zirconium: photo of bell tower seen on a walk to the Acropolis (athens bell tower)
My dear, dear friend M R B (@MBDigital001) sent to me French marshmallow candy drops earlier this week, and also some beautiful photos, which I am re-posting here with permission. (She sometimes moonlights as a photog for hire, btw - mainly NY state and DC area.)

They reminded me immediately of Alicia S. Carpenter's "A Promise Through the Ages Rings," a hymn in Singing the Living Tradition I have posted about before (in 2008, 2013, and elsewhen), and which I have been singing to myself again and again through the past few days:

A promise through the ages rings,
that always, always, something sings.
Not just in May, in finch-filled bower,
but in December’s coldest hour,
a note of hope sustains us all.

A life is made of many things:
bright stars, bleak years, and broken rings.
Can it be true that through all things,
there always, always something sings?
The universal song of life.

Entombed within our deep despair,
our pain seems more than we can bear;
but days shall pass, and nature knows
that deep beneath the winter snow
a rose lies curled and hums a song.

For something always, always sings.
This is the message Easter brings:
from deep despair and perished things
a green shoot always, always springs,
and something always, always sings.


Mar. 14th, 2016 01:24 am
zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (star)
An ongoing challenge here -- both with plants and with people -- is gauging how much space is in order. The pepper plants are particularly perplexing this year: in the past, they have flourished only when I got around to transplanting them into larger pots, but this year some of them seem happier and healthier in tight quarters. There are, of course, numerous other variables I haven't tracked -- soil, light, tea and coffee dregs, floor vs. table -- but that hasn't stopped me from marveling and dithering over the if-whens and what-nexts.

This batch seems happy crowded together:
Christmas pepper plants

This batch, not so much:
Christmas pepper plants

An upstairs daughter plant is doing really well right now:
Christmas pepper plant Christmas pepper plant

Over at Vary the Line, I dwell on light and astronomers. As I was closing windows after posting that entry, I clicked on a link to John Brashear's obituary. This sentence stood out:

Often, in the evening after his mill labors were over, Mrs. Brashear held a lantern, giving light to her husband while he sawed and hammered on their house.

So many possible directions one could pursue with that. Some other night.
zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
More often than not, it cheers me up when a Vaughan Williams setting is included among the opening hymns. This morning started with the Down Ampney tune, with verses by Bianco da Siena (died c. 1434), translated by Richard Frederick Littledale (1833-1890) with further alterations by the hymnal editors:

Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let its glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

And so the glory strong,
for which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;

for none can guess its grace,
till we become the place
wherein the holy Spirit makes a dwelling.

First UU Nashville sanctuary, September 2015

The Story for All Ages featured Moses arguing with God about returning to Egypt, and the pastor spoke at length about astronaut Edgar Mitchell during her sermon. Between those two points, the worship associate read Neruda's Keeping Quiet and the chamber choir sang Malcolm Daglish's setting of Wendell Berry's "To the Holy Spirit":

O Thou, far off and here, whole and broken,
Who in necessity and in bounty wait,
Whose truth is light and dark, mute though spoken,
By Thy wide grace show me Thy narrow gate.

Cheekwood, December 2015
zirconium: photo of Greek style coffee, Larnaca, October 2011 (coffee in Cyprus)
While hunting for some tights I'd stashed somewhere out of the way, I came across a sheet of notes for a paper I was drafting back in 1991 or 1992. At this remove, I don't quite understand all of it, especially as it refers back to even older notes from February 1990 (a Michael Murrin lecture on the Holy Grail), but I am amused to see this quote (of Murrin, I think):

"We're never going to get done, we never do, but then, this is medieval lit."

If my house weren't so firmly 20th century (thank God!), I'd be tempted to nickname it Medieval Lit. There is so much to do and to deal with. But then, it's a house. And sprucing it up is not that high on the list -- not when there are indexes to draft and avocadoes to mash (K&S had a one-day sale yesterday) and housemates to giggle at:

the day after Halloween

(That is a jack-o-lantern squeaky toy in Miss Dawg's mouth.)

Prompts 45 and 46 in Upper Rubber Boot's photo challenge, 100 Untimed Books, are "miniature" and "coming home."

miniature / coming home

The mini-book (created by Roger Culbertson and illustrated by Sarah McMenemy, 1997) contains pop-ups, including the wagging tail of a dog on a beach and the turning wheel of a bicycle.

I used to own a copy of Rosamunde Pilcher's Coming Home, and it contains scenes that remain in my memory, such as the night that Jeremy cooks steaks in butter for Judith. Though I'd forgotten that Judith had a cold until I looked up the scene again just now. (And glancing at some of the other pages online has reminded me of why the book irritated me enough to sell it.)

The Shell Seekers remains on my shelves, though. I think I picked it up at a used bookstore in Chicago, and it too has various characters returning to places they consider "home."

I didn't go to church today, what with the still-nasty cough, but I have The Shell Seekers open to a funeral scene, where the congregation is singing "For all the saints"": "It wasn't perhaps the most suitable hymn for a funeral, but ____ had chosen it because it was the only one she knew that ____ really liked." Another congregant thoroughly approves of the choice: "Music, flowers, and now a rousing hymn . . . just what _____ would have enjoyed."
zirconium: me @Niki de St Phalle's Firebird (firebird)
Explanation: http://upperrubberboot.tumblr.com/post/123904555213

Item: 1. self-portrait

100 untimed books: 1

The book is An English-Speaking Hymnal Guide, first compiled by Erik Routley and later edited and expanded by Peter W. Cutts. It was a birthday gift from Aunt Louise three years ago. The ring I am wearing on my pinky is one she used to own.

A book in the background is Helen Keller's Light in Darkness, which someone at the Swedenborg Chapel in Cambridge recently sent to me after reading "Wearing Persistence," a poem from Measured Extravagance that I'd put on the card I used to order a copy of Missing Rachel's The Thundered Word, having loved the sample I'd heard of "I Am That Great and Fiery Force," which is from a UU hymnal and which I'd sung in my own church a couple of months ago.

I believe my father-in-law (Louise's brother) selected the hymns for her service, which was held at an Anglican church in Ontario last week. The printed melody for "Rock of Ages" in the hymnal did not match the standard tune, which the organist played and the congregation sang; it was fine, but the disconnect had me sympathizing for once with those singers with perfect pitch ho get twitchy when a piece gets transposed to a different key than on the page. The other hymns were "Holy, Holy, Holy" and a five-verse "Abide with Me" (Routley/Cutts tells me that Lyte wrote eight stanzas, with 3 through 5 commonly omitted. Thank you once more, Aunt Louise).
zirconium: French word for "light" (on wall of Cheekwood Mansion) (lumière)
I have been humming "I Am That Great and Fiery Force" to myself since Sunday, when it was sung as one of the morning songs at church. Words by Hildegarde von Bingen, set to "Ave Vera Virginitas" by Josquin Desprez -- you can hear a bit of it sung by Missing Rachel, and longer versions of the tune on YouTube, inluding one by a Slovak choir, the Hilliard Ensemble, et al. The verses:

I am that great and fiery force
sparkling in everything that lives;
in shining of the river's course,
in greening grass that glory gives.

I shine in glitter on the seas,
in burning sun, in moon and stars.
In unseen wind, in verdant trees
I breathe within, both near and far.

And where I breathe there is no death,
and meadows glow with beauties rife.
I am in all, the spirit's breath,
the thundered word, for I am Life.

The chamber choir sang two pieces, including the Real Group's "Words," which was applauded at both services.

Present reading: Erica E. Hirshler's Sargent's Daughters: The Biography of a Painting

Recent cooking: Chicken with mushroom-wine sauce (and parsley from an early birthday present); Mexican-ish brownies for a Cinco de Mayo potluck (using salted caramel cocoa mix, throwing in a cupful of chocolate chips, cutting the sugar in half, and ancho chile powder -- they turned out fine. The intern who shares my office gushed about them without knowing I was the one who made them. \o/); fufu (to go with the leftover chicken)

Today's workout: a long swim. I had lane 2 to myself, which meant I could indulge in backstroke as well as freestyle.

Today's remaining goal: some ironing. Chores toward comfort: story of my life. ;)
zirconium: Unitarian Universalist chalice with pink triangle as base (rainbow chalice)
Last summer, when I went to the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival in North Carolina, I was captivated by the beautiful woman turning pages for William Ransom. She had silver hair and wide eyes and she was so engaged with the music -- not histrionically or showtastically or in any way in the way of the performance, yet vibrantly, fully present.

I was introduced to her at a reception after the concert, but with our first names only, so several minutes went by before the clues added up and I realized I was talking to a woman whose hymns I'd sung many times. At which point I fear I went into stammering fangirl mode, but she handled that graciously, of course.

Last night -- at the end of chamber choir rehearsal -- I learned that Shelley's husband had passed away in May, and that she died on Sunday of a heart attack.

I have Singing the Living Tradition open at the moment to #86:

Spirit of great mystery,
hear the still, small voice in me.
Help me live my wordless creed
as I comfort those in need.
Fill me with compassion,
be the source of my intuition.
Then, when life is done for me,
let love be my legacy.

--Shelley Jackson Denham, 1987
zirconium: photo of bell tower seen on a walk to the Acropolis (athens bell tower)
Tuesday tulip

Entombed within our deep despair,
Our pain seems more than we can bear;
But days shall pass and nature knows
that deep beneath the winter snow
A rose lies curled and hums its song.

For something always, always sings.
This is the message Easter brings:
From deep despair and perished things
A green shoot always, always springs,
And something always, always sings.

-- Alicia S. Carpenter, "A Promise Through the Ages Rings"
zirconium: sunflower core against the sky (sunflower sentinel)
Today's subject line is from Jane Hirshfield's Hope and Love. It is one of the pieces I am currently rehearsing for this Sunday's services. The other one is a lively setting of Emily Dickinson's "Hope Is the Thing with Feathers":

I've also been looking at various hymns set to "Charleston" (albeit wayyy slower than the midi at Hymnary). We sang the version that begins "There's a wideness in your mercy" (words by Frederick William Faber) at church not too long ago:

There's a wideness in your mercy like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in your justice which is more than liberty.

But we make your love too narrow by false limits of our own,
and we magnify your strictness with a zeal you will not own.

For the love of God is broader than the measures of our minds
and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
zirconium: Unitarian Universalist chalice with pink triangle as base (rainbow chalice)
tulip in my yard
Tulip in my front yard, about a year ago

Praise, O my heart, to you, O Source of Life,
you are my tide of joy, my sea, my shore,
my field of sky with stars that never set;
now I will learn your wonders all my days,
and my vain ways in darkness be no more.

- Ridgely Torrence, lyrics to a UU hymn (#284 in SLT) set by Robert L. Sanders. Truth be told, the melody resonates with me much more than the text, but in any case, it's what I've been in the mood to play when I sit at the piano to rehearse. The chamber choir will be singing a setting of Jane Hirshfield's Hope and Love in a couple of weeks.

[The subject line is from Psalm 104 (RSV), which was the inspiration for Torrence's text.]
zirconium: photo of pumpkin on wire chair (pumpkin on chair)
I'd completely forgotten about the apple tree that ate Roger Williams, until I looked up one of my old entries about an All Saints' Day service.

(Posting on May Sarton and her All Souls poems over at [community profile] poetree tomorrow.)

Today has been the warmest day of the week, but now the sun is down, and my feet are on the verge of clammy. I'll go dig out some socks in a sec.

My church's Room in the Inn program starts tonight -- in fact, the men should be having supper right around now. I have the 4 a.m. shift tomorrow morning, and I'm speaking about it at this Sunday's services. If that's not enough to lure you locals to the pews (jk), perhaps the topic will?

The Reverent Citizen and Leader

For our traditional election sermon, we will examine the virtue of reverence, which does not depend upon any one faith stance or religious belief, but keeps us from trying to act like gods. We will reflect on political philosophy that suggests that reverent citizens and leaders have a crucial role to play in a healthy democracy.

Plus, the opening hymn is "Here We Have Gathered," which is a lovely way to start a Sunday. I especially like the third verse:

Life has its battles, sorrows and regret:
But in the shadows, let us not forget:
We who now gather know each other's pain;
Kindness can heal us; as we give, we gain.
Sing now in friendship, this our hearts' own song.

[Something else that's nifty: an ASL script for the hymn]

(As always, the annotator in me hastens to add, of course we don't necessarily really know each other, let alone the dark stuff. Even the people who love me most and know me best can't always suss out when or how much I'm hurting, especially when I'm making a point of being stoic or even merely functional; nonetheless, singing this hymn among people I do consider my friends is indeed a pleasure. It's being greeted with hot coffee on a cold morning; it's hiking around Radnor Lake this morning with one of those friends, who just got back from Parents' Day at Williams; it's elegant hand-me-downs from an eighty-three-year-old yoga devotee and in turn taking salads and snacks to housebound friends.)

[I didn't sit down to write that. I guess community and connections are on my mind.]

Speaking of older folks, a retirement community in town sponsored one of the scarecrows at Cheekwood Gardens. They called it "Will's Scare Quotes":

Will's Scare Quotes Will Rogers quote Will Rogers quote
zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
more in control
...though not yet ready for prime-time. Oi.

In a related vein, I was asked to calculate how much time I spent chairing Committee D during 2010-2011.

...It added up to nearly 300 hours. And it wasn't my only volunteer commitment that year. No wonder I'm still catching up on the rest of my life.

On a separate note, I received the list of hymns for this Sunday earlier this afternoon. I am forever learning new things about the songs in SLT; today, it was finding out that #127 is based on William Blake's "On Another's Sorrow."

There's just enough daylight left for a walk or a ride. Time to fit that in, too.
zirconium: photo of bell tower seen on a walk to the Acropolis (athens bell tower)
Delegate badge and ribbon

Spirit of Compassion
Isn't it amazing
how we crave to know an outcome
before its time
even as we accept
that we cannot know
how anything will go?...

sanctuary, Weatherly Heights Baptist Church

Let there be light,
Let there be understanding,
Let all the nations gather,
Let them be face to face...

Let there be light,
open our hearts to wonder,
perish the way of terror,
hallow the world God made.

    - Frances W. Davis

Hymn geek note: "Let There Be Light" was first published in 1968; the author was a Canadian teacher. It has appeared in Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, UCC, Unitarian Universalist hymnals. (Source re other denominations: Routley and Cutts, An English-Speaking Hymnal Guide [Chicago: GIA Publications, 2005].)


zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)

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