Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Sweet Old Hymn.

In general I do not like nineteenth century hymns.  Because I was brought up on them, however,  they often mine a feeling of truth from my soul.  I did not know “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” and I enjoyed knowing it.  Words are by Fanny Crosby (1868) and music by William Doane (1871).  I was not surprised to find many versions on YouTube, including one by Lyle Lovett.  Verse: “While on others thou art calling, / Do not pass me by.”  One stanza: “Thou the spring of all  my comfort, / More than life to me, / Whom have I on earth besides thee? / Whom in heaven but thee.”

I like the formal use, now quaint, of “whom.”  The blocked verse form and the traditional nineteenth century harmony make for an interesting, reminiscent experience.  We need Spirit to be with us for comfort.  “Abide with Me.”  “Kum By Yah.”

In Borders.  Creatures and Scents.  

Weeding the border in front of the front porch, I beheld a beautiful insect, all green.  Checking Google Images, I found that it may be a green stick insect.  It sat still, after climbing up the wall toward the porch, and as I worked, it slowly turned around and remained still as if it meant to walk back down.  Cutting dead flowers from the rue plant, I saw two beautiful swallowtail caterpillars.  I’ve seen such caterpillars there before in former late summers.

Working in the lavender, I encountered a strong, not bright, but musky lavender smell that stayed with me through my shower after work.  As I pulled up dead spearmint, I was treated to a bright spearmint smell.  Those plants finished strong!

Notes on Reading.  Fiction.  Diana Secker Tesdell,  Stories of the Sea.  Everyman’s Pocket Classics, 2010.

I bought the book last winter at a nautical gift shop in Beaufort, NC.  There are eighteen short stories by British and American authors, arranged in these thematic units:  Dangers of the Deep, Voyages of Discovery, Survival at Sea, and The Call of the Sea.

It was fun to re-read “The Fog Horn,” by Ray Bradbury; “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane; “Youth” by Joseph Conrad; “A Descent into the Maelstrom” by Edgar Allan Poe; and “John Marr” by Herman Melville.  I was introduced to the writings of authors Patricia Highsmith, Robert Olen Butler, and J.B. Ballard.  I was surprised–and glad–to see some surreal stories (Butler’s “Titanic Speaks Through Waterbed,” Ballad’s “Now Wakes the Sea,” Highsmith’s “One for the Islands.”)

I particularly enjoyed the last story of the book, Mark Helprin’s “Sail Shining in White.”  Its protagonist is my hero for his living well and planning to end his life with appreciation, dignity, and meaning.

The edition is a handsome cloth edition, with sewn-in ribbon bookmark.  Why do people want to read on electronic devices?  (I am glad you’re reading this blog.)

New Sounds.

Hollow-sound of Kick / Hollow-sound of Kick / Hollow-sound of Kick

Ping-ring-ng! Goes the chain link fence.

Hollow-sound of Kick / Hollow-sound of Kick / Hollow-sound of Kick

Ping-ring-ng! Goes the chain link fence.

Hollow-sound of Kick / Hollow-sound of Kick / Hollow-sound of Kick

Bounce / Thud!  Arrives the soccer ball in my back yard.

The neighbor’s son, in seventh grade, thus kicks a soccer ball in the late afternoons.  I find balls left behind in my back yard.  I do not toss them back.  Soon he comes for them.  And then the sounds again.

Notes on Reading.  Nonfiction.  Gil Garcia, A Walk Back Home: A Humorous Family Saga.  Middletown, DE, 2015.

This affectionately written and entertaining memoir consists of “small vignettes of family life. . . in the Florence District on the south side of Los Angeles” in the 1940s and early 1950s.  The reader enjoys reminiscences about family dynamics (quarreling brothers, loving and protective parents, younger daughters and the extended family) centered around daily life.  We experience memories of typical scenes and activities of the time:  Saturday afternoon movies, Christmas celebrations, Buster Brown shoes, hand-me downs, ice boxes and deliveries by ice men, playing outdoors all the time and becoming “filthy dirty,” fishmonger at the Catholic church on Fridays, a backyard theatrical performance of family and neighbors, setting out milk bottles for the milkman, talking with the junkman, school experiences, the rare treat of eating at a Chinese restaurant, raising chickens, wringer-washers, camping at a National Park with the family.  In the 1950’s, because of the presence of threatening gangs in the neighborhood, the family moves, and the author views the move as the end of an important era in his life.

There are memorable characters: the loving mother (“She could easily till a thousand acres with a shovel, her hands, and a smile”); the brave and protective father (who arms off a violent intruder in a neighbor’s house and a bear at Yosemite); the brawling brothers, who fight even during Mass as they are serving as altar boys; the Dutch priest, who smokes cigars and uses Bryl-Cream in his hair; the kind Italian elderly woman, Mrs. Lucia, who, not know the state of her goods, once offered the children treats swarming with ants.

At the end, Garcia exhorts the readers to remember and write their family memories so that they will be remembered.  Garcia succeeds in doing so , and our lives are made richer for his sharing.

Thank you for reading.  I hope your days are good.


About billwednesdayblog

Retired high school English and French teacher.
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1 Response to Wednesday, September 2, 2015

  1. Sally says:

    Want to Thank you for a lovely evening. Wonderful people and new friends.
    Pizza was great and company was interesting and varied.
    Loved the evening..
    Sally and Neil

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