Saturday, May 31, 2008

a boy falling out of the sky

We read this poem yesterday while we viewed the painting which inspired it:

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

--W.H. Auden

In tooling around the internet, I discovered a this: a poem about a poem about a painting!

According to Brueghel

when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

-William Carlos Williams

What always intrigues me is that the artists' handling of the subject (The Fall of Icarus, in this case) changes the meaning of the event entirely. It leaves me to wonder: How many miraculous things have taken place under my very nose, yet were unmarked by me!

Was I only opening a window, eating, or walking dully along--thinking I had somewhere to get to?

Friday, May 30, 2008

our beautiful kids

Jules (on her 18th birthday), Nanz, and Ana in the Nordberg's garden

A Study in Casual-Cool (Ben, Jon)

Christian Fellowship Academy Class Dinner 2008

Robert in Reflection

Last Wednesday evening was the Class Dinner for the home-schooled darlings. No, they don't get a prom or anything like that--just a nice dinner out for the 9th-12th graders.

(Don't feel sorry for these kids; they aren't missing out on a thing. Not a thing, I tell you.)

Tomorrow, the 10th-12 grades depart for the Class Trip to NYC. #1 Son will celebrate his birthday with his pals, pastors, and lucky chaperones. They will see "Stomp" and visit MoMA.
They will be goofy on the subway. They will chug plenty of Starbucks. They will sing in four-part harmony in public places for no reason.

We are so privileged to be surrounded by such quality people.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

our little town

We discovered a very cool website that is all about the history of Madrid, a quaint little town we love.

Why do we love this one-horse town?
We attend church there. Some of our favorite families live there. Hey, the Hometown Cafe is there! What more could one ask of a quaint little town? (Well, we could ask for a bridge over which to travel in order to GET there. But that might be construed as complaining.)

Presently, we own five houses, a large barn, and some very perfect waterfront property in Madrid. We are in the process of purchasing another property that boasts one very dilapidated house and one fabulous old barn. (Some people collect Precious Moments figurines. Or Depression Glass. We are kind of like those kind of people, except different.)

The big discovery on this website was The Map Room. We enthusiastically pored over the keys to these maps in order to discover who lived in our homes or what of businesses thrived there many years ago. A tin and stove shop! A grocery store! Maybe a harness shop or clothing store! We learned where the grist-mills and their man-made waterfalls once stood. The old maps tell us that there was once a Universalist Church and a Baptist Church in town. If studied carefully, maps can tell many stories.

As we paint, remodel, renovate, and just plain ol' mow the lawns there, we expect to learn a few more stories about a town we have come to love.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

bridge closed!

Today, the State Department of Transportation closed the bridge in Madrid. The projected opening of the new bridge is said to be in 2010! This is quite a dilemma for all who live and work in this little town, and also for those of us (over 400) who regularly attend church and church functions there.

I promise that I won't complain about the lengthy detour we need to take in order to reach our properties now, and you have my permission to hold me to it. I have eagerly proposed to traverse the river by canoe and kayak, just to avoid the extra drive! My family laughed at this, but in fair weather, I'll bet they will try to do the same. (How many power tools can fit in a canoe? Watch this space for the answer...)

The following information was of interest to me. Note how long it took to build the present bridge (three months) and also the cost ($17,000). Of course, in 1882, times were different. But they really knew how to move a project along, don't you think? Let's hope and pray that the construction crew can be inspired by their example, albeit over 125 old.

"The first bridge built in Madrid was of logs across the Grass River, on its present site, a few rods below the saw mill of Roberts & Clark in the winter of 1803-4. This bridge has been renewed twice since and at various times repaired. In the years of 1880 and 1881 the people of Madrid discussed the bridge question very thoroughly as to the propriety of building a new bridge in place of the old one, either of wood, iron or of stone. At a special town meeting held in April, 1882, the question was settled to build of stone, when a committee consisting of H. C. West, W. O. Sweet and Ralph Aitchison was appointed to act with the highway commissioners, M. A. Gilbert and John A. Meeker. The plan and specifications were procured of Hinds & Hodgkins of Watertown, N. Y., and the contract to build of stone work given to M. L. & M. A. Cleveland of the same place. The contract for the iron railing was awarded to Gates Curtis of Ogdensburg. The stone was raised in a quarry at the end of the dam. The piers rest on the solid rock in- the bed of the stream, six feet wide and twenty-six feet long. There are nine arches, one thirty-two, one thirty-six, and seven thirtyeight feet span, making the length of the bridge about 400 feet. The arches are about one-third of a circle, which leaves a space under the center of about fifteen feet. The west end is a trifle over twenty feet high and the east eighteen feet.

The bridge was commenced on Monday, August 23, 1882, and the work continued without delay or any serious accident, and was completed in the short space of three months. The cost of the structure, including grading, etc, was nearly $17,000. The event of its completion was celebrated by the tax payers and their families with music, speeches, and an elegant dinner served in the town hall."

The townspeople of Madrid were very proud of their beautiful stone bridge! By the time this new bridge is completed, I am sure that music, speeches, and an elegant dinner can be arranged!

Monday, May 26, 2008

headlines from a small town

-For those who like to keep track, Friend #37 moved out last week. Around the same time, Friend #12 moved back in. Presently, Friend #7 still lives here, but her belongings are mostly in boxes. She is in a state known as "flux", I guess.

-My favorite family helped Friend #32 move to an interim apartment yesterday, as she sold her log cabin and isn't moving to Texas until August. Until then, she resides in a pink house. She treated this aforementioned favorite family to Sergi's pizza as a thank-you, generously including me and Friend #12, even though we didn't do any work. I love Sergi's pizza. And I love Friend #32, by the way.

-We are purchasing yet another property in Madrid. I'll tell more as the details are firmed up!

-#1 Son has his bedroom all to himself now. He spent his free time last week re-arranging furniture and organizing his stuff. He raided the barn for a metal cabinet, spray-painted it jet-black, and labeled all the little drawers for electronic and computer parts. (I don't even know what most of the labels mean. It's like, is this a joke on me, or something???)

-The gardens have been planted except for the tomatoes. (I can put them in as soon I purchase some.) Here is the list: broccoli, cantalope, pumpkin, butternut squash, green beans, parsley, basil, swiss chard, beets, peas, cucumber, two kinds of peppers, spinach, and many kinds of lettuce. Raspberries galore. Plus a new cherry tree and a new apple tree. I hope to start another garden for asparagus and rhubarb. Does anyone have some I can steal?

-We are not doing anything special for Memorial Day, except for reading a few poems and speeches aloud after dinner. (The thunder and rain kept us from attending the local parade.) For our evening activity, we are making mounds of Monkey Cakes. This is an old family recipe which my grandmother taught me to make. #1 Daughter loves to make them, too. They are best eaten while still warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar. Heavens, they're tasty!

That's the news from here. Have a wonderful Memorial Day.
Over and out.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

rhubarb season

We only have a humble patch of rhubarb in our yard; just enough to tickle our taste-buds. This dessert is courtesy of #1 Daughter, who adores strawberry-rhubarb pie. She made it yesterday while we all stood around salivating. We were definitely hankering.

(By the way, one might hanker for a piece of rhubarb pie. But you never hear of anyone hankering for caviar or foie gras.)

Some culinary snobs say rhubarb is "peasant-food". I'm fine with that.
The more for us.

thinking hard

I'm here, still believing.

The word "still" could mean "continually". In this case, it does mean that. But it also means "quiet, without movement". "A cessation of bustlement." (You've got to admire that made-up word! It's a doozie.)

I have been thinking hard about believing in the One He has sent and what it exactly means; how it "fleshes out" in my everyday walk. All this thinking has had the opposite effect of making me speed up and do things (which is my usual human response to fixing a spiritual issue). Rather, the contemplation has made me quiet. Even on my walks I stand still, suck in my lower lip (a bad habit, I know) and think so, so, very hard about whether or not I believe much.

After explaining my inner-workings to Friend #7, she said (and I quote): "You are one of the most believ-ee people I know."

I hardly scolded her for the made-up word (I don't know where she gets that from), as her opinion of me was quite comforting. I don't know, though. What she sees is a very cleaned-up outside. Like a front yard readied for a party. Or someone emerging from a salon with a perfect hair-do. (No one says "hair-do" these days. For the record, I say also say "pocketbook".)

Here I am, thinking about the act believing in Jesus and how very difficult it is to pin down or quantify. Or even write about. All I really know is that I want to do the work He has for me, and if that means believing in the One He has sent, I want to be about it like gangbusters.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


A day that unfolds slowly, like a feathery morning glory, is a rare treat.

Bacon sizzles and snaps on the back burner. All others are a-bed except for myself and Hubby. He had an early appointment this morning and slipped out without anyone's notice. Creeping around the kitchen is me, myself,and I--doing a little of this and a bit of that, planning menus and looking hopefully through the kitchen window for a sliver of sunshine.

I like mornings that start this way. Although the weather promises naught but chill, overcast, and damp, a new face will grace our table this morning-courtesy of Friend #7- and a riveting book awaits us for our read-aloud. In addition, my recent Bible-reading has given me much to ponder. The act of pondering is one layer beneath all that is on my plate today, and I like that, too.

Sunday's sermons are so rich around these here parts that I can chew on them all week long. Take this last week's message, for example. The text was unusually hefty: the entire 6th chapter of John. I have read and re-read it, thought and re-thought it all week long, with one revelatory passage resounding like a bell in my psyche:

28 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"

29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent."

As God's children, we should ache to do His will. After all, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" has been incorporated into our spiritual DNA. We train our ears to hear His voice; we exercise our tongues to speak His words. We strive to mold our earthly bodies into finely-tuned instruments, ready to do His bidding. We gladly accept His help to do so, for without it, we are sawdust yearning to be the Taj Mahal.

But in the center of this delightful mix, sometimes I forget to actively believe. And this is why my soul screeches to a halt when reminded what the center of His work actually is.
Believing in the One,
the One he has sent.

I don't have a plan for how I am going to believe more, I only know that if I attempt it, He will help me. Out the door I venture for a long walk, armed with a short prayer which is a favorite of mine:
"Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24b)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

whiffs of youth

Here is a lesson for today: Life is Full of Smells. And some are better than others.

The featured Smell D'Jour is Newborn Baby Head, a marked improvement over the menu of smells around home lately. One at a time, I cradled these week-old papooses, their dewy faces fresh from mother's breast, and thoroughly smelled their sweet heads.

(Oh, perfectly handsome little men. Will you ever comprehend how much your mommy and daddy love you?)

The demands of life press in every day, time rushes on like an engorged spring river which roars and froths like a lion, and I have groceries to purchase and dinner to prepare. But I am ready for anything, now that I have infused myself with a double-dose of Newborn Baby Head, compliments of Gabriel and Addison Daniels and their proud mom & dad.

Monday, May 19, 2008

this just stinks

One might think there aren't many lessons to be learned from the dead animal in our wall.

After all, we already knew to throw open the sashes on a breezy spring day. And how to place scented candles around the house. We knew all about the lovely scent of lilacs when they are displayed in vases. We knew all there was to know about baking a cake to make the kitchen smell delicious for company. I'll admit that apologizing to company when they come through the door with twitching noses is a new trick in my book. (This particular kind of twitch is the kind you see around latrines, garbage pits, questionable meat, and rotten eggs.)

Unceremoniously and without much ado, a small animal crawled into the far reaches of our wall or foundation and had the audacity to die.

All the trouble this animal may have caused while it was alive doesn't begin to compare with the aftermath of its demise. We have been observing small and meaningful rituals of remembrance since last Thursday when news of this tragedy reached us --when we caught drift of it, rather. Rituals such as bending low over scented candles and fresh flowers. Dashing outside for gulps of fresh air. Giving stern warnings to family members with weak stomachs not to linger over breakfast. Doling out advice for stifling the gag reflex. And so on.

Brave-Heart Hubby has twice valiantly explored the subterranean of our kitchen floor ( it is a root cellar) but without any fresh discoveries. This is an old house; I'm sure it's a veritable catacomb down there. He reluctantly declared we just have to stick it out.

I don't think we can do this for much longer.

Back to lessons we can learn, I can't think of any. Can you?

Friday, May 16, 2008

i scream, you scream

Tonight, we celebrate with ice cream.

Five flavors, to be exact. Along with whipped cream, pecans, caramel sauce, hot fudge sauce, and other such stuff.

There can be many ways to whoop it up and many more reasons to do so in our lives, but tonight is all hers. Today, Friend #12 arrived home from her fantastic 6-month journey to the Midwest. And to say we are proud of her doesn't begin to express our ecstatic joy. Indeed, words fall short of conveying our happiness.

Welcome home, Dear Girl!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

not a photo blog

I planted some perennials for my mom today. It was her birthday!

We shopped for flowers at her local nursery. We admired the blooms, but went for the vegetable packs.
-a ruffled petunia, I believe.

Happy Birthday, Grandma Janet! (That's what my kids say.) I would publish the pic of her blowing out the candles, but.
Well, let's just say she looks a bit crazed.

This lady? She is tired from perusing the mad exhibits at the Met. Sinking gratefully onto a marble bench, she lets her arm dangle at her side so the heavy weight of her purse trails on the ground.
To complete the effect, laurel leaves are draped over everything .

On Tuesday, I was somewhat like her. Except for the laurel leaves.

Up on the rooftop, there is a large shiny dog.
And I ask you.
Why not?
The NYC skyline from the roof of the Metropolitan Museum.

Although it has been Download City around here, I promise not to turn this into a photo-blog.
I am done being a lazy, lazy blogger. Literary offerings will be of utmost priority in the near future.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


On Monday, we visited the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

This boy was part of an exhibit. Well, so was everyone who ventured into this quirky lighting.

Yellow and Red. I hope you like Yellow and Red.....

I am not sure what the artist's statement was, but it surely effected our eyes.

This room had a powerful halogen light in the middle, surrounded by squares of glass which were blown slightly by a fan. It was like being in a rave for nursery school children: softly blinking and gently pastel.

See my flickr for more cool sights from MoMA!

Look at these dudes in front of The Late Show marquee.
Aren't they hip?

Friday, May 09, 2008

trip to NYC

How could I leave town without posting?
I'll tell you how.

take part in three classes on Friday morning
make dinner for Friday night
pack for a 5 day trip
lead worship at a conference

lead worship at the morning session
dash to Potsdam to play an audition at Crane
lead worship for the afternoon session
depart for NYC in the late afternoon.

Now you know how it is.

After we arrive home, I promise to share all.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

an hour in the garden

I worked in my garden today. It was partially satisfying.

10:14 am I don old sneakers and garden gloves; walk toward the garden.
I pull one, maybe two weeds.
The phone rings. It's for me and it involves coming inside to consult a calendar.
The sneakers and gloves come off.

10:25 am The sneakers and gloves go on.
I walk toward the garden and then remember I need scissors to cut some twine.
This time the sneakers stay on. (#1 Daughter has to wash the kitchen floor anyway.)

10:37 am The black flies find me. That's alright; I have to dash into the barn anyway to find a shovel.

10:39 am They found me again.

10:40 am A black fly gets lodged in my eye. I hate that.

10:42 am I go into the house to wash the black fly out of my eye. (sneakers, gloves: off)
After no success at the kitchen sink, I run upstairs (with one eye shut and dripping wet) to find a Q-tip.
After much maniacal swabbing, success.
sneakers, gloves: on.

10:48 am I pull six, maybe seven weeds.
I remember I have to email something.
sneakers, gloves: off

10:58 am sneakers ---never, mind. You get the idea.
the black flies found me again. (actually, they were waiting for me.)
ha! I outsmart them with sunglasses. They can't get into my eyes now.
I run around the garden twice (10x20 = 60 feetx2 = 120 feet total) to throw them off the scent anyway.

11:06 am I pull eight weeds and find three large spiders.
I am not afraid of regular spiders. Just large ones.
-and ones that crawl out of the dirt unexpectedly.

11:13 am In triumph, I extract at least a dozen stubborn, long-rooted weeds.
They look like carrots. Or wisdom-teeth gone wild.
They smell like dirt. I whack a spider to death with one.
I get dirt in my eye despite the sunglasses.
Christians should never swear or even think swear-words
or anything remotely like swear-words.

11:14 am The black flies have found the breech. They are now between the lenses of the sunglasses and my eyes.
I run around the garden once. (only 60 feet this time)
I flee.

(oh yeah. Sneakers, gloves: off.)

birthday marathon

We feted the birthday-guy last evening.

I didn't get any shots of the actual celebration. But after the gang went to the movies (at 9:30 pm), I captured these droopy lilacs surrounded by birthday accoutrements.

His requested menu was Chicken Parmesan. Cake with fresh strawberries was the chaser. We were all here except for Friend #37. In the flurry of throwing everything together, I forgot to mention it to him. Sorry, Friend #37. I'll make it up to him tonight when we warm up the leftovers.

Tomorrow is another birthday. #1 Daughter turns fifteen! There are other birthdays this month: Grandma Jean and Grandma Janet. A score of close friends were also born in the merry month of May. Talk about a bumper crop.

Good thing we all like cake.

Monday, May 05, 2008

recalling my riches

the riches of any given day
this day, for example:

-listening to the story of Joseph's dreams, his ornamented robe,
the fierce love of his father.

-laughing at the wit of Sherlock Holmes

-letting the whipping wind part my hair every which way
while I drive to the grocery store.

-lifting chunks of thatched grass from my garden
while field sparrows dip and dive over my head.

-looking on as #1 daughter rolls out tortillas.

-licking my fingers after snitching some cake.
(lemon-topped with whipped cream frosting.)

-leaving a theater audition to dash off to a concert hall,
all for the love of music.

-learning how audaciously loud some of my young friends are at the dinner table.

the riches of any given day
are mine to hold
for as long as I like.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

dinner on the porch

You know you want to.
-join us for dinner, that is.

The first Dinner-on-the Porch will be served promptly at 6:30 p.m.
The entire fam will be present, including Friend #7 and Friend #37.

Le Menu de Jour: Roast Chicken, Broccoli and Roasted Red Pepper Salad, Rice, and Iced Tea.
The View: our recently remodeled orchard (two new additions today), greening meadows, and faded barns.
The Conversation: unpredictable
The Post-Dinner Entertainment: Free Concert featuring the Durufle Requiem with the Crane Chorus and Orchestra.

Sorry we didn't invite you in time enough for you to come.
But we will graciously make a place for you if you come at nine p.m. with cake.

Oh, and whipped cream too.

Friday, May 02, 2008

true story

One dozen peat-pots of Blue Beauty Morning Glory adorn our porch table. In a few weeks, I will place them along the stone foundation and provide string for their climb to heaven. Up you go, tendrils!
May you blossom profusely until Jack Frost stings you in September.

To the naked eye, nothing is going on here. But we never count the opinions of naked eyes.

This is the evidence my family demands. This proves I have not lingered on the couch with a book and a box of chocolates all morning. Actually, I could've rigged this scenario.

But I didn't.

I enter this this mound of tangly weeds as evidence of my industriousness, also.

Out in the garden, Little Marvel Peas went underground today, approximately 3 inches deep into freshly turned soil. If the rain holds off, Buttercrunch Lettuce and Long-Stemmed Bloomsdale Spinach will be emptied from their envelopes, too.

This gray and overcast day will not dampen my spirits. After all, I AM PLANTING THINGS.
And one who plants is a very optimistic person.

True story.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

a small gift from me to you

"Now, Choose Your Coach!"
"Riding to the Ball in Style"
"My House of Wood", "A Fine Stack of Hay", "No More Huffing and Puffing"

For the enjoyment and enrichment of all you perusers of this here blog, I bring you these charming illustrations. I discovered them in a children's book which jumped up from the floor in #1 Son's room, straight into my hot little hands. Along with my camera.

No, really.

I think the owner of this book will not mind.
Although the text is in Chinese, I'll bet you can tell which tale is which!

I am inspired by all kinds of artwork, aren't you?