dual personalities

Alive and well somewhere


“What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”

― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself 

I went to a memorial service yesterday at the Unitarian Church on “Holy Corners” in the Central West End.


You can see the Christian Scientist and Methodist churches in the background, built in better days around the turn of the 20th century.


The Unitarian Church was built on a more humble scale and added to accordingly. It turns out it was the church of William Greenleaf  Eliot, the founder of my flyover university and also of the girls’ school I attended. Not that he would recognize this congregation.

Anyway, I had never been to a Unitarian memorial service before. The music was pretty bad and there was only one scripture reading–a terrible translation of Psalm 39–and one prayer. (We never even said the Lord’s Prayer.) The minister gave a long homily about the mystery of life and how everything dies, and a  long eulogy about the deceased, and the husband of the deceased gave a long eulogy. Like her parents, she was a lifelong member of the church and a serious Unitarian and social justice warrior. She and her husband were also big supporters of their partner church in Transylvania–yes, there are Unitarians in Transylvania! They are the second largest group of Unitarians in the world!  It is amazing what one doesn’t know about people.

Well, it all got me thinking about old Walt Whitman’s lines about death in Song of Myself, which seem very Unitarian in spirit to me but are more meaningful than anything I heard in the service. I like to think that my friend is alive and well somewhere, although I guess that’s not what she expected.

*The painting is “Moonlight” by Fausto Zonaro (1854 – 1929)

Till the wheels fall off*


How awesome is Dolly? I mean she really gets it done. One million books per month! Now there’s a woman to admire.

Of course, readers of this blog already know that we are big fans of the beautiful and talented Dolly and have been for years. Remember when daughter #2 was in sixth grade and had to pick a person who was a “creative producer” to report on? She picked Dolly (with encouragement from her mother). She won first place as the most creative producer!


Daughter #2 as Dolly Parton, holding a shoebox replica of the Grand Ole Opry.

And she taught her teacher a thing or two about the great Dolly Parton!

Anyway, it’s great to see that Dolly is going strong at age seventy–another lesson for us all.

Til the wheels fall off
Til the spotlight fades
I will lift your banner high
Lord, I will lift your banner high
And til the walls crash in
For the rest of my days
I’ll lay it all on the line
Til the day I die
Til the day I die
Til the end of the line
Til the day I die
It’s Your name I’ll glorify

–Toby Mac and NF

On the way to knowing


I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things. Love a friend, a wife, something–whatever you like–you will be on the way to knowing more about Him; that is what I say to myself. But one must love with a lofty and serious intimate sympathy, with strength, with intelligence; and one must always try to know deeper, better, and more. That leads to God, that leads to unwavering faith.

–Vincent Van Gogh

Cheers, it’s Monday!


Did you have a quiet weekend? I researched whether this pumpkin spice thing really has gone too far. And I got a lot of things around the house done and that felt good.

I went to church and read the first lesson–a not very inspiring passage from Sirach (one of those second-listed wisdom books from the Apocrypha). The second reader got to read from I Timothy–no fair.

Since it is that stewardship time of year, we had our weekly “stewardship moment,” which was delivered by a parishioner who is the producer of a weekly TV show. She was nervous about her testimony, so the two stars of her show came along for moral support and were seated in the congregation. Kind of sweet.


I went to an estate sale in the neighborhood and bought an “antique” wash stand which I put in my den, switching out a table that has never really fit there. I rearranged things and am pleased with how things look.


(Apologies for not having styled an appropriate vignette yet.)

I read quite a bit of Prelude to Terror, an old thriller (1978) by Helen MacInnes. After reading several books by Shirley Jackson, I was having trouble finding something to read. (Karin Fossum’s latest dreary Swedish mystery did not make the cut.) Helen seems to be just what I was looking for.


I watched Genius (2016) about the great editor Maxwell Perkins and the writer Thomas Wolfe. It was disappointing, despite having quite a primo cast.

Sigh. Well, here’s a little Wolfe to make  up for the disappointment:

Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.

The voice of forest water in the night, a woman’s laughter in the dark, the clean, hard rattle of raked gravel, the cricketing stitch of midday in hot meadows, the delicate web of children’s voices in bright air–these things will never change.

The glitter of sunlight on roughened water, the glory of the stars, the innocence of morning, the smell of the sea in harbors, the feathery blur and smoky buddings of young boughs, and something there that comes and goes and never can be captured, the thorn of spring, the sharp and tongueless cry–these things will always be the same.

All things belonging to the earth will never change–the leaf, the blade, the flower, the wind that cries and sleeps and wakes again, the trees whose stiff arms clash and tremble in the dark, and the dust of lovers long since buried in the earth–all things proceeding from the earth to seasons, all things that lapse and change and come again upon the earth–these things will always be the same, for they come up from the earth that never changes, they go back into the earth that lasts forever. Only the earth endures, but it endures forever.

You Can’t Go Home Again

So it is Monday again and we are back at the salt mine. Make the most of your day.

May I be Frank?

Since there is NOTHING worth watching at the movies or on TV, and Netflix and Amazon have both let me down, I turned to Youtube, where one can often find classic films in their entirety, albeit sometimes not the best quality print. This time I got lucky and found the 1936 delight, My Man Godfrey, starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. It’s a hoot. William Powell plays Godfrey Smith (ahem), who lives in a shack down by the river with other victims of the Great Depression. Carole Lombard and her mean older sister, while competing to win a scavenger hunt, show up at the shanty town to find a “forgotten man”.


The lovely but ditsy Irene (Lombard) falls for the older, scruffy Godfrey (Powell) and promptly hires him to be the family butler. Hilarity ensues. This is no ordinary family; the Bullocks may be rich but the women of the family are also wild and rather eccentric. The supporting cast is superb: Eugene Pallette plays the long-suffering father; Alice Brady the flighty, clueless wife; Gail Patrick the ‘mean’ sister Cornelia; Jean Dixon the wise-cracking maid, and Mischa Auer, Carlo, Mrs. Bullock’s Italian protégé. The script is wonderful, too. Take this exchange between the maid and the newly arrived butler, Godfrey:

Godfrey; May I be frank?

Molly: Is that your name?

Godfrey: No, my name is Godfrey.

Molly: All right, be frank.

Or this brief conversation that introduces the audience to both Mr. Bullock and his wife:

Man: Take a look at that dizzy old gal with the goat.

Mr. Bullock: I’ve had to look at her for twenty years!

Man: I’m terribly sorry!

Mr. Bullock: How do you think I feel?

The sets are  over-the-top Hollywood. Take Mrs. Bullock’s bedroom, for example.


So, so much satin! Of course, the costumes are also lush. There’s even more satin and gold lamé (at least in the colorized version).


Best of all, there’s no vulgarity, no violence, and we get a happy ending. Frankly, I could use a lot more of that kind of movie in my life, so I’m going to continue looking to the past for my entertainment. What about you?


“I’m sure Ferrand is wrong. Life is more important than films.”*

Francois Truffaut died on this day in 1984 at the age of 52. He was a French film director, screenwriter, producer, and actor, and one of the founders of the French New Wave. You remember them–they all smoked cigarettes and wore black turtlenecks.


He made about twenty-five movies, many of them now considered classics.

His first color and only English-speaking film was Fahrenheit 451 (1966) which I saw at a fairly young age. I was deeply effected by it.



Another favorite of mine is Day for Night (1973)–or, as we say in French, La Nuit américaine. The title refers to the ‘filmmaking process called in French “la nuit américaine” (“American night”), whereby sequences filmed outdoors in daylight are shot using film balanced for tungsten (indoor) light and underexposed (or adjusted during post production) to appear as if they are taking place at night.’ I bet you didn’t know that.

Anyway, it is a movie about making a movie and stars the great Italian actress Valentina Cortese, who was so terrific as Herodias in Jesus of Nazareth (1977).


Jacqueline Bisset is in it too, along with some French actors, and it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film that year.

Americans probably know Francois Truffaut best for the part he played in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). He was Claude Lacombe, a French government scientist in charge of UFO-related activities in the United States. Why, you ask, would a Frenchman be in charge of UFO-related activities in the U.S.? Who knows; it was a movie.

So my Friday pick is to watch a film by Francois Truffaut. Jules et Jim, anyone?


Puff, puff. (And this is interesting.)

*Alphonse in Day for Night

“Be at peace, Son of Gondor.”

Happy birthday to Viggo Mortensen (b. 1958) who is almost as old as I am.


We made a lot of jokes this past weekend about 28 Days (2000) and how we hoped daughter #1 would make a toast just like Sandra Bullock does in that movie and wear a black bra under her Maid of Honor dress,

28 Days (L-R)Dominic West and Sandra Bullock ©Columbia Tristar Television International

and that made me want to watch it again. This movie was the last one Viggo made before he was launched into the stratosphere of movie super-stardom as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.


(Yes, we still have that poster hanging in the basement…)

Up ’til then Viggo usually played the second or third or (minor) male part. Frequently he was cast as a heavy and his career was all over the map, veering from Albino Alligator to Portrait of a Lady in one year. We made it a game for awhile finding Viggo in small parts in obscure movies–sometimes the movies were way inappropriate for pre-teens–but it was fun.

Anyway, I always liked 28 Days, even though it was not a hit. Which is typical.

So happy birthday to Viggo Mortensen.

P.S. My dual personality has actually met Viggo, since he is an alumnus of her north country university (where her DH is a math professor) and occasionally returns for events. I always thought Viggo kind of looks like that other north country alum…


Kirk Douglas! The chin you say, but not just that…

Have a great day! The iris bloomed!


To be a fool


Today is the birthday of the great Quaker John Woolman (1720–1782).

I find that to be a fool as to worldly wisdom, and commit my cause to God, not fearing to offend men, who take offence at the simplicity of truth, is the only way to remain immoved by the sentiments of others. The fear of man brings a snare; by halting in our duty, and going back in the time of trial, our hands grow weaker, our spirits get mingled with the people, our ears grow dull as to hearing the language of the True Shepherd; that when we look at the way of the righteous, it seems as though it was not for us to follow them.

There is a love clothes my mind, while I write, which is superior to all expressions; and I find my heart open to encourage a holy emulation, to advance forward in Christian firmness. Deep humility is a strong bulwark; and as we enter into it, we find safety. The foolishness of God is wiser than  man, and the weakness of God is stronger than man. Being unclothed of our own wisdom and knowing the abasement of the creature, therein we find that power to arise which gives health and vigor to us.

–Journal, 1774

Celebrate accordingly.

Let’s just take a moment

Daughters #1 and 2 have come and gone.

We spent a good amount of time this past weekend toasting Bob Dylan and his Nobel Prize,


making wedding reception plans,


and picking out a wedding dress.


I made four trips to the airport and drove to Pevely, Missouri and back. The boy played DJ and the OM made tacos. And we managed to watch one of our favorite Woody Allen movies


as well as some classic Buffy episodes.


We accomplished a fair amount and had a boatload of fun. Now the girls have gone home. Sigh. But as we all know,

You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair.

–Chinese proverb

At the still point of the turning world (finally)

“Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind cannot bear too much reality.” I’ll say. Having had enough of real life for the time being, I took a day off yesterday to drive son #3 back to his lovely Vermont college.  I had great company for the outward journey, and wonderful music, and very, very lovely scenery to look at. It’s leaf-peeping time in the north country.


Photos taken through the windshield can’t do it justice, but  groups of Japanese tourists are indication enough that the colors were magnificent. No kidding, here they are by the side of the road risking life and limb to take pictures, and looking in the wrong direction, I might add.


Once on campus, we had lunch at Tim’s nice apartment. And there I reached my still point; it was so quiet we might have been the only people on the planet. Bliss. In another life, I would have stayed for the whole weekend. Oh, well. You know how it is: “Time past and time future/What might have been and what has been…” So I turned around and made my way home, pausing briefly at my favorite antique store


to take yet another blurry photo. Then I drove off into the sunset — literally. The sun was in my eyes all the way home. For relief I looked in the rear view mirror at the perfect autumn light that I could have enjoyed had I been driving east. Even so, it is always nice to arrive home again, despite the work that awaits. One day’s  delightful respite is good enough for me!

I leave you with this, because maybe we should laugh at this crazy world a little more often. And also because a regular dose of Mr. Newman makes everything better.


* title and quotes from T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets”