Monday, December 21, 2009

A tongue-twister for the Twenty-First Century

I back-blogged my blog backlog.

As with ceaseless voice they cry

Speaking of religious mystery, yesterday during communion at my church, our choir director sang "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," one of my favorite Christmas hymns, as it does infuse one with the sense of awe and mystery at the coming of Christ in the Incarnation and in communion.

My denomination's hymnal has this version:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
set your minds on things eternal,
fow with blessing in his hand
Christ our Lord to earth descended,
came our homage to command.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
once upon the earth he stood;
Lord of lords we now perceive him
in the body and the blood.
He has given to all the faithful
his own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
stream before him on the way,
as the Light of Light, descending
from the realms of endless day,
comes, the powers of hell to vanquish,
clears the gloom of hell away.

At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim with sleepless eye
veil their faces to his presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry:
"Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia, Lord Most High!"

The editors of our latest hymnal (the "gray" Psalter Hymnal) tended to want to clear away archaic words such as "vesture," archaic inflections such as "descendeth," and also words they thought might be just too difficult for their conception of the inquirer who wanders into the church with no religious background, who apparently is not highly educated and must be spared terms such as "vanguard."

Fortunately, during worship yesterday I was not disturbed by such thoughts, and indeed I don't know what version the singer sang. In my mind, I heard the one I prefer, as follows:

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 winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!


Mist creates a sense of mystery, in the religious sense, like clouds of incense in a church.

When I took Asian art history, my professor talked about how the Western, or Greek, mind tends to prefer clarity and brightness in a view. We consider it a perfect view of a mountain if not a cloud is in the sky and the sun is making it gleam. And that is indeed a great view (see "Holy, holy" below).

But the Chinese landscape almost always shows a misty mountain and the mist was there for spiritual reasons. I remember reading a remark by a Chinese artist to the effect that one did not paint the physical likeness of a mountain, but its spirit or its holiness.

On the other hand, when I've seen photos of Chinese mountains, they often are misty in the same manner as the paintings, so maybe they paint them that way because that's just how they are.

Or do they take pictures on misty days because that's how they like to see the mountains, just as I might photograph Baker on a particularly clear day? Photographs are also interpretive, not just representational.

Land of mist and rain

Happily for me, the snow melted after a couple days, and we returned to our more usual winter fare of mist and rain.

The midwinter is not quite so bleak.

Holiday fun

I couldn't resist.

He's thinking, "For this, you woke me up?" Such a longsuffering pooch.

In the beautiful midwinter

The pond was frozen, with leaves frozen into it, and then a dusting of snow.

The water can is full of snow.

The sundial is a snow dial. Doesn't tell time, but does tell you it's cold.

Bleak midwinter.

But beautiful.


The Third Sunday in Advent, we had snow.

All the chairs are stacked out of the way. No sitting out on the deck in this weather. But there they are, waiting for spring and all the excitement of new flowers and plants, the renewal of life, and all that.

I must admit that snow is beautiful. If only it weren't so troublesome and if only the weather weren't so cold when it snowed.

Girls' night out

My mom, sister-in-law, niece, great-niece, and I all went to Bellingham to see The Nutcracker. On the way home, we stopped at the Ferndale Denny's for a little treat.

My great-niece is in a stage where she won't smile for pictures, but I believe she enjoyed the evening. :-)

Cutting the tree

My sister-in-law and my niece's oldest daughter did the actual work of cutting down the tree.

At the tree farm

A little drama is inevitable.

But overall we have fun.

The tree-cutting expedition

The first thing to do is load everyone into the vehicles. Actually, before that was making sure everyone put on warm clothes.

We get to the tree farm, and kids run off in every direction.

Grandma gets everyone organized.

We pick out a tree.

Children's treasures

Years ago, my sister's kids gave me this little stained glass picture. I try to keep it where it will catch the sun. It is in the window of my door, and it does bang around rather noisily when I come and go. But oh well.

My niece's children decorated my tree for me this year. In a way, you would think I would re-arrange it, as the garlands wander a bit.

And some branches are rather heavily loaded. But it actually looks quite pretty as it is, and it's so sweet that they did it.

I did make one change, which was I took this stuffed bunny out. It was just sitting on the branches, and I didn't want it to fall and maybe take some other stuff out on the way down.

Great tree.

Holy, holy

Morning shots on the Hannegan. In the summer, the sun comes up behind Mt. Baker, but in the winter it comes up behind the Twin Sisters.

The above picture has four swans flying across the sky. You see a lot of water fowl in this region. Often the winter fields have standing water in them, and ducks and swans are splashing and walking around. Yesterday I drove by one field with ducks and swans that had visible standing water between the rows; the next field was grass without visible water (but no doubt damp ground, as it's been rainy yesterday) and seagulls were strutting around.

My niece told a great story on Facebook about one of her little girls seeing the mountains. My niece pointed out Mt. Baker to her four-year-old and two-year-old daughters. She says Baker was especially clear and beautiful that day. The four-year-old asked her what the mountains next to Mt. Baker were called. She told her she didn't know, and the little girl said, "Let's call them holy holy."

That was such a beautiful and profound response that it almost gives me chills.

The Moon: November 1, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Child of the Seventies

They say the sixties didn't start until 1963 and they ended in the early seventies. I don't know when the seventies started, maybe when miniskirts went out of style, and I and my friends started wearing knee-length (top of the knee, but still miles longer than before) skirts. That would have been when I was in junior high, so maybe about 1974.

What I'm driving at is that I consider Queen a 70s band, or at least my enjoyment of them feels 70s to me, even though the only album of theirs I ever bought, The Game, was released in 1980, and I listened to them mostly in college, which I started in 1979.

And the Muppets were definitely a 70s phenomenon. That was the time of the original Muppet Show, when Jim Henson (may he rest in peace) was still alive and voicing Kermit the Frog.

And all this to wonder if I love the following more because I am a child of the seventies.

First, the classic "Bohemian Rhapsody," by Queen, who made a music video before there were music videos:

Then, a new classic, by the classic performers, the Muppets:

Words fail me when I try to express how much I enjoy this. I can only stammer, "The chickens . . . buck, buck . . . Animal . . . Beaker . . . Bunsen Honeydew . . . the cows . . . so many familiar faces from the past." I love it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Touched with autumn

The impatiens have perished, and the creeping jenny is more straggling than creeping.

This calla lily produced not many blooms but very lush leaves. A few are turning yellow.

And the begonias are almost done. These blooms will not be replaced with new ones, and the petals and leaves are starting to rot.

Approaching dormancy

Floral life is winding down on my deck, as November approaches its end.

It has been a fairly mild autumn, in temperature. We have had some storms with rain, hail, wind, and lightning, but we haven't had any hard freezes yet.

However it has been cold enough for the marigolds in the herb basket to die off. The tarragon, which was the only herb to come back on its own from last year's hard winter, has turned brown. The parsley has a couple touches of yellow, but the sage, rosemary, and thyme are all still green and full.

These stones were covered by the petunias for much of the summer, but now they are visible again.

The contorted filbert has shed most of its leaves. The verbena underneath it is still green, but with only a few random blooms left.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Yesterday we had some thunder and then hail.

Even standing a couple feet away, I could smell the herbs from this barrel because the hail bruised them.