Friday, September 23, 2011

Cruel, cruel summer

A hearty welcome to autumn!

I am generally glad to see summer end, because I don't like the heat -- even having lost quite a bit of weight over the last few years, I am still not comfortable in summer.  And this summer has been like the "cruel, cruel summer" of the old Bananarama song: we had family drama, work drama, unrelenting heat, bad storms, trees down ...

Enough drama. It could always have been worse, but even so, I'm glad the season is over.  In the middle of a violent rainstorm, as I was slogging along soaked to the knees, a fragment of Psalm 73 popped into my mind:

          14 For all day long I have been plagued,
              and am punished every morning.

 So it's time to move to a new season.  As an academic librarian, I have long been attuned  to the beginning of the fall semester: it's a time of higher energy, more optimism, a new beginning.  Let's move forward.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Walk across my swimming pool!

I got home rather late last night, after a long, fruitful meeting with a directee, a meeting accompanied by some excellent General Tso's chicken (the Holy Spirit moves quite often, now as in the Gospels, through a shared meal; or it could be that I simply like to eat, especially Chinese food).

To my sheer delight, when I flipped through the channels, there was the 1973 film version of Jesus Christ Superstar, which most people reading this are too young to remember. This film, along with Godspell , actually helped to bring me back to church after a long absence.  I was tired last night and wanted to sleep, but I had  to stay up to hear "Herod's Song," featuring the wonderful Josh Mostel as Herod Antipas. Even in the negative context of the Gospel story, the song is very amusing, especially the immortal lines Herod directs at Jesus:

                          "Prove to me that you're no fool --
                          Walk across my swimming pool!"

a line I have been humming all day, to the mystification of my (younger) co-workers. Here's Josh Mostel on Youtube. I especially like the honky-tonk piano accompaniment.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

For Sale

 My Family Home
I was in my hometown last Tuesday for a business meeting. And I couldn't help it -- I had to check up on my family's former home, the house where I grew up -- which had seemed abandoned the last time I saw it.

To my great relief, it's been cleaned up and is on the market! This is the photo from the MLS listing. The house sits in the shade of an enormous maple tree, almost the only large tree left on the property.  When I was small, however, this scant quarter-acre was my Eden. Back in the day, when my grandparents lived with us, their green thumb and love for trees were in evidence.  On the front lawn you'd have found, in addition to the maple, a blue spruce, a magnolia tree, azaleas, and boxwoods.  In the back yard were a tall birch, a peachtree, a Japanese maple, lilac and hydrangea bushes, a vegetable garden, a rose bed, and yet another maple tree. There was also a slender mimosa tree, planted by my father on the day I was born. I can still feel the shade of those trees on my face, and recall the scent of the lilacs, which bloomed prolifically. 

After my grandmother died, most of the trees and shrubs slowly died off, too. We always cut the lilacs to take to the cemetery, but they eventually faded away. The birch died of a blight; the roses died of neglect.  My mother was not a gardener, nor was my dad, and they slowly had the ailing plantings removed.  My dad claimed it was easier to cut the grass without having to cut around bushes and trees.  But to me it seemed a comparative wasteland.

Never mind.  Yet another family will now have the chance to make this little house their own. Time passes, and perhaps  another little girl will grow up there.

The house is a steal at $199,000.  But if you buy it, please plant some trees! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

O Canada!

I'd like to personally thank our friends north of the border for the beautiful cold front taking over our weather today. The air is crisp and clean, autumnal, the very first hint we have had of approaching fall. My window was open all night. What a blessing the turn of the year is -- the revolving of the seasons speaks directly to my spirit.

"This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The River of Time

On a recent Saturday evening, about twilight, I was cleaning up in the kitchen and found myself staring out the kitchen window. The sky was overcast, and the rampant vegetation in the yard lent a peaceful, greenish cast to the light. Birds flocked to the newly-filled feeders. There were the pileated woodpecker, the catbird, the usual flock of sparrows (those good little laborers in the vineyard!), and the goldfinches that I have come to think of as "mine," since I finally figured out how to attract them.

Funny, isn't it, how we come to think of things as "ours." I recall my mother and grandmother, in the house where I grew up, standing in the kitchen, aprons on and sudsy water to their elbows, and looking out the kitchen window into the yard that was "theirs." It was a different scene, of course, in addition to being a different window: my grandmother was a great gardener, so in those days they looked out on hydrangea, lilacs, beds of roses, a vegetable garden, a peach tree. That backyard seemed like heaven to the little girl I was then. My own backyard, by contrast, is wild and weedy, and we refer to it kindly as the "woodland garden," as we watch it wildly growing out of control.

As the years passed, of course, the women looking out the kitchen window changed, grew older. Where my grandmother and mother had stood was, in time, just my mother. Now it's just me, looking out a different window onto a different scene. In a few years, my daughter, perhaps, will stand here looking out.

The river of time flows. One Sunday this summer, my husband and I went to a couple's twenty-fifth-anniversary renewal of their marriage vows. It was a touching service, a reminder of how some things grow in richness over time, are not defeated or diminished by it. The group in attendance was small, the mood buoyant. We wished the couple well for their second twenty-five years. At that point, they will be eighty and eighty-one.

On the way home, we did something I nearly always do when I have occasion to be in my hometown: I drive past "my house," that house where I grew up, where I lived till I was twenty. It was difficult to part with it, fourteen years ago. My parents had been the original owners. They had it built in 1949, and in great excitement my dad, who was a commercial photographer at that time, documented the construction in an album: every stage, from the removal of an enormous rock in the center of what would be the basement, to the pouring of the concrete walk. They loved their house; moving into a bigger one as their fortunes rose never seemed to occur to them.

The house has sold twice in the interval since dad died, and I had been generally pleased with the fate of "my house." The owners seemed to be taking good care of it. One of them pulled out the azalea bushes under the front windows, the pink ones I always thought of as clashing with the red brick. I cruised by, and approved. Later a security system sign went up out front, and a new coat of paint appeared on the front door. Again I cruised past, and approved.
After my friends' ceremony, however, instead of cruising past I stopped the car dead, and J. and I looked at "my house" with dismay. It looked abandoned. The windows stared blankly at us. A weed as tall as I am had sprung up in front of the windows, where the clashing azaleas had resided. The huge maple tree on the front lawn appeared to be dying, and the magnolia tree that had been my grandmother's joy had grown into a tangled, unpruned mess. The bushes at the end of the drive had nearly grown together in the middle. It was an appalling mess. It looked very sad. There was no "For Sale" sign.

That evening, I searched for a real estate listing, but found none. It wasn't for sale! It really was abandoned. This morning, it's all I can do not to pick up the phone and call a realtor back home and ask for information, if there is any.

But I guess it's better not to do that. Did I mention I sometimes have trouble letting go? What would I do with "my house" anyway, now that the folks I loved have gone, borne off down the river? It's just a house now, after all.

Besides, I can always cruise by in the fall and check on it.