Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Human Voice

In our churches, "Spirit of Life," by Carolyn McDade, has been popular since the mid-1960s.  It is a familiar song to me and others who have grown up in our denomination.  The melody is sweet and the message is compelling.

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of life, come to me, come to me.

On Sunday, "Spirit of Life" was on the order of service.  It made me smile, remembering my youthful enthusiasm over singing--still for me an essential part of a Sunday service.  My father came to church with me to reconnect with familiar surroundings and familiar people.  When he was a young man, Dad had been encouraged to study voice.  Instead he chose the ministry where he met my mother--then the theological school choir director.  Over 20 years ago, Dad moved from his position of many years looking out from the pulpit to sitting among the congregation.  Now he is approaching his 96th birthday and is weaker of body and less sharp of mind.  His voice, however, does not age.

I enthusiastically joined in singing in earnest when Dad's voice became more and more a part of my consciousness.  I was overcome with emotion to hear him--even in his dotage--a voice as lovely as it ever was--true and precise and strong.  Unable to sing, I tried to gain control of my own voice, wiping my tears and hoping he didn't notice. 

This experience was a gift--a nod to the power of the voice and the human spirit.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Nose Knows

As I brought the first spoonful of raspberries to my mouth, I was transported back to my grandparents' home in Calais, Maine.  My great aunt and I were the pickers so we had first dibs on the berries, which we ate guilt free with cream and sugar.  Yes, sugar.  And I still use sugar.  My husband accuses me of gilding the lily.  Oh well.

Whenever I catch a whiff of jet exhaust, it reminds me of stepping off the plane in Santiago, Chile, to start my Peace Corps stint.  That arrival in Santiago was over 40 years ago!

And lilacs--uncommon in California's central valley--conjure up images of an enormous bank of lilacs bordering the back of our property in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  I really can see them in my thoughts. 

Scents, odors, smells.  They are the most direct route to our memories.  The other senses--taste, touch, sight, hearing--these aid our memories.  But nothing is as acute as the sense of smell.  That same great aunt who was my co-picker of raspberries, beans, peas, tomatoes and pears had no sense of smell.  But she loved her food even so.  I am grateful to be able to enjoy what the world has to offer using the full spectrum of my olfactory senses.

Thank goodness for those memories.

A Note to Readers:  After too long, I am back on course.  Over the last several months, my blog has experienced some hiccoughs.  Photos have disappeared from prior posts and I am unlikely to take the time to replace them all and the appearance of the blog has been impossible to change.  Bear with me as I try to "crack the code" to make it better.  I will continue to post regularly, however, with or without successful changes.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bah, humbug? Maybe not.

On the approach to Christmas, I usually suffer anxiety over gifting, confusion about who will be where and when and whether I am feeding throngs or a few, how clean the house really needs to be and other angst-laden planning.  This year, however, for some reason, I feel much less anxiety and much more general appreciation for what will be.  I am calmer about the next few weeks and feel thankful for whatever will transpire.

Father Christmas in St. Raphael, France
This year, Christmas will be new.  Our cat, Max, seems to be improved after a run-in with the vet's searing instrument, my sister is recovering after surgery, our father edges closer to 96, my sons are hale and contented, our health is good.  Somehow it just doesn't seem remotely plausible that I should do anything other than be thankful and enjoy these riches. 

The world is a scary place fraught with problems, hatred, ugliness and indescribable beauty and generosity of spirit.  I am privileged enough to live where I can hold some of that ugliness at bay and I can embrace the blessings in my life. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jack Frost is Eating my Lemons

Here in the Central Valley of California, winter is vastly different from what I enjoyed/endured in my early years.  In upstate New York, I remember when the temperature plummeted to 52 degrees below zero.  In Massachusetts, the snow fell and fell and fell.  And not so long ago here, winters gave us endless rain and fog.  In more recent years, winters have meant occasional rain—not nearly enough—and much less fog than previously and an occasional overnight freezing temperature.  This does not bode well for our reservoirs even though they are easier winters for us homosapiens to endure.

This early winter/late fall, we are expecting freezing weather and even a possibility of snow.  According to the local newspaper, The Sacramento Bee, there was a dusting of snow in 2002, 1996 and 1988 and significant snowfall in 1976.  I remember that 1976 snowfall when I lived in the San Francisco Bay area; and based on my youth in New England and New York, I would never have described it as “significant.”  Rather it was enough to roll up the tiniest snowman, make a snow angel and maybe fashion a few snowballs to throw for the dog to fetch.  And those were only possible if done immediately after the snow fell because it melted away in record time.

Tonight I am worried for my precious Meyer’s lemon tree that I've been coddling for several years as we’ve been told the temperature will fall below freezing.  After many years of a lemon-less tree, we finally have what can modestly be called a “crop”—nine lemons in all.  Lest Jack Frost consider the demise of my citrus treasures, all have been plucked from the scraggly tree.  I’ll not yield a single lemon to Jack Frost.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

British Defeat

I rely on BBC for much of my electronic news.  Over breakfast today, I read the news on my tablet.  Today’s big story—after the Iran nuclear deal—is England’s “crushing defeat” in Australia.  The article explains the nature of the defeat in a language utterly incomprehensible to me.  In this case, the medium is cricket. 

The article starts, “Facing a target of 561 to win, or two days to bat through for the draw, England disintegrated from 142-4 to 151-8 and then 179 all out late on the fourth day to go behind in an Ashes series for the first time in seven years.”

What I glean from that opening is that England took a thrashing.  How that thrashing occurred, however, is mystifying to the likes of me. 

Two of the players started the day “looking comparatively comfortable, the pitch still doing little to assist the bowlers despite the emergence of a few cracks.”  And then there was a “nasty spell of fast bowling.”

I believe one of those two comfortable players threw it away when he took “the short-ball bait from Johnson and” pulled straight to substitute fielder.  Sneaky team, those Australians.  Fast bowlers, too.

There was a hail delay, which regrettably “interrupted Cook’s previously excellent concentration.”  It was all downhill from there. 

“In the off-spinner’s next over, Matt Prior played needlessly at a ball outside leg stump and deflected it straight to leg slip for a paltry four.”  The frosting on the cake came when one of the players “gloved the rampant Johnson down the leg-side, and when [he] went for a second-ball duck—chasing a wide one and edging it to Steve Smith at third slip—England had lost four wickets for nine runs.” 

Another rain delay and, though there was a valiant effort by one Joe Root, the result was victory for Australia.

I consulted Wikipedia to see if I could make some sense out of this jargon and have concluded that though there is some small resemblance to baseball (bats, balls, runs), I’ll have to return to the womb and be born an Englishwoman in order to even begin to comprehend the game. 

In any event, I offer up my congratulations to the Australians and wish the Brits better luck next time.

Monday, August 26, 2013

iPhone Ignominy

I bought an iPhone two years ago.  I use it more than I should but less than any self-respecting teenager does.  I dropped it several months ago and cracked the back.  The phone still worked, so I ordered a new back that my son, Sam, agreed to replace for me.  And son Patrick gave me a cover that promised to save me from future breakage.  I used the new protective cover until the new back arrived intending full well to replace it after the new back was put on.  The new back arrived and Sam put it on without a hitch. 

I find sometimes that it is difficult to charge the phone on my speaker without removing the back, so sometimes I leave it off.  After a month—maybe, I dropped the phone again and cracked the back.  So I ordered another one.

It arrived and Sam installed it about five days ago.  Today, I slipped the phone into my apron pocket and forgot to take it out when I took the apron off.  Later when I went to the kitchen to start dinner, I picked up the apron and the phone slipped out, fell to the floor and yes, the back cracked again.

I’m an educated woman and have managed to raise three adult sons.  I know how to do stuff.  Some stuff anyway.  I’m not so proficient at keeping my iPhone back intact, however. 

Buy another one?  What do you think?

Saturday, August 17, 2013


My husband is an identical twin.  He and his brother communicate frequently by phone.  He lives close enough to get together fairly regularly, but there are often daily conversations—sometimes more than daily.  They talk to each other in what I consider to be uniquely “twin talk.”  Probably not unique to them, I think lots of twins do the same thing.  Here’s how the conversation goes.  Phil, my husband, answers the phone and there is silence on his end for as much as several minutes.  Then there's conversation--generally about the behavior of a golfer at a recent tournament.  Or it could even be about a tournament that took place last week, last month or last year.  Or sometimes it turns to politics.  It's insignificant in the total scheme of things.  I think they’re just the topics they enjoy talking about.  There's always a disagreement.  Always. 

Here's the part that has always amused me.  When they’re done--"done" meaning they don't want to talk anymore because there is a new topic or the disagreement is becoming too contentious or they’re weary of the subject matter, the phone is simply closed or put back in its cradle.  There are no "goodbyes," no "talk to you later."  It's just over.  Furthermore, the next conversation begins as if the previous one had never ended. 

These are men with elephant-like memories.  They forget nothing.  But it seems their interpretation of the same event may have been different.  Or maybe they're just too stubborn to agree so one will automatically take another point of view—regardless of his actual point of view.  After 30 plus years of marriage, I stopped listening to these conversations years ago.  But every once in a while I can't avoid hearing a snippet or two.  It's comforting to know that some things never change.