Herbs. Rue is blooming yellow. Sage, purple. Lovage, white. Lavender, lavender.
Green. Spring’s “Experiment of Green” is over. Dark green is here, definitive. Summer arrives in about a month.
Sodden days. Days this week have been warm with saturated air. Short afternoon thunderstorms don’t release all the water in the air. It stays in the air, close, making hazy days of uncomfortable humidity.
Food, family, and friends. Pat in Greeley makes the best potato salad. Irma in Denver makes the best blackberry wine jelly. Craig in Durham makes the best teeth-chilling martinis. Billie Jo in Troutman makes the best vegetable soup with cheese toast. Frankie in Smithfield makes the best pimiento cheese. Nina Jean in Statesville makes the best deviled eggs. Chris in Cary makes the best apple cake. Deceased family members: My dad made the best spaghetti sauce. My mom made the best vegetable soup, BLT sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese. My paternal grandmother made the best chicken stew and custard pie. Friends from the past: Mary Sue made the best iced tea. Tim made the best tomato and rice soup. George made the best mashed potatoes. Daisy made the best chocolate pie. Goldy made the best coconut pie. Ruth made the best hot ‘uns (rolls).
A horror. A writer of a horror story could create a character no more horrible than the woman who almost sideswiped me at the post office. I saw her trying to steer her car into the parking place next to mine. I thought she was going to scrape my side, but she stopped suddenly, backed up rapidly, and moved forward slowly. As she pulled in beside me, I saw that her right hand was holding a cell phone into which she was talking intently, and her left hand on the steering wheel was balancing a cigarette burning close to her hand and headed up with a long pile of ash. Her hair was long, black, greasy, unkempt. She wore bright red lipstick. Driver–from Hell.
Listening. I did not want the spring to pass before I listened to some folk songs from the British Isles. I chose the CD, “The Lark in Clear Air: Traditional Songs,” The Cambridge Singers with members of the City of London Sinfonia, directed by John Rutter, Collegian Records, 1993. It was a pleasure to listen to the talented and well-directed singers performing twenty-four folk songs, arranged into these themes: Love and Courtship, Soldiers and Sailors, Songs of Lost Love, Convivial Songs, and Lullabies. Several are set in the month of May. As I followed the lyrics, I recognized a theme: how we pay attention to the way those we love move. For example: “She stepped away from me and she went through the fair, / And fondly I watched her move here and move there. / And then she went homeward with one star awake, / As the swan in the evening moves over the lake.” (“She Moved Through the Fair”) Another example: “He’ll set and row so tightly, / Or in the dance so sprightly, / He’ll cut and shuffle sightly” (“The Keel Row”) And: “She carelessly along did stray, A-picking of the daisies gay” (“Just as the Tide Was Flowing”) And more lustily, “Dashing away with the smoothing iron / She stole my heart away.” (“Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron”) In the pieces was my favorite lullaby, “O Can Ye Sew Cushions” and a song which has the line, which for me would be the ultimate promise of a lover: “You shall have music at your command.” (“The Lover’s Ghost”)
For Southern files. “In Belhaven, we all drive with one hand. So we can wave.” (quoted in “Belhaven,” by Josh Shaffer, Our State, June, 2013.
Nonfiction. Stuart Isacoff, A Natural History of the Piano: The Instrument, the Music, the Musicians–from Mozart to Modern Jazz and Everything in Between. Vintage Books, 2011. Isacoff’s epigraph, a sentence from Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann (trans. H.T. Lowe-Porter) describes a character who “. . . had endless things in his head. . . it was his passion to make comparisons and discover relations, display influences, lay bare the interwoven connections of culture.” This is the approach of this entertaining and informative book. In four chapters, Isacoff gives us “four paradigms” through which history of the piano may be considered: “The Combustibles,” “The Alchemists,” “The Rhythmitizers,” and “The Melodists.” Composers and performers are grouped and discussed so that connections can be understood. Jazz, and other modern and contemporary music are discussed equally with classical music. There are many photographs, and there are short commentaries interspersed with the text, such as “Confessions of a Scriabin Player” by Garrick Ohlsson and “Duke Ellington” by Oscar Peterson. It is a book to keep for reference and continued enjoyment. As I read, I remembered my semester course at Wake Forest on the Literature of the Piano, taught in a similar way, but through the presentation of recorded pieces arranged into recitals which reflected all periods of piano history and through many gossipy, entertaining, and revealing asides by the professor. I wish Professor Giles had published those lectures and observations. I think he would have loved this book.
Thank you for reading. I hope your week will be good.