Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Common Knowledge

In recent weeks, I’ve been thinking of our relationship to our natural world, and in particular, how we have lost so much knowledge about how nature “works.” This, combined with what seems to be some sort of modern fastidiousness about what is “ugly” in nature, and misplaced fear (born of ignorance) about animals and natural phenomena, underlies much destructive behavior. The results of this disconnect are really distressing. Our common knowledge about the natural world has evaporated.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"A fresh seed"

“A new word is like a fresh seed sown on the ground of the discussion.”
—Ludwig Wittgenstein, Viennese philosopher (26 Apr 1889-1951)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

“Was ever anything so civil?”

“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
—Anthony Trollope, English author (1815-1882), from The Warden

Oh, how I love Trollope’s Barsetshire series! I knew nothing of it when, years ago, I picked the slim and slight-seeming novella The Warden, the first of the six novels that comprise the series. I knew The Warden to be about a choirmaster in the Anglican Church in the mid-19th century, but I never imagined what a wonderful world it would open up to me. Each of the novels is wonderful, though The Warden and Barchester Towers will always be my favorites. And of course of course, the BBC  dramatization known as The Barchester Chronicles is perfect – perfect in its casting, costumes, settings, and most of all for capturing Trollope’s razor-sharp satire of the Church, tempered by many comic moments and a tender affection for the characters that people these novels. And any dramatization that brings together Alan Rickman, Nigel Hawthorne, Geraldine McEwan, and Donald Pleasance has got to be worth watching.

My pleasure in the Barsetshire novels led me on to the Palliser series, and to several other novels in Trollope’s oeuvre, all of which I read (and re-read) with great pleasure. Someday I will read them all.

In honor of Trollope’s 201st birth anniversary, which is today, April 24, I will watch the Barchester Chronicles again as I prepare dinner.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Renewing their Vows

Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote about the feeding rituals that Northern Cardinals display in the spring. Cardinals mate for life, and each spring they use specific feeding behaviors to refresh and strengthen their pair bonds. Read the whole thing here:

This year, the Cardinals that nest in and around our yard have been displaying this behavior since January – much earlier than I’ve seen before. Here’s a pretty pair that was having a breakfast date on our deck this morning:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Choir Moon

Choir Moon
© Quodlibet 2016 All rights reserved

I’m always in a rather exalted state after choir rehearsals. Not exalted as in above it all, not elevated, not superior, but exalted as in expanded, brightened, and feeling somewhat unearthly. Not unearthly as in heavenly, but unearthly as in not of the earth.

“No net ensnares me”

Charlotte Brontë was born on this date in 1816 – exactly 200 years ago. That’s reason enough to write about one of my favorite novels, her Jane Eyre. Since I first read it at about the age of twelve, Jane Eyre has been a sort of touchstone in my life. I’ve probably read it twenty times or more, and in fact I enjoyed another survey of its pages just a few months ago.

“Every genuine thing retains this tone”

Thoreau on birdsong:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Gaze Not on Swans

April is National Poetry Month, so here's a poem. But why limit your enjoyment of poetry to any particular month, or day, or hour? Find a poem to enjoy any time it pleaseth thou so to do.


[During the time when I was unable to update this blog, I set aside many drafts, topics, and items of interest to write about later. Among the items I saved were responses that I had posted to ChoralNet in response to questions from other members of that forum. Here’s one of those Q&A items, edited slightly for publication here.]


Question: How important/necessary is it to have an encore prepared for a choral concert?  We have a tradition of closing our Christmas concert with a piece about peace, which is usually fairly quiet and contemplative.  I have difficulty finding a suitable encore, and sometimes wonder if it’s really necessary.  Is it perhaps better to send the audience out with peaceful sounds, and just conclude with the applause and the presentation of flowers, etc.?  Would the audience feel cheated?  What is your practice and your experience?

My Answer:

Scientists “Discover” Forgotten Human Knowledge

Excerpts from a research summary published in the Washington Post:

Living closer to nature is better for your health, new research suggests — and may even extend your life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wine Moms

Via K, who showed in her tagging which one she thinks I am. She’s right, of course. <3

Monday, April 18, 2016

Resting Shopping Face

The other day as I was doing the grocery shopping, I moved up and down the aisles, deep in thought about several pressing problems – some personal, some professional, some musical. I was by myself, and busy with my thoughts about shopping (check prices, ingredients) and the various issues on my mind.


I guess I’ve reached the point in my life where it’s easier, and sometimes a better choice, to stop caring so much about things. What is gained by investing emotionally or intellectually? What difference is made? Not much that I can see. Investment implies a return, and where there is no return, or where there is a negative result, it is wiser not to invest.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Not Excited

I finally have gotten the strength to confront this blog and delete delete delete anything related to my association with certain choral ensembles and their directors, since it just makes me sad.

Some of the essays are, I think and hope, valuable in and of themselves, so I've edited many of them to delete references to those ensembles and persons.

Ooh, just found this in my draft folder - what the hell. It's a few years old, but it's a perfect example of how even the highest standards for a choir mean nothing if there is no follow-up to hold people accountable. And how the double standards and inconsistency can breed discontent and resentment among those who do invest in doing the right thing. It used to matter to me, I guess. Funny how angry I was, when in the end it did not matter at all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Everybody goes Awww!

Why do I so love the paintings of Jackson Pollock? I suppose it doesn’t really matter why, only that I do.


What are these four Blue Jays up to?

Storytelling and Religion

Yesterday, in the context of writing about Galileo, I explored a few ideas about free thought. This morning, when browsing through some unfinished essays, I found the following fragment, which seems substantial enough to publish on its own. I wrote this a few years back in response to an online discussion about how religion consists merely of stories but relies on the ability (?) of people to accept the stories as real.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Free Thinking

It was on this date in 1633, April 12, that the Italian astronomer, mathematician, engineer and philosopher, Galileo Galilei (1564-1662) was brought to trial by the Inquisition. Of course, Galileo’s heliocentric theories, observations, and assertions undermined the geocentric perspective that had originated with interpretations of the Bible, so the Roman Catholic Church couldn’t allow that sort of free-thinking.* He was eventually found guilty of heresy and was forced to spend the remainder of his long life under house arrest.

English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) offered this observation: “If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone.”

* Think for a moment, about that concept – free thinking. If our thinking is not free, what is it? Bound? Constricted? Limited? Why would anyone choose to be limited in thought, in the exercise of the brain, the act that most profoundly defines us as individuals? To what end? Religions that suppress and punish free thought are dangerous and anti-human. Where would we be today without the benefits of ideas from the scientists, poets, artists, musicians, humanists, leaders, and regular people who have enriched, enlightened, and elevated our lives? 

Portrait of Galileo Galilei (1636) by Justus Sustermans (1587-1681). This is a copy by Niccolo Cecconi (1835-1902) of Sustermans’ original, which had been painted during the period of Galileo’s house arrest. Sustermans’ portrait hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence; Cecconi’s version is held by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

Monday, April 11, 2016


The rain rained
The wind wound
The night blew
With a blowing sound

What did I fear
In the blowing night?
The darkest dark? or
The flash of light?

Much is hidden
In the dark
Much revealed
By lightning’s spark

Though darkness
yet appeals to me
the day reveals
what I must see

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Subtle Lunacy

Did I write this?

While clearing and cleaning and classifying this afternoon I found a folder marked “Miscellaneous” – oh, that label is like unexploded ordinance, unearthed while cleaning the yard after a long and messy winter. I opened the folder, afraid to the point of stomach-churning nausea at what I might find inside