Monday, November 27, 2017


On Friday, after a couple of weeks of coughing, I finally went to my doctor and he listened to my chest and said I have some congestion in my lower right lung. He said he wouldn't exactly say I have pneumonia but nevertheless prescribed a 5-day course of azithramycin. I took 2 on Friday and then one each day since. I feel better, but still am coughing stuff up. One more tomorrow. I went to Thanksgiving things Friday and Saturday, but Sunday I decided to take to bed and stay warm and quiet, so we stayed home from church - very rare. Unbeknownst to me, the Guilford church had decided to honor me and my 60 years of ministry Sunday, including a cake and a song written for the occasion. So I missed my own party!   : (

It was fortunate, I guess, that I didn't know, because I might have imprudently tried to go. Today I rescheduled a dermatology appointment. I'll have to see how I feel tomorrow for River Singers rehearsal. Sigh! 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Prayer for Thanksgiving

Here is a prayer that Shirley gave many years ago at the Guilford  Community Church on Thanksgiving Sunday. We read it Thursday before our meal. It is very typical of Shirley's very down-to-earth prayers:

A Prayer for Thanksgiving

O God, I sometimes think I don't know what to thank you for. Sometimes I don't even think I have anything to thank you for. Should I thank you that I am overfed while others starve? Or I am safe while others are in trouble? Should I thank you because I have enough money to spend and others have so little? Lord, sometimes I'm embarrassed when I thank you. And Lord, what shall I ask you for? Yes, Lord, I can ask you for some things: peace on earth, the end to ignorance, poverty, hunger and disease. It's hard to even know sometimes what to ask you for that isn't an empty platitude, a set of mere words. And I ask you, “can I ask you for anything?” Yes, Lord, help me to pray. Help me to ask for the capacity to be silent so I can hear and see others, the capacity to empathize with the suffering of others, not to become dull to the feelings of others. Help me to give thanks for the gift of saying "we," for having friends and family and people who care. Help me to give thanks for the courage of people who sustain life in places and times that take our breath away. Help us to give thanks for poetry and beauty, which make life more incredible than any definition we have of it. Help us to give thanks for the sense of wonder and infinite caring and love without which we would all die. Lord, help us to give thanks for the gift of being able to give thanks.
Be with us in our homes on Thanksgiving Day. Be with those of us who are going to be alone that day -- it's a lonely day for those alone. Help them to know that you are with them. And those of us who are surrounded by family, let us not make it so frantic and hectic that we can't take time to feel how good it is to be together. Almighty God, be in our thanksgiving.
            -- Shirley Harris Crockett

The Book of Prayers from which this prayer is taken, with a drawing of Shirley

A nun in the family!

Last Sunday afternoon we went to a performance of Nunsense II, a musical comedy. Savanna had the role of nun in the chorus. She seemed to "take to the habit" very naturally. The lead, who played the role of the Mother Superior, had been the principal of Brendon's school in Shutesbury for years, so she was well-known to K&S. The musical was very silly, but fun.

    Savanna being led off by a student in the school the nuns run.

          The finale of the show

Friday night after Thanksgiving, Ellen & I sang with River Singers at a "pre-concert" concert held on Gallery Walk night in Brattleboro in the atrium of the Brooks House Hotel. It's a great place to sing for the sound. 

Katie had a great visit over Thanksgiving and this afternoon we saw her and Gertie off on the train to NYC. 


And Gertie in her traveling kennel:

We all went to a wonderful puppet show at Sandglass Theater Friday night - Eric Bass in his final performance of Autumn Portraits - after 36 years of annual performances. Masterful puppetry and very poignant. Here are some photos of Autumn Portraits from the Sandglass website.The puppets are extraordinary.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

The table is set .....

         ... The pies are baked ...

       .. and now the people are here...

     .... and Gertie too ...

Hope YOU had a lovely Thanksgiving! 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A "Getting Rid of Stuff" Case Study

There are lots of categories of "things" I'm disposing of, and one is LP records, or vinyl. My turntable died some time ago, and my amplifier has a short in it, so I haven't played LP records for quite a while. And there will be no room for them in the new small house. I had two big boxes of LPs. Classical, Pipe organ, folk, jazz, etc. There are two stores locally that "buy" used LPs. The  first box I got rid of a while back - it was taken off my hands by the store owner for $12. Ok. That was the less "popular" box. Sort of an odd mix of stuff. By the time I got around to dealing with the second box, I had gotten into the process of cataloguing my library, and decided to do the same with the LPs. I photographed each record and listed it.  Maybe a 100 records in all. I took the list into the other store owner, and asked him to look it over and see if anything interested him. He did, and highlighted about 30 records. I pulled them out and brought them in to him, and he said he would check their condition, and I could come back later, which I did. He had selected maybe ten records, and said he would give me $25 for them. That was twice as much as I got for the first box, so I took it. The rest of the box went to our local thrift store, Experienced Goods, run by Hospice. A good cause.

But I noticed that the guy who bought the records seemed particularly interested in a one spoken record, a collection of the speeches by Malcolm X, titled Message to the Grass Roots:

That made me curious, and I did something I should have done earlier: I went online to see if anybody was offering this record for sale. I did indeed find one copy, one in mint condition - unsealed in fact (which mine is not). It was being offered for $105!!  That made me curious about the other three spoken records I had just gotten rid of. One of ee cummings reading his poetry, one the speeches of Adlai Stevenson, and one of speeches of John Kennedy. The latter two were modest - under $15. But cummings - wow! That very record (again in mint condition) was being offered for $145!!  Who knew?  I sure didn't.

I didn't want to take the time to research the value of all those records, and if  had,  I'm not sure I would have started with those. Knowing what I know now, I might have added them to items I have given to Savanna who offered to put some things up on eBay. I did give her one record that I consider to be very rare, and maybe valuable:

This record was given to me by Richard Dyer-Bennet's wife. I had actually met Dyer-Bennet, and probably his wife as well, decades ago when I stopped to help pull someone out of a snowbank in Dummerston one stormy night, and it turned out to be him! He was a friend of David Flaherty, brother of Robert Flaherty, famed "father of the documentary film" (Nanook of the North, etc.) who lived near me. A few years ago I wrote Mrs. Dyer-Bennet asking for some information about her husband (who was no longer living), and she sent me this record. It is a 2-record set of Dyer-Bennet singing his English translation of Schubert's Die Schone Mullerin. It was never released commercially. It was created by "Dyer-Bennet records" - a home product. It does not exist in the on-line universe. So I thought maybe a Dyer-Bennet collector might be interested. We'll see. But what a fascinating world! Too bad I'm not that interested in it. I have a feeling that people who would buy an ee cummings record for  $145 may be more interested in an investment than they are in poetry. And paying $105 for a record of Malcolm X might not guarantee that they are supporters of "Black Lives Matter" !

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Mood swings

Given all the things we are going through right now, my emotions are all over the place. Chronic uncertainty about where we are going to live once we leave here (if we ever do!), and frustration with particular options, e. g., Putney Commons, can lead to discouragement and even moments of despair. But in the midst of that, I can have a period of delight, e. g., Wednesday, which was Ellen's birthday, she was away for the day, and I had the chance to create a birthday card for her based on our favorite puzzle, Spelling Bee, an idea that had come to me in the night. I had great fun doing that.

    Oops, this is upside down ... O well... You get the idea. Solving the puzzle provided the text of the card. 

We are coming into a really full time around Thanksgiving!

Meanwhile I'm disposing of library books and LP records. I got $25 for a stack of LPs yesterday at a local used LP store. And I've photographed and catalogued 225 books in the process of sorting them and disposing of them: E.g. -

         This is probably a keeper. 

Several boxes of one thing or another have gone out the door this week. Yay!

Monday, November 13, 2017

One Journey concert

Another lovely concert, this one on a smaller scale: a house concert in Katie & Savanna's living room. K&S have been members for years of a women's group called One Journey. It performs the music of Helen Fortier. At present, a four-member group. The music is very accessible, positive, encouraging in the face of social and political evils, and spiritually uplifting. A very nice concert.

          One Journey (S&K at left)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A wonderful concert

The By the People, for the People concert earlier this evening was a great success, I think. It was almost a full house; I 'm guessing 400 people, and they were enthusiastic. Those of us up on the stage felt good about it. The program was very diverse, drawing on a wide variety of musical traditions, which is typical of the Guilford church's music ministry. It was a very lively evening, which is remarkable in a way because several of the songs we sang had death as a theme, e.g., All is Well, and Your Lone Journey. But the audience loved it.

Earlier, between our afternoon rehearsal and the call time for the concert, six of us used the break to go the the home of Judith Kinley, a member of our church who is dying. Her family were all there and  she wanted to have sort of a "preview" of her own memorial service when she could be there to share it with them. We sang hymns she had chosen and one piece from the concert. It was a crazy thing to do, but we're glad we did, even though it meant going. "straight out" from 2:00 until 10p.m. An 8-hour marathon! 

And, of course, I didn't have my iPhone, so, no pix. Maybe tomorrow I can download something. But I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing ended up on YouTube.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Japanese tea ceremony

Last Monday, our Osher series on Japanese aesthetics had for its climax an "immersion" (so to speak)  in the tea ceremony. I knew little about it, and it is fascinating, with a very long history. We learned a lot about tea also. Did you know that all varieties of tea descend from camelia siensis? That there are basically three methods of producing tea leaves: withering, firing and bruising? That we don't really know where tea originated? China? India? Nepal? The Chinese believe the "Yellow Emperor" (4500 years ago) was the first tea drinker. Another legend has it that the Bodidharma (a 5th century Buddhist monk ) tried to stay awake during meditation and when he failed, he tore off his eyelids in desperation and threw them to the ground, whereupon the first tea plants emerged, thus providing the stimulant that would help monks stay awake during meditation.

The earliest Japanese tea "ceremonies" (8th C.) were weeks-long parties at which tea was drunk in excess. But some key figures introduced austerity, e.g., Murata Juko, Takeno Joo and especially Sen no Rikyu, who successively developed the chanoyu, the Japanese "way of tea," especially what is called the wabi-cha tradition. Tea moves into little tea huts, fewer, simpler implements ( bamboo), fewer people ("four mats" ). It becomes a highly prescripted, codified ceremony.

Seth Harter brought hot water, tea and cereamic cups for all. He appealed to the minimalist saying of Rikyu:  "Light the fire, boil the water, drink the tea." But there is also the motto of Rikyu: Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku:  "Harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility," which expresses more of the depth of meaning of the chanoyu tradition. 

            All things are ready !

             Serving the tea

We were interested to learn that at Mt. Holyoke College, there is a tea hut and garden. We could go there and have the full experience.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A quick visit to Lowell Lake

Sunday, we went to Londonderry, VT, to a meeting of the Windham -Union Association of UCC churches. We went with two members of our church , Patty Meyer, who is both our organist and church secretary, and Brian Remer, who is a cool guy who grew up near where I lived in Iowa. The meeting was a combination of worship, business (e.g ., electing officers), and a program on how churches can take advantage of social media ( most of that talk went over the head of this quasi-Ludite. I was glad the " young folks" were there - i. e., in their 50s).

On our way home, we drove past the entrance to Lowell Lake State Park, one of the best kept secrets in Vermont. I asked if they had heard of it. They hadn't. Would they like to take a few minutes to see it? "Sure!" So we did. I think they were enthralled. It is a mostly unspoiled lake, virtually no development. The park is also undeveloped. It encompasses an old camp with a score of cabins and a lodge where I have stayed many times. It is now suffering from decades of neglect. It is sad to see, but the lake is beautiful. 

       Brian contemplating the lake 

      Similarly, Patty and Ellen

               The old log lodge 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Tackling my library

Today, my "downsizing consultant," Sue Venman, came over and helped me start the arduous task weeding out my core library. I set up a system of numbering each book, photographing it with its number, listing it in a database, then sorting books into four piles: "Keep," "Old/Rare," "Brattleboro Books (BB) and "Experienced Goods (EG) and then boxing up the piles and noting in the database where the book ends up. Old /Rare books will be disposed of in a more careful way with the thought they might have value.  BB is a place that buys fairly nice books. So those are books in good condition. EG is the Hospice shop - like taking books to Goodwill. Not fussy. Today we put 175 books through that process. That took about 3 hours. It was faster with two, but I can't afford Sue for the whole job. I can do it alone, but it will be slow. But I can see it happening. Photographing the book is a great idea, I feel. I wish I had done that years ago when I started first disposing of books. It's like keeping your library and giving it away at the same time. My library is so personal. These books are friends going back decades in many instances.

We emptied the top four shelves today. Two shelves to go in this bookcase . Probably at least four or five hours there for me working alone. 

This is what lies ahead to do on the other side of my study. Many hours of work. 

Earlier last week : 

Last Saturday, we went to a Harvest dinner with friends at the Scott Farm orchard, a five - course meal featuring heirloom apples with each course. This is Eliza and Cliff Bergh. The first course was five kinds of apples and three kinds of cheese, bread, and freshly pressed cider. Our table was all friends, but we scarcely knew another soul in the room of 120 people. Evidently a social circle we don't move in .

Last Monday, Seth Harter, the lecturer on Japanese art at Osher, gave a fascinating talk on ceramics. We learned about the Mingei movement, Yanagi Soetsu and the influence of Korean pottery on Japanese ceramics, especially the Kizaemon-Ido tea bowl, among many other things.