dual personalities

Weekend adventures

On Saturday my girlfriends took me on a belated birthday adventure to the Shaw Nature Reserve in Grey Summit, which is part of the Missouri Botanical Garden. We walked around the Whitmire Wildflower Garden.

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IMGP1229As you can see–absolutely beautiful!

From here we ventured to Washington, Missouri to have lunch at the Blue Duck Restaurant where we sat outside and enjoyed a lovely lunch and a view of the Missouri River.

To top off the day we stopped at–where else–an antique mall. Just perfect. Thanks, ladies!

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Old ladies attempting a selfie. Haha.

Inspired by our adventure, I worked in the yard on Sunday and planted some geraniums in pots. My mother always thought geraniums were a bit bourgeois, and perhaps they are. Nevertheless, I like them. Don’t you? They are so low-maintenance and generous.

I also went to the Annual St. Louis Fine Print, Rare Book & Paper Arts Fair, presented by the Mercantile Library up at UMSL on Friday evening. It was right up my alley. All the exhibitors had great stuff, but nothing that my budget could handle. I bought a few used books at the Mercantile Library table and was quite content.

And on Sunday the OM and I went to Ted Drewe’s. A good weekend. How was your’s?

Have a good Monday!

Mother’s Green Thumb

Our mother loved to garden and she was good at it, too. I suspect she also enjoyed the solitude; no one ever helped her garden and it was usually too buggy to sit with her by our tiny fish pond. But we did accompany her on her many visits to Westover Greenhouse, a vast plant nursery on Olive Street Road not a far drive from home, but in an area we had little cause to visit otherwise. To this young dual personality, Westover’s meant adventure. I loved exploring the endless, dripping greenhouses.

westover3It was like wandering through a giant, leafy mansion in which every room had a different style decoration. In one there might be pretty flowers; in another succulents.

westover6If you followed the melodious sound of dripping water, eventually you’d find tucked into a corner a little pond full of carp and water plants.

westover8The damp heat could be oppressive, but I found the rich, earthy smell of the place intriguing. Since I was just a little girl, the flower beds were at shoulder height  so I could peer over the top and spy on other shoppers. Okay, I grew over the many years we visited the place, but that’s how I remember it best. I think my incessant running around and disappearing drove my poor mother to distraction, but we didn’t stop going. As far as I know, Westover closed many years ago. I could find no trace of it on the internet, so all these pictures are of other places. So it goes…

As soon as I finish this post I’m off to the Potsdam Garden Club’s annual plant sale. It takes place in the hockey arena and no doubt won’t be quite as heady as the Westover visits of my childhood. Still, it’s spring and time to get working in the yard. This year, with the help of a friend, I’m going to plant a flower garden. I think mother would approve, don’t you?

Smile Time

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of John Wayne and I was reminded what a great smile he had.

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And that made me think of other great smilers of the silver screen.

Some  actors are really too cool to smile a lot, but when they do, we are grateful.

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And those English actors, with their British restraint and bad teeth, don’t flash their smiles constantly…but when they do…

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Zut alors!

errol-flynnAnd while there aren’t many, there are still a few guys around today whose smile can still make my day. For instance, Nathan Fillion

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Channing Tatum,

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and, of course, Mark Harmon, alias Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

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Funnily enough, the nerds are better looking now than the cool guys.

So, anyway–SMILE–it’s Friday!

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(Who did I forget? Discuss among yourselves.)

Into your hands

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Here’s a morning prayer to get you going for the day:

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

–Martin Luther

How do you like that Playmobil Martin Luther? The OM gave him to me for my birthday!

Have a good Thursday.

Festina lente

Fred Ndercher, 1922, "Spring Landscape" in the St. Louis Mercantile Library collection

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –

When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush

Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;

The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush

The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush

With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?

A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning

In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,

Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,

Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,

Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

“Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

A friend at work brought this poem to my attention by stopping by my office and quoting, “What is all this juice and all this joy?” He was alluding to the beautiful spring day of course. We have certainly enjoyed an exceptionally beautiful spring with long strings of crisp, clear days in the high 60s. Carpe diem, I say–but I am glued to a desk. Sigh.

Anyway, it is also the birthday today of Sir Thomas Beecham (29 April 1879 – 8 March 1961) who, you will recall, was an English conductor and impresario best known for his association with the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic orchestras.

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From the early 20th century until his death, Beecham was a major influence on the musical life of Britain and, according to the BBC, was Britain’s first international conductor. If you are like me and my dual personality, you were brought up on Sir Thomas Beecham’s recordings. True, some may have considered him low-brow for saying things like, “I would give the whole of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos for Massenet’s Manon, and would think I had vastly profited by the exchange.” But I can’t say I disagree with him.

I remember in particular an LP titled “Beecham Bon-Bons” which included popular favorites by Faure, Delius, Sibelius, Ralph Vaughan Williams and the like.

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I wiled away many an hour with Beecham’s music in the background. So a toast to Sir Thomas Beecham! And I think I’ll look him up on eBay and see what I can find.

Beecham's grave in

Beecham’s grave in Surrey

By the way, the painting at the top of the page is by St. Louis artist Frank Nudercher (July 19, 1880 – October 7, 1959)–“Spring Landscape” in the St. Louis Mercantile Library collection. Nudercher is sometimes referred to as the “dean of St. Louis artists.” You can read about him here.

Note to self

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Bryce Canyon, Utah

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person. And it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.

–Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées

“I know my own and my own know me.”*

Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday and so all the hymns and the lessons and the psalm (23) were about Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Window in the Home Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC

Window in the Home Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, NC

We even sang one of my favorite hymns from my childhood–“The King of Love My Shepherd Is” with the correct St. Columba tune–which was quite a treat for me.

Sunday was also a beautiful spring day and so I tried to get some work done in the yard–spreading mulch etc.–and I did accomplish a little before my knees started to warn me to take a break. I have learned that it is the better part of valor to quit while ahead, especially when there is more to do later in the day. Yes, I had an actual social event to go to later in the evening and also a “visitation” to attend at a local funeral home on the way.

Life with a capital “L”.

Speaking of Life, the birds who insisted on building a nest on top of the cage we built around the kitchen exhaust fan to keep them from building a nest inside the fan, have hatched their eggs and are now feeding the hatchlings.

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Hello, nature.

Unstoppable.

Earlier in the weekend the boy dropped by to borrow the OM’s tuxedo so he could go to the CHS Prom with his HS teacher wife–as chaperones. He says he never got to take her to the Prom when they were teenagers, so they enjoy going every year now that they are old married folks.

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Pretty darn cute.

Have a good Monday!

*John 10:14

“Everyone’s got their breaking point

With me it’s spiders and with you it’s me.” —  In my case, it was a bad B movie called  “The Screaming Skull” that I saw on TV once as a kid. It affected me much the way “Day of the Triffids” traumatized my middle son. So last night I faced my fear and watched the movie with him and he has agreed, in turn, to revisit his bête noire sometime soon (a future post!).

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The plot is kind of a “Rebecca” rip-off in that it’s about a young woman newly married to a widower, who lives in a big house. It even involves a portrait and a devoted staff person mourning the lately departed, although in this case it’s a simpleton gardener and not the formidable Mrs. Danvers. There’s a twist, though. This movie has a vengeful skull that movies around.

How did that get there? Where are the cornflakes?

How did that get there? Where are the cornflakes?

A traumatic past has made our young bride unstable and vulnerable, and after a few skull sightings, she thinks she’s going mad (again). The sympathetic vicar and his wife start to wonder what’s going on and when the simpleton gardener brings them a present,

But where are the sandwiches?

But where are the sandwiches?

 

they decide that they had better go rescue our heroine from — you guessed it — not the vengeful ghost, but the psycho husband, who just wanted her money.

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not exactly Hamlet

Okay, by now you’re wondering why this cliched movie freaked me out so much. Well, not only did it have a skull that screamed and popped up unexpectedly in a cupboard, at the front door, on the stairs, in the picnic basket and even in the pond, but it was very creepily shot in black and white. The chiaroscuro lighting that cast giant shadows throughout the large, empty house was extremely effective. In the right cinematographic hands, black and white can make anything scary.

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The super-eerie garden pond didn’t hurt either. It’s amazing what you can do with almost no budget. Shot on location in an empty English manor with a cast of about five people, including the fake skull, the film managed its scares without recourse to graphic violence. Back in 1958 they could do that. While last night’s viewing was more “mystery science theater” (you can imagine our comments) than wide-eyed horror, it did make me appreciate why the movie affected my younger self so much.  In case you’re curious, it’s available for free on Amazon prime.

If you’d rather watch modern horror (not my cup of tea, that’s for sure), I understand that “It Follows” and “The Babadook” are incredibly terrifying in a psychological, rather than blood-splashing way. What movies scared you witless when you were a child?

Kickin’ up dust

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“I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition—that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are—even if we tell it only to ourselves—because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being human is all about.”

–Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

Have a good weekend. Try to find some time to be quiet and think. Turn off the computer. Take a break from social media.

Read some Buechner. Read this.

Watch A Thousand Clowns (1965): Remind yourself why you were “born a human being and not a chair.”

I plan to read some more old letters which I have unearthed in my ongoing basement reorganization/clean-up. Here’s a tidbit from a letter my mother wrote in 1979 when I was in graduate school and my dual personality was at Smith:

It’s around 5 o’clock and I wish you were here to share some sherry and nibblies with me and have a good chat. It’s times like this when I miss you the  most. I haven’t had any sherry since you left–it’s the sort of thing I have to have with someone in order to enjoy it.

Some things never change! (Although I have no problem drinking by myself!) Ah, a toast to mothers everywhere who miss their daughters!

“Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high.”*

Did you know that today is World Book Day? Me neither.

According to Wikipedia, the connection between 23 April and books was first made in 1923 by booksellers in Catalonia as a way to honor the author Miguel de Cervantes, who died on this date.

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To celebrate this day in Spain, Cervantes’s Don Quixote is read during a two-day “readathon” and the Miguel de Cervantes Prize is presented by the Spanish King to honor the lifetime achievement of an outstanding writer in the Spanish language.

I would suggest watching the movie Man of La Mancha (1972) starring Peter O’Toole as the dauntless knight, but I just saw it recently and it is not as great as I remembered it from back in the day.

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In fact, it was pretty bad. So we’ll have to think of something else.

Probably the best way to celebrate Book Day is to read a book! Last weekend I finished Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart which daughter #1 was reading when she was home.  She left her copy in my house…I had read it, of course, years ago when I was an adolescent and then again later at some point. But I read it again, and–boy oh boy–is it good!

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You remember, it is the story of a young English governess, Linda Martin, who travels to the Château Valmy in France in the 1950s to take care of nine-year-old Philippe de Valmy. There she finds herself tangled in a plot to murder her charge and tries to save him, which eventually results in the revelation of a dark secret. This is not some bodice-ripper, but a well-written and intelligent suspense novel, peppered with literary references. Indeed, Stewart introduced

a different kind of heroine for a newly emerging womanhood. It was her “anti-namby-pamby” reaction, as she called it, to the “silly heroine” of the conventional contemporary thriller who “is told not to open the door to anybody and immediately opens it to the first person who comes along”. Instead, Stewart’s stories were narrated by poised, smart, highly educated young women who drove fast cars and knew how to fight their corner. Also tender-hearted and with a strong moral sense, they spoke, one felt, with the voice of their creator. Her writing must have provided a natural form of expression for a person not given to self-revelation. (You can read more here.)

Nine Coaches Waiting (1958) was actually Stewart’s fourth novel, following Madam, Will You Talk? (1954), Wildfire at Midnight (1956) and Thunder on the Right (1957). She was on the best-seller list many times, but only one of her novels (The Moon-Spinners – 1962) was made into a movie. I wonder why?

Anyway, I recommend Mary Stewart to you–to read or re-read as the case may be. I lent my copy to the boy.

And have a lovely World Book Day!

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*Arnold Lobel

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