Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Thursday night and I'm not sleepy, although I'll pay the price tomorrow morning.  It's 12:20pm and after I write this post I'm hieing to bed ( you know - like "hie thee to a nunnery")

I love music.  All kinds of music.  Tonight - the most powerful pieces of music that "called" to me were Richard Strauss's "Four Last Songs" written shortly before his death, and they are very lovely, even though they are about death.  The words are not rebellious, "fighting against the dying of the light",  but embracing, beautiful, peaceful.  However, Richard Strauss's words don't necessarily bring me closer to God.  

Next is Leonard Bernstein.  What a genius he was!  And handsome?  When he was a young man, he was leonine looking, striking, charismatic.  Here are my two favorite pieces by him.  They are both part of larger productions, but I can't pull myself away from just them to listen to the entirety of either.
"Make Our Garden Grow" from Candide:

The male singer is Jerry Hadley who, it appears, killed himself in 2007.  His wife left him and he seems to have never gotten over it.  What a tragedy!  The voice of the female singer is rich and full, beautiful.  The music is - I cannot think of any more appropriate word - orgasmic.  It is like standing at the edge of heaven, ready to enter in.  I love the cutaways in the video to Leonard Bernstein - he is so emotional that he puts his hands over his face several times. This video happens to be the performance to honor Bernstein's 70th birthday.

I imagine what Bernstein was feeling when he wrote this.  He lived through the Holocaust, although he lived in the US, so he did not directly experience it.  However, the sheer horror of what occurred to Jews in Europe must have influenced him.  This particular song reminds me of the Jews that survived WWII.  They went to Israel, those that could, and they could have sung this song while they built up the land:  

You've been a fool
And so have I,
But come and be my wife.
And let us try,
Before we die,
To make some sense of life.
We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow...
And make our garden grow.

I thought the world
Was sugar cake
For so our master said.
But, now I'll teach
My hands to bake
Our loaf of daily bread.

We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow...
And make our garden grow.

(ensemble enters in gardening gear and a cow walks on)

Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can't be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.

ENSEMBLE (a cappella)
We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow!"

The words above are written by someone, by people, who have lost God, who believe that they must do the best they can and then die.  Granted, there is no Eden on earth now, and we are neither pure nor wise nor good - that is all true - but to make sense of life, we need the Lord Jesus Christ.  In any case, the music is so beautiful it hurts.

Next is Bernstein's "Mass" - the "Simple Song" from the Mass to be specific:

Now we're talking.  I could be easily convinced that David, from beyond the grave, inspired Bernstein to write the music and the lyrics just as he did.  Perhaps the guitar isn't the instrument that David would have used in ancient Israel, but the music, the lyrics, the beauty of the singer, his youth and vigor are David as I might imagine him.  The lyrics are beautiful, I believe taken in part from an Old Testament Psalm.  

"Sing God a simple song, lauda laude
Make it up as you go along, lauda laude
Sing like you like to sing, God loves all simple things.
For God is the simplest of all, For God is the simplest of all.

I will sing the Lord a new song, to praise him, to bless him, to bless the Lord.
I will sing his praises while I live, all of my days.

Blessed is the man who loves the Lord,
Blessed is the man who praises him.
Lauda, lauda, laude, and walks in his ways.

I will lift up my eyes, to the hills from which comes my help.
I will lift up my voice to the Lord, singing lauda, laude.

For the Lord is my shade, is the shade upon my right hand.
And the sun shall not smite me by day, or the moon by night.

Blessed is the man who loves the Lord lauda, lauda, laude,
and walks in his ways.

Lauda, lauda, laude, lauda, lauda di da di day
All of my days………"

How true these lyrics are - "blessed is the man who loves the Lord and walks in His ways" - so true.  I first heard of Bernstein's "Mass" when I was in my late teens.  My sister introduced me to this particular song and I've loved it ever since.  It doesn't seem so many years ago that I would wait until my parents weren't home, put my album of the "Mass" on our record player at home and sing along at the top of my lungs to the "Simple Song".  Although these days I don't sing at the top of my lungs, I still manage to sing along.....
"For the Lord is my shade..." - that part of the song is my favorite.  He is our protection and our hedge.  He takes care of His children.  I don't know whether Bernstein ever believed in Jesus Christ, but I sure hope so.  His music, along with, of course, West Side Story, lives on and comforts and inspires me.

And now - to bed.

Friday, March 2, 2012

So Much To Learn, So Little Time

No Ashley, I'm just fine - the title doesn't mean anything. 

Now that I've gotten THAT out of the way, what am I up to lately?  Remember the sweater I was making?  Still stuck at about 14" - need to work on that.

Remember how I was making my husband's lunch every day?  I've flagged a bit, but I'm still doing it, although I'm very undisciplined at continuity and follow through.  I can come up with great plans, I can save my own life - but sticking to those plans is tedious after a while and that's where being a grownup comes in (something I've never really mastered well).

For instance - I planted a veggie garden this past October.  I even made a map of what I planted, but I didn't plan on it serving the purpose of pointing out to me the several items that didn't grow at all.  The seeds never sprouted.  In fact, the only thing that grew - for a little while - was string beans.  I was able to harvest a few bowlfuls of them and then the whole plant withered and died.  The peas came up, made a few flowers and then disappeared.  The little plants turned yellow and then brown and then went belly up, as the saying goes.  The corn?  It was coming along - I could even see little tiny baby corns (so cute!!), but the night critters ate them all up and all I found in the morning was corn debris.  Period.  Carrots?  They've grown and prospered.  My husband even had some tucked into his lunch one day - little baby carrots home grown.  Onions?  Never showed up.  Tomatoes?  Two kinds?  Never even saw the light of day.  Seeds just sat there and gave up the ghost.

I'm not sure what happened.  Perhaps I should have sprouted everything on the porch and THEN replanted it in the raised beds.  Perhaps I should have built some sort of chicken wire cover over the beds so that birds and critters couldn't trample everything, but then how would I have gotten in myself to pick things, weed, etc.? 

I'd love to have 2 chickens to lay eggs, but I know they'd get sick and I would freak because I can't stand animals to be in pain and I can't help them.  Or worse - they'd get eaten by something and I'd find the feathers.  We do have a hawk that eats pidgeons, doves and the other day even a grackle (I can tell by the feathers left behind).

As far as my Downton Abbey fixation, I'm still reading books about the Edwardian English aristocracy, Americans marrying into the Edwardian English aristocracy and the downfall of the English aristocracy.  These people had lots of money, but the social rules they had to follow took all the fun out of it, in my mind.  I don't envy them.

I'm forever trying to master photography.  I can take nice pictures because I have a great camera and a decent eye for composition.  Plus flowers are easy subjects.  But what I'm trying to understand is the manual basics of the Exposure Triangle.  I bought a Photography textbook and it has helped a great deal.  Now all I have to do is keep my camera settings on "Manual" so I learn by practice.  Next up - Photoshop layers.  I have never understood layers and it is an intrinsic part of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.  You can do great things, but you have to understand layers, so I have a book just about layers in photo software.  I have so many books to read I need to stop sleeping and stay up nights so I can catch up - at least I feel sometimes like sleeping is a WASTE!

Oh - and Bible study?  The most important part of my life?  My faith?  I still have not even begun to get up early every day and open the Bible.  I have software.  I have numerous Bible related books, concordances and commentaries.  I get up early.  I sit in my chair.  Neko jumps in my lap and wants to be petted.  Next is Squeebles.  He looks up at me from the floor and reaches up a paw to tap my arm - "Mommy, can I come up now?"  And up he jumps to make biscuits on my belly and then I roll him over for some belly rubs.  In between, my eyes inadvertently close and I dose off for a few minutes, open my eyes and check the time on my computer screen.  I have....a half hour, then 15 minutes, then 5, then I stand up, stretch and get ready for the day.  Today I actually opened the Bible and read a few Psalms, which is the only part of the Bible other than Proverbs that I can actually comprehend at 5:30AM.  And so, at 56 years of age, I continue the attempt to have a morning Bible study each day......sigh.