We had a lovely Christmas Day at Katie and Savanna's. I had several sore spots from my fall the previous evening, but had a good time anyway. Several traditions honored: e.g., stollen, singing carols, playing Mad libs, one gift per person by lot, playing Salad Bowl, Christmas Crackers, tourtiere, figgy pudding.
Mary, Mimi, Savanna and Jerry at table. The crowns come in the "crackers ."
Tuesday I went to the hospital for X-rays. Results Thursday. The rest of the day I took it easy.
Today, we went to Revełs in Cambridge. I felt ok and did fine. The theme was Venetian. I was pleased to see that a young man I toured with in Northern Harmony back in 2001, Gideon Crevoshay, was a featured singer. He was good! It was an outstanding show, aurally and visually. No photos allowed during performance but i got these during breaks
End of the first half
After the Finale
We had a lovely drive down and back listening to Messiah: a really great concert by the Blanche Moyse Chorale back in the early 1980s. Dawn Upshaw was the soprano soloist! The chorus is amazing.
Tomorrow I see the doc at 11a.m. and we host John & Cynthia.
Christmas Eve I was rehearsing my little Dummerston choir just before the service and I fell backwards and lañded hard on my right hip and right arm! I was distracted by a question and turned and twisted and sort of tripped over my own feet. Somehow I managed to get up, get through the service, direct the choir and get home. But I didn't go to the Guilford midnight service. Lots of aches and pains this morning. Moving is pretty painful. My right shoulder is particularly painful. Meanwhile, we're getting heavy snow this morning. Will we be able to get to Shutesbury? We'll see. I'll probably get everything checked out tomorrow. I didn't realize making music could be so dangerous!
Wednesday evening was Into the Silence, John and Cynthia's beautiful service of music and silence for "the longest night." Cynthia played the harp, and John moved between the psaltery, Irish whistle and electric guitar, often accompanied by his nature recordings of whales, seals, and sea birds, etc. It was all just magical, despite the fact that John was not feeling all that great. Still struggling with bebesia, (or Lyme, or whatever ). Ellen and I set up candles and Ellen brought soup and snacks. I forgot to take even one photo . But the sound was everything.
Then the next evening we drove to Chestnut Hill, MA to the Church of the Redeemer for their Lessons and Carols service. This is where the Shays sang in the choir ten years ago and where Betsey's memorial service was held October, 2016. It was quite a contrast to Into the Silence with full organ, choir, tympani and trumpets! But wonderful in its own way. So glad we could be at both these events. They have made my Christmas.
Before the service at Redeemer
Then today Ellen went to get Tamar while I stayed home and put up our very large tree and put on the lights. Tamar wanted to help us decorate the tree - a first for her, growing up as she has in a Jewish home. She really seemed to enjoy putting on the ornaments. It 's beautiful:
Tonight we went to the First Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, PA, for a wonderful concert by the early music group, Piffaro - the kind of early music that uses shawms, sackbuts, dulcians, lutes, bagpipes and recorders. Tonight was German music of the 16th-17th c., featuring esp. Praetorius, but many other composers as well, and a multitude of arrangements of well-known carol melodies such as In dulci Jubilo, Est ist ein Ros, and Nun komm der Heiden Heiland. A soprano with a lovely voice with very little vibrato - a voice that blended beautifully with the recorders - rounded out the ensemble. Very special!
The lovely poster for the concert
During intermission. The screen was used to project translations of the Latin and German texts, but they were also in the printed program and I wished they had not used the screen. I found it to be a distraction. And it is sort of ugly .
Ellen and I had a touching experience today: we were part of a Hallowell-based group that went to the Southeast Vermont Correctional Center to sing some carols and songs for some inmates. There were about 15 of us and only five inmates - a disappointment in a way, but we did get to know them better as individuals. It provided an interesting insight into prison mentality on security. We had to go through a lot of hoops to get in. But it was worth it, I feel. We had a snack with the five men afterward and talked a bit. Maybe we brought something meaningful to them - it was hard to know for sure. But I think they gave us something - a chance to reflect on our lives from an utterly new perspective.
This past weekend we were in the River Singers concerts, Saturday eve and Sunday afternoon. It snowed pretty hard late Saturday afternoon and that affected attendance at the concert. But over 100 hardy souls did come out and they were enthusiastic. Sunday was packed. I used a stool and felt good. I think everyone had a great time.
Our leader, Mary Cay Brass, talking while we gather before the concert.
The end of our concert
This weekend I also led the choir at Dummerston. The theme was Joseph's role in the birth of Jesus (or lack thereof!) and our anthem was an old English Carol with a great text about Joseph in which the choir took the roles, variously, of Joseph, Mary, Gabriel and "the narrator."'
Today is fruitcake day! I'll be reading aloud from Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory while Ellen bakes.
Well, I guess the antibiotic did it's job. I did get to River Singers Tuesday evening. I wished I had taken a stool because after 3 hours of rehearsal, mostly standing, I was pretty wiped out. I survived though, and took it easy Wednesday. This, however, has been cookie week! Ellen has been baking up a storm! My role has been to (1) keep up with washing dishes and utensils and keep the sink area as clear as possible. (2) Be a DJ, selecting CDs to play on the Bose, which keeps Ellen happy while she bakes. I found some CDs we hadn't heard for a while which provided an element of surprise. It was fun. (3) Interspersed with music, I was reading selections from files I am "discovering" as I clean out the file cabinet. I found the MS for a book I started in the 80s and never finished - five chapters - titled The Caring Manager. It argues that the role of manager should be formally considered a caring profession, because managers collectively affect people's lives and environments more than any other profession. It's pretty interesting and is still pretty relevant. The other thing I read aloud from was quite a relic - the answers I wrote on my prelim exams for the doctorate back in 1963. I hadn't looked at them since then. There were seven, five-hour exams (five questions in each exam), on consecutive days with a break over the weekend. It was quite a marathon. Just me and a typewriter in an empty room. I made carbons, which is why I have copies. I'm astounded at how much detail I was able to pull out of my head. It certainly isn't there now! Ellen was impressed. So that's how we spent Wednesday through Friday. I did finally get back to the pool on Thursday. First time for almost a month. That felt good.
Last evening we put the cookie platters together at the church. We were there until 10:30pm getting the job done. Quite a sight as you can see:
Some of the platters (there were 38 in all)
Today we pick up our first Winter CSA at Walker Farm and go to Tamar's school for their "Winter Fair."
On Friday, after a couple of weeks of coughing, I finally went to my doctor and he listened to my chest and said I have some congestion in my lower right lung. He said he wouldn't exactly say I have pneumonia but nevertheless prescribed a 5-day course of azithramycin. I took 2 on Friday and then one each day since. I feel better, but still am coughing stuff up. One more tomorrow. I went to Thanksgiving things Friday and Saturday, but Sunday I decided to take to bed and stay warm and quiet, so we stayed home from church - very rare. Unbeknownst to me, the Guilford church had decided to honor me and my 60 years of ministry Sunday, including a cake and a song written for the occasion. So I missed my own party! : (
It was fortunate, I guess, that I didn't know, because I might have imprudently tried to go. Today I rescheduled a dermatology appointment. I'll have to see how I feel tomorrow for River Singers rehearsal. Sigh!
Here is a prayer that Shirley gave many years ago at the Guilford Community Church on Thanksgiving Sunday. We read it Thursday before our meal. It is very typical of Shirley's very down-to-earth prayers:
Prayer for Thanksgiving
God, I sometimes think I don't know what to thank you for. Sometimes I don't
even think I have anything to thank you for. Should I thank you that I am
overfed while others starve? Or I am safe while others are in trouble? Should I
thank you because I have enough money to spend and others have so little? Lord,
sometimes I'm embarrassed when I thank you. And Lord, what shall I ask you for?
Yes, Lord, I can ask you for some things: peace on earth, the end to ignorance,
poverty, hunger and disease. It's hard to even know sometimes what to ask you
for that isn't an empty platitude, a set of mere words. And I ask you, “can I
ask you for anything?” Yes, Lord, help me to pray. Help me to ask for the
capacity to be silent so I can hear and see others, the capacity to empathize
with the suffering of others, not to become dull to the feelings of others.
Help me to give thanks for the gift of saying "we," for having
friends and family and people who care. Help me to give thanks for the courage
of people who sustain life in places and times that take our breath away. Help
us to give thanks for poetry and beauty, which make life more incredible than
any definition we have of it. Help us to give thanks for the sense of wonder
and infinite caring and love without which we would all die. Lord, help us to
give thanks for the gift of being able to give thanks.
Be with us in our homes on Thanksgiving Day. Be
with those of us who are going to be alone that day -- it's a lonely day for
those alone. Help them to know that you are with them. And those of us who are
surrounded by family, let us not make it so frantic and hectic that we can't
take time to feel how good it is to be together. Almighty God, be in our
-- Shirley Harris Crockett
The Book of Prayers from which this prayer is taken, with a drawing of Shirley
Last Sunday afternoon we went to a performance of Nunsense II, a musical comedy. Savanna had the role of nun in the chorus. She seemed to "take to the habit" very naturally. The lead, who played the role of the Mother Superior, had been the principal of Brendon's school in Shutesbury for years, so she was well-known to K&S. The musical was very silly, but fun.
Savanna being led off by a student in the school the nuns run.
The finale of the show
Friday night after Thanksgiving, Ellen & I sang with River Singers at a "pre-concert" concert held on Gallery Walk night in Brattleboro in the atrium of the Brooks House Hotel. It's a great place to sing for the sound.
Katie had a great visit over Thanksgiving and this afternoon we saw her and Gertie off on the train to NYC.
And Gertie in her traveling kennel:
We all went to a wonderful puppet show at Sandglass Theater Friday night - Eric Bass in his final performance of Autumn Portraits - after 36 years of annual performances. Masterful puppetry and very poignant. Here are some photos of Autumn Portraits from the Sandglass website.The puppets are extraordinary.
There are lots of categories of "things" I'm disposing of, and one is LP records, or vinyl. My turntable died some time ago, and my amplifier has a short in it, so I haven't played LP records for quite a while. And there will be no room for them in the new small house. I had two big boxes of LPs. Classical, Pipe organ, folk, jazz, etc. There are two stores locally that "buy" used LPs. The first box I got rid of a while back - it was taken off my hands by the store owner for $12. Ok. That was the less "popular" box. Sort of an odd mix of stuff. By the time I got around to dealing with the second box, I had gotten into the process of cataloguing my library, and decided to do the same with the LPs. I photographed each record and listed it. Maybe a 100 records in all. I took the list into the other store owner, and asked him to look it over and see if anything interested him. He did, and highlighted about 30 records. I pulled them out and brought them in to him, and he said he would check their condition, and I could come back later, which I did. He had selected maybe ten records, and said he would give me $25 for them. That was twice as much as I got for the first box, so I took it. The rest of the box went to our local thrift store, Experienced Goods, run by Hospice. A good cause.
But I noticed that the guy who bought the records seemed particularly interested in a one spoken record, a collection of the speeches by Malcolm X, titled Message to the Grass Roots:
That made me curious, and I did something I should have done earlier: I went online to see if anybody was offering this record for sale. I did indeed find one copy, one in mint condition - unsealed in fact (which mine is not). It was being offered for $105!! That made me curious about the other three spoken records I had just gotten rid of. One of ee cummings reading his poetry, one the speeches of Adlai Stevenson, and one of speeches of John Kennedy. The latter two were modest - under $15. But cummings - wow! That very record (again in mint condition) was being offered for $145!! Who knew? I sure didn't.
I didn't want to take the time to research the value of all those records, and if had, I'm not sure I would have started with those. Knowing what I know now, I might have added them to items I have given to Savanna who offered to put some things up on eBay. I did give her one record that I consider to be very rare, and maybe valuable:
This record was given to me by Richard Dyer-Bennet's wife. I had actually met Dyer-Bennet, and probably his wife as well, decades ago when I stopped to help pull someone out of a snowbank in Dummerston one stormy night, and it turned out to be him! He was a friend of David Flaherty, brother of Robert Flaherty, famed "father of the documentary film" (Nanook of the North, etc.) who lived near me. A few years ago I wrote Mrs. Dyer-Bennet asking for some information about her husband (who was no longer living), and she sent me this record. It is a 2-record set of Dyer-Bennet singing his English translation of Schubert's Die Schone Mullerin. It was never released commercially. It was created by "Dyer-Bennet records" - a home product. It does not exist in the on-line universe. So I thought maybe a Dyer-Bennet collector might be interested. We'll see. But what a fascinating world! Too bad I'm not that interested in it. I have a feeling that people who would buy an ee cummings record for $145 may be more interested in an investment than they are in poetry. And paying $105 for a record of Malcolm X might not guarantee that they are supporters of "Black Lives Matter" !
Given all the things we are going through right now, my emotions are all over the place. Chronic uncertainty about where we are going to live once we leave here (if we ever do!), and frustration with particular options, e. g., Putney Commons, can lead to discouragement and even moments of despair. But in the midst of that, I can have a period of delight, e. g., Wednesday, which was Ellen's birthday, she was away for the day, and I had the chance to create a birthday card for her based on our favorite puzzle, Spelling Bee, an idea that had come to me in the night. I had great fun doing that.
Oops, this is upside down ... O well... You get the idea. Solving the puzzle provided the text of the card.
We are coming into a really full time around Thanksgiving!
Meanwhile I'm disposing of library books and LP records. I got $25 for a stack of LPs yesterday at a local used LP store. And I've photographed and catalogued 225 books in the process of sorting them and disposing of them: E.g. -
This is probably a keeper.
Several boxes of one thing or another have gone out the door this week. Yay!
Another lovely concert, this one on a smaller scale: a house concert in Katie & Savanna's living room. K&S have been members for years of a women's group called One Journey. It performs the music of Helen Fortier. At present, a four-member group. The music is very accessible, positive, encouraging in the face of social and political evils, and spiritually uplifting. A very nice concert.
The By the People, for the People concert earlier this evening was a great success, I think. It was almost a full house; I 'm guessing 400 people, and they were enthusiastic. Those of us up on the stage felt good about it. The program was very diverse, drawing on a wide variety of musical traditions, which is typical of the Guilford church's music ministry. It was a very lively evening, which is remarkable in a way because several of the songs we sang had death as a theme, e.g., All is Well, and Your Lone Journey. But the audience loved it.
Earlier, between our afternoon rehearsal and the call time for the concert, six of us used the break to go the the home of Judith Kinley, a member of our church who is dying. Her family were all there and she wanted to have sort of a "preview" of her own memorial service when she could be there to share it with them. We sang hymns she had chosen and one piece from the concert. It was a crazy thing to do, but we're glad we did, even though it meant going. "straight out" from 2:00 until 10p.m. An 8-hour marathon!
And, of course, I didn't have my iPhone, so, no pix. Maybe tomorrow I can download something. But I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing ended up on YouTube.
Last Monday, our Osher series on Japanese aesthetics had for its climax an "immersion" (so to speak) in the tea ceremony. I knew little about it, and it is fascinating, with a very long history. We learned a lot about tea also. Did you know that all varieties of tea descend from camelia siensis? That there are basically three methods of producing tea leaves: withering, firing and bruising? That we don't really know where tea originated? China? India? Nepal? The Chinese believe the "Yellow Emperor" (4500 years ago) was the first tea drinker. Another legend has it that the Bodidharma (a 5th century Buddhist monk ) tried to stay awake during meditation and when he failed, he tore off his eyelids in desperation and threw them to the ground, whereupon the first tea plants emerged, thus providing the stimulant that would help monks stay awake during meditation.
The earliest Japanese tea "ceremonies" (8th C.) were weeks-long parties at which tea was drunk in excess. But some key figures introduced austerity, e.g., Murata Juko, Takeno Joo and especially Sen no Rikyu, who successively developed the chanoyu, the Japanese "way of tea," especially what is called the wabi-cha tradition. Tea moves into little tea huts, fewer, simpler implements ( bamboo), fewer people ("four mats" ). It becomes a highly prescripted, codified ceremony.
Seth Harter brought hot water, tea and cereamic cups for all. He appealed to the minimalist saying of Rikyu: "Light the fire, boil the water, drink the tea." But there is also the motto of Rikyu: Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku: "Harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility," which expresses more of the depth of meaning of the chanoyu tradition.
All things are ready !
Serving the tea
We were interested to learn that at Mt. Holyoke College, there is a tea hut and garden. We could go there and have the full experience.
Sunday, we went to Londonderry, VT, to a meeting of the Windham -Union Association of UCC churches. We went with two members of our church , Patty Meyer, who is both our organist and church secretary, and Brian Remer, who is a cool guy who grew up near where I lived in Iowa. The meeting was a combination of worship, business (e.g ., electing officers), and a program on how churches can take advantage of social media ( most of that talk went over the head of this quasi-Ludite. I was glad the " young folks" were there - i. e., in their 50s).
On our way home, we drove past the entrance to Lowell Lake State Park, one of the best kept secrets in Vermont. I asked if they had heard of it. They hadn't. Would they like to take a few minutes to see it? "Sure!" So we did. I think they were enthralled. It is a mostly unspoiled lake, virtually no development. The park is also undeveloped. It encompasses an old camp with a score of cabins and a lodge where I have stayed many times. It is now suffering from decades of neglect. It is sad to see, but the lake is beautiful.
Today, my "downsizing consultant," Sue Venman, came over and helped me start the arduous task weeding out my core library. I set up a system of numbering each book, photographing it with its number, listing it in a database, then sorting books into four piles: "Keep," "Old/Rare," "Brattleboro Books (BB) and "Experienced Goods (EG) and then boxing up the piles and noting in the database where the book ends up. Old /Rare books will be disposed of in a more careful way with the thought they might have value. BB is a place that buys fairly nice books. So those are books in good condition. EG is the Hospice shop - like taking books to Goodwill. Not fussy. Today we put 175 books through that process. That took about 3 hours. It was faster with two, but I can't afford Sue for the whole job. I can do it alone, but it will be slow. But I can see it happening. Photographing the book is a great idea, I feel. I wish I had done that years ago when I started first disposing of books. It's like keeping your library and giving it away at the same time. My library is so personal. These books are friends going back decades in many instances.
We emptied the top four shelves today. Two shelves to go in this bookcase . Probably at least four or five hours there for me working alone.
This is what lies ahead to do on the other side of my study. Many hours of work.
Earlier last week :
Last Saturday, we went to a Harvest dinner with friends at the Scott Farm orchard, a five - course meal featuring heirloom apples with each course. This is Eliza and Cliff Bergh. The first course was five kinds of apples and three kinds of cheese, bread, and freshly pressed cider. Our table was all friends, but we scarcely knew another soul in the room of 120 people. Evidently a social circle we don't move in .
Last Monday, Seth Harter, the lecturer on Japanese art at Osher, gave a fascinating talk on ceramics. We learned about the Mingei movement, Yanagi Soetsu and the influence of Korean pottery on Japanese ceramics, especially the Kizaemon-Ido tea bowl, among many other things.
We have a new family in our church (the Guilford Community Church, U.C.C). They are refugees originally from the Republic of Congo, via a refugee camp in Uganda. Bahati and Angelique met at the camp, and their daughter, Cody, was born there. So they were in the camp a long time. They have now settled in Brattleboro, and are coming to our church, which is very exciting. Angelique is expecting a baby in November, and so the church put on a shower for her. About 30 people came, and she received a lot of great gifts. There were games and refreshments too. We were given a list of words relating to a baby - but scrambled. We had to unscramble them ( I got about five of them). We were also given a clothespin to wear. If someone got you to say the word "baby," they could take your clothespin. The kids had fun with that. Some got quite a few clothespins. I held on to mine. A fun time.
Bahati, Angelique, Cody, and the party MC, Akosua.
Angelique and Sue Owings, who helped organize the shower .
Last Monday, Peter Gould, author of Horse-drawn Yogurt; Stories from Total Loss Farm, was the speaker at the afternoon Osher lectures. Peter is also a mime, an actor and a theater director, working mainly with youth at the New England Youth Theater. He told us he had directed 70 productions of Shakespeare over his 40+ years in theater! He was very entertaining.
Total Loss Farm was a '60s era commune in Guilford, VT.
This past weekend, Brattleboro held its annual "Literary Festival." It attracts very well-known authors like Richard Russo and Claire Messud, and many others. There never seem to be any "duds." And it's all free. It goes on for two days in multiple venues, maybe 50-60 authors or more all told. It's amazing for a small town.
I sang at a funeral Sat. a .m.
in Dummerston, but I got to hear the two authors mentioned above, plus a debut Korean novelist, Yoojin Grace Wuertz. All three were excellent: they talked about their work, read selections and answered questions. Ellen heard several others.
Wednesday we visited Unity Homes in Walpole, NH to get more information on the little house, the "Nano," we are thinking of building. It looks doable, and we liked the people there. Here is what a section of wall looks like: you can see how well it is insulated !
A cross-section of wall showing cellulose insulation and sample external siding.
But then we went Thursday to a Putney Commons meeting - that's where we hope to build - and discovered some issues with siting both the house and the garage that will go with it. So we'll have to resolve those issues. Nothing insurmountable, we hope.
We discovered a bakery in Brattleboro that we hadn't known about. It's called Against the Grain, and everything is gluten free. We were sent there to pick up a donation of GF cookies for a Concert Choir fundraiser. It is very much off the beaten path - in the back of an industrial park on the edge of town. But it's very nice, and has very reasonable prices.