Thursday, November 30, 2006


the soft breathing of the audience
the acoustically enhanced cough from the balcony
coats, scarves, gloves being draped over the backs of seats
the golden filtered light of the hall
the oak floor of the stage
soaring ceilings
the love of art
the tuxedoed men
the elegantly coiffed women
the shine of polished wood and arched bow
the sound of concert A followed by E, D, G, and C
the crisp entrance of the soloist
the adjusting of the piano bench......

Tonight: The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Jeremy Denk, pianist.
Oh yeah.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

little things

Things that brought me happiness in the last 24 hours:

-eight pounds of apples for 2 bucks. I snapped them up yesterday afternoon and #1 Daughter and I made two huge apple-cranberry crumb pies. That's a dollar per pie.

-more balmy weather. I dragged pile after pile of wet leaves into the back fields, leaving swaths of green lawn for my viewing pleasure. I only need to tidy the garden to be ready for winter.

-having Hubby join us for reading aloud. We are reading "Hittite Warrior": historical fiction from around the time of the Book of Judges.

-a flute rehearsal with a cool piano part.

-a late-night talk replete with candlelight and large pillows for lounging. Oh, and a box of kleenex.

So, what's your bliss?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

the last best word

I like what Philip Yancey has to say about grace:

"As a writer, I play with words all day long. I toy with them, listen for their overtones, crack them open, and try to stuff my thoughts inside. I've found that words tend to spoil over the years, like old meat. Their meaning rots away. Consider the word"charity," for instance. When King James translators contemplated the highest form of love they settled on the word "charity" to convey it. Nowadays we hear the scornful protest,"I don't want your charity!"
Perhaps I keep circling back to grace because it is one grand theological word that has not spoiled. I call it "the last best word" because every English usage I find retains some of the glory of the original. Like a vast aquifer, the word underlines our proud civilization, reminding us that the good things come not from our own efforts, rather by the grace of God. Even now, despite our secular drift, taproots still strech toward grace listen how we use the word.
Many people "say grace" before meals, acknowledging daily bread as a gift from God. We are grateful for someone's kindness, gratified by good news, congratulated when successful, gracious in hosting friends. When a person's service pleases us, we leave a gratuity. In each of these uses I hear a pang of childlike delight in the undeserved.
A composer of music may add grace notes to the score. Though not essential to the melody- they are gratuitous- these notes add a flourish whose presence would be missed. When I first attempt a piano sonata by Beethoven or Schubert I play it through a few times without the grace notes. The sonata carries along, but oh what a difference it makes when I am able to add in the grace notes, which season the piece like savory spices."

Yancey expounds further, and I am tempted to continue quoting him! But he wrote the book (What's So Amazing About Grace?) so I wouldn't have to. Now that I've whet your whistle, you can go to the source yourself.
Grace is amazing in myriads of ways. My name (Nancy) means full of grace. How I like that! I have wriggled a dallop of grace into my email address (nkh.grace) also, just as a reminder. Now that it has been pointed out to me, I can remember His grace in everyday conversation. Or when I play Beethoven or Schubert. Or when I leave a tip.

Monday, November 27, 2006

the road to a friend's house is never long...

-but the road home can be intolerable.
You know you are travel-weary when:

-you snack on anything, just because your mouth is bored.
-you read signs aloud.
-you want to call a rest-stop "home." Hot water, vending machines, and disposable toothbrushes are in abundance. What else does anyone need?
-you shout for joy when you see a sign for "Bridge to U.S.A." It's not the bridge you want, it's still far from home, but at least you can be reasonably sure that you aren't trapped in an alternative universe.
-you recycle the previous day's (week's, month's) jokes and puns. The whole family does this until #1 Son does his sign-language rendition of #1 Daughter beating a conversation to death.
-you continue to read maps in the dark. you read People magazine even though you don't like People magazine. you read candy wrappers. you read seat-belt advice on the visor. you memorize it against your will.
-every Christian song that comes over the air waves is trite, repetitive, and invasive to your sanity. (Oh wait. I feel that way on short trips...)
-while unloading the truck at midnight, you relish the homey smell of horse manure wafting from the barns. What a welcome home!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

pot-pie yearnings

The number of mouths to feed in proportion to the size of the turkey resulted in a meager amount of leftover meat. This meant no turkey pot-pie this year. But in order to prevent rioting, I will attempt to publish a recipe. Beware: my method is a far cry from exact.

3 cups cooked turkey, chopped
2 cups leftover gravy
1 cup celery, sliced
1 cup carrot, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
any other leftover veggies (brussel sprouts, broccoli, creamed onions, what have you)
1/2 cup butter
a few tablespoons of flour
salt & pepper to taste

sautee the fresh veggies in the butter until soft. Add the flour and toss all thoroughly. Add the gravy and heat until thickened. Adjust the liquids(add water) and thickeners to achieve a nice gravy. We like lots of "sauce" in our pie. Add the turkey.
Place all into a pie shells or deep casserole. If pie shell: top with pastry, slit, and bake as you would any pie. If casserole: roll out your pie dough thickly (I like to add a bit of baking powder like you would bisquits) and place on top. You can even cut out "bisquits" and arrange on top, if you prefer. Bake until bubbly. (For presentation, you can brush with egg white and sprinkle with parsley and paprika before baking.)

This can be made with leftover chicken or beef, also. Hands down, a crowd pleaser every time!

Friday, November 24, 2006

a cornucopia of characters

Here is a taste of the flavors of friends with whom we are sharing one (1) bathroom this holiday:

1. Friend #01: brother of Friend #5a and a lifelong friend. I also call him "Timotheus the Unique" as he is unduplicatible. He traveled from Birmingham, England to join us here. (Actually, he came for a seminar in D.C. and tacked us on at the end of his itinerary.) He is studying ancient biblical manuscripts in England. Anyway, his recent experiences in merrie olde England have inspired us to explore a trip there next summer.

2. Friends #5a and #5b: priceless people who are sold out to the Gospel. They are the parents of eight lovely and lively children, ages 2 to 20. Friend #5a is a doctoral candidate at Trinity Theological Seminary, yet his studies do not prevent him from washing windows to put food on the table. He also belts out an excellent Handel aria, as demonstrated last evening.

3. Friend #7: a dear face from home, but a sojourner from Tennessee for the time being. I stole her away from everyone else today and bustled her to the Chicago Institute of Art. We are kindred spirits, and held hands while standing awestruck before Van Gogh, Whistler, Cassatt, and other masters. We are home in Kenosha now, and she is creating some photographic art of her own at the lake shore. The subject? The photogenic Brown family.

4. Jason: He doesn't have a number, but he deserves one. He rocked with his guitar last evening in the living room by singing a song he wrote for Friend #7. I enjoyed visiting with him here, although I wished he had brought his Lucky Charms shirt. Jason is a trend-setter and the inspiration for young men to wear ties over their t-shirts. In church.

There are 19 of us here. Did I mention that we all share one (1) bathroom?

Kenosha notes

Our North Country caravan arrived in time for a late evening meal: savory bowls of beef stew, which we consumed while surrounded by beloved faces. Thanksgiving Day held much promise, and in between food-prep and animated conversation, Friend #12 and I strolled to the edge of Lake Michigan to take in the still-green lawns and the friendly rumble of waves on sand. Dear Hubby led the young men into the park to scrimmage with a pigskin, but the game ended when he dove too enthusiastically for a touchdown. Diagnosis: separated shoulder. Ouch. We spent the afternoon in the Kenosha ER, discovering which kind of pain meds NOT to administer to dear Hubby. Extreme nausea and vertigo needed to flee before I could cart a shaky (yet handsome) guy home. He is resting comfortably this morning, arm in sling, in the leather armchair of Friend #5a.
Hubby and I eventually partook in our Thanksgiving meal, and it was even better than usual considering the period of near-starvation I endured beforehand. This, in the truest tradition of the Founding Fathers, made our celebration most traditional and memorable.
All the dear folk here send their love and greetings to all the dear folk in the North Country.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

words to remember

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, Many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

This is an account of the first Thanksgiving. Perhaps we will read it at the Thanksgiving table.
We may have to explain to some of the younger set that "we exercised our arms" has nothing to do with push-ups.
We are honored to travel to Wisconsin to give thanks alongside our dear friends the Browns. While the guys play a muddy game of touch football on Saturday, I may be able to post. If I am up to my elbows in pastry (leftover turkey makes a great pot-pie), I'll catch up when we arrive home.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Peter, Paul & Mary

Yes. The Peter, Paul & Mary concert was worth the drive. They have sung together for 46 years. That's gotta say something. They had more energy than I expected, considering each of them is approaching seventy years of age! Hearing them belt out their hits, each a time-capsule from my childhood, was magical.
The other magical experience of that evening was entering the Stanley Theater in downtown Utica. WOW. We strolled under the brightly lit marquee right into the Roaring Twenties: brocaded velvet curtains, plush art-deco carpet, royally curving staircases, and gilded sconces everywhere.
I would love to take in a movie there, just for the ambience.

This morning, reality greets me. I have 9 songs to record for a student. (First, I have to learn them.)#1 Son is presently helping me accomplish this. Next, I have a rehearsal with a professor. Then, a masterclass for which I don't have the music yet. I will pick that up in a few minutes when I arrive at Crane. Then, a performance with a student. Maybe writing this schedule down will help me keep my head on straight. I hope so.
My little darlings will have their heads in books all afternoon. Supper is thawing in the sink. Hubby is working hard. Friend #12 is student-teaching.

Now that I have my ducks in a row, I'm outta here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

storytime in heaven?

Most mornings, we take 20 minutes to read aloud from Arabian Nights, The Marvels and Wonders of The Thousand and One Nights. These ancient folk tales were first translated into English from the Persian tongue by Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-19890). They include tales of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and the adventures of Sinbad the Sailor, along with many other compelling legends. Even Sir Burton's biography is compelling! Check this guy out:

Sir Richard Francis Burton was a gifted linguist, daring explorer, prolific author and one of the most flamboyant celebrities of his day. Forced to leave Oxford for unruly behavior, he joined the British Army in India, where he gained a remarkable knowledge of Arabic, Hindustani, and Persian, eventually acquiring 29 languages and many dialects.
He led the famed expedition to discover the source of the Nile and, disguised as a Moslem, made a pilgrimage tp the then-forbidden city of Mecca and penetrated the sacred city of Harar in unexplored East Africa. Burton translated the unexpurged versions of many Oriental texts, including the Kama Sutra (1883) and Arabian Nights (1885-88), which is perhaps his most celebrated achievement.

This is the type of guy you want at your next dinner-party. (Although I must admit, I wouldn't envy the souls who tried teaching him at Oxford!) Just when one might think there are no adventures left to tell (after all, Star Wars and Indiana Jones have long been available on DVD), we learn anew that brilliant rascals like Sir Burton are there for our discovery and inspiration.
Because this blog claims to require thought, let's reflect upon the immensity of tales of courage and heroism there may be from the beginnings of time. Taken a step further, we can fairly assume that our brief lives here on earth don't allow us to know them all. My gut feeling leads me to the premise that many acts of bravery are only known to God.
Wouldn't it follow then, that in our spare time in heaven, we get to hear these great deeds? (I'm not intentionally thinking home-theatre with popcorn and ju-ju fruits. I'll leave the venue and its details up to the Supreme Director.) But the Hull Home-School Academy just wrapped up the reading of the story of Joseph, and I gotta say: our good God is one amazing story-teller.
Methinks that earth's tales of History-Makers and Destiny-Shapers are merely appetizers for what lies in store for us in eternity.

Kinda makes me want to accomplish something while I'm here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

many a mile

My favorite family is looking at some "road time" in the next week. We are not the first family to irritate each other on a long trip. I quote my favorite Old Testament character, Joseph : "Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, 'Don't quarrel on the way!'" (Genesis 45:24) Huh.
We kick off our experiment (enclosing five people in a metal carriage for hours at a pop, fortified by sheer determination to get there and also flat Mountain Dew) by driving to Watertown and then to Utica on Saturday. The Watertown detour will give us opportunity to exchange a few shopping items and also visit Grandma's for a home-cooked meal. We also come bearing gifts. #1 Daughter and I will be trimming 2 dozen mason jars with seasonal fabric and twine for an early Christmas delivery. These jars of sweet & sour stuff will wend their way to North Carolina and parts beyond for extended family's consumption.
Saturday evening brings us to a folk concert, followed by a drive to Syracuse to spend the night. Friend #22 and her family will be pulling out the stops to B&B us. (Well, okay. At least ferociously vacuuming up cat hair...) We thank them in advance.
We are looking forward to visiting their church on Sunday morning, dining out cheaply (we also thank the CEO of Subway), and hitting the road by mid-afternoon. This weekend jaunt is merely a warm-up for our 18 hour trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin for Thanksgiving.

So let's loosen those joints, Fam. And start identifying annoying habits (sniffing. twitching. singing off-key on purpose. turning the radio volume up. turning the radio volume down. looking at others. not looking at others. etc.) NOW in order to insure a happy. memorable. stress-free. journey.
Thank you.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

mercy me

mercy: (Webter's) 1. compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or another person in one's power; compassion, pity or benevolence. 5. that which gives evidence of divine favor; blessing.

mercy: (Vine's Expository Dictionary) ELEOS: the outward manisfestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it...Mercy is the act of God, peace is the resulting experience in the heart of man.

mercy: (Sunday School definition!) if grace is receiving what we do not deserve, than mercy is not receiving what we do deserve.

Here is a worthy statement: One cannot give out what one has not received. If I were a grace-grabber and mercy-monger only for my own benefit, the downspout from heaven would cease and desist. The more I practice the role of grace-giver and mercy-emitter, the more comes my way. Imagine the angels standing at the mouth of heaven's pipeline with a fresh truckload of grace and mercy: "Look out belowwwwwwwww...." Would they be in liquid form? Pellets? Or water from the well at God's footstool?
Ain't it grand to be a Christian?

Monday, November 13, 2006

one evening of fun (and please super-size me)


Our house was a noisy one last evening.
There were 17 gathered around three tables, eating, talking, rocking Jameson, telling of travels, and sometimes erupting in squeals of laughter. (this, from the table of teenage girls in the living room...) After dessert, two youngsters played Battleship. The girls lounged around in #1 Daughter's bedroom, probably discussing the Beatles and maybe horses.
As candles burned low, strings were tuned, a replacement for Julia's tin-whistle found, the accordian squeezed, ("Oh, I love that thing"-Merrick) a few impromptu performances were elicited from around the room, and eventually, the piano was rocked by dance tunes. (Yes, this is a crowd of diverse tastes. We don't look down our noses at any type of musical riff.) Furniture was moved and a dance floor declared in the living room. I declare, it was noisy.
Our Spanish visitors seemed to take it all in stride. At times I wonder what ideas our foreign guests take home in their pockets about Americans! After nervously inquiring about this, I learned that the main impression they have is how BIG everything is; from serving sizes to shopping centers.
When the Jews toast each other at their Passover meal, they chime, "Next year in Jerusalem!" As we embraced this dear Spanish family, we declared: "Next time in Spain!"

Is the world getting smaller, or is it just me?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

today's poem

Ordinary Life

This was a day when nothing happened
the children went off to school
without a murmur, remembering
their books, lunches, gloves.
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor.
And lunch blended into naptime,
I cleaned out the kitchen cupboards,
one of those jobs that never gets done,
than sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea,
and watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch's little scraps.
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow,
preened and flashed his jeweled head.
Now a chicken roasts in the pan,
and the children return,
the murmur of their stories dappling the air.
I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb.
We listen together for your wheels on the drive.
Grace before bread.
And at the table, actual conversation,
no pickering or pokes.
And then, the drift into homework. The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa's ridges and hills.
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss,
tasting of coffee and cream.
The chicken's diminished to skin & skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the cold hard knuckle of the year,
the day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
order themselves
into the winter night.

(Barbara Crooker)

I could have saved this poem for mid-February, when frozen branches rattle the air and the squeak of snow under our boots has long lost its charm. But I was afraid I would forget.
Anyway, anytime is the right time for a good poem.
These simple words seem to be the reflective answer the wife gives when her husband asks her about her day. "Nothing happened," she intones, but then displays rich description of beautiful moments. Playing blocks with the baby in patches of winter sun is a luxurious activity, and one I haven't indulged in recently. Spotting a pheasant in the yard is like money in the bank. Even a zen monk cannot beat ginger tea and a roasting chicken as far as meditative props go!
What does this poem say to me? That a "day of grace" is an unexpected gift, and can be found in the midst of hum-drum. Perhaps we miss them because we are distraced by greener grass, fireworks, a new dress, or a completed chore-list.

Take a moment and unwrap your present. (double-entendre intended....)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

open door policy

One of my greatest joys is opening up our home to others.
Last Sunday there were around fifty people here for a history presentation. Ten days ago we hosted a young Chinese pianist and her mother, and what a treat it was! We drank lots of tea and cooked Chinese food. Tonight we enjoyed the company of Grandma Jean during dinner. (We love the fact that she lives only a few miles down the road!) Tomorrow we have two friends coming for the evening. This Sunday brings an influx of Sinclairs and our Spanish friends.
Our guest room has seen an array of interesting faces. We have been B&B to weary travelers (en route somewhere else), relatives of friends, friends of relatives, visiting ministry, people from far away countries (Nepal and Africa, to name a few), and people from across town. Some visits are planned well in advance while others are very impromptu. Some visitors stay for a meal while others literally move in for a season. (yes, I mean you, Friends #7 and #12!) I am grateful to have a home that lends itself to these kinds of needs, along with a family that goes with the flow.
Is it "easy" to have a revolving door and a constant kettle on the back burner? No sirree. All types of service have their challenges. But would I have it any other way?

Not for all the tea in China.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Chez Nancy

brown 1.5 lb of ground beef, drain
simmer a heap of brown rice
sautee fresh mushrooms, sweet onion, garlic, and broccoli florets
whisk together a white sauce with butter, milk and cream
season with salt & pepper
combine all in a sunny yellow (greased) casserole dish
smother with shaved cheese
bake at 350 degrees later this afternoon.

serve with homemade bread (courtesy of the bread-maker)

This is classic "Hamburger Helper" without the added junk.
It also is the kind of stuff that sticks to my family's ribs and propels them to ask for seconds. With dinner-prep behind me, I am free to cart kids around town, coach an opera star, fill in at opera rehearsal, play an oboe recital, rehearse with a flutist, and come home late to a yummy dinner.
Some days ya just feel like super-mom...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Victor Borge

Just mention his name to any pianist and see the reaction you get. Victor Borge is the King of Musical Schtick, and his sit-down comedy (at a concert grand) is legendary. This gifted Danish pianist gave "concerts" up to a ripe old age and never lost his rapier wit. He was also in demand as a guest conductor for such bands as the New York Phil. Not a bad gig for a funny guy.
Here are a few samples of his tongue-in-cheek humor:

A Helpful Glossary
of Musical Borgefications

absolute pitch:
completely dark
accelerando: hurry up, the conductor skipped a page
adagio molto: a thick shake
al fine: all's well
assai: just as I told you
bagatelle: the lady speaks
canon: like a round, only louder
da capo: from the top, only make no mistakes this time
diminished fifth: bottoms up!
fagott: no, a bassoon
figured bass: female baritone
organ: a vital part of the musician
pizzicato: one with tomato, hold the cheese
recitative: a tune will be along any minute
unaccompanied: the orchestra is on strike

Saturday, November 04, 2006

finger fun

The semester began quietly, with nary a visit to Crane. Thoughts of rehearsals hardly ever drifted through my mind. Then it all came fast upon me: mid-term performances, opera rehearsals,
lessons, studio classes, and all the learning that goes along with them.

An uncrowded Saturday morning leaves me space to "attack the stack". (Sometimes I carry this stack around with me, as I did yesterday. I was able to hack through a few opera scenes between Friday School classes.) Today, I decipher French vocal music. To me, it's like having a deluxe box of crayons and a new coloring book. With French music, you are encouraged to color extravagantly and not stay in the lines.

The accompanist has all the fun, I say.
More fun: 8 pianists squeeze 16 hands on one keyboard. With only 88 keys and 80 fingers, it's a tight fit!

Friday, November 03, 2006

destiny-shapers and history-makers

Our friends from Malaga, Spain are in the North Country for a few whirlwind weeks. Although their "home-base" will be Madrid, NY, Paco, Dorina, and their two beautiful girls will be traveling to Virginia and Washington D.C. for some of their U.S. tour. But we caught up with them at Friday School today, will see them in church this Sunday, and will host them for dinner the following Sunday.
God uses mere people to accomplish big stuff on earth. He has been known to send storms, plagues, pillars of fire, floods, and even writing on a wall to get things done. And God may continue to do so, much to my delight. But the general rule is that He uses plain ol'e people (and not usually pedigreed high-falutin' types, either). Paco and his family are examples of this. A kinder, gentler man you'd be hard pressed to meet, but don't let outward appearances fool you. This guy is strategic. He means business and he's getting things done for the Kingdom.
When we traveled to Spain this spring, Hubby & I were privileged to hear our dear pastor share his heart at a conference, while surrounded by the rolling mountains of Toledo. The topic, chosen by Paco: homeschooling and generational building. Pastor Rick's words were not new to me, and they weren't mainly intended for my ears. Thirty eager Spanish parents and educators were sitting on the edge of their seats, thirsty for new vision. Yet I was re-fired for the monumental task at hand: raising and educating our children to be radically effective in the world.
There is a song my kids sing at rallies: "I wanna be a history-maker in this place...." We've gone way past just "getting them through high school" and out of the house. We are eons beyond shaping contributors to society, or training up pleasant and polite young adults. Our mission is to build a generation that shakes the world. And before anyone tosses the phrase "Mission Impossible" my way, let me tell you what I'm standing on:

"But He (Jesus) said, "The things impossible with men are possible with God." (Luke 18:27)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

of poems and pecan pie

I have been reading poetry in miniature snatches of redeemed time, akin to the way I eat pecan pie: one rich bite at a time consumed while washing piles of Thanksgiving Dinner dishes. Too much at once would be overload. I prefer to chew my pecan pie while thinking deep thoughts and holding a dish towel. It keeps me grounded.
Hands down, the best poetry there is? The Bible. Second to that is everything else. Okay, I'll admit I've been reading everything else this week.
Garrison Keillor's Good Poems for Hard Times is an anthology of 185 poems selected from NPR's Writer's Almanac, 179 of which I heartily recommend. You have to read them yourselves to determine which 6 left a bad taste in my mouth.
Here is an excerpt form Garrison's intro:

"People complain about the obscurity of poetry, especially if they're assigned to write about it, but actually poetry is rather straightforward compared to ordinary conversation with people you don't know well which tends to be jumpy repartee, crooked, coded, allusive to no effect, firmly repressed, locked up in irony, steadfastly refusing to share genuine experience -think of conversation at office parties or conversation between teenage children and parents, or between men, or between bitter spouses: rarely in ordinary conversation do people speak from the heart and mean what they say. How often in the past week did anyone offer you something from the heart? It's there in poetry. Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn't matter -
poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart. All that I wrote about it as a grad student I hereby recant and abjure -all that matters about poetry to me now is directness and clarity and truthfulness. All that is twittry and lit'ry: no thanks, pal. A person could perish of entertainment, especially comedy, so much of it casually nihilistic, hateful, glittering, and in the end clueless. People in nursing homes die watching late-night television, and if I were one of them, I'd be grateful when the darkness descends. Thank God if the pastor comes and offers a psalm and a prayer, and they can attain a glimmer of clarity at the end."

Honestly, the introduction alone is worth the price of this book. If you are hard up for cash (a situation not uncommon among poets themselves), you could borrow it from the Potsdam Library and then tack it onto your Christmas Wish List. Which is what I'm doing.
Keillor's insightful rant brought me the resolve to offer something from the heart more often. I aspire to reflect the quality of people I keep around, and the redeeemable stuff of which they are made.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


These are the headlines of my life. Today.

-a hamper of clean rumpled laundry still stands where I left it early this morning.

-a stack of difficult music beckons me from the top of the piano.

-colonies of dust-bunnies bustle in the corners when I dash past them. (My bible and nifty multi-colored markers are gathering a different kind of dust. I don't think you can attach an animal's name to it, though...

-a short trip to the meat market brings me into the back room to comfort someone about their tangled family situation. I had to put my listening ears on.

-complicated violin excercises demand to be untangled at the keyboard, while #1 Son stands squinting and listening.

-the definition of "Middle East" needs to be discussed.

-correcting a math lesson turns into a demonstration of sorts. This is a stretch for me, you betcha.

-a dear boy needs to be shuttled across town to help his dad on a roof.

-the phone rings and it's truly a dear person on the other end. Only I can't talk right now...

-a letter comes from an old friend who is facing extreme trials. Words of encouragement form in my head as I stack schoolbooks that need to be organized. (by me)

When I think of all the elderly folks in nursing homes that don't feel needed, I bow in thanksgiving. Not that I am indispensable (that could be mini-sermon!), but I am needed. Although "being needed" can get on my nerves at times, I am trying to change my perspective.
Instead of the soundtrack of Bob Wiley (What About Bob?) wringing his hands and whining incessantly,
"I need! I need! I neeeeeeeeed!"
I choose to ponder this:

"Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)