Tasha still

Tasha2014Today is Halloween, as everyone in the United States knows. I don’t like Halloween, but I put up with it. Tomorrow is All Saints’ Day, as those in the Christian liturgical tradition know. It is also the day on which we brought Tasha home from the shelter in 2005, as long-time readers of this blog know. That means it is time for my annual appreciation of our child.

Tasha continues in her happy, healthy, energetic ways. She insists on her routine and she knows how to play the cute card. She has not slowed down in the least, and for that we are grateful.

Tasha is our girl and she is integral to our lives. We love and appreciate her. We are privileged to have her in our world.

Secular Music Thursday: Once in a Lifetime and more

Once in a Lifetime, Gonna Build a Mountain, and What Kind of Fool Am I by the great Anthony Newley. As the poster of this video wrote, “One of a kind, sir… one of a kind…”

new watch, old technology

I don’t know whether in today’s terminology one might would call me neurotic or perhaps anal as a child, but I wanted my own watch very early on. I would say it was second or third grade, when we were living in Barstow. My dad finally gave in when he realized that his offer to allow me to watch his watch was not going to be sufficient. My parents allowed me to do extra chores around the house to pay for half of a new watch, and they kicked in the other half. I have not been without a watch since then.

It must have been in the early 1960’s when self-winding watches first came out. Before that you needed to remember to wind your watch each day if you wanted to keep it running. (Remember those days?) This new technology meant that if you put your watch on in the morning and kept it on all day the motion of your wrist would wind your watch for you. I probably wouldn’t even have known about this, but my grandfather bought such a watch and liked to talked about it. Youngster that I was, I thought it made sense for me to move his wrist back and forth to wind his watch for him.

I think I must have had one or two of those of my own, but with the advent of battery-powered watches I largely forgot about the technology.

watchI was reminded of it when Terry came home from a sales conference. She won an intense game of Jeopardy, and the prize was a beautiful Swiss Rotary watch. It was much too large for her wrist, so she gave it to me. Spending just a few minutes with the watch told me that it used that self-winding technology.

The watch itself is a work of art.The center of the watch is transparent, so the gears and mechanisms are visible. As one who has had a digital watch (I have two now) for more years than I can remember, this is a nice change.

Watching the gears move makes me think of the early years of the modern era and of human creativity and invention. Not that we haven’t accomplished a great deal in the intervening centuries, because certainly we have. But watching the gears move evokes thoughts and images of humankind’s ability to innovate that I don’t see in a digital display, even though that digital display is the result of a great deal of innovation and invention.

Looking at those gears is some strange way therapeutic for me. I like that.

Dawn Light

quote Now when Dawn in robe of saffron was hastening from the streams of Oceanus, to bring light to mortals and immortals…
I’ve been up before the sunrise to watch the day begin.
—Kate Wolf
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.

DawnLightDawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day
Diane Ackerman
W. W. Norton & Company (September 28, 2009), 265 pages
Kindle Edition $9.99, Hardcover Bargain Price $9.98, Amazon Paperback $13.13

In fact only the third quote actually appears in this book, though Diane Ackerman does mention Homer’s “rosy-fingered Dawn.” All three quotes, however, represent the spirit of the Ackerman’s work. I’m surprised that she doesn’t mention the Kate Wolf lyric given how many times she writes about being up before the sunrise to watch the day begin.

Dawn Light was an enjoyable diversion for me because Diane Ackerman’s writing is evocative of the prose of Loren Eisley. She writes about dawn in nature in different parts of the world at different times of the year. She is a marvelous observer of the natural world and she translates those observations very well to the printed (or in my case iPad) page.

She doesn’t stay strictly with the topic of dawn or nature, however. She writes about beekeeping, Zen Buddhism, the meaning of Japanese words, crystals, how Monet’s cataract surgery caused him to destroy and re-create a number of his paintings, and her experience on a silent retreat.

Diane’s Ackerman’s essays are beautifully written and a pleasure to read.

a confession

I have been known to complain here, though I haven’t recently, of which I am certain you are grateful, about fabrications in books that are labeled as nonfiction. Generally this happens in autobiography or memoir. Sometimes only names are changed to protect the guilty. Other times the events described are wholly imaginary. (Think of the story “Julia” in Lillian Hellman’s Pentimento.)

In this blog I have pledged that everything I say about my life is true, but I have stated that I reserve the right not to tell you everything. That pledge is unchanged.

PressureCookerI am, however, motivated to confess to a specific lacuna in a recent blog post. I wrote about my pressure cooker not working correctly and ultimately realizing that I was not turning the lid the correct direction. What I failed to tell you was how I discovered that.

I had decided that, in spite of my state of being in career transition, I really wanted to have a working pressure cooker, and that I could handle the cost of getting a new one. I decided that I could afford the cost of a replacement Cuisinart with one of those ubiquitous 20% off coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond. I went over there and bought the new pressure cooker. When I opened the box, I saw that there was a change to the model. On the lid was a label that indicated which direction was open and which direction was close. I immediately realized my stupidity. I did the water test on the old machine, saw that it was in perfect working order, and returned the new pressure cooker to BB&B. I wasn’t able to figure out how to return the box to its original state, but I packed up all of the components, and I trust that the folks at BB&B had the ability to properly repack the box and return it to the shelf without any financial loss.

I guess I have to chalk it up to one of those brain lapses to which people our age are subject.

Sacred Music Friday: What Sweeter Music

King’s College Cambridge, 2008, What Sweeter Music, John Rutter

the irrationality of the world

Chris Smith over at the Englewood Review of Books quoted Madeleine L’Engle on Facebook. In a world where the news is Ebola, ISIS, shootings at the parliament building in Canada, climate change, the mid-term elections and such this is worth paying attention to.

quoteOur truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.

Far be it from me to add to what L’Engle has written, but I have found it helpful to turn off NPR (sacrilege!) and turn on music, whether it be classical or seventies light rock. And I love reading books on my iPad Kindle app in the evening, something that takes me to a different place.

We need to have those times when we can step away from the irrationality of the world.

the kids grow up

In the few years that I have been at St. John the Divine, I have appreciated the youth. They are high school folk who serve as acolytes and readers, and who lead the liturgy on youth Sunday — whenever there is a fifth Sunday. They are Katie, her brother Connor, Kalum, and their peers.

They were. But what has happened? They got older. They graduated from high school. They went off to college.

And now the torch has been passed to a new generation of youth who serve as acolytes, readers, and lead the liturgy on youth Sunday.

I miss Katie, Connor, and Kalum, but:

quoteTime, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its souls away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the op’ning day.

Life moves on and I have to accept that they have moved on.

disappearing cooking shows

Rachael Ray had a new program on Food Network. It was called Rachael Ray’s 3 in the Bag. It aired beginning in January. Being the foodie that I am, and being the Food Network groupie that I am, I have no clue as to how I missed it. But I did. Then Food Network started re-running the series this month.

Rachael Ray’s 3 in the Bag is based on the same premise as Rachael’s earlier programs, 30-minute Meals and A Week in a Day. The idea is that you want to be efficient and make the best possible use of your time while making optimal use of the ingredients you have. In the current program the concept is that one bag of groceries can give you the ingredients for three meals, once you throw in a few staples from your pantry. I watched the first two episodes and she did some interesting recipes, one of which I saved.

Then Food Network dropped it. It just disappeared from its Thursday afternoon time slot.

Meanwhile, over at PBS I was just getting back into Sara Moulton. I had enjoyed the first season of her Weeknight Meals several years ago. Our Bay Area PBS station was broadcasting reruns of the current season on Sunday afternoon. I watched one episode, and then it too disappeared from the schedule. It’s still showing on one of the station’s secondary digital channels, but our cable system doesn’t provide those.

I think the fact that I’m obsessing about lost cooking shows is an indicator that I really need to find a new job soon.

taking out that shrub

In his Sherlock Holmes fiction Sir Arthur Conan Doyle liked to put in Holmes’ mouth talk about observing rather than merely seeing. It is a truism, but it is also true, that we often don’t observe those things we see every day.

When we bought our house in 1997 the builder put in the front yard. We made our own additions, such as putting in pavers by the driveway and adding rose bushes. We had to add rose bushes. My maternal grandfather was in the nursery business. He was a partner in a wholesale nursery company and sales manager at the storied Howard Rose Company for close to half a century.

But back to our yard. The builder put in two large shrubs. In recent years they both stood about four feet high, four feet wide, and four feet deep. The other day I stood out front talking to our neighbor, who had just returned our hedge clippers, about the drought and conserving water. I glanced over at our two shrubs. The one farthest front was dead. Brown. Dry. Brittle. Lifeless. I had no idea how long it had been that way, but it was. Which is strange, because in spite of the cutback in watering the rose bushes were doing fine, as was the shrub further back. If anything the shrub further front should have been getting more, not less, water than the one behind it.

Terry had left for business travel on Saturday morning and it wasn’t too hot, so I decided it was time to tackle the removal of the dead shrub. I headed to front yard carrying both the long and short handled clippers. I set to work. It was a tedious job because the branches and leaves were dry and entangled. In the end I got perhaps two-thirds of the shrub whacked away. By that time the yard waste toter was full so I had to stop. The good thing is that I got rid of enough of it so it’s not nearly as obvious from the street as it had been. I raked up some leaves for good measure. I then took a shower and got changed. I was quite sore but felt a sense of accomplishment when Terry called from New Jersey.

Still, I would like to know what killed the thing in the first place.