dual personalities



In honor of Labor Day, some wisdom from Frederick Buechner:

IT COMES FROM the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a man is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.

Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

Wishful Thinking

Discuss among yourselves.

The days grow short when you reach September*

Sigh. August is over and with it goes the summer. School starts and we begin that snowball slide to Christmas and the end of the year.

Well, I did meet some of my August goals.

I (almost) finished my rehab of an upstairs bathroom. The painting is done. It is nearly impossible to take a picture in a bathroom, but perhaps this gives you an idea. I am pleased.

2014-08-31 13.42.27

I caught up with several old pals for a few meals and conversation this month. (Once school gets underway, lunch out is impossible.)

Not much to check off the list I suppose, but  meanwhile work and home continue to run fairly smoothly. Meals are made (such as they are), sheets are changed and new rolls of toilet paper appear. Sometimes that is all we can aspire to I think.

It’s time to appreciate/enjoy the last blooms of summer before those oak leaves begin to fall in earnest. Oy.

2014-08-31 13.53.04

Enjoy your day off if you have one today! Appropriate movies to watch might be: Norma Rae, How Green Was My Valley, The Molly Maguires, Silkwood, The Grapes of Wrath, On the Waterfront.

Well, appropriate maybe, but I can’t say I’m in the mood. Any suggestions?

* “September Song” by Maxwell Anderson/Kurt Weill

“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort”

Jane Austen was so right. In fact, home is so nice that I could easily become a recluse. I love my house, especially now that the painters have almost finished making it look shiny white and new!


They did trample my hostas almost to extinction. And one of my spruce bushes got so butchered that we just had to take it away completely. I think the one pictured here will follow and then we’ll start all over again. But that’s fine with me…because they’ve done a bonza job.


The picture above shows the dining room window — a very large spruce bush used to obscure it.


The painters had a lot of cool equipment, including this bucket truck to get them up to the top of the house. It made me feel much better about those heights, but it left huge furrows in our front lawn, which will now be a real adventure to mow. But, hey, who cares? The house looks young again and its appreciation is almost palpable. I swear it’s almost smiling.

Meanwhile, on the inside I continue my fight against ‘stuff’ and dirt. I’ve been washing my grimy, boy-hand-printed upstairs hall walls with a trusty Mr. Clean magic eraser and a sponge. No kidding, those magic erasers are really magic, but do be careful about what surface you use them on as they contain formaldehyde.

The newest weapon in my arsenal is a Hoover carpet shampooer. Yep, I took the plunge. I figure that if I have one of my own, I’ll likely use it at least once a year and even if it’s not perfect, it ought to remove the worst of the dirt and spilled tea smell. So today, I’m going to attempt to use the carpet cleaner. Keep your fingers crossed!

Home improvement is so satisfying — you can tell from the (slightly forced) smile, right?

Taken in July during the bathroom re-paint

Taken in July during the bathroom re-paint

So I’m not exactly “Little Green Notebook” as a do-it-yourself blogger. I’m more the “if this incompetent can do it, anyone can” type. But that’s just it. Anyone can! The trick is knowing when to hire someone else to do the job. I think my dual personality has it down pat — as usual, I’m just following in her footsteps.

Have a lovely weekend and think of me toiling away happily with my carpet monster.


When the light is changing

I deserved a treat, so I ordered Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 2010 CD The Age of Miracles.


I am one of her oldest fans (and I mean that both ways)–although we are contemporaries after all, so never mind. Anyway, she never disappoints. It is a very good album and there is one song which really spoke to me. Listen, fellow introverts, and enjoy!


And, oh boy, the weekend is upon us once again! The painting in my bathroom is finished (thank you, Gary!) and so my project is to put the room back together.

I will also be readying the house for daughter # 1 who arrives home in a week for a birthday visit. Lots to do–but all fun stuff.

Hope your weekend is full of fun stuff too!

P.S. Today is Joseph Cotton day on TCM–so nothing thrilling to report there. He was in some classic movies, including Citizen Kane and The Third Man, but I am not a big fan of his. With a few notable exceptions like Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943), he made a career of playing the second lead, the good guy who is kind of boring and makes the lead look sexy and dangerous in comparison. In that genre, TCM will be showing Duel in the Sun (1947) which, even though it stars a hot young Gregory Peck playing Cotton’s bad younger brother, is a pretty terrible movie. I liked it as a child though, mostly because of the ethereal Lillian Gish who plays  the aging southern belle who had a thing a long time ago for her reckless creole cousin and so takes in his half-breed daughter, played by the terrible actress Jennifer Jones.  Whenever Gish is in a scene,  “Beautiful Dreamer” plays in the background and follows her around eerily. I’m sure I had no idea what was actually going on, i.e. rape, wreckage and ruin. King Vidor directed it all with a heavy hand, but it does have a rousing musical score by Dimitri Tiomkin.


So watch it if you’re in the mood for a bad melodramatic western–and I’ll admit, sometimes I am. But I really don’t like Gregory Peck as a bad guy.


Today, in honor of Tasha Tudor’s birthday, I present this corgi gif:


Just because. I mean, why wouldn’t I?

The famous illustrator/author was a big fan of the diminutive dogs

Tasha Tudor

and they are present throughout her books and artwork.



And here’s the best for last: James Bond, the Queen and her corgis…


So happy birthday to the late, great Tasha Tudor! Corgis rule.

They say that…

Books make the home

Woodcut by Rockwell Kent

And, as you know, I agree.


Here’s what Dylan Thomas said about books:

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

Maybe I have too many books in my house.


This is a pile of books I backed into and fell over when talking to daughter #1 on the phone recently. No, I’m not kidding.

And I do move books out of my house–just not as quickly as they move in.

Dedication to a mountain

I was reminded recently that Herman Melville dedicated Pierre: or, The Ambiguities to a particular mountain, which I saw every day when I was a student at Williams College. I climbed Mt. Greylock one Saturday with members of the Mountain Club and enjoyed the view which encompasses five states.


It was always in the background of all our shenanigans.

mt greylock

Kite flying in the spring of 1977 with Spud and Emmett

I miss those mountains, and I suppose those big-hearted football players.

Anyway, here is Melville’s most gracious dedication:

To Greylock’s Most Excellent Majesty

In old times authors were proud of the privilege of dedicating their works to Majesty. A right noble custom, which we of Berkshire must revive. For whether we will or no, Majesty is all around us here in Berkshire, sitting as in a grand Congress of Vienna of majestical hill-tops, and eternally challenging homage.

But since the majestic mountain, Greylock–my own more immediate sovereign lord and king–hath now, for innumerable ages, been the one grand dedicatee of the earliest rays of all the Berkshire mornings, I know not how his Imperial Purple Majesty (royal born: Porphyrogenitus) will receive the dedication of my own poor solitary ray.

Nevertheless, forasmuch as I, dwelling with my loyal neighbours, the Maples and the Beeches, in the amphitheatre over which his central majesty presides, have received his most bounteous and unstinted fertilisations, it is but meet, that I here devoutly kneel, and render up my gratitude, whether, thereto, The Most Excellent Purple Majesty of Greylock benignantly incline his hoary crown or no.

Don’t you just love old Herman? I mean really.

Upward and onward


I went to a funeral this weekend. It was at the church where I grew up and it was filled with a familiar crowd of people. The man who died was the father of four, all classmates of mine, the OM and my dual personality. There were 14 grandchildren and one great-grandchild–a fine, handsome family–good people.

It was the Rite I version of the Episcopal service without communion and included three hymns, one being “Once to Every Man and Nation” which I had not sung in a long time.

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

Old James Russell Lowell–I gotta love you.

But I bet the clergy were cringing. This hymn is not even in our hymnal any more. It was printed in the leaflet. As I recall we used to sing it occasionally at my school–it was in that hymnal. Well, time makes ancient good uncouth…

Back at church on Sunday I was heartened to hear our rector give a sermon on the Gospel, which was Matthew 16:13-20, where Jesus asks Peter “Who do you say that I am?” For once, Peter gets it right: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” The rector talked about how many professing Christians are really atheists who do not live their beliefs or actually walk the walk. But the bottom line, which he did not address, is that many Christians, including many members of the clergy, don’t seem to believe in anything anymore. You know, it’s all just a nice story. Jesus was just a social reformer trying to create a just society. They love “the symbolism of the Resurrection.” And as one fatuous misguided intern wrote in our diocesan newspaper, our “religion is just about being in one big love affair with God and Creation.” Ugh.

Well, it was good to be back in the pew after a few weeks off and it was fun to see the families and little kids back at church. We had ice cream to celebrate.



And our organist/choirmaster took the ALS challenge and was doused with ice water after church. Oh boy.





True summer weather (finally) descended on us last week with temperatures pushing 100 and the heat index out of sight. But summer is coming to an end…Labor Day is a week from today! Good grief, Charlie Brown. Our (relatively) lazy days are getting busier and busier.

Can autumn be far behind?

Tout va bien.


A “Just So” Story for Saturday

Or “How I got to love sad music”. When I was just a wee sprog — ages and ages ago —  we owned a very low-tech record player. My mother preferred classical music with a smattering of Kingston Trio, Bobby Darin,  Burl Ives, and show tunes thrown in. And, of course, my father liked his bagpipe music and Ewan MacColl sea chanties. All of it influenced my own taste (yes, even the Ewan MacColl), but most of all, I like a sad tune. Here’s how it all started.

A typical evening, but one that has stayed with me for some reason, saw my mother and brother sitting in the living room listening to and discussing Beethoven’s 7th. My sister and I — she about 7 and I, 5 — were already in our nightgowns ready for bed. We were bored, so we started to dance to the music — Mother may even have suggested it. We leapt around the room, did pirouettes atop the heavy canister vacuum, and generally disrupted the intellectual discourse by insisting that our mother watch us. Our brother was (understandably) annoyed, but Mother approved, because, as she then noted, the  super sad Allegretto of the 7th is known as “the apotheosis of the dance”.

I obviously didn’t know what that meant, but I remember feeling happy and somehow vindicated. So perhaps my early love of melancholy music can be attributed to Beethoven (thank you, Ludwig!). There was, of course, a lot of sad music around– the kind that makes your throat hurt unbearably. When I was a little kid, my two favorite sad songs were “Puff the Magic Dragon”

and “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins.

Picture little six-year-old Sarah trying not to cry over those. I still love the sad music, but I’ll leave my current picks for another post. My question for you, dear reader, is: when you were little, what was your favorite sad song ?

“You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? “*

Today is Audrey Hepburn day on TCM. Here is the schedule. I can’t say they are showing my absolute favorites, but there are actually a few I haven’t seen. So the DVR will be doing its job today.


I must say I have loved old Audrey for a long, long time–long before she was a pop culture “icon” and her face was all over everything. Our mother was a fan and loved Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). It really surprised me to find out that it was not a big hit when it came out in 1961 and it wasn’t nominated for many Oscars. It has “Best Picture” written all over it, if you ask me. It is definitely one of my Top Five of all time movies.

Audrey is the real deal: beautiful, smart, brunette. And she can act.

Anyway, an Audrey Hepburn movie fest seems like a terrific idea for this Friday. Which movie(s) will you pick?

John Huston's "The Unforgiven" (1960)

John Huston’s “The Unforgiven” (1960) with Burt Lancaster

William Wyler's "Roman Holiday" (1951) with Gregory Peck

William Wyler’s “Roman Holiday” (1953) with Gregory Peck

"Wait Until Dark" (1967)

“Wait Until Dark” (1967)

Billy Wilder's "Sabrina" (1954) with Bogart and Holden

Billy Wilder’s “Sabrina” (1954) with Bogart and Holden

Stanley Donen's "Charade" (1963) with Cary Grant

Stanley Donen’s “Charade” (1963) with Cary Grant

So many good/great ones to choose from!

*Paul Varjak


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