The Day of Love. It’s grand that the full moon this month occurs on Valentine’s Day. The Full Moon of February is the Snow Moon, an appropriate name for this year in most places of the U.S. A beautiful full moon many intensify lovers’ enjoyment of the evening, if they pay attention to those things at all. I wish to all readers who have sweet baboos blessings on the Day of Love.
A Way To Be Mindful. One of my favorite passages of scripture is the account in the Gospel of John of the resurrected Jesus appearing to Simon Peter. Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” When the disciple says yes, Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” Twice more Jesus asks the same question. Twice more Simon Peter replies yes. The charge of Jesus after the second response is “Tend my sheep,” and after the third, “Feed my sheep.”
A decade or more ago, I was talking with a friend, an atheist, who was lamenting world and national hunger. She was active by contributing to a food bank. I told her of the scripture. She asked, “Well, why don’t you? Why don’t you feed the sheep?” I answered that Christians did and told her of my church’s contributions to the same food bank she supported.
At worship this past Sunday, the priest reminded us of our mission to feed the hungry. He reminded us that our church has a garden we tend during the spring and summer to give fresh produce to those who need it and that we have a new food pantry to which we have the opportunity to contribute.
He advocated that we give time and energy and resources to these ministries and in addition that we, each time we come to church, bring one item of non-perishable food to contribute. By bringing one item each time we come to church, we will become more mindful of our charge.
A Walk. February 10. 2014. Early in the morning I sensed approaching snow. The sky was overcast. There was a cold bite in the air, and the earth was still, anticipatory. I confirmed my feelings with the weather forecast. By 10 in the morning, there were small flakes in flurries. I decided to take my two mile walk, the walk I call the New Walk, while it was snowing.
The New Walk is my most recently laid out two-mile walk. I love it because it takes me by landmarks I find interesting.
There is the pink dogwood tree in the side yard of a corner lot. In winter it looks scrawny, malformed. But in just a few weeks it will become more beautiful, adorned with beautiful light pink flowers shown off with the background of perfect light green leaves.
There is the lot turned into a large garden. Now it lies fallow, the dark red earth exposed in large clods. The owner in the summer evenings sits on his back porch and greets me with a friendly “Hey!” as I pass by.
There is the large open space at the top of a hill, the site of a former store, now what seems to me a sacred space, marked in a rough circle by three huge oaks trees and a large pine tree. It could be the place of sacred dance, of quiet meditation.
The is the short sidewalk passage in a block of houses dominated by a large white frame house of two stories, where I never see anyone.
There is the walk down the main business street of town. The biker bar has a new sign, “You’re looking. You might as well come in.” Several shops have signs that say that they will be open late on Valentine Day Eve. It’s cold and snowing. I see nobody on the sidewalks today. The store on the corner has a sign, “This shop may be closed in inclement weather.” It was closed, but I didn’t consider the weather inclement. Maybe it’s always closed on Monday.
It was fun to watch the flakes of snow accumulate on my trench coat and melt. The walk was invigorating and refreshing. Here’s to raw winter days.
Opera. The Metropolitan Opera live broadcasts in movie theatres are a magnificent experience. I was moved by Dvorak’s only opera Rusalka. It’s an unhappy fairy tale, set in a wet forest (land of spirit creatures) and at a prince’s castle. The music is beautiful, moving. I especially enjoyed the writing for horns during the hunt, the ball at the castle, performed as a folk dance with colorful scarves, and the beautiful, magnificent voices of the cast. It’s a good thing that they don’t broadcast every week. I would go broke happily.
Listening. Thirty minutes with the piano music of Alexander Scriabin. Preludes, Op. 11. Here’s the plan: Write 24 short pieces, one in each of the major and minor keys. These pieces were written between 1888 and 1896. Chopin wrote his preludes, Op. 28, in 1839. There has been much written about the similarities and differences in the two sets. I enjoyed the recording of the Scriabin set by Mikhail Petnev on Virgin Classics, 1997.
When I was a junior in college, I told my piano teacher that I had enjoyed the encore, a Scriabin “Album Leaf,” from Op 45, played by a pianist on a concert tour. He asked if I would like to play it. At the next lesson he brought me a copy of the “Album Leaf” and a Prelude, D Major, from this opus. I loved both pieces and played both in public. At that time, I read through several of the other preludes, but I did not study them.
It was fun to hear the variety of moods through various expressions, to enjoy hearing the facility of the composition, to hear pieces in all keys in about thirty minutes. There are contemplative preludes, impassionate preludes, fleet preludes with soaring lines. These early works are more restrained in expression that Scriabin’s later works, which approach mysticism and transcendence. Op. 11 is a good way to explore the possibilities of expression in short pieces, a worth while half hour.
Reading. Nonfiction. The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts by Graham Robb. (Norton, 2013). This book on the lost Celtic civilization makes convincing the proposition that the Celts used “celestial mathematics” as a “terrestrial geography” in developing towns, roads, and religious centers. My favorite parts were theories on how Druids predicted the future through their knowledge of the cosmos; the places and methods of transmitting news through sound relays (“vocal telegraph”) “over half a million square kilometers”; the use of place names to verify geographic points; the story of Boudicca, “First heroine of British history,” in her valiant efforts to defeat Romans; the twenty-year curriculum for the education of Druids; and the compelling discussion that led to one of Robb’s conclusion that “. . . metropolitan France is one of the most visibly Celtic countries in Europe.” I want to read each of Robb’s six previously published books.
Reading Poetry. Walt Whitman, Sea-Drift. There are times I want to go to the sea. The past couple of weeks have been such a time. I love the desolation of the coast in winter. This feeling took me to this collection of eleven poems in Leaves of Grass. They are primarily poems of sadness, somber reflections of the awareness of death and the darkness of life. The first and perhaps the most famous poem, “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” is a rhapsodic, musical poem in which a boy comes to the realization of death and his mission as poet through his listening to the lament of one bird for the death of its mate. Another poem of growing awareness of a child is “On the Beach at Night” in which a child is made aware of the eternal. A similar reflection is expressed in “On the Beach at Night Alone.” “Song for All Seas, All Ships,” is a universal eulogy for “all intrepid sailors” lost at sea. My favorite poem is “After the Sea-Ship,” the last poem of the series. It ends the somber reflections with merriment, buoyancy, joy. “After the Sea-Ship” describes the water in the wake of a ship. When I taught, I used it often to show how free verse at its best works.
I plan to go alone to the coast soon.
Thank you for reading. I hope you are doing well and that you are enjoying the winter.
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