dual personalities

Month: April, 2017

It’s a lonely road, full of tired men*

Last weekend I drove down to Claremont, New Hampshire to attend a memorial service for our uncle, Donald K. Ellsworth. At 87, he had led a full life. He and our aunt were married for sixty-one years! The service was lovely; we sang “The Old Rugged Cross” and “How Great Thou Art”, which always make me tear-up. Later, we had dinner at the Common Man Inn, where I also happened to be staying. It’s a converted 19th century (?) mill overlooking the Connecticut River.

I hadn’t seen some of my cousins in years and years, so that part of the trip was particularly nice.

Cousin Steve, his wife Lori, and cousin Mary

I was the only one taking pictures, so I didn’t take many.  On my way out of town, I drove by the old family farm on Wheeler-Rand Rd., although the sun was in the wrong place to take pictures and I didn’t want to act like a weirdo lurker. I mention the farm because my cousin, Steve, passed on to me some things that used to live there: this lovely fruit compote;

a jug, snuff jars and an iron;

as well as a leather box, a match box (?) and a drafting set.

He also gave me a whole box full of buttons, ribbons, and other treasures,

including a tiny pair of leather gloves, two fans, and some lace sleeves.

I am so pleased that he shared these things with me and I plan on bringing a few of the items to my dual personality and our brother when we meet in St. Louis this summer. Old things like this keep us connected to the people who came before us — in this case, those hard-working men and women who settled the Connecticut Valley back before the Revolutionary War. As I drove home through the Adirondacks, I thought of all of them — working, fighting, dying, and just living so that we would have a better future.

Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks

I also thought about how we are carrying on! In fact, I’m off in about twenty minutes to drive to Vermont for son #3’s senior recital (hence, the rushed post). I’ll tell you all about it next week.

In the meantime, have a great weekend and take some time to remember your ancestors. Get out that old box of odds and ends, look at some pictures, and remember — just remember.

*The Lumineers, “The Gale Song” — I think I’ve used this as a title before, but I like it, so why not use it again?  Also, sorry for the late Saturday post. Evidently, I didn’t hit the button this morning…

“What a story! Everything but the bloodhounds snappin’ at her rear end.”*

I watched All About Eve (1950) on TCM the other night.


It won Best Picture in 1950 and it is a good movie. You remember–an ingenue (Eve, played by Ann Baxter) insinuates herself into the company of an established but aging stage actress (Davis) and her circle of theater friends–the director, the writer, the columnist.

Bette Davis gives an over-the-top (but enjoyable) performance playing a Bette Davis-like star who throws off lines like, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night!” George Sanders has the role of his life playing Addison DeWitt. He is fabulous and won a much-deserved best supporting actor Oscar.


But everyone else is clearly acting and they really can’t keep up with Bette and George. Celeste Holm–playing the good girl who does a very bitchy thing (you know the type)–made me want to slap her continuously. Gary Merrill and Hugh Marlowe are just not quite good enough.


Bette with the B team.

Marilyn Monroe steals her one scene and is surprisingly natural in comparison to the others. I guess she really understood her part playing “a graduate of the Copacabana School of the Dramatic Arts.”


“You have a point. An idiotic one, but a point.”

What really impressed me was the screenplay written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The dialogue is witty and sharp and the plot is clever and apparently very authentic. They don’t write ’em like this anymore!

Spoiler alert: Margo Channing, the Star played by Davis, is no feminist icon. Although she is brash and fearless, all she really wants is to settle down with the right man and get married…

Funny business, a woman’s career – the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you’ll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That’s one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we’ve got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we’ve had or wanted. And in the last analysis, nothing’s any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed, and there he is. Without that, you’re not a woman. You’re something with a French provincial office or a book full of clippings, but you’re not a woman. Slow curtain, the end.

Zut alors! Well, it’s dated, but it (mostly) holds up.

So I’ll recommend All About Eve as my Friday movie pic. You could also watch Sunset Boulevard from the same year– another classic about an aging star, this time played by the over-the-top Gloria Swanson (who was also nominated for Best Actress, but lost as well.)

P.S. Bette Davis did not win the Best Actress Oscar, because Ann Baxter lobbied to be nominated as well for Best Actress (as opposed to Best Supporting Actress) and they split the vote. Sigh. C’est la vie dans Hollywood.

Puff. Puff.

*Thelma Ritter (Birdie) in All About Eve

Food for thought


IT IS OUT OF the whirlwind that Job first hears God say “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 42:3). It is out of the absence of God that God makes himself present, and it is not just the whirlwind that stands for his absence, not just the storm and chaos of the world that knock into a cocked hat all man’s attempts to find God in the world, but God is absent also from all Job’s words about God, and from the words of his comforters, because they are words without knowledge that obscure the issue of God by trying to define him as present in ways and places where he is not present, to define him as moral order, as the best answer man can give to the problem of his life. God is not an answer man can give, God says. God himself does not give answers. He gives himself, and into the midst of the whirlwind of his absence gives himself.

–Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth



P.S. Have you ever noticed that God looks like he is in a big brain in Michelangelo’s depiction of him on the Sistine Chapel (see above)? That green scarf is the vertebral artery. I did not think of this myself, but I have to admit, it really does look like a brain. Discuss among yourselves.

“Who thinks the all-encircling sun Rises and sets in his back yard?”


Today is the birthday of the artist John James Audubon (1785 – 1851). Audubon came to America in 1803 to avoid conscription in the Napoleonic Wars. He became an ornithologist, naturalist, and painter, notable for his extensive studies documenting all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats

Here are a few examples of his great avian art, courtesy of the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove in Audubon, Pennsylvania, and the Montgomery County Audubon Collection.


American Robin


Burrowing Owl




Wood ducks

What an amazing life full of travel, science and art!

By the way, Audubon is buried in the graveyard at the Episcopal Church of the Intercession in the Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum at 155th Street and Broadway near his home, Minnie’s Land. He spent the last nine years of his life on this thirty-five acre property, which is now upper Manhattan, facing the Hudson River.


Trinity Cemetery

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Detail of Trinity monument

There are statues of Audubon all over the country!


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Covington, Kentucky


Henderson, Kentucky

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Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Louisiana

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Audubon, Iowa

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Museum of Natural History, NYC

You could make quite an interesting road trip following the path leading to all of the John James Audubon statues!

“All praise and honor! I confess
That bread and ale, home-baked, home-brewed
Are wholesome and nutritious food,
But not enough for all our needs;
Poets-the best of them-are birds
Of passage; where their instinct leads
They range abroad for thoughts and words
And from all climes bring home the seeds
That germinate in flowers or weeds.
They are not fowls in barnyards born
To cackle o’er a grain of corn;
And, if you shut the horizon down
To the small limits of their town,
What do you but degrade your bard
Till he at last becomes as one
Who thinks the all-encircling sun
Rises and sets in his back yard?”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Tell them I came, and no one answered, That I kept my word”


The Listeners

by  Walter de la Mare

“Is there anybody there?” said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grass
Of the forest’s ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
“Is there anybody there?” he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
‘Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
“Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,” he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Remember this poem? It was written by Walter de la Mare (April 25, 1873 – June 22, 1956), English poet, short story writer and novelist, and today is his birthday.

Let’s toast him tonight, along with Sandy Gallin who died over the weekend. He was one of those wildly successful agents/managers in Hollywood, but one who never seemed to have cheated or stolen from anyone. The fact that he was a great friend and partner of Dolly Parton–who does not suffer fools gladly–says a lot.

e8f25e1226e4681ac2a528a324a456b0.jpgThey co-produced Buffy the Vampire Slayer you know. Anyway, his obit in the New York Times is pretty interesting, albeit terribly written. Into paradise may the angels lead thee, Sandy.

“Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”*


The weather was pretty great this weekend–especially on Sunday–so I did a lot of yard work. Daughter #1 gave me a nifty kneeler/garden seat so I wanted to try it out and it was great–my aging back thanks her!

I also took a lot of breaks on the patio (my allergies were acting up) and watched the birds who were all very busy. I was definitely cramping the style of a Cardinal couple who seemed to be nest building in this bush.


Ah, the wonders of nature–you don’t have to look far–they’re right in your own backyard!

The wee babes came over for my birthday on Friday night and I got a lot of baby time, especially with the wee bud who was wearing tiny overalls.IMG_1072.jpgThe OM got Lottie and she passed out. (Was it his thermo-nuclear death breath?)IMG_1070.jpg

And I got presents too!

One such present was Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) which my dual personality gave me. It is a film from New Zealand,


…and we enjoyed it very much when we watched it Saturday night. So if you are looking for something different (and PG rated), this is the film for you! It is funny and charming and shot entirely in beautiful New Zealand.

I also got a start on putting together the wedding invitations for daughter #2’s upcoming nuptials. (Hat tip to daughter #1 who called the Service Bureau to double check the correct order of rsvp card/direction card/reply envelope/invitation!)


Since we had worked hard in the yard, the OM and I treated ourselves to our first trip of the season to Ted Drewe’s.


It is the simple pleasures in life that are the best, right?

Now it is back to the salt mine. Have a good week!

*Isaiah 2:5

You know you’re an old lady when…

1. You reject everything on TV, Netflix, and Amazon either because you’ve already seen it or because it’s too violent, amoral, or pointless (please, no more superheroes!).

Does anyone know who all these people are? Does anyone care?

2. It is completely impossible to find any fashionable clothes that flatter your dumpy figure. I’ll spare you photos. You can use your imagination.

3. Ditto shoes. Ditto comments on photos.

4. You own a flip phone but never use it and have no idea what the number is.

5. A young person can’t come see you in your office because you ‘intimidate him’. And when you tell your colleagues, they don’t act surprised.

Then, again, maybe I’m not sorry and I should put this on my office door:

Yes, it’s time to admit it. I’m a scary old lady. But it’s not all bad. Now I can freely emulate my idol, Margaret Rutherford

and I can be as intimidating, lovable or loony as everyone expects me to be. That’s positive, right?

Have a wonderful weekend!


Further on up the road*

Now I been out in the desert, just doin’ my time
Searchin’ through the dust, lookin’ for a sign
If there’s a light up ahead well brother I don’t know
But I got this fever burnin’ in my soul
So let’s take the good times as they go
And I’ll meet you further on up the road

–Johnny Cash

The other day I went to yet another funeral for an old friend. It was held at the Episcopal church I used to go to–a “Requiem”–rather a high-falutin’ name for a memorial service with music and communion–but it was Rite I and done just right. This man loved his church and he would have approved of the service.

In contrast, a couple of weeks ago I attended the memorial gathering of another dear friend, whose children arranged for a get-together at the Ethical Society, but had no plan further than to say, “If anyone would like to say something about our mother, please feel free to do so.” I had come prepared to say something, so I broke the ice and said my piece, but it was all a pretty sad effort.

Which got me thinking about how important it is to have a real service to fall back on. I mean, even John Wayne on a cattle drive saying, “Get the book and I’ll read over him,” (and I have to admit, this appeals to  me) counts as a service.

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In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life
through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty
God our brother N.; and we commit his body to the ground; *
earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless
him and keep him, the Lord make his face to shine upon him
and be gracious unto him, the Lord lift up his countenance
upon him and give him peace. Amen.

Maybe I am acutely aware of the truth of “in the midst of life we are in death” because I work with older adults, or maybe it’s because I’m getting older myself, but for whatever reason, I am reminded regularly that life is precious and one never knows when you will be talking to someone for the last time. So pay attention to the people you love and the people you like. Pay attention.

Have a good weekend!

*Note that it’s further on UP the road, not down. Discuss among yourselves.

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”*


Today is my birthday and at my age this is just not the Big Thing it used to be. But it is still a thing and should be noted.

Time passes and I have to remind myself that I am the mother of three adult, self-supporting children and a grandmother, a wife of going on 37 years, and the director of an institute…because often I still feel like an insecure 17-year old.


I’ve come a long way, Pilgrim…but then again, not so far.

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So out with the old mantra (Hope for the best, expect the worst) and in with the new: God has blessed me and I am happy.

*Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

A little Wednesday rant or “Evil is whatever distracts.”*

benjamin-schwartz-title-moses-awaits-the-word-of-god-moses-looks-at-the-iphone-elipsis-sign-new-yorker-cartoon.jpgDo you ever go out to eat and notice how people don’t converse any more?

The OM and I went to our local eatery/sports bar (bad enough with its multiple big screen televisions) for lunch last Saturday and there was a mother/daughter duo at the table directly in my sight-line. The mother was around my age and the daughter was in her thirties. The daughter never looked away from her iPhone and the mother gazed blandly ahead. Finally the daughter was distracted from her phone when her food arrived and then she started shoveling it into her mouth. I don’t think they ever exchanged a word.

Who knows what the backstory is here, but still, really? What is wrong with people? Why didn’t the mother tell her daughter to put the damn phone away? Why didn’t she insist she talk to her?

Now the OM is as addicted to his phone as the next person, but there are times when he knows to put it the hell down.

I blame the mother here. She should have insisted. She should have been insisting for years. You reap what you sow.

I like my iPhone–especially as a camera. And I have several text chains with my children which are great. But for the most part, phones have become a bad thing which will ultimately, I have no doubt, destroy our culture as we know it. This is all going to end badly.


Discuss among yourselves.

*Franz Kafka