dual personalities

Sometimes you have to lean into the wind to stand straight*

Mark Knopfler has a new CD out, and, to no one’s surprise, it’s full of sad melodies, mournful guitar, and stories about a wide variety of  down and out characters struggling through life a day at a time.


I haven’t had it long enough to become familiar with all the songs, but the one called ‘Basil’ (track 2) has been running through my head steadily since I first heard it.  Despite the melancholy, Mark Knopfler’s music always puts me in a good mood. Simply put, he makes the world a better place and improves the quality of my life. Here’s to you MK. Long may you play.

In other news, we’re impatiently awaiting spring here. It snowed yesterday. The temperature is not due to rise above freezing today and it’s making everyone restless and cranky. We all have cabin fever. Yesterday, as I avoided doing the things I needed to be doing (grading, cleaning, writing…), I kept finding myself perusing the internet and looking at beautiful landscapes like this amazing photograph of the Isle of Skye by Emmanuel Coupe:


or this one of Glencoe by Angie Latham.


You can buy her photos, etc… on Redbubble. She’s got some superb images of Scotland and Wales. Don’t they make you want to go walkabout? Smell the pine (or heather) in your nostrils and shake the winter out of your bones? Well, I may not be in Scotland, but I’m going to go for a walk today even if I do have to wear a hat, mittens and galoshes! I suggest you do the same wherever you are.

Have an excellent weekend.

*Winter in the Blood, by James Welch

“There’s nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you’re trying to be twenty-five.”*

Today is the birthday of Gloria Swanson (March 27, 1899 – April 4, 1983). sadie-thompson-gloria-swanson-1928

I suggest we watch Sunset Boulevard (1950) in her honor. Gloria was 51 (!) when she made this movie about a has-been silent movie star. You know: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”


Gloria is pretty great in it. She plays the part of Norma Desmond with great gusto to be sure. She was nominated for an Oscar, but lost out to Judy Holliday in her first movie–quelle ironic. Also nominated that year was Bette Davis–also chewing the scenery as a fading star in All About Eve. It’s funny how that works out sometimes.

Anyway, William Holden, a favorite of mine, is also in the film playing the part of a hack screenwriter who writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity. He was nominated too, along with Erich von Stroheim and Nancy Olson in supporting parts. Billy Wilder won for story & screenplay, but not for direction. The film won for art direction and for music. It lost the Best Picture prize to All About Eve.

Side note: The Third Man won that year for cinematography but nothing else. This was also the year The Furies–another favorite of mine–was nominated for cinematography. Quite a year for black and white movies! And whoever said they didn’t write good parts for women in mid-century America? All the aforementioned films had dynamite parts for middle-aged actresses.

So a toast to Gloria Swanson, actress and Episcopalian (although a lifelong Lutheran, she is buried at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side.)


Have a great weekend!

* Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard (1950)


“A good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.” *


While I was going through boxes and piles of photos etc. a few weeks ago, I found an adorable picture of 10-year old daughter #1 making palm crosses with the Altar Guild at our old church for the Palm Sunday service. I put it somewhere safe to use in a blogpost later.

Of course, when I looked for it, I could not find it. I literally tore the house apart. Still no picture. I looked again. Sigh. I even looked in the books I have been reading. Not there. I looked in the scanner for pete’s sake.

This is the story of my life. Good intentions of being organized. I fool a lot of people, but it is all a joke.

I know that picture is out there. It will no doubt turn up on Monday, after Palm Sunday is past. It will be in an obvious place. If an inanimate object could laugh, this picture would be laughing at me.

On a brighter note: lacrosse season has officially started!


The OM and I went to the boys’ first home game yesterday afternoon after work. I suppose there aren’t a lot of coach’s parents going to games, but I say, why the heck not? It is a pleasure to sit outside and watch the game–even if it was a bit chilly. And they were winning when we left at halftime!

And on another bright note: my spy in Jupiter took some photos for me of this guy–

Photo by WWII Guy

Photo by WWII Guy

Photo by WWII Guy

Photo by WWII Guy

Needless to say, this made my day!

It’s the little things in life, right? Have a good day!

*Thomas Edison

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Did you read this in Apartment Therapy about the 1970s–“the best decade of all time or the worst?” OMG are you kidding me? Check out those interior design pictures! They’re awful! Remember avocado green appliances and orange kitchens?

The 1970s was the worst decade ever–from Watergate to Jimmy Carter–the worst. Elvis died. John Wayne died. What was good about it?

Certainly not the fashions! Everyone looked terrible!


1970s men

…or the hairdos!



…or the cars!



I read something recently where they referred to the seventies as the “Second Golden Age” of Hollywood. Seriously? I hate the movies from the 1970s. Taxi Driver (1976), Chinatown (1974), Saturday Night Fever (1977), The Deer Hunter  (1978), The Exorcist (1973), Rocky (1976)–Ugh. Even the movies I like from the Seventies aren’t in my all-time favorite category!

Well, it just goes to show you that Americans can be nostalgic about anything! And the Seventies’ time has come. Look out for more ridiculousness–and probably a return to high-waisted pants.

Discuss among yourselves.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”*

Today is the birthday of William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) who was an English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and social activist. Closely associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement, he was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production.

William Morris by Sir William Blake Richmond

William Morris by Sir William Blake Richmond

Among many things, he is famous for his stained glass designs,

David's Charge to Solomon by Burne-Jones and Morris, Trinity Church, Boston

David’s Charge to Solomon by Burne-Jones and Morris, Trinity Church, Boston

book illustration and calligraphy,




and his wallpaper and fabric designs. Of course, our favorite is the lovely “Compton” design:

compton wallpaper

“With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on.”

(William Morris, The Well at the World’s End, Vol. I)

*John Ruskin said this, although it is often attributed to William Morris. It is good advice.


We wait in faith, and turn our face…

…to where the daylight springs, till thou shalt come our gloom to chase, with healing in thy wings.*

Quelle busy week! It always is like that after a long weekend trip and a few days off from work–so much catching up to do!

The boy was in New York visiting daughter #1 this weekend, so Instagram was on fire with great pictures of his visit all weekend.


From snow to blue skies to the Nightline set and lots of cool places in between.




Also daughter #2 was in Savannah, Georgia with the BF, so there was more Instagramming from down south. They found St. John’s Episcopal Church where my parents were married in 1950


and where General Sherman attended services when he set up his headquarters there.


Meanwhile, I puttered around the yard which is starting to come alive.

2015-03-22 13.16.05

On Saturday I went to an estate sale and bought a small vintage chest which I lugged home myself and carried upstairs and into my office.

2015-03-22 13.13.27

I think it is pretty great.

I repotted some plants and carried a whole bunch back out to the Florida room which I had cleaned up. Then I took a break.


My back doesn’t hurt too much.

*John Mason Neale, hymn #672

Of Confederate raids and sleepy Vermont towns

In the spirit of my dual personality’s recent trip to Gettysburg, I wanted to share a north country Civil War story that I recently came across. It’s smaller in scope, of course, but compelling in its own way. Whenever I drive son #3 to or from his small Vermont college, I drive through the outskirts of St. Albans, a reasonably sized town a little removed from the northern shores of Lake Champlain. It seems like a typical Vermont town with a core of lovely old buildings, but a little down on its luck now.

St_ Albans Fountain 2

Its green and buildings look a lot like  my village, albeit more Vermont-like than New York-ish, which is to say nicer.


Believe it or not, back in October 1864, the town was briefly subject to a Confederate takeover. According to the Smithsonian Magazine online, it happened like this:

“Late that afternoon, a tall, handsome man dismounted from a horse in front of the American House Hotel on Main Street in St. Albans, just 15 miles south of the Canadian border. His name was Bennett Young, and he had been staying in town for a few days, letting on little about himself beyond evident interests in the Bible and fishing. On that Wednesday, he drew a pair of Colt revolvers and said, “Gentlemen, I am a Confederate officer, and my men have come to take your town. Anyone who resists will be shot.” Young had been in Canada for months, recruiting escaped Confederate POWs to conduct raids on presumptively safe American towns. Now the northernmost raid of the Civil War was underway. Twenty-one raiders had entered St. Albans; while some of them held some townspeople prisoner in Taylor Park, others robbed the three banks of about $208,000. Some residents fired at the Confederates, fatally wounding one; one resident was killed in return. The fleeing Rebels tried to burn the town down, but their firebombs proved to be duds. American posses crossed into Canada and located many of the raiders, who were arrested by Canadian constables. The Canadians returned what money the raiders still had and charged Young and four of his men with violating Canada’s neutrality, but they dropped the charges a month later for lack of evidence. One of the three banks that were robbed, the Franklin County Bank, still stands (as a TD Bank branch), as does the American House.”

That must have caused quite the stir, to say the least. Fortunately, the Canadians didn’t  mind the border breech. Somehow, I don’t think they’d be very happy about it now.

And that, my friends, is the obscure history lesson for today.  Have a great weekend!

Away, you rolling river

Today is the birthday of George Caleb Bingham (March 20, 1811 – July 7, 1879) who is considered one of the greatest American painters of the 19th century.

"Daniel Boone escorting settlers through the Cumberland Gap" which resides at my flyover university

“Daniel Boone escorting settlers through the Cumberland Gap” which resides at my flyover university

From 1837-1845 Bingham and his family lived in Arrow Rock, Saline County, Missouri. His home there has been designated a national historic landmark and it is on my list of places to visit.


Eventually he moved to St. Louis where he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1848. His interest in politics was reflected in his paintings of the vivid political life on the frontier.

The County Election (St. Louis Art Museum)

“The County Election” (St. Louis Art Museum)

We are pretty proud of ol’ Bingham here in Missouri. You can read about him here.

"Jolly Flatboatmen in Port" (SLAM)

“Jolly Flatboatmen in Port” (SLAM)

There is an exhibition of his works now at the SLAM: “Navigating the West”. Guess I’ll have to add this to my “to do” list!

"Boatmen on the Missouri"

“Boatmen on the Missouri”

"Fur Traders Descending the Missouri" (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

“Fur Traders Descending the Missouri” (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

In honor of George Caleb Bingham, I thought I would pick an appropriate “river” movie for my Friday Movie Pick–perhaps: The African Queen (1951), Show Boat (1951), Jean Renoir’s The River (1951), Fitzcarraldo (1982), The Night of the Hunter (1955), or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939).

Any other ideas? I am open to suggestions!

While you are contemplating this question, here’s a cute picture of the boy and daughter #1 in NYC. He is visiting her this weekend.

IMG_6483Have a great weekend!


Preaching to ourselves


Then at last we see what hope is and where it comes from, hope as the driving power and outermost edge of faith. Hope stands up to its knees in the past and keeps its eyes on the future. There has never been a time past when God wasn’t with us as the strength beyond our strength, the wisdom beyond our wisdom, as whatever it is in our hearts–whether we believe in God or not–that keeps us human enough at least to get by despite everything in our lives that tends to wither the heart and make us less than human. To remember the past is to see that we are here today by grace, that we have survived as a gift.

–Frederick Buechner (A Room Called Remember)

History is the open Bible

History is the open Bible: we historians are not priests to expound it infallibly: our function is to teach people to read it and to reflect upon it for themselves.

(George Macaulay Trevelyan)

I had a wonderful time back east visiting daughter #2 in College Park, Maryland and driving all over the tri-state area. As planned we visited the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. It is awesome.


We started our visit by viewing “A New Birth of Freedom,” narrated by (of course) Morgan Freeman, and the restored Gettysburg Cyclorama, which depicts Pickett’s Charge.  The film features wonderful graphics, which, for the first time, really gave me an idea of what was happening in the battle. There was also a lot of artillery noise and that made me think of the poor people who lived in the town of Gettysburg back in 1863 and how horrific it must have been for them. It would have been panic attack city for me locked in a basement or root cellar somewhere.  Anyway, after that emotional experience we trekked up to the Cyclorama, originally painted in the 1880s. It is really something to see.

We toured the park by car stopping frequently to check out particular spots.


Daughter #2, not really a history person like her mother, was very indulgent. I think she enjoyed it all too.

photo 1

It was not at all crowded, but I can imagine in the summer it is. Spring break seems like a perfect time to visit.

The town of Gettysburg was very picturesque–lots of old buildings and a nice town square (which is now a circle/roundabout.) There is the college to see and also the Lutheran Seminary, which is part of the Gettysburg Battlefield’s “hallowed ground”–Seminary Ridge. We stayed at the Gettysburg Hotel on the circle (square), which I think is owned by the college and very nice.

The next day it was rainy so we drove to Frederick, Maryland, another lovely old town and had great luck at an antique mall where daughter #2 scored a great piece of vintage furniture. We had lunch in Frederick and then drove to Harper’s Ferry, another historic site and National Park, passing from Maryland to Virginia and West Virginia in a matter of minutes. It was thrilling to see the old town at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers–very dramatic scenery and lots of greenschist metamorphic rock formations. My favorite!

Harpers Ferry, c. 1865

Harper’s Ferry, c. 1865


Seeing the site of John Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, put me in the mood to watch Santa Fe Trail (1940) with Errol Flynn as Jeb Stuart and Raymond Massey as Brown. Of course, it is a highly fictionalized account of events, but very enjoyable fiction, and Raymond Massey is excellent as the zealous Brown. Maybe this weekend.

On Sunday we drove up to Baltimore with Nate to go to the Baltimore Art Museum which has a wonderful collection of American art and decorative arts, including some lovely export china.


All right up my alley.


We ate at the museum restaurant which was yummo. Nate drove me around Roland Park, which I have always wanted to do–I am after all a big Ann Tyler fan–and we saw a lot of Johns Hopkins and plenty of row houses. As Pigtown Design is always saying, “There is much more to Baltimore than The Wire!” We had forgotten that it was the St. Patrick’s Day weekend (curses) and the city was jammed with green-clad revelers, but we dealt.

So you can see my weekend included all the ingredients of a good time: historical sites, antique malls, college/university tours. And lunches at good restaurants. I had crab cakes twice!

For me the only downer was the stressful driving on congested east-coast highways, but daughter #2 has learned to be an aggressive, confident auto racer, so it was all okay.

P.S. Daughter #2 posted on our weekend and she covered everything and has better pictures than I, so check it out!



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