Measured Extravagance

25 October 2003 - 11:29 p.m.

"It would be wonderful if more people wanted to read poetry every day, but it's more important that the poems be there when people need them." - Jane Hirshfield, in a 1997 Atlantic interview.

"I was reading about August Wilson, the black playwright, who said he didn't attempt to translate the black experience for white people. He just wrote, and he's become a major playwright because of this. I cling to that particularly with my characters. The strip is about all kinds of things, not just gay and lesbian issues, although the world is seen through that lens. These events - births, deaths and everything in-between - happen to everyone." - Alison Bechdel

Julie Krone wins! And so do the Marlins (that was a nice slide). And so does U-M. "Hail to the victors. . ."

Quiet, pleasant day here. Caught the second and third acts of Handel's Ariodante on the radio and ickled ten heads of garlic and inadvertently caramelized the etrog peel (I meant merely to candy it, but was washing dishes instead of paying attention to the state of the syrup. Looks like it might be good over ice cream, though. . .). And this article has given me an idea for what to do with the vodka left over from the batch of cucumber toner I made last year. . .

Read Norman Johnston's Louisa May: The World and Works of Louisa May Alcott and Irene Hunt's The Lottery Rose. The former had me mulling. . .

At first no work surfaced, and Louisa struggled with despair. Mr. Parker's sermon on "Laborious Young Women" put starch in her spine.

What he was saying was good common sense: Trust others to help you, let them do it, and don't be too proud to ask. Take whatever work is offered until what you really want comes along. Once Louisa put this advice into practice, two things did come. . .[page 125]

. . .and the latter had me crying. I recall Across Five Aprils and Up a Road Slowly opening up the tear ducts as well. Going to wait a couple of days before I think harder about whether I'm responding to good storytelling or expert manipulation (or whether the distinction even needs to made).

Didn't cry when I listened to Jeff Buckley's Morning Theft, but so far it's my favorite song on Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk. (Still inching through Disc 2.) Most of Disc 1 doesn't do anything for me, but on that song, the words and the instrumentation and Buckley's high aching voice cling together in just the right way - when Buckley sings "But what am I still to you?" I can feel the cracks in my heart resonating.

Leading hymns tomorrow (the music director's at the church retreat). I'm glad I took the time to play through them this afternoon: Calm Soul of All Things is a favorite, "Simple Gifts" is a standard, and Here We Have Gathered is sung to Old 124th - I'm partial to those old German/Genevan tunes - but I wasn't familiar with "A Fierce Unrest" or "Find a Stillness," and the latter has a peculiar D-flat I would have completely undershot had I left it to sight-reading. (I should say, "odd to my ear" - it probably makes complete sense to Transylvanians.)

As for "Fierce Unrest," my brain's still a bit nonplussed at finding Don Marquis paired with a tune from Kentucky Harmony, but it's definitely appropriate to the service (on seeking wisdom):

Sing we no governed firmament,
cold, ordered, regular;
we sing the stinging discontent
that leaps from star to star.

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