Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cedar

There is a type of cedar on my lawn. My dad planted it as a little shrub, but he does not like to prune or trim plants. He likes them to grow naturally. So here's what it looks like now.

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You can just see the roofline of the house on the left in the lower side of the picture.

On the side of the cedar that faces the deck, I cut it back enough to make room to walk and stand.



So, from this side, you can see into the network of branches.



Birds love it in there.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A couple things

Chopped the red-twig dogwood back summer before last. Now it has new growth, and you can see why it has its name.

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Swans flying overhead.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Roast this

On my way home today, I stopped at the drug store. While I was browsing, a Christmas song came on the loudspeaker. The Christmas song was "The Christmas Song," sometimes known as "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire." For me, the most familiar version is that by Nat King Cole, which I've embedded below.

But this was not the familiar version. It was a female singer who was putting her own mark on the song. For instance, she was not bound by the melody but felt free to improvise her own tune. And, whenever a slight increase in volume might be called for, she would bellow and belt the lyrics. Finally, she had that manner of singing high notes that you hear so much today from women pop singers: she would sing the note, then slide her voice down, as if to indicate that she could hit a high note but not sustain it, then up and down, up and down, like a roller coaster, until one was praying for the next syllable so that she could get off the vocal carnival ride. I don't know who she was, but I'm not a fan.

Palate cleanser:


Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent



From the Catholic Lectionary (I bolded what I liked best)

Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7:

You, LORD, are our father,
our redeemer you are named forever.

Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,
while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you
doing such deeds for those who wait for him.

Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!

Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful;
all of us have become like unclean people,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags;
we have all withered like leaves,
and our guilt carries us away like the wind.

There is none who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to cling to you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our guilt.
Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.


1 Corinthians 1:3-9:

Brothers and sisters:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mark 13:33-37:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

My thoughts: The day of Christ's return is not a scary threat, a day to be dreaded. In Isaiah, the prophet longs for the Lord to come suddenly, acknowledging that, if he did, he would not find his people doing right or being mindful of his ways. The prophet wants the Lord to manifest his power and majesty and in so doing to rescue his people from their sinful ways. Jesus tells his disciples (that's us) that God has given each of us work to do and we should be found doing it. It's like a surprise inspection in the military, or your boss coming back a day early from vacation, or your parents coming home earlier than they told you when they left you in charge. The apostle Paul praises the Corinthian church for their diligence in God's work and assures them that God will keep them faithful, so that when Christ returns they will not receive reproaches. Our very faithfulness is possible only as a gift from God. He is the potter, we are the clay, the work of his hands; he keeps us firm to the end.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

First snow

I heard the wind picking up last night, then at around 11:30 p.m. saw a traffic warning online for snowy driving conditions on the freeway not all that far from here. So I looked outside and, sure enough, snow.

This morning some was still there.



More than just snow--it was cold. The pond was frozen.



The northeast wind--a cruel blast from the Fraser Valley--blew all day.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Semper Fido

Knitting, cleaning, blogging, whatever, I have a faithful companion.

Purls of wisdom

Okay, after joking about it many times, I'm literally going to knit a ravell'd sleave, and this time I mean it. (Anybody want a peanut?)

Since about the age of 10, I've known the knit stitch. My grandma taught me to cast on and knit, and that's as far as I ever got. I never learned to purl. My one completed knitting project was a coaster. It was rather rectangular, too short one way for setting a glass on it, too long the other way. Such as it was, I gave it to my mom as a gift and who knows but that it is in a drawer or a box somewhere in the very house in which I now live.

Anyway. I asked my talented sister-in-law if she would teach me to purl. I've tried looking at drawings and videos, but I can't learn a three-dimensional craft from a two-dimensional instruction. She said she would, so I ordered some yarn and knitting needles off Amazon. I ordered cotton yarn because if I succeed in making a scarf, for instance, cotton won't make me itch like wool does. My sensitive skin--it's that delicate flower thing. (I recently read that Wagner needed to wear silk clothes because of his sensitive skin.) It was a large skein, which I wound into a gargantuan yarn ball, and yesterday after our Thanksgiving dinner, I learned to purl.



I cast 40 stitches onto a size 10 needle and knit a row, then purled a row. Knit a row, purl a row, and so I've been going on.



I've made noticeable mistakes, but I try to recover them on the next go-round and in any event just keep knitting.



One side.



And the other side. It is not inconceivable that I shall master this.

The day after

It's the day after Thanksgiving, a quiet day for myself. Yesterday was the time spent with dear family members, and I loved it. I have dedicated today to much-needed housework. Already I have filled the dishwasher and set it running. I have a portable dishwasher, if that's the correct term (it is on wheels, and if I moved out of this house I could take it with me), that renders the kitchen sink inaccessible while running because it has to be hooked up to the faucet.

The dishes were piled high in the kitchen. This happens not because I am averse to loading the dishwasher but because I am lazy about unloading it. After it runs, it tends to become the place I go for clean dishes, while dirty dishes pile up in the sink and on the counter. Today I am remedying that situation. I will have to empty this load out and run another one.

I also plan to do multiple loads of laundry. And clean out the fridge. Vacuum the floors. Put stuff away. Clean the bathroom.

But, of course, right now I'm taking a break. I stepped outside to take a picture recording that on this date one can see the creek from my deck, which means the water is high.

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See it? One can also see the sheds and buildings of the lumber yard on the other side of the creek. During the summer the trees' leaves hide them.

(I notice I'm saying "one" instead of "you." That's because I've been reading Mitford books.)

And so we have entered the holiday season and the journey into the heart of winter.

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No sitting outside drinking coffee in the sunshine on a Saturday morning for the next four or five months.

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The pond is full of rainwater and fallen leaves.



The vines among the leaves and frozen flowers are like tattered streamers after the party is over.

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St. Francis keeps a solitary vigil until spring.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oh the world!

I recently read a "biography" of Nancy Mitford that was composed mostly of excerpts from her letters. Her friend Harold Acton put it together not long after she died. Nancy Mitford is the author of the incomparably English novels The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate yet she lived from 1945 to her death in 1973 in France.

The two novels I mentioned are hilariously funny, yet poignant. Later, she turned to writing biographies, and I am now reading her life of Madame de Pompadour. What I've read by her has not shown much interest on her part in religion (although no antipathy toward it either), so I was interested to read in her letters, in the years of the illness that eventually took her life, the remark "The longer I live the more Christian I become—Christian civilisation with all its faults has been by far the best in historical times, do admit."

Sometimes she had so much pain from her illness that she longed to die, but when she had relief from the pain, she wanted to live. She said, "Oh the world! how much better off we shall all be in the next one. And yet one’s pretty house, the sunshine, the bird’s moving in for the winter, Hassan and his niceness and all one’s friends can’t but attach one to it." (Hassan kept house, cooked, and cared for her in her illness.) I relate to that because I often think that this world is so beautiful that I wish we didn't ultimately have to leave it, even for a better one, and what I like best are my yard, my deck, my neighborhood, my dog, my family. Simple pleasures are the best, as the baked beans commercial used to say.



I was a little disappointed that, in my Kindle edition of Madame de Pompadour, the introduction, by Amanda Foreman, had several mistakes concerning Nancy Mitford. After mentioning Nancy Mitford's father's aversion to sending his daughters to school, she says, "Nancy was only half-joking when she claimed that the one novel she had read in her life was White Fang." Nancy Mitford never said this about herself, it was a line she put in the mouth of her fictional character "Uncle Matthew" (a character based on her father, Lord Redesdale), who said it was such a good book he never had to read another one. A couple sentences later, Ms. Foreman states, "She achieved instant fame with her essay 'The English Aristocracy,' a witty analysis of class-based habits of speech, in which she coined the terms U and non-U, meaning 'upper-class' and 'the rest.'" In fact Nancy Mitford wrote that essay some time after her novels had become wildly popular. Then, "After the war, Nancy moved to France and lived in a charming house in Versailles." Actually, Nancy Mitford lived in Paris from 1945 through 1966 and moved to Versailles in 1967. All these facts are in the book to which Ms. Foreman is writing the foreword. All she had to do was read the book to get it right.

Amanda Foreman, by the way, is the author of a biography I've read and enjoyed, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. I trust her research in that work was of a higher caliber than this.