Sunday, March 30, 2008

Quick trip to TN and back (via Dallas and Chicago)

"`But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
`Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
`How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
`You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
'Curiouser and curiouser!' cried Alice."
~Alice in Wonderland

It was a crazy busy week last week, not leaving me much time for anything but work. I was supposed to go to Tennessee Thursday morning for interviews for new staff positions, but just as I was leaving for the airport, I got a call saying my flight was canceled because of bad weather in Chicago, but that I had been rescheduled to leave at 6:50 a.m. on Friday instead.

That meant that I was up at 4:30 Friday in order to make my plane. It also meant that I had to cancel one interview and reschedule the other. The trip was mostly smooth, but we got out of Dallas (instead of Chicago) late, so I was late to my rescheduled appointment. Brother!

Tennessee is far ahead of us as far as spring goes. Redbud, magnolias, Bedford pear trees were all in full bloom. The grass was nice and green. Birds are already nesting, and I saw some baby ducklings crossing the road with their mother. It rained quite a bit, too.

But I got in on an orchestra rehearsal of my niece's (my meetings were all at her university) and heard the orchestra play the next day. I saw a lot of old friends, former students, and former classmates, and made a presentation at the inaugural meeting of a new alumni chapter for our school. Unfortunately, I also got sick during my presentation and had to step away for several minutes to recover. My niece and her friend ended up taking me back to my hotel where I promptly went to sleep for the next 5 hours.

I had to get up at 4 this morning to catch my flight back home. I left so early that I saw the sun rise...from above the clouds...I was on the western wing, so the other side was more vivid. Still, it was beautiful. I also saw lake Michigan, full of ice patches, and, at long last, Boston, my favorite US city =)

It was good to get home. I enjoyed spending time with my niece and friends, but it wasn't long enough to really relish it. I would love to have had the time to go up to Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, for example. But the glimpse of spring reminded me that good things are soon to come our way, too.

Photos: Teddy all packed and ready to travel; flowering tree and weeping willows; Bedford Pears line the street in Collegedale; a duck (no idea what kind) crosses the street in the rain; my friend Laurie conducts the Southern orchestra, my niece is playing the cello to her right; sunrise above the clouds; an icy Lake Michigan; Boston from the air

Sunday, March 23, 2008

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

One of my all-time favorite hymns is When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. I've sung it in church and in choirs numerous times. I've also played the orchestral accompaniment numerous times as well. I find the words overwhelming sometimes, just thinking about what it all means.

This week, my nephew played in the orchestra that accompanied three choirs singing for the Easter service at the College Church at my alma mater. I went with my sister to hear him. Imagine my delight to see that hymn on the program. I could hardly wait to hear it. I just love the words, especially the third verse.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His hands, His head, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Where the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my life, my soul, my all.

--IsaacWatts, 1707

The Selah Publishing company website offers this History of the Hymn:
"Isaac Watts first published "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" in his Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707). Designated a communion hymn, it appeared under the heading "Crucifixion to the World by the Cross of Christ; Gal. 6:14." One of the first English-language hymns to use the word "I" and to focus directly on personal religious experience, "When I Survey" holds an important place in the history of hymnody. It offers an example of how Watts, sometimes called the father of English hymnody, enlarged the boundaries of English sacred song beyond the metrical psalms to include freer verse that readily lent itself to new musical settings. Watts fused two traditions of sacred song that had been developing side-by-side-metrical psalms and hymns-in texts characterized by unusual clarity and force in the choice of words."

Photo: from Snapshots of Joy graphics

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Winter is past

I love this time of year when the branches are red with life (and sap). Buds are just about ready to burst. Birds are getting more and more numerous. Flocks of robins populate yards and fill the air with their songs. I'm glad I live in a place where there are seasons. The variety keeps me from getting bored with all that surrounds me outdoors...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Turkey Day!

Wednesday was a rather mild day, especially compared to the snowy first day of spring yesterday and the wild and windy day today. Several of the classes took their recesses outside, with kids jumping rope, swinging, and playing basketball.

I was in the office when one of our assistants came downstairs to ask if it was common for a turkey to be wandering around the property. Truth to tell, we have a flock of turkeys (one Tom and several hens) that live in the woods skirting our property and they often strut around the field. I'd heard word that they were out and about, so I was eager to see if I could get a picture.

I grabbed my camera and went around the front of the building (they'd been reported at the back) to see if I could meet up with him (it was the Tom). Sure enough, he was coming around to the front as I was going towards the end of the building. I was angling for a good shot when I heard "TURKEY!" from the basketball court and saw a herd of boys streaking towards the turkey. Poor thing, it didn't hesitate to see what the ruckus was. He just took off out the gate into the neighbor's yard. I was so annoyed with those kids, because of course they spoiled my shot. Turkeys!

Photos: The kids swinging and jumping rope; turkeys taken two years ago, almost to the day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

in Just-- spring

Spring, the sweet spring, is the year's pleasant king;
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing.
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

~ Thomas Nashe (1567–1601)

in Just--
spring when the world is mud--
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles far and wee
~ e. e. cummings (1894-1962)

For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

~ Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)

Newly blooming crocuses around the flagpole at school; beautiful calla lily my sister brought to my office yesterday. I've never seen one this color!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Live the verses

My sister sent me a link from her local on-line newspaper about the man I worked for when I was in college, Oscar Schmidt. He's 93 and still going strong. When I went to college, I had it in my mind that I wanted to work in the library (I hate to admit it, but "Love Story" played a strong part in my wanting to work there. Remember Ali MacGraw's character, Jennifer, worked in the library and that's how she met Ryan O'Neill's character, Oliver.

I had this silly idea that if I worked in my college library like Jennifer did, I'd meet my Oliver! So much for that plan! Who I actually met, though, was Oscar, my boss. He was a great boss, and put a lot of trust in me, encouraged me to develop a good work ethic ("No, you cannot work and talk at the same time without making mistakes.) And he showed me that you can work hard, be responsible and still have a good time. His life's motto was “Life is but once / Drink the cup / Wear the roses / Live the verses.” He surely is doing all that and more. Still. I hope I have the same vim and vigor that he does when I am 93!!!

Photo and caption from Wicked Local Lancaster (on-line): By Ann Ringwood/Staff Photographer/Oscar Schmidt, 93, still volunteers at the Atlantic Union College library more than 60 years after graduating.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No Man is an Island

Today I taught another one of my favorite things to teach: John Donne's Meditation XVII. How well the lesson goes always depends on the students in the class. It is, after all, 17th century metaphysical introspection, not always a thing easily understood by 21st century teenagers. Today, it went well. Today, they got it. And today, when we were done exploring what John Donne had to say about our interconnectedness, I asked them to write their own Meditation XVII. I have yet to see the finished product, but I am eager to do so. I should have tried to write my own while they were writing, but I was reading and grading journals at the time so I could hand them back before the class ended. I will, in time, write and share my thoughts on the subject. For now, appreciate and enjoy Donne's famous words:

No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

Photos: Toothaker Island, Lake Mooselookmeguntic, Rangeley, ME

Friday, March 07, 2008

Non Nobis Dominie

I just finished studying/watching Kenneth Branaugh's Henry V with my seniors. We loved the story of a young king trying to do the right and honorable thing. We were particularly interested in his skills as a good king. Having studied Hamlet prior to this and noting how not to be a king (Claudius, who kills his brother, married his brothers wife, and plots to kill his nephew/step-son), we felt strongly that Henry V had a positive message to learn about leadership, Christian leadership at that.

The final act is especially moving when the English soldiers are gathering their dead from the battlefield at Agincourt. Henry orders that Non Nobis Dominie be sung, and a soloist begins the piece, but is soon joined by a whole chorus of soldiers. It's quite beautiful. My students, who love music anyway, and who are used to music being played in the classroom during tests and quiet reading and writing periods, begged to hear the soundtrack to Henry V this morning while they took their vocabulary test. Happily, I was able to oblige them. They were so excited! So, there they were taking their test, singing their hearts out as the wrote their answers. It was really beautiful...

Here's that penultimate scene of the play, along with the Non Nobis Dominie. See if you don't agree with my students and me about Henry's character, and about the music they all sang.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Do You See What I See?!!!

I was leaving school this evening, just before dark. It had been in the 40s most of the day (it's 46 right now), so the snow had been melting all day long, although I did see some snow flurries at one point. Anyway...I was going down the front steps and looked to my left and saw...(drum roll, please)...the yellowed tips of DAFFODILS!!!

I'm so excited! The snow melted down to the ground just outside the door, enough to give breathing room to the bulbs that had been growing all this time under dead leaves and cold snow. Suddenly the snow melts, and there they are. Such a beautiful miracle!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Lost in the snow

Well, almost. My parents have had so much snow at their place in southern Maine that their house has all but disappeared from certain angles. Their neighbor sent them a picture (left) and the following note today: "From our viewoint you have almost disappeared behind the snowbanks. Let us hope Spring is coming soon."

My mom sent her own pictures to me yesterday after yet another snow storm. The first is the neighbor's house from my parents', next is the front walkway completely buried, and the last is the back patio with the bird feeders quite a bit shorter than usual and the heated bird feeder to keep ice from forming.

Musical Coincidence

Yesterday, before I went out to the ocean, I was driving around the lake near my house. There are two cemeteries side by side on one side of the lake, and for the first time, I decided to drive through one of them. Several of the roads were snow-blocked, but I found one that reached back to the lake's shore.

I was listening to music while driving slowly through, looking for older graves. John Rutter, a contemporary English composer-conductor, is a personal friend of the orchestra I toured with for three years back in the 90s (the same orchestra my sisters played with in the 70s and 80s, and the one my niece now plays with in the summers). I had the privilege of playing his compositions under his direction in Carnegie Hall several times during those years, and often listen to his work when I drive.

So, I was listening to Rutter while driving around the far edges of the cemetery, looking at names on the gravestones when one caught my eye: Rutter! I couldn't believe it! I stopped, rolled down my window, and took a picture while letting Rutter's music waft over Rutter's family plot. It made me smile, even though I know it meant nothing to anyone but me.

The piece I was listening to was Rutter's setting of Psalm 100:

O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands: serve the Lord with gladness,
and come before his presence with a song. Be ye sure that the Lord
He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are
His people, and the sheep of His pasture. O go your way into His
gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful
unto Him, and speak good of His Name. For the Lord is gracious, His
mercy is everlasting: and His truth endureth from generation to
generation. Glory be to the Father, and to the Song, and to the Holy
Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world
without end. Amen.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

As Birds Unto the Genial Homeland

I learned another new hymn in church this week. The song leader was having us try new hymns with "irregular" meters. This one was copyrighted in 1932 by the Central Conference of American Rabbis. David Levy wrote the lyrics. It's set to a tune by Max Grauman.

As birds unto the genial homeland fly,
The winter's cold and low'ring skies to flee,
So seeks my soul Thy gracious presence here
And finds, O God, its rest and peace in Thee.

Here at Thy shrine we leave all vexing care,
Forget the disappointment, grief and tear,
And on the wings of hopeful song and prayer
We rise, and rising feel Thy Spirit here.

Bless all who spend this night in pain and woe,
The burdened heart, the fainting, and distressed,
Thy comfort send to darkened homes bereaved,
Thy saving help to those by wnt oppressed.

Come, Sabbath joy, each trusting heart now fill,
A glissful peace within our homes abide,
May thankful praise each grateful heart now thrill,
And to God's loving care their lives confide.

They that go down to the sea...

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

Psalms, 107:23-30, KJV

Mallards and Geese and Gulls, Oh my!

I had an afternoon to myself today, so I decided to drive up the coast to see what water fowl I could find. It had snowed much of the night and was still precipitating off and on. But it was relatively warm (39 degrees) and calm, just enough weather to make it interesting, but not dangerous to drive in.

I first went to the nearby body of water, Lake Quannap- owitt in Wakefield, just a few miles from my house, and down the hill from my sister's, where I was for lunch today. I thought I might find some geese or something, but the only living thing I found there was a group of sea gulls resting on the ice.

From there, I drove north to Manches- ter-by- the-Sea (don't you love that name?!) and drove along the ocean, watching for signs of life. A pretty cove caught my eye, so I stopped to look at the waves when all of a sudden a dozen or more mallards swarmed me overhead and landed along the water's edge. They immediately started feeding, scrambling along the rocky beach, coming right up to me at one point.

Suddenly, some Canadian geese flew overhead, calling out, and the whole mallard flock flew up to join the geese. They flew round and round the area for a few minutes, then the geese flew off and the mallards came back to where they'd been feeing before. It was very interesting and beautiful to watch. I wish I'd had a camera with video to capture them.

Continuing on my journey north, I found myself in Magnolia (another beautiful name for a town!), again driving along the shore. This time, I found gulls at a family favorite picnic spot. Often on Saturday afternoons when we were growing up, our family would pile in the car or van and drive up to this spot, park, and enjoy a picnic lunch and afternoon of reading or playing games. I didn't eat or play games here, but I did drink in the rugged beauty of water crashing on shoreline rocks.

Next, I made my way to Gloucester, the famous fishing and lobstering town. I stopped to take a picture of the major landmark of the town, the Gloucester Fisherman with the lines Psalms 107 on it: "They that go do to the sea in ships." I'll do another post on that, but for the purposes of this entry want to stick to the birds I saw.

Dozens and dozens of sea gulls of all sizes, shapes, and colors; in the water, on pilings in the water, and on the fence along the water's edge. They let me come quite close to them, which was cool.

I walked until I got too cold, especially my camera hand. I couldn't help wondering how these gulls could sit for hours on the metal piping or floating in the frigid water without finding it unbearable! Something tells me their bodies react to cold much differently than mine does!