dual personalities


We had a lovely, sunny and warm week. Trees are turning green and the lilacs are opening. Here’s the view out my kitchen window. I think there are four or five blooms on my little lilac.

All over the lawn (if you can call it that) the forget-me-nots run riot. I love these little flowers. Yesterday, I picked a small bunch and put them in this tiny green vase (it’s about 2″ tall).

Despite the fact that I feel quite happy and hopeful — Spring has that effect — it’s impossible to write about forget-me-nots without remembering the beloved departed. In that vein I offer this poem by Ann Plato, an educator who lived in Hartford, Connecticut in the mid 19th century and taught at the Black Zion Methodist Church:

When in the morning’s misty hour,
When the sun beams gently o’er each flower;
When thou dost cease to smile benign,
And think each heart responds with thine,
When seeking rest among divine,
                                    Forget me not.

When the last rays of twilight fall,
And thou art pacing yonder hall;
When mists are gathering on the hill,
Nor sound is heard save mountain rill,
When all around bids peace be still,
                                    Forget me not.

When the first star with brilliance bright,
Gleams lonely o’er the arch of night;
When the bright moon dispels the gloom,
And various are the stars that bloom,
And brighten as the sun at noon,
                                    Forget me not.

When solemn sighs the hollow wind,
And deepen’d thought enraps the mind;
If e’er thou doest in mournful tone,
E’er sigh because thou feel alone,
Or wrapt in melancholy prone,
                                    Forget me not. 

When bird does wait thy absence long,
Nor tend unto its morning song;
While thou art searching stoic page,
Or listening to an ancient sage,
Whose spirit curbs a mournful rage,
                                    Forget me not.

Then when in silence thou doest walk,
Nor being round with whom to talk;
When thou art on the mighty deep,
And do in quiet action sleep;
If we no more on earth do meet,
                                    Forget me not.

When brightness round thee long shall bloom,
And knelt remembering those in gloom;
And when in deep oblivion’s shade,
This breathless, mouldering form is laid,
And thy terrestrial body staid,
                                     Forget me not.

“Should sorrow cloud thy coming years,
And bathe thy happiness in tears,
Remember, though we’re doom’d to part,
There lives one fond and faithful heart,
                        That will forget thee not.”

All of this goes well with a Taylor Swift song that my son Chris included on a playlist he shared with me via Spotify for Mother’s Day.

The song is a lovely tribute to Swift’s grandmother. It’s good to remember, as long as one follows Jane Austin’s advice to “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure” (Pride and Prejudice).

It’s going to be another quiet weekend of reading, chatting, and remembering — and that’s just fine with me. Newsflash: This just in, check it out! Truly, I am blessed.

This and that

Another hot one! In fact, we broke a record yesterday with a high of 94 degrees. Back in the day, we would still have been at school on May 12–where there was no air-conditioning! How ever did we survive? Well, we did somehow. For several years in high school, I had long, waist-length hair which I wore in braids in order to stay cool.

Even after it cooled off, I still wore the braids, because they were practical. I can’t remember if anyone else at my school wore braids. It was probably just nerds like me and Judy Hensler on Leave It to Beaver…

and Willie Nelson…

C’est la vie.

Well, I seem to have once again gone down a rabbit hole in my brain. Mea culpa. Here’s the poem by Sara Teasdale I was going to share before I went off the track. It’s called “Sunset: St. Louis”…

Here’s a photo of the riverfront in 1938, taken a few years after she wrote the poem, but you get the idea.

It is a totally different riverfront than we have today.

Well, daughter #1 is driving in from Jeff City this morning and we are picking up daughter #2 and the precocious Katiebelle at the airport this afternoon.

Stay tuned for super fun. In the meantime here are a couple of links which I enjoyed. Read them or not; I leave that up to you.

5 1/2 Habits of Remarkably Ineffective People. “Today, many of the institutions and ideas that have shaped our culture are on life-support. And it has been “successful” people who have led us to this place. This “post-everything” moment offers us an opportunity to question what seems unquestionable, to study our values — and maybe even reconsider Jesus’ upside-down approach.”

Stop Praying “Be With” Prayers. “All that matters may be brought before God, but we must always bring before God those things that matter most.”

“Therefore by their fruits you will know them”*

It is hot and sultry in flyover country. (Too hot.) The first of the iris are starting to pop…

…and the rest will soon follow suit…

Don sent this picture of a Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) or wood poppy, a Missouri native that usually flowers for over a month…

…and these wise words:

The celandine poppy has taught me more about gardening than any other plant. I have planted it in multiple places in my garden over a 30 year time period. What I have learned is that plants thrive where the conditions suit them. It kept disappearing in places that I thought would be perfect. Finally I put it in a spot that supports its growth. Now it grows so well on its own that I have forgotten that it is there. People are like that too.

People are like that!

You have brought a vine out of Egypt;
You have cast out the nations, and planted it.
You prepared room for it,
And caused it to take deep root,
And it filled the land.
10 The hills were covered with its shadow,
And the mighty cedars with its boughs.
11 She sent out her boughs to the Sea,
And her branches to the River.

–Psalm 80: 8-11

*Matthew 7: 20

Let’s face the music and dance

Today we celebrate the birthday of Fred Astaire (May 10, 1899 – June 22, 1987), American actor, dancer, singer, choreographer par excellence. Fred was born in Omaha, Nebraska where he started performing at age five. I always liked his movies from the 1930s the best–the ones with Ginger Rogers–but he was in some good movies later in a long and storied career.

He wasn’t much to look at and his singing voice was a warbly soprano, but he could sure dance like nobody’s business. So let’s watch a Fred Astaire movie tonight. They’re always good for what ails you. Here’s a list.

And there’s this…I gather Fred was not amused…

This interview with Saint Paul on the subject of what is wrong with us is brilliant. Just to make things crystal clear.

This article about the late Sen. Orrin Hatch makes me like him even more.

This is hilarious.

Meanwhile, it finally stopped raining and we have been enjoying beautiful weather. It is also getting hot and we had to turn on the air-conditioning. Zut alors, it is May 10!

This little gal and her mommy are arriving on Thursday, so I have to get busy preparing the house for visitors. Woohoo!

“Read poems as prayers,” he said…

“and for your penance, translate me something by Juan de la Cruz.”*

Although I think of my mother every day, Mother’s Day is an occasion to give a special thought to the woman who loved me fiercely and without ebb.

My mother taught me to like poetry. (I certainly did not learn to at school.) She liked to read poems out loud and she liked to write them.

She never really got around to teaching me to cook or sew or really anything very practical, but we watched a lot of movies together and listened to a lot of records and talked about a lot of books we read. We took long drives together and went out to lunch. We went shopping and went to art museums and pointed out the things we liked. Pretty much this is what I did with my own children while they were growing up and still do whenever we can.

We pass down the love of poetry and a predilection for historical fiction and biography as well as the old furniture and handmade dresses. We pass on the love.

Here’s a favorite poem by one of my faves, Jorge Luis Borges, which seems particularly resonant on Mother’s Day.

From a lineage of Protestant ministers

and South American soldiers

who fought, with their incalculable dust,

against the Spaniards and the desert’s lances,

I am and I am not. My true lineage

Is the voice, which I can still hear, of my father

celebrating Swinburne music,

and the great volumes I have leafed through,

leafed through and never read, which was enough.

I am whatever the philosophers told me.

Chance or destiny, those two names

for a secret thing we’ll never understand,

lavished me with homelands: Buenos Aires,

Nara, where I spent a single night,

Geneva, Iceland, the two Cordobas…

I am the hollow solitary dream

in which I lose or try to lose myself,

the bondage between two twilights,

the old mornings, the first

time I saw the sea or an ignorant moon,

without its Virgil and without its Galileo.

I am every instant of my lengthy time,

every night of scrupulous insomnia,

Every parting and every night before.

I am the faulty memory of an engraving

That’s still here in the room and that my eyes,

Now darkened, once saw clearly:

The Knight, Death, and the Devil.

I am that other one who saw the desert

and in its eternity goes on watching it.

I am a mirror, an echo. The epitaph.

–“Yesterdays” translated by Stephen Kessler

*Seamus Heaney, “Station Island XI”

He swung a wide loop in his younger days, I think.*

Spring arrived this week. The daffodils are blooming and new leaves are beginning to turn bare branches green. I’ve started spring cleaning the house and rearranging things a bit. Taking my DP’s advice, I did not reframe one of the etchings I recently purchased. It is now on the wall in son #1’s old room, where it sits above my other recent acquisitions, the dresser and mirror. Note the new curtains as well. I’m still deciding what to do with the smaller etching.

It probably seems as if I buy things all the time, but that’s not true. I’ve been on the lookout for a dresser, new curtains and a mirror for ages, and I’m on a tight budget, so I have to select carefully. It just so happened that it all came together in a short time. Months and sometimes years will go by while I look, and then bam, all at once I find exactly the right thing(s). Patience is the key.

In other news, the Christmas cactus continues to bloom and more buds are developing!

Aside from puttering around the house I’ve been reading Harry Carey Jr.’s autobiography. My DP recommended it, so I gave it to son James for Christmas, and after he read it, he passed it to me.

Though the book is full of great anecdotes about John Ford and John Wayne, one photo of Harry Carey Sr. holding his newborn son really struck my fancy.

I only knew HC Sr. from films he made when he was older, such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Angel and the Badman and Red River, but I had never seen him in his heyday as the star of westerns, so I decided to track one down. Last night on YouTube I watched one of his films called The Last of the Clintons (1935).

The plot concerns cattle theft and reminded me a lot of the Hopalong Cassidy movie I watched recently. The Last of the Clintons involves a lot of riding horses hell bent for leather, but Harry Carey has screen presence, a good voice and can certainly ride well. It’s easy to see how Carey’s acting style influenced other western stars. Even if the print is bad and it is sometimes difficult to hear, it’s good to watch people do their own stunts, ride like experienced cowhands and fist fight as if they are really doing it and not remembering a thousand carefully choreographed moves. I’m going to track down some more of his movies. In particular, I’d like to see his versions of the Last of the Mohicans and the Three Godfathers.

Have a wonderful weekend and remember:

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” (Attributed to Victor Hugo, although I have been unable to verify.)

*A comment referring to cattle rustling — Angel and the Badman

A garden of cucumbers*

I am reading Isaiah now in my daily reading plan and it is full of wonderful things. The author gets right down to business in chapter one:

Alas, sinful nation,
A people laden with iniquity,
A brood of evildoers,
Children who are corrupters!
They have forsaken the Lord,
They have provoked to anger
The Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away backward.

Again we are reminded, it has always been thus. It is my policy (mostly) not to comment on current events and I am not going to now. No, I’ll just share that I ordered a new needlepoint pillow kit to work on while I listen to my favorite podcasts while I attempt to block out everything that’s going on.

This is how I deal with the gathering gloom.

And we remember what Stephen Charnock wrote back in the 17th century:

“Some rude and rough stones were taken out of Nero’s palace; some that were servants to the most abominable tyrant, and the greatest monster of mankind; one that set Rome on fire, and played on his harp while the flames were crackling about the city; ripped up his mother’s belly to see the place where he lay; would any of the civiller sort of mankind be attendants upon such a devil? Yet some of this monster’s servants became saints. Phil. 4:22. “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” To hear of saints in Nero’s family, is as great a prodigy as to hear of saints in hell.”

So we’ll just continue to keep watch in our garden of cucumbers.

Happy birthday, Soren Kierkegaard, and happy Cinco de Mayo, which is the yearly celebration commemorating the anniversary of Mexico’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. That is the reason for drinking margaritas on May 5–in case you were wondering. The day gained nationwide popularity here in America in the 1980s due to advertising campaigns by beer, wine, and tequila companies. Today Cinco de Mayo generates beer sales on par with the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, it’s almost the weekend! Have fun hanging out…

*Isaiah 1:8

You have to laugh or else you’ll cry.

Good morning, readers! I am writing to you from my craft room/office where I’m sitting in a vintage chair that did a real number on my back this weekend. I foolishly spent my glorious days off doing dangerous activities for a lady of my age including using my sewing machine and working on a puzzle. Never have I felt older. The subsequent back pain that plagued me for several days did not help the vibe. But, I am happy to report that today my back did not bother me all day and I was able to stand up without literally creaking.

Have you seen the people who comment on the internet that like it would have been really great if in high school we had learned how to do our taxes instead of like calculus? Well, the past few weeks, I’ve had to do a lot of math for someone who was an English Major and now does Communications for a living. I had to make spreadsheets and do cost benefit analysis. I had to calculate percentages. Excuse me while I gag.

I also had to request a calculator because the one on my phone couldn’t keep up with my speedy fingers. I’m not joking. This is what they dug up for me:

Y’all this vintage masterpiece is a behemoth. It is so big it has to be plugged in to function. But it did get the job done. I’m saving the state money (if my math was right, jokes nervously). Your tax dollars at work. I know my sister had a similar math-based week. And people say majoring in English leaves you with no marketable skills.

My whole week has very much had this vibe:

Also, this made me laugh.

Fame, like a wayward girl, will still be coy*

It saddened me to hear of Naomi Judd’s death. One of the first country albums (a cassette tape) I ever bought was the Judd’s “Love Can Build a Bridge” for daughter #1. I mean, what could be better than a mother-daughter singing duo? We loved the Judds back in the day. My kids gave me her cookbook one year for my birthday.

But looking back, Naomi’s life reads like a cautionary tale–she wanted fame more than anything else and she got it. But at what price? She seemed to sacrifice both her daughters on that rhinestone altar to fulfill her own dream. Is it a wonder that she ended up a depressed and anxious hot mess? Now they are saying her death was a suicide. Well, who am I to judge? But it still makes me very sad.

I would not wish the burning blaze
Of fame around a restless world,
The thunder and the storm of praise
In crowded tumults heard and hurled.
I would not be a flower to stand
The stare of every passer-bye;
But in some nook of fairyland,
Seen in the praise of beauty’s eye.

–John Clare (1793-1864), “Idle Fame”

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

In other news, I will note that today is the anniversary of the death of actor Bruce Cabot (1904-1972).

I think I’ll watch King Kong (1933) in his honor. You will recall, it was Bruce who saves Fay Wray from the big ape. King Kong was one of his only starring roles, but he had a long career playing supporting parts, notably in eleven John Wayne films.

Sometimes being a character actor with small parts in a forty-year career is better in the long run than super-stardom.

“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.

In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.”

–Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

Hang in there. God loves you.

*John Keats

Gracious God, my heart renew, make my spirit right and true…

cast me not away from thee, let thy Spirit dwell in me…*

It was a quiet weekend…except for an earthquake on Friday evening!

The OM and I were watching the news when we thought we heard two loud booms and the house shook for a second. We thought it might be a) an earthquake, b) an explosion or c) a bad car crash. Daughter #1 texted a little while later that she had received a ‘push alert’ about an earthquake in Valley Park.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

–Psalm 46: 2-3

What next? Do we dare ask?

I cajoled the OM into accompanying me on Saturday to an open house held at the 1816 log house in Affton, MO, which will be disassembled and moved to the Thomas Sappington House Historic Site in Crestwood.

This is a great example of a small local group working tirelessly to preserve a small piece of history. They are still raising money so that the two Sappington cousins’ houses built in the early 1800s – Thomas’ brick house, now a museum, and Joseph’s log house (above)–can be preserved together. (The log cabin is currently located in a residential area, surrounded by small homes, and has been lived in by private owners all these years.)

There are lots of people who could just write a big check and make this happen but historic preservation is not high on most people’s priority lists these days. C’est la vie. It will happen, one small donation at a time.

On Sunday we met up with the boy and the wee twins at church per usual and then headed home afterwards for some brunch and driveway sittin’. (It was perfect weather for driveway sittin’ but I have no pictures of us just sittin’…)

Waitin’ for brunch with my old Tyrolean village…
Practising that nice PGA swing
We hauled out the old shopping cart–always a fave

And we always have fun looking for the hidden animals in the yard…

…and seeing what’s about to bloom…Iris buds!

I was struck in church by the thought of how blessed I was to be sitting between my husband and my grown son. This, after decades of being the “Widow Compton” at my old Episcopal Church, is not a small thing. (One old lady even thought I had married the actual widower with whom I generally shared a pew!) But the menfolk in my family like the new church–and no wonder–it is full of men! (I like it for that reason too.) Discuss among yourselves.

I watched the Horse Soldiers (1959) in honor of Ulysses Grant and Bing Russell and thoroughly enjoyed it.

It is such a great movie. I don’t understand why it is so often considered to be one of John Ford’s lesser films. The stars are great together and the supporting cast is without parallel in my opinion. It was filmed on location in Mississippi and so has an authenticity a lot of Civil War dramas lack. (Compare the plantation Greenbriar in this movie to Tara.) Ford himself tended to dismiss the film, in large part I think because a stuntman was killed while filming. This greatly upset him and he ended filming the movie abruptly and returned to California.

Matthew Brady takes a picture.

Nevertheless, it is one of my favorites.

It is supposed to rain on and off again all week, but oh well. I’ll find something to do.

*The Psalter, 1912