Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Clara was always so gentle with me, soft knocks on my bedroom door, a hand just barely on my back as we walked, her voice always low with me, like speaking to someone ill who had just woken up. She once came to my room with a sack of clementines and asked me if I would like one. I didn’t know what a clementine was but I said yes. I always said yes. We sat in the living room and she showed me how to puncture the skin, tear back the peel, divide the sections out like a strange bloom. I ate one after another just so I could peel them again and again. (Did anyone else notice how citrus skin released a wet blast of oil with each pull?)…I kept my mouth full of citrus, rubbed the oil from the peels against my palms and wrists, and still every time I see a clementine I think of this moment, think of Clara.

~ Catherine Lacey, from “The Answers: A Novel


Photo: Haikudeck

Why My Family Takes a Thanksgiving Vow of Silence

nina-li-coomes

For many years, my family took a vow of silence over Thanksgiving, retreating to a Catholic seminary perched on a small lake in Libertyville, Illinois. The rules of the Thanksgiving Silent Retreat were simple: no talking, no reading, no watching TV or listening to music. We were allowed to draw, or write, or play the grand piano in the pink-carpeted seminary lounge, but were not to bring books or use our laptops or phones. […]

Consider the Thanksgiving table, groaning under the weight of abundance: jeweled cranberries winking in orange-spiced syrups; the skin of the turkey rubbed and brined and roasted to crispy perfection; mounds of potatoes fluffed into chive-flecked clouds; green beans and stuffing and marshmallow-topped yams. Circling these dishes, the yawning promise of empty plates, and yet—above the whole table floats a cottony haze of silence. No one speaks. No one asks you to pass the salt, to refill the wine. What would that be like? How do you think you might feel and exist in that silent, still place?

Click here for the punch line and the entire story: Why My Family Takes a Thanksgiving Vow of Silence by Nina Li Coomes.

It’s Thanksgiving. Come On Home.

I would be spending Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, a thousand miles from home…“I don’t think I can stand it here,” I said during the weekly call to my parents that Sunday. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

“Just come home,” my father said. I was crying by then. “It’s too late,” I said. “It’s way too late.”

“You can always come home, Sweet,” he said…

Those were words of loving reassurance from a parent to his child, a reminder that as long as he and my mother were alive, there would always be a place in the world for me, a place where I would always belong, even if I didn’t always believe I belonged there.

But I wonder now, three decades later, whether my father’s words were more than a reminder of my everlasting place in the family. I wonder now whether they were also an expression of his own longing for the days when all his chicks were still in the nest, when the circle was still closed and the family he and my mother had made was complete. We were an uncommonly close family, and I was the first child to leave home. But I gave no thought to my parents’ own loneliness as they pulled away from the curb in front of my apartment in Philadelphia, an empty U-Haul rattling behind Dad’s ancient panel van, for the drive back to Alabama without me.

I gave no thought to it then, but I think of it all the time now. My youngest child left for college in August, and this house has never seemed so empty. It’s not actually empty. My husband is still here, and my father-in-law still comes over for supper most nights. Because we have a big extended family and friends often passing through on their way somewhere else, hardly a week goes by without guests in our guest room. Last summer, anticipating my own sadness once our sons were at school, I put out the word in our neighborhood that I was happy to be a backup car pool driver or homework wrangler, but the presence of borrowed children in this house, though joyful, is also an aching reminder of the years gone by with my own.

No matter how full my life is with marriage and work and relatives and friends and the cares of citizenship in a struggling world, I miss my children. Every day, I miss my children, and as I wait for them to come home for Thanksgiving, I think of my father’s words across a bad landline connection in 1984 that reached my homesick heart in cold Philadelphia. I remember the 26-hour bus ride into the heart of Greyhound darkness that followed, a desperate journey that got me home in time for the squash casserole and the cranberry relish, and I hope my sons know now as surely as I knew it then, as surely as I have known it my entire life: Whatever happens, they can always come home. They can always, always come on home.

~ , excerpts from “It’s Thanksgiving. Come On Home.” (The New York Times, Nov 22, 2017)


Notes: Essay – Thank you Rachel. Illustration – Pinterest

I love the dawn stillness (on Thanksgiving Day)

light-night-house-family

Quiet has many moods. When our sons are home, their energy is palpable. Even when they’re upstairs sleeping I can sense them, can feel the house filling with their presence, expanding like a sail billowed with air. I love the dawn stillness of a house full of sleepers, love knowing that within these walls our entire family is contained and safe, reunited, our stable four-sided shape resurrected.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment 


Notes: Photo: Mennyfox55

Think of somebody who you adore, who’s no longer here.

I’m listening (half listening) to this NPR podcast titled How Art Changes Us and half surfing.

I pause when I hear a familiar voice.  It’s Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic.

For the next 10 minutes, he has my full attention.

So here’s the instructions:

  1. Listen to 10 minutes (from 40:22 to 50:40) of this podcast How Art Changes Us and then,
  2. For the next 4 minutes (from 12:35 to 16:45), watch this Ted Talk: “The Transformative Power of Classic Music“.

Or if you don’t have 14 minutes, jump Step 1 and move to Step 2.


And here’s a few excerpts that lead into the punch line:

Q: When can you remember a time when you played music for somebody and it had a profound change on what was going on around them?

Benjamin Zander: It’s hard for me to remember a time when I played music when it didn’t have that effect on people because that’s the given. I consider music to be a transformational experience. Mendelssohn said that music is a much more precise language than words. And when you think how easily we misunderstand words, and God knows there is enough evidence of that at this time. Music speaks directly to the heart. It speaks through the molecules. It is irresistible…

All the emotions that human beings are capable of feeling can be represented in music. It’s the music that generates the emotion that releases the human experience. It doesn’t go through the brain. It goes through the molecules…

It’s one thing to hear it in your earphones alone. It is quite another to hear it in a concert hall with 2000 other people who are all experiencing it together, and whose reaction and spontaneous enthusiasm at the end is part of the experience…

And on a tour, when you go from one town to another, you have the sense that people come out of the concerts with a different feeling about life, with a different perspective and with a different sense of being. And that’s why we do it and keep doing it and keep doing it. And as I approach my 80th birthday I have no intention to stop doing it at any point. It’s my life blood. That’s where I get my joy from. It’s the sense that people’s lives are really transformed.

Q: You play this piece by Chopin, but first you ask everyone to do something.

Zander: Yes. “Would you think of somebody who you adore, who’s no longer there. A beloved grandmother. A lover. Somebody in your life who you love with all your heart. But that person is no longer with you. Bring that person into your mind and at the same time follow that long line from B to E and you’ll hear everything that Chopin had to say.

(Now for the next 4 minutes from 12:35 to 16:45, watch this Ted Talk: “The Transformative Power of Classic Music“)


Photo of Benjamin Zander

Sunday Morning

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

Pat Schneider, The Patience of Ordinary Things, “Another River: New and Selected Poems


Notes: Poem – Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: Colorinstantfilm

Have you had it with news, fake news, politics, etc.? Be swept away for a moment. (55 sec)

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week


Source: Nini Poppins

That is the price of proximity: you don’t see it. Don’t know that it’s there. Then it is over.

The leaves of the chestnut tree have begun to fall onto the flagstone path in the garden, which is visible only here and there. The willow too has lost its leaves and needs pruning, it grows monstrously fast. The apple tree’s foliage has also thinned out, but from its boughs there are apples hanging, resembling little red lanterns amid all the naked branches. I ate one today, they are large, more red than green, and juicy, perhaps a little too sour, maybe they ought to be left for another week. I walked across the grass, long, soft and green, with the tart taste in my mouth, and thought about taste, the tastes of the various apple varieties, how old these tastes might be. When were they first crossbred? During the nineteenth century? The twentieth? Some tastes found in the world today are identical to tastes that existed two thousand years ago. The slightly unusual aroma, the out-of-the-ordinariness one can encounter in an apple from a private garden give me pleasure. I often think of my grandmother then, my father’s mother, the apples from their garden which we got every autumn, sometimes a whole crate, which lay in our cellar for weeks. Yes, and the smell in their cellar, of apples and plums. … It feels like I have started something new, something quite different, and that is this family. I think of it every day, that what matters is now, that the years we are living through now are when everything important happens. My previous life seems more and more distant. I am no longer preoccupied with my own childhood. Not interested in my student years, my twenties. All that seems far, far away. And I can imagine how it will be when what is happening now is over, when the children have moved out, the thought that these were the important years, this is when I was alive. Why didn’t I appreciate it while I had it? Because then, I sometimes think, I hadn’t had it yet. Only what slips through one’s fingers, only what is never expressed in words, has no thoughts, exists completely. That is the price of proximity: you don’t see it. Don’t know that it’s there. Then it is over, then you see it.

The yellow-red leaves lying wet and smooth on the flagstones between the houses. How the stone darkens when it rains, lightens as it dries.

~ Karl Ove Knausgaard, from “Autumn Leaves” in “Autumn


Photo: Apple Black and White by The-Definition via DeviatArt (via Newthom)

No Dog. No Walks.

Dog walking is a popular everyday physical activity. Dog owners are generally more active than non-owners, but some rarely walk with their dog. The strength of the dog–owner relationship is known to be correlated with dog walking, and this qualitative study investigates why. Twenty-six interviews were combined with autoethnography of dog walking experiences. Dog walking was constructed as “for the dog”, however, owners represented their dog’s needs in a way which aligned with their own. Central to the construction of need was perceptions of dog personality and behaviour. Owners reported deriving positive outcomes from dog walking, most notably, feelings of “happiness”, but these were “contingent” on the perception that their dogs were enjoying the experience. Owner physical activity and social interaction were secondary bonuses but rarely motivating. Perceptions and beliefs of owners about dog walking were continually negotiated, depending on how the needs of the owner and dog were constructed at that time. Complex social interactions with the “significant other” of a pet can strongly motivate human health behaviour. Potential interventions to promote dog walking need to account for this complexity and the effect of the dog-owner relationship on owner mental wellbeing.

~ Carri Westgarth, abstract from I Walk My Dog Because It Makes Me Happy: A Qualitative Study to Understand Why Dogs Motivate Walking and Improved Health (mdpi.com, August 19, 2017)


Notes:

  • Inspired by our Zeke, and his passing one year ago today. (9/5/16) His photo above.
  • Related Posts: Zeke
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