Monday, March 30, 2009

March 28

On March 28th, I dragged my kayak out of the barn, hoisted it onto my little red car, and headed to the lake.

Most of the lake was moist. You know, wet.
But small, inconsequential strips of it were....

-um. well, ice.
It looked like warm ice, though. Not frigid in any sense of the word.

These geese are back from their southern condos, and this warm, slushy, inconsequential ice didn't seem to ruffle their feathers.

Why should it ruffle mine?

By the way, that is a BARE FOOT resting upon a KAYAK in 62 degree afternoon sun on a MOSTLY LIQUID LAKE in Northern New York.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

thoughts of planting

Spring brings with it thoughts of planting.

-On my mud room window sill are two containers of grape hyacinths. Their green fronds lean companionably toward the afternoon sun, a leaning with which I empathize. I turn the pots every few days to correct their growth. I peek through their tender greenness with the hopes of seeing the beginnings of purple buds. Every time I look at them, I am treated with a surge of hope.

-Last week's sermon can be found online. Its message of of the laws of sowing & reaping has stayed with me, bolstering my weekly voyage of this thing we call life. Everywhere, I saw the seed in my hand, the plowed soil, the tiny seedlings of good choices. The tiny seedlings of bad choices. The waving heads of consequences, ripe for harvest.
Oh, for His mercy to shorten the harvest of unwise plantings! Oh, for His grace to handle the rich bounty of good harvest!

-The cement floor is cracked and heaving. The metal shelving is rusted and sagging. The air is damp, musty, and cold. I was standing in my excuse for a greenhouse, industrial garbage bag in hand, wondering if my "big-thinks" about its usefulness were worth the thinking.
"Will anything ever grow here?" I said aloud to the empty stalls of the attached barn. Decade-old hay moldered in the dark corners and breathed out a huff of resignation.
My cell phone rang, jarring me into the present. The dear voice on the other end had things to say. Harvest things. Reaping, piling into bushels, overflowing onto the threshing floor things. Green, growing, flourishing things. Miraculous, Lazarus-inspired things that swept my crestfallen heart clean.

-The jury is still out with whether I have a garden this summer or not. But you can bet your last copper coin that I will be planting, sowing, and reaping anyway.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

about me

-I was rushing up the stairs at Crane on my way to a rehearsal, when I noticed that I was wearing one black shoe and one brown shoe. I laughed at myself so hard that I was totally out of breath when I reached the piano bench.

-I have three purses by the door. Odds are good that I will grab the wrong one and arrive at my destination with 5 crinkled kleenex, nail clippers, and a dried-up lipstick. No wallet. No checkbook. No make-up. No writing utensil except for a dried-up lipstick.

-Because my car is continually cluttered with empty juice bottle and such, I relegated my coffee to a lower cup-holder by my elbow. Please be warned that a cup of coffee near your elbow (and hence near the sleeve of your absorbent coat) is not a good design-idea.

-One would think from these last three goofs that:
a. I lead a hectic life
b. I am a career-minded girl (three purses, make-up issues, rehearsals, and such)
c. I need to clean my car.

-but only the last point is a valid one.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

advice from this side of forty

This advice is free. Really, I refuse all payment.
But if you insist on thanking me for doling out wisdom born of my many years, chocolate is an acceptable form of currency. Thank you.*

-don't ever count up your good deeds. The momentary thrill you may experience at the results will send you crashing when you analyze your motives.

-even if you are allergic to dogs and cats, be kind to them anyway. Anyway, the sooner you pay attention to them, the sooner they will leave you alone.

-it costs nothing to be kind to your fellow human beings. (And no one can say they are allergic to their neighbor.) So be kind often.

-it costs nothing to be thankful, either. Be thankful inwardly and outwardly. Be thankful inside-outwardly, if there is such a thing. God loves a thankful heart!

-give people a break. Life can be hard and we don't know what they are dealing with. Rude and inconsiderate people need a break most of all. And sometimes we are that kind of person.

-love people, not things. This one takes a lot of maintenance. (regularly ask yourself: "is this a person or a thing?" and then: "do I love it?")

-read the Bible even if you feel like you aren't getting its benefits. Feeling don't count in this case, as they don't in many other cases. The truth is, no one ever "feels" like taking vitamins. In my case, I never "feel" like exercising. BUT I DO IT ANYWAY because I know it is very, very good for me.

-remember the message of the Gospel every day. Meditate on the Cross. Its goodness will never grow old.

*milk chocolate. almonds go well with that.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the map room

While researching deeds at the county courthouse, we ended up in the cellar. There, we found a room full of old maps.
Old maps come in all different sizes. Here, they are wrapped around wooden dowels and stored in bins. Many of them are slip-covered in archival plastic and hung on a handy metal rack.

#1 Son busied himself by digging up treasures in this marvelous room, where card catalogues grace the shelves and the bins of yellowed and leathery maps stand along the walls.

When we found what we were looking for, it was fun.
When we didn't find anything we were looking for, it was still fun.

In the nineteenth century, certain lots of land were set aside for the promotion of the Gospel and for the education of the children.

I liked this.
Here, you can see Bridge Street and the bridge for which it is named. This map was dated 1820, I believe. It rarely sees the light of day. Actually, it never sees the light of day, being that it resides in the cellar of the Canton courthouse.

"Ben, please do not unfurl that map unless absolutely necessary. Only a few unfurlings remain before it crumbles away to papery dust."

He unfurled this one very, very carefully.

Bridge Street once again. Grist mill, sawmill, woolen mill, and river. Our old stone home had not been built quite yet. Its empty lot stands just above the "ee" of the word "street".

Timotheus the Unique explains some terminology to my students in the Deed Room.

Deciphering spidery old writing is an acquired art. But #1 Daughter is quite artistic, so off she goes.

We have been busy beavers these last few days. After all this information gets distilled, I will tell all.

Friday, March 13, 2009

the waiting room

He sat across from me in the doctor's waiting room this morning, a retired music professor in a loose-fitting sweat suit. Each Friday he arrives for physical therapy, the last step in a long and arduous recovery from a serious fall. As he eased into his chair, I introduced myself. He didn't know me, but being a violinist, he knows #1 Son. We have numerous connections, this being a small and friendly community, and we chatted in a friendly way about music, the college, and the coming of spring.

"So, how are you doing?" I inquired with genuine concern. Last year, I had heard of his misfortune and knew how grave his condition had been.

"Much, much better," he assured me as he stretched his arms gingerly to demonstrate his returning mobility. The doctors had told him that he may never play the violin again, and so far their diagnosis held true.

"I am only happy to be alive -even if I never play again." He drew in his breath and grew thoughtful.

"Something very difficult happened to me yesterday though," he continued. "A very close acquaintance of mine died." I immediately expressed my sympathy. Tears began to course down his face and his voice trembled.

"I have never asked a question like this in my life. But now I say to my wife, 'Why me?"

At first I thought he was asking why such bad and sad things happen. But as he continued to speak, I realized he meant the opposite. Why did this friend die -and others I know that have grown old along with me- but not me? Why have I been given this gift to stay alive?

This retired professor who I hardly knew was pouring his heart out to me, and it all happened in an instant. A moment ago, I was reading People magazine and now I am holding a stranger's heart in my hands. I adjusted my perspective, put my magazine aside, and leaned toward him in order not to miss a beat.

"I looked out the kitchen window this morning, "said this tender-hearted man, "and I noticed the blue sky. And the birds! The beginnings of green things, the sight of the sun in the sky....and I told my wife, 'I just know this will be an amazing year! I have my life back."

He drew a handkerchief from his pocket and swabbed his eyes and face. The magical moment of transparency was fast disappearing and I eased the awkward beat by touching his arm. My friend emerged from her therapy session and the receptionist called his name.

A shake of hands, a wish for good health, an assurance of prayer, and this surprisingly intimate exchange of words was behind me, leaving me somewhat breathless.

Every room can be a waiting room.

And as I wait there, I am reminded today to be ready to listen, to expect a meaningful exchange of words, to give the gift of caring. It costs so very little and enriches so very much.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

pizza frite

We do love our za* around here.

As #1 Daughter was "decorating" our za tonight with mixed cheeses, ham, pepperoni, and broccoli, I was wondering what to do with the small amount of dough leftover.

Aha. Pizza Frite!

It has been so long since I have made fried dough that my little darlings didn't know what it was. This injustice was quickly corrected. Within fifteen minutes (as long as it takes to heat a shallow pan of oil), we were stuffing scorchingly hot pieces of pizza frite into our mouths.

#1 Son breathed in some confectioner's sugar and choked a bit. But otherwise, our re-introduction to this glorious stuff went off without a hitch.

-except that NOW two pizzas are emerging from the oven, and we have over-indulged ourselves already in greasy and powdery dough.

*za: a bonafide nickname for pizza. also, a fabulously handy scrabble word.

Monday, March 09, 2009


Down the road apiece, there is a mom & pop store. It is a tiny storefront with the usual shingle hung out over the door, but something about it always gets a rise out of me. (We pass it often enough, although no one I know has EVER gone inside.) We drive down Main St. at the required 30 mph, we all read the sign, and then the conversation goes like this:

Me: That sign really bugs me. "Fe-Fee's". What's up with that?

Disinterested Fellow Occupant of the Car: You always say that."

Me: Well, how is it pronounced? FAY-Fee's? FEH-Fee's?

D.F.O.C.: Probably just FEE-FEE's.

Me: Then WHY is each syllable spelled differently?

D.F.O.C.: I don't know. Why does it matter?

Me: People should be more aware of their signs. Maybe it was a typo that never got fixed. Perhaps Fe-Fee is the name of the owner--and the owner doesn't know how to spell her OWN NAME. Perhaps it is of Asian origin. Not likely, though. Perhaps nobody really noticed that FE and FEE are pronounced the same, and therefore should be spelled the same.

D.F.O.C.: --perhaps you need to give it a rest.

Me: *sigh*. Yeah.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

my play-group

I shared a French press coffee with #1 Son today at our favorite coffee shop. He chatted easily with both of the owners ( older than him) and their toddler son (younger than him). I am glad that he has inherited this skill from Hubby and me.

Hubby's easy conversation can open up conversations like gangbusters. As for moi, I always have had a truckload of friends who are NOT my age. I mean, why limit the possibilities?

When we lived near Albany, one of my closest friends was a 75 year-old lady. I liked to pop in to her apartment and chat. We shared a lot of laughs together over the years. We celebrated our birthdays together, since they fell in the same week. We prayed a lot together, too.

Last week, Friend #88b stopped by with her clever and animated 7 year-old son. They were on their way back from his harp lesson. (this family has many singular qualities, not the least of which is harp lessons.) Anyway, this harp-playing angel presented me with a Lindor truffle (Raspberry Dark, I recall) which he purchased with his own money and on his own initiative. Because, and I quote: "Mrs. Hull is MY friend too, mommy."

When others ask me about this age-defying phenomena, I tell them my mantra:

All my friends are MY age.