I love our church. We have an awesome priest, a fantastic music director, a diverse congregation, and a choir of wonderful people who are managing to hang together as a choir despite having been unable to meet in person for over a year. Most amazing is that our form of worship feeds my heart and soul as none other has ever done. And the church is less than 10 minutes away from our house.
But—there's always a "but," right?—this past Sunday I had the best church experience I've had in months. We had to be in another part of town in the afternoon, so on the way we paid a visit to our previous church, one that has remained dear to our hearts even though circumstances had forced us to move on.
There I was reminded that when it comes to worship and music, I really am a high-church Anglican at heart. There are few churches in our area that have that form of worship service, and ours is a prime example, though greatly hampered by pandemic restrictions, especially those that minimize singing. The more low-church service we attended last Sunday made that clear to me. (And that wasn't even the church's "contemporary" service!) But—yes, another "but"—we were overwhelmed by the friendliness of the church, the welcome of old friends, the particular style of the music director (an unbelievably talented person and dear friend), the priest's pastoral heart, and the fact that here is a church that has managed to keep its people safe without unduly sacrificing the gathering-together and the physical touch that is so vital to that which makes us human. Unlike many churches, they have thrived during the pandemic, and it's not hard to guess why.
Hugs! They give hugs! (Though only to those who want them.)
I was unbelievably, quietly, happy all day. There were other reasons for that, but the church experience was a big part of it. It was a huge boost to my somewhat shaky mental health. I am a hard-core introvert who loves to be home, requires times of solitude to function, and has so many projects going on that boredom is very nearly not in my vocabulary. I have a husband who is very good at giving hugs! Plus, I'm not really a touchy-feely kind of person. It kind of creeps me out when people stand too close or touch me when conversing—and that was before COVID-19 entered the picture. If I am feeling significant distress because of the pandemic restrictions, what must it be like for others with greater needs, and for those who live alone?
I'm including here a video of the service. It is no mark of disrespect to our own church that I don't post our services, which are also livestreamed. I'd love to, but valiant as are the efforts of our people, we're not there yet in quality, especially for the audio.
Note to our children, who are the main reason the video is posted here: You will not have time to watch the whole service, but you will definitely want to check out the prelude (about 4:07-11:33) and the offertory (about 50:33-52:20). (The tambourine player in the offertory is, alas, not me.) If you can listen to this without tearing up, you'll be doing better than I did.
Christ is risen!
I write this before heading out to church to worship, sing, and play with our hand chime choir. The sad news is the expected: Far fewer Holy Week services than usual, severely restricted congregational size for Easter, masks and unsocial distancing required, singing much reduced, and no choir on what is usually the most glorious day of the year. The good news: At least we're having services; last year at this time we were completely shut down. And if we have no choir, at least we will have guest musicians and our little hand chime choir ringing our hearts out. Plus many other choir members singing joyfully from the congregation, which may, perhaps, encourage more congregational singing than otherwise.
I am not unaware of the phenomenon that if you take away people's freedom for long enough, you can make them thank you when you allow them to have a small measure of it back, and that we are very much in that situation. Even so, it is far better to be grateful than not, though I'll reserve my gratitude for God, not the government and not the bishop (who has imposed stricter restrictions than the state).
After the service, I'll be scurrying around our kitchen, getting ready for our dinner guest. This is the same friend who joined us for Thanksgiving, only this time we will not "socially distance" our table. All three of us are well into our vaccination grace periods and intend to take advantage of it when we can reasonably do so, no matter what the more overly-cautious authorities may recommend. We're not going to be stupid about it—we have important events coming up and there are more germs than COVID out there that can bring one down. But "too much" does more harm than "enough."
We tend to be traditionally untraditional. I grew up having ham for Easter dinner, and loved it. However, Porter doesn't care much for ham, and in any case, a normal Holy Week and Easter leave me far too exhausted to think about cooking a meal, much less having guests. Recently, someone from the choir (we miss you, Peggy!) would organize a restaurant brunch. Needless to say, that's not happening this year. But with our severely restricted schedule, I'm willing to cook. But it won't look like Easter. For Thanksgiving we did not have turkey, rather a pork roast. The turkey in the freezer was reserved for a December "Thanksgiving" with family (about which, I realize, I have yet to write). The family get-together happened, but we were too busy with other things to make the belated Thanksgiving part of it. So guess what was still in the freezer and will make our Easter feast, complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce?
UPDATE: Today's dinner, with the table together.
On a different note, meet St. Margaret of Scotland (click to enlarge).
Saint Margaret is my 28th great-grandmother (Porter's 26th), and I've written about her before. This "Tiny Saint" was a Good Friday gift from a very thoughtful friend whom I met in person for the first time at our church service. She is actually our cousin, albeit a tad distant: we all have Saint Margaret of Scotland as a common ancestor. The "Tiny Saint" was officially blessed by a priest, and now has pride-of-place in my office, watching above my computer and under photos of our grandchildren.
Our children, who each have what is considered today to be an unusually large number of offspring, may be glad to know that, according to the write-up on the back, their 27th great-grandmother is considered a patron saint of large families. She herself had eight children.
May you all have a very happy and blessed Easter!
Yesterday I had a tooth extracted. I was sent home with a bewildering list of do's and don'ts, but the one I remember best is this:
Go home. Eat ice cream. Watch movies.
Compliance has not been an issue.
It's time for my annual compilation of books read during the past year.
- Total books: 86
- Fiction: 58
- Non-fiction: 28
- Month with most books: February (15)
- Month with fewest books: December (2; not surprising, with the Stücklins visiting for a very active month)
- Most frequent authors: Arthur Ransome (14), C. S. Lewis (11), S. D. Smith (11), Tony Hillerman (10). Ransome scored so high because of my habit of periodically re-reading good books—it was his turn. This year concluded my C. S. Lewis retrospective. Smith came out with two new books this year and I like to re-read the series before indulging in the latest. Hillerman is a prolific author whose prominence was the result of my introduction to his work via a Christmas gift from last year.
Here's the alphabetical list; links are to reviews. The different colors only reflect whether or not you've followed a hyperlink. This chronological list has ratings and warnings as well.
- The Alto Wore Tweed by Mark Schweizer
- The Archer's Cup by S. D. Smith
- The Art of Construction by Mario Salvadori
- The Bible (Revised Standard Version)
- The Big Six by Arthur Ransome
- The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly
- The Black Star of Kingston by S. D. Smith
- The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman
- The Books of the Apocrypha (Revised Standard Version)
- Brother Cadfael's Penance (Brother Cadfael #20) by Ellis Peters
- C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide by Walter Hooper
- The Child's Book of the Seasons by Arthur Ransome
- Christian Reflections by C. S. Lewis
- Coot Club by Arthur Ransome
- Coots in the North and Other Stories by Arthur Ransome
- Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman
- Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
- The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature by C. S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper
- Ember Falls by S. D. Smith
- Ember Rising by S. D. Smith (March)
- Ember Rising by S. D. Smith (November)
- Ember's End by S. D. Smith (March)
- Ember's End by S. D. Smith (November)
- An Experiment in Criticism by C. S. Lewis
- The Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman
- The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman
- The First Fowler by S. D. Smith
- The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
- The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
- G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis: The Riddle of Joy by edited by Michael H. Macdonald and Andrew A. Tadie
- Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley
- God in the Dock by C. S. Lewis
- Great Northern? by Arthur Ransome
- The Green Ember by S. D. Smith
- A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
- The Heretic's Apprentice (Brother Cadfael #16) by Ellis Peters
- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Holy Thief (Brother Cadfael #19) by Ellis Peters
- Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
- Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
- Killing Reagan by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
- The Last Archer by S. D. Smith
- Lead Yourself First by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin
- Legion by Brandon Sanderson
- Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson
- Letters to an American Lady by C. S. Lewis, edited by Clyde S. Kilby
- Letters to Children by C. S. Lewis
- Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C. S. Lewis
- Lies of the Beholder by Brandon Sanderson
- Listening Woman by Tony Hillerman
- Lord Darcy Investigates by Randall Garrett
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Lost Family by Libby Copeland
- Matthew Wolfe: The Making of Matthew Wolfe by Blair Bancroft
- Missee Lee by Arthur Ransome
- Murder and Magic by Randall Garrett
- The New Testament (English Standard Version)
- Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel by George Orwell
- Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories by C. S. Lewis
- The Omega Document by J. Alexander McKenzie
- Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome
- The Picts and the Martyrs by Arthur Ransome
- Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransome
- The Potter's Field (Brother Cadfael #17) by Ellis Peters
- The Psalter by Coverdale translation
- The Quotable Lewis edited by Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root
- Secret Water by Arthur Ransome
- The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman
- The Sinister Pig by Tony Hillerman
- Skinwalkers by Tony Hillerman
- Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein
- Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
- The Summer of the Danes (Brother Cadfael #18) by Ellis Peters
- Surprised Laughter: The Comic World of C. S. Lewis by Terry Lindvall
- Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome
- Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
- Talking God by Tony Hillerman
- A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman
- Too Many Magicians by Randall Garrett
- We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome
- Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome
- The World's Last Night and other Essays by C. S. Lewis
- The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner by S. D. Smith
- Your Blue Flame: Drop the Guilt and Do What Makes You Come Alive by Jennifer Fulwiler
My father was an engineer with the General Electric Company. He worked in several places, including Erie, Pennsylvania and Lynn, Massachusetts, and maybe some others I don't know because that was before I was born. Later in life he worked at Valley Forge and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. But for most of my childhood he was at company headquarters in Schenectady, New York. He had a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, and a master's in physics, and I almost never knew what he did in his job. The genealogist in me regrets that I was so incurious, but he couldn't have told me anyway, as much of his work was classified. Once, many years later, when were visiting the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia (where in retirement he worked as a docent), he pointed to a photo in an exhibit on military airplanes and casually said, "That was one of my projects."
Dad didn't spend a lot of time on the road, but he did have "business trips" that took him around the country. Again, I never knew what for—nor, as a child, was I aware of much besides the souvenirs he'd bring back with him. It's hard to believe that he used to fly in prop planes, though I do remember him expressing his regret that the Schenectady Airport consigned itself to being a backwater of the Albany Airport when it chose not to make the runways long enough to accommodate jets.
By 1960, however, he was enjoying jet travel between here and California. And I mean enjoying. General Electric was not the kind of company to send engineers First Class, or even Business Class if they had had it back then. But in those golden days of flying, Coach was a little different. Here's what he wrote in his diary about one particular trip.
September 25, 1960
This morning I caught Eastern Airlines' 8:40 a.m. flight along with Renato Bobone from Albany to New York City and thence by Trans World Airlines' Boeing 707 jet to Los Angeles and a week in that city. The flight, as is often the case in a jet, was rather uneventful. We left New York at 11 a.m. with overcast weather and it was not long after we were on our way that dinner began. It was interesting to note than TWA left a copy of Newsweek and Life on the table between each pair of seats for passengers’ reading. A good idea.
Dinner started off with the usual two drinks. Then a crabmeat cocktail with two glasses of white wine followed by dinner with two glasses of red wine or champagne.
Dinner was roast beef that I had trouble identifying. I think it was roast tenderloin. Anyway it was very good. For dessert I ignored the calorific foods and had a bunch of grapes. And coffee.
Not too long after this repast, we began flying over the mountains and I sat in the lounge to get some pictures. I may have some fair ones. The flight took us over the southern edge of the Grand Canyon, but haze may have prevented my pictures from being their best. The desert was very interesting to watch. It looks desolate, yet must contain much life. I would like to be able to see it first hand and leisurely sometime.
We landed in Los Angeles about 12:20 Pacific Standard Time and we checked into the Hyatt House. We rested a bit and then Renato and I took advantage of the Hyatt House swimming pool and the sunny day. I also spent some time staring at the TV at the San Francisco - New York professional football game. The Giants won 21-19.
(I confess my near-total ignorance of professional sports when I reveal that I laughed when I read that last line, since I assumed a San Francisco vs. New York game meant that somehow the Giants were playing the Giants.)
That really was the golden age of coach-class flying, with jet-speed travel, lots of room, and sumptious meals. Not to mention at least six free drinks. Plus, if his times were correct, I make the flight time from New York to Los Angeles at four and a half hours, at least an hour quicker than is standard today.
And yet it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops. Here's what he wrote about the return flight.
I got on the plane about 10:00 and by after 10:30 the plane had not left. Someone reported they were waiting for someone on a connecting flight, but the hostess said she didn't believe that was the real reason. Eventually the agent came aboard and announced over the public address system, "All passengers please deplane immediately. We have a bomb scare." We all left right away with no excitement or panic. We were locked in the waiting room while they removed the baggage and searched the plane. They served jus coffee and pastry while we waited.
Eventually we were all interviewed by the FBI—the interview consisting of questions as to name, address, reason for trip, were we involved in a court action, had we reeived threats, might someone be playing a practical joke un us? Then we identified our luggage, stood by while it was searched, and thence back to the plane. We took off three hourse late. The flight back was really uneventful, although as usual I got only about 2 hours' sleep.
We came to New York to find rather couldy skies and a moderate delay before we could land. Since I had an 11 a.m. flight out of La Guardia [having landed at Idlewild], I was not anxious to see much in the way of delays. We finally got off the plane at 10:15 but I did not get my bag until 10:30. The cab driver said it was a 20 minute trip to La Guardia and he made it in 20 minutes. I dashed to the Eastern Airlines counter and thence to the gate to find them just about to pull the stairs away from the plane. I got aboard—but I was the last one to make it.
One of my favorite places to be is sitting lengthwise on our back porch swing, looking out towards the yard. My favorite time to be there is more or less from four to six in the morning: then I find the solitude that is so vital to our mental health and so lacking in modern society. And yet I am certainly not alone. The frogs and insects are invisible to me, but they are omnipresent and loud. Barred owls stop by to say a word on their way from and to who knows where. The armadillo waddles his way slowly home from his nightly wanderings—though the one time I saw him chasing a female armadillo he moved at a speed I could hardly believe of him. As dawn approaches, many birds awaken and supplement the chorus.
Once I've identified the fauna, I try not to disturb them; I know the armadillo's sound, and he dislikes my flashlight, so I am content to listen. But the other day curiosity drove me to investigate a new noise.
It sounded a bit like branches and acorns falling on the porch roof, a not uncommon sound this time of year. Yet it was more localized, and not really the same. So I got off the swing, picked up the light, and found ... raccoons.
There were four of them, I learned, though I only saw two at first. Not babies, but clearly youngsters. They were small, and playing with the gay and fearless abandon of the young. Unlike the armadillos, they loved my light, climbing off the roof and onto the screen of the pool enclosure to follow it. One of them insisted on sitting exactly above me, giving me an unprecedented view of a raccoon's underside. When I took the light off the screen, they lost interest, and went back to playing on the roof.
Then they sought further adventure, and nimbly climbed down the ladder we had left leaning against the wall. I followed them with the light, and once again entranced the most adventuresome fellow. He headed right towards me, and I think that if there hadn't been a screen between us he would have come up to sniff my feet. If I moved a little, he would draw back, but as soon as I stopped he would approach again.
I returned to my swing, but eventually they all climbed back over the roof and down on the other side, near the swing. I could see three of them wrestling with each other, as young boys do. The fourth, which was smaller and—dare I stereotype?—probably female, mostly eschewed the acrobatics in favor of exploring in the bromeliads and finding an occasional snack. All four played there for a long time, frequently passing through a convenient hole in the fence between our yard and that of our neighbors, whither they eventually departed.
A few days later, at around the same time of day, I heard them crawl back through the same hole. To my eyes they were noticeably bigger, but they were only three. The smallest raccoon was missing—I hope it was because the gap between her interests and those of her brothers had grown, and not because she had met an untimely end, though as Ernest Thompson Seton famously said, "the life of a wild animal always has a tragic end."
The three did not play as much as before, but seemed to have exploration and a destination in mind instead. However, they allowed themselves to be again distracted by my light, and two were even bolder than before, running right up to me, and stretching against the screen to get as close as they could. We were just a few inches apart, and only if I moved suddenly would they temporarily retreat.
Unsuccessful at getting closer, they eventually resumed their journey, which led off somewhere in the back of our yard, where they disappeared into the undergrowth of and bromeliads and ferns.
Well, look at that. Columbus Day actually falls on Columbus Day this year.
I never did like the Monday Holiday Bill, as we still call it. But sometimes you get to choose your battles, and this one is not mine. Still, that doesn't stop me from being extra happy when the traditional holiday happens to fall on a Monday, and I can pretend there's still some historical connection between the event and the celebration. ("In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue," landing in the Americas on October 12, by the old calendar.) So,
Happy Columbus Day!
Some of you, I know, do not celebrate Columbus Day. If so, just pretend that I wished you Happy Hanukkah and you're not Jewish, or Eid Mubarak and you're not Muslim, or Seasons Greetings and you're celebrating something much more particular than "the Season." Take my happy wishes if you want them, ignore them if you don't.
Disassociating oneself from the historic meaning of a holiday is not unusual, nor surprising, especially now that so many have been made Monday holidays for the express purpose of encouraging people to think not about the significance of the event but about vacation time. But the peculiarity of America is our eagerness to leave behind even the name of a holiday, lest it bring to mind the event that inspired it. The Japanese don't have that problem: The population is only about one percent Christian, but regardless of their beliefs they happily sing Christmas carols about the birth of Jesus, and like to celebrate weddings in churches. Europe was determinedly secular long before America, yet we are the ones who take down public crèche displays and hesitate to wish our neighbors "Merry Christmas." Europeans are delighted to honor Christian holidays, from Easter to the Assumption of Mary, by closing businesses and taking the day off from work. They may have no idea what Pentecost is all about, but who cares? A party is a party. Maybe, too, it comes from the European sense of history and heritage, which America, being younger and more diverse, seems to lack—to our detriment, I think.
Have yourselves a merry little Columbus Day, unless of course you'd rather not.
Even during COVID-tide our church celebrates the Feast of St. Francis with the annual Blessing of the Animals. We attended virtually, as it was again held in the sanctuary instead of outside, and last year all that fur and dander was Not Good. It was fun to see the pets from a distance, however.
Even more fun was what you'll hear if you go to this YouTube video of the service, which should be set to begin at 21:38. (Sorry I can't embed it here.) Soon you will hear what the priest spoke at the point of the service where he usually tells the congregation, "You may be seated."
This was also the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, but I know Father Trey well enough to be certain he was not speaking to them.
Yes, I am thankful for the rain. I love the thunderstorms with their deluges, normal for this time of year. And I'm grateful for the long, soaking rains of the kind we usually only get when there's a tropical storm off the coast but which have been nearly continuous all summer. The Floridan aquifer really needs the boost.
Nonetheless, I've decided I don't want to live in the Pacific Northwest.
My father's grandfather moved his family from Baraboo, Wisconsin to Sumner, Washington in the early 1890's. Sumner is just outside of Seattle, where it rains on average 152 days a year. So you'd think rain was in our blood. However, my father himself grew up in Pullman, Washington, where his father taught mechanical engineering at what was then Washington State College. Pullman is in the desert side of the state.
We have had so many days of rain this summer that I'm expecting to break out in mushrooms any day now. At the very least a severe case of mildew. After I've been outside for a while, I want someone to pick me up and wring me out like a piece of laundry. With six active tropical storms on our horizon, I don't expect things to dry out anytime soon.
I'm indeed grateful for the rain—and for the roof over our heads and the air conditioner that together provide a refuge that is both cool and dry.
In October 2018 I began another adventure in reading—as close to consecutively as was reasonable—all the works we own by or about a particular author. Previous authors have included the highbrow, the lowbrow, and the in-between: William Shakespeare (plays only, read or viewed), George MacDonald, J. R. R. Tolkien, Miss Read (Dora Jesse Saint), and all the Rick Brant Science-Adventure series of John Blaine (Harold L. Goodwin). This time I tackled C. S. Lewis, the number of whose books on our shelves is exceeded only by George MacDonald's. I concluded the project 21 months later, in July 2020. Needless to say there were a lot of non-Lewis books interspersed with these. Even C. S. Lewis is none the worse for a break.
Here's the whole list, in the order in which I completed them. The links are to my own posts about the books.
Ratings Guide: 0 to 5 ★s reflects how much I liked it (worst to best); 0 to 3 ☢s represents a content advisory (mildest to strongest). I make no claim to consistency, as I couldn't keep the ratings from being affected by both my mood at the time of reading and what I had read before.
- C. S. Lewis: Images of His World, by James Riordan and Pauline Baynes ★★★
- C. S. Lewis: A Biography ★★★
- Spirits in Bondage ★★
- The Pilgrim's Regress ★★★
- Space Trilogy 1: Out of the Silent Planet ★★★★★
- The Problem of Pain ★★★★★
- The Dark Tower and Other Stories, edited by Walter Hooper ★★ ☢
- Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis, by Michael Ward ★★★★★
- Poems ★★★★
- Preface to Paradise Lost ★★★
- The Screwtape Letters ★★★★★
- Space Trilogy 2: Perelandra ★★★★★
- The Abolition of Man ★★★★★
- The Weight of Glory ★★★★★
- Space Trilogy 3: That Hideous Strength ★★★★
- The Great Divorce ★★★★★
- Miracles ★★★★★
- Mere Christianity ★★★★★
- On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature ★★★★★
- Past Watchful Dragons, by Walter Hooper ★★★
- C. S. Lewis on Scripture, by Michael J. Christensen ★★★
- A Book of Narnians: The Lion, the Witch, and the Others, by James Riordan and Pauline Baynes ★★★
- The Chronicles of Narnia 1: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe ★★★★★
- The Chronicles of Narnia 2: Prince Caspian ★★★★★
- The Chronicles of Narnia 3: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader ★★★★★
- The Chronicles of Narnia 4: The Silver Chair ★★★★★
- The Chronicles of Narnia 5: The Horse and His Boy ★★★★★
- The Chronicles of Narnia 6: The Magician's Nephew ★★★★★
- The Chronicles of Narnia 7: The Last Battle ★★★★★
- Smoke on the Mountain, by Joy Davidman (not by or about Lewis, but it seemed appropriate, as she was his wife) ★★★
- Surprised by Joy ★★★★
- Till We Have Faces ★★★★
- The Business of Heaven, edited by Walter Hooper ★★★
- Reflections on the Psalms ★★★★★
- Studies in Words ★★★★★
- The Four Loves ★★★★
- The World's Last Night ★★★★★
- A Grief Observed ★★★★
- An Experiment in Criticism ★★★
- Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer ★★★★
- Letters to Children ★★★★
- C. S. Lewis: A Companion & Guide, by Walter Hooper ★★★★
- The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (by Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper) ★★★★
- Christian Reflections ★★★★
- Letters to an American Lady ★★★
- Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories ★★★
- God in the Dock ★★★★★
- Surprised By Laughter: The Comic World of C. S. Lewis, by Terry Lindvall ★★
- G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis: The Riddle of Joy, edited by Michael H. Macdonald and Andrew A. Tadie ★★★
- The Quotable Lewis, edited by Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root ★★★★
Was this adventure worthwhile? Absolutely. Once again I found it interesting to follow an author's development over time. My reading left me with a strong desire to see what he would have written about our own times—if he could have survived the shock of seeing the fruit, 60+ years later, of the negative social trends that disturbed him in their beginnings.
A few of Lewis's writings are hindered by some of the examples he uses, which were aimed at a British audience of a long time ago, but that happens surprisingly rarely. Timeless truths about the human condition never get out of date.
During my lockdown-inspired nesting phase, I tacked the master bedroom closet first, and was thrilled to find two flags from my long-ago childhood. I calculate that they had survived at least six moves over four states: safe, albeit neglected, rolled up in a cardboard tube.
Many people have found this restricted time to be inspirational, and I am one of them. Finally, finally, my long-forsaken flags have been cleaned, mounted, and proudly displayed on our wall.
It turned out to be quite a project, especially trying to complete it with limited resources: this was during the severest phase of the lockdown, and I couldn't follow my usual practice of browsing frames at Jo-Ann's and Michael's until I found a size that inspired me. I did my browsing online instead, which was much less satisfactory. Nothing seemed right—certainly nothing that I could get handily.
I scoured the house for unused frames. I even considered temporarily cannibalizing a picture that had not yet found a home on our walls. But nothing was right.
So I reluctantly set aside the project and moved on. That was when I found, well-hidden in an obscure corner of our daughter's room, an unused poster frame. (Janet, if you were saving it for something, I owe you a frame.) It would be perfect, I thought, if only I had a 50-star flag to complete the set.
It was no easier to find the right flag than the right frame. They were either too big, too small, or too expensive. Finally, I looked away from all the flag stores and found one of the right size at Target. And it certainly wasn't too expensive: the price was $1.00. I placed my order.
Because of the pandemic-imposed restrictions, when Porter picked it up for me, he was unable to browse for the best quality—assuming there was one of better quality—but took what was handed to him. Somebody did a lousy job of print alignment. No matter; it does the job. Someday I may replace it with a better. Or not.
I'm proud to be one of the dwindling generation that has lived under three different American flags. Four, if you count the Bennington flag that was popular to fly during the Bicentenniel celebration of 1976.
Happy Flag Day to you all!
This year my children and my husband got together for an entirely different kind of Mother's Day treat: a selection of Jeni's Ice Cream delivered in dry ice to our door.
My favorite Connecticut ice cream store, Grass Roots, had an ad on Facebook that said, Your momma called: she wants Grassroots ice cream. I laughed in appreciation when I saw it, knowing that my sister-in-law might get something from Grass Roots for Mother's Day, but it was out of the question for me.
And then this happened. It wasn't Grass Roots, but it was delicious and had the Grass Roots approach to unusual flavors.
First, of course, we played with the dry ice. It's much more fun if you have grandchildren to share it with. And to no one's surprise, there's a lot less dry ice left when it's delivered to Florida than when it's delivered to New Hampshire. Still, we enjoyed the moment. Here's the short version.
Now for the ice cream itself, in order of our trials. Boy, was that the wrong word. It was hardly a trial to enjoy these treats!
Blackout Chocolate Cake A chocolate ice cream quadruple threat with cake, extra-bitter fudge and chocolate pieces. Fantastic. Rich, darkly chocolate. Better than Publix's Chocolate Trinity? I don't know. Give me a large bowl of each side by side and I'll see what I can figure out. It might take several experiments....
Brown Butter Almond Brittle Brown butter almond candy crushed into buttercream ice cream. Is is possible that there could be something better than chocolate? I found this only moderately promising from the description, but oh, my what a flavor! A little almond, a little caramel, a little reminiscent of the wonderful milk ice cream we ate in Japan. It's subtle, but may even be my favorite of the Jeni's flavors, since Publix does so well in the chocolate department.
Skillet Cinnamon Roll Dark caramel, cream cheese, pastry, and cinnamon (lots of it). Not in the same league as the first two, but definitely good. If I liked cream cheese frosting more than I do, it might be great. I'd happily eat it again.
Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns (Dairy-Free) Rich coconut cream loaded with sticky bun dough, dark caramel, and roasted pecans. Fortunately, Porter liked this. It was far from his favorite, but he certainly made sure it wasn't wasted. I'm glad I tried it, but in a word, no. First, the "dairy-free" label is a big warning sign, and makes me think fake from the beginning, with overtones of margarine, artificial sweeteners, and decaffeinated tea. Then there's the c-word: coconut. I enjoy coconut in savory Indonesian dishes, and that's about it. Not at all in anything sweet. Pecans are another thing I like only in certain contexts (like salads) but desserts is not one of them. Sticky bun dough and caramel? Now those are winners, but frankly the overwhelming flavor was coconut—which is why Porter liked it and I didn't.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake Sweet-tart pineapple with golden cake, red cherries, and a caramel swirl. This is what I opened when I turned the coconut-flavored ice cream over to Porter. It seemed fair: he doesn't care much for pineapple; I do. This one was smooth and delicious, but the other tastes were overwhelmed by the pineapple.
Lemon & Blueberry Parfait Tart and uber creamy lemon with from-scratch blueberry jam in fresh cultured buttermilk and cream. Delicious, and the lemon makes it very refreshing. I love lemon, and this has an excellent flavor, but it does overwhelm the blueberry.
Sweet Cream Biscuits & Peach Jam Buttermilk ice cream, crumbled biscuits, and swirls of jam made with Georgia peaches from "The Peach Truck." Very yummy. The biscuits are noticeable by both taste and texture, just about the right amount in each case. The peach flavor is excellent.
Salty Caramel Fire-toasted sugar with sea salt, vanilla, and gress-grazed milk. A perfect balance of salty and sweet. This also was delicious, though I'll admit it was even better when paired with some Chocolate Trinity. I love the combination of chocolate and caramel.
Brambleberry Crisp Oven-toasted oat streusel with sweet-tart bramble berry jam of blackberries and blackcurrants layered throughout vanilla ice cream. I'm running out of things to say other than "delicious." But that it was. The vanilla is a better foil for the berries than lemon was for the blueberries. The oat streusel is reminiscent of a good-quality granola or an oatmeal cookie.
If I were to be blessed with such a gift on another occasion, what would I want to repeat? Any of them except the dairy-free variety would be welcomed, but Number 1 on my list would clearly be the Brown Butter Almond Brittle. It was the biggest surprise of all the flavors, and the most memorable. If there's an equivalent elsewhere I haven't found it.
I went over to the Jeni's website to check out some of the other flavors they offer. I'd definitely want to try their Gooey Butter Cake, in honor of our most pleasant visit to my nephew when he lived in St. Louis. Maybe Churro, or Cream Puff, or Boston Cream Pie, or Pistachio & Honey. Texas Sheet Cake and Dark Chocolate Truffle sound good, but both are dairy-free so I would steer clear of them. Porter would love Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, but I don't think I'd offer to help him finish that pint.
Brown Butter Almond Brittle aside, the best part of Jeni's is the variety and the opportunity to taste unusual flavors. I'm really thinking Grass Roots should get into the delivery business. :) Or maybe not; to do that they might have to grow too much and lose their small, local-business cachet. But it's a thought.
Staying home is generally not a problem for me. I have 'way too much on my plate to be bored, and in fact appreciate the extra time. (I just wish I were in better shape to take advantage of it, but introverts are not immune to the mental shock of these sudden changes and restrictions. I'm making progress, but not the way I think I ought to be able.)
I miss church a lot, especially singing in the choir. And the comfortable routine of eating lunch with friends after the service. But as I said, there's so much to do at home the days are still flying past.
Nonetheless, going out these days feels like coming up for air.
Porter's printer ran out of ink, and the best and most timely deal was to pick it up from Staples. So he ordered and paid for it online—after adding some banker's boxes to help with my home projects.
In the meantime, remembering that our Gordon Food Service store was between home and Staples, I signed up with them and was also able to place and pay for online an order for pickup. GFS is our favorite source for large bags of frozen fruit—the only source I know of for frozen sour cherries.
When we arrived at each of the stores, we parked and let them know we had arrived. When they came out, we popped the trunk and they placed our items inside. GFS did hand us a receipt through the window, which Porter accepted with gloved hand and masked face; next time we'll just refuse it as we did at Staples.
Then home again, home again. The ink box was thrown away and the ink installed; the banker's boxes stored in the garage for a few days of disinfection, and the fruit bags duly washed.
Whenever I feel annoyed at having to treat groceries as if they were deadly, I remember my father's sister. With her husband and three young children she managed their household for two years in Ethiopia, back in the 1960's. Their produce came from fields where human manure was used as fertilizer, and everything had to be washed with a bleach solution to prevent diseases much worse than COVID-19. Perspective is good.
Well, that was fun. Now it's time to hole up again and see what progress I can make. Hang in there, my friends!
Perhaps my favorite service of the church year is the Easter Vigil, usually held on Saturday night. Here's my description of our service from 2015:
For us, Easter started last night with an Easter Vigil service that was over two hours long, but wonderful. Lighting of the New Fire, procession, candles, singing, and a large number of baptisms (adult and child), confirmations, and first communions. The latter is why it was so long, but who would want fewer? I love that our church has a means of doing infant baptism by immersion (parents' choice). I also love that moment when the lights come on and we shout the first Alleluia of Easter—alleluias are banished from the service during Lent—with the whole congregation sounding bells and other happy noisemakers. (There were a few unhappy noisemakers as well, as it was a long and late night for the above-mentioned children.) I brought my tambourine, and Porter the ship's bell that Dad had given us so long ago. The latter makes quite an impressive sound.
Naturally, things were different this year. But as someone said, if the churches are empty, at least the grave is also! Our church will have our online Easter service later this morning, but I couldn't resist a private snippet of the Easter Vigil.
In a phrase taken from C. S. Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms,
"Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen!"
Except there are no chocolate eggs for us, as our Easter candy purchases were interrupted by the news that our Swiss grandchildren had been shut out from our Easter celebrations. We will, however, be eating their jelly beans.
Happy Easter, everyone!