Early spring. “And then the almanac lied and said that spring had come. Spring comes when it comes.” (O. Henry, “Springtime a la Carte”) Winter holds on this week, with temperatures in the 40’s during the day and freezing at night. Cold winds blow. Saturday there were spits of snow. A friend and I had a picnic lunch at Alamance Battlefield before touring the site. The docent, who saw us, said, “You guys are tough.” Grass is beginning to grow. The newly planted gingko tree told me its name was Song.
Purchases. After fourteen years I buy new glasses. The left earpiece broke and could not be replaced. The lens would require custom framing. I don’t expect, although I would like, that things remain the same. I buy two pair of dress shoes, one black, the other brown. I’m now set for shoes for a few years. Though I do not enjoy buying clothing, I do no mind buying books. It is important to support writers, publishers, and independent book stores. I treat myself to two more volumes in the handsome Library of America editions of the work of Steinbeck. I generally enjoy passing book on to others; these, along with many others, will remain with me. My bookstore is Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill.
Gifts. It has been a week of receiving gifts. I would think it were Christmas, not Eastertide. (1) A 1000-piece puzzle of “Best Sellers.” I counted eighty books, though they printed Black Beauty twice. I have not read twenty-two of them, but I will assemble them from pieces. The friends who gave me the puzzle wish me relaxing times for what I consider a daunting challenge. (2) A friend brings me a CD, which he made for me, “Bill’s Holy Week & Early Spring 2013.” There are fifteen selections, including folks songs and folk-style pop songs, choral pieces, spirituals. The CD is about an an hour and provides good perspectives on the season. (3) Dinner in the country with friends, who served tasty appetizers, broiled chicken with several sides, including brown rice with leeks, asparagus with cream lemon sauce, lettuce with Roquefort sauce, and strawberries for dessert. (4) Dinner at a friend’s in Winston-Salem, followed by a concert at Wake Forest. Strata, a chamber group of clarinet, violin, and piano, played pieces by William Bolcom, Max Bruch, Alexander Arutiunian, and the world premiere of Kenneth Frazelle’s “A Book of Days,” inspired by Tape for the Turn of the Year by A. R. Ammons. There were the always fun conversations with my hostess, inspiring and intimate music, and beautiful hosts of daffodils on the Wake Forest campus. (5) A nine-piece puzzle from a friend in Statesville; on the picture side is a smiling bunny with one hand raised in greeting, the other holding a paint brush, a duck and two mice arriving a his house, bringing paint brushes and a basket of white eggs. An Easter egg painting party! On the reverse side, “Happy Easter, Oliver.” (6) In response to these letter blogs, a long telephone message from a friend in Denver, an email from a friend in Montana, hand-written letters from friends in Massachusetts and North Dakota, and, not in response to the blogs, an email from a friend in Denver with photographs from Maui, a remembrace of a trip she and I took there several years ago. I am mindful and appreciative of daily greetings and kindnesses, and to have many in one week is to feel especially thankful. “My cup runneth over.”
At the Charlotte Hawkins Brown’s Palmer Memorial Institute, state historic site at Sedalia, NC. We walk about the campus, consulting a “Walking Tour” publication and reading the information panels by buildings and sites. It is a cold, overcast day with spits of snow. We visit the hulls of dormitories, houses for married teachers, dining hall, science building, bell tower and tea house (student-run store). We stop at the meditation altar and Dr. Brown’s grave. We stop at the site of the main academic building, with classrooms, library, and chapel, and we share disappointment that the building was destroyed by fire and will not be replicated. At the visitor center, once the cottage housing single women teachers, we meet the friendly and knowledgeable docent, who plays for us a film about Dr. Brown and the school, answers questions, and shows us Canary Cottage, the restored home of Dr. Brown. I buy two books to learn more, and I look forward to visit again in April with a friend from Denver.
Corruption and Revolutionary Matters. (1) We visit state historic site of Alamance Battlefield, near Burlington, NC, the site of the 1771 rebellion of local farmers against the forces of Colonial Governor William Tryon and his colleague in Hillsborough, Edmund Fanning. The farmers were fighting against corruption in the government, particularly taxation, unjust treatment by officials, and lack of representation. The 20-minute film is effective. It will be hard for me to see the courthouse in Hillsborough and Tryon’s Palace in New Bern in a positive light. (2) Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle (1936) is an interesting, enlightening, and suspenseful war novel. The war is between striking workers and the powerful, well-organized political machine of California land owners. We learn the methods and purposes of labor organizers, particularly the psychology involved in dealing with strikers and with the land owners. The novel hits hard from the beginning, bringing the reader to understand the plight of abused workers. There is much suspense as the leaders of the workers seek to unify them, keep them unified, and oppose the enemies. The ending is bitter, provocative, inspirational. I’ll not reveal it, for as Anthony Lane has observed, “Readers should be led into temptation.” (“Fright Night,” The New Yorker, Feb. 12 & 20, 2012)
The Bible. In The New Yorker, March 18, 2013, is an article about the filming of the current miniseries, “The Bible.” Burnett and Downy, the producers, have learned that there is a “massive Biblical illiteracy” in our country. They recount that some have thought that Noah and Joan of Arc were married and so were Sodom and Gomorrah. They published in The Wall Street Journal an op ed, “Why Public Schools Should Teach the Bible.” My response: Why aren’t Christian churches teaching the Bible? Why aren’t professed Christian families reading and talking about the Bible as a family at home?
Thank you for reading. I hope you have a good week.