Reading. Scripture. Micah. Micah is a series of exhortations and promises of blessings I have long admired two of the verses: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” and “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (4:3) (6:8) On my re-reading this week, I was interested to focus on these images: “You shall sow, but not reap; you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil; you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine. ” And “Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without revelation.” (3:6) Such exhortations are twentieth- and twenty-first century concerns. The Catholic Prayer Bible, Lectio Divina Edition (International Standard Version) includes for the reader reflections, prayers, and actions concerning social sin, justice, balance, peace, false gods, acting with mercy and kindness. The time spent with Micah is good time.
Reading. Fiction. Honore de Balzac, Old Man Goriot (1835). Translated by Olivia McCannon, introduction by Graham Robb, Penguin Classics, 2011 This novel is a social historian’s treasure trove. We learn about quotidian life of all social classes in Parisian society in the year of its setting, 1819. The student of human nature will be amazed at how Balzac presents characters in all kinds of manifestations, including social lives of the aristocracy and the lower classes. Balzac condemns harshly the way people treat others. Two conventions of nineteenth century fiction, both of which I dislike, are evident Excessive sentimentality is evident, especially in the portrayal of Goriot. And I dislike the use of the omniscient narrator, especially when it intrudes to make commentary about characters and action and morality. The book is worth reading for the dashing character of Vautrin, the Cat-o’-Nine LIves, an escaped convict, cynical commentator, homosexual. I am startled by my reaction to the novel this week. When I read it in the mid-1970’s I greatly admired it and found it interesting. Now, I found it a work that I wanted to finish so that I could turn to other things.
Observations of a friend. My friend Teresa, who grew up in New England, is excited that summer is ending. This time of year, she says, is her favorite. Days are shorter; this year, at least, they are cooler than in June and July; the flowers on the roadside on her drive to work are now predominately yellow; she sees signs of slowdown of summer and the beginnings of fall. I reminded her that, yes, I see similar signs, but by the almanac autumn is still three weeks away and by geography temperatures in our state may remain hot through September. We may have early autumn, and if we do, both she and I will be happy.
In the north border. As I weeded the border at the north side of the house, I realized that hostas are not doing well. I did not plant them, but where they are planted is not appropriate for them. There is too much sun. I made a hosta rescue. As I dug up the large one, I was surprised at how deep the roots were and how thick were the lateral roots. I planted it in a large clay pot that I had bought just this week and moved it under the shade of a pecan and a walnut tree in the back yard. Two smaller one were easier to rescue, and I put them into separate smaller pots and placed them with the large pot under the trees. The weather, cooler than normal and not humid, has ben conducive to being outside and doing yard work. Physostegia marks a transition between the west border and the north border, and it is in full bloom. They attract butterflies and big black bumblebees (“The Buccaneer of Buzz”),, and life is busy around their beauty.
Listening. Mendelssohn, Symphony No. 1, c minor, Op. 11 (1824). For a while now I plan to listen to works of Mendelssohn. Before this week, I did not know the first symphony. I listened and watched several times to the performance of the Orquestra Sinfonico do Estado de Sao Paulo, Brazil, conducted by Nathalie Stuttzmann on YouTube. If you have thirty minutes to spare, the time watching and listening will be well-spent. On YouTube, we have the best seats in the house, for we go inside the orchestra for close-ups of instrumentalists and sections.
The symphony begins with a fury in a flurry of sound. The effect continues throughout the four movements. In each movement there is a lyrical, calm space, but the calmness is often underscored by energy, sometimes in the pizzicato of strings, and that section is introduced or ended by the flurry of energetic force. In the lovely second movement, the theme and its variations are alternated between woodwinds and strings. They come together in the final pulsation of energy. The third movement, marked as a minuet, is in a fast tempo, and the trio is much quieter and provides lyrical contrast. The final movements I marked “con fuoco,” and the conductor pulls out all the stops in this last burst of energy. There is a sudden stop and then a flurry-fury of a finale marked by a definite cessation of sound.
The symphony is a timpanist’s joy. Timpani play big roles in each movement, especially in the third and fourth movements.
I love pieces in minor keys which express energy and joy. This is a good symphony.
Conductor Stuttzmann’s conducting is energetic and shows knowledge of the work and obvious enthusiasm for the piece.
This is some of the things that have been going on with me this week. Thank you for reading.