Our house stands in a shady yard of tree roots and clay soil. There is no grass. When we put in a raised bed, it took three years for weeds to grow.
So it melts my heart to see the lone daffodil beside the basement window.
In a stealth garden maneuver, my mother planted a few bulbs around the house. This particular flower does not have the loud technicolor I see in neighbor’s gardens. Rather, it has cream-colored petals and the palest yellow trumpet.
My mother planted it when our college-aged son was a toddler. Eager to visit their grandchild, she and my father would drive out for the day to babysit or help paint a room. That was when we had birthdays together with my mother’s favorite carrot cake or my father’s favorite lemon pie.
She planted bulbs knowing about the joy a little yellow flower would bring each spring.
My husband times his words perfectly to annoy me. In the middle of a nice dinner, he’ll say the exact thing to get under my skin. Or maybe we’re sitting by the evening fire, enjoying a glass of wine. He’ll come up with that same exact thing that makes me break eye contact and look at the floor to avoid the awkwardness I feel. I’m not happy with his comment.
Advertisers have a lot of comments about women too. This is old news. What they sell passes judgment on body size. Now it’s images of aging (or not aging) that catch my eye. Perhaps you’ve seen the dreadful internet pop-up ad about wrinkles. I would include a link except I wish I had never seen it and wish the same for you. The pop-up displays a reasonable face being techno-peeled into the perfect skin of a young woman. The ad is effective. It makes me wince and go, “eeeewwwwww”. It makes me look away and hope to never see such a wrinkled face again, especially if it’s my own.
Why can’t we just decide wrinkles are beautiful? That a woman who has aged, like a fine wine, is the most desirable of all. She has blossomed, developing depth, complexity and ripeness. We could even create cosmetic products to reproduce these enviable creases for younger faces.
In spite of my “aging like fine wine” philosophy, this morning while I gazed in the mirror at my skin, I opened Pandora’s box. Placing my hands on the sides of my neck, I pulled the skin back. Wow! Just like that, I looked 10, maybe 20 years younger. This is what a face lift could do!
I am going to “Just Say No” to looking in the bathroom mirror and manually “youthanizing” my neck. There is no way I would have cosmetic surgery. There is nothing wrong with my God-Given 52-year old skin. Surgery would surely make me scar like Mrs. Frankenstein. And I hate pain.
As for my husband and his obnoxious comments … I am going to have to muscle through those random times when he drops the bomb and says,
“You know – you’re beautiful.”
I love the M.A.S.H. episode in which Hawkeye and Trapper coach Radar on dating.
“If she wants to talk about music, all you have to say to impress her is Ah! Bach…”
Radar goes on the date. The subject of music comes up, and Radar charms the young lady by saying,
She looks deeply into his eyes and probes,
“But what do you mean when you say, Ah! Bach….”
Cornered, Rader blushes, stutters and repeats louder,
delighting his date, who recognizes Radar’s profound understanding of music.
I’ve taught the Bach Prelude in C Major (BWV 846) many times. Students love it, parents love it, and even I do not tire of it. Yesterday a new adult student was thrilled to put her fingers on the keys and have this music come from under her fingers. As she played the piquant dissonances that resolve into consonance, she sighed, “It’s such a pretty little thing.”
When Marilyn Keiser was a new music teacher, one of her older students suffered from short-term memory loss. Inevitably, sometime during each lesson the student would ask, “Do you know Bach’s prelude in C? Could you play it for me?” Dr. Keiser would play the music for her, and inevitably, a few more times in the lesson the student would ask, “Do you know Bach’s prelude in C? Could you play it for me?”
Yesterday afternoon we went to evensong at Washington National Cathedral. I have mixed feelings when I spend an hour this way.
- As a long-time church employee I have spent enough hours in services to cover nine lifetimes.
- But we wanted to hear our nephew in the choir!
By any standards, a service at Washington National Cathedral is awe-inspiring. The vaulted ceiling soars 102 feet above the gathered faithful. Jewel-toned light shines from 231 stained glass windows, including a modern one with imbedded moon rock. Hundreds of hand-carved limestone angels watch as acolytes, clergy, verger, and choristers vested in purple process through an intricately carved screen to the high altar. The organist improvizes in grand french style on the massive instrument, which reverberates for seven seconds down the length of two football fields.
The choir sings magnificently. The tuning is perfect. Diction and phrasing are beautiful. All aspects of the cathedral’s functions are finely honed. But there is a price for all of this beauty. After the service the director gathers the youngsters. “You were late on my down beats. This is not acceptable. You are going to have to do better in the future.”
I had no expectations from the homilist, except that she was sure to speak longer than I wanted to listen.
However, my piano-teacher ears perked up when Rev. Campbell told a story of her childhood music lessons. It was the oft-heard accounting of a flubbed piano recital. A memory slip. A piece played round and round, the ending place lost. Eventually the child claimed a random midway chord and ended with a humiliated flourish.
At the homily’s end, Rev. Campbell told another story, describing a well-known spiritual director’s retreat practice of sleeping under the stars – of waking in the night’s beauty and knowing that she was not lost. Of knowing exactly who she was and where she was, and saying,
“Oh. My God.”
My grandmother loved blue. Almost all of her dresses were blue. Her aprons were blue. Her walls were blue. She and my grandfather always bought blue cars.
It was easy to find a nice gift for her. Any little thing in a pretty shade of blue would make her happy.
One year my parents bought her an aquamarine ring. It was a relatively large oval, and my grandmother cried when she opened the box. She thought it was too beautiful to keep, let alone wear, but my parents eventually convinced her to put it on.
While she was living in a nursing home, I commissioned a friend to weave a lap blanket in a beautiful shade of blue. At this time my grandmother was spending most of her time watching television. (12 – 18 hours per day) I thought a speck of blue would make her happy.
The carefully hand-woven blanket became stained with food. It was a foolish gift, but what do you give a person who lives in half a room?
I don’t know what happened to the aquamarine ring. Even though it wouldn’t suit my hand, I wish I had it to hold and remember my grandmother showing it to me when I was a child, saying,
“Isn’t blue just the most beautiful thing?”
Focusing on beauty makes me notice those naughty snotty moments when I forget to pay attention. Like this morning when my husband wanted to talk about logistics for Friday’s dinner/theater plans, but I wanted to write my blog.
See what Lenten discipline can do…..
I hope you also get poems in your inbox. It’s a wonderful way to start the day.
…in music like the edge of broken glass
blue as ice in January, turned inward,
owning your heart. So much beauty
in that cutting moment.