Saturday, December 29, 2007

Gentle Jesus

Two posts down I have the fragment of Handel's Messiah that includes some of my favorite verses, because they deal with the qualities of Jesus that I most like to think about, his gentleness, his tenderness, his kindness. I am aware of my condition as a broken, sinful person in a broken, sinful world, and I'm so thankful that Jesus looks on me with those emotions.

Psalm 23 already gives us the image of our Lord as a shepherd, caring for and protecting us. Isaiah 40:11 says, "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." The Messiah music expresses this in its piercingly sweet melody.

Then, Jesus' own invitation from Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." What a relief that is from the demands and expectations of the world.

Another comforting remark in the Gospel is in Matthew 12:20, quoting Isaiah 42:3, "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out," which I take as an expression of mercy to weak, faulty people.

And I like Paul's exhortation to Christians in Philippians 4:9: "Let your gentleness be evident to all."

Five Golden Rings

In U.S. popular culture, the Christmas season starts the day after Thanksgiving and ends the day after Christmas. In the traditional liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, the four weeks prior to Christmas are not the Christmas season, they are Advent, a penitential, preparatory season. Christmas season begins on Christmas and lasts 12 days (yes, those 12 days) until January 6, which is Epiphany, and starts the Epiphany season. So right now, we can still be in the midst of Christmas if we want. In fact, by the old tradition we wouldn't even have brought out our Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve or Day.

I'm not Catholic, but I'm attracted to Catholic traditions. So I searched the web until I found out what other saints and events are celebrated during those 12 days of Christmas. I found a page that told me, and here is some of the knowledge I gained:

1st day: December 25 Christmas
2nd day: December 26 Stephen (when Good King Wenceslas looked out)
3rd day: December 27 John the Evangelist (one of the 12 apostles; wrote the Gospel of John and three epistles)
4th day: December 28 Holy Innocents (the boys 2 and under Herod had killed in Bethlehem)
5th day: December 29 Thomas Becket (Archbishop of Canterbury, killed by knights at the hint of Henry II of England)
6th day: December 30 Our Lady of Bethlehem, Egwin of Worcester
Sunday after Christmas: Holy Family (12/31 if Christmas is on Sunday)
7th day: December 31 Pope Sylvester I
8th day: January 1 Mary Mother of God, Circumcision of Jesus
9th day: January 2 Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzen
10th day: January 3 Most Holy Name of Jesus, Genevieve
11th day: January 4 Elizabeth Ann Seton
12th day: January 5 John Neumann

January 6 is Epiphany, the day Christ was first made manifest to the Gentiles, personified by the Wise Men, or Magi. The first Sunday after Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Jesus. Epiphany lasts until Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

As I write this, it is still only the 5th day of Christmas, so if anyone is feeling a post-Christmas letdown, turn your sparkly lights back on, put Christmas carols back on the CD player, and enjoy another week of Christmas.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Messiah Fragment

Below is a movie/music-with-pictures of one of my favorite portions of the Messiah. I put it together using Windows Movie Maker. It's based on Isaiah 11:11 and Matthew 11:28-29. I've put the words below.

G.F. Handel
“He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd”
Air for Alto

He shall feed His flock like a shepherd,
and He shall gather the lambs with his arm, with His arm,
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd,
and he shall gather the lambs with His arm, with his arm,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young,
and gently lead those that are with young.

Come unto Him, all ye that labour,
Come unto Him, ye that are heavy laden,
and He will give you rest.
Come unto Him, all ye that labour,
Come unto Him, ye that are heavy laden,
and He will give you rest.

Take His yoke upon you, and learn of him,
for He is meek and lowly of heart,
and ye shall find rest,
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Take His yoke upon you, and learn of him,
for He is meek and lowly of heart,
and ye shall find rest,
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas endeavors

Just for information, for those who've been wanting to know (I'm sure you know who you are), here's a picture of my Christmas tree:

I'll be heading to bed soon. I was up late last night if you can believe it because I made the "movie" last night of the pictures accompanying "Let All Mortal Flesh" in yesterday's post. I could not find a version I liked on youtube. One by Michael Talbot was close, but in the final verse he left out the references to the "six-winged seraph" and "cherubim with sleepless eyes," and just sang the final four lines twice.

The words are more important to me than the pictures. In previous Advent posts, I linked to youtube videos where the pictures were not hot, once to Mario Lanza's mug all through his rendition of "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and the other to a group of Belgians singing "Joy to the World" apparently in someone's home. I think the "Bethlehem" choice was either to get all the verses or to get the least melodramatic rendition. Sometimes when famous singers record Christmas carols, they think they have to assert their personality by singing the song as it's never been sung before. I, however, like to hear it as it's been sung before. The reason for the Belgians singing "Joy to the World" was because nearly all others left out the verse about "No more let sin and sorrow . . . . far as the curse is found." Maybe words like sin, sorrow, and curse are too much of a downer for pop singers to mention.

Anyway, I couldn't find a video with all the verses of "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," but eventually I found an mp3 that I liked. I didn't know how to upload just a sound file to blogspot, so I used Windows MovieMaker to match the song to pictures I found here and there on the web. What with browsing for pictures and then arranging the order and timing of them, it was suddenly the middle of the night while I was working on it. I kind of like the final product though, don't you?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2007
Christmas Day
The Christ Candle
John 1:1-5, 14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The fourth Sunday of Advent

December 23, 2007
The fourth Sunday of Advent
The Angels' Candle
Matthew 1:18-21

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

Mary's Boy Child/Oh, My Lord

Friday, December 21, 2007


It is winter solstice today. Christina Rossetti wrote a lovely poem for midwinter, which has been set to an equally lovely tune. First the poem, then a youtube video of a choir and congregation in Gloucester Cathedral, in England, singing it (though they omit the third verse). I wonder if Church of England services are really as beautfiul as they always seem on TV. Somehow I doubt it.

If you read the poem aloud before listening to the song, the short final line of each stanza has more impact, I think. (Don't you love the lines: "Snow had fallen, snow on snow / snow on snow"? That repetition, so perfect.)

A Christmas Carol
Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,--
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Since my surgery, my dad has been walking my dog. Yesterday, he referred to the dog as "Old Shep," which is not his name. That's because Dad had been remembering a song by that name, and he recited the first verse, like this:

When I was a boy and Old Shep was a pup,
O'er hills and meadows we'd stray.
Just a boy and his dog, we were both full of fun.
We grew up together that way.

Later I googled the first line. It turns out it's "lad" instead of "boy," but otherwise Dad remembered it well. Elvis recorded the song, too, but I figured the one Dad heard in the barn in the 1940s would be the one by Red Foley. Finally, I found a site where you can listen to Red Foley sing "Old Shep"; you have to click on the "Play" button for the song:

Red Foley sings "Old Shep"

Here are the words:

When I was a lad and old Shep was a pup,
O'er hills and meadows we'd stray.
Just a boy and his dog, we were both full of fun.
We grew up together that way.

I remember the time at the old swimming hole
When I would have drowned beyond doubt.
Shep was right there--to the rescue he came.
He jumped in and helped pull me out.

So the years rolled along, and at last he grew old.
His eye sight was fast growing dim.
Then one day the doctor looked at me and said,
"I can't do no more for him, Jim."

With a hand that was trembling, I picked up my gun.
I aimed it at Shep's faithful head.
I just couldn't do it, I wanted to run,
And I wished that they'd shoot me instead.

I went to his side, and I sat on the ground;
He laid his head on my knee.
I stroked the best pal that a man ever found.
I cried so I scarcely could see.

Old Sheppy, he knew he was going to go
For he reached out and licked at my hand.
He looked up at me just as much as to say,
We're parting but you understand.

Now old Shep is gone where the good doggies go,
And no more with old Shep will I roam.
But if dogs have a heaven, there's one thing I know:
Old Shep has a wonderful home.

My dad likes songs that tell a story, which is to say ballads. Reading about Timothy Steele the other day, and how in academic or artistic circles he was considered a radical for writing formal poetry (that is, using a form) instead of free verse reminded me of when I taught poetry to my homeschool students. I taught them about different traditional forms, too, such as sonnets and blank verse. One we learned was the ballad meter, which is alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and trimeter, four lines at a time, with the second and fourth lines rhyming (the first and third may rhyme, too, but not necessarily).

An iambic foot of poetry has two syllables, and the second one is stressed. The words tetrameter and trimeter refer to how many iambic feet per line: four and three. So a ballad meter should go:

da DAH da DAH da DAH da DAH
da DAH da DAH da DAH
da DAH da DAH da DAH da DAH
da DAH da DAH da DAH

"Old Shep" does pretty much fit the ballad meter. Sometimes there are extra syllables in the line, but the emphasis in a ballad is how many stresses per line (four and three) rather than how many syllables. Some extra unstressed syllables are okay. Here's the first stanza with the stresses capitalized and bolded:

when I was a LAD and old SHEP was a PUP
o'er HILLS and MEADows we'd STRAY
just a BOY and his DOG we were BOTH full of FUN
we GREW up toGETHer that WAY

I wonder if Red Foley knew about the ballad meter when he wrote "Old Shep," or if he just knew from having heard ballads while growing up what a ballad should sound like. Notice that the second and fourth lines rhyme, but not the first and third.

In searching online to refresh my memory about the ballad meter, I saw that it is also called the hymn meter, because many Protestant hymns use it too:

that SAVED a WRETCH like ME
i ONCE was LOST but NOW am FOUND
was BLIND but NOW i SEE

I think it's just a form that works so well for the English language that we use it without even analyzing it. Pretty neat.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Toward the Winter Solstice

I was looking out this morning, contemplating the somewhat dark outdoors. The sun did come out a little bit this afternoon, but in the morning it was dark. At this time of year, when the sky is overcast, and the sun comes up late, it can feel like twilight for much of the day, and night for the remainder.

First I remembered a little conversation I had with my dad once, some time ago. The previous night had been windy, and I said I had heard the wind while I was lying in bed at night and it sounded -- "cozy," supplied my dad. I had been going to say "spooky." I think it's an indicator, either of one's personality or state of mind, how the wind sounds to you at night in the dark.

Anyway, I was trying to think of some meaning to attach to the darkening days. This afternoon, I googled "dark winter poems." Of course, one of the ones to appear is Hardy's "The Darkling Thrush." I love that poem, but I don't totally identify with the protagonist, who sees his century (the Nineteenth) dying, and his world as kind of dried out and lifeless, at least in part because of his loss of faith. I haven't lost my faith, though I do sometimes have bleak moods that can make me empathize with Hardy, so I like the poem because I'm so glad the thrush gives the narrator some glimpse of hope to lighten his darkness.

"The Darkling Thrush" is a poem for two weeks or so from now. What's on my mind today is the approach of winter solstice. I'm looking forward to it because after that I can keep reminding myself that the days are growing longer. I saw a link to a poem by Thomas Campion called "Now Winter Nights Enlarge," which is precisely about the shortening days. His poem is one of those "love is folly" types. He talks about all the fun things to do at this season, light fires and candles, dance, sing, read poetry, and says "Though love and all his pleasures are but toys / They shorten tedious nights." That's a bit too cynical for me.

Then I tried one with a promising title, "Toward the Winter Solstice." The poet, Timothy Steele, was unknown to me. I don't know all that much about living poets. I only discover them by hearing of them somewhere. For instance, I became acquainted with the works of Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon (who is no longer living) by seeing and hearing Donald Hall in person at Calvin's Festival of Faith and Writing some time ago. Anyway, here is the poem:

Toward the Winter Solstice
Timothy Steele

Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the cord of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch’s crown;
A dowel into which I’ve screwed a hook
Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree’s elegant design.

Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.

Some say that L.A. doesn’t suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUVs.

And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.

Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It’s comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing’s lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.

It could be "my kindly agnostic neighbor's enjoyment of Christmas," unless it's more than that. I'd have to read more of his work to gauge where he's coming from. At any rate, I like the picture it draws of the California neighborhood and ambiance. I never lived in L.A., but I did live in San Jose for more than a dozen years, and I like the mood he creates. And L.A. probably is a lot more like the ancient Holy Land than we realize.

I followed more links to read about Timothy Steele, who writes poetry with form (hurrah) and teaches in Southern California. I'd like to get to know more about him and his writing and see if he is what Anne Shirley might call a kindred spirit.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gaudete Sunday

According to Catholic tradition, the third Sunday in Lent is Gaudete Sunday. Interestingly, the traditional season of Advent is penitential, like Lent, not like the "Christmas Season" of popular culture. However, Gaudete Sunday--gaudete means rejoice--is a break in the somber mood. To symbolize the penitential nature of Advent, the candles on an Advent wreath are purple, but the third, Gaudete, candle is rose-colored.

I did not know until I read an article about Gaudete Sunday in an online Catholic Encyclopedia that Lent also has a "break" Sunday, called Laetare Sunday. Seemingly, laetare also means rejoice. These two words, gaudete and laetare, deserve further study, but not this morning, as I'm recovering from surgery and have used up my blogging energy for the day.

The third Sunday of Advent

December 16, 2007
The third Sunday of Advent
The Shepherds' Candle

Luke 2:8-12

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Joy to theWorld

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ladies' Night

I joined some classmates and our teacher tonight at The Keg, in Bellingham, for a little end-of-quarter celebration. Kind of nice to get to know some of the classmates on a more personal level. We were a table (two tables pushed together) of eight women. The majority of paralegal students are women, though there were two men in the Intro to Paralegal Studies class, and one of them also took the Torts class. But the Real Estate Law class happened to be all women this quarter.

Quite different from my seminary days at Regent College. In the more general classes, taken by people in all different degree programs, it was a fairly even split, but once I funneled down into the classes that were specifically for M.Div. students, the classes were usually mostly men with me and one or two other women.

Some of my past jobs were also in majority-men settings. I taught high school English 1985-86 at San Jose Christian School, in San Jose, CA, and 1986-87 at Central Valley Christian Schools, in Visalia, CA. Back then, those were both small high schools with one teacher for every discipline--math, science, history, etc. In both schools, the two women teachers were me, the English teacher, and another woman, the typing and P.E. teacher. (Meanwhile, the elementary school teachers were nearly all women.)

Then I worked for seven years editing and writing automotive technical materials, and in my department I was the only woman among eight men for many years. For the last several years there, I had one woman co-worker. There were other women in other departments. All the proofreaders and typographers were women.

Later I worked a year for a Herman Miller furniture dealership, where throughout my building the women were a noticeable, though not overpowering, majority. Now I'm back in a woman-dominated field--paralegal, that is; lawyers themselves I suppose are about 50-50.

It would be invidious to make sweeping statements about the differences. As far as working in a male-dominated place, I'll say that my experience in the schools was better than among the automotive writers. The teachers had better manners and genuinely respected women. Some of the automotive guys were the same, about, well, two out of the eight. The others mostly meant to be nice (with one glaring exception), but they just seemed uncomfortable with women. They could not behave naturally while conversing with a woman, but seemed to find it necessary to posture, strike attitudes, and try (not always successfully) to be clever. In retrospect, I feel kind of sorry for them; at the time, I merely found them tiresome.

Having mostly women around at school feels pretty comfortable to me; I hope it feels fine to the two men. I don't notice any problems.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The second Sunday of Advent

December 9, 2007
The second Sunday in Advent
The Bethlehem Candle

Luke 2:1-7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Micah 5:2
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times."

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Alternative passage and song

Isaiah 11:1-19
On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
but he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
On that day, the root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
the Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming)
German and English words below

1. Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,
Aus einer Wurzel zart.
Wie uns die Alten sungen,
Aus Jesse kam die Art
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht,
Mitten im kalten Winter,
Wohl zu der halben Nacht.

2. Das Röslein das ich meine,
Davon Jesaias sagt:
Maria ist's, die Reine,
Die uns das Blümlein bracht.
Aus Gottes ew'gem Rat
Hat sie ein Kind geboren
Wohl zu der halben Nacht.

3. Das Blümelein, so kleine,
Das duftet uns so süß,
Mit seinem hellen Scheine
Vertreibt's die Finsternis.
Wahr' Mensch und wahrer Gott,
Hilft uns aus allen Leiden,
Rettet von Sünd' und Tod.

1. Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming,
From Tender stem hath sprung,
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow'ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When halfspent was the night.

2. Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God's love aright,
She bore to us a Savior,
When halfspent was the night.

3. O Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious splendour
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From Sin and death now save us,
And share our every load.

An evening in Fairhaven

Well, tonight (actually last night) I didn't eat a tort, but I did eat a piece of tiramisu. It was good, but I've had better. This one was a little chilly and tasted like maybe it was made a day or two ago and had been keeping in the refrigerator since then. Fortunately for the restaurant, I can't remember its name. I went there with a group of people after hearing the Whatcom Chorale sing at the Ferry Terminal in Fairhaven, a particular neighborhood in Bellingham.

A lot of local church people belong to the chorale. At least four members of my own church are part of it, including my sister-in-law's sister-in-law. There were a couple other familiar faces there, too, in the chorale and in the audience.

A gingerbread-house contest was also on display. It made me crave cookies. But, as I've mentioned, I ended up having tiramisu.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Torts - just desserts?

I took my last test of the fall quarter at Whatcom Community College tonight. Torts. A tort is a civil wrong. There are three kinds of torts: intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability. For a tort to occur, we need four elements:

1. A duty
2. A breach of that duty
3. Causation
4. Damages

I know lots more about torts than that, too. I'm usually not the Hermione Granger type, but I did go look up the answer to one question I hadn't been sure of. I got it wrong. Oh, well. I confused it with something else with a similar name. Torts are a complicated area of law.

Perhaps now I can find an opportunity to study this kind of tort:

Far more to my taste (har).

Monday, December 3, 2007

My First Movie!

I filmed and edited my first movie today! It's 31 seconds long. I did not add any music or sound effects.

Impressive, huh? I discovered yesterday that I have Windows Movie Maker on my computer. Who knew? I think it was Linus Van Pelt, of Peanuts, who said that our brains are like 10-speed bikes; we have lots of gears we never use. The same might be true of our PCs.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Advent weather

Here's a picture of the back yard today.

Snow is beautiful, of course, but it's a severe beauty, like a black and white photo. What colors are there, are subtle. I'm glad that in Lynden we're unlikely to have four or more months in a row with the world reduced to these subued tones. Usually snow melts within a week, and then we have green grass again, and some of the evergreens that look black in this picture will also return to green hues.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The First Sunday of Advent

December 2, 2007
The first Sunday in Advent
The Prophets' Candle

Isaiah 2:1-5
This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come,
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel:

The Great Pacific Northwest

A busy week after the Thanksgiving holiday. I had a couple take-home exams from my paralegal courses. Now those are done. I have one more exam next week, plus a few assignments to complete.

Meanwhile. Look at this photo. Do you see a blue heron?

Neither do I. One's there, though. A blue heron flew across our lawn at low altitude yesterday, then went into the creek. I grabbed my camera and crept out to the creek to get a picture. He was in the creek, but as I approached, he went up the opposite bank into this tangle of branches and bushes. Even with the bare eye, I kept not seeing him until he moved, then I'd take a picture. I did it twice, and the other picture resembles the one above. Shows how wonderfully the Creator has camouflaged him, huh?

I took a picture of an evergreen later the same day. Washington is the Evergreen State. To see silhouettes of trees like this was one of the reasons I moved back here.

I spent some college vacations in Tacoma, back in the early 80s, and there the weather was more misty and foggy than here in Lynden. Somehow to see a tree like this loom out of the mist was, well, mystical.

Looking at the sky in that picture, you can see why an artist I met once said that the Pacific Northwest is the perfect place for watercolor painters.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sunrise, Sunset

It's a sunny winter afternoon. When I walked my dog this morning, it was dark. It's the dark time of year in Washington. That we have such dark winters--a combination of short days and lots of cloud cover--is the down side of our longitude (or do I mean latitude? I mean our proximity to the arctic circle). Our long summer days are the up side.

Winter soltice this year, December 21, 2008, the sun will rise at 8:00 a.m. and set at 4:14 p.m. here in Lynden (sunrise/sunset times). That's a short day. But next summer solstice, June 20, 2007, the sun will rise at 5:05 a.m. and set at 9:17 p.m. That'll be great.

It hasn't happened yet this winter, but sooner or later it always does: that I'll think to myself during the evening, I'm so tired. It must be 11:00 or even later. Then I'll look at the clock, and it will be about 7:00.

Maybe that won't happen until after the holidays. Meanwhile, the day after tomorrow is Thanksgiving. This afternoon, my dad and I are going shopping for groceries for the feast.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wind, Frost, heath, and downs

It continues wild and windy this morning. When I was walking my dog, I thought of the final lines of a Robert Frost poem. Now I see that it's a spring poem, while my wind is an autumn one. Still, our wind today is fairly warm, and it surely dishevels people and places.

To the Thawing Wind
Robert Frost

Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snow-bank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate’er you do to-night,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ices go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit’s crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o’er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door.

Then there's the doomy, gloomy wind poetry.

King Lear, Act III, Scene ii
William Shakespeare

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!

And then here's a fateful encounter on a windy day in Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility:

They [Marianne and Margaret Dashwood] gaily ascended the downs, rejoicing in their own penetration at every glimpse of blue sky: and when they caught in their faces the animating gales of an high south-westerly wind, they pitied the fears which had prevented their mother and Elinor from sharing such delightful sensations.

"Is there a felicity in the world," said Marianne, "superior to this? Margaret, we will walk here at least two hours."

Margaret agreed, and they pursued their way against the wind, resisting it with laughing delight for about twenty minutes longer, when suddenly the clouds united over their heads, and a driving rain set full in their face. Chagrined and surprised, they were obliged, though unwillingly, to turn back, for no shelter was nearer than their own house. One consolation however remained for them, to which the exigence of the moment gave more than usual propriety; it was that of running with all possible speed down the steep side of the hill which led immediately to their garden gate.

They set off. Marianne had at first the advantage, but a false step brought her suddenly to the ground, and Margaret, unable to stop herself to assist her, was involuntarily hurried along, and reached the bottom in safety.

A gentleman carrying a gun, with two pointers playing round him, was passing up the hill and within a few yards of Marianne, when her accident happened. He put down his gun and ran to her assistance. She had raised herself from the ground, but her foot had been twisted in the fall, and she was scarcely able to stand. The gentleman offered his services, and perceiving that her modesty declined what her situation rendered necessary, took her up in his arms without farther delay, and carried her down the hill. Then passing through the garden, the gate of which had been left open by Margaret, he bore her directly into the house, whither Margaret was just arrived, and quitted not his hold till he had seated her in a chair in the parlour.

Elinor and her mother rose up in amazement at their entrance, and while the eyes of both were fixed on him with an evident wonder and a secret admiration which equally sprung from his appearance, he apologized for his intrusion by relating its cause, in a manner so frank and so graceful, that his person, which was uncommonly handsome, received additional charms from his voice and expression. Had he been even old, ugly, and vulgar, the gratitude and kindness of Mrs. Dashwood would have been secured by any act of attention to her child; but the influence of youth, beauty, and elegance, gave an interest to the action which came home to her feelings.

Is there a felicity in the world superior to Jane Austen's prose?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Poetic allusions

Speaking of Barbara Pym, she scatters lines of poetry throughout her novels. One that stuck in my mind enough to make me look up the whole poem was in Less Than Angels. When Catherine, one of the main characters, has seen off her ex-lover Tom on his flight to Africa (where he is an anthropologist), she gets on a bus and rides randomly through London. She has thoughts on several levels, and on one level the lines keep repeating in her mind:

What was he doing, the great god Pan,
Down in the reeds by the river?

I wonder if those were lines that went through Pym's own mind on occasions? The character Catherine is a fiction writer, as Pym was a novelist. The poem is "A Musical Instrument," by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. If you follow the link and read the poem, you'll see it describes Pan treading around in the river water, muddying it and destroying the water lilies, in order to rip a reed out of the river and make a pan pipe out of it. After cutting and hollowing the reed, he blows through it (inspiration--god-breathed), making sweet music, and he says that is the only way to do it, but:

The true gods sigh for the cost and pain—
For the reed which grows nevermore again
As a reed with the reeds of the river.

Just prior to those closing lines, the poem reveals the metaphor, that Pan has been "making a poet out of a man," and thus is about how suffering produces art and poetry. I wonder if Pym felt that was her story. She wrote exquisite novels based on often painful experiences in her own life. At times, maybe she wished she was just a reed with the reeds by the river. Yet it seems that she knowingly chose her way, almost perversely seeking unhappy outcomes, in love, anyway. (Like her character Prudence, in Jane and Prudence, she preferred unhappy love affairs to happy ones.) In other areas of life, Barbara Pym seems to have been happy enough, enjoying companionship with her sister and close friend, Hilary Pym, gardening, knitting, sewing, reading. Another theme of her novels is the consolation provided by doing small, seemingly unimportant, but useful tasks.

I have two pages about Barbara Pym at my personal website, one about her and her books and the other with some favorite passages from her books.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Our greater English poets

Related to remembering my brother's death a year ago, I called to mind some lines by Tennyson, anthologized in Bartlett's Poems for Occasions. This book has poems arranged by theme, and one theme is "Grief and Mourning." Here is the poem:

Break, break, break
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

These lines speak to me partly because I have that sense of wishing I could see my brother and talk to him, but he's just not there, and also because this poem references the brother-sister relationship in, "O well for the fisherman's boy, / That he shouts with his sister at play!"

Why does it help to find poems that express some part of what you feel? I don't know. Just the fact that I wanted to find and read that poem reminded me of a line from a Barbara Pym novel, Some Tame Gazelle, "In the future Belinda would continue to find such consolation as she needed in our greater English poets, when she was not gardening or making vests for the poor in Pimlico."

Here's one more, by Emily Dickinson, almost unbearably apt:

The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth,—

The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

Warm Ears

I walk my dog twice a day, and in the cold months I wear a headband to keep my ears warm. My ears are particularly sensitive to the cold. A few years ago, I bought the perfect headband from Lands End catalog. It was stretchy enough to fit (due to my excessive brain power I have, shall we say, a large hat size), it didn't itch, and it truly kept my ears warm. For the last couple days I couldn't find it. This morning I wore a headband that was not quite large enough, that itched, and that did not keep my ears as warm. But at one of the many bushes my dog stops to investigate (an article I once read called it "reading p-mails" from other dogs), in the top branches, there was my headband. As it was damp, I simply carried it with me, but I'm glad to have it back. Either I dropped it there, or the homeowner found it and put it there to be claimed. I could have dropped it on one of the days when it was warmer than I expected so I took the headband off and stuck it in my coat pocket (which is too small to hold it).

It reminded me of a story I once read about C.S. Lewis, that while walking with a friend in the damp gardens of Oxford, they saw a strange object in a tree. Lewis exclaimed, "That looks like my hat." Picking it up, he shouted exultantly, "It is my hat!" and put the sopping wet, shapeless object on his head immediately.

I'm a less amusing person than Lewis, so I'll simply wear my headband after it's dry.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Time Change

Yet another sunny, mild fall day. This weekend we put our clocks back. It is no hardship to me to sleep for an extra hour in the morning, but my dog did not figure it out. When I opened my eyes this morning, his face was very close to my own. He was staring at me, waiting for me to wake up. As soon as I did, he began to prance in happy antics on the bed, anticipating breakfast. I closed my eyes to get more sleep, so then he paced around a bit before flopping down beside me with a sad sigh, to wait until I really would get up.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


A rather long day today. It is the one-year anniversary of my brother's death. He was 52 when he died of ALS (amytrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig's Disease). Last year, November 4 was a Saturday. I was in my store working, or possibly not working. I knew it could be that day that my brother would die; we had been expecting it for days. It was about half past noon when my dad called to tell me it had happened. He asked me to call my sister and other brother to tell them, which I did. Then I closed my store. I did not put a sign in the window to explain why. I didn't have the heart to say why.

Today is Sunday. I went to church. On the way, I was trying and trying to remember if I went to church the day after my brother's death. I couldn't remember. It seemed like I wouldn't have; I had no remembrance of being at church the day after the death--it seems like I would remember people talking to me about it--but I also couldn't remember being at home knowing I was missing church. Finally, I remembered that I spent that Saturday night at my brother and sister-in-law's house. My sister-in-law and I both slept on couches in her living room to keep each other company. We woke up early, and for some reason I felt I should make conversation, so we got up soon, too. I did not go to church but spent the morning with her. That's why I couldn't remember being at home during church time.

Today, the members of my family and my sister-in-law's family, plus my brother's best friend with his wife and some of their children, all got together at my sister-in-law's house for a soup lunch. We mostly just had a pleasant visit, but we did talk just a little bit about my brother. My grief was not so present then.

The moment when I felt the most grief for my brother was between church and my sister-in-law's. I stopped at Safeway and bought a little potted, purple pansy and brought it to my brother's grave. Standing there, I was filled with a sense of how much I miss him and what a difference his absence makes. That's when tears came.

Tonight I mostly just feel tired and down. Not just grief for my brother, but anxieties about church, school, and money come into my mind and just seem inexpressibly dreary. I feel a dread that the holidays will be unjoyful and disappointing. It probably is weariness that is showing me my world and life in dark, colorless tones. I probably should go to bed soon.

Still, it was a nice visit, and outdoors it was a beautiful day.

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
(Lamentations 3:19-26)

Weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
(Psalm 30:5b)

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4)

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(I Corinthians 15:51-57)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Material Girl

Hmm. Maybe I shouldn't have posted that jigsaw puzzle. Now the page seems to load slowly. Oh, well. It'll move to archives eventually.

Meanwhile, this morning was bright, sunny, and cold, another of those lovely autumn days. It could become a boring theme to blog about though pleasant to experience. Right now, in the afternoon, it's not quite so sunny, a little overcast.

Tonight I have class at Whatcom Community College, Real Estate Law, part of my paralegal program. Last night, in my Intro to Paralegal Studies class, we were learning about how not to do the unauthorized practice of law. Basically, when you're under a lawyer's supervision you can do a lot of legal stuff, because the lawyer you work for is responsible for whatever comes out of his or her office. But if you're not working for a lawyer, you can't do much legal stuff. I've had people say, when they hear I'm preparing for paralegal work, that after a few years' experience with a lawyer I could set up on my own and do minor legal tasks for people, to save them the expense of a lawyer. Nope. Only two people can peform legal tasks for an individual: him/herself (acting pro se) or a lawyer. Anyone who does legal work for someone else has to be licensed by the Bar to do so.

Not that I wanted to set up a practice of my own anyway. I've been self-employed, off and on, for about nine years now, and I'm sick of it. I fantasize about a regular, predictable paycheck, about benefits that someone else pays for, using office equipment that someone else bought, and regular office hours. Mmmmm. What a delightful prospect.

Although I hear that paralegals often work overtime. But they're also always hourly employees and so get overtime pay. Paychecks! Yea!

Tonight my parents come home from an out-of-state visit to one of my siblings. I'll pick them up after class, so I'll be driving their Caddy to class. A larger car than I'm used to parking at WCC, but also with a spacious interior for my folks and their luggage.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Jigsaw Puzzles

Usually once a day I do a jigsaw puzzle at You pick a picture and what "cut" you want for it. I almost always pick the 154-piece classic cut, but other choices include zigzag cuts, bulbs, and "crazy."

Click to Mix and Solve

I edited this post on November 11, changing the puzzle to a link because the puzzle just took too darn long to load every time I came to this page. JK

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'm a believer

Sounds like I'll be talking about my religion, right? But, no, I'm thinking of a Monkees song that I like. The Monkees were big when I was in about first or second grade. My best friend "liked" Davy Jones of that group. I "liked" Bobby Sherman, not of that group. For a seven-year-old, I had a pretty good eye for cute guys.

When I was in college, I was fortunate to go on an interim (three-week intensive class) called "Theatre in London." We went to London and went to plays. Nice work if you can get it. :-) It was January, 1983. One play we saw was Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, which dealt with themes of what is real love and what is real art. The central character is a playwright who is a stickler for real art in drama, but whose taste in music is, to his embarrassment, limited to pop singles. The play ends with the curtain going down to "I'm a Believer." I loved the play and by association I realized what a cool song "I'm a Believer" is. So here's a youtube of the Monkees singing it:

Also at youtube is this version by the group Smash Mouth, which apparently was a tie-in to the movie Shrek. I've never seen Shrek, but I like this video:

Oops. The embed function is disabled, proabably because this video seems to flash a different movie ad across the bottom of the screen each time you watch it. So it's a promo for someone, most likely Universal Studios. So here's a link instead.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Another pretty day

It's another pretty fall day. Between the last post and today, we had a dark, rainy day. These photos don't quite even do justice to how beautiful the light is. But here goes.
Above is a glass globe that you can put water in and then a twig, to start some roots. I like that the copper holder has a patina now, and that the glass is cloudy.

Here is one of my hanging pots with begonia (red flowers) and lobelia (v. small blue flowers). The bright foliage in the background is our deodar cedar.

This is a maple tree my dad and I planted a few years ago. It's a variety that grows tall and column-like instead of spreading out and becoming broad. I wanted to take it from an angle with the sun more behind it, because then the leaves glinted, but the camera couldn't take that much direct sunlight. Anyway, it captures the autumnal mood.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sunny Fall Day

My camera can only take a few seconds of video, so I took a moving picture of my fuschia just barely swaying in a gentle breeze. It's a beautiful fall day today.

Some day, when my ship comes in, or when prosperity comes around the corner (these sayings are family jokes, three generations old), I'd like to experiment with making videos. I'm inspired by youtube. Right now I have limited resources. My digital camera has only a little memory. I could increase that (when my ship comes in) by buying a little memory drive thing--referred to in my family circles (by those who have seen such a thing) as a "stick." Also, I currently have no software to edit movies, plus my computer is as slow as a snail.

Still, it's pretty to watch the flowers move. The focus isn't quite right; things look a little cubular. But, oh, well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hymns and such

The other day I was looking on youtube for hymns and became quite absorbed in them. I was thinking it would be nice to post videos of hymns I like, but it's hard to find exactly what I do like. I looked for "Be Thou My Vision," but didn't find any that included all the verses, usually just two or three, as well as various instrumental versions -- nice, but not what I was looking for. I looked up various others also and ended up looking for one that is simple and sentimental and short, the Gaither song, "There's something about that name." There's a part of me that is uncomfortable with the schmaltziness of Gaither-type songs, and another part of me that revels in the sentimentality. Anyway, every version I looked at had people blabbing away either before or during their singing. I tend to wish in church settings that people who assist in leading worship would talk less and let songs, scripture, benedictions, and sacraments speak for themselves.

So I didn't post the "Something about that name" song. But today I tried to think what would be an appropriate song to post. Since it's October, we're coming up on Reformation Day, October 31, the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg church and set in motion the Protestant Reformation. He wrote the hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," and it comes up often at Reformation celebrations. I found a good soloist singing all the verses. He's a little theatrical in his gestures for my very buttoned-up taste, but not over the top. And at least his gestures relate to the song's meaning and are not just showing off. And he sings it so well. His name is Steve Green:

I do hope I did that "embed video" correctly. Then I thought, Wouldn't it be nice to have one with video that showed, oh, European churches and so forth, and I found one that shows paintings and drawing and architecture from the Reformation period. In this one a choir is singing. The people in the drawings and paintings are important figures of the time. There's Martin Luther himself, of course, also various clergy. I saw Philip of Spain flash by; the Inquisition was active during his reign. I also saw Henry VIII of England, some of his churchmen, and even Lady Jane Grey, a devout Protestant and brilliant scholar of the English royal family who became a political pawn and ended up beheaded at age sixteen. (Hmm. I just looked again, and maybe that was Jane Seymour (Henry VIII's 3rd wife), not Jane Grey. Oh, well.) In this version, a choir sings and I can't follow all the words because it's not the one I grew up with. It must be a new translation, for Luther's hymn was written in German and translated into English:

I tried to locate a video with the hymn in German but couldn't find one on youtube.

Note: Post edited on 11/06/07

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Blog's Dog

I don't think I've blogged about my dog before, yet he's an important part of my life. Here's Jesse, my dog. I adopted him when he was age 1 1/2, in January 2006, so he must be about 3 years old now. He is half pug, half bichon frise.

Above, Jesse is curled into the corner of the couch. We often sit there together, and when I'm not there, sometimes he likes to occupy the space.

Above is Jesse with a rawhide bone. He loves those. He gnaws and gnaws on them until slowly they disappear.

Here's Jesse in almost profile. You can see that his nose is a little squished, like a pug, but not as much as a pug. His eyes are very like a pug's, large and dark. His hair grows long, like a bichon, but it's not as curly as a bichon's, just kind of wavy. Right now he's about four months out from his last haircut, but I did trim the hair on his muzzle and near his eyes myself, with scissors.

Here's a straight-on shot. I love Jesse's underbite. I think it's so cute. Jesse's a very affectionate, gentle, friendly dog.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Evaluating my predictions

Well, after spending the weekend with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I'm going to look back at the predictions I made June 5 and see how right or wrong I was.

1. Dumbledore won't come back. I was right, although JKR fudged this a bit. I knew she wouldn't have him be a ghost or turn out not to be dead, but I did not anticipate that Harry would have a vision of him during a near-death experience. I would have respected the story more had she not used this device, but at least there was no pretence that wonderful memories or "you'll always have him in your heart" is just as good as having someone around.

2. I thought Harry would probably be alive at the end of the book and I was right. JKR pretty nearly faked me out though when Harry went to meet Voldemort believing that the only way to end Voldemort's life was to allow himself to be killed. I never addressed the "Harry is a horcrux" theory because I didn't think it was so, but I was wrong about that. JKR tricked her fans by stating early on that Harry's scar was not a horcrux.

3. I thought that Snape would turn out to be loyal and that he had killed Dumbledore according to a previous agreement, to save Draco Malfoy, and I was right.

4. I was positive that Snape had never been in love with Lily, and I was wrong about that. Most of the speculation I read about their relationship had Snape loving her because she stood up for him against James Potter's bullying, and she and Snape were both good at potions. So at least I was semi-right not to attribute his love to that, but to new information in The Deathly Hallows that they knew each other as children, and he always had a thing (a tendre, as Georgette Heyer would say) for her.

5. I thought Snape would save Harry's life, and possibly die doing so. That didn't really happen. I thought he would finally reveal himself as loyal to the Order of the Phoenix, but if he had not passed on his memories to Harry, no one would have known.

6. I thought that Aberforth Dumbledore would do something important. Actually, his importance occurred more in his being a big part of Albus Dumbledore's backstory than in anything he did in the struggle against Voldemort. In fact, he urged Harry to give up the struggle. I also thought there would be a connection between his interest in goats and the fact that a bezoar comes from a goat, but that did not happen.

7. I thought socks would be important, but I was wrong. In fact, socks were mentioned far less often in DH than in any previous book.

As to the JKR hints that I discussed.

1. That Harry had Lily's eyes is important. When he dies, Snape says to Harry, "Look at me." That's because he wants to die looking into Lily's eyes. I think it's in Snape's memories that Dumbledore says that although Harry looks so much like his father, his character is more like his mother's.

2. That we'd learn something important about Lily. I take it we learn that she was the love of Snape's life and Snape's sole motivation for protecting Harry--he cared for preserving the life of Lily's son, if not for Harry.

3. That someone who had not had magical ability would do some late in life. I did not find this. Maybe she ended up leaving it out.

4. Why did Dumbledore have James's invisibility cloak? It was because of Dumbledore's excessive curiosity about the Deathly Hallows, of which the cloak is one.

5. She save one character but sacrificed two others. In an interview she has apparently said that she originally planned for Mr. Weasley to die in Book 5 (I guess when he was bit by the snake). The two others who did die were Remus and Tonks.

6. That Petunia would surprise us. I thought that as Harry's aunt she would finally show some care for him, and she does seem to want to, but she doesn't. The surprising thing we find out I think must be that she longed to be a witch herself when she saw Lily's powers. She only started calling wizards "freaks" when Snape made her feel unwelcome with him and Lily.

I thought that everyone would get a chance to use their expertise in the struggle, but actually most of the minor characters are out of sight during the majority of the story. They don't really get their chance until the free-for-all that is "The Battle of Hogwarts." It is true that then Neville helps Professor Sprout use magical plants, and you do see other professors using their particular specialty. My favorite is Professor Trelawney lobbing crystal balls at the bad guys. During the long run, Hermione does use her rune studies to decipher the story of the Deathly Hallows.

And everyone who thought Regulus Black was R.A.B. was right.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The broccolli harvest

My crop of broccolli.

When Henry David Thoreau grew beans, he wrote that he made the ground say "beans" instead of "grass." I made the earth say, "broccolli."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A day in June

The tea rose has some white blooms on it. (In the background, you can just see the top of my dog's head as he peeps out the screen door.) The manneke piss in action.
The first fuschia blooms of the summer.

Gardening progress

Here is my brocolli. Compare that with the earlier picture. Pretty impressive, huh? The herb garden, looking pretty in hues of green.
Peppermint in the foreground, with heliotrope behind.

Monday, June 11, 2007

How does my garden grow?

I do container gardening on a southern deck. One side gets full sun, the other side has an upper deck above and so is quite densely shaded. These are some of my plants. I took pictures partly so later this summer I can see the change when they've grown. I do plan to get more plants in addition to these.

The shady side

On the shady side of the deck, I have two whisky barrels with impatiens, a shade-loving flower, in the middle, and creeping jenny around the circumference.
The creeping jenny will grow over the edges and cascade down the sides. The impatiens will fill in the center. I think these are double-impatiens, with more petals. They look a little more rose-like.

This is a pretty variegated-leaf plant called "burgundy wedding veil," or solenostemon hybrida. I have five pots of these on the wall of the deck. They get a little sunshine, but not too much.

Fuschias. I just love these. They will cascade over the pot, too, and have beautiful flowers. I often buy well-started hanging pots of them, but this year to save money I bought these twiggy hanging pots and three small fuschias to put in each, so they are still pretty small. When they are mature, they attract hummingbirds. I have four pots hanging from the roof of the lower deck (the floor of the upper deck).

At the west end of the deck, I have these hanging pots, two of them. They are lined with coconut matting. I have lobelia on each side, to grow over the edge. In the middle, the red flower is a begonia. This one gets some sun in the late afternoon, but not too much. Lobelia can't take too much sun.

By the "pond"

We have a little "pond," or "water feature," as they call it on HGTV. It is a replica of a famous Belgian statue, the manneke piss. Guess where the water shoots out.

I grow viney plants to cover the plumbing and make him look more natural. In the front pot is some ivy, in the back one, creeping jenny. They already hide the back plumbing; eventually the creeping jenny can cover the pipes from the water. This creeping jenny is some years old. I cut it back every fall, and it comes back every summer.

Tea roses

I almost forgot to include my tea rose. I had four pots of them, but only one came through the winter. Lots of buds are on this one, but it's not blooming yet.

My flower-loving grandma used to grow small roses and cut one or two blooms and put them in a little crystal vase near where she sat indoors. Pretty.

Still on the sunny side

My deck has a sunny, south-facing, side and the herbs and veggies are there, as well as these.

Peppermint. This kind of goes with my love of herbs. Peppermint needs its own pot because it spreads so much.

Heliotrope. Even the name refers to "helios"--the sun. I'm told this was a plant my flower-growing grandma liked. It kind of reminds me of lilac in color and the shape of the flowers--like miniature lilac. It has a sweet scent, too.

And lavender. There's something romantic about the mere idea of lavender. Lovely ladies scenting their wardrobes with it, and so on. These are young ones, so they're taller and skinnier. Ideally lavender plants should be sort of ball-shaped at the leaves, with the flower stalks growing above them. I love, love, love the smell of lavender. These buds are not open yet. I'm an anglophile, so I choose English lavender; there are many other varieties.

Salad bowl plant pot

I put some salad plants in whisky barrel. I like the idea of getting food right outside my door.
Brocolli. I put my hand in to show how small the brocolli "tree" is right now. The leaves are really big, though.

Lettuce. This is Romaine lettuce. My dad says I should hurry up and eat it before it gets "tough." I kind of hate to cut into it and ruin how pretty it is.

I think I probably have too many onions too close together. We'll see what happens. I do like onions.

I actually don't like many vegetables, but I like hot peppers, so I planted two of them.

This is the second pepper plant.


I like to grow herbs because I like plants with fragrance. I like to pick a stem or leaves, rub them in my hands, and then smell them.