Monday, February 28, 2011

Con Gusto!

"There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm” - Edgar Allan Poe

Did anyone else feel there was something lacking last night during the incredibly well-orchestrated, well-hyped Academy Awards presentations?  On facebook chats last night, I heard words like "deadpan" and "boring" and "dignified" describing the "festivities."

I thought the women looked more beautiful than ever before, the men more dashing (yes, dignified, in most cases), but there was something missing. Where was the enthusiasm?

Don't misunderstand. I like dressing beautifully and feeling dignified, but I've never thought that dignity precluded enthusiasm. Kevin Spacey, for one brief shining moment, demonstrated that dignity and enthusiasm can coexist perfectly.

Composers have a term for this, "con gusto," which means, "with relish". You needn't lose your dignity, but show some passion and excitement for what you do, for heaven's sake. Really. Do it for 'heaven's' sake, which is where your gifts came from, after all.

Maybe we should tap into the unrestrained joy of our inner child more often. Like this little guy, Jonathon, who cannot contain his enthusiasm, I'd rather see someone exhaust himself with the love of his craft and end up on the floor in a fit of laughter than to be so restrained as to shield himself from his own passionate feelings. 

Con gusto, maestro!

The children from New York City's PS 22 gave the most enthusastic performance of the evening last night. Some friends (you know who you are ) thought it to be too free and "underrehearsed" but at least it had enthusiasm. I thought it was a final, much needed, breath of fresh air.

When we live our lives con gusto, it becomes contagious, just as the obvious lack of gusto was contagious last night. Whether dressed to the nines or carpooling in sweatpants and t-shirt, we spread the feeling that we care.

I wonder what Jonathan will grow up to do with his life. If he maintains that level of enthusiasm, he'll be able to rule the world, or at the very least, the Venezualan Youth Orchestra (Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra). He reminds me very much of another conductor who fearlessly releases his exuberant inner child, and it has obviously spread to every lucky teen in that orchestra, and as a result, spills over into the audience. He is Gustavo Dudamel, and here he conducts the VYO in Leonard Bernstein's "Mambo!" Enjoy!

Live today con gusto!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Diaphanous Garment

“The body is a sacred garment.” - Martha Graham

Vitruvian Man - Leonardo da Vinci
c. 1487, Pen and ink with wash over metalpoint on paper

It's Sunday, and time to focus on the sacred for a while. I've been thinking much lately about this ephemeral garment we wear, the body, and how truly fragile it is.

I will excuse you from this discussion now if you don't believe we all have souls. This is not the issue at hand, and so for today, I speak to those who believe there is a soul within each of us, and while we walk the earth, that soul is clad in a body.

That garment, so diaphanous, so delicate, needs to be cared for with great love. It needs to be kept clean, it needs to be inspected regularly for problems, and it needs to be mended when necessary. Most of all, it needs to be appreciated for the beautiful work that it does.

Each body is sacred, made with divine proportions by the Divine Creator. Whether that body is hearty, fragile, or scarred, whether it is healthy or infirm, it is sacred, and deserving of our respect and appreciation.

We are constantly bombarded with voices telling us that we are not thin enough, curvy enough, muscly enough, tan enough, pale enough, young enough, or not nearly young enough.

Our skin should be smoother, our teeth should be whiter, our hair thicker, our nails stronger, and our weight lower. We are never good enough, according to those voices.

I have a secret to share with  you. You are good enough. Just as you are. Today. Right here, this second. As long as your soul is clothed by a body, you are good enough.

Let us rejoice in what we have, rather than bemoan what we do not. Let us appreciate the work our body does for us, rather than grieve for what it never could do, cannot do any more, or cannot do as well as it once did.

My husband's nephew's son (what does that make him to me, besides loved? Great nephew? Grand nephew? 2nd nephew once removed?) is just a few weeks younger than my daughter. When they were little, they laughed and played and shared toys and ice cream at "G.G".'s house with all the sibs and cousins.

They were both adorable kids, of course (our family only allows adorable kids in it, after all), but Josh was born with Cystic Fibrosis, which required him to take enzymes with his meals, be careful not to catch colds, receive regular breathing treatments, and, generally, to be especially cautious with his sacred garment.

His parents handled the situation admirably, and no one thought much about what the future held in store for this smart and scrappy little boy. 

Naturally, he grew to be a smart and scrappy young man, too, filled with intelligence, curiosity, and far more depth than most kids his age. He has a keen sense of humor and a wickedly wry view of the world. He's in college, has an adorable girlfriend (hi, April!), and he's working on his craft of writing, with the goal of becoming a screenwriter one day. He's so cool.

In the fall of 2008, Josh's lungs began to give out, and the medical profession, which had worked with such dedication to help Josh to preserve their function, ran out of treatment options. Josh was put on the transplant list, and in November of that year, received the gift of fully functioning lungs.

Well, as sacred as that gift is, and as hopeful as we all were, it has not been a "match made in heaven." Rejection is always an issue with transplantation, and Josh is no exception.  Chronic rejection issues have diminished the capacity of the lungs to function properly, and Josh's health has declined again.

His lung function is now at 25%, and he's been in and out of the hospital a lot lately. We're all very concerned for him. But in the true spirit of a writer, Josh has started a new blog, Shut Up! I Got A Headache! in which he tackles the heavy issues he faces today.

Articulate and wise beyond his years, please  go to his blog HERE  

Click that 'follow' icon and learn more about his journey.

I hope you all will do two things in the coming days; first, remember to show your love and appreciation for that sacred garment you wear. That garment may not be all you desire it to be, but it's perfect for clothing the most uniquely beautiful thing in the world...your soul.

Second, I hope you'll join me in sending encouragement, prayers, healing energy, and love to Josh and his family. I know it can be a powerful source of strength for them. And rather than dwell on the 75% of function that his lungs have lost, I hope that they can see the 25% that his lungs are functioning with as a blessing, and move in gratitude and improvement from there.

May you breathe easy today, Josh, and know that you are loved. Amen.

I thought I should select a film score as music today as a nod to Josh's screenwriting goals. Josh, always remember that a good film needs great music, okay?

Here is music from the incredible 1986 film, "The Mission." (Coincidentally, that's also the year that Josh was born.)   Cellist Bion Tsang performs "Gabriel's Oboe" by Ennio Morricone in the PBS special "A Company of Voices: Conspirare in Concert," which premiered in March 2009. No doubt about it, this is sacred music. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday Sojourn - Back Cove of Casco Bay

I lay awake again last night listening to the sounds of deep winter, which had returned after the brief hint of spring we had last week. The soothing hoot of an owl, undoubtedly warning its rivals to stay away from his territory, was interrupted by the sporadic yip of a coyote who was communicating the same sentiment, I'm sure. 

As day broke, the hoots and yips gave way to the finches' chirps and the barking of the only-slightly-less-feral-than-the-coyote neighborhood dog. 

She leaves today, I thought with a heavy heart.

I don't mean to be maudlin about it. After all, how sad can I be that my daughter is doing what she loves to do in a city that is as beautiful as Portland, Maine? It's hardly tragic, for heaven's sake.

My Twin once passed on a compliment to me that she had received from one of her patients. A very compassionate and loving family practice physician, My Twin has a large and diverse patient population, and has endeared herself to families from every culture in the world. I am so proud to be Her Twin.

One of her patients (Chinese, I think) had been visiting with her about a level of depression she felt about her recently emptied nest. The patient felt a bit guilty about admitting that the absence of her children, despite their successes, had caused such pain. My Twin assured her that she felt the same way, and had shed many tears herself over the geographical distance between herself (in Palo Alto, CA) and her daughter (in New York City). 

"Oh, Doctor, you have the heart of an Asian mother," the patient had said with great sympathy to My Twin. "We love for our children to be close to us."

And so, she passed that comment on to me as I bemoaned the distance between myself and the Graceful One, and now we simply acknowledge as we commiserate that each of us has "the heart of an Asian mother." Somehow, it does help.

So on today's sojourn, I'll return to Portland with the Graceful One, though she won't see me. I'll walk across the street from her quaint little apartment, and take a hike around the back cove of Casco Bay, a beautiful 3.5 mile hike that is a microcosm of the entire state.

These pictures were taken last October at the end of a beautiful autumn season.

Sometimes the smallest trees are the most interesting.

Beauty above and beauty below

I really have no idea what kind of birds (or ducks) these are,
but they certainly enjoyed the marsh grass at the edge of the cove.

I have done many meditations from this bench.

Graceful old homes line the opposite side of the street along the cove.

Peeking through the grass at the edge of the cove...yes, it's my blog header!

As lovely as the homes are, the trees dwarf and outshine them all.

Suddenly, the path takes you into a quiet, secluded forest glen.

When you break out of the forest,
the pines and the sparkling blue water are there to greet you.

Serenity reigns.

A wise admonition is offered to those who take note
of the message on a marble bench as you leave the trail.

The music choice was easy today, as it was the song that accompanied the dawning of the day (in my head, at least) today. Fittingly, it is a cloudy, gray day in Weldon Spring, with more rain turning to snow expected this afternoon.  

But that's okay...I'm in Portland anyway.

I hope your day is filled with sunshine.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ma Fille Jolie Rose

"There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it." - Chinese Proverb

Mother and Child - John Frederick Leighton
c. 1860, Oil on canvas

No big post today from this Smiling Heart. This is the Graceful One's last day in town, and as it's beginning to look as if she won't have the chance to get home again until next Christmas, I know you'll understand that I prefer, just this once, her company to yours.

Winter made a return over night, and seemed to whisper in my ear, "See what I can do? You'll miss me when I'm gone."

I heard that she wreaked havoc in Kentucky, but here in Weldon Spring she left a gentle white bunting on the trees' branches and a soft dusting on the grass, highlighting the sweeping architecture of the landscape with the skill of an artist.

It's very pretty, and I think that the Graceful One and I will enjoy the day outside, inside, and out and about today, while gazing at the display.

Have a wonderful day, and hug someone you love (even if it's virtually...those count, too).

Here is an utterly charming new version of one of my favorite songs, "La Vie en Rose". The literal translation is "Life in Pink," which is how I live when the Graceful One is around.

Here is Pomplamoose (Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte) with a refreshingly youthful and authentic interpretation of Edith Piaf's classic song. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

That Restless Pillow

"A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow."
- Charlotte Brontë
“Vincent’s Bedroom in Arles” - Vincent van Gogh, Oil on canvas, 1888

Oy. Was my mind ruffled last night. I tossed and turned and had no more than a few hours of sleep added together last night.

I can't blame it on the bed, as poor Vincent could obviously have done. It's been said that many of Van Gogh's 'issues' stemmed from the fact that he suffered from severe insomnia for so long. Well, by the looks of his bedroom, it's easy to see the reason for his lack of sleep. My back hurts just looking at that bed.

No, I have a perfectly lovely bed.

My mind was just...ruffled. I think that's such a pretty way to describe the undulating thoughts and images that sometimes float incessantly through our minds at night. Charlotte Brontë is brilliant.

Unfortunately, the result of that ruffling is not so pretty.

I don't require a lot of sleep. Usually, if I can get in five hours or so, I'm golden. Occasionally, I'll get seven or so hours, and that sometimes makes me as groggy as no sleep. What's up with that?

I do need some sleep regularly, though. All wake and no sleep makes Jo a very cranky lady.

When we were growing up, My Twin and I attended many, many slumber parties (again, what's up with that euphemism? No slumber party I ever attended had the slightest little thing related to slumber as part of it). It didn't take long for my very wise mother to learn to send Jo directly to bed upon her return home from one of these parties. Normally a very compliant, easy child, Sleepless Jo was a weepy, touchy girl, someone no one wanted around for long.

Look out, world, Sleepless Jo has returned.

There is no "typical" reason for these bouts of insomnia, at least not for me. It's as if my brain, which usually categorizes and prioritizes my tasks, errands, worries, and responsibilities quite efficiently throughout the day (without much help from me, I might add), short circuits, causing this power surge of ruffling thoughts.

The dog goes to the groomer today. I need to edit that piece for the ballet company. How's Mom doing? Those photos will be ready by noon today.  I left laundry in the dryer! I wonder how a dear one handled his chemo this week? Lunch with Konnie today!...ruffle, ruffle, ruffle.

There was no rhyme or reason to the cascading ruffles of thoughts last night. But I am only slightly groggy now, and I'll be just fine after a bonus cup of coffee this morning. I'm grateful for my lovely bed, my beautiful family, and even for the curious mix of thoughts that invade my sleep. I'll try hard not to be weepy and touchy today. The silver lining to my insomnia must surely be all the tossing and turning I did last night. I'm counting that as my daily exercise.

Today, I wish for you an unruffled mind.

I have a love/hate thing going on with Franz Liszt. I always thought he must have been a hard man to like. I imagine most Hungarians to be fairly imperious and intimidating people (unfair, I know), and Liszt would have been the president of that club.  Not a really warm and fuzzy guy.

Then I found that he suffered from insomnia, and it made perfect sense. Some even say that insomnia contributed to his death. Yikes.

So today, I've chosen this sonata by Liszt to share with you. A sonata is a composition for keyboard (usually) made up of 3 or 4 movements of varying moods and intensities, but most often melodic and slow. Not this one. I imagine Liszt to have composed this after a night of merciless insomnia.

Gergely Boganyi performs The Liszt sonata in B Minor is performed by Gergely Boganyi here in 1996. Though only 22 years old at the time, he also won the prestigious International Franz Liszt Competition in Budapest that same year.

This movement is long, but well worth watching. Boganyi's hands are a marvel to observe, demonstrating both tenderness and power with equal ease. Thank you to my friend, Leni, for sharing this with me...Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Balancing Out this Week

Women Taking Tea - Albert Lynch
Museo de Art, Lima, Peru

My daughter has been here at home with us in Weldon Spring for a few days now, on break from her ballerina duties with Portland Ballet in Maine.  She brings with her a magnificent energy, or balances out the energy somehow, in our house. I'm not sure what it is, but I love having her here.

When the Graceful One is around, my days seem to fill up with women. We gather with teachers and friends from her days with her first ballet school. We gather with relatives who want to reconnect. We gather with my circle of friends who always want to see her and pass out the hugs and the compliments. It feels warm and loving and nurturing, yes, but also invigorating, stimulating, and interesting.

Our conversations around the house have an added dimension. Our activities are sublty changed. Even our meals are different enough to take notice. The Graceful One is home.

Last night, for instance, she went to ballet class, and then stayed at the studios to observe rehearsals with the pre-professional company. When she returned home (fairly late), she suggested we watch the movie, "The Other Boleyn Girl" with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson (based on the novel by Philippa Gregory). 

We settled into our jammies and drank hot cocoa out of our bone china mugs. She warmed her aching back by the fireplace.  Her dog snuggled between us. The movie was fascinating, and I was most happy that I  stayed up late (and off the computer) to indulge that whim. Such is life with the Graceful One. 

Is it a discreet balancing of the yin-yang energy of the predominantly male household? Is it simply adding one more person to the mix? Or is it the unique tour de force that is the Graceful One?

When my daughter is around, there is a  gentle but unmistakeable mix of unconditional love, fierce protection, quiet determination, and gracious generosity in the air. I know that 'feminine' and 'masculine' energy dwells within all of us, and certainly both reside deeply within her. While she exudes the ideals of feminine beauty, there also exists great stores of strength, discipline, resolve, and bravery. Who's to say which is 'feminine' and which is 'masculine'?

What do you think?

Today, I hope you feel the energy of a special loved one in your life. (They need not be present to attend.)

When we think of ballet, most of us think of soft and pretty tutus, gentle movements, and classical music. Years of discipline, sweat, grit, and determination go into that perception. Ballet dancers are the most hard working artists in the world. Here is a glimpse at what the human body can express through the art of ballet. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Your Inside Voice

"The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within." - Mohandas Gandhi

Listen to Your Inside Voice - Janiece Senn
Digital Vintage Remix

"Please use your inside voice." We tell our children that all the time, don't we? My grandson comes home from school each day with a temporary malfunction on his volume control. The effort required for him to capture the attention of friends on the playground, the teacher in the classroom, or the other kids on the bus on his ride home, must be enormous. He needs a reminder every day to relax and take it down a notch, as well as the assurance that we will hear him, even if he speaks quietly to us.

We are bombarded with so much noise today. Up-to-the-second, we're-in-touch-so-you-be-in-touch, fair-and-balanced, the-world-at-your-fingertips news feeds operate 24/7, giving us an unending stream of world politics, weather disasters, and entertainment.

The outside voices have become tyrants in our lives, dictating what we hear, see, read, and, in some cases, think. We have come to glorify those outside voices that bully us with their overpowering shouts for our attention. Like other bullies, these will abuse us, manipulate us, and demean us if we let them.

Please use your inside voice.

Relax. Take it down a notch. Listen to the still small voice within.

It is only by listening to that voice that you will receive wisdom, and not just information.

In understanding that voice you will gain enlightenment, not just knowledge.

In heeding that voice will you find purpose, and not just activity.

I admire people who are unafraid to listen to their inside voices. One of these people is my friend, Janiece, who created the beautiful image you see above. A fiercely funny woman, a survivor and a rebel, Janiece is first and foremost an artist who listens to her inside voice.

Whether piecing together shards of glass for an intricate mosaic,

or layering digital images one on another, Janiece taps into the wisdom of that still small voice who speaks to each of us.

Today, I wish for you the chance to hear your inside voice.

When I considered the choice of music today, the selection itself was quite difficult, but the artist was a no-brainer. It had to be Glenn Gould.

Glenn Gould was not afraid to listen to that voice within him. Though he was considered to be eccentric, demanding, and unconventional, he continued to listen to that voice. Indeed, upon watching him play, some even thought him to have had some form of autism, but one need only to see a few of the many interviews with him to know that that was not the case at all.

Gould simply insisted on respecting that tyrant within him, the "inside voice" that took him to musical heights no one else has yet to reach.

Although Gould was most well known for his interpretations of Bach, I chose this Beethoven piece, the Sonata Op. 31 N.2 - I Largo,Allegro, sometimes called the "Tempest Sonata."

I often feel like an intruder when I watch Glenn Gould play. Lost in his music, he definitely never played for the benefit of the outside audience. His audience was surely the tyrant he played for. Enjoy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

"Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." - Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams)

I've lost my wedding ring!!!

No, of course that's not the correct caption for this iconic photograph, but it's what my face must have looked like when my mother said calmly to me last Friday, "Don't you always wear two rings on that finger?

The question came late on Friday. After I had driven from St. Louis to Kansas City, stopping on the way at a gas station in Booneville, Missouri, to use a restroom. After I had arrived in Grain Valley, where Mom lives. After I had joined her at the table to chat with her fellow residents while they had lunch. After I had used the restroom there. After My Twin arrived for a visit, and we had left to shop for a few things.

We went to Target for some snacks for Mom and champagne to toast Dad's birthday. And Panera Bread for lunch. And the hotel to check in, freshen up, and check messages. And Home Depot for a bird feeder. And Casey's for pizza for dinner. And Patricia's Foods for gift cards.

We got in and out of the car a dozen times or more. Here's just part of the booty we scored:

Goodies for Mom

You see where I'm going with this, don't you? I was in and out of so many places, and so preoccupied with enjoying an excursion with My Twin, that neither of us had much of a clue where we had parked, let alone where we had been. The day was a blur of busy activity, conversations, laughter, restaurants, and restrooms.

So when my mother oh-so-casually asked that question, the only thing I could do as I sat in horror looking at my finger is this imitation of Stanley Kowalski.

How was my wedding band missing? I had not removed that ring in over fifteen years. (Okay, I've been married for thirty-five years, but that's another story.) Why was my engagement ring still on my finger, and yet, the wedding band was gone?

After my rendition of Stanley's famous, "Stellaaaaaaaaaaa!" I went into action. Well, actually, I think My Twin may have had to slap me across the face and yell, "Get a grip, woman!" to bring me back to my senses, but somehow, we started to reconstruct the day.

Bathrooms. How many bathrooms had I been in that day? Oh, dear. I'm post-menopausal for crying out loud...I'd been in hundreds! Did you wash your hands? Oh, my god, what a question...of course I washed my hands! Lotion. Did you stop anywhere to put lotion on? I don't reeeeememmmberrrrr, I moaned.

"Didn't that ring have diamonds all around it?" asked my mother, quite innocently.

Why, yes, it did, Mom...all the way around. fifteen diamonds, to be exact. Fifteen LOST diamonds around the lost wedding band. Thank you for pointing that out, Mom.

Just when it looked as though My Twin would smack me again, I thought of the restaurant where I knew I had used the restroom. I called Panera Bread, and a very kind young lady spoke to the manager, who came to the phone and spoke to me and then spoke back to the young lady who went to check the restroom. I was filled with nervous excitement. But no. No ring. I left my phone number with the manager, who promised to call me if it turned up.

By now, My Lovely Twin, who had been my best friend just a few minutes earlier, had turned into The Angry Mother Figure, scolding me for having removed my rings.  She was actually shaking her finger at me.

"This is not the first time this has happened," she chided me. "Remember when you lost your birthstone ring? That was in a bathroom too, wasn't it?"

Wow. She had waited thirty years to throw that one in my face, and she did it right in front of Mom.

"I didn't take all my rings off," I countered. "I just took the engagement ring off!" Lame comeback, I thought.

Suddenly it hit me. We had gone into the business office at the hotel to check our messages, and there was a small bottle of Purell by the computers. I had picked up the bottle, offered it to My Twin, and then used it myself. I remembered taking off my ring. The wedding band must have fallen off with it.

I grabbed the phone and called the hotel. I had barely spit out my dilemma when the front desk clerk said, "Oh, a lovely older gentleman (a doctor, she thought) brought the ring to us and said he'd found it in the business center. We put it in the safe in back, and will hold it for you until you come back."

I did the Happy Dance. Someone had returned the ring! Mom smiled, My Twin tilted her head and gave me the "Angry Mother's Aren't You Lucky?" look.

When we got back to the hotel that evening, I retrieved the ring, which had been placed in an envelope with, "Room #403 is the man who returned your ring!" written across the front.

I never was able to reach the man to tell him how much I appreciated his kindness and honesty. Indeed, when I asked the ladies at the front desk to check the room number for me, they could not find any doctor who had registered, and that particular room was empty.

It's nice, though, to know that once in a while, we can depend on the kindness of strangers, isn't it?

Today, consider a random act of kindness.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Easy Does It

“Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much more restful” - Mark Twain

  Still Life: Tea Set, Jean-Étienne Liotard, c.1781-1783,Oil on canvas
 J. Paul Getty Museum

Oh, the sacred, divine peace of a day of rest.

I suspect my kitchen table will look very much like this as soon as the family rises.  I hope it does.

Most of the time I have an almost physical need to clean up a mess and restore order to my surroundings, but once in a while, I know I need to let it all go for a while and just take it easy. 

It actually makes me feel very happy to occasionally think of ignoring the dishes piling up, the leftover crusts of bread lying around, and general clutter accruing throughout the morning. Today, it will allow me some precious time to catch up with the Graceful One.

It was a very late night waiting for our daughter to arrive home for her week's vacation. I confess, I couldn't make it for the duration of the saga.

I'd been up since 5:30 that morning, and had a full but gratifying day with friends and family in Kansas City. I started back to Weldon Spring around 3:30 p.m. and immediately encountered the gloomy, gathering clouds that foretell an imminent storm. Within the next five miles, it was upon me.

The rain was the type that went from torrents accompanied by crashing thunder to little spritzes that barely wet the windshield. The overall result of such a rain is to make one very aware, very cautious, and very busy with the windshield wiper settings. It was a blessing, really, because I couldn't afford the careless luxury of feeling drowsy.

Well, nothing lasts forever, and neither did the rain. By the time I had reached Columbia (the halfway point of the drive), the rain had all but stopped, so I took the opportunity then to find an exit, fill the gas tank, grab a cup of caffée mocha, and head back out.

Then the fatigue hit me. Oooh. I should have tried that "triple caffeine" coffee at the filling station after all, I thought.  But just when I thought I'd have to pull over to take a power nap before pressing on, NPR saved the day with Garrison Keillor and his "Prairie Home Companion."

Did anyone else happen to hear the program? Their podcast isn't up on the website yet, but you can read more about last night's show HERE.

The name of this week's show was what first caught my attention. "There is a Quiet Spirit" was, of course, meant to describe the little town Minnesota town of Morris, where the show took place, but it also tapped me on the shoulder and said much more.

Along with the surprisingly fabulous music from the university's concert choir, and the usual witty and charming stories, I was given the chance to sit alone and reflect on the concept of a quiet spirit.

The Graceful One's travel saga was just beginning as mine was ending. The usual problems she encounters in traveling with her little maltese, Maya, never manifested themselves, but instead, she was hit with delay after delay, which could not have been easy on either the dog or the worried doggymommy.

She texted me at 11:30 pm to inform me of yet another delay, this time in her connecting city. I texted her back that I was crashing. Her dad would be picking her up.

I woke this morning eager to see my daughter, but not willing to wake her from her hard earned rest. Instead, I'll make the coffee and talk to you and wait patiently.

We have all morning to catch up. Easy does it.

Take it easy today, friends.

With no music available from last night's "Prairie Home Companion" I thought I'd post this one, a surprisingly good duet with Meryl Streep and Garrison Keillor. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

For Dubby

Today's "Saturday Sojourn" is not filled with
pictures of vacations or scenic landscape,
but is a trip back to my childhood home in real time.

Still, it's filled with memories, friendship, family, and love.


To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Terrence Lee Riley
1947 - 2011

Today the family of Terry Riley, M.D.
 the family of Ruskin High School in Kansas City, Missouri,
and Terry's family of associates, patients, and friends
gather to mourn the loss of this truly successful man. 

Special condolences to Terry's baby brother,
 our friend and classmate,
Winston (Dubby) Riley
his wife, Anne, and daughter, Darby

Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings, Op. 11). Leonard Slatkin conducts the BBC Orchestra.

Friday, February 18, 2011

With love from 'Sis'

Robert Courtland Floyd
February 18, 1923 - February 12, 1997

Today would be my father's 88th birthday.

I love to think of this day...which would certainly include cherry pie instead of cake, and a good drink of Jim Beam Whiskey later on.

I won the lottery when I got Bob Floyd as my father.
He brought light and love and humor and wisdom and  
warmth and clever wit to his family every single day.

From the time we woke in the morning,
("Hit the deck! Rise and shine," he would shout)

Until we went to bed,
("Goodnight, Sis," he would say to me as he kissed my cheek)

He made all six of his children feel significant.

He was proud of his brood, and we knew it.

My favorite memory is accompanying him to a carnival one Saturday, part of a political campaign he was managing, I think. We wandered the grounds, greeting people and eating ice cream... nothing special, really, and I was fairly bored.  I think I was about fourteen at the time. Anyway, a carnival barker coaxed him over to a basketball goal (set up with no backboard) and cajoled him into playing. Three shots through the hoop, the man said, and you can pick any prize you want. 

Dad turned and handed me the ball. Me? I blushed. No, Dad.
Sure, he had said. Give it a try.
Well, I had played about a thousand games of  H-O-R-S-E out on the driveway in Ruskin with my four brothers, so I knew how to shoot a basketball, but three swishes with no backboard? 
No one could do that. 

"How will you know if you don't try?" he had asked.
I knew it was useless to argue.
I took the ball, stepped up to the free throw line, and dribbled. 
I looked up at the rim, bent my knees, and shot the ball

"That's one," Dad said, retrieving the ball for me and
handing it back.

I was happy not to have humiliated myself among the group of onlookers who had gathered. I took the ball again,
and again bounce-bounce-bounced it. What the heck? I thought.

I looked up at the basket,
aimed for just over the rim, and shot

I was amazed. Wow. Something to tell my brothers about now.
I had made two out of three shots, nothing but net, I thought.
 I could hear myself bragging to them now.

The carnival barker had retrieved the ball this time,
and handed it back to me with all the joy of a refuse collector.
I smiled and shrugged.
I was as surprised as he.
It was then that I made the mistake.
I glanced around to see that there were
more people standing around watching.
Watching me.
Watching me shoot a basketball.

Did I ever tell you how very shy I was as a child?

I took the ball from the not-very-happy man, and this time, my heart did that little flutter thing it does when you get nervous.
I realized there was a very good chance
I was going to choke on this last shot.
I looked helplessly at my father,
who was looking at me with a mix of pride and confidence.
Huh? I thought. Is he looking at me like that?

"You can do it," he said casually. 

I took the basketball, which suddenly felt verrrrry heavy.
I looked up at the rim, which suddenly looked verrrry far away.
I looked up again, prolonging my agony.

Let's get this over with, I thought.

I looked up and took my shot.
Instead of swishing down into the net, the ball
(thank you, Mr. Adrenaline) hit the very back of the rim
....and bounced. 

It was like a scene from "Hoosiers". The ball seemed to hang in the air forever as I thought to myself "You blewwww it."

The ball came down and hit the side of the rim, bounced again, and came down to spiral around and around the rim until it finally
dropped through it. 

"She wins!" the carnival barker yelled.
People started to clap.

"What's your prize?"
I picked a straw hat.
"Aw, go ahead and take another," the suddenly sweet man said.
I chose a stuffed teddy bear for my new baby niece, Charlotte.

The surprised onlookers laughed and clapped again.

The carnival man, I'm sure, got lots of activity after that ("C'mon now, folks, if this girl can do it, you can do it!"), but what I will never forget is the look of triumph on my father's face.
He couldn't have been more proud if I had won the Nobel Peace Prize.
We left the carnival then, but as we walked the distance toward the exit, my father exclaimed to every person he passed,
"Do you see this hat? My daughter won this hat
by sinking three backboard!"

That day, I learned:
  1. Dad believed in me.
  2. You never know what you can do until you try.
  3. You can sometimes amaze even yourself at your ability.
Here are a few more pictures of my dad as a young man.
Quite handsome, don't you think?

Dad in high school in his ROTC uniform
He went on to proudly wear the uniform of
the USMC, serving in the Pacific in WWII

Inscription reads,
"With love to the sweetest girl in the world."
(my mother, of course)
They were married for over 50 years.

At work early in his career as a broadcaster
His proudest moment was an interview he was granted
with President Harry S. Truman after an assassination attempt
by  Peurto Rican Nationalists in 1950 .

One more thing that Dad brought to the family was music.
He had a beautiful voice, and I think he sang every single day.
I honestly don't remember a day that he didn't sing something to us.
He sang everything from the sacred to the silly. He passed that mellifluous voice down to several children and grandchildren, but, alas, I did not win that lottery. 
Still, I credit his wide range of musical taste
to my love of music today. 

I wish we had a recording of him singing.

Today I'm headed to Kansas City to meet my twin,
who's flying in from California,  and other siblings.
We'll visit my mother and drink a toast to Dad.

It was a tough call on the music choice today, but I'm sure all of my siblings, and most of the grandchildren will identify with this one.


♥ Bing is great, but Dad was better. ♥

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's All Relative

"We don't see things as they are,
we see them as we are." - Anaïs Nin

Relativity - M.C. Escher, woodcut, July 1953

Artists have been playing with perspective since Leonardo da Vinci painted "The Last Supper" in 1498. In fact, the word "perspective" was coined in the Middle Ages, from Medieval Latin perspectīva ars the science of optics, from Latin perspicere to inspect carefully, from per- (intensive) + specere to behold].

I think all of that means "the way we look at things."

I'm going to make a confession here. I'm a romantic. On top of that, I'm an optimist.  Rose colored glasses are my favorite accessory.

Hello. My name is Pollyanna and I'm an optimistic romantic.

That's not the only confession I have to make. My daughter has encouraged me to come clean about a certain post I wrote about Valentine's Day. (If you missed it, shame on can read it HERE.)
It's not that I lied or anything. It's just that I wrote the post only from my perspective. That's allowed, isn't it? I mean, it is my blog, right? I just sort of romanticized the day a little. Okay, maybe a lot.

At any rate, during my conversation with The Graceful One about our Valentine's Day activities, I told her about the lovely walk her father and I had taken at the park that afternoon  Only I gave her a bit of a different picture than the one I painted for you. She laughed at me as only a daughter can, and I could see her shaking her head at me, head bowed, snickering to herself, all the way from Portland.

In the blog post, I told the absolute truth about our walk. Honestly, I did. I just left out half the perspective. Being the optimistic romantic Pollyanna that I am, I didn't want to include, shall we say, the "other" half of the dialogue.

Let's just say I did it to protect the innocent...or the guilty, you decide. Here's what really happened on the walk around the park that fine Valentine's Day:

We started down the path toward the pond...

[me] Isn't it beautiful out today?
[him] Jeeze, it's freezing out here.

[me] There's a nice breeze.
[him] It's freezing.

We walked to the new Big Red Barn.
I took out my camera to take its picture.

[me] Oh, just a sec, I'm taking a picture of this.
[him] Ow. What's wrong with my ankle?

Walking farther, passing the pond...

[me] Look--there are the Black Locust trees.
They'll be so gorgeous in late spring.
[him] Look at my ankle. What's wrong with it?


[me] Look up at the sky instead. Isn't it beautiful?
[him] I knew I should have brought my sunglasses.

Now approaching the far end of the park...

[me] The birds are calling all over the
[him] That's the third siren I've heard today.
That can't be good.

Up and down the gentle hills we stride...

[me] It feels so good to breathe in this fresh air.
[him] I can't believe I'm so out of shape.

A little further along...

[me] snap, snap, snapping pics
[him] Great, now my leg is cramping.

[him] What? I'm just trying to keep up my end of the conversation.

As Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know--the rest of the story."
We all have our own perspective in life. Do we choose this perspective, or are we born with it?

I have no doubt that my unerring optimism is every bit as annoying to the Titan of Industry as his unerring negativism is to me. Is one perspective more "right" than another?

The Graceful One evidently leaked the truth of the day to her fellow dancer and friend, Mary (who had commented that she liked the blog post). Mary reportedly laughed, then shrugged and said, "Every couple needs a little yin and yang."

That's it, isn't it? Adding another perspective to our own only helps to complete the picture, deepens it and gives it dimension. More perspectives, more depth and dimension.

The way I figure, you either end up with a masterpiece like DaVinci's " Last Supper" or you end up with a crazy M.C. Escher woodcut.

With my husband, it's all 'relative'.

Today, I hope you keep things in perspective.

P.S. I went for a nice long walk yesterday. I wore my rose colored sunglasses and had a perfectly lovely stroll. Alone.