Names. In a ninth grade literature textbook from 1940, there is a short story in which a character is named Adoniram. I thought of names of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations. I wonder if children now have these names:
Are girls today named Estelle, Gertrude, Ada, Lucille, Lois, Rosa, Irma? Where are Edna, Doris, Marguerite, Brenda, Flora?
Are boys today named Clarence, Ira, Clifton, Earl, Randall, Herman, Elmer? Where are Willard, Ernest, Cornelius, Homer, Francis?
Are girls now named Thelma, Maxine, Dinah, Agnes, Gilda, Cora, Gladys? Where are Isabel, Velma, Nell, Ida, Gloria?
Are boys now named Rufus, Terrance, Lloyd, Alton, Bernard, Leland, Floyd? Where are Myron, Rudolph, Edgar, Laurence, Herbert?
Where are Theodore, Lousie, Lydia, Raymond, Elvis, Bertha, Lyda, Thad, Herbert?
By request: the new Pope. He is a Jesuit, a tradition rightly respected for clear reasoning, logical thought, eloquent expression, and careful scholarship. He chooses for his name the name of the saint I most admire. St. Francis of Assisi cared for the poor and the Creation. We need special care for those living in poverty and for our natural world. He based his first sermon on a parable of Jesus that shows that God’s love is infinite and that we must not judge one another.
Franciscans. Were I Cathoic and called to a monastic life, a religious order, I would first consider the orders of the Franciscans. In Denver, I met a Franciscan sister, a colleague, for a Rockies game. She was wearing baseball earrings and carrying a pennant to wave. We sat in the top tiers of the stadium and enjoyed the game, sharing pop corn and lemonade. In her teaching and in her living she shared an enthusiastic life. In the south of France in a park, I started a conversation with a Franciscan brother, who was wearing the simple and handsome habit of his order. We walked together to a cafe and talked about our lives, mine as a teacher and his as a gardener and cook for his order. We each had a glass of wine. We concluded that life was fun, interesting, and meaningful. At parting, he gave a blessing, the only words that were spoken in English, “Let us go apart in peace and live in love.”
A good book. Philip Pullman, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version. Viking, 2012. In the informative and interesting introduction, Pullman shares his main interest in the folk tale, “how the tales worked as stories.” His “guiding question” in the retelling is how “to produce a version that was as clear as water. . . . How would I tell this story myself, if I’d heard it told by someone else and wanted to pass it on? He writes about traits of the genre: stock characters (“There is no psychology in a fairy tale. . . . One might almost say that the characters. . . are not actually conscious.”), quick pacing of plot, use of “beautiful description” that does not bog down the pace, use of natural sounding speech, the ability to narrate spontaneously. (“Like jazz, storytelling in an art of performance. . . “)
Pullman chooses fifty tales to retell. This week I read the first, “The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich.” I knew the story of the enchanted frog who becomes a prince when he is kissed by a princess. I did not know about Faithful Heinrich, the servant of the prince When he learned that his prince had been changed into a frog, he had a blacksmith bind his heart with three bands of iron to keep it from “bursting with grief.” The prince and princess, on the carriage ride home, ask him about a terrible noise they are hearing. Heinrich says, “‘…it’s just my heart.'” He says that now the prince has returned, the iron, which was stronger than grief, is breaking because “love is stronger than iron, and now you’re human again the iron bands are falling off.” As Pullman notes in his comments, “The figure of Iron Heinrich appears at the end of the tale out of nowhere, and has so little connection with the rest of it that he is nearly always forgotten, although he must have been thought important enough to share the title. His iron bands are so striking an image that they almost deserve a story to themselves.” I will continue to enjoy the tales and Pullman’s comments through the spring.
Listening. Now that dusk is later, and there is a beautiful light after supper, I have been spending that time listening to short sets of pieces of music.
“Moments Musicaux” by Franz Schubert, is a set of six lyrical piano pieces. I love each one, especially No 6 in A-Flat. I may learn it to play for a teacher and have him or her help me to analyze the frequent and beautiful harmonic shifts and progressions. It will be fun to manage the thick chords so that they are lyrical. My CD is a recording by Alfred Brendel. On YouTube, there are recordings by Horowitz, Richter, Arrau. If you have time for only one, watch David Fray’s performance of the popular #3. My favorite is performed by Arrau, who honors the piece by taking all the repeats. (YouTube: Go to the web site, write the title in the search place, and scroll down to find the performances.)
“Salt Water Ballads,” music by Frederick Keel, words by John Masefield. The bass repertoire is graced by this collection of three pieces. “Port of Many Ships” is a sailor’s view of Paradise: endless supplies of rum, music, only gentle winds, lazy times. “Trade Winds” describes an island in the Spanish Seas and its delights. “Mother Carey” is a warning to beware of this old woman of the sea and her mate Davy Jones, who will bring disaster. My recording is by Bryn Terfel on the CD “Silent Noon,” a collection of English pieces. Three admirable performances can be seen on YouTube. Bijan Mohseni gives an excellent performance, Cameron Beckerdite shows a first-rate interpretation and command of stage presence and drama. Mark Baglione, Jr., presents the pieces in a livelier fashion. Watch all three and choose your favorite. Time for just one? I suggest the video of Cameron Beckerdite’s performance. Since I have always fancied the sea, I studied two of these pieces with teacher Liana Lansing in Denver. Perhaps I’ll find a teacher here and learn all three. Will I post my singing on YouTube? No.
A lesson from the paper shredder. I was shredding a large stack of paper, since I have been kept close by home much of the week with an upper respiratory infection. When the paper shredder becomes overheated, it shuts down for several minutes. It won’t work. Why should I expect more of myself? Daily walks turned into naps.
The end of winter. Weather was damp and overcast and windy or damp and rainy and windy, so I rested. On short walks the two sunny days of the week, I noticed that the daffodils and blooming fruit trees look timid, not bright, and seem hurt by overcast, wet, and wind. The early light green of my neighbor’s weeping willow trees, seen blocks away, reminds me that soon I will look for other shades of green, the “Experiment of Green” that Emily Dickinson celebates. More change will be soon; change is always welcomed.
Today is the first day of Spring. I hope that the Spring starts with all good things for you. Feel free to leave a comment!