Sunday, October 31, 2010

Good hymns, good history

Today we sang two great hymns in church: "Amazing Grace" and "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

All my life, "Amazing Grace" had four verses. Suddenly the last few years it has a new verse in the middle. I'm not complaining; it's a great verse:

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

We sang Luther's hymn, of course, because today is Reformation Day, the anniversary of the day he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church and sparked the Protestant Reformation.

Sola scriptura ("Scripture alone")
Sola fide ("faith alone")
Sola gratia ("grace alone")
Solus Christus ("Christ alone")
Soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone")

The Reformation spread to the Netherlands, where the Reformed Church formulated itself on the theology of John Calvin. In the 19th Century, certain members of the Reformed Church in the Netherlands and in North America seceded and formed the Christian Reformed Church. In 1876, the Christian Reformed Church in North America founded Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In the early 20th Century, certain of my ancestors left the Netherlands for the U.S., and in 1949 both my parents matriculated there from different parts of the country (East and West). In 1952 they got married.

So the path in history is clear. The Protestant Reformation led directly to my existence. A mysterious way, indeed, in which that wonder was performed.

Doggy dreams

My dog was having a happy dream a few minutes ago. He was wagging his tail in his sleep. I think that's so cute.

I wonder if he was dreaming about a supper dish full of dog food or himself out on a walk or what. Whatever it was, I'm glad he was happy.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

New project

I ordered a needlepoint pillow top kit with a design of roses on it, to see if I can make myself a sofa pillow that I like. I like roses and a tapestry kind of look, but never see what I like, so I thought maybe I could do it myself. I almost ordered two kits (the second would have been pansies) but told myself to wait and see if I ever finish the first one. For the same reason I didn't buy the pillow backing and fill yet, either. It's been years since I even tried to do any kind of needle work, and I never finished a project in my mis-spent youth, but maybe this time . . .

I have a moderate amount of optimism because I actually want the final product, I'm not doing it just because I think it would be a good hobby. This seems a nice way to spend those long winter evenings--but it will require less time on the internet. We'll see. If I do finish, naturally I'll boast about it on this blog. If I don't finish, you'll never hear about it again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I have decided I'm not going to buy any more "low-rise" pants--what in my long-ago youth were called "hip huggers." Low-rise pants are both ugly and uncomfortable, a truly bad fashion combination. It's hard to find pants that are not of this make, but if necessary I simply won't buy any pants for as many years as it takes for the fashion to change back to something more wearable.

Low-rise pants give new meaning to the phrase "butt ugly."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yellow sky at night

There's that saying, "Red sky at night: sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning." Most of the October sunsets have had shades and hues of red, but last night a storm blew in with rain and wind, and this evening's sunset was a yellow glow, no red. I don't know any rhyme for "Yellow sky at night."

Go fly a kite?
You'll miss your flight?
Not quite quite?
Something ain't right?
Oh, what a sight?
Go home and get tight?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In support of

I was in the grocery store this afternoon and a youthful female voice kept coming on the public address system and saying that someone was selling baked goods in a certain area of the store "in support of breast cancer." I know she meant "in support of a breast cancer cure," or "in support of breast cancer research," or perhaps merely "in support of breast cancer awareness," but I kept thinking of sarcastic remarks.

I always think disease awareness is a fairly nebulous goal and not worthy of donation. Cures, support, research, those are good. Awareness--what?

I like the ALS Association because it supports research for a cure and also supports people who are currently suffering from ALS. My brother got lots of equipment and helpful tools when he was suffering. The sad thing about ALS is that all the tools and equipment can keep going back in the storehouse and made available for others because any one person only needs them for the limited amount of time they have before their condition gets worse and then they die.

Anyway. At Safeway they're always collecting for some disease. When you check out, the debit machine asks if you want to round up your purchase price to the nearest dollar for such-and-such a disease. I always push the "no" button. I give to charities I have chosen. It's commendable that the Safeway corporation does that good work, but I give elsewhere. 99% of the time after I push the "no" button the cashier will again ask me if I want to round up, and I tell them, "No, thanks."

For a while I got annoyed at Safeway (in my heart, sadly, I am a very irritable person) when, as I approached the check out stands, a clerk who was stationed there would always spring out at me and ask if I was ready to check out and then tell me which line to get into: "I think so and so is available at register 5." I would think, Please, can't I choose my own line? I think I can find my way. But the last time this happened the traffic director was such a fresh-faced, honest-looking young fellow, so obviously wanting to do his job well, that my heart softened and I thanked him kindly. I'm pushing 50 and it has started to be that mere youthfulness melts my heart. Sometimes on Facebook looking at friends who are young parents and pictures of their beautiful children almost makes me cry.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I finally carried out an idea I've had for a long time, to put some lights on this beam under the upper deck. I went to the hardware store today, and they had Christmas stuff out. Well, that's okay. I was wanting to buy lights that could go outdoors just so I could do this. But I hope to leave the lights up year round.

In English novels, they call these "fairy lights" and they are not just for Christmas. I like that name, because they do create a magical atmosphere.

Fall scenes

Light in the window

Here's a picture of the window in my new door with daylight coming through. I couldn't get a picture like that until today, Saturday, because we're in the time of year when I spend most of my daylight hours in the office Monday through Friday. However, on the advice of my doctor I am taking 4,000 IUs of Vitamin D every day, as a sunlight substitute. What life, eh? Still I feel no urge to complain that my life is anything less than very, very blessed.

In this door, you can't touch the leading or beveled glass because there's a full pane of clear glass on each side of the window. Without that, I think, a many-paned window would tend to let in cold air. My old door let in lots of cold air, as well as daylight around the edges because it no longer fit properly. This door is snug and solid.

I like pictures of windows with light coming through them.

In traditional churches it's so pretty when light comes through either clear or stained glass that has many segments. My church here in Lynden, Third Christian Reformed Church, has pretty windows and, in fact, a very attractive sanctuary altogether. That was part of what drew me back. I just checked out our church website and there are no pictures there of the interior of the church. We probably take it for granted. I wonder if it would be inappropriate for me to bring my camera with me to church and take pictures after the service? Maybe I should just try to go there on a day when the sanctuary is not in use.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Door

A new door was installed where I live today. It's not only more attractive than the door it replaced, it also seals better. That should mean fewer drafts (read: icy blasts) this winter.

I love leaded glass and beveled glass. So pretty.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Waiting to fall back

When do we fall back? Not till November 7? Aauugghh. Remember the good old days when we fell back the last weekend in October? Better yet, I want to fall back and never spring ahead again. It's bad for us:

When researchers in Sweden examined the impact of daylight saving time on heart attack rates in that country, they discovered that people had slightly fewer heart attacks on the Monday after they set their clocks back in the fall and slightly more heart attacks in the days after they set their clocks ahead in the spring.

Sleeping longer: good. Getting up earlier: bad.

I guess I should move to Arizona, where they are sensible enough to refuse to have daylight saving time. Oh, that our nation would come to its senses and hit the snooze button.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beautiful sky

Last night, for some reason, I was so extra tired that I stumbled off to bed early and I never even remembered that I should write a blog post. I'm tired tonight, too. Maybe it's the change in seasons, I don't know.

So this evening when I got out of my work place, a little later than usual because of a busy day and then chatting with another person in the office down the hall, it was a beautiful twilight. The sunset afterglow was behind the horizon, and I could see glimpses of the water of Bellingham Bay with the hump silhouettes of land across the water--the peninsula of the Lummi Reservation, Lummi Island, Portage Island--with the colored sky behind. I happened to have my camera in my purse, so I decided to go to the end of my workplace parking lot, where there is a park bench then a downward slope, and I would have an unobstructed view, so I could take a picture. Well, as I got close, a rat ran from the bench to the bushes on the slope. But it didn't run into the bushes, just lingered in front of them. I decided not to go over there. Bleah. Ick. Yuck. Gross. Rats are filthy, horrid, disgusting, vile vermin.

As I walked back to my car, however, I did take a picture of the moon and Venus, which were clear and bright. It's about a 3/4 moon.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Down by the creek

Took a walk down to the creek yesterday. Here is a sitting perch my dad made just by putting boards on a tree stump. Notice the funguses (fungi) growing out of the back of the trunk.

It's a high seat. When you sit on it, you can kick your feet, or at least I can. I'm not very short; just a medium-height Dutch lady, which makes me taller than the average American woman.

Here is the view as you sit there.

Looking to the left:

Then across:

Then to the right:

And up at the sunlight in the branches:

Cover your eyes

Well, about two weeks until Halloween. I had the TV on while I was doing things on the computer [read: goofing around on Facebook, visiting blogs, and following links] and a commercial came on with an adorable baby crawling along the floor toward the camera. I love babies; nothing is more beautiful than a baby, and I was just enjoying and saying, "Aw," when they morphed the picture into something horrible and then flashed a bunch of horrible images one after another to advertise the horrible movies they plan to show in the days leading up to Halloween. I very much resented that bait and switch.

I always resent when I'm watching a show that I've chosen and disgusting things come on the screen in the commercial breaks. I guess that's one reason I don't watch a lot of TV. But pre-Halloween is a time for extra caution about images on the screen. I do not like and do not want to see images or clips involving: the occult, the paranormal, blood, gore, or putrefaction.

Halloween is not a favorite holiday of mine for that reason. What I do like about Halloween is little kids in cute costumes and giving candy to them. Children and candy: yes. Icky stuff: no. That's how I vote.

Hens and chicks

Love that these guys are self-propagating rapidly. I think it's only a month or less since I planted about four of them, and look:

Autumn leaves

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumpkin pie

Public Domain Picture
 Today a kind person in my workplace brought a pumpkin pie to share. I had a piece. I love pumpkin pie. As I ate it I thought, if there's one thing that can reconcile me to the shortening days, the lengthening darkness, and the steady, incremental decrease in the outdoor temperature, that one thing is pumpkin pie.

Pumpkins are pretty, and the pie made from them has pleasant cultural associations -- Halloween and Thanksgiving. In fact, with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's all approaching, we're headed into one of the most enjoyable times of the year.

So why do I look at the holidays and think, But they'll pass so fast, and then it will be the darkest, coldest, time of year with no holiday to enjoy! How come when I contemplate January and February I don't think, They'll pass so fast and then it will be spring! In Keats's "Ode on Melancholy," he says melancholy comes from realizing how brief the joy is--only of course he says it more beautifully:

She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

But why isn't it equally true--or is it?--that joy comes from realizing how brief the melancholy is?

Of course, one could live in the present and enjoy the day without worrying about tomorrow. Seems like someone important once said something like that.

So in this day to live in and enjoy, I ate pumpkin pie. My parents knew various people from the Netherlands who had heard of that American treat pumpkin pie and wanted to try it, but all, when they ate it, would shrug, and say, "It tastes like carrots." Maybe you have to grow up with it to like it, so that when you eat it you don't just taste it but you taste family and holidays. I don't like carrots and I do like pumpkin pie, so they can't taste that alike. They both have beta-carotene, from whence they derive their orange color, so that must make a similarity. Maybe Dutch carrots are different from American carrots. Also, I suspect that Dutch carrots may be cooked with lots of butter and sugar. Butter and sugar are important in the Dutch scheme of food. My grandma ate a Dutch rusk with butter and sugar on it most days with tea as a between-meal snack. Only it wasn't a snack, it was tea. It was not random, it was a particular time of day when one would sit down and have a cup of tea with a little something sweet and wholesome. Then, back to work. Just to wander all over the place in terms of topics, my dad said after his dad and others of his dad's generation had sat for a while for tea or some other reason, they would indicate it was time to get back to work by saying, "Well, this won't buy the baby's new shirt. . . . Nor pay for the one he's wearing."

Back to pumpkin pie. I was talking to the lady who brought the pie about pies in general. She like fruit pies the best, and I mentioned my dad likes berry pies the best. I said for a fruit or berry pie, I like the pie warm with ice cream on it. But for pumpkin pie (which alongside pecan pie is what I like best), if you have topping, it should be whipped cream. And a cup of coffee on the side. This led to a connection in my brain, which I did not share with my co-worker, to a song with a line about coffee and pumpkin pie. Now, having researched on the web, I have (re)discovered it comes from the song, "Sleigh Ride," which has the lines:

There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
When they pass around the coffee and pumpkin pie.
It'll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives.
These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives.

True enough, isn't it? My sister likes to sing a little song that we learned from a commercial for canned pork and beans:

Simple pleasures are the best,
All the little things that make you smile and glow.
Life's simple pleasures are the best, are the best, in all the world.

Well, so pumpkin pie is a simple pleasure, one to be enjoyed in the moment, in the day, without worry for the future, and the pleasure becomes a wonderful thing we remember all through our lives.

Diagram that sentence.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The cool sequester'd vale of life

Elegy written in a Country Churchyard
Thomas Gray. 1716–1771

The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wand'ring near her secret bow'r,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke:
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to These the fault,
If Memory o'er their Tomb no Trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt'ry soothe the dull cold ear of death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village Hampden that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.

Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
Their glowing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing ling'ring look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
Ev'n in our Ashes live their wonted Fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,

Haply some hoary-headed Swain may say,
'Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.

'There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

'Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Mutt'ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

'One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
Along the heath and near his fav'rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

'The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn:'


Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A Youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heav'n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear,
He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose,)
The bosom of his Father and his God.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yes, better

This morning it seemed as if my dog had a relapse. He seemed sad, droopy, lethargic. But by the time I came home from work, he was back to normal--normal for him meaning completely crazy, at least when I first walk in the door. It was a relief to have him jumping around again.

Monday, October 11, 2010

All better?

This morning it was hard to leave for work because my dog was sick. I felt so bad to leave him lying sadly under the desk, feeling icky.

This evening he seems better. I hope he stays better. You feel responsible for a pet; you want him to be happy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What am I doing here?

So I'm getting ready to head over to my great-nephew's birthday celebration, and I stick my digital camera in my purse, so I can take pictures. Then I think I should take extra batteries in case the ones in there now run out. So I go over to the rommel drawer where I think batteries are and I open it. I look it in blankly. I open another drawer and look in it  blankly. I say to myself, "What am I looking for?" I close both drawers and stand there a minute. This time, I'm lucky, and I remember. "Oh, yeah, batteries." So I find them and put them in my purse.

How is it that I forget what I'm doing in the time it takes me to walk across a room?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Murky depths

What with the rain, wind, and leaves, the pond is full and murky.

However, not everything in the pond was placed there by the hand of nature. I know that at the bottom are some rocks and sand placed there by the tiny hands of some of my smallest relatives.

New growth in autumn

About a month ago, I ruthlessly pruned my honeysuckle back to a mere stock because it had been so infested with aphids. I figured honeysuckles are pretty hardy; it will probably grow back, and if it doesn't I'll buy a new one next year.

Even though the season is winding down, it's already starting to grow back.

I have great hopes of it for next spring and summer.


The rosemary and thyme are luxuriant.

The parsley is going to seed, although I have cut back the seediness a number of times, and the sage is healthy but still small.

I think the marigold I put in the pot earlier in the summer has been overshadowed by the rosemary.

Fall effects

The impatiens and creeping jenny are still doing well in cool, damp fall weather.

Some of the plants are doing well, others look scrawny.

This one, which I think is called Cuban oregano (ornamental), but which looks like a succulent, is thriving.

This pansy, as well as the plants behind it, are looking meager, but the pansy blooms bravely.

The west side

On the west side of the house, the "hen and chicks" I planted around this stumpy area are thriving and spreading. I've seen people use hens and chicks to get rid of tree stumps by actually planting them into the stumps. Here we took out a bush of some kind, and I thought that over time the hens and chicks might get rid of the remaining roots and protrusions. This is a mostly shady area tending to be damp, but the soil is sandy and slopes downhill. Lots of baby weeds are coming up too.

The Veronica miffy brute has spread a lot since the weather cooled. I hope it lasts the winter so that next year I have a carpet of it on the steps here. My French lavender (lavendula dentata) did quite well outside my kitchen window. I can't say I ever was aware of a lavender-scented zephyr when the window was open, though. The French lavender has been an annual for me in pots on the deck, but my sister-in-law encouraged me to hope that these two might survive the winter because they are sheltered. Our coldest wind around here comes from the northeast, so to be snuggled up to the west side of the house should be the safest they can be.

Below is a plant that I think I've grown in containers in past years, sold under the folk name "burgundy wedding veil," with the Latin name solenostemon hybrida. However, googling both those plant names didn't bring me any matches that are exactly the plant I've grown.

Here in the ground it has grown some stems and bloomed, which it never did in the pot--if indeed this is the same variety as my potted plants of yesteryear.

Lasting begonias

Some of the plants on my deck are getting a little sorry-looking, first because it's late in the season and second because, even though we had quite a few days in a row without rain, I didn't water them.

The "go-go scarlet" begonias are still blooming beautifully, but the bacopa in the same post is sad.

Fungus among us

In the barrel with the autumnale-leave fuchsias, mushrooms are growing. The weather has been mild, not all that rainy (until today), but damp, with mists and fog in the mornings. Must be good mushroom weather.