Happy New Year

God Knows

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes, 
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

~Minnie Louise Haskins

 

The popular reference is of course King George VI’s 1939 Christmas broadcast, but we saw fit to share with you the entirety of the 1908 poem.

Happy New Year, dear friends.

Mouth Music

While we are on the subject of a capella music, I would like to point out that saying “making music with your mouth” is fairly redundant.

A few coworkers and I recently went to see the movie “Pitch Perfect”. Or “Perfect Pitch” . . .  I can never get that name straight. And throughout the movie, the peppy girls kept running around describing their a capella group by saying, “We make music . . . with our mouths!”

It drove me bonkers!

Um, all types of singing are making music with your mouths. Also, about a third of  types  of the instruments in existence require the use of mouths to make music.

What they really mean, is that the parts of the music usually performed the instruments is done with the voice.

Which actually is pretty cool.

So, I would like to share some of my favorite Mouth Music with you. Where not only has the performer played all the parts of the intstruments, but has also fitted words to the music!

 

 

And, of course, The Doctor Who version.

 

 

And of course

Words, and Otherwords

I am doing some preliminary preparation for teaching a segment on poetry to my fifth graders.

The segment begins on Monday.

It will be a busy weekend.

But since my first goal is to teach them to enjoy poetry, I am scrambling to find a copy of Richard Wilbur’s Words Inside Words collection. Understandably – albeit sadly – no version is available online.

Instead, I did find a reading and animation of a few snippets, put forth by that eternally – entertaining TV station, PBS.

It is actually rather unnerving, but you can see what kind of fun things Wilbur did with words.  And poems.

 

 

 

 

Is your appetite whetted? For the sake of fostering Beauty and Truth, I give you . . . .

Richard Wilbur reading and commenting on “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”!!!!!!

*swoons*

I pine.

I long.

My heart aches to find such expression of truth.

Letter to My Friends

 

 

Dear Friend,

You are precious, priceless, and deeply loved.

You have a heart more vast and luminous than the Grand Canyon, and nothing can alter that.

Unfortunately, having such an awe-inspiring heart makes it easier for people to kick cans or drop litter into it. A heart, by its very nature, will always be a target.

But that is because the people who do that are stupid and refuse to see, and so those people are to be pitied the more for missing out on YOU.

To put it more practically, being so beautifully sensitive means that you are also so painfully sensitive.

The openness to the world that we – having been blessed to be raised in loving, healthy, whole environments – have cultivated in ourselves, leaves us without the protection of cynicism, or even “disillusionment”. Instead, we must see life as it really is. (To paraphrase the Discworld witches, seeing what really is, is an altogether much harder gift curse.)

And that sucks.

Truly. Many of us seem to be struggling right now. I think it is something particular to this generation.

Yes, I know, generation upon generation have suffered, sacrificed, and died before us. But something seems different about this generation.

For one thing, as we come out of that Grand Era of baby boomers, technology, and “reason”, we as a group have been left looking for the “unreasonable”, the mysterious, and wonderful. (Also spelled, for clarification purposes, as “wonder-full”.)

This is my personal theory as to the prevalence of “New Age” isms. After so many years believing in NASA and other modern progresses, people were drawn to New Age thingies simply wanted to be able to see the sacred and beautiful in ordinary things. And actually have something considered sacred and beautiful. And mysterious and wonder-full and awe-full.

“New” Age? Pfft.

Christians have been believing – and acting upon! – that for the past two thousand years. Its called a Sacrament, people!

Which brings me back to original point; we, as young Christian adults, seem to have a strange malady these days.

It is a little bit like ennui, combined with homesickness and compounded by chronic job searching.

I suppose I must admit that it is likely other generations have felt this before. But pray, give me leave to wax hyperbolic about the trials and tribulations close to my heart!

Even Economists – those perilous number wizards- are insisting that this generation is having a ridiculously hard time finding jobs and paying off student loans and generally making ends meet for long enough that we can feel like adults.

And this intensifies just our original trouble.

Because the ennui-homesickness-loss feeling is by now a part of who we are, and it started a long time before most of us even began to look for real jobs. It seems to be part – to paraphrase one of my favorite books, The Blue Sword –  a feeling of not belonging, a strong desire to find a place where familiarity and wonder coincide. And part a fear of the discomfort and incongruity that such a place evokes.

Even those of our generation who are not Christian seem to be feeling it: this odd mix existential angst, immediate material insecurity, and the throbbing attraction of anything that promises it has a meaning.

It is our home, and not our home. This can give us moment of awe and love, of the discovery and home-coming at one time which Chesterton describes.

Which is not usually the most comfortable of positions.

And it offers very little in the way of practical happiness.

Whatever you are facing right now, remember that you are a child of God.

And that I think you are AWESOME.

And anyone who thinks differently is being blind.

Including you.

I will be insulted if you distrust my opinion that much!

(So will God, but I cannot put him on the same level as myself. That would be a stretch, even for an Egotist!)

In any case, beloved, breath deeply, eat healthy, sleep well, and live wonderfully.

Love,

Melpomene

P.S. Some more Chesterton for encouragement summation of our path.

The Men of the East may spell the stars
And times and triumphs mark,
But the Men marked with the Cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark.

~ excerpt from the Ballad of the White Horse

Radishes, Bumbershoots, & Sphygmomanometers

Today I want to share a secret with you: the secret of the Joke Word.  For yea, today is Monday, and lo, it is far too easy for the fact to weigh heavily upon us all.

The thing about Joke Words is that you may have discovered them already (and if so, it’s time you get them back out, shake off the dust, and get to jokin’).  Indeed, they are not a very obscure delight.

Luke of Stick World Comics probably put it most succinctly:

http://www.stickworldcomics.com/ is a delightful time. If your Monday manages somehow to be leisurely, then stroll over and have a look.

Similarly, I’ve heard a concert recording wherein folks in the crowd holler out what song they wish to hear played next.  One concertgoer yelled out a song that had already been played, to which the lead singer replied “Buhwha- we done already done it, done it done it.  …that’d be like, you know, like…saying a thing, …and then not saying it for a little while, and then saying it again.  People’d be like, ‘Why’d he say that again?'”  A joke song is a bit ambitious, especially if it’s a mellow ballad kind of song, so it was probably wise for the band to go on to something else.

Thalia and I really love our joke words.  Generally, one of us will be speaking nonchalantly of sealing wax or dinner plans or stories worth reading, and the other will be arrested by some combination of voluptuous vowels and crashing consonants.  So it went with “chicken skin (chicken skin, chicken skin.  CHICKEN SKIN),” as well as “bacon” and “radishes” when said in the Bagelmaster Voice.*

Then there are the words that take so much energy to work out that one repeats them to get one’s efforts’-worth.  Boustrophedonic, sphygmomanometer, margaritomancy, quomodocunquize…if you don’t laugh after saying them, it’s probably because you laughed partway through.

In some other pocket of logophilic delight are the Inherently Funny Words, which I would define as “any word that sounds funny when dictionary.com says it for you.”  My list includes bumbershoot and sputum.  Then, of course, there’s the definitive word from Dilbert:

December 21, 1989

So. Go forth, friends!  Go catch yourself a weasel.  A weasel.  WEASEL!!

*so called because it’s a curiously deep, somewhat demonic-sounding voice that goes with toasters that refuse to relinquish one’s bagel.  Invention of our friend Michelle, practiced by Thalia with great vim &c.

Fighting Moses

The appeal was strong and nagging, appearing at the slightest opportunity and only avoided by guarding both spectacle and deliberation.

Even when considered impersonally, the temptation was quite comprehensible; the curt ‘For Emergency Use Only’ stenciled directly over the red handle instructing, “Pull Here” seemed a paradox in need of resolution. Such a deliberate blend of reverse psychology and imperative language might actually dictate the pulling of the handle.

And taped firmly underneath was an oblong wafer of paper that stated, ‘Warning – Undue Use of Alarm Will Result in fine or imprisonment’. The handwriting was neat and almost even, with a decisive curl at the bottom of each ‘U’ that hinted dreadfully at personal experience with the cost of this ‘Undue Use’. Although normally staunch in the face of such a small warning – speeding or climbing into derelict buildings had much bigger Signs, after all – the attraction of trying to solve the conflict with a hearty tug on the handle was a tad overwhelming.

So the problem then, as he considered it, was to pull the Alarm either without using it “Unduely”, or without being caught. An actual fire would take the away the challenge, and would probably have even worse consequences. Burning baked goods in the microwave would sound the alarm by itself and not need the handle to be pulled.

And then, of course, the “without being caught” was easy, but the “without being guilted into admission,” that would be more difficult. The alternative course, naturally, was simply to not pull the demanding thing at all. He could convince himself that the ‘Pull Here’ was the reverse psychology and that the warnings were the commands.

Almost.

Picking up a thin stack of stapled papers, he held them upright and hit them the desk to make sure the edges were aligned, and slapped them into an open folder. And again with the next stack and folder. All neat, all in arranged, everything efficient and complete.

If only, if only . . . .

It would take courage, and that even more elusive quality, gumption. If only that alarm, with all the fascinating signs and commands, were not directly across from his desk.

Instead, he had the piles of organized, compartmentalized, and individualized paper folders. It was only a name tag paper-clipped to the folder, and a personalized greeting filled in at the top of the cover letter. But that counted for enough a difference, it was supposed. Rather like – if he wanted to be gloomy and clichéd – how each desk and cubiclized work arena looked the same but had a different name on the side. He could even imagine himself as a rat in a maze.

Did rat mazes have fire alarms?

“Now honey, mommy has to talk to this man in his office. Will you wait and here and be good?”

There was a woman with a little boy in the room, pausing in front of his desk to bend anxiously over the child. The child looked up at her quite intelligently, hands behind his back, eyes bright, and head cocked defiantly to one side.

“It will only be for 10 seconds. Ten. I know that you can count that much. Will you do that?” The mixture of firm and calm in her mother-voice was beginning to sound a tad bit strained.

His small, dark brows came together an expression of justified scorn at such an insignificant number. “I can count by twos,” he volunteered. “Two, four, six . . .”

“No, no.” She said hastily. “Count by ones, and wait till I am gone to start.” She herded him in the direction a chair, and looked up to give the receptionist a quick smile. He thought for moment that she was going to come talk to him, but she quickly tripped into the boss man’s office.

He watched the child for moment, as the boy stood in front of his designated seat, and looked at the wall paper. It couldn’t be that interesting, even to a child.

With great care, the receptionist chose a small silver paperclip, slipped it onto the folder, and slid the printed sticker of the individual underneath the loop. He looked up at the child.

The boy, being a child, was standing in front of the red alarm. Hands still clasped behind his back, he was leaning forward to look at the white letters. The receptionist could see his lips moving as a sounded out the words, “Pull Here”.

For a child, there is no dilemma, only instruction.

Unclasping his hands, he reached up and pulled there.

It took a moment, and a small sound screeching, but low siren began to whine through the building, and with a sputter, the sprinklers came on. The place sprang into bustling, loud, life, as people appeared, clattering and chatting, and streamed towards the fire escapes.

He sat still for a moment, feeling his hair being drenched through to his scalp, and the water trickle down his ears and neck. The words on the tags and in the folders were all streaming together on the wet paper, the bits of personalization – and hard work – dissolving under the blast from the ceiling.

The boy’s mother had him by the hand, and was talking very loudly and even more firmly and nicely.

He stepped into the collision of people, bodies and voices mingling.

And he heard, between the rustling movements and the keen wailing of the alarm, the high burbling of human laughter.

A Baptismal Fount

Trial by Handkerchief

This morning I took my Latin exam.

The big Latin exam.

The one that assures my school that I know the ins and outs of at least one language well enough to be let into the truculant world. The one that allows me to graduate with an official Master of Arts degree. (Now I just need to start finish my thesis!)

So in celebration, I thought I would share with you all on of Catullus’s (I was translating Catullus) more deep, dark, and delicate of poems.

The poem that he wrote to a former friend or guest who had stolen his linen handerchief. To threaten him with three hundred more poem unless the handerchief were returned.

As poets do, ya know.

 

Catullus 12:

Marrucine Asini, manu sinistra

non belle uteris in ioco atque vino:

tollis lintea neglegentiorum.

hoc salsum esse putas? fugit te, inepte!

quamvis sordida res et invenusta est

non credis mihi? crede Pollioni

fratri, qui tua furta vel talent

mutari velit; est enim leporum

disertus puer ac facetiarum.

quare aut hendecasyllabos trecentos

exspecta, aut mihi linteum remitte,

quod me non movet aestimatione,

verum est mnemosynum mei sodalis.

nam sudaria Saetaba ex Hiberis

miserunt mihi muneri Fabullus

et Veranius: haec amem necesse est

et Veraniolum meum et Fabullum.

My Translation. Behold:

Asinius Marrucinus, your left hand

You do not use nicely in either jest or in wine;

You pilfer the linens of the more careless!

You consider this to be amusing? It escapes from you, idiot!

As how sordid and uncharming a thing it is.

You do not credit me? Believe Pollionus

Your brother, who for your thefts to be undone

would give a fortune. He is, in fact,  a boy

Of agreeableness, loquacious and witty.

So unless you would expect three hundred hendecasyllabic poems,

Return to me my linen!

It does not trouble me for its worth,

But in truth, it is a remembrance of my friends.

For Fabullus and Veranius sent to me

From Spanish Saetaba the handkerchiefs as a

Saturnalia gift: so it is necessary that I love the handkerchiefs

As I do my Veranius and Fabullus.

 

Woe to those who pilfer from poets; you might be pestered with poetry!

Someday I will go back and try to make it look more like a poem in the English, but I find the straight up translation fun and sweet enough.

Luggage Tetris

I am not good at tetris.

The whole spatial planning under pressure thing? Not fun.

In undergrad several of my friends played tetris like wizards. Or ninjas. I do not.

It is not that I am particularly bad at tetris, but for some reason I always have had cursedly bad luck.

(I know as a computer game it is some sort of algorithm and therefore technically it cannot discriminate against any one person. But I always got a series of tiles that would not fit any where, or everything except the one tile that would have helped. And then it all builds until I fail. Really, ask these tetris experts, and they will say that they are shocked at the average number of difficult tiles I get! It is plain, old, rotten luck.)

 

But usually I am pretty good at packing luggage. I prefer not to check luggage when I fly, so I have developed the art of packing everything and the kitchen sink into a carry-on.

Unfortunately, I am not flying this time.

And, I have to take literally everything except the kitchen sink with me.

(I do actually mean literally. Unlike some presidents people.)

In my car.

In my little Honda Accord.

And take my dad with me too.

Packing it all will be similar to tetris. Oddly shaped odds and ends piling around me as I try to fit them all into neat, efficient, rows.

I got all my books packed into five lovely, tightly packed boxes. I was quite pleased; not only were they efficiently packed, but it was fewer boxes then I had thought it was going to be.

And then I started putting everything in my car.

Only four boxes fit.

Actually, as I would like to take my dishes and pans and silverware and such, only three boxes fit.

But, I am resourceful woman.

Despite the fact that it is 102 degrees outside, I am in the direct sunlight, and I am exhausted lugging around heavy boxes.

I take everything out of the trunk, lift up the floor cover, and begin to stuff books into the wheel well.

Around the spare tire, on the spare tire, under the spare tire. . . I am good. I get half a box’s worth of books neatly packed down there.

I replace the floor, and heave all the boxes back into the trunk. It just might . . . .

Uh-oh.

My keys. I vaguely recall dropping them. Where . . . ?  Oh.

I re-empty the trunk.

I re-open the wheel well.

I pull out a dozen or so books.

Yes.

Of course my keys were sitting unconcernedly under the spare tire. Where else would they be?

I wanted to sit down and cry.

Instead, I pretended to be an adult and went forth with my chore.

It is not yet finished, but now I might have an idea of how everything might fit. Most non-essentials are at least stuffed somewhere. The silverware is rolled in dish-clothes and stuffed on top of the books. The pots and pans will soon be rolled into blankets and shoved into various open corners. When my dad arrives he will get my dresser and book shelves into the back seat, and attach the bike rack.

What else is there?

 

My clothes.

Oops.

 

I weep. I groan. I beat my breast and tear my hair.

You know, I think I will drink some scotch tonight. In the interest of conservation of space, of course. Because if the scotch is gone, then I won’t have to pack it!