dual personalities

“The created World is but a small Parenthesis in Eternity”*

Today is the feast day of Frithuswith, the patron saint of Oxford and of Oxford University. She is credited with establishing a religious site later incorporated into Christ Church in Oxford. Frithuswith (650-727) was the first abbess of this Oxford double monastery. I had never heard of her either. You can read more about her here. Great name, though, right?

It is also the birthday of Sir Thomas Browne (1605 – 1682) about whom I know next to nothing.

I really like this statue of Sir Thomas Browne in Norwich.

However, Herman Melville was a great fan and called him a “crack’d Archangel.” Virginia Woolf said, “Few people love the writings of Sir Thomas Browne, but those that do are the salt of the earth.” And Jorge Luis Borges said, “Sir Thomas Browne — I love him. I translated him into 17th century Spanish and it worked very well.” So I guess I better start reading some Thomas Browne.

I didn’t do much this weekend. I continued to read Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James, which I tried to read years ago. I am enjoying it this time around. I finally gave up on Jack by Marilynne Robinson. Apropos of that disappointment, I had an email exchange with one of my institute’s facilitators, a retired professor, who is also a big Robinson fan and has taught her other books. It went like this:

ME: Are you reading Jack by M. Robinson? I have to say I am disappointed. I guess my expectations were too high.

Prof: I am VERY disappointed with “Jack”. I’m not sure I can bring myself to teach it. I’m considering alternatives. 

ME: I’m not sure I can bring myself to FINISH it!

Prof: AGREED! ALAS!

Academic ALL CAPS!

The OM and I celebrated our aforementioned anniversary with a drive to Defiance, MO and a visit to the Sugar Creek Winery. It was very pleasant and the wine wasn’t bad.

Unfortunately, it was rather nippy temperature-wise and I had not worn appropriate gear, so we didn’t spend a leisurely afternoon like last Sunday. We are still learning the ropes of how these winery visits work.

You will recall that Defiance is where frontiersman Daniel Boone ended his long career, arriving around 1800 at the age of 65 with his wife and several of his children. Nathan Boone, his youngest son, built the home which one can visit today. Daniel Boone passed away in this home on Sept. 26, 1820 (200 years ago!) For Missouri, that is a very old house.

I have visited the home, once as a child and once with my own children, but not in at least 25 years and certainly not since 2016, when the Historic Daniel Boone Home and surrounding property in Defiance was given to the people of St. Charles County by Lindenwood University. The nearly 300 acre site includes The Historic Daniel Boone Home, adjoining Village historic site, and surrounding property. We will have to check it out soon.

I also watched Signs (2002)–a favorite of mine. It is a good movie to watch in the Halloween season because it is scary, but it is also a great movie about lost faith and miracles. Swing away, Merrill.

*Sir Thomas Browne

Deep into that darkness peering…





I blink and it’s Saturday again! I feel as if I’m stuck in the Twilight Zone — or maybe an episode of Supernatural.

We’re about to start the third week of October and I don’t even have a pumpkin yet, although I did get the DH to buy a couple of little gourds for the dining room table. Perhaps if I focus on Halloween I’ll recover my sense of time and start to feel human again.

To encourage a return to normality, why not read some spooky stories or poems? For a variety of free, seasonal appropriate literature, click here. The excellent selection includes standards from Poe, Kipling, Hawthorne, and Twain, as well as more macabre stories from the likes of Ambrose Bierce and H.P. Lovecraft. I’ve never been a Lovecraft fan and fail to see the appeal, but Bierce was the real deal — a deeply troubled soul.

Born in 1842, Ambrose Bierce grew up in Warsaw, Indiana, the 10th of 13 children all with names beginning with A: Abigail, Amelia, Ann, Addison, Aurelius, Augustus, Almeda, Andrew, Albert, Arthur, Adelia, and Aurelia. No wonder he was weird.

Intense, handsome and a little crazy-eyed

Bierce served in the Union army during the Civil War and saw plenty of action, until he got shot in the head at Kennesaw Mountain in 1864. (The battle was part of Sherman’s Georgia campaign). Upon returning home to recover, he was devastated to discover that his fickle fiancée loved someone else. War trauma, the blow to the head, romantic failure, and a naturally morose and cynical temperament gave birth to the post-war writer, whose acerbic and extremely macabre stories remain popular — at least at this time of year. The fact that 71 year old Bierce disappeared without trace while on route to join Pancho Villa in Mexico only added to his mystique. In a farewell letter to his niece, Bierce wrote, “Goodbye. If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a gringo in Mexico — ah, that is euthanasia. “** Now I (almost) want to see the 1989 film The Old Gringo starring Gregory Peck as Ambrose Bierce (the plot doesn’t look great and it also stars Jane Fonda, of whom I am not a fan).

Jimmy Smits and Gregory Peck

But I digress. Let’s get back to Mr. Bierce and spooky stories. When I was a child someone gave me a book of short stories, one of which was Bierce’s “The Damned Thing”. Yes, some child-hating editor included it in A CHILDREN’S BOOK!! Shocked and intrigued by the appearance of the word ‘damned’, I asked my mother to read me the story. She tried to argue me out of it, but in the end she gave in. Listen to David McCallum’s version and imagine the nightmares of this little DP!

Nowadays I avoid scary stories and movies. I do not need the extra stimulation and do not get a charge out of feeling afraid. But in case you are in the mood to read something Halloween-ish, I would recommend one of the classics (see link above) and if you’re feeling particularly brave, anything by Ambrose Bierce. Somehow, Bierce seems to fit the current zeitgeist.

*Title from Poe’s, “The Raven”

** Source: https://donswaim.com/bierce-disappearance.html

“The only thing I knew how to do/ Was to keep on keepin’ on”*

‘Tis the season when new holiday outfits multiply…

Lottiebelle sets the standard for 3-year old fashion statements, complete with matching scarf. Ghoulishly chic, n’est-ce pas?

The rest of us just stay home and dress from the waist up for Zoom calls. Not that I’m complaining! And it is, after all, almost the weekend! Huzzah!

This article on “Things I Did My Kids Never Will”–i.e. “Be kind, please rewind.” Mixtapes. Dial-up internet–forces us once again to realize we’re getting old. However, it is written by someone who is closer to my children’s ages than to mine! My list would include much older things, such as having to wait and wait to see your favorite movies on tv because there was no such thing as a VCR! Remember those days?

Speaking of feeling old, the OM and I will be marking our 40th anniversary this weekend! Yikes. (I will just point you to last year’s post as not much has changed.) We’ll toast ourselves without much fanfare.

Earlier this week I opened a blogpost by a well-known blogger which began, “The other day, I was talking to my therapist about…” OMG, the privilege of this statement alone sent me into conniptions…but the gist of the post was about how to stay cheerful this winter. The suggestions ranged from gazing into a light therapy lamp to lighting “candles everywhere” to hosting a virtual soup group. Not to judge, but please. How about getting a spiritual life? Try being grateful for your privileged life and stop feeling sorry for yourself because winter is coming. Try saving the money you would spend on candles and give it to a real soup kitchen! There are plenty of real people in need in New York City these days.

Sorry–I am trying to quash my desire to rant…It will take a concerted effort this weekend and listening to Bob* on repeat.

Today the Episcopal Church remembers Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, Bishops and Martyrs, 1555. “Play the man, Master Ridley. Today we shall light such a fire in England as shall never be extinguished.” With these words Latimer and Ridley went to the stake and were burned to death on this day in 1555 at Oxford. Both were English bishops with strong protestant sympathies. Each was an exceptionally fine preacher in an age of great preachers. Both were Cambridge men. Both were social reformers. Their “protestantizing” sermons brought down upon their heads the wrath of Bloody Mary’s most unreconciliatory regime.

You will recall that the old lady in Fahrenheit 451 quotes Hugh Latimer when the firemen come to burn her books–“Play the man, Master Ridley.” She goes up in flames with them, a martyr as well.

We need to remember such historical events, lest we let them happen again. (Does anyone these days seeing this film, get the reference?)

The Oxford Martyrs monument

Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servants William Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

“I might be tired and weary, but I am strong.”

Well, Daughter #1 here, coming to you on a Wednesday evening. How strange. It’s getting close to Halloween and boy things are getting spooky all over. I’ve got my little witch candle out (got it at an estate sale because my mom has one just like it).

At some point, I’ll watch some of my favorite October movies like Signs (it’s always good for a good shriek and likely a good cry). And I’ll throw in some Autumn Harvest movies on Hallmark too.

As my mother wrote, we had a delightful weekend. Full of laughter and music, sunshine and activity. And booze. We’re not becoming boozehounds–but a glass or two here and there does bring some joy.

In fact, on Saturday, after the babes and their father left, while drinking our recovery margaritas, I downloaded the Marty Stuart Greatest Hits album so we could listen to some classics. It was a good choice.

I’m repetitive these days. But, you’ve gotta find your joy where you can.

“Cause pilgrims walk, but not alone.”

Surprise Katiebelle content

Daughter #1 has asked me to sub in for the blog today, which means surprise Katiebelle content for everyone. How’s that for hump day?

I am happy to report that the wee babe adapted well to her new environs on our mini-getaway. She slept soundly in a pack-n-play and went with the flow when we explored the area. We spent a lot of time outdoors, which wore us all out in the best way.

“What is this, a bay? Alert me when we make it to an ocean.”
Good thing we bring our hands with us wherever we go — constant and immediate comfort!

Well, it was a wonderful time and much needed. I am trying to not let the horrors of the workweek steal the joy I stored up while on the water. But I can’t help but feel like this when I’m on Zoom too long:

“Can we get back to the agenda items, please?”

If we meet and I say, ‘Hi’

Ations

If we meet and I say, ‘Hi,’
That’s a salutation.
If you ask me how I feel,
That’s a consideration.
If we stop and talk a while,
That’s a conversation.
If we understand each other,
That’s a communication.
If we argue, scream and fight,
That’s an altercation.
If later we apologize,
That’s reconciliation.
If we help each other home,
That’s a cooperation.
And all these actions added up
Make Civilization.
(And if I say this is a wonderful poem,
Is that exaggeration?)

–Shel Silverstein

Maybe this poem helps to understand why civilization, as we know it, is crumbling…

I have never been able to read more than a few pages of a Lee Child novel, but I still thought this article was interesting. “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of… We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart.” (Pascal)

This is a very helpful list. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways.” (Psalm 145:17)

Did you know that this month marks the 70th anniversary of the publication of C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? It might be time to take it off the shelf for another reading.

“It isn’t Her!” This was bad grammar of course, but that is how beavers talk when they are excited; I mean, in Narnia–in our world they usually don’t talk at all.”

Happy Tuesday. Keep going.

“We’re just hands up, roller coaster, flyin’ with no breaks”*

What a busy weekend! I am very grateful that daughter #1 came home and shook up our routine a bit, because our lives, like everyone else’s I suspect, have become rather sheltered and isolated. But we got out and about a little bit (wearing masks, of course).

We went to a couple of estate sales and got some good books (just what we need) and I made a needlepoint rescue.

Two Nutcracker pillows for Xmas!

The wee babes also came over with their dad and ran us ragged, per usual.

Jumping on the mini trampoline is so fun!
Yes, he did bite his tongue.
Yes, my Dad did my hair today. What about it?
How many donettes can we stuff in our mouths at once? A lot more.

We also played outside with the Cozy Coupe, which the wee laddie decided to push down the hill into the street. I ran after the runaway coupe and fell flat on my face racing downhill. Luckily no one took a picture. He was in the doghouse after that and had to sit on the stairs with his Pappy. I am sure he learned no important lesson from this, but I took the opportunity to give him a short lecture on the doctrine of total depravity.

After they went home we drank the margaritas we had cleverly gotten to-go from Club Taco ahead of time. We sang along to Bob Dylan (very therapeutic) and maybe got a little tipsy.

On Sunday we were adventurous and drove to Hillsboro in Jefferson County, 40 minutes south of us. We went specifically to the Wild Sun Winery where we joined a large group of people sitting outside drinking wine and listening to a Blues band.

It was a beautiful day and we had a lovely, relaxing time. While daughter #1 got us our wine, I saved two chairs on the side of the roof deck. But then a nice young man came up to me and said, “Ma’am, are you waiting for a table, because we’re leaving and you can have ours.” I said, “Yes! that would be great!” That is par for the course in outstate MO.

Well, there are a lot of wineries in our part of the state and we plan to check them all out.

We also FaceTimed with these two cuties…

All in all, it was a super fun weekend and we were diverted from thinking about Life and the Apocalypse. Now it is back to the salt mine/Zoom School. One day at a time.

*”Trip Around the Sun” by : Brett Cornelius / Hillary Lindsey / Nick Brophy

More advice — mostly directed at myself

It’s the second week of October, the weeks keep slipping by and I’m checking in with my usual refrain: nothing much happened this week. But don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the quiet times. With a contentious election looming, we should savor the calm while it lasts.

The trouble with that is, well, that quiet gets boring and routine. We begin to lose track of time, we lack purpose and life seems meaningless. Work is either boring or stressful and our usual entertainments begin to pall. What to do?

Accept the challenge! No one ever said life would be continuously fun or rewarding. We have to make it so. Decide to be happy and interested. Do something new:

  1. Cook something difficult and take photos of the process. If it’s a disaster, laugh about it!

2. Investigate something: an ancestor; a historical mystery, or even the news from every angle (figure out how everyone is lying to you). You will learn something and keep boredom and depression at bay. If you’ve always wondered whether the Loch Ness Monster is real, look into it! Or go for something less grand. Personally, I’m interested in several family history mysteries: what happened to my grandmother’s cremated remains? What was my aunt’s name, where was she born, when did she die, and where is she buried? Did she even exist? If any of you want to help with those questions, let me know!

3. Learn a new language. Okay, this isn’t for everyone. I know it’s not something I’ll be able to do. I’m too old and that part of my brain atrophied a long time ago, but even if I don’t become fluent, I’m sure to pick up a few choice phrases. Knowing how to say “Is my porridge ready?” in Gaelic (A bheil mo bhrochan deiseil?) could really come in handy someday.

4. Get outside and rake leaves, preferably while it’s very windy and none of them will stay in your leaf pile. This is either an exercise in faith or a lesson in existentialism. Your choice. But remember, we must imagine Sisyphus happy.

I’m not even going to attempt #5. I have no more ideas and it’s time to get to my primary Sisyphean task — grading papers. Hang in there and have a great weekend!

Photos found on Google Image.





Help of the helpless

Truly, the last rose of summer

I read recently that one of our local scions, in his later years, did a three-minute plank exercise each morning, propping himself up on his elbows and toes while singing “Abide With Me,” reciting the Lord’s Prayer and praying for loved ones. I think this is just a great exercise plan and I have started doing it. So far, I am unable to maintain the plank for the full time, so I shift into a yoga pose taught to me by one of my daughters.

Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens Lord, with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me

That “help of the helpless” seems particularly appropriate for an exercise descriptive.

Anyway, I am taking today off–no Zoom meetings, so it is possible–and I’m getting some ‘stuff’ done. I am going for my flu shot and I am having my hair cut. Woohoo!

In other news, I am forcing myself to continue reading Jack by Marilynne Robinson. Sad to say, Jack, as the NYT reviewer put it, is “the dullest bad boy in the history of bad boys.”  And he is not, in the long run, very likable. Worst of all, the book is kind of boring. If it were written by anybody else, I would not finish it. Sigh.

I enjoyed this article about scrubbing away one’s anxiety. “This is why I am so glad that my church’s lectionary is taking us through the book of Exodus right now. I’m reminded that we are not the first group of people to be led through hard times. We are not the first people to grumble and whine and not trust that God will provide. We aren’t even the first ones to do dumb things to distract ourselves from the problems that weigh us down.”

I confess that I have contemplated buying a power-washer.

Have you started your Christmas shopping? You know this year it’s going to creep up on us. It may feel like it’s still May, but it is not! It is mid-October. I mean, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but Christmas is, indeed, 77 days away.

This made me laugh:

So get out this weekend and enjoy the fine fall weather! Do some Christmas shopping! Shop local! And remember:

Seek, resolutely, the true and indestructible value that lies hidden in…petty and wearisome incidents*

Congratulations on making it to Thursday for your weekly dose of darling. I had one of those weeks when I felt incredibly busy but also like I got nothing done, so that has been fun. This is partly because I added more things to my plate: I have been working on an essay, which was due on Tuesday and which I now need to revise. (What? How am I doing this? I truly don’t know.) Anyway, it’s about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Custom-House, a sketch in which he pokes a lot of fun at his boring colleagues and offers the sound advice that I have quoted above.

Moving on! Katie had a pretty solid week of sleeping, eating, kicking her feet in the air, and crushing tummy time. She was declared a healthy four-month-old at her pediatrician appointment, where she weighed in at 15 lbs 4 oz (72nd percentile) and measured 25.5 inches long (88th percentile). Tall baby!

She kicks the poles and makes the attachments shake — brilliant
So many options!

We received some more adorable drool bibs from Aunt Mary. Some are made with remnants from my grandmother Mary’s stash of fabric, which I think is really, really nice. Mamu’s basement clean-out is really paying off! The Halloween bib matches a witch costume that I wore multiple times growing up, and which I can’t wait for Katie to wear one day. For now, she can don her festive bib and make her mother feel sappy.

Trading in a backyard view for a waterfront view

This weekend, we are escaping to an Airbnb on the Chesapeake Bay. This will be the first time I have taken a trip anywhere since March, unless you count our hospital stay when Katie was born. (Haha.) Here’s hoping a little peace and quiet (and a house with no chores) prove to be restorative!