Friday, September 30, 2011

Won’t Someone Please Think of the Children!

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I used to visit a nice geeky blog and comment there once in a while. The people who hang our there are a witty bunch, prone to science-y jokes and wordplay (as well as very sharp commentary on current events). Several months ago , referring to a nearly incoherent email sent by a ranting person to the blog owner, one of the regular commenters wrote, “I think chat and texting is causing the biggest downfalls to the English language...”

This started off a series of comments about the changes to language over time, and inevitably the meme “Won’t someone please think of the children!” crept in. Here’s how it played out:

This infidel innovation, "paper", will reduce the price of books, and allow as many to be copied as can be paid for. There is a danger literacy may spread among the laity! And will someone not think of the parchment-makers?

LANGUAGE CHANGING STOP BECOMING TOO SIMPLIFIED STOP TELEGRAMS TO BLAME STOP THINK OF THE CHILDREN STOP

Forsooth, the movable printing press doth change language, it doth become too simple. Will someone not think of the children?
My response:

Alacke, the scholar saidde to all his boyes,
Suche speech as doth besmirche thy soul,
as maketh naught butt winde and noyse,
shalle doome thee to the fiery bowle.

Keepe safe, then, ye your little childe,
from utt’ring symple worddes so smalle,
lest he by new speeche be defiled,
and thus bee rendered daft withal.


© 2011 Quodlibet. Dissemination, re-use, or duplication prohibited except by express permission of the author.I pay attention and I will find you if you cite, republish, or use my work without credit or without attribution.





http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/12/i_get_email_70.php

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Delicious Autumn!

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Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking successive autumns.

        ― George Eliot [née Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880]





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Sunday, September 25, 2011

“Watch ME!”

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Some time ago, I attended a solo recital of Bach's lute music, played by an experienced, well-traveled, well-respected professional. I had been looking forward to this concert very much, and settled myself into my seat in anticipation.

The music was lovely and well-played, but I did not enjoy the performance.

At every turn of phrase, or fugal entry, or cadence, the performer grimaced, swayed, ogled the audience, and occasionally even groaned slightly. It was so distracting that I had to listen with my eyes shut to be able to concentrate on the music, which was otherwise well played. The lutenist was clearly offering himself for display, rather than the music. He did Bach, and his audience, a great disservice with his self-centered posturing. I was disappointed and annoyed and a little disgusted. What do I remember about that concert? The player.

A few weeks later, I attended a concert by an internationally-known string quartet with a very fine pianist, highly acclaimed in our region. I had been anticipating this program with pleasure, too: Haydn, Janacek, Franck. Throughout the fine program, I was struck by how the music always was in the forefront, and the performers, though energetic and fully engaged, never put themselves forward as “performers.” They were of the music, and in the music, and making the music, but they were not the music. There were no superfluous gestures, no grimaces, nothing to say “Watch ME!” What I heard was the composers’ music, beautifully and honestly and professionally played. That was sufficient. It was wholly satisfying. What do I recall about that concert? The music.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Grasspipers


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The morning dawned foggy. Showers began after breakfast, and by mid-morning, it was pouring. Pouring.

Perfect weather for seeking out grasspipers!

Grasspipers? Sandpipers, yes, you’ve heard of those. But what is a grasspiper?

“Grasspiper” is the affectionate term that birders use to refer to sandpipers and other shorebirds when they are seen in fields, pastures, meadows, golf courses, and other grassy areas, especially when there has been a lot of rain or flooding and there are pools of water, muddy areas, and other watery conditions that attract water-loving birds.

Though we were not as hard hit as other areas, Tropical Storm Irene dumped a lot of water in our area (central Connecticut), and many areas suffered significant flooding. Three weeks after the storm passed through, some of the areas are still wet and muddy, and they attract a nice variety of shorebirds and waterfowl as they pass through on their migratory flights.

Today I stopped by one of these places, a cow pasture that is normally dry and grassy and full of cows. The stream that runs through the pasture flooded its banks during Irene, creating a muddy slough that has remained wet enough for ducks and herons to feed there. Over the past few weeks, I’ve stopped by there several times, and have enjoyed seeing Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Blue-winged Teal, and Green-winged Teal. Oh, and my first-of-season American Pipit. And a Bald Eagle (third-year).

Today, despite the downpour, I stopped there again, knowing that the rain would have partially filled the slough. And what a bonanza! I saw a greater variety of shorebirds than I’ve ever seen at any inland location: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, a possible White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Black-Bellied Plover, Killdeer, and, best of all, eight Dowitchers (sp?). Both Green-winged and Blue-winged Teals were there, too, as well as a few Mallards. I saw one bird that might have been an American Golden-plover, but I couldn’t get a good enough look at it. Another bird looked very much like a juvenile Dunlin (goldish back, round shape, Dunlin behavior), but the heavy rain precluded clear looks and soon it was gone. I looked in vain for a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, having seen several of them a few miles up the road just last week. I won’t be able to get back to this great spot until Sunday at the earlies… By then, perhaps a Pintail or Shoveler will have shown up.

Grasspipers!

(By the way, "sp" means "species," not "spelling." There are two species of Dowitcher in our area, and they are hard to tell apart, especially at a distance during a downpour.)

In the Neighborhood


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There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.
                       –Rachel Carson

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I’m supposed to be working, but I’m distracted almost continually by the activity in the yard. Fall migration is underway, and among the regular birds that I see from the two large windows, I also note the visitors, those birds that are just stopping to rest, to bathe in the stream, or to come the feeder for a quick meal.

Regulars and visitors? Can anyone really tell the difference? Yes, indeed.

To most people, birds are just birds. I don’t think that most people even differentiate between families of birds – sparrow, thrush, blackbird – they just see a bird and think "bird," if they notice them at all.

Birders, of course, are continuously engaged in identification: We must know exactly which species we are looking at, as well as gender. Real hard-core birders are also obsessed with subspecies and age of individual birds, both of which are usually discernible only by subtle variations in plumage.

Those of us who repeatedly bird in the same small areas (it’s called “patch birding” – read more about it here http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2010/01/patch-work.html), and those of us who pay close attention to avian activities in our yards, soon know which species we can expect to see there on a regular basis. We have a list, mental or actual, of what we see regularly and what we are likely to see. (I’m not a lister, as I wrote about here: http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2009/07/listless.html)

But many “patch birders” are also able to distinguish and remember individual birds. I count myself among this number. Over weeks, months, or even years of birding the same spots, I have been able to learn the habits, plumage, and favorite perches of many individual birds.

Sometimes, a bird will have distinctive plumage, such as the grackle with one white tail feather that visits my feeder, or the female crow who has a funny-angled feather in her right wing (I call her "Wing-tip"). Or the Black-capped Chickadee who always chooses the same little branch on our "suet tree." Or the Red-bellied Woodpecker who has an exceptionally bright, thick scarlet crown and nape. Or the White-throated Sparrrow whose crown stripes were rather odd, creating a checkerboard pattern rather than the usual even stripes. You get the idea.

On a larger scale, birders are also acutely aware of which species we can expect to see in any given area on any given day of the year, and even at any given time of day. Birds follow very predictable patterns of movement and activities.

Combined, these factors make it possible for birders to actually identify individual migrants, those birds that are simply passing through our "patches" on their spring or fall migrations.

For example, we don’t normally have many warblers in our yard; we don’t have the sorts of trees and rich undergrowth that make good warbler habitat. But during migration, birds can’t always choose the time or place to stop to feed, so when I see warblers in my yard during migration periods, I know they’re visitors. This fall, just from my windows, I’ve seen Magnolia, Blackpoll, Chestnut-sided, Yellow, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, Palm, Canada, Tennessee, Parula, American Redstart, and Common Yellowthroat. Nice!

A few other pretty visitors have stopped by: Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher, Least Flycatcher, Towhee, and Veery.

A few days ago I wrote about having seen an individual local bird begin its fall migration: http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2011/09/up-up-and-away.html

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Live a Good Life

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"Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."
             ― Marcus Aurelius (b.121-d.180)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

But The Bag is Clearly Labeled "Bird Seed"


We had an unusual visitor to our backyard bird feeder this morning, a black bear!


That is a beautiful animal, with thick glossy fur. (It's a mediocre quality video, though, taken on my cell phone, through the screen door.) 




I tapped on the window to see if it would turn around so I could see its face. When I unlocked the door so I could scare it away, it turned tail and ran off across the yard.

We first saw this bear in our yard about a month ago. After it came by two days in a row, we took down the bird feeders, and didn't see it again. We just put up the feeders again several days ago, and it has already come back again. I hope it doesn't come back, as I would hate to give up feeding the birds during the fall migration.

Getting Along Just Swimmingly, Thank You Very Much

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I enjoy bird-watching, and I visit the same locations a few times each week on my birding travels. At one nearby lake, I often observe a particular pair of Mallard ducks that are obviously mated and have formed a close pair bond. (I have watched them for about three years, and yes, one can learn to recognize individual wild birds.) They display typical mallard courtship behavior and spend all their time together, feeding, resting, and sleeping side by side. I always see them close together, just as I see other mated pairs. They natter their bills about together and swim about side by side, heads closely together.

So, why am I telling you this?

Because both of these ducks are males.

There are plenty of female mallards around, some of them “single,” so it does not appear to be a matter of availability. I recognize that an anecdote is not the same as data, but a quick search of the literature reveals that this case is not an anomaly, particularly among ducks. (You can search this out easily, too: just google homosexual animals and you can find several links to peer-reviewed scientific literature that documents this.)

I have also carefully observed the male-female pairs in this large flock of mallards, and watched how they behave in relation to this particular pair. None of the male-female pairs seems the least ruffled over their gay neighbors. They simply carry on and live peaceably together. (That's a picture of them, at left.) The male-female pairs don’t seem to be suffering any stress or threat to their established pair bonds. I have not seen this pair copulate, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. And I have never observed either of the gay mallards trying to force copulation or other same-sex behavior in the “straight” male ducks or in any of the offspring of the other ducks. They don’t have a “gay agenda,” they are not pedophiles, they are not trying to control the flock. Their relationship does not undermine the social structure of the flock or “threaten” the heterosexual relationships of the mixed-gender mated pairs.

Nature is rich with variety. To my admittedly unscientific mind, sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression is not binary; it’s more like a continuum, with an infinity of varieties along the way. It’s all “natural” and cannot be labeled right or wrong. It just is. (In humans, we do have one other important requirement: consent.)

And frankly, it’s not that important whether your neighbor loves a man or a woman or what they do in private. What is far more important is that each person enjoys equal rights and opportunities, and is able to live a life free from discrimination, fear, and oppression, and that we are all good neighbors for and with each other.

Homophobes seem to focus disproportionately on sexual acts (projections from the closet? Just listen to their rants!) and disregard relationships, families, and the more important issues of human rights, civil rights and social/legal equality for all people.

Tolerance

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To mark the long-overdue repeal of the repugnant “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy yesterday, I’m posting an essay that I’ve had in my “Draft” folder for quite some time.

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I am so glad that I have finally moved beyond my upbringing in matters of gender. I was taught that anything other than straight male and female people, and anything other than straight sex between a husband and wife was wrong, perverted, selfish, etc.

During my college years, I saw for the first time that there was more to sex than straight men and women, and that there was a whole range of expressive sexuality that I had not even imagined. It seemed interesting, but it had nothing to do with me. I was outside it, above it, not touched by it.

I recall with shame an incident from when I was about 18, around 1978. A college friend, a young gay man, was out and dealing with bigotry on all sides. I remember feeling all noble because I was so “open-minded” that I could be “tolerant” of his homosexuality. I actually said to him, “Well, of course I can't condone your behavior, but I can be tolerant of your lifestyle,” or some such shit. I couldn't understand why he was so hurt, especially when, considering my upbringing, this was a rather progressive stance on my part, and I was rather proud of myself for being so modern. He should have been grateful for my tolerance of his behavior!

Years later, my ignorant, self-centered remark to that young man still haunts me, and I actually blush with shame to think of it. Only years later, when I could accept and affirm that there is great variety in human sexuality, and that it is on a sort of continuum, and that (when there is joyful consent) there is no blame or fault or badness attached to any point on that continuum — well, then I realized how awful I had been. Of course, by then, it was too late to apologize. I’ve borne the burden of that regret and shame for more than thirty years.

Over the three decades since then, of course, I have had a chance to get to know a rich diversity of people. The scales finally fell completely from my eyes about six years ago, when I joined a richly diverse community, I did a lot more reading, and, most importantly, I did my best to guide a child through adolescence and into young adulthood. I was determined to raise her as a person who would accept and affirm people who are different than she is, and as a result, I had to examine my own attitudes and prejudices, and discard what is inhuman, and unfair, and selfish. She has developed into a humanist of the first order, and I continue to learn from her about the richness of life. (xo!)

And I also had to ask myself, as she approached adolescence: “What if she turns out to be gay? What will I do?” The answer came to me instantly: “Love her, of course!” And therein lies the truth: If I was ready to love and accept and support her without hesitation, why wouldn’t I extend the same affirmation to any LGBT person?

You know, I’ve grown to despise that word “tolerance” when it is applied to humans and human relations. We tolerate mosquitoes, and damp socks, and a slow computer. Tolerance is hateful and mean and narrow-minded and limiting. It caters to our own sense of self; we tolerate things, or situations, or people when they are inconvenient, or when they make us uncomfortable.

Though I have never, to my knowledge, committed any outwardly bigoted acts or said intentionally hurtful things, I realize now that I have enabled bigotry through my silence. I have limited my own life experience by failing to venture out of the narrow confines of my earlier ignorant mind. I’ve probably missed out on a lot of good relationships, and worse, may have hurt people or somehow limited their opportunities.

So Richard B, all these years later – I’m sorry. I’ve tried to make up for my ignorance and small-mindedness then, by speaking up, and speaking out, and continuing to learn, and voting properly now, to expand and strengthen and equalize human and civil rights, including marriage equality, for all people.

When we strengthen rights and opportunities for any segment of society, we strengthen them for all.

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Hmm... I guess I won’t discard that “tolerance” word altogether. We still need that word, as in “I will not tolerate bigotry, cruelty, or narrow-mindedness.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Corn Bread for a Chilly Evening

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Ah, corn bread. Easy to make, quick to bake, delicious for dinner with soup, and wonderful leftover for breakfast, split and toasted and buttered.

As the pea soup simmered on the stove last night (read about it HERE ), I knew we wanted some cornbread to have with it. But which sort of cornbread would it be? The sweet soft “Northern” variety that K favors, or the gritty, crunchy “Southern” variety that D prefers? Southern-style corn bread it was, since K is away and D is my sole kitchen customer these days.

I like the recipe in the “old” Joy of Cooking, which calls for stone-ground cornmeal in the batter, and a cast-iron skillet for the baking, a combination which yields wonderful texture, a deep golden-brown crust, and a simple corn flavor. It’s a straightforward recipe, though I make a few changes; I use molasses instead of white sugar, and a mixture of low-fat yogurt and low-fat milk for the buttermilk. The molasses adds an “old” flavor and makes the bread come out with a nice golden-brown color. I never have buttermilk on hand, and it’s just cultured milk, anyway.

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Pre-heat the oven to 450˚F, and place the rack about two-thirds of the way up. In a cast iron skillet, pour about 1-2 tablespoons corn oil (or bacon fat, if you have it), and put the skillet in the oven to heat as the oven heats. Now, you must either work quickly or have all your ingredients to hand, as you must get the batter ready before the oil or fat begins to smoke.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients:

¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups stone-ground cornmeal, preferably white corn
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
(If you use white sugar, include it here)


In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, beat to combine:

1-2 tablespoons molasses (omit if you are using white sugar)
1 large egg
½ cup nonfat plain yogurt blended with ½ cup low-fat milk (or 1 cup buttermilk)
2-3 tablespoons corn oil or bacon fat (this is in addition to the pan oil)


Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and whisk just until blended. Do not over-mix.

Quickly but carefully, take the pan out of the oven. Be very careful of the hot oil. Shut the oven door right away. 

Pour the batter into the preheated pan and quickly but carefully spread it out. You will notice that the batter begins to puff and cook the moment it hits the hot iron.


Immediately put the pan back into the hot oven. Bake the cornbread for 20-25 minutes, until the top is somewhat browned and the bread has started to pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. Do not overcook; you will end up with hard, dry bread. Serve the cornbread immediately from the pan, cutting it into wedges.


Butter is nice, but if you’re serving this with soup, it’s not needed.

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Cornbread made with stone-ground corn gets stale quickly – within a half-hour – so time the baking so that you will be ready for the bread will come out of the oven.

If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, just use a regular baking dish, metal or glass. If you use a glass dish, bake it at 425˚F.

Variations: Add a cup of shredded sharp cheddar and/or some chopped cooked bacon. Or a cup of (canned) creamed corn. Or, use white sugar instead of molasses, and add a cup of chopped fresh or frozen cranberries (delicious!)

For breakfast: Split and toast a wedge of the leftover cornbread. (Staleness matters not for toasting.) While the bread is toasting, fry an egg over easy, using high heat and plenty of butter. Place the toasted cornbread on a plate and slide the egg on top with all the butter. Salt and pepper, of course. If you have some leftover baked beans to have on the side, so much the better. This is an Old New England Breakfast par excellence.

Leftover cornbread is also very nice crumbled up and added to bread dressing (stuffing) for poultry.


All my recipes may be viewed here:
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20All

They are further organized as follows, with some overlap:

Breads http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Breads
Desserts http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Desserts
Fruits http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Fruits
Main Dishes http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Main%20Dishes
Meats http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Meats
Soups and Stews http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Soups
Vegetables http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Vegetables

Split Pea Soup

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Though the autumnal equinox is still a few days away, it feels as though fall has arrived, with temperatures dropping to the 40s overnight, and the fall migration well underway. I love to cook soups all year ‘round (and D and K love soups), but of course the arrival of cool weather requires that I make soup. Tonight: Split pea soup with cornbread.


Here’s how I do it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Up, Up, and Away

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Yesterday, on a late-afternoon walk toward the meadows, D and I caught a brief glimpse of a juvenile Northern Harrier flying over the little river. We speculated about where it might be heading (it was winging steadily east, away from its typical hunting habitat) and whether it might be a local bird or a migrant. It reminded me of an interesting experience I had just about a year ago, about a mile away.

It was a mid-September morning, and I was visiting one of my favorite birding patches, a large agricultural area where local farmers cultivate corn, squash, pumpkins, cabbages, and sunflowers. This marvelous spread of land, on the edge of the river flood plain, offers broad level fields with rich soil and easy access. A road runs partway through the center of the area, providing superb views over the fields and to the wood edges and, across the field to the east, the river itself. The road starts out paved, but soon erodes into dirt and finally into mud. (Four-wheel drive required.) The area floods frequently. During the spring and fall, this is great habitat for grassland and tundra migrants, particularly American Pipit, Killdeer and other shorebirds (“grasspipers”), Palm Warblers, White-crowned and Lincoln’s sparrows, American Kestrels, and Northern Harriers. Last fall I was lucky enough to come upon a Short-eared Owl resting there – a rare bird indeed for our area.

On this bright fall morning, I was just sitting in the truck watching sparrows. (Yes, sparrows* can be pretty interesting when there are six or eight different species that need sorting out.) A lilting movement caught my eye: It was a big Northern Harrier, sailing low over the fields, tipping and tilting this way and that as it hunted for rodents. This took my attention away from the sparrows. A raptor will almost always divert my attention from…well, almost anything. This was one of the juvenile Harriers that I had been watching in the area over the summer: mahogany brown above, deep russet below, with the snowy white rump that is characteristic of Harriers.

I watched the Harrier criss-cross the fields, hoping to see it make a capture. But it didn’t, and soon it started to rise above the fields, circling on the updrafts. Hmm. I’d rarely seen this behavior from a Harrier. From buteos, yes, such as our familiar Red-tailed Hawk, which hunts by sight while soaring far above the ground. But the Harrier hunts by listening for rodents as it glides just a foot or two above the ground.

So what was this bird up to?

Well, soon it was “up to” several hundred feet, circling up, up, up….and then it stopped circling, stopped, rising, set its wings, and began a long, long glide, heading directly south. It would glide like this for miles, slowly losing altitude, after which it would circle up, up, up again and take another long glide, heading ever south.

It would not be back until spring.

This was an amazing moment. I had just seen a bird ― an individual bird ― begin its migration. We know that “birds migrate,” and we see flocks and large movements of many birds. But how often are we privileged to witness a singular decisive moment in the life of an individual wild creature?

I watched the bird as it glided over the river, over the village, over the tall white church steeple, past the big hill that’s behind my house, and then it was gone.

Read more about Harriers in our neighborhood here:
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2010/01/grey-ghost.html

* By “sparrows,” I most decidedly do not refer to the noisy, messy house sparrows that infest our cities, towns, and, increasingly, my neighborhood.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

“Sharing music was her joy, and brought her close to many”


My friend Jane Scott died this spring.

I’m finally able to write about it.

Jane meant so very much to so many people.

Jane and I met around 1984 through our membership in the Renaissance Revival, an early music ensemble, and we formed a fast friendship almost from the beginning. Our voices were beautifully compatible, and I valued her perceptive musicianship and artistic intelligence. Jane and I remained very close after we both left that ensemble (she around 2000, me around 2007). We both sang in the Hartford Chorale and performed duets together on several occasions before she became ill. 

Here's the story of one of our duet outings in 2008, with a picture of us at a Chorale event where we performed Vivaldi and Handel together:

She was an intelligent, generous musical partner and an exemplary chorister. She always marked her scores properly, she was always on time, she always knew her music, and her technique, intonation, and diction were always great. On a few lucky occasions, I was assigned to stand directly in front of her during Chorale performances. There was nothing like singing Messiah with Jane's clear, supple voice in my ear... 

One of Jane's greatest griefs during the course of her illness was the loss of her singing voice and lack of energy for singing in the Chorale and in her church choir, where she was the much-loved soprano soloist. Numerous head and neck surgeries, oral radiation, and chemotherapy took away her silvery, flexible voice and sapped her strength. She had a marvelous trill and a nice touch with early and Baroque music.

Jane was able to participate in the CONCORA Summer Festival in 2010, and she prepared and sang Handel’s Messiah one last time with the Chorale in December 2010, but she had to withdraw from the Chorale this spring and was not with us for our closing concert. In fact, the announcement about her sudden decline was made just moments before we went on stage for our final concert. The news added a heartbreaking note the wrenching, achingly beautiful Requiem by Stephen Montague. I wept through most of that concert.

There will always be one voice missing from the soprano section in the Hartford Chorale.

When I last saw Jane, she was emaciated and very worn down, very tired, and, I think, getting ready to let go physically, though she was by no means ready to let go of life.

But in this picture, you can see her (at left) as I will always remember her:  friendly, smiling, and always ready to sing.

At the end of this post, I’ve provided a link to her obituary, in which we can read this lovely thought: “Sharing music was her joy, and brought her close to many.”

It is a worthy and fitting epitaph.

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hartfordcourant/obituary.aspx?n=jane-r-scott&pid=151857748

Endings….and Beginnings. And Waking. And An Update: Between the Shadows

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Well, it’s been more than a year since my last post, and nearly two years since I posted anything meaningful.

A lot has happened in two years. Many endings, a long stretch of blankness, and now a few beginnings to wake me up and help me get moving again.

Hard endings. The death of a close family member, expected but nonetheless difficult. Realizing that my family, for the most part, seems to be from another planet, and that if we met at a party, we wouldn’t like each other. Death of a beloved friend, talented and loving, who died far too young and left many broken hearts behind. The end of any youth in me. Loss of a treasured, once-in-a-lifetime part-time job, which meant more than money to me. K and E in hiatus, or more, which saddens me deeply. K off to college, leaving an ache, an ache.

The long stretch of blankness. Not sleeping. Not really working. Trying to ignore, but having to deal with, the toxic trio that chewed up a worthwhile non-profit board and spit it out in little pieces and hurt everyone along the way and by the way, what good did they do? Not writing. Piles of paper, unanswered phones. Re-reading books and books and books that I’ve read dozens of times, just to keep my mind alive when I couldn’t really do anything else. Unable to communicate clearly with anyone, much as in a nightmare where you open your mouth and nothing comes out. Waiting. Not playing the piano because how could I, anyway? Birding, which doesn’t take much effort except looking. Avoiding. Finally coming to the end of it, but it’s always there, isn’t it?

Beginnings. France, a welcomed respite of beauty and inspiration, all the better since it was on the other side of the ocean. Asked to take on the leadership of the broken board, and finally feeling able to do something meaningful. Working again, plenty of work, of the sort I can do well. K off to her first-choice college (yes the ache), thriving socially and finally living the intellectual life for which she has yearned. D riding strongly and still loving me. Trying to write again.

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Update, New Year's Day, 2013.

I'll bury this here; it has to be added to this post, but I don't want to lead with it in the new year. How I wish I had posted it yesterday, the last day of 2012, so that it would have flipped back into a December 2012 list...

Again the long drought, the barren landscape, the darkness. The effort to wake up, to look for light instead of subsiding into shadow.

Burdens of effort.

I'm hoping that writing a bit now and again, or at least posting some photos (I see much, whatever the state of my mind), I can wake up.

Happy New Year.