dual personalities

Everything was blazing


…Everything was blazing, everything was sweet. They were playing old Bob Dylan, more than perfect for narrow Village streets close to Christmas and the snow whirling down in big feathery flakes, the kind of winter where you want to be walking down a city street with your arm around a girl like on the old record cover–because Pippa was exactly that girl, not the prettiest, but the no-makeup and kind of ordinary-looking girl he’d chosen to be happy with, and in fact that picture was an ideal of happiness in its way, the hike of his shoulders and the slightly embarrassed quality of her smile, that open-ended look like they might just wander off anywhere they wanted together, and–there she was! her! and she was talking to herself, affectionate and old-shoe, asking me about Hobie and the shop and my spirits and what I was reading and what I was listening to, lots and lots of questions…

–Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

Okay, I have finally finished this magnum opus and I have to say I liked it. I think it is overly long and could have used some tightening up. At times I wanted to tell ol’ Boris to shut the hell up, but, you know, he was a talker.  I have heard some blog-grumbling about the end of the novel. Personally–spoiler alert–I was relieved to have it work out the way it did. And I think the last twenty pages were worth waiting for.


I guess they are making a movie. I’m sure it will be awful. Sigh.


Being oneself

Prairie Thunderhead by J. Douglas Thompson

Prairie Thunderhead by J. Douglas Thompson

“To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others.” 

― Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

O sacred head, sore wounded*

And so we enter Holy Week.


At our church we “re-enact” the Passion Drama during the service on Palm Sunday. Usually I am assigned to be a minor character like a serving girl (“You also were with Jesus the Galilean”) or the Centurion (“Truly this man was the Son of God!”), but this year I was not included at all. (My friend Carla and I joke about this because between the two of us we have been lay readers for nearly half a century, but we are no closer to being the Narrator or some named part than Joyce Meyer. Carla was a serving girl this year.)

I was a lector, however, and got to read a rousing lesson from Isaiah: “The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near…” and so on. I do love Isaiah.

Sunday night I was planning to watch The Robe on Netflix Watch Instantly,  but we couldn’t get it to work, so I watched a large part of Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth instead. I highly recommend it. It reflects, of course, the Roman side of the story and does a nice job of letting them off the hook. But Robert Powell is really great and so are the supporting players. Laurence Olivier as Nicodemus is one of my favorites.

During the week I will continue to read and watch appropriate fare, i.e. I abstained from watching Dancing With the Stars and their Disney-themed episode last night. Believe me it was not much of a sacrifice.

I have signed up to participate in the Good Friday Vigil following the Maundy Thursday service. I will be “waiting in the garden” from 5:00–6:00 a.m.

Window in Christ Episcopal Church, Poughkeepsie, NY

Window in Christ Episcopal Church, Poughkeepsie, NY

I have done this before and it is really quite a meaningful exercise. You are alone (with one other person) in the semi-dark of the spooky downstairs chapel with nothing to do but “stay awake for one hour” (see above window) and pray and meditate on Jesus and his sacrifice. This is right up my alley and better than the very public display of look-at-me-washing-someone’s-feet that is Maundy Thursday. To each his own.

Do you have any special plans for Holy Week?

* Traditional Hymn, attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, trans. by Paul Gerhardt and James W. Alexander–We sang it on Palm Sunday which made me happy, especially my favorite verse:

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Happy birthday, Susiebelle!

Today is daughter #2′s birthday!

Awkward Church Directory photo

Awkward Church Directory photo

I hope she is having a lovely day in Maryland, wined and dined by her friends and colleagues. Hopefully the sun is shining, the birds are singing and she is wearing something new and pretty.

But I sure miss her and wish we could celebrate her 24th birthday together. C’est la vie.

Watercolor-photo collage by Carlos Nunez

Watercolor-photo collage by Carlos Nunez

Well, even though her tresses are not raven, I always think of this poem by Lord Byron when I think of the “belle”:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!


Happy birthday–we’ll be toasting you (and missing you) tonight!

I’ve been everywhere, man…

“Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City,
Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City, what a pity.”

Okay, I confess I haven’t been to all those places, but I missed posting last Saturday because I was  in Kansas City for a conference. I stayed at the Westin Crown Center, whose main ‘feature’ was this lush and very noisy indoor waterfall garden located  right outside the conference rooms where it could help drown out the speakers. And it did.


it needed a parrot or two

it needs a parrot or two

My room was huge and had a nice view of downtown KC.

view from the 15th floor

view from the 15th floor

We had our opening reception at the WWI museum right next door to the hotel.

taken through the glass of a sky-bridge.

taken through the glass of a sky-bridge.

I think the architect patterned it after the ossuary at Verdun, which is similarly towering and, well, phallic.  I also went to Kansas City’s ‘best’ (says who?) antique mall. It was a huge disappointment.

four floors of 'vintage' junk

four floors of ‘vintage’ junk

It was all 60s plastic,  Woolworth dining sets, and awful kitch…and then I walked 2.5 miles back to the hotel in my conference attire. My feet may never recover.  Still, I had lots of fun with my tribe (as one colleague put it) and enjoyed a brief visit to Union Station, which is huge!


It has recently been re-purposed as an exhibition area with a fancy restaurant and a couple of uninteresting shops. It’s good to see a neat old building brought back to life. Unfortunately, I never made it to any of the places I really wanted to go: Old Westport, the historical society, and a good antique mall, but one is severely limited without a car. Dual Personality, this is one trip we should do together!

Since I came home, we’ve had a busy week. Son #3 arrived  for his second spring break and son #2, who has recovered the use of his arm, played with the SLU/community orchestra last night at the Russell Opera House. Russell is a little town about 20 minutes from here on the Grasse River. How they ended up with an opera house we cannot tell, but we imagine a Fitzcarraldo-like story, in which some desperate, opera-loving miner struggled to bring culture to the wild north country.

note the dirty snow in the corner -- it's officially mud season here

note the dirty snow in the corner — it’s officially mud season here

I can picture it, can’t you? The interior is really cool and, yes, in need of restoration. Fundraising is ongoing.


But the opera house is a popular venue for plays and concerts. This our first visit, we thoroughly enjoyed the concert. Since it was the Orchestra’s 10th anniversary concert, the program included a piece from each year they performed. We were  impressed with the quality of the playing and  had a great view of our favorite musician.

Note the hand pointing on the right: "I dig your tie!"

Note the pointing hand on the right: “I dig your tie!”

Quelle artiste! A fab time was had by all and we got home without hitting any nocturnal creatures or wrecking the car on one of the myriad frost heave bumps that make spring driving so exciting. Today is a grading day and then it’s back in the car with Tim to Vermont.

One  ‘heads-up’ to readers: during this coming week we celebrate the birthday of my dual personality’s #2 daughter, and NEXT SUNDAY is not only Easter, but my dual personality’s birthday! Oh, the excitement!

Have a great week!

Fat baby Friday


I am not a royal watcher. I mean, I like them and I think Kate Middleton is lovely and such a nice change from the usual wannabee types and all, but really I don’t understand why Americans are so taken with aristocrats and European royalty.

Having said that, this picture of George, the royal baby, is just too cute. The three of them seem happy and to actually like each other, don’t you think? And isn’t that nice?

Well, fat babies aside, let us take note that earlier this week was the birthday of Ward Bond (April 9, 1903 – November 5, 1960)–character actor extraordinaire. As you know, Bond made 23 movies with John Wayne. So don’t you think you should pick one of them to watch this weekend?

Here they are in "Salute" (1929)--their first movie together. They appeared with fellow team members of the whole USC football team

Here they are in “Salute” (1929)–their first movie together. They appeared with fellow members of the USC football team.

Ward Bond is one of those actors who just turns up all the time in movies–and not always with John Wayne. He was Bert in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and Morgan Earp in My Darling Clementine (1946) and John L. Sullivan in Gentleman Jim (1942). He played a cop in The Grapes of Wrath (1940). He even had a substantial part in Joan of Arc (1948) with Ingrid Bergman. (Who’s idea was that?) He was in Gone With the Wind (1939) for pete’s sake! In fact, Bond appears in more  films on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Movies List  than any other actor. Quite a career!

Check out a full list of his movies here.

Have a great weekend!

Happy birthday, Lew Wallace


Lewis Wallace (April 10, 1827 – February 15, 1905) was an American lawyer, Union General in the Civil War, territorial governor and statesman, politician, and author. Wallace served as governor of the New Mexico Territory at the time of the Lincoln County War. He put the squeeze on Billy the Kid! 

son of indiana

To me, he is a fine example of the classic American male: soldier, statesman, spiritual guy, and author of a best-selling novel! And he was from Indiana. And he wrote this:

“Men speak of dreaming as if it were a phenomenon of night and sleep. They should know better. All results achieved by us are self-promised, and all self-promises are made in dreams awake. Dreaming is the relief of labor,the wine that sustains us in act. We learn to love labor, not for itself, but for the opportunity it furnishes for dreaming, which is the great under-monotone of real life, unheard, unnoticed, because of its constancy. Living is dreaming. Only in the graves are there no dreams.” 

Wallace started writing after the war, and while serving as governor, he completed his second novel. This one made him famous–Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880). It became the best-selling American novel of the 19th century, surpassing Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book has never been out of print and has been adapted for film four times. 

In his autobiography he recounted a life-changing journey and conversation in 1875 with Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, whom he met on a train. During the journey Ingersoll, a well-known agnostic, quizzed Wallace about the history and ideas of Christ. Wallace realized during the conversation how little he knew about Christianity. He wrote, “I was ashamed of myself, and make haste now to declare that the mortification of pride I then endured…ended in a resolution to study the whole matter.” Writing about Christianity helped him become clear about his own ideas and beliefs. Wallace developed the novel Ben-Hur from his studies. The historian Victor Davis Hanson has argued that the novel drew from Wallace’s life, particularly his experiences at Shiloh, and the damage it did to his reputation. The book’s main character, Judah Ben-Hur, accidentally causes injury to a high-ranking commander, for which he and his family suffer tribulations and calumny. He first seeks revenge and then redemption. (Wallace may have felt bitterly toward U.S. Grant, but I hardly think he modeled the character of Messala after him.) Well, Wallace may have worked through a few personal issues, but writing can do that.

After Wallace retired home to Indiana, he built himself a wonderful writing study. (I want one too!)


His home in Crawfordsville, Indiana is on my bucket list of places I want to visit. I have been to Crawfordsville  (known as the “Athens of Indiana”) and to Wabash College, but I have not been to his home (yet).

Wallace also liked to write under his favorite tree, known fondly as “the Ben-Hur Beech”.


I am with you, Lew!

“I know what I should love to do – to build a study; to write, and to think of nothing else. I want to bury myself in a den of books. I want to saturate myself with the elements of which they are made, and breathe their atmosphere until I am of it. Not a bookworm, being which is to give off no utterances; but a man in the world of writing – one with a pen that shall stop men to listen to it, whether they wish to or not.” 
― Lew Wallace

By the way, it is that time of year again–almost time to watch the 1959 version of Ben-Hur! I can’t wait!  But I will wait for daughter #1 to come home and watch it with me Easter weekend!

What are you reading?


This past weekend I went to several really good estate sales. One was at the home of a woman who had gone to my school, graduating 20 years earlier. Clearly it was a home she had moved to after either getting a divorce or being widowed. You can always tell when this is the case, because the woman has painted the inside of the house pink and redone the closets to suit herself. She has said, in effect, finally I’m going to have things the way I like.

She had obviously been an avid needlepointer. I bought a couple of unfinished kits and two books.

One is a vintage copy of Mary Martin’s Needlepoint (1969)–a delightful look into the hobby and home of the famous Broadway star.


You remember Mary Martin–she starred on Broadway in the original productions of Annie Get Your Gun,  South Pacific, The Sound of Music and a host of other shows.


She took up needlepointing as a way to pass the time waiting in the wings offstage and on sets. She started BIG…with a rug!

Mary posing on "the rug" with other projects

Mary posing on “the rug” with other projects

“The Rug is known by a variety of names. It was the innocent, impulsive beginning—all five and a half by seven and a half feet of it!—of my doing needlepoint.”  She designed it herself, incorporating symbols that represented important aspects of her life. It took a few years, but she kept going. Impressive. Also impressive is the fact that she designed all her own work. No  kits for her! Her stitching is all very personal and heart-felt.

Through the years several of her friends found and bought antique samplers from the 18th and 19th centuries for her that included the name “Mary Martin” on them. Nice friends! Eventually she designed her own sampler incorporating motifs from shows that meant the most to her.

Mary's theater sampler

Mary’s theatre sampler

Mary Martin made pillows, purses, pictures, upholstered furniture, and more throughout her storied life. For needlepointers or theater-lovers, this is a fun book.

Meanwhile I continue to work my way through The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I am determined to finish this rather Dickensian opus, but I do think it is overly long. The author writes very well; we’ll see.

I must say that I believe I would get along famously with the author, who is considered one of the most reclusive contemporary authors around. Moreover, she’s indifferent to technology, avoids social media and does most of her writing by hand in notebooks. According to one of the very few articles I could find about her (in Business Day), “when her novels are released, she grants few interviews in which she reveals very little about herself. She’s known to become prickly when journalists dare suggest certain characters in her books are based on people she knows. Her private life is just that, private.”

What are you reading?

R.I.P. Mickey Rooney

Well, Mickey Rooney has died–at age 93–one of the last of the great Hollywood stars.

Interestingly, he was born Joseph Yule, Jr., the son of a Scotsman and his American wife who hailed from Kansas City, MO. His parents were both in vaudeville and he began performing at the age of 17 months as part of his parents’ routine, wearing a specially tailored tuxedo.

So the freckle-faced, red-haired kid was not even Irish. Go figure.

Love Finds Andy Hardy 1938

Love Finds Andy Hardy 1938

I have never been a particular fan of Mickey Rooney, but it is undeniable that he was a very talented and hugely successful star. He always gave 100% and seemed to enjoy what he was doing. In 1939 he was the biggest box office draw–more popular than Clark Gable or Errol Flynn or Cary Grant.

And what a long career! He kept working throughout his long life–he was even in a Full House episode. Remember Mr. Dreghorn in the classic Christmas episode “Arrest Ye Merry Gentlemen”?


He was a trouper.

Into paradise may the angels lead thee and at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem. (BCP, Burial of the Dead, Rite I)

Lazarus, come forth!

Sunday’s gospel lesson was John 11:1-45 which is a long lesson, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Our associate rector gave a really good sermon comparing the tomb of Lazarus to ourselves when we lose interest in life, when we are no longer fully alive. Our savior does not come into the tomb with us, but stands at the door and calls us to come out. I thought that he made a good point.

This made me think of the famous painting, the Light of the World by William Holman Hunt:


This is an allegorical painting illustrating Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me”. The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing (according to Hunt) “the obstinately shut mind”.

Here are some artistic representations of Jesus calling Lazarus forth:

A 3rd century version

A 3rd century version

Giotto's version

Giotto’s version

Rembrandt's version

Rembrandt’s version

Carl Heinrich Bloch's version

Carl Heinrich Bloch’s version

Vincent Van Gogh's Lazarus

Vincent Van Gogh’s Lazarus

None of them do much for me. These images are, however, as Frederick Buechner says, “the wordless, eloquent, tongue-tied, clumsy, joyous and grieving cry of centuries” trying to depict the un-depictable.

But to get back to what I started to say…We must come forth and live our lives and do the work we are meant to do.

Robert Powell as Jesus calls Lazarus forth

Robert Powell as Jesus calls Lazarus forth

Thoughts? Discuss among yourselves.


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