakthroughs that enable us to do so.  The book also examines such ideas as the meaning of consciousness and its development in humans, the value of life, the arguments for right-to-die and right-to life movements, and individuality, and it projects further accomplishments in the field by the use of medical technology.  Owen uses particular, relevant, and easy-to-understand examples to illustrate abstract and philosophical ideas.  The book is thus informative, interesting, and provocative.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

More Magnolias.

Since she admired magnolia flowers, I thought I would find one in reach to take and give her for the drive on the next leg of her trip.  On our walk that day, we found none.  “Have they finished flowering?” she asked?

I didn’t know.

Today, on my walk, the same one we had taken a week ago, I saw two magnolia flowers that I could reach.  But my friend is no longer visiting, and I did not take one for myself.

We sometimes miss our Lords of Life through bad timing.  I suppose that we can miss our entire lives by bad timing.

In a Dream.

Seated across from me at a large breakfast party was a former colleague.  She said, “You’ll be glad to know that (a name a didn’t know) finally retired after 58 years of teaching!”

“58. Years?” I said.  “Why?”

“He doesn’t know,” she said.

I awoke, laughing.

A Sojourn in Eastern NC

Billboard:  Your Wife Is Hot.  Better Get the Air Conditioner Fixed.  (I would not use this company, but there are obviously those who find this puerile, sexist advertising funny.)

A Scarecrow:  I was startled each time I saw the scarecrow in the neighbor’s yard from my second floor bedroom window.  Does it work for crows as well?

At a Restaurant:  We overheard three middle-aged women at the adjoining table:

“George Clooney?  He’s too young,” said the first.

“I don’t like him,” said the second.

“And I don’t like Brad Pitt,” said the first.

“I don’t even know who you’re talking about,” said the third.

My friend and I exchanged big smiles.

On a walk:  The day was baking hot, and I smiled to realize that the hot air was pine-scented from the many pine trees growing nearby and from the raked pine straw piled in the street.

Ugly:

“I know the people who live there,” said a friend, giving me a driving tour of McMansions in a fashionable neighborhood, “and they hired a woman who cleaned their house for ten or twelve years.  And then she, the maid, got sick, hard to stop work, went to the hospital, had to have surgery and a long rest at home, and not once did they call her or send her a card, or visit her–nothing! And when she called them to tell them she was ready to go back to work, they told her she had been replaced and wouldn’t be needed.  And I think that’s ugly.  They way the treated her was just ugly!

Notes on Reading.  Nonfiction.  Mark E. Thibodeaux, Armchair Mystic: Easing Into Contemplative Prayer.  Franciscan Media, 2001.

This is a well-thought-out consideration and explanation of the practice of prayer and its effects on our lives.

Thibodeaux explains by examples four stage of prayer, which he calls talking at God, talking to God, listening to God, and being with God.  For each stage, he presents advantages and possible pitfalls of each, with suggestions on how to make transitions to deeper levels.

He uses specific examples from his life to help readers understand the ideas.  He emphasizes the need for discipline and solitude to structure and practice a prayer life.  He stresses the need for discernment of the effects of prayer, offers suggestions for dealing with distractions during meditation and for dealing with times when the prayer discipline seems futile.

He ends the book with chapters which stress the idea that prayer results in changes of the self, changes that lead to service to others.

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