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Archive for April, 2009

Today, if you are the reader of knitting blogs, you learned that Kay Gardiner of Mason-Dixon Knitting lost her husband Peter. 

We are all so very sorry, Kay.   We taste your tears.  Especially so do we who walk the path ahead of you.

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After a storm this afternoon with thunder and a spot of hail, the sunset shot out under the clouds and for a few moments lit fire to the trees across the street.

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With wonderful weather and need to be cheered up, we went to Brookside Gardens on Saturday afternoon for a walk and some photography. 

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We were not alone;  in fact, we were pretty lucky to find a parking place.  There was a wedding on the grounds, so the pond and gazebo area were roped off.  There were many families walking about, sitting in the sun, and taking photos of each other uneder the flowering trees.   Children were making loud outdoor child-noises and doing things their parents shouldn’t have permitted, such as climbing specimen trees, and chasing geese.  Canadian geese are common at Brookside, but there were not very many on Saturday.  The were quite busy pairing up.

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The pagoda pond has many large turtles, who were enjoying the sunny warmth.  Th one in the front of this photo is salad-plate size, while the ones toward the back are dinner-plate size.  We didn’t spot the koi – the water’s rather murky right now.  (Goose poop?)

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Tulips and daffodils are at their peak or perhaps just a day or two past it.  Most trees have not started to leaf yet, but the cherries, crabapples, and magnolias are blooming. 

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Montgomery County’s residents are from all over the world.  True fact:  it does not matter where your family is from, you will always want to take their picture under  the branches of a flowering tree.  Some color combinations are disconcerting, such as the acid green sari and red scarf worn under the branches of a pale pink crabapple.

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I finally changed the color cartridge on the printer, so have even printed some of these photos.  The photo above allows a tulip tree to create a mysterious setting, and the photo below celebrates the interesting structure of an elderly weeping cherry tree.  It takes age to develop interesting structure.

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The seasonal conservatory is being converted into butterfly habitat.  Brookside’s butterfly exhibit will open on May 2, with many tropical varieties to watch and photograph.

Most of the rest of the weekend was devoted to volunteer activities.  Beside ESL classes, singing the choir Mass this morning, cantor for the 12:3oPM Mass, directing the bell choir for a prelude and post-Communion hymn, helping with the Holyland Christian Ecumenical Foundation sale of olive wood carvings from 9 to 2, and photographing for (and cleaning up after) the district caucus fundraiser.  At the latter, we had an interesting speaker, Damon Silver of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel.  Dr Silver had many interesting and somewhat disquieting observations on the economy and the future.

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I started blogging on April 11, 2009, when John had been dead exactly 4 weeks.  I see that some bloggers celebrate their blog anniversaries, and I see that I’ve missed mine.  April 11th this year was Holy Saturday.  Holy Week for church musicians is a triathlon. 36 hours approximately of performance, preceded by weeks and weeks of planning and rehearsal.  April 11th would not have been a day to expend energy on anything by the critical tasks at hand (food, shelter and clothing for the family, and keeping the musical ducks in a row.)  Focus was essential.  My last Mass ended at 1:30PM Sunday, and I was spent enough to not recognize some of my students from the Family Bell Choir.  

Truth be told, being “spent” was probably an unconscious goal.  Last Easter, I sang at the Holy Week Masses, a soul-blasted, grieving new widow.  I could focus only to the point of the next hymn or response.  I could hear but not hear.  (There were sermons?  Don’t ask me!)  I could not figure out how I could do music in my grief, but could not figure out how to not do music either.  How could I possibly sit in the pew and not in the choir stall?  This year I gave it everything I could, hoping to receive it back, not reserving anything because there’d be no one home needing me anyway.

Now, it is true and will be true for the rest of my life that Holy Week and Easter will be associated with John’s death and the implosion of life as he and I knew it.  There is nothing now that I don’t see, do, hear, feel – that is not filtered through the grief of our loss.  So, I have to take that into account, that the filter of grief might color the images I absorb now.  But.

But — I used to love this Holy Week outpouring.  It was a joyful, amazing, uplifting three days.  As I listened to the sermons and the songs and the rituals this year, I wondered how I ever could have stood it last year.  Or, was it just that much worse this year?   I thought it was just me (bad attitude, my sorry excuse of a filter) for a while, but now I hear others talking quietly – about “the changes” – the insincerity of the pomp, the emptiness of the sermons, the coldness of form-over-content, the emptiness of ritual-over-community — that we see creeping into our parishes. 

The music will not be loud enough to cover this up much longer.

So, I missed the blog’s anniversary, because I was celebrating the anniversary that is Easter.  And that’s what I’ve been doing — trying to figure out where they put my Church. 

Today, April 14, 2009, John will be gone for 13 months.  Another anniversary.

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In answer to Holly’s question, the Acer netbook needs off-and-on use of an optical drive, one that reads and writes CDs and DVDs, and the wee thing has no room for an internal one. I have ordered an LG external drive that reads and writes three flavors of DVDs including double-layers, plus CDs, plus has Lightscribe capability, to write labels on CDs that are of that sort.   It is a handy feature I have not used on my HP laptop, but am willing to consider (as with most things nowadays.)  It is also Vista compatible.  I am not Vista compatible, but my scouts tell me that hardware that’s Vista compatible has a better chance of being Windows 7 compatible.  May we live to see the day.

The external drive will be used by other computers around here, so the toy will have to share it.  If the Lightscribe feature is to be utilized, then the toy will also need Lightscribable discs.  Which, again, might have to be shared, we’ll see.  (I rather think that Sharpies are cheaper — just sayin’.) 

The toy also will need a mouse, and I prefer a wireless one.  The touchpad is OK, and the mousebutton arrangement is not all that reeky, but it could be better.  Anyway, I want a mouse, it’s what I’m used to.  Although, when you get right down to it, the toy could just as well borrow the wireless mouse of the HP laptop.  The toy also might need a better headphones/microphone set than I got with the Rosetta Stone Arabic course.   I’ll be experimenting with how much sound leakage there is.

I’ll have some music to listen to, including two extraodinary recent CDs by Chanticleer.  Our American Journey includes an interesting and pleasing assortment that includes shape-note songs (David’s Lamentation gives me shivers), Spanish Catholic chant from the California mission period, Stephen Foster, the Gershins, and the music of a modern Mohican composer, Brent Michael Davids.  The Mission Road is a CD/DVD set consisting of music unearthed from the old California mission churches. 

Chanticleer is so amazing.  I am a fan.  I was blessed to receive a ticket to see them when they performed at the amazing Music Center at Strathmore Hall in Maryland.  (If you are anywhere near Strathmore, you must attend a concert there.  It is a beautiful place, and especially wonderful for listening to acappella singers.)

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Miss N needs to attend many concerts and recitals as a requirement of her music major, so we have also attended a excellent performances at Montgomery College.  (Molly Donnelly is Nina’s voice professor, and is an outstanding mezzo.)

My little avatar, Odin, is not sure he likes the HRH title.  He’s thinking of something along the line of “Your Worship” or “Supremely Cool Being”.  Anyway, he’s hiding in the quilts until he gets a bit more respect.

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Now What’s Blooming

Today the daffodils are blooming in their many shades.

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I remember planting the yellow ones (King Alfreds?), but the white ones grew in the overgrown and weedy rock garden off the patio, planted before John and I arrived at this house in 1979. 

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Over time, the yellow and the white daffodils have become mixes. 

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This blended variety has a deep gold cup and is surrounded by white petals brushed with gold.

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This blend has clear white petals and a gold cup.  I  like them all, and wish they’d last longer than a week!

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Odin was feeling photogenic tonight, and says hello. Odin has a condition what results in struvite crystals in his bladder. In January, he had an episode of bladder infection, and had to visit the vets and the animal hospital twice each.  He had to take antibiotics, and pain meds and has had to have a new prescription diet.  We’ve done two urine sample since then, and his urine is now clear of crystals, has the proper ph, and is lower in density, because I put lots of water in his canned food.  He’s a pretty interesting cat, highly opinionated, snarky, beautiful, and a bit too chubby.  (We’re working on that.)

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Promise of Spring

Seeds came in the mail today.  InSpring a gardener’s heart is filled with ambitions and dreams.  In my mind’s eye, my yard has much more sunshine than it actually does.  My gardener’s dreams tempt me to pick too many plants wanting full sun to flourish.  Wouldn’t pumpkins be fun? What about a patch of Indian corn?  Daisies?  Raspberries?

Raspberries like my Grandpa Lassonde grew on the farm — so many and so fruitful that he had to pick twice a day, he would grumble.   No, not grumble, Grandpa L didn’t grumble, but he did note the fact.  “A lot of work.  Have to pick them twice a day.”    The raspberry patch was at least two rows and ran the length of the big pine he and Grandma planted as a windbreak years and years ago.  I wonder whether the farm is for sale?  Foolish idea, and it wouldn’t be the same without them.

The seeds:

snap pea, Sugar Ann — plant them this weekend, and hope for peas by the end of May;

pole bean, Blue Lake — a few cages of these will be enough, and I am hopeful they are stringless, unlike Kentucky Wonder

arugula, Rocket — to prove we are Eastern Elite?

radish, Champion – plant these now, too, to grow in the cooler Spring

leaf lettuce – a blend — in a big pot or two on the shed deck, with wire caging to protect it from bunnies (oh, yes, I know you are out there, you voracious critters)

Swiss chard, Bright Lights – make a beautiful Fall color crop, prettier than flowering kale, I think — but, will the bunnies eat it first?

cabbage, Mammoth Red Rock — OK, what what I thinking?  I can’t grow cabbage!  It will bolt by June 10th.  And needs all the sun you can imagine.  Mix it with the lettuce blend for a tasty colorful leaf, I guess.

Little netbook did not come with photo editing software, so, on the advice of Miss N, I am trying out Picasa.  There is a photo of one of my sedum coming up in the rock garden in back:

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I am pretty fond of sedum, and keep acquiring different varieties.  Some can tolerate shade. 

 Working – gardening, teaching, studying, the job, are what are keeping me going.  I have to keep working at something; always.

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Learning New Things

This week the netbook I ordered arrived.  This blog entry is written from it.  This remarkable little tool will be my on-the-road photo backup unit, editor, communications center (email and Skype), entertainment (DVDs and some music), classroom (recorded lectures, language lessons), and journal. 

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So far, I’ve been learning to type on a smaller keyboard (yes, it is cramped, but it beats thumbing a Blackberry, for sure!)  This is not a fantastic photo; I can’t edit photos yet (no editing software yet.)  John would have gotten quite a kick out of this.

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