Wednesday, December 28, 2016

King Arthur Flour

Actually, at the moment, we are in the cafe at the King Arthur Flour store in Norwich, VT.

Just had a soup and sandwich. Brahms rehearsal tonight. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sanders Theater

The Revels this year has an Acadian theme and features our friends Keith and Becky Tracy from Brattleboro!

     Before the show 

The finale:

This year was Acadian/Cajun theme -  great show. Megan Henderson's fantastic debut as the new music director. Yay Megan. 

Now we are having a snack at Grendel's Den:

               The Tolles clan

Christmas and post-Christmas

We went to Katie and Savanna's Christmas Day. The Feinlands were there too. 

               Opening presents

We celebrated Hannukah by lighting two menorahs. The one on the right is one a Jewish chaplain gave my father during WW 2.

We also played "fictionary dictionary." Mary is looking up a word. One of the words was "jipijapa."

Ellen made a flaming plum pudding

        Serving the pudding

We hosted John and Cynthia on Monday  and had a really lovely time with them (but no pics) and now on Tuesday we are at the Revels at Sanders Theater in Cambridge.

     Sanders lobby and a snack

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

Tonight we had two services. I led the choir at a 7pm service in Dummerston. The choir was great - we had fifteen people - and my young soloist came through beautifully. Then we came home briefly, and went to Guilford for their 11pm service, with choir rehearsal at  9:30pm. That was a very moving service. Here are some scenes from Guilford:

             The choir rehearsing

       Singing. "Silent night, holy night"

The brass band for "Joy to the World"

Christmas Eve Day

Our decorated tree: 

We put up decorations while listening to Lessons and Carols from Cambridge. Perfect! 

           A close-up of the tree.

It snowed briefly this morning but is just cloudy now. 

Jim and Mary arrive this afternoon. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Almost Christmas Eve

Ellen and I are home after a long, full day. We have our tree up and the lights on it .
We are listening to Christmas anthems. 

We got our tree precut at the local tree farm - Elysian Fields. We usually cut our own, but no time for that this year! But we like it. It is smaller than usual, but very shapely. 

This evening was the Dummerston choir rehearsal for Christmas Eve. I think it went well, tho our soloist for "Once in Royal David's City" was quite unsure of the melody. Before that, a smaller group of us caroled four "shut-ins," all of whom really appreciated our coming. Ellen fixed some mulligatawny soup for the carolers which we ate at the church since we were on a tight schedule. Ellen had gone down to Hilltown school earlier in the day to see Tamar in their solstice program, which she said was very nice. Then she met us at a nursing home in Brattleboro where we had our first carol sing. Calvin picked me up for that since Ellen had the car. While she was in Northhampton, I stayed home to do cleaning and washing and put on the tree lights. John came over - he picked up our winter CSA today since we couldn't - and we had a bit of lunch together and talked. He and Cynthia played their exquisitely beautiful "Into the Silence" service Wednesday eve. I thought it was magical but there was a lot about it that John was not happy about. So we talked about that. I hope they do it next year because I feel it is unique and very beautiful. But I can see that it is a lot of work for them and they usually don't have time to rehearse properly this busy time of year, which was the main problem, John felt. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

High winds

We are getting some weather! It's about 9 degrees outside with high winds. Wind chill is dangerously cold. Thinking about the homeless and hoping they are in the emergency shelter. We are slated to get snow this weekend. Saturday could be a mess. I'm still coughing but have more energy. But I stayed home tonight while Ellen went to a Hallowell party with a huge tray of cookies! Sigh!

The party was for Kathy Leo, who has just released a beautiful book she has written about bedside singing for the dying, titled  "On the breath of song." I have read about half of it so far and it is amazing - story after story of our sings told with such vivid detail, you feel you are in the room!

Thank you, Kathy! What a gift to the world!  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Cold and cold

I still have my cold, and outside, it is cold, and will be getting really frigid. So I'm staying in. I didn't go to a Hallowell event yesterday evening, nor to a church meeting today, and will skip a Brahms rehearsal tonight. I can hardly croak anyway. Poor Ellen has to do things I usually do - e.g., feeding the stove, running errands, shoveling the deck - but she is quite cheery about it. And she is keeping me well fed and hydrated. Lucky me! I'm just staying cozy by the fireplace, with tissues handy.

I've been able to use this time to work on Christmas projects that involve the computer, so that's good. But this afternoon, the iPhone inexplicably stopped charging. After buying a new charge cord, which didn't solve the problem (even though the old one is sort of frayed) we figured out that the weak link in the chain was not the cord but the plug - the little cube that has a USB port and plugs into the outlet. Now why would that suddenly fail? It's charging fine now with a new plug. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016


Today is our River Singers concert and I'm in bed with a cold. Phooey! My nose started to run yesterday afternoon. By evening I started sneezing. I took ecchinacia and managed to get some sleep but I'm pretty miserable today. So no concert for me. It isn't too bad as long as I am warm in bed, but when I get up I start running and sneezing again. I'm supposed to be in church tomorrow and at a second concert in the afternoon but I'm dubious. We'll see.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Cookies, cookies, cookies!

We've finished making cookie platters! I say "we" - Ellen made all the cookies, which is 95% of the job. I helped clean up during the baking process and did some schlepping; then tonight the two of us distributed the cookies on to 3 sizes of platter - small, medium and large, wrapped the platters in shrink-wrap, and tied them with a ribbon. 38 platters in all. (16 s, 10 m, 12 l). All together they will fetch about $400 for the church. They fly out the door.  It took about 3 hours to do the job this evening. We're tired! Ellen is amazing!

Getting ready to tie ribbons on the small platters 

        Wrapping the medium platters

    A large platter, wrapped, no ribbon

             Ready for tomorrow  

Ellen made apple butter and jams too, plus tea cakes. Quite a spread ! 

The big picture  - but there is a lot not in the picture! There is a huge white elephant table off to the left, and also a raffle table with 8-10 items. Cookies are off to the right. Tables are for a lunch. 

Hilltown School Winter Fair

We are in Northhampton at Tamar's school. She just sang in a couple of choruses and played in a ukulele ensemble. Julie and Mimi are here too. 

Tamar in a chorus singing "Shut de door, keep out de devil." 

            Ukulele band

       Singing "Lean on me"

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The spring is UP!

Went to check the water level in our spring today and it had come up to the 12 foot mark! Wow! That's almost 8 feet higher than yesterday! We did get a lot of rain last night. So, no more hauling of water. It feels sort of weird taking water out of the faucet and flushing the toilet by pushing a handle instead of pouring in a pan of dirty dishwater. I had my first shower today at home in aImost three months. I guess we'll just have to get used to it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


On Thanksgiving Day at Katie and Savanna's, I wrote a Madlibs for the occasion. Here is the original:

A Thanksgiving Visitor

On Thanksgiving Day, 2016, a knock came at the front door of 205 West Pelham Road. "Who could that be?" said Brendon, looking up from his game of  ___name of a game____. "No one ever comes to the front door." Savanna opened the door, and standing there was man with ___ a color____ hair. "Hello," he said, my name is Donald ____a last name____. "May I come in?" Savanna wasn't sure. She took a moment to scratch her ____a body part___ and collect her thoughts.  "What do you want?" Donald ___a verb for making an offensive sound___  and stuck out his ___a body part___,  "I'm reaching out to people who didn't vote for me. I want to unify our ___a political unit___. "Oh, well, come in then," said, Savanna, as she pushed aside the __a piece of furniture___ so that Donald could come in. "Katie," she said, "we have company. It's Donald __last name from above___."   "Tell him to pull up a ___piece of furniture___ and sit down," said Katie, calling from the ___a room in the house___.  "Would you like a drink?" asked Savanna. "Yes," said Donald, "I'll have a ___name of a drink___. Donald settled in and asked, "Have you heard that I want to build a ___name of a large structure___  to keep out  ____name of a group of people___?  What do you think of that idea?" Tye piped up. "I think that idea ___a pejorative expression___!  Savanna spoke up. "Donald, you should know that we think you are a  ____a mental illness___.  "You may be right," said Donald. But remember, I'm your ___same mental illness___. What can I do to win you over?  Katie joined the conversation. "You could appoint ____name of a well-known person___ to the Supreme Court." "I love ___same name___ exclaimed Donald.  Consider it done. What else? Brendon spoke up again,  "How about ___a participle for a violent action___ your ____a body part___  into your ___a body oriface___  and ___a participle for making a loud noise____  like a ___an animal___.  "Brendon," said Savanna, suppressing a ___a bodily noise expressing disapproval___. Don't be rude to our guest." "Not to worry," said Donald. "I like the boy's honesty. Brendon, what is your favorite dish for Thanksgiving dinner?" "___an unusual food___, said Brendon. "I love __same food___, said Donald. I eat it every day. Well, I have to go. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!" "And a Happy  ___a holiday___  to you," said Katie. "Try not to trip over the ____a piece of furniture___  on your way out! After Donald left, Tye exclaimed, "That man is a ___a well-known villain___.  "Amen," said B. "Let's eat ___another unusual food____

And here is the way it came out with the responses I got from people (which, admittedly, were a bit unusual at times).

A Thanksgiving Visitor

On Thanksgiving Day, 2016, a knock came at the front door of 205 West Pelham Road. "Who could that be?" said Brendon, looking up from his game of Scrabble. "No one ever comes to the front door." Savanna opened the door, and standing there was man with purple hair. "Hello," he said, my name is Donald Pinchass. "May I come in?" Savanna wasn't sure. She took a moment to scratch her earlobe and collect her thoughts.  "What do you want?" Donald muttered and stuck out his uvula,  "I'm reaching out to people who didn't vote for me. I want to unify our state. "Oh, well, come in then," said, Savanna, as she pushed aside the futon so that Donald could come in. "Katie," she said, "we have company. It's Donald Pinchass."   "Tell him to pull up a hassock and sit down," said Katie, calling from the mudroom.  "Would you like a drink?" asked Savanna. "Yes," said Donald, "I'll have a pineapple juice. Donald settled in and asked, "Have you heard that I want to build a mosque   to keep out a quilt club?  What do you think of that idea?" Tye piped up. "I think that idea sucks!  Savanna spoke up. "Donald, you should know that we think you are a  trichotillomaniac.  "You may be right," said Donald. But remember, I'm your trichotillomanic. What can I do to win you over?  Katie joined the conversation. "You could appoint Sarah Palin to the Supreme Court." "I love Sarah Palin exclaimed Donald.  Consider it done. What else? Brendon spoke up again,  "How about throttling your hip bone into your nostril and crashing like an ardvaark.  "Brendon," said Savanna, suppressing a boom. Don't be rude to our guest." "Not to worry," said Donald. "I like the boy's honesty. Brendon, what is your favorite dish for Thanksgiving dinner?" "Pigsfeet, said Brendon. "I love Pigsfeet, said Donald. I eat them every day. Well, I have to go. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!" "And a Happy  Patriot Day to you," said Katie. "Try not to trip over the commode on your way out! After Donald left, Tye exclaimed, "That man is a Billy the Kid. "Amen," said B. "Let's eat octopus!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

More Putney Craft Tour

Here are some photos from the Putney Craft Tour that were not available when I made the previous post:

Gail showing Brendon the scouring apparatus
The "picking" operation
Part of the "carding" machinery
The spinning machine
Bobbins in the spinning operation
An old photo showing children operating the machines - common in the early 20th century
I forget the exact name for this machine but it is part of the final process

When the wool comes from! And also the source of some sheep cheese we got
Joshua Letourneau working on creating a marble
Bob Burch heating a bowl
Bob Burch shaping a molten bowl
The potters wheel at the glass blowers studio. Brendon made this photo

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving time

We have had a full Thanksgiving time. Thursday, we went to Katie and Savanna's, where we were joined by Tye and B, plus Alia Starkweather for a lovely dinner. We had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, mixed mashed potato and turnip mix (a tradition from my side of the family), brussell sprouts, two kinds of squash, two kinds of cranberry sauce, and mince pie, apple pie and pumpkin pie!  Wow! I ate too much, as usual.

Friday, K&S and Brendon came up and we went to the Putney Craft Tour, ("the oldest continuous craft tour in the country"), and had an especially good time at the Green Mountain Spinnery,  where we had a full tour, and two glass blowers, Bob Burch and Joshua Letourneau, who were both giving demos. Brandon was especially fascinated.

Three bottles by Bob Burch, glassblower

Josh Letourneau

The Green Mountain spinnery
Then Friday evening we went to the Davis's for another thanksgiving meal with Andy, Robin, Emma, and their friend, Steve Vorhees.

Saturday, John and Cynthia came over for a scaled down thanksgiving meal, vegetarian and gluten free, but very delicious. We had a good time talking into the evening by the fire. Today we went to church, and then had thanksgiving leftovers for lunch, and a bit more for supper!

I just had a nice swim at the pool. Had to work some of all that food off with some exercise.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Catching up

Well, a lot has happened since last Friday!

Friday, we drove back from Swarthmore to VT, but we stopped in South Hadley Friday evening to attend a production of Oliver that had both Brendon and Savanna in it, with Katie backstage. Brendon was a member of Fagin's gang of pickpockets, and Savanna played the role of Mr. Brownlow. I got several photos, but they are on the iPhone and at the moment I am in the Subaru waiting room waiting for my car to be serviced, and I have the computer, but no phone. I'll post them later. It was a fun production - fairly stripped down, simple sets, etc. - and Brendon and Savanna were good. Oliver has great songs. Nancy and Bill Sykes were particularly strong characters in this production.

  Brendon (in red vest at left) with gang

Savanna as Mr. Brownlow, with the doctor (who pronounces Oliver a "mealy-faced boy."

The house was pretty cold when we got home late, but we warmed it up pretty fast. 

Saturday was John's workshop on Contemplative Spirituality and the Whole Movement of Life. It came off well, I felt. There was a good turnout - 18 people - and I was close to tears a good part of the day. John found a really effective combination of presenting ideas and sharing personal experiences that helped explain and illustrate the ideas. Several people expressed appreciation for the day. John himself wasn't sure if he achieved his primary purpose or got across his main message. It is a hard message to formulate in a way people can hear and take in. He was hoping for a "moment" to happen which didn't happen. But I felt people were touched by the event and it provided a lot of food for thought. I'm hoping we can do a sequel together in the spring.

I came directly from the workshop to a session at the Dummerston Church with the new minister, the Rev. Shawn Bracebridge, who was giving his candidate sermon on Sunday and meeting with committees on Saturday. The Music Committee was meeting at 4:30, so we got a chance to talk with him about music. He is a musician - he is an organist, and also has a degree in Music Therapy, which he has quite a bit of experience in both with elders and with developmentally challenged children. Shawn is very personable and made a hit with the folks in Dummerston. Sunday morning he gave a very thoughtful sermon on the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well from the Gospel of John. He took the time to really unpack the story and provide background, which I liked very much.
The congregation voted to call him following the service.

Ellen had a "Birthday Ladies"lunch after church, and while she was with her women friends, John and I had lunch together at Katy's in Putney. We had a good visit about the workshop and other things.I learned that he and Cynthia will be doing their Into the Silence service in Dummerston, on the solstice - the first time since 2013. It is a candlelight service of silence and music which they play (harp, cello and Irish whistle). It is a beautiful service and in the past, the church has been full. Since they haven't done it recently, we will need to get the word out.

I went to the pool after supper hoping to swim, but found that it closes an hour earlier on Sundays than the rest of the week, and I was too late.

Monday, I had the option of going to a workshop at the Learning Collaborative (where we go to OSHER lectures) on "computer trouble-shooting." I would have learned from it, I'm sure, but I also wasn't sure whether my specific problems would be addressed in a group setting. I also felt the need to spend some time with the Brahms Requiem, because we had a rehearsal Monday night, and I wanted to feel really on top of it. So that's what I did. I was glad i made that choice,  because we did a complete run-through at the rehearsal and I was much more prepared than usual. I think I will make an appointment at the Mac computer shop for a personal session. I do have a number of computer issues.

So here it is, Tuesday, almost noon., and my car has been in since 9 a.m., and isn't ready yet. Not a good sign!

Tonight we have River Singers. Tomorrow I have a dental appointment for a cleaning. Thursday is Thanksgiving!. We'll be at Katie & Savanna's.

Our water is still low. We have yet to have a long, soaking rain. Just showers.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Exam time

One of the things I found at the Library yesterday was a file of Ellen's dad's course materials: syllabi, exams, etc. Here is a final exam from a course in U.S. History. How well do you think you can do? You must answer five of the nine questions. No peeking on Google!

In Swarthmore

For the past three days, we have been in Swarthmore. It was Ellen's birthday Tuesday, and she was celebrating her birthday with friends, Wallace, Sarah and Harry. I spent Wednesday at the Friends Library working on my Tolles project, met Sarah, Wallace and Ellen at the Village Inn for lunch, and then Wed. eve I had supper with Jim and Joy Harris in Cherry Hill, NJ. Jim is Shirley's nephew, her brother Ladd's son. I had to find my way to Cherry Hill at night in the ran - thank God for my iPhone GPS function, which worked beautifully, both going over and coming back. I had  a lovely time with Jim and Joy. Jim is very much like his dad, both very good looking and very funny. Joy fixed a lovely supper. Thursday, Ellen and I went to Sarah and Harry's for breakfast, and then came back to Swarthmore in the afternoon. I went back to the Library, and actually finished up the work I needed to do there. Then I drove back to Sarah and Harry's for supper - except I ate early at the college so I could eat before 6pm to help my evening acid reflux problem - but sat in on the conversation around the supper table.

This morning Ellen went back to Sarah's because she left her wallet there while I got up and got packed. We left after 9pm and are now at IKEA where there is WiFi and Ellen is doing a bit of shopping

Sarah, Wallace and Ellen on campus after lunch

The Friends Historical Library where I have spent a lot of time! Those boxes on the table are part of the Tolles archive.

We'll be home late afternoon, and may go to see Brendon in Oliver tonight. Or we may go tomorrow night. Tomorrow is John's workshop at Hallelujah Farm on Contemplative Spirituality and the Whole Movement of Life, which is how John describes his effort to link the inner spiritual life and the outward world of nature. It will include presentations by John, periods of silence, music, and discussion. We're looking forward to it very much.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Election

What to say? All my thought and energy since Tuesday night has gone into preparing to lead the service and preach this coming Sunday in Guilford. I agreed to lead that service knowing it would be the first Sunday after the election, which was perhaps a form of hubris. But it is an opportunity to witness to something important in a time which the New Testament would call ho kairos - a "pregnant time," a time rich with possibility because of a national crisis. 

David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, has called the election of Donald Trump "an American tragedy." I can appreciate his article but I'm not sure that is the first word I would choose. I'm thinking more along the lines of "judgment." I'm thinking that maybe we have "gotten the president we deserve," (which can mean different things to different people, of course). But I think a willingness to accept personal responsibility may be the first step both toward the "healing" that everyone says needs to happen, and also toward a commitment to working to turn things around. This is a spiritual crisis for the nation as a whole, but also for all of us individuals who are its citizens. We need to get as clear an understanding of the nature of this crisis as we can. A time for soul-searching and talking with others, including those who see things differently. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tackling the woodpile

This late afternoon, Ellen and I finally started stacking wood. This is the pile the folks from the Dummerston church made when they came over several weeks ago.
We'll be doing it in several short sessions. Earlier we were at Osher lectures on Humanism and Islamic Art.

           Stacking wood.

        Future heat !

Election tomorrow! 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Friends and films

These past few days have been filled with friends and films. Thursday evening we went to see Power Struggle, a locally-made full-length documentary on the closing of Vermont Yankee, a nuclear power plant in the neighboring town of Vernon, Vermont, and the role citizen activism played in that closing. The filmmaker, Robbie Leppzer, the governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, and some of the key "players" in the film were all on hand. They formed a panel after the showing. It was not a beautifully crafted film, but it did drive home the need to keep up the pressure on corporations and government officials, and the fact that the struggle is not over: a lot of radioactive nuclear waste is still stored there in aging containers.

  The panel discusses Power Struggle

Friday evening we went to a potluck supper at the home of Mary Cay Brass  and Manny Mansbach. Mary Cay is our River Singers leader. They were "christening" a new room they have added to their house. It proved to be a great room for singing, which, not surprisingly, we did quite a bit of. The food was good too! The potluck had a Mexican theme, and Ellen brought a tres leches cake, which proved to be very popular. She had never made it before! 

         Singing in the new room.

We also got to know better a fellow River Singers person, Beatrice Birch, who founded and directs a residential community called Inner Fire, which offers adults dealing with addictions and traumatic life experiences the option of healing without the use of psychotropic drugs. It has been an amazingly effective program, and we were very interested to learn more about it. (Google InnerFire). 

Saturday morning we met Mark Kennedy and Cathy Rude at the Brattleboro Coop for tea. They were traveling from their home in North Hero, VT down to Connecticut and wanted to see us as they passed by. When I first met Mark, many years ago, he and his two children, Anne and Joseph, were going through sort of a traumatic time, and I helped them out a bit. I have stayed in touch but hadn't actually seen them for a long stretch, though Ellen had met Mark and Cathy a few years ago. Anne and Joseph are doing well now in college. It was good to see them. 

    In the Coop with Cathy and Mark

After we said goodbye to Mark and Cathy, we hightailed it over to Bennington to have lunch with Mary Anderson and her daughter, Erica, who is visiting from Capetown. Mary had surgery last week and is doing well. After lunch we walked through the beautiful cemetery in Old Bennington, where Robert Frost is buried, and other Vermont notables. It was a beautiful day, and a very lovely cemetery, with hundreds of very old headstones with cherubs and willow decorations, in very good condition. Very nice! 

     The cemetery in Old Bennington

      A typical 18th c. cherub decoration

        Robert Frost family gravestone
                  Erica and Mary

After the cemetery, we made a quick visit to the Bennington Museum, which Ellen had never seen. It is famous for its Grandma Moses collection, but you can't photograph anything there. But there was a special exhibit of the artist Milton Avery (d. 1965), and his years in Vermont.
There are also permanent exhibits of Bennington Pottery ceramics and life in Bennington in the "gilded age." 

          Milton Avery's The Picnic

        Bennington Pottery water jug

Imagine riding in this Milton-Wasp touring car!

When we stepped out of the museum we were treated to this scene which was like a painting: