dual personalities

At the bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow


Today is John Wayne’s birthday. It has been a long, stressful week at work and I plan to hunker down and watch some classic JW movies this weekend. This is a favorite way to chillax.

I think I will start with Stagecoach (1939), the movie that made Wayne an “overnight” star. I like to think of my mother going to see it for the first time at the age of 13. She was a fan for the rest of her life. People always think of John Wayne as a man’s actor, an action star, and he was to be sure. But people tend to forget how handsome and sexy he was and how women loved him for his whole long career.

Think of Joan Didion, who wrote in  John Wayne, a Love Song:

We went three and four afternoons a week, sat on folding chairs in the darkened hut which served as a theatre, and it was there, that summer of 1943 while the hot wind blew outside, that I first saw John Wayne. Saw the walk, heard the voice. Heard him tell the girl in a picture called War of the Wildcats that he would build her a house, ‘at the bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow’. As it happened I did not grow up to be the kind of woman who is the heroine in a Western, and although the men I have known have had many virtues and have taken me to live in many places I have come to love, they have never been John Wayne, and they have never taken me to that bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow. Deep in that part of my heart where the artificial rain forever falls, that is still the line I wait to hear.

John_Wayne_Claire_Trevor_Stagecoach.jpgAnyway, a toast to the Duke on his 110th birthday.


BTW, where is my copy of The Searchers?

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”*

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Yesterday was Bob Dylan’s 76th birthday. I hope you celebrated appropriately.


Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

© 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music

Yesterday was also Aldersgate Day which is a commemorative day celebrated by Methodists. It recalls the day in 1738 when Anglican priest John Wesley attended a group meeting in Aldersgate, London, where he received an experience of assurance of his salvation.


This was the pivotal event in Wesley’s life that ultimately led to the development of the Methodist movement in Britain and America. According to his journal, Wesley found that his enthusiastic gospel message had been rejected by his Anglican brothers. Heavy-hearted, he reluctantly attended a group meeting that evening in a Moravian chapel. It was there, while someone was reading from Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, that he felt that his heart was “strangely warmed”.

I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

The following hymn was written by Shirley Murray to commemorate the event on the 250th anniversary in 1988.

How small a spark has lit a living fire!
       how small a flame has warmed a bitter world!
how great a heart was moved to hope, to dare
       and bring the faith out in the open air!

No boundary sign will stand against this faith,
       no wall restrain this preaching of the Word:
the Good News travels on, it rides the road
       and draws to unity the realm of God.

The single note becomes a song of praise,
       the single voice grows to a swelling choir
and born in song, new stories now are sung
       of freedom, chains unbound and loosened tongue.

Thank God for all who listened and believed,
       who still are by the Spirit set on fire --
our hearts be warmed again, for Christ will wait
       on beach, in upper room, or Aldersgate.

The Good News travels on…

*Matthew 20:16

“It was once in the saddle, I used to go dashing.”*

I recently bought a little book entitled St. Louis Day By Day by Frances Hurd Stadler at an estate sale.


It is a treasure trove of interesting information about our fair flyover city. For instance, I did not know that the famous American artist Charles Marion Russell was born on Olive Street in St. Louis on March 19, 1865. Furthermore, he was the great-grandson of Silas Bent, Missouri territorial judge, and of James Russell, a Missouri legislator and judge of the St. Louis County Court. Who knew?

Silas Bent, you will recall, was the father of Charles, the famous fur trader who was appointed as the first territorial governor of New Mexico. His other sons, William, George and Robert, were also in business with Charles and built Bent’s Fort and other outposts of trade in the southwest. One of his daughters, Juliannah, became the first wife of Lilburn Boggs, who later became governor of Missouri. Their son Thomas O. Boggs, an Indian trader and cattle dealer (who married 14-year-old Rumalda Luna Bent, the stepdaughter of Charles Bent, who was an heiress to land grants in Colorado) built an adobe house on the 2,040 acres grant and established Boggsville, Colorado where our ancestor John Wesley Prowers built a two-story 14-room house at that functioned as a house, a school, a stagecoach station and after 1870 as the Bent County seat.

Anyway, back to Charles Russell. He grew up in St. Louis County, and in 1876 a wax figure he sculpted won the blue ribbon at the St. Louis County Fair. In 1880 he moved to Montana, where he wrangled horses and herded cattle and began sketching western life.


Lewis and Clark Meeting the Flathead Indians hangs in the Montana State House

Charles_Marion_Russell_-_The_Tenderfoot_(1900).jpgjerked-down-1907.jpgwhose-meat-1914.jpg1ec023e99d581bc90c1cc0f02bad50b6.jpgRussell produced about 4,000 works of art, including oil and watercolor paintings, drawings and sculptures in wax, clay, plaster and other materials, some of which were also cast in bronze.


How did I not know he was from St. Louis?

P.S. The C.M. Russell Museum (including the artist’s log cabin studio and gallery) is located in Great Falls, Montana. Add that to the list.

*Streets of Laredo

Lift up your voice and say Amen

Third Day inspiration for Tuesday. Turn up the volume and say Amen.

Well done, good and faithful servant

We had a big storm on Friday morning, around 5 a.m. with lots of limbs down and electricity out all over the city. Luckily we were spared this time. The boy had a tree fall on his garage though.

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On Saturday I went to another funeral, this one for another longtime work friend. There was no electricity at Ladue Chapel (see aforementioned storm), but because it is such a bright and airy sanctuary, the service went on. The Presbyterian service (“A Service of Witness to the Resurrection”) is rather bare-boned, but the minister gave a nice eulogy. He obviously knew Wayne well and was very fond of him–that makes a big difference. He recounted a story concerning when Wayne had retired from IBM and his boss had said that he was the best man he ever knew. Indeed, Wayne was one of those straight-shooters who was very successful in business, had a lovely and devoted wife to whom he had been married for over 60 years, was an elder and a deacon in his church, had children and grandchildren who loved him, and still managed to be genuinely humble. There was no job that was beneath him at our institute where he had been very active since its founding. Answer phones in the office? Sure. Help with registration? You got it. He agreed with my philosophy that if you don’t care who gets the credit, you can accomplish a lot.

Into paradise may the angels lead you, Wayne. At your coming may the martyrs receive you, and bring you into the holy city Jerusalem.

We’ll miss you Wayne. Boy, will we ever.

I went to church again on Sunday morning and afterwards I went on an adventure with my BFFs Becky and Carla.

I had seen a story on one of our local morning news programs about a historic home–Oakland House–about which I had never even heard. Indeed, it never ceases to amaze me how a person can live some place for almost 60 years and still not know about all the interesting nearby historic sites. Anyway, I looked it up online and found out they give tours one Sunday a month. Ta da! It was time to take Carla out for her birthday lunch so we went to Pasta House in a part of town I never go, in a neighborhood close to our final destination in terra incognita–Affton, MO. Then we headed over to Oakland House for a tour.


It was fabulous! Built in 1853 by Louis Benoist, the property originally consisted of about 470 acres that included a lake. Eventually sold to Robert Brookings (of my flyover university fame) in 1892…


…and then to a cemetery on the adjoining property, it fell into terrible disrepair and was surrounded by small houses built in the post-WWII era. Finally it was going to be torn down in 1973 until…


‘Before’ photos

…some people (the historical society?) in Affton got together and bought the property, improving it slowly over the years themselves–“the brick and mortar gang”–and acquiring appropriate period furniture etc. They have done a superb job.

Our tour guides were clearly local Affton residents who love their local landmark but have very little formal training in history or indeed any context in which to tell their story. The little lady in period dress mentioned the Smithstonian Institution, General Custard, and delighted us with a series of unintentional malapropisms that were quite endearing.


This dude grew up in the neighborhood and remembered ice skating on the pond and various activities. By the way, he plays Santa Claus in the annual Santa’s House event–an event I see in my future.



Beautiful period wallpaper


(Loved this fabric)

Anyway, somebody behind the scenes knows what they are doing with this house and I was quite impressed. And I do not mean to denigrate the  tour guides. I liked them a lot better than the know-very-little junior leaguers in Kansas City we ran across last year.

I am grateful to have two friends who are willing to be adventurous with me and who enjoy this kind of outing.

The wee babes came over for dinner with the boy on Sunday night. (Their mother went to the theater with her mother.)


And now it’s Monday and we’re off to the salt mines. Enjoy your week!

My weekend at Bernie’s

It’s hard to believe that a whole week has gone by since I saw my youngest son graduate from college, but lo, that’s how time flies. We had an epic weekend. The DH and I, sons #1 and #2, and the latter’s girlfriend stayed at this wonderful old farm, now a bed and breakfast. The extremely nice owner’s family had lived there for generations and then in the 1970s had to sell it. She managed to buy it back. Now that’s someone I can relate to!

Nye’s Green Valley Farm

Although the main house is a bed and breakfast, we stayed in a separate apartment in one of the renovated barns.

We had gorgeous views and plenty of space for serious celebrating!

As for graduation itself, well what can I say? Vermont’s favorite socialist gave a campaign speech the graduation address,

and his audience listened attentively.

Although truth be told, we just wanted to see our lad cross the stage! Alas, my photos of that event are blurry and no one else has sent me theirs, so we’ll just have to skip to the aftermath. Suffice it to say, we are super proud of our Tim, who graduated cum laude with a BA in Music Composition and an AA in theater tech.

I took a lot of pictures, but as usual few of them turned out, and let’s face it, it’s nigh on impossible to get five people to look normal at the same time.

After graduation, we spent the afternoon antiquing and visiting one of Tim’s favorite local hangouts.

And, yes, it did make me nervous!

Later, the graduate barbecued burgers and hot dogs for dinner, and then we played a few hilarious rounds of Categories. A fun time was had by all! It all came to an end much too quickly; everyone split up and went their separate ways, and the DH and I drove home to our quiet North Country town.

And that was my weekend at Bernie’s!






“The first time we met, we hated each other.”*


“What happens to me when I’m provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said.”

The story of my life. And Nora Ephron’s, it would appear. Today is Nora’s birthday (1941–2012). Nora had a lot to say about Life and she was very amusing and I usually agree with her.

“Here are some questions I am constantly noodling over: Do you splurge or do you hoard? Do you live every day as if it’s your last, or do you save your money on the chance you’ll live twenty more years? Is life too short, or is it going to be too long? Do you work as hard as you can, or do you slow down to smell the roses? And where do carbohydrates fit into all this? Are we really all going to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread in America is so unbelievably delicious? And what about chocolate?”

And my favorite–

“Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.”

So in honor of Nora, let’s watch one of her movies: When Harry Met Sally (1989), My Blue Heaven (1990), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You’ve Got Mail (1998)…

“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.”

I have to admit I have a real soft spot for this one:


After all, laughter is good medicine. Maybe the best medicine.

“I loathed being sixty-four, and I will hate being sixty-five. I don’t let on about such things in person; in person, I am cheerful and Pollyanna-ish. But the honest truth is that it’s sad to be over sixty. The long shadows are everywhere—friends dying and battling illness. A miasma of melancholy hangs there, forcing you to deal with the fact that your life, however happy and successful, has been full of disappointments and mistakes, little ones and big ones. There are dreams that are never quite going to come true, ambitions that will never quite be realized. There are, in short, regrets. Edith Piaf was famous for singing a song called “Non, je ne regrette rien.” It’s a good song. I know what she meant. I can get into it; I can make a case that I regret nothing. After all, most of my mistakes turned out to be things I survived, or turned into funny stories, or, on occasion, even made money from.”

Have a good weekend! Wanna see a monkey?


*Harry Burns in When Harry met Sally

My mother remembers the day as a girl


Our last connection with the mythic.
My mother remembers the day as a girl
she jumped across a little spruce
that now overtops the sandstone house
where still she lives; her face delights
at the thought of her years translated
into wood so tall, into so mighty
a peer of the birds and the wind.

Too, the old farmer still stout of step
treads through the orchard he has outlasted
but for some hollow-trunked much-lopped
apples and Bartlett pears. The dogwood
planted to mark my birth flowers each April,
a soundless explosion. We tell its story
time after time: the drizzling day,
the fragile sapling that had to be staked.

At the back of our acre here, my wife and I,
freshly moved in, freshly together,
transplanted two hemlocks that guarded our door
gloomily, green gnomes a meter high.
One died, gray as sagebrush next spring.
The other lives on and some day will dominate
this view no longer mine, its great
lazy feathery hemlock limbs down-drooping,
its tent-shaped caverns resinous and deep.
Then may I return, an old man, a trespasser,
and remember and marvel to see
our small deed, that hurried day,
so amplified, like a story through layers of air
told over and over, spreading.

–John Updike, born on this day in 1932

Après moi le déluge

Today is the 74th anniversary of Operation Chastise, an attack on German dams during WWII, carried out by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron using a specially developed “bouncing bomb” invented by Barnes Wallis. The raid was subsequently publicized as the “Dam Busters” and was made into a movie called The Dam Busters (1955).


It was quite an undertaking. In total, 53 of the 133 aircrew who participated in the attack were killed, a casualty rate of almost 40 percent. In addition, later estimates put the death toll in the Möhne Valley at about 1,600, including people who drowned in the flood wave downstream from the dam.


The Mohne Dam breached

There are, of course, questions now about whether it in fact changed the course of the war by slowing down industrial production in the Rohr Valley. (Two hydroelectric power stations were destroyed and several more were damaged. Factories and mines were also either damaged or destroyed.)

But I still recommend the 1955 movie as a very good one–full of tension and heroics.

And those RAF pilots were really something, weren’t they?

So join me in a toast to “the dam busters”!

P.S. You will recall that there is a scene in the original Star Wars (1977) which is clearly inspired by the dam busters!

“Late one night when the wind was still Daddy brought the baby to the window sill”*

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Well, I’m feeling a little down now that everyone has gone home and my house is empty again. We had a busy weekend full of babies and family gatherings and godparents and sitting on the patio and Mother’s Day.


But, in addition to the baptisms and Mother’s Day brunch, the girls had their own meetings to attend and they accomplished quite a bit. So it was a fun weekend and a successful few days.

Lovely, lovely, lovely. A new week–onward and upward.


A new sign at church

*Mary Chapin Carpenter, Halley Came to Jackson