Sunday, December 31, 2006

For Emano (again)

Alpacas from our county fair back in September. These one had been fairly recently shorn, except the tops of their heads.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

More Christmas Music

I have been listening to WYSU playing jazz as they do every Friday and Saturday evening (and yes they stream). Tonight they have been playing Christmas music non-stop, all cool jazz. This I could listen to for a very long time too. I actually got more done in my living room then I thought I would.... out of sheer unwillingness to leave the room with the wonderful stereo playing jazz. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" etc. ... mostly just jazz instrumental. The tree is finally up and decorated. Also today I finally got cherry tree outside lit, and this year I did the Paw-Paw on the other side of the driveway. The icicle lights have been up for over a week. I wish there was snow, but there is only rain. My poor neighbor was driven to tears today by something, probably her husband. Holidays can be hard on families. Christmas is amazingly easy and pleasant on one's own, though I am sad not to be traveling to see my parents and others this year. I am getting things done and all is lovely.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Creativity Embodied

In todays New York Times, by Penelope Green:

"Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat “office landscapes”) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. It’s a movement that confirms what you have known, deep down, all along: really neat people are not avatars of the good life; they are humorless and inflexible prigs, and have way too much time on their hands."

I think I will be smiling all day.

And my house is significantly cleaner than it was a few days ago. I DO need to finish cleaning the liiving room and get my Christmas decorations up, however......

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Music

I found myself carrying in bags of presents and humming “Lully, Lullay” tonight. I immediately went to my computer and CDs looking for Christmas music. I discovered that I had left “December Stillness” by the Dale Warland Singers at work. I was pretty sure I had a Cambridge Singer’s Christmas music CD, but haven’t unearthed it yet. I went to iTunes and the internet looking for more Christmas music. I was thwarted in my desires as usual.

When I was growing up my parents had an absolutely loved two record set of Christmas music by a madrigal octet. It is old and scratchy now. I need to ask them the name of the singers. My parents live in Eugene Oregon and have neighbors who love to sing go from door to door caroling in pretty harmony. I sang alto in the church choir (or sometimes tenor or soprano if there was a need, my voice is not fabulous, but it has a range). Our choir was small, a dozen voices well used to each other. Our congregation, like most Lutherans, loved to sing in general. The service is sung, the pastor sings, the old book had all the harmony parts written in for those of use who can read music and like to sing in harmony. The newer book only has the melody. I have always wondered why they took out the harmony.

This Christmas eve, here, thousands of miles away from that little church, I will wander down to the big ELCA Lutheran church a mile or so from here on Christmas eve for the candlelight service. I hope to sing many carols with the congregation, remembering the harmony part for most, and will undoubtedly find myself nearly in tears at the beauty of singing “Silent Night” softly at the end in a sanctuary lit only by candles.

Last year, while I was shopping at a mall in Cleveland, a quartet of professional singers strolled about singing carols in gorgeous 4 part harmony, each voice distinct, each one blending warmly with the others. I stopped my rushing about to listen to the perfect music with absolute delight.

So, hunting for Christmas music.... Christmas to me is about giving and peace, and wonder. I always hope for glittering snow on Christmas, though I have never managed to be in a white Christmas in my life, this year looks to be no exception. Nonetheless, the Christian religious meaning of the birth of Christ, blends neatly in my head with the pagan celebration of winter solstice, and the knowledge of the earth's turning and tilting as it orbits the sun, the longest night and the sun’s return. Here in the advent of winter in this northern place the earth takes a breath, takes a break, and awaits the new year coming. We celebrate birth and wonders, angels, a new star bold in the sky. Was it a comet, standing on it's tail like a sword? Was it a supernova, a star exploding in a last blaze and lighting the way?

I do not like pop Christmas, or crazed consumer frenzy Christmas, or plastic Christmas, nor cutesy Christmas. This is a Holy time.

So, once again, hunting for Christmas music. I do not like much pop music at Christmas, nor country. I do not mind hearing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” or “Blue Christmas” or even “Grandma got Run Over By a Reindeer” once or twice in the season, but it is not what I look for. I do not mind huge chorales singing “Angels we Have Heard on High” with pomp and bombast. I do rather mind opera singers belting out songs like “What Child is This” with excessive drama and vibratos wide enough to drive tractor trailers through. What I really WANT is the pure harmonies of a small group of singers, a quartet or an octet, blending beautifully, singing old and new hymns.

I like some of the Anonymous 4, but they are all women, and though their voices are pure and clear as icicles they wear on me when uninterrupted by deeper tones. I love the Cambridge Singers for their boy sopranos and the grounding of mature voices. I have sat in the chill stone expanse of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge with my parents, watching a tear run down my father’s face while the boys sang Taverner’s “The Lamb” with unearthly clarity and beauty. But that choir too can slip into indulgent bombast on occasion. The Dale Warland Singers are also quite close to what I want. But why can’t I find a small group singing the classic carols? Perhaps a group of eight voices, or four, men and women, singing “Lully Lullay”, “What Child is This”, “O Little Town of Bethleham”, “We Three Kings”, all the standards, and some more early songs, and some recent ones that blend, uncommon ones.... there is one by Charles Ive’s (A Christmas Carol) that can make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck... Quink! I must look up Quink! They sang it .... and then, at the end, sing “Silent Night" while I think of snowfalls and candlelight.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"..them seemed to make no sense..."

I am finishing my various class grades for Fall semester. The grades are due by tomorrow at 10. I had about 300 students enrolled in 6 different classes to finish grades for. Some of those classes were entirely mine, others were in classes that I taught half of, or a third of. Nonetheless, there were a lot of items to grade, and numbers to enter. I am not a very good bureaucrat. I long for the days when professors had secretaries, or the systems in which professors do little grading.

One of the classes I teach is a modular “Explorations in the Sciences” class that is required for non-majors. The class has no pre-requisite, is taken mainly by freshmen, and we are an open admission University. One quarter of the student’s five week module grade is based on a written report. I have slogged through about 60 of the 70 I need to evaluate. This is the one I am stuck on at the moment:

“The Experiment was all about cats. There color and their types. There was a wide variety of colors that involved the cats. Some of the colors were black, blue, white, lilac, cream, and red. My Group, liking the colors black and blue, chose them to analyze. At first these colors did not make much sense. There was so much data to take in it was hard. There was a lot of different factors them seemed to make no sense at all. The whites and the color lilac were really throwing me off. Them seemed to pop up all over the place.”

This is not an English class. There are no prerequisites.

This is not an English class. There are no prerequisites.

This is not an English class. There are no prerequisites.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Who am I sleeping with now?

Hint: there is more than one....

They are Creaky's kittens, Julius's grandchildren, now 11 weeks old

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


This is the end of my fall term, It is a time of writing tests, and grading. Snow falls in bits, freezes come and go. The sky is mainly gray though a lovely patch of cool moonlight lit me as I arrived home from work a few days ago. This is always a time of year for thought, analysis, and a shortage of sleep. I have a serious post about grading “rubrics” partially written. But that is not what I am going to write about now.

A number of my friends are having hard times. Some money troubles, some ill parents, some unusually hard work stress, one’s alcoholic husband fell off the wagon and she finds she does not much care whether she kicks him out or not. He can try to get himself together, but she is tired of betrayals, be they small or large. Another friend turns 50 shortly and I have not spoken to him in a while. Both his parents are dead and I am afraid he will take it hard. My life is the same as my life always is, steady, expected hard work for the moment, a good break soon. I have had unexpected expenses, but I am tenured, there will be more money to replace the money gone. My parents are currently in good health though they are far away and I will not get to see them at Christmas.

There seems little I can do for my friends though. I cannot remove their stressors, and I am afraid that I am not very good at being comforting. I am not even always successful at simply being here for them. Rian calls me a stone and although rocks may be solid and strong they are not much comfort either. I am pretty sure she does not think of it that way, but I see myself that way at times. I analyze, ponder, approach a problem as scientifically as I can. Then I may write a poem about it, yes, or feel slighted myself, so I am not entirely stony, but closer than most. Alas, I cannot pass on my stonyness to others.

My kittens have just knocked a bouquet of this past summer’s lavender onto the floor. I picked them up and put them back in their container, but leaves have fallen on the carpet, an appropriately purple carpet. The leaves are green and a bit spiky under my bare feet, but they smell lovely. I will leave them there for now.

Lavender. I am reminded of Narrisch’s beautiful picture of the last lavender emerging from a drift of snow.

I finger lovely blue stone beads with a stonewear pendant attached, and crush a lavender leaf in my hand. Breathe in the scent.

May everything go well for you. All of you.