Measured Extravagance

30 November 2003 - 10:27 p.m.

Dinner's in the oven: a pair of green peppers my mother gave to me, now stuffed with chopped onion and black beans and leftover couscous and seasoned with cumin and Turkish pepper, with some parmesan and bread crumbs on top. We'll see how it turns out.

I would have stayed home from church this morning (not enough sleep, too many deadlines) but I'd agreed to cover the early shift in the office. Not quite the right place to be when one's out of sorts, but it provided some spare time to write a letter, and being present for both services meant I got to sing through "For All the Saints" twice.

The other opening hymns were "Faith of the Larger Liberty" and "Forward Through the Ages"; there was a nice Adrian Mann arrangement of "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" for the offertory (some flowing, fugal bits in it - very good for solo piano), and a presentation called "Hymns of the Spirit," in which the music and RE directors portrayed Samuel Longfellow and Samuel Johnson, a pair of Harvard Div graduates who compiled Unitarian hymnals during the 19th century. For that, we sang verses from #111 ("Life of Ages"), #10 ("Immortal Love"), #150 ("All Whose Boast It Is"), and #12 ("O Life That Maketh All Things New").

#150's a rouser - apparently penned by James Russell Lowell during the height of abolitionist zeal:

All whose boast it is that we come
of forebears brave and free,
if there breathe on earth a slave,
are we truly free and brave?
If we do not feel the chain
when it works another's pain,
are we not base slaves indeed,
slaves unwilling to be freed?

It could also be this hymn struck me with more force than it might have otherwise because yesterday my eyes were damp after reading Kim Chernin's essay in the July/August 2003 Tikkun on "Transcending Alzheimer's":

This is the last time you're ever going to see her, I told myself. I wasn't sure what do. I'd never been with my mother when I couldn't get her to respond to me.

Renate suggested I take her in my arms. I picked her up, a dried-out leaf, and rocked her against my chest. Louise suggested we sing to her. We sang "You Are My Sunshine." I sang "Joe Hill" and "There Once Was a Union Maid" and the Garment Worker's song. The songs my mother taught me were coming back after years of being out of use. She didn't respond, not the slightest twitch or flutter or blink, not even when I whispered a few lines of the Internationale "Arise ye prisoners of starvation./Arise ye wretched of the earth./For justice thunders condemnation./A better world in birth," and then choked up and couldn't go on.

The overall theme of the service was "Our Heroes, Our Heritage," so the closing hymn was "We Would Be One," in honor of the Liberal Religious Youth (it was written to be the organization's hymn - in its original incarnation, "we join in singing our hymn of love" was "we join in singing our hymn of youth").

(I'm still entertained by the loathing demonstrated by Molly's congregation, but figured it wouldn't be an appropriate story to share with the organizers. At least not this morning.)

After church, I picked up some groceries, and got home just as the BYM was starting up his car to head out to brunch. He helped me stash the perishables in the fridge, and then we headed together to the Alley Cat for mimosas, cheese enchiladas (me) and French-Texas toast (lui). Then I crashed for the rest of the afternoon.

We've had dinner now - the mix was fine (especially with some sambal dabbed on) but not sticky enough - next time I need to add eggs or some other binder. As it turned out, one pepper apiece wasn't quite enough, so I ended up stir-frying the rest of the stuffing and some leftover green beans with a couple of eggs. There's still some gingerbread left, too.

A friend forwarded this link to Campbell's current fundraiser/promotion: you show support for your favorite pro football team by clicking on their helmet, and that translates into a donation to Second Harvest.

Another friend wrote back to report: "[We] took our annual donation of food the other day, and in addition to the newest problem of being critically low on food supplies in general, they have the age old problem of needing more protein based foods. People have a tendency to donate more canned veggies than anything. I encourage you to consider these food items as priority, as examples given to us by the staff at 2nd: mac-n-cheese dinners, tuna, peanut butter, dried beans, hearty soups and stews."

Tomorrow I'll be singing at a World AIDS Day service. Last year I wrote about a favorite choir director.

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