Sacred Music Friday: My Song Is Love Unknown

My Song Is Love Unknown – King’s College, Cambridge

they’re back and better

It’s been a long time since Terry and I had lunch at our local salad bar restaurant. They’re the ones that were long known and highly regarded as Fresh Choice, went through some financial difficulties, closed most of their locations and reopened some of them as California Fresh. The initial reviews were not encouraging.

Terry and I ate there some months back after seeing slightly more encouraging comments. The salad bar was passable, but the soups were actually somewhat better than before. We were not impressed enough to add them to our regular rotation, but I remained on their email distribution. A couple of weeks ago I received an email that 1) said they were lowering their price for lunch, 2) included an additional $1.50 off coupon, and 3) told us that they were returning to the Fresh Choice name.

Given all that we decided to give them another shot. We ventured over there on President’s Day last week. We were pleased. The salad bar was fully stocked and fresh. There was a variety of soup. Terry had the albondigas soup and I had the clam chowder. I thought the clam chowder was excellent. Terry loved the albondigas, and I enjoyed the taste she gave me. I thought their pizza was better than ever. Terry liked the mac and cheese. Neither of us had room for the double chocolate brownies.

So they seem to be back and doing well. I’m not sure what to call them. The sign on the building still says Fresh Choice. That had never changed. The sign over the cash register, the receipt, and those little Be Right Back/All Done cards on the tables all said California Fresh. The posters in the window announcing the new lunch price said Fresh Choice.

Whatever their name, we’re happy to see them offering quality food once again. And we were glad to see them as busy as they were.


A couple of the news feeds I get in my RSS reader are from Religion Dispatches. At the end of January they published a commentary by Candace Chellew-Hodge about what millennials might create given the chance to form their own religion. When she teaches a community college comparative religion course she has students embark on this exercise as a class project. When doing this exercise with a group of millennials she noted the absence of clergy, other leadership, and regular worship. She writes that what intrigued her the most was the fact that

quotenot one of the religions crafted by the student groups included a concept of hell, or any form of punishment for not following the prescriptions of the religion.

What surprises me is that she found that noteworthy. I have no idea of Chellew-Hodge’s age, but surely she must know John Lennon. I don’t know what a survey of baby boomers on this subject would reveal today, but certainly if you asked them the question when they were the age of today’s millennials they would have given much the same response.

quoteImagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Perhaps it’s simply my being the age I am, but to me this seems pretty obvious.

yard work

I wrote last October about how I had terminated the services of our gardener. In short, he didn’t understand that the yard waste toter was booth food waste and yard waste, and he would throw food waste, which we put in paper bags, into the recycle toter. There are certain things for which I have zero tolerance, and one of those is polluting the recycling stream. The decision saved us $60 a month, which is a particularly good thing in these days of Terry’s anemic commission checks, but still I wondered whether I was cutting off my nose to spite my face. After four months I can say unequivocally that I was not.

The exercise has definitely been good for me. My former primary care physician was fond of reminding me that in addition to aerobic exercise, about which I am quite diligent, I should be doing strength training and stretching. Yard work offers both.

In the first several weeks after that decision, I was kept busy each weekend taking care of the falling leaves. Once the trees were bare, there was less to do, and I could get by with mowing the lawns every two or three weeks. Then there’s those extraordinary projects, in the sense of extra-ordinary.

The second year we were here we had a contractor landscape our back yard. Part of the flora included in the project was crepe myrtle tree, which is directly in view outside my loft office window. The first few years we loved it, though as it matured the annoyance with the shedding flowers nearly outweighed our enjoyment of them earlier in the season.

treeWorking from home I see the crepe myrtle all day long. This year the dry seed pods stayed on the tree all winter, and I didn’t know how the new growth would arrive in spring. Assuming, of course, that the tree is still alive. The citrus in the neighborhood is not doing terribly well in this disturbingly dry winter.

I decided that this task needed to be tackled, which I did last Saturday. I pulled out the ladder and the long-handled pruning shears. I wasn’t sure I would be able to get the highest branches in the back, but by the time I was finished I managed to get them all. I now have a much improved view outside my loft window, and the crepe myrtle, has, I hope, a chance at coming back.

Not to mention the fact that I got my stretching and strength training in. In addition to the actual lopping of the branches, there was, of course, the gathering of the branches from the ground and cutting them to fit the yard waste toter. Plus I mowed both lawns and swept up a few stray leaves. I took an ibuprofen Sunday morning, but it was, without doubt, a worthwhile effort.

The Last Enchantments

LastEnchantmentsThe Last Enchantments
Charles Finch
St. Martin’s Press, 334 pages

This is the first novel I have read in s few years. That’s not quite true. I read Snapper last year, but it was represented as autobiographical nonfiction when I heard the author interview on Science Friday, and I read it that way. It was only later I later learned was published as fiction. I also took a shot at Pynchon’s Vineland last year, but abandoned it as I got tired of its North American version of magical realism, something I relished in the mid and late 1970’s. But The Last Enchantments was my first conscious, complete foray into fiction in quite some time, and it was a pleasure.

The protagonist, Will, worked on the losing John Kerry presidential campaign along with his girlfriend, Alison. While they had made plans to build a life together, Will applied for, and was accepted into, a year at Oxford. Most of the novel is set there, with some flashbacks to the campaign.

The novel describes Will’s classmates at Oxford, the community of the surrounding town, including Blackwell’s Books with which I spent a lot of money in my undergraduate days, and some of the ancient, arcane Oxford University ceremonies which continue today no matter how hoary.

In the course of the novel, Will makes a lot of stupid decisions about the women he chooses to sleep with, his relationship with Alison, and his career. Nonetheless, I found the plot believable and the characters engaging. I loved the portrayal of graduate student life at Oxford.

A happy ending there was not, and I was seriously ticked at Will for being such a dumb-ass. Regardless, I am delighted to have read The Last Enchantments.

Sacred Music Friday: Light Everlasting

Light Everlasting by Olaf Christiansen, sung by the St. Olaf Choir

reading it right

It’s time for another blog entry on language.

I noticed the following note in the church worship bulletin:

dates can be shared

Certainly if you take I-10 east from Los Angeles to Palm Springs and Indio, you can stop on the way at Hadley Orchards and buy a big box of dates. You will probably want to share them rather than keeping the whole box to yourself. Then also, when I was in high school, a double date was well-accepted practice.

What the worship bulletin was talking about was that there were still open weeks for donating altar flowers, that the suggested donation was $45, but that two families could split that amount and be recognized for donating flowers on the same Sunday.

It helps to read the paragraph starting at the beginning.

complete flip

The year 2014 brought an interesting flip in how Terry and I do things.

TerryCalendarFor a number of years we have been creating a calendar from the photos of our trips. Initially the pictures were all mine. But as Terry got interested in photography we started including her photos as well. The first year that we included Terry’s photos three of the twelve were hers.

At the same time that Terry was getting more interested in and getting better at photography, I was hit by the realization that trying to get the right picture was interfering with my enjoyment of the particular moment. I also realized that I wanted to communicate more through my writing.

This meant that the balance of the calendar continued to shift. For our 2013 calendar Terry had nine photos and I had three. And then this year, our 2014 calendar, all twelve photos were Terry’s.

I’m fine with that. Terry is a good photographer who keeps getting better, and I enjoy writing.

It all works.

most things to many people

I’ve written about how we enjoy our local family owned market, Rocca’s. The full-service meat counter means that we rarely buy meat at the supermarket any longer. I was thinking about the various constituencies that Rocca’s serves, based on my observations while shopping.

  • There are people like Terry and me, the foodies. We like Tom Rocca’s quality cuts of meat which we can get in whatever amount we need. There is Poppy’s fresh seafood. There’s the cheeses, sliced to order. They carry locally made Frantoio Grove olive oil and local honey. And, of course, the wine department curated by Dan Rocca with his selection of  local wines.
  • There’s the guys who are serious about their grillin’. Perhaps they don’t do a lot in the kitchen, I don’t know, but I imagine they know their way around the gas grill. They come into Rocca’s knowing they have the best meat.
  • There’s the folks from the surrounding neighborhood or driving down Monterey highway for whom Rocca’s is the convenient spot for their beer and junk food.

For us, we appreciate Rocca’s for the first point. (And to a lesser extent, the second.)


when in doubt, sing

I met with my spiritual director, Linda, last week for the first time since she retired in December. It was good to have the opportunity to (virtually) sit together again. We have been meeting via Facetime since my company closed the campus that housed my cubicle and I’ve been working from home. It was a different experience seeing her in the surroundings of her home rather than the parish, and even stranger seeing her without her clerical collar. But it was wonderful to meet again.

I talked about the loss of Pete Seeger, and the fact that I blogged about San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik’s tribute to him.Garchik wrote about his marvelous ability to get his audiences singing, and how people would feel “a little more optimistic about life’s possibilities” after hearing him sing. I certainly do.

Cynthia Bourgeault

Cynthia Bourgeault

One song that Seeger was well known for teaching audiences was “Somos El Barco.” There’s a video of that on my Garchik blog. I told Linda about that song and sang a few bars. I then said that I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, a perception I’ve long had about myself. She said, “You just were carrying a tune.” She told me about seeing Cynthia Bourgeault at a clergy conference, who told her audience that we can all sing, that singing is a different way of knowing, and that we shouldn’t let others tell us that we can’t sing.

She also pointed to the bookshelf behind her, where she told me was a copy of the book by myWheninDoubtSing friend Jane Redmont called When in Doubt, Sing: Prayer in Daily Life, a title I introduced Linda to shortly after we began meeting. The book suggests a wide variety of ways in which one might pray. If you have questions about your own prayer life, take a look. At more than 400 pages there is almost certainly to be a method of prayer there that works for you. The title comes from a chapter near the end of the book that discusses music as prayer.

Linda mentioned the phrase attributed to Augustine, “When we sing, we pray twice,” which is also an epigraph to that chapter in Jane’s book. Based on that session, I feel a little better about singing in private. Still, there are some deeply ingrained inhibitions there. They go back to sixth grade at Hemet Elementary when we had a roving music teacher. She came to our class perhaps every two weeks. She would walk over to me, lean over my shoulder, and not like what she heard. I was never able to make adjustments to satisfy her.

Indeed, my cat Clea of blessed memory never liked my singing. When Terry and I would sing she would glare at us with a very clear message of, “No singing.” Think of Shrek in the original movie saying to the Eddie Murphy donkey character, “Don’t sing!” Even Tasha gave me an annoyed look the other day when I was singing a couple of lines.

This is, nonetheless, perhaps a small start to a new relationship with singing.