I’ve Seen Both Sides Now

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all. – Joni Mitchell

When I was in my early 20s and living with my parents in Leadville, Colorado (VERY early 20s and not for very long, so don’t start snickering), I recall one morning I was watching early morning television, probably the Today Show. That was back in the day when the Today Show actually was only a couple of hours long and they really did feature some news. Barbara Walters hosted, as I recall.

Anyway, I didn’t normally sit around idly watching morning television as I did have that thing called a J-O-B. But I turned it on that morning because one of my favorite musicians/singers of the time was going to perform – Judy Collins. She had recently come out with her Judith album, and I loved her voice and the music on that particular album. I liked a lot of that kind of music in those days – James Taylor, Carole King, Jessie Colin Young, Carly Simon, Cat Stevens. Oddly, not Joni Mitchell, though Both Sides Now is one of the songs I frequently attempt to sing (particularly when I’m with my grandkids looking at clouds) and always fail. Lots of highs and lows, I’m afraid. Much like Joni Mitchell’s life. But I digress.

Anyway, on this particular morning, my grandmother was watching television with me. Grammie mostly kept her opinions to herself, but when she felt strongly about something, she didn’t hesitate to comment. Judy Collins was performing Send in the Clowns, a song I particularly liked from the album Judith. Grammie listened for a little bit. Finally, I heard her sigh heavily, and she said to me in her strongly accented Swiss dialect, “Ehhhhhh, Krisily, is dat moosik?”

At that moment, I believe Grammie felt she was getting too old for the world. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time she felt that way. Nor was it likely the last, as she lived for quite a few years past the horrific Judy Collins moment that was probably etched in her mind forever. But she was born in 1896 and lived to be in her mid-80s, so she saw a lot of things change, come, and go, and come back again. Mostly she rolled with the punches, but in her mind, Judy Collins’ singing did not constitute music.

Now, as the years go by, I can relate. Oh, I still like Judy Collins okay, though admittedly when I listened to the song again as I wrote this blog post, I did find it somewhat annoying and a bit screechy. Perhaps in 10 years I would also question whether or not it was moosik. Nowadays, I’m much more liable to listen to Zac Brown Band or Luke Bryan, and bluegrass interests me more than folk music. Or whatever you would call the music I liked back in the mid-70s.

Interestingly, both of my sisters and I have become country music fans. There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have imagined listening to songs about drinking whiskey and beer and dancing in the back of a pick-up truck. But I like the songs of most of the contemporary country singers. In fact, I watched the recent CMA Music Festival on ABC, and was pleased to realize that I recognized every song and knew the words to most of them.

My brother, however, still takes a firm stand against country music. He’s only a baby of 57. It doesn’t hit until 60, so he has a few more years to listen to Top 40 hits (or whatever it is he listens to). Our children think it’s just another sign that we are steps away from assisted living.

But, while I cringe when I listen to the Top 40 hits that Maggie Faith plays while she cooks, I have – to date, anyway – refrained from asking her if this is moosik.

And, for your judgement…..


Pulling Weeds

Yesterday morning as we were waiting for the start of Mass, I overheard a woman behind us stage whisper to her husband, “The parable in today’s gospel is the one about the bad seed and the good seed and Jesus saying to let them grow together until harvest.” Her husband responded that he liked that parable. One of their two sons – a boy of about 6 or 7 – said, “Does that mean we don’t have to mow our grass anymore?”

If only. But God doesn’t tell us what to take from the gospels, so that’s as good an idea as any, I guess. I’m certainly using that philosophy in my vegetable garden this year…..

My green beans and my Swiss chard struggle to survive amidst the weeds.

Unlike the woman sitting behind me, I find myself squirming a bit when I listen to Matthew’s gospel, and not just because of the weeds in my vegetable bed that make me feel like a bad gardener. But the whole notion that the good plants and the bad plants grow right next to each other is not something I like to think about, mostly because I’m not sure which one I am. In the parable, the farmer tells his workers to let them grow together and then at harvest time they will separate the two plants – the good plants will go into the barn, and the weeds will be bundled up and sent to be burned. Yikes. Could you get more vivid than that, Lord?

Our Mass celebrant was a visiting priest – a man who had emigrated Nigeria with his family to live in the United States when he just a small boy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics but was kind of lost and uncertain about what he wanted to do with his life after college. His father told him to get into the IT field because that’s where the money was. His uncle told him to get his MBA because then he could earn the big bucks. His buddies told him to play soccer because it was fun and he could see the world. But he still couldn’t make up his mind. So, he resorted to Plan B, which was to ask God what he was supposed to do with his life. God’s answer was to become a priest.

“Well, that certainly wasn’t the answer I was looking for,” the priest told us. “How about another suggestion, God?” But apparently God was firm on that particular idea. And so he became a priest.

The point of his story was that turning your life over to God can be risky.  Sometimes the things God wants you to do aren’t necessarily easy or what you were hoping for. Often it is easier to listen to all of the other voices that are crowding out God’s voice, sort of like the noise you used to hear when you were trying to find a good radio station by actually moving a dial. Remember those days? Lots of crackling with an occasional clear song. But the song might be a polka when you are hoping for Carrie Underwood.

But amidst the noise of everyday life, we have to be careful to make sure we are listening to the voice of God. Because unfortunately, the other voices might be a lot easier to understand and considerably more fun. Just like the weeds seem to grow easier than the tomatoes and the green beans that they are trying to overtake.

I struggle every Sunday to figure out how the readings relate to one another. Mostly, I’m unsuccessful. And trying to understand St. Paul’s letters is – at least for me – nearly impossible. Still, his letter to the Romans that was read yesterday surprisingly gave me some comfort as I considered how difficult it can be to hear God’s voice.  The Spirit comes to the aide of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressionable groanings.

Now I don’t know what St. Paul meant by inexpressionable groanings. I don’t know if inexpressionable  is even a real word. You know Paul. He would say anything to get the attention of his listeners and readers. But it sounds like sort of the noise I was making when I gave birth to Court, when I gave birth to a new life. And it gives me hope and confidence if the Holy Spirit is interceding with strength and vigor in an effort to help me hear the word of God, and so, be given a new life. It’s nice to think I have the Spirit on my side.

However, I wish the Holy Spirit pulled weeds with or without inexpressionable groanings.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Thursday Thoughts

Parlez vous Francais?
Bill is a faithful reader of my blog, and occasionally (and helpfully) points out grammatical or spelling mistakes, for which I’m always grateful. While reading yesterday’s post about our experiences in Montreal last week, he pointed out that I had perhaps misspelled the name of the beautiful and colorful cookies we got at the patisserie. I called them macarons. He suggested it should be macaroons. Being dedicated to good spelling and grammar, or at least efforts towards that end, I am confirming that I spelled the word correctly. Macarons are meringue-like cookies made basically from sugar, almonds, and egg whites. They are generally brightly colored and have a filling. Macaroons, on the other hand, are more cake-like and almost always include coconut. They originated in Italy. What I purchased were macarons so light that they almost floated by themselves. Yum.

macaroon tree

You will recall that my grandson Alastair won a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair in the butter carving competition recently. I was somewhat puzzled as to how on earth he came to compete, and received my answer yesterday. It seems all of the four siblings put their names in the box from which the competitors were drawn, and he was one of the lucky ones chosen. There were several competitions, and he was in the third round. He therefore, being Alastair, had plenty of time to think about it and make plans in case he was one of the lucky draws. His mother told me it was quite funny to watch. He competed against three girls about his age, whose unfortunate artistic style of choice was to approach the butter like Play Doh and smush it into shape. This, of course, resulted in melted butter from which very little design could emerge. Alastair, on the other hand, looked, according to his mother, like Michelangelo, carefully sculpting one thing, backing up to see his work, approaching it from the other side. He is quoted as saying, “I saw the car in the butter and carved until I set it free.” Oh wait. That might have been Michelangelo who said something like that…..


Bad Things Happen in Threes
The day before we left on our Vermont vacation, we noticed that the roof of our covered front porch has a great crack and appears to be buckling. Bill also noticed that one of the sprinkler heads in our back yard was leaking. In trying to fix the sprinkler head, he accidentally cut a line that allows us to have internet. It was not a good day. We turned off our water, and committed to handling the other two problems when we returned. And when I say we, I of course mean Bill. Since we returned on Sunday, he has fixed the cable wire, determined that the sprinkler system is working again, and placed a phone call to a roofing company to look at our porch. The roofing company, by the way, laughed at Bill’s request for urgency when it comes to getting someone out to look at it. “Because of the hail storm, roofers are busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest,” Bill said. I love my husband.

Waitin’ All Day For Sunday Night
I heard that they have written a new song for Carrie Underwood to sing for Sunday Night Football on NBC. I’m kind of sad because I find the old tune catchy, and it makes me happy. But I reckon I will learn to like the new tune. I haven’t heard it yet. I’m glad that Carrie Underwood is still the performer. As for me, I’m ready for some football, and mostly ready to be done with preseason.


Cool at Night

Indian summer is on its way
It’s cool at night and hot all day
Ain’t no black clouds filled with rain
Santa Ana wind blew them all to Maine. — Written by Kelly Jones, performed by Poco

According to Wikipedia, Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The US National Weather Service defines this as weather conditions that are sunny and clear with above normal temperatures, occurring late-September to mid-November. It is usually described as occurring after a killing frost.

Well, I don’t really care what the definition of Indian Summer is according to Wikipedia, because in my book, Indian Summer begins just as soon as the days are still hot but the nights are cool. When I need to put on an extra blanket at night if my window is open, why then it’s Indian Summer. That’s what the country rock group Poco told me back in 1977, with the release of their song Indian Summer off their album by the same name.

And, by the way, under the rare circumstances when I hear the song, I am immediately transported back to the University of Colorado and I am 24 years old. But I digress.

It might not yet be Indian Summer — either by Wikipedia’s definition or Poco’s — but man-oh-man, you can feel it coming. It’s in the air.

Court told me on Sunday that September is his favorite month. I know exactly what he means. While I don’t love that the days are getting shorter, I do love that the nights are getting cooler. While I don’t love that my petunias are looking leggy and I keep forgetting to water them, I do love that the tomatoes are starting to ripen and I have been able to eat some of my homegrown jalapenos. While I don’t love that seeing my grandkids is mostly limited to weekends because they are all back or almost back in school, I do love that down to each and every last one, they were all excited for school to start.

Can you tell?………………………………

addie first day of school 2015

Addie starts 7th grade.

Alastair starts 5th grade; Dagny starts 4th grade; Maggie Faith starts 2nd grade.

Kaiya starts 2nd grade.

Kaiya starts 2nd grade.

Mylee starts kindergarten.

Mylee starts kindergarten.

Indian Summer aside, I will tell you that there was never a year – not a single year – that I looked forward to being back in school. I disliked school from kindergarten through graduate school. Even getting new crayons and the smell of the mimeographed papers we were given on the first day didn’t offset my reluctance to hear the school bells ring that first time. But at least we didn’t start until after Labor Day. So, while I’m delighted they are happy to be back, I will miss seeing as much of the grandkids as I did this summer.

1378403626000-NUP-156962-1336-rAs I said, I understand why Court likes September. I think fall is my favorite season. I love the changing colors. Jen and I always make a trip in the fall to listen to the elk bugle in Rocky Mountain National Park, and this year Bec will be joining us. And, of course, there’s football. If you are a sports fan at all, you can’t help but get excited at hearing Carrie Underwood sing about waitin’ all day for Sunday night. And if you can boast the fact that your major league baseball team is the very worst in the United States, you can’t help but be ready for some football.

If only winter didn’t follow fall. Still, it’s hard to complain when you spend the bulk of winter in Arizona!