Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Bookish Day

Becca and Mary V enjoying soup

My friend Mary V is visiting from the south (i.e., Oregon), and is getting lots of reading done.  This is the crucial trait of an excellent house guest – reading, and letting me read.  It’s even better that our literary tastes are almost exactly the same! Her first week here, she went on an 18th Century spree with Daniel Defoe and Tobias Smollett  (after whom my little kitty is named,) and is now in the 19th century with Wilkie Collins and The Moonstone.  Sigh!  I was jealous when she started The Moonstone, as it is one of my all time favorites, and I haven’t read it for years. Years! She pointed out that I have two copies and we could both be reading it.  But…… I am deep in the midst of Daniel Deronda, and he is pretty compelling too.  Everyone’s troubles are getting more and more complex, poor Gwendolyn is getting more and more fearful and depressed as her husband’s evil nature becomes more and more evident, and Daniel Deronda is becoming more and more determined to discover the parentages of all the novel’s orphans – himself included.  It’s all pretty exciting!  I gave serious consideration to a Deronda hiatus, but decided I couldn’t do it.

When I was in college, one of my professors told me that Cranford was the greatest novel ever written, and I was, of course skeptical.  I admitted that it is pretty wonderful, but the greatest?  A few years later, my friend Mary V said the exact same thing.  This gave me pause.  Could it be? Two totally disparate folk with the same bizarre opinion about the greatest novel ever written?  Absurd!  All my greatest novel candidates are literary giants – Our Mutual Friend, or Middlemarch, for example. But the last time I read Cranford, I had to wonder.  It really is a little gem – just perfection in a humble, everyday cloak.  Could Mary V be on to a subtle truth that I had totally missed?

 Mary V and Becca enjoying salad

Another time, she called me up to tell me that she had finally found a novel  which she had been years searching for.  And now that she had found it, it was a terrible disappointment.  Not thrilling at all!  I told her how odd that was, because I was having the exact same experience!  Years of searching (no internet with e-texts in those days! You had to find an actual paper copy if you wanted to read it!,) and then – tedium! “What’s the book you found?” I asked her.  “Shirley,” she said.  “Well, amazing! so is mine!” I gasped. “What an astonishing coincidence!”  Just once again proving Mary’s and my affinity in the reading realm.  

We also love the same sort of trashy novels - mysteries, especially, so it is not all 19th century for us, but that is where we mainly live in our book world. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my darling Mutti, who would be 101 years old today!  We all miss your wit, wisdom, and naughty sense of fun!

And to the fabulous twins, Maria and Corinna!  They are a bit younger.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Margaret's Criminal Day

Caught in the act!

People tell me that I seem to favor Tobias, giving him all the press, and never write about poor Margaret.  Don’t be fooled!  Margaret is my darling, and I certainly would write about her more, but the unfortunate fact is, she doesn’t do much.  She is getting on in years, and her habits are more cat like than canine.  She spends at least sixteen hours a day snoozing, and four preparing for, or recovering from, naps.  She helps me with my crossword puzzle every day, and enjoys watching movies. Begging for treats is another favored occupation, but she gobbles up her actual meals in only about thirty seconds each.  She wants to be sure that she, and only she, gets it all.  She makes occasional forays into the pantry, looking for a tidbit, but usually everything is out of her reach.  Occasionally, she hits pay dirt when something has fallen from a shelf to the floor.  This often precipitates trouble for everyone in the house, as when she recently ate whole a package of dates.  I will spare you the details of what ensued.  This morning she had luck in the pantry when a loaf of bread dropped.   

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Spirited Day

Feeling a little anxious!

Years ago, Dakki had a ferocious cat named Lysander. We thought that he would have more aptly been named Lucifer.  He was a genuine fright.  He would lurk behind furniture, till a leg was within reach of his talons, and then leap out, hissing, and lacerate the unwary limb.  “You need to do something about that cat!” we said.  “He is just full of spirit,” my aunt would say.  Eventually, we talked her into getting him his operation, and after that he became a somewhat decent fellow.  Since then, “full of spirit,” has been a family euphemism for very ill-behaved.  Michael, God rest his soul, was a good kitty most of the time, but he always had a lot of spirit when going to the vet, and had to be put in the stocks for his exam, while we sat in the waiting room and listened to his pathetic shrieks.  I chafed at having such an embarrassingly naughty pet, but Rebecca, more tender hearted than I, sat with tears dripping down because her poor kitty was suffering.  

My little man went to the vet today, and while he was not ill-behaved, he did show some spirit on the car trip.  Actually, he yoweled all the way, but behaved very well for his exam and shots.  The vet was impressed by what a fine specimen of a cat he is.  No surprise there.  On the way back, (a much less trying trip than the way to,) he let out a few protesting meows, but seemed satisfied to be  going home, knowing that his annual ordeal was over. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Wonderful Sunday

Another amazing and inspirational Sunday at St. James!  This morning, the incredible Schola Cantorum, led by Ms. Sunde, sang music of Mozart, Vivaldi, and Schubert.  It is astonishing that a group of ordinary children (actually, they are pretty extraordinary – poised, professional, and perfect) – can create such wonderful music!  It was all beautiful, but one of my most loved pieces of music – Mozart’s Laudate Dominum was so exquisite that it “caused me to tremble!”   Really, it did!  We are so fortunate to have our magnificent music program – helping bring us closer to God every Sunday - and on weekdays too, for those more pious than I. 

A Work Day

Now that Lent is over, I have been rather piggy in the candy eggs department.  On my way home from feeding the hungry on Thursday, I stopped at my favorite pharmacy and bought three medicinal Cadbury’s Eggs.  I ate one immediately, and put the other two on my dining room table to save for later. I must explain that my dining room table is seldom dined on, and functions more as a library table, where I work on projects, and keep things-that-must-be-dealt-with.  The TTMBDW’s include bills to be paid, letters to be answered, small items needing repair, things borrowed to be returned – in other words, artifacts of procrastination.  The table is usually cluttered, and this time was no exception.  The eggs were nestled amongst all this mess, and not on obvious display. 

Usually, as I leave for work, I plan a little midnight treat for myself, to look forward to, and for comfort after a night of dealing with other people’s troubles.  This evening, I decided that my treat would be one of the eggs, and so I put it out on my kitchen table where it would greet me when I arrived home.  (I actually do eat at that table, and usually, it has only items on it pertaining in some way, often tangential, to food.)  Throughout my work hours, I thought about my little egg with anticipation.  When I got home, I sat down to look at my email.  The computer is in the dining room adjacent to the kitchen.  As I checked on my friend’s blogs, I heard, from the kitchen, a little “plop,” which was the exact sound that could only be made by a Cadbury Egg hitting the floor.  I went into the kitchen to salvage my treat, and my darling kitty said, “Thanks, Mom, for this fabulous new cat toy!”  I explained that it was not a toy at all, rescued it, and put it out of his reach.  Minutes later, directly behind me, from the dining table, I heard the sounds of another Cadbury Egg being meddled with.  I rescued that one too.  Poor disappointed Kitty.  The astonishing thing is that both of these eggs had been sitting there for eight hours, but he waited to share his pleasure in them till I got home.  Or was he perhaps, just teasing me!  What a brilliant boy he is!  I love my Tobias.  Margaret, had she found a  Cadbury Egg, would have gobbled it up, foil and all, and no doubt been quite ill.  Then, if she found the second one, would have gobbled it too, and been even more ill.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Another Tough Day for Tobias

My poor kitty!  He is tormented on one side by his enemy the devilish squirrel, and now, a tempting morsel has returned with her family to their summer home on my back porch.  He sits on the windowsill at the front of the house and scowls at the squirrel who delights in teasing him with snickers and sneers, and then runs to sit on my kitchen table, plaintively staring out at the little wrens who live about three feet beyond the glass pane.  They too give him cocky little looks, as if to say, “Your mother won’t let you get us!”  This presents me with a dilemma.  When the weather is fine, I usually leave my back door open so as to have pleasant bright air and to feel a part of the world outside my kitchen.  What to do?  Close us in our stuffy house all spring, or enjoy the nearness of the trees and flowers,  letting the birds fend for themselves?  I would hate to find this on my kitchen floor, but on the other hand ….. all that lovely vernal freshness going to waste!  So I have been keeping the door open sometimes, when I am there to monitor the situation, but I find that the birds seem to know the difference between a cat behind a window pane and a cat sitting below their nest.  They keep a low profile when Tobias is about.  And Himself seems actually less interested in the birds when he can watch the children play in the park next door. 

He is never allowed out into the actual outdoors, but occasionally he makes a sneaky bid for freedom, becoming a grey streak between my legs as I open the door to pick up the newspaper or suchlike.  I am vigilant about keeping him behind closed doors whenever I open the front door but once in a while he silently lurks on the stairs, pretending he is in another part of the house until the door opens a crack.  He transforms into a furry lightening bolt and is gone.  He did this as I was baking a cake the other day, much to my horror.  I went out after him, pleading with him to come to Mummy, but every time I approached him, the little fellow ran off to another part of the garden.  Finally, fearing that I would drive him into the street, I went in and wrung my hands for about 45 minutes, until I heard pathetic mewing at the door.  “Outside isn’t all it was trumped up to be,” he said.  “I would rather sit in your lap and be caressed.”   

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Palm Saturday

Spring with its sparkling days has finally arrived in Seattle.  And with all that sparkle and dash, comes the soft patina of Holy Week.  Usually, I have a lot to say about this wonderful week of prayer and song, but this year, I seem to have been too busy experiencing it to tell you about it.  On Palm Saturday, Rebecca and I splurged and got ourselves nice little Kindles.  My friend Peggy recently showed me hers, and I was suffused with envy.  I have lately been desperate to reread Daniel Deronda, but both of the copies I own are huge, very old, and falling apart.  No fun to read in bed. In addition to that, they have teensy print.  Even less fun! Peggy’s Kindle was so cute, and I knew that if I used one to read Daniel Deronda, he would weigh three ounces instead of three pounds.  And would have big print!  I had to get one!  Rebecca and I downloaded my favorite authors, starting with George Eliot and Daniel Deronda.

On Palm Sunday, the choir rehearsal was wonderfully inspiring.  I sat there thinking how blest we are to have our magical choir director. He goes so far beyond just directing the music.  Years ago, I used to play the piano, accompanying a friend who played the violin.  His mother, who didn’t like me very well, told us that a monkey could learn to play the piano, but it took a true artist to play the violin.  Well, a monkey probably could not really direct a choir, but our rehearsals are so far beyond mere notes and rhythms (the monkey business,) and into the realm of poetry, spirituality, the history and deeper meaning of the liturgy and music (the real artistry,)  that they often leave me thrilled and a little stunned.  What a wonderful gift it is to be able to experience this every week. 

During the rehearsal, Jim told us about Egeria, a fourth century pilgrim to the Holy Land.  She was probably a nun from Spain, and one of the first travel writers, sending home, in letters to her sisters, reports of her observations as she traveled throughout the sacred places and attended liturgies in Jerusalem, giving us some of the earliest reports on the celebrations of the liturgical year.  I was curious and wanted to read more, so guess what!!!  I was able to download her letters onto my sweet new gadget!

And Peggy, wonderful Peggy, the inspiration for my Kindle purchase, made lovely cases – one for both Rebecca and me, and in our favorite colors!  Thank you, Peggy!  We love them.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Botanical Day

Arboretum hellebores

Have you noticed that as soon as you learn a new word, one that you have never heard or read before, you come across it again at least three times within the next few days?  This is a very common phenomenon, and now I see that it applies to plants as well as to words.  I had never heard of hellebores – not even in Miss Marple books.  Miss Marple is, of course, famous not only for her detective skills, but also for her herbaceous borders.   Her stories are a compendium of the modi opperandi of clever murderers, rare and mysterious poisons, and also of her favorite garden species – especially flowers. 

The Twins, in their fabulous blog, noted the Lenten Roses around the Cathedral.  That was the first time I had heard of a Hellebore, but now, they seem to be everywhere!  Was I walking around all these years, completely oblivious to my helleborical surroundings?  Apparently so!  I immediately checked out the Cathedral hellebores, then, on a walk to the Arboretum with Samos, saw meadowy masses of them everywhere, and later, on my way to work, noticed that I had been walking by huge beds of them every day.

Violets and Hellebores
It seems that in the past, they were considered to have medicinal properties, helping with such problems as gout and insanity, but as they are quite toxic, the cure was probably often fatal.  (Patient dead - problem solved!) No doubt Miss Marple knew all about this.  They were also useful in witchcraft for summoning demons.  A most versatile plant!

When I told my dear friend Martha about my new acquaintance with hellebores,  she promptly prepared me one to plant in my own garden.  It is doing nicely there, as you can see.  Thanks again, Martha!

My gift from Martha