Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Yesterday, when I said "thirteen or fourteen hours," I meant "fifteen or sixteen hours." I was looking at my clock thinking, From 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. is ten hours, then another hour or two . . . Oops. Oh, yeah. Twelve hours.

So the week continues.

I have on the TV the mass on EWTN and I thought they were having sound problems, with a lot of static. I changed channels to see if it was the station or my TV. It was the station, but then when I came back the priest was just talking about the noise and said they were having a heavy rainfall.

In honor of winter, I started re-reading Anna Karenina, as there are many winter scenes in it. I'll see if I stick with it. I find the character Levin somewhat annoying.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Truth, beauty, and stuff like that

Sometimes early in the morning, while I'm walking my dog, I think of things to blog. Amusing yet profound sentences flow through my mind.

Thirteen or fourteen hours later, having worked a full day, walked my dog again, and spent some time reading and web surfing, I come to my blog to write. My thoughts, if that word even fits my brain activity, are not amusing or profound.

I stare at the screen; my eyes droop; I may even snore a little. I blog.

Then you come to my blog. You stare at the screen; your eyes droop; you may even snore a little. You are reading my blog.

Just another Monday in cyberspace.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A few other thoughts

I was going to say, before I had to rush off, that Julian of Norwich makes a cameo appearance in the historical novel Katherine, by Anya Seton. Katherine Swynford, who was a real historical figure, was first the mistress and later the wife of John of Gaunt, son and brother of several Plantagenet kings, as well as father and grandfather, but never king himself. When Katherine repents of the years she has spent as Gaunt's mistress, she goes on a religious pilgrimage and is counseled by Julian of Norwich. Whether anything like that ever happened, I don't know, but Seton makes Julian a very likable, earthy character.

Here, you can hear T.S. Eliot read Julian of Norwich's line, although he takes out one iteration:

I believe this is an excerpt from "Little Gidding," one of Eliot's Four Quartets. I took a seminar on T.S. Eliot at Calvin College. I took it because Stanley Wiersma taught it and Eliot was his passion. At Calvin, whenever possible I took classes for the sake of the teacher teaching, rather than the subject matter. When the teacher was impassioned about the subject, it always became worthwhile. I agree with Frederick Buechner: "In the last analysis, I have always believed, it is not so much their subjects that the great teachers teach as it is themselves" (Now and Then).

And another thing

I forgot to mention yesterday while writing about John Julius Norwich that I am intrigued by his name because of its resemblance to the great medieval mystic Julian of Norwich. Perhaps a mere coincidence.

Julian of Norwich was a recluse--that is, she was a solitary nun who lived inside an enclosed space by herself; that was her calling. Her enclosed space was inside the Norwich church in England, if I recall correctly. When she was very ill one day, she had visions that she later recorded, which come to us in a book called Revelations of Divine Love. I read that some time ago (it's a short book), and while some of the medieval Catholic imagery is strange to me, I remember two things I liked very much. One was that Christ showed her something very small in his hand, the size of a walnut, and when she asked what it was he said it was everything that is. The other was this saying: "It behoved that there should be sin, but all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well."

That last saying, "All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well," appears in a T.S. Eliot poem, in which I believe he is quoting a sermon by Austin Farrer.

I have to go get ready right now, or I'll be late to church.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Poetry and music

Well, the majority of the snow we got yesterday melted today. To me it is a plus about the Western Washington climate that it doesn't snow all that much and, when it does, it doesn't stay all that long. I ran a few errands: bought ice-melter for the sidewalks for the next time we get iced up, bird seed for the feeders (I still need to put it out, but there is still some in the big one), and groceries, which I was low on.

Tonight my parents and I went to a concert of music and poetry called Noel that I have been to the last two years, this being my third time. They specific music and reading vary, but it is an ensemble of several harps, a cello, two violins, in previous years a viola, a percussionist, and a flute, and the reader. All the performers wear renaissance costumes. Certain elements don't change. They always walk in playing "Masters in This Hall," and they always end with the audience singing, "We wish you a merry Christmas."

One poem I heard tonight that I think I've heard every time is The Twelve Days of Christmas, by John Julius Norwich. I was hoping it was in the public domain, so I could quote it at length or even in its entirety, but it seems to have been published in 1998. It seems to be available only as used copies. It consists of letters from young lady thanking her young man for the gifts he is sending her every day, which of course are those from the famous Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas. As she is a modern town-dweller, her enthusiasm for the gifts fades with each passing day as she receives hens, geese, swans, dancing ladies, drummers, etc. It's funny and cute.

Interestingly, John Julius Norwich is the author of a three-volume history of Byzantium, which I have read with great enjoyment. As heirs of the Western or Latin Roman Empire, we know and hear very little about the Eastern, Greek Empire, of which the religion was Eastern Orthodoxy, as opposed to Roman Catholicism, after the Great Schism of 1054. The history starts with Constantine, the emperor who founded Constantinople in 330 A.D., and ends with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, since when it is known as Istanbul.

This great civilization, with an unbroken history of more than 1,000 years, disappeared and we in the West seldom mention it. Its heirs are all the branches of the Eastern Orthodox church: Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, and other parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

I order beeswax candles from an Eastern Orthodox convent in Snohomish, Washington. In fact, I have a candle from there burning right now.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010, Lynden, WA

Happy Thanksgiving from Lynden, WA, USA.

I'm thankful for my Lord, for my family, for my dog, for my home, for sufficient--ample--food and clothing, for my job, for my friends, for good books and poetry, for winter now and spring and summer and fall to come, for flowers sleeping in the snow that will wake up in spring, for loved ones who sleep in Christ who will rise when he returns in glory, for snow, rain, and sun, for beautiful works of art, for hot and cold running water, for the internet and the information, new acquaintances, and old friends it connects me to, for my car, and for my country and its freedoms.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cold, windy night

The wind is blowing hard tonight. It has been blowing for some days, and we've had exceptionally cold temperatures. Tonight there is a high wind warning for western Whatcom County, warning of winds 30-40 miles per hour with gusts to 60 mph.

So batten down the hatches.

My dog and I on our walk tonight got a couple blasts of wind our faces that made us both pause and then have to push against it. I heard on the radio driving home from work that there are power outages around the county. If I wake up tonight and no clock is glowing in my room, then I'll know it's happening to us. Or if the clocks are blinking, I'll know it did happen. Then I'll wonder what time it is. Whenever I wake up in the night, I look at the clock to make sure it's not time to get up yet. If the power goes out, I'll worry that it is time but I don't know it.

I hope there are no homeless people sleeping outside tonight. I hope there are sufficient shelters open. I don't think there are homeless--street people--in Lynden, but there are in Bellingham. I know two people who work at the Lighthouse Mission in Bellingham.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday night

I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. It was a good movie and I enjoyed it, although it ends part-way through the story. The parking by the theater was extremely icy. My niece and I had to walk very carefully between the car and theater.

Now I'm headed into a short work week. Three days and then Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wind in the trees

It's been windy, and it still is windy. Here is the wind in the branches of our pin oak, with the stately evergreen behind them.

Wind damage

The wind last night broke this large section of the tree off.

The first blast of winter

The west side of the house -- snowy steps.

The rocking chair in snow and bright sunshine.

Snow covers the potted plants. Some have died of the cold; some, I hope, will survive the winter and come back to me in the spring.

The leaf-filled pond is frozen.

The dog asks me with his eyes, "Can we go inside now?"

We did.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Well, when I drove over to visit my sister-in-law a few hours ago it was cold and windy. When I drove home just a little while ago, it was a blizzard. I was driving eastward into a wind coming out of the east that was driving snow along with it. My headlights lit up the snow so that I could not see far ahead and the snow blowing across the road would cover and uncover  the stripes. When I couldn't see the stripes, I looked for the edge of the road and tried to stay away from it. I was out in the countryside, so no shelter from the wind; probably it was coming from the top of the Fraser Valley in Canada all the way down to greet me in little old Whatcom County. I drove about 15 miles an hour down the middle of a dark road where the speed limit is 50. Fortunately I saw just one or two other cars. I guess no one else was stupid enough to set out in those conditions. By the time I realized how bad it was, I was well on my way. Once I got into Lynden, where more buildings broke the wind, although snow was still blowing over the road, I could see where I was going. I'm glad to be home.

When I started out driving I kept saying over and over, "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me." After a while I said it silently, then just had prayerful concentration on driving without words. When  car drove past me in the opposite direction where the visibility was bad, I called out to it, "God bless you! God bless you!" to help it safely home.

I hope it doesn't stay this bad all weekend. I have plans to drive to Bellingham Sunday afternoon to see Harry Potter. I bought the tickets in advance at Fandango, so if I end up not going, I'll be out the money, too.

Oh, well, sufficient unto the day. I'm home safe tonight.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

One dog night

Actually, every night is a one dog night for me. The term "three dog night" came, so they say, from the idea of a night that's so cold you need three dogs in bed with you to keep you warm. I just have one tiny dog to cozy up to me weather it's warm or cold.

But it's cold tonight! A cutting little wind out of the east and a temperature right around freezing. I keep hearing both forecasts of snow and people talking about forecasts of snow. But I gather any snow that happens is likely to be just flakes in the air and not really any accumulation, except maybe a little at higher elevations. I'm not into snow accumulation. It just makes driving a hassle.

The other thing to watch out for in this weather is black ice. I don't know if that's the term everywhere that it can happen. It just means that damp patches on the road--of which we have plenty in northwest Washington--can freeze, and they just look like wet, black pavement but really they're ice. Swoosh. There you go into a ditch. We have lots of ditches beside the roads in Whatcom County, too. Out in the countryside it seems like every road has a deep ditch on each side. I have seen cars nose-down in them when the roads are treacherous. Careful, careful, careful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You want to go where everybody knows your name

Met a couple friends tonight after work at the Grand Ave Alehouse in Bellingham. We had a nice time. One had just landed a job after a long hunt, so it was a happy night for her. I ate a burger with cheese and bacon and french fries on the side. All very good. Just a pleasant evening.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wind and a book

Last night was dark and stormy, very windy and cold, but it was over by morning.

On my Kindle I made an impulse purchase of Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain. I've watched his show "No Reservations" on the travel channel and usually like it. He has kind of a snarky sense of humor.

I must say reading this book made me realize that by never considering becoming a professional chef, I made a wise decision without even thinking about it. Mr. Bourdain loves it, but he doesn't make it sound appealing to me--frenetic work in a hot atmosphere and standards of behavior and conversation below those of a locker room. Anthony Bourdain is obviously highly intelligent, articulate, and gifted at what he does, but it takes a certain personality type to thrive in the environment he describes, and one very foreign to me--which is not to say I didn't enjoy the book. It's like watching Indiana Jones fall into a snake pit--entertaining, but you have no desire be in his place. Except Bourdain would say, "Snakes. Cool. Let's eat them."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Sound and the Fury

The St. Bernard came through our yard again this morning. This time, he walked onto the deck, right outside my living room window. My dog quite literally went insane. Chaos reigned. The dog outside strolled on, completely oblivious to the raging 20-pound ball of fury and fur behind the window.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bird broth

Today was a rainy Saturday, but the fall colors were pretty. In the morning when I was sitting on my couch, drinking coffee and cuddling my little dog, the view into the back yard was mostly yellow tree leaves. Beautiful.

We have some new neighbors a couple houses away with two dogs, a dachshund and a St. Bernard. My dog and I heard a big "woof," which I knew was their big dog. My little dog became quite excited and ran across the room to bounce around on the chair near the window. We both looked out but didn't actually see the dog. Later, when my dog wasn't paying attention, I did see the big fellow. He trotted through our yard and paused at the bird bath, which is just about at his chin level, and he lapped some water out of it then went trotting along to wherever he was headed.

Other times, I've seen cats put their front paws on the edge of the bird bath, standing on their hind legs, and lap out of it, too. I always figured since birds had splashed in it, it was like bird broth to them. Bird bullion perhaps. I remember a roommate of mine who said chicken bullion was water a  chicken had walked through.

Below is a picture of the bird bath in question, although not taken today. This is a summer picture.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day 2010

I had a pleasant day off, in honor of Veteran's Day. I even managed to accomplish a couple useful tasks around the house. Now I go back to work tomorrow, and then it's the weekend. It won't be long till "The Holidays" and all the family time and special events that entails. Should be nice.

My parents went to a Veterans Day dinner this evening, as my dad is a veteran of the Cold War and the Vietnam War.

On my Kindle, I downloaded the book Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family, by Condoleezza Rice. She came from a family that was big on education. I was vaguely aware that she was good at music. It seems she showed an interest at a young age so that her grandmother, who taught piano, started giving her lessons when she was three. She learned to read music so early that she doesn't remember learning it--it's like she always knew it.

I think she chose a good title. In some ways her upbringing was extraordinary and so are her accomplishments. But it was done in an ordinary way. Her mom was a teacher and her dad was a pastor, and she was an only child. They really invested themselves in encouraging her to excel. They themselves had had parents who were very focused on education for their children. She came from good, good people.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No need for alarm

Tomorrow is a holiday, Veterans Day, and so I can go to bed without setting my alarm, which is the happiest bed-going there is for me. Actually, I always wake up long before the alarm goes off and turn it off before it goes, but it is dread of the alarm that awakens me. Tomorrow I can wake up without dread.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Up till all hours

Last night I was in the hospital emergency room with a family member who, thank goodness, is just fine again. But I am very short on sleep.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Geese in the mist

I wonder if you can see the geese flying overhead in this video. You could hear them.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Yesterday was a lovely, misty autumn day. The leaves are in color and falling, and mists and rains gently came and went.

Because it was dark outside during the day (from clouds and mist), I turned on the fairy lights I put up a couple weeks ago. When I sat in my living room, these gave a little light to the  scene through the windows.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The happiest day of the year

An extra hour of sleep! Fall back -- hooray! Perhaps I should say that tomorrow is the happiest morning of the year. (When we spring ahead is the unhappiest morning -- bleah.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Break, break, break (for my brother, whose voice is still)

Break, break, break

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.

-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A stitch in time

Last night I did a few rows of my needlepoint project. It's actually a kind of cross-stitch/needlepoint combined. You do it on a mesh, like needlepoint, but you use a cross-stitch. It's a big mesh with what look like wide-open holes, but the yarn you use is so thick it fills it up. It took me a couple tries to get the hang of the stitch. I had to take my work out twice, but then I got it right and did a little bitty section.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Literature for gardeners

I read a charming little book on my Kindle by Elizabeth von Arnim, The Solitary Summer. It is in the same vein as another book by her, Elizabeth and her German Garden. Both deal primarily with her love for her garden in her home in Germany. In both, she never refers to her husband by name but only as "The Man of Wrath," and she likewise refers to her three daughters as "the babies," and individually as "the April baby," "the May baby," and "the June baby."

Here are the passages I highlighted in The Solitary Summer:

Every now and then I leave the book on the seat and go and have a refreshing potter among my flower beds, from which I return greatly benefited, and with a more just conception of what, in this world, is worth bothering about, and what is not.

What a blessing it is to love books. Everybody must love something, and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing returns as books and a garden.

All I want is to read quietly the books that I at present prefer.

I never pay bills or write letters on fine summer days. Not for any one will I forego all that such a day rightly spent out of doors might give me; so that a wet day at intervals is almost as necessary for me as for my garden.

It is delightful and instructive to potter among one's plants, but it is imperative for body and soul that the pottering should cease for a few months, and that we should be made to realise that grim other side of life. A long hard winter lived through from beginning to end without shirking is one of the most salutary experiences in the world.

Nobody, except the ultra-original, denies the absolute supremacy of the rose. She is safe on her throne, and the only question to decide is which are the flowers that one loves next best.*

*Miss Von Arnim's second-favorite flower is the sweet pea. Mine is the pansy.

I would suspect that at this point in history, Elizabeth von Arnim's best known work is The Enchanted April, which has also been adapted into a lovely movie. I heartily recommend them all.

Een grapje *

I have to explain a little joke I made to my sister in the comments of another post, the one about my needlepoint project. (The kit arrived today, by the way.) We both like an English novelist, Barbara Pym. She wrote some funny, touching stories, and in one of them, No Fond Return of Love, is the following passage:

Dulcie suddenly wished that she had brought her knitting. There was that look about Viola that presaged the outpouring of confidences. It would have added a cosiness to the occasion -- hot coffee, purring gas-fire, women knitting and talking. Or, rather, one talking while the other knitted in a kind of wildness and desperation, yet with the satisfaction of seeing a sleeve grow.

When my sister suggested I do my needlepoint while I visit with our sister-in-law, that passage came to  my mind.
* Een grapje = a little joke.