Ponder this:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

I always have loved this hymn, and the way the congregation belts it out so triumphantly.

Lyrics ~ Charles Wesley, 1707-1788
Music ~ Lyra Davidica, 1708 

Christ the Lord is ris'n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav'ns, and earth reply, Alleluia! 

Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids Him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise, Alleluia! 

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once He all doth save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia! 

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Foll'wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia! 

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!

Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia! 

King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

And, just because I'm me . . . from the sublime to the ridiculous....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A sweet and happy Passover to you.

Pesach begins on Monday.
Al and Debbie were our Jewish Connection. 
I'm thinking today of Al and Debbie's Pesach seder. Husband and I were honored to be guests, and how I enjoyed it. 
I liked the tradition-saturated evening... 
Debbie putting her shawl over her head to light the candles with a prayer.
Marc, the youngest son (the only son, and in his thirties) answering the questions and singing the songs, one after another after another at his father's request, his voice cracking as it tired. But he sang on, such ancient melodies. The only words I recognized: Elohim; Adonai.
I liked the telling of the story, the explanation of the items on the Pesach plate. 
I liked the door left open for Elijah's arrival. It was a chilly and damp evening and every now and then Debbie would close the door for a few minutes to keep the room comfortable. "Well," Al sighed philosophically, "If Elijah comes, he'll have to wait on the deck." He chortled and the rest of us, except Debbie, smiled. I think Debbie worried that Elijah might be waiting, disappointed and frowning, when she reopened the door.
I knew much of the story . . . the blood of the lamb on the doors, the story of Miriam finding the baby floating in the basket. Marc was surprised and pleased. "Oh! You know about that?" But, clearly, there was a difference between my knowing the story and our hosts' feeling of  ownership. The story of Exodus is a Jewish story, after all. 

"In every generation, each person must feel as if he personally had come out of Mitzrayim (Egypt), as the Torah says: "You should tell your child on that day, 'When I left Mitzrayim, Hashem did miracles for me .....' "

.............[The Pesach Haggadah]

I liked the sense of continuity over thousands of years.
I even liked the derma. When Debbie brought it to the table, Marc made a face. I asked, "Why? What's in it?" It looked like bologna to me. 
"You don't want to know," Marc said, turning his face away. Everybody else tasted the slice they were given. I ate it with gusto.
It was a merry occasion, and grew merrier. Wow! That wine!
Al, at the end of the meal, standing, putting down his napkin and saying, "Next year in Israel." 
Marc explaining that even "Next year, in Israel" is traditional.

That was more than twenty years ago; I was still waiting tables. Shortly after the seder Marilyn came in. A regular customer, she always came during the afternoon lull when we had time to chat. I told her about what a great experience the evening had been. Marilyn asked, "Wait a minute! Al and Debbie who?" I told her and she threw herself against the back of the booth, jaw dropped. She had grown up across the street from the family, she and Marc had been best friends. During childhood seders they had run back and forth across the street to each other's homes, being The Guest at the seder.
I met Marilyn's parents at Al and Debbie's thirty-fifth anniversary party. I have a photo of Husband and me standing with them and we all look like blood relations. 
We went to Al and Debbie's grandson's bar mitzvah, Debbie pacing the hotel room before the ceremony, saying "Oy! Oy! I can't stop saying 'Oy'!" She was so nervous before, and so proud afterward!
And the party that evening! What a party! Everyone glittered and sparkled with joy and sequins. No holds barred for the ladies' dresses. A celebration is to celebrate! Beautiful!
The next morning, brunch in the hotel dining room. Lox! Everybody eating lox! For once I was not alone in that enjoyment.

The last time I saw Marilyn was at Debbie's funeral.
Still with the explanations: We eat eggs at this time as a symbol of life, to celebrate life.

I grew up in a family only two generations removed from old time Methodists, who disapproved of nearly every form of entertainment. So! Nu? How come whenever I take the Belief-O-Matic quiz, my result is "100% Reform Judaism"?

I miss Al and Debbie. Al's living in Florida now. 
Sometimes I miss living where we used to live. There were more Jews there.   
Small Pond is home to a few Jews, but they don't all have the Brooklyn-transplant accent. Maybe it's the accent I miss. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The clouds rolled by

I sat at the picnic table, holding down the pages of my book, and watched the steel wool clouds roll in from the west. When the wind began to hurl itself against me, and I felt the inner curl that precedes a shiver, I picked up and moved inside.

The rain came. I smiled, waiting for the predicted fireworks.
To the south, almost clear sky. To the west, paler clouds, and after half an hour, clear sky.
The the north: The Calm Before the Storm.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More on guest dog Chopper: Angus, Max and MiMau

Autumn Mist asked about the resident creatures' reactions to Chopper's presence here in their domain: "Don't your own dogs get jealous? And has he met your cat?"

The poodles weren't jealous of Chopper: they still had Mom waiting on them paw and muzzle.   Husband has done a fine job over the years of being oblivious to their needs for "out," and "food," and all the rest, and so is peripheral to their world. Mom, on the other hand, practically anticipates their every breath. Since Chopper was Husband's Project, we had a nice division of attention working for us all. 

Angus doesn't get jealous of anybody. He's a big mellow dawg in a miniature poodle body. He likes other dogs and turns into a wiggleworm of happiness when anypuppy visits. 
Max lives in a world of his own. His interest in other animals is limited to two activities:
2. chasing the cat to the stairway newel goalpost, and
1. harassing his brother.
Max looks like a Boyd's Bear and behaves like a werewolf. But only to his brother. Other dogs simply do not exist in Max's world.
The very first time Chopper entered the house, both dogs lit up with excitement. Angus wanted to know all about this big new friend. Max wanted to stop his brother from moving around and making happy sounds. It was a little bit of a circus for about ten minutes. 
Chopper probably felt as if he'd entered an asylum for the canine insane.

As for MiMau: All during the first weekend-long visit she stayed on the second floor of the house. Chopper wasn't allowed up there. MiMau recorded every sound of every move Chopper made. Come the next visit, she was ready. 

Chopper arrived on Friday night with Husband. Late in the evening MiMau crept down the stairs, slid along the kitchen wall to the end, curved her neck around the corner and got a look at The Creature. She silently retired upstairs and stayed there all of Saturday, working out her strategy.The girl has trained six dogs in her tenure here, four of whom were permanent residents, one of whom was a semi-permanent resident, and one of whom was a weekend visitor. She is an old hand at evaluating the prospect and determining the appropriate approach. 
In the middle of Saturday night, or rather, early on Sunday morning, Husband got up for a brief trip to the small room. Big goofy Chopper got up to follow along. Husband went back to bed. Chopper did not return to the bedroom. He was trapped in the hall, unable to pass through the bedroom doorway: MiMau had placed herself in his path. She sat absolutely still and projected her I Am The Cat vibe. Such is her power that Husband was required to get up again and protectively escort the sixty-pound pit/lab mix past the nine-pound bundle of Cattitude.

On Sunday, MiMau came and went at will, sashaying around the rooms, daring Chopper to cast a glance at her. He did not.

It occurs to me that in many ways MiMau is the true head of this household. She is the least neurotic, the most confident, of all of us.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Guest dog Chopper

Twice Husband's friend has asked if we could dogsit for him and his wife while they went away for a weekend. The first time, Husband called me and asked if it was okay. I was stern. I repeated The Rule ("Adogtion" 12/27/2009):  You will feed it, you will clean up after it, you will wait up until the appropriate late hour for Last Time Out." 
Chopper is a pit/lab mix. I worried just a little bit. Husband told me how nice the dog was, but . . . you know . . . we've all heard the stories about pits. 
And his name. Chopper. 
Oh. It's chopper as in motorcycle (note his Harley-Davidson collar), not as in chomper [of small animals, of other dogs].

On his first visit, he was intimidated by Angus poodle, 
a sociable little guy who followed him around saying, "Let's be Friends!
See the blur of Chopper's feet as he hurries away from the small black moplike creature?

During that first visit, Chopper often wore a slightly worried look.

On his second visit, he was a little more comfortable. 
Chopper is his daddy's dog, a Man's Dog, so he was perfectly happy to go wherever Husband went, do whatever Husband was doing. 
Even in the early morning when I was up and doing and Husband was, as yet, doing nothing.

Chopper is a medium-sized dog who believes that he is small. He likes to cuddle, especially after supper, and "potty." Then it's time to settle in for the evening on a lap.

Chopper is exceedingly well-trained, wants to do whatever a human tells him to do. 
"Just tell me what you want. Please! Let me do something to make you happy. Please!"
Very smart, this boy. 
And handsome. 
What a sweetheart.

Between us, mushy ol' Husband and sappy ol' I could ruin this dog's good behavior in a week. The Rule would go right out the window and I'd be vying with Husband for Chopper's love and companionship. It's probably good he only comes for visits.

I wonder when his parents are going away again...

Friday, April 8, 2011

5pm on a fifty-three degree Thursday

On the drive home I saw a raccoon sitting by the side of the road, just looking around. A jogger approached, and I wondered who would give way. Not fifteen feet from the animal, the jogger crossed to the other side of the road. The raccoon continued to sit, oblivious. Something's amiss, I think, with that animal.

MiMau spent the day outdoors yesterday, to good results: a Humpty Dumpty of a vole in full presentation mode on the front walk. She threw herself down on her side and knrred, pleased to accept my congratulatory salutations.  She's so much happier when she gets to be out and kill small four-legged furry things.
A couple of nights ago I had a dream that we were outdoors and she was bringing me one vole after another. Not far from the wide awake truth.
The girl's good at what she does.

The animals and I took a long after-work walk along the perimeter of the house field. I wore my jacket, zipped up to my chin, and was glad for it, but the sun was warm on my face, and my knees and ankles didn't creak with cold at every step.
The three-year-old lilac bushes, a long hedgerow of them, are spangled with fat buds at every branch tip. The big lilacs near the house are getting ready too, but aren't so impressively covered as the little ones. 
The forsythia looks just the way it did a week ago. 
Ragged old-soldier-looking tips of something (lilies? Siberian iris?) are pushing up here and there, but no sign yet of the hosta border. 
I am no longer impatient now that the sun is warm on my face and I see green here and there.
I'll take all of it as it comes to me, with gratitude. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Walking season

The sun looked warm.
When I opened the doors for the animals to go out and in, one at a time and at different doors each time, the air felt mild despite the wind.

I wrapped a scarf around my head and invited the dogs out with me. MiMau kitty came along.
We went a long way, all the way down to the fifth field where the view across the valley is wide and long.
The wild grapevine-and-bramble tangle has blown over there at the top of the fifth field, where the wind and weight of the snow has pushed it down. I believe it's the first time I have ever clearly seen the old stone wall there.

The fifteen-year-old poodles gamboled like puppies, stopping for long investigations where mice and rabbits have hunkered down during the long winter. I waited for the dogs to look up again before I went on; they lose me and head straight back to the house if I'm out of sight. MiMau and I kept a sedate pace, she fluffed up with the excitement of being out in the wide open, I grateful for her company and using her as my excuse to go slowly.

We regrouped and walked along the hedgerow. MiMau padded over crackling dead leaves near the wall. If it weren't for her white lips she would be completely invisible in that gray-brown tangle. 

By the time we were back in sight of the house, my scarf had blown down around my neck and my ears ached. The dogs were waiting way up by the house, and came running . . . running! to meet me and escort me back inside.

And so the Walking Season begins.

Friday, April 1, 2011

What fun!

Dancers At The Train Station

Where were all those appreciative people when Joshua Bell needed them?
In Belgium, that's where!