In Which I Forget My Boots

(In Which I Forget, part VI. The wise student will read parts IIIIII, IV, and V before this.)

(Sunday, cont’d)

The Blue Heron dress rehearsal happened without much incident, at least that I was aware of. I brought Chance or Purpose along to read, but barely finished the first chapter because the music kept pulling my attention away. 

I sat in the balcony once more, and when Joel and his girlfriend arrived I brought them up, explaining that the sound was best from up here. Olivia waved to us from where she peeked out of the side room the singers were waiting in.

At three o’clock they entered by the two side doors, each with a bell, and processed in two separate columns down opposite aisles, ringing their bells randomly — which could have sounded terrible, for some technical reason that went over my head, but didn’t — and meeting by the doors, continuing down the centre aisle, still ringing. The audience, in the celebrated style of audiences everywhere, didn’t realize until some way into this that the concert was starting, and you can hear them carrying on talk and laughter well into the parade of bells like they’re in a coffeeshop or something, but should you be interested in listening to the concert, it is available in its entirety here. 

After the last of the set of three carols, the choir filed out, as if it were the end, and when people had finished clapping they came back and sang Ding Dong Merrily On High. Then it was really over, and the trio gathered and talked, and Joel took pictures of everyone and anyone, and finally we were on the edge of getting locked out again. 

The members of the Blue Heron Consort went to the Blue Heron Coffeeshop for some well-earned pizza afterwards (“I can eat dairy now!” Olivia exulted, shortly before she ate all the cheese.) Unsurprisingly, by now, I tagged along. 

I had to be introduced to people and asked whether I sang, and it got noisy and the pizza was not yet forthcoming. Someone had recorded the concert and now started playing it over the shop’s speakers, so some people started to sing along. 

We found ourselves a table in the quietest corner. The walls there had paintings of various qualities hung on them (one reminded me of SMSU), and the one by our table had a painting of an orchid or some such flower just past its prime. Ours was a table for two, but we dragged a chair over for John Paul, who thus sat facing it. During a lull in discussion (probably we had just finished singing along to something), he pointed at it and said simply, “Decay.”

“Yes,” we said. 

“Would you say no good picture should have decay in it?” he asked.

“Sometimes a light shines brighter in the dark,” I said. This seemed to make sense to him. 

We talked about books, and which book we’d recommend to everyone, and he went up in my estimation when he named The Lord of the Rings in that category. He and I talked about how good it is and how not an allegory, while Olivia glared at me from across the table because here’s yet another voice backing up my insistence that she read it. (While in line for pizza, John Paul asked me whether I preferred the Iliad or the Odyssey, resulting in him getting a lecture about the two heroes’ respective priorities, and me forgetting to grab napkins.)

As we were leaving, we noticed a poster on the wall advertising a performance of the Messiah the next night in LaCrosse. Students were only five dollars admission. Olivia and John Paul wanted to make a trio trip of it. 

“I’ll come along,” I said. “I think I’ve got Tuesday off too, at least that sounds right. I do want to see the Messiah.” Olivia tried to convince me that this was a bad idea and I didn’t have Tuesday off. 

We got our coats on and went out the front door, still talking about something or other, and trying to stave off the inevitable farewell. At this point we still thought I was leaving the next morning. 

We were halfway across an empty parking lot when I realized my feet were colder than I remembered them being when we walked this way coming in, and that for a little while now someone inside my head had been trying to draw my attention to the significance of this fact, which I understood only belatedly.

“Hang on, guys,” I said, laughing, “I forgot my boots inside. I’ll. . . go and get them.” I left them talking animatedly and retrieved my boots.

The thing is, because my “good” shoes are not much protection against anything that can come up over the sides, like snowbanks (Olivia does like to park me right next to them), and they aren’t big enough to fit when I’ve got fuzzy socks on, which were all I had with me because none of my others were clean, I’d been wearing my rubber boots (with socks) around to places, carrying my shoes until we were somewhere my clomping around wouldn’t be appreciated. Like in St Mary of the Angels where you can hear at the other end of the church if someone turns a page. So I had two pairs of footwear to keep track of at any given time when we were in public, and the one which wasn’t currently on my feet stood a good chance of getting left behind. But I’d been doing so well up to that point.

Still, what would have happened if I’d gotten home and my rubbers were conspicuous by their absence, and some employee discovered them (and my fuzzy socks) after closing and had to confront the mystery, I shuddered to think. 

Finally we made it to the side street where we’d parked our cars. You’d think this is where we said goodbye and drove off, like responsible adults — after all, Olivia still had to study for her eight a. m. Thinking Theologically exam, and it was past six. But no. For at least another quarter of an hour we stood on a sidewalk and froze, our conversation going like this:

Someone: “Do you know this one?” (Sings the first verse of On Christmas Night All Christians Sing)

Someone else: “Of course! Do you know this one?” (Sings first verse of some other slightly obscure carol)

Someone: “Yes! Do you know this one?”. . .

Finally there was no help for it. John Paul was especially exhausted, but we were all coming off a church-and-concert day. We did the “If I don’t see you again before I leave” thing, and I asked John Paul if, with a couple of days of knowing me after our first proper introduction, he had found me too intimidating. 

He said not, that in fact the “thorough and gentle” way I laid my arguments out was refreshing. Hearing that was a novelty. 

And then we got in our car and Olivia turned it on and gasped at the clock. We were late again. 

So we raced back to St Mary’s and Olivia gathered up her stuff and we ran down the hall, only to find out we were leaving a trail of rainbow-coloured highlighters, and then we gathered them up and ran on, only to lose some more. And when we got to the place appointed, Gabe wasn’t there, but he’d e-mailed Olivia to say he was in the library. So we prepared to gather our bags and baggage once more and trudge over there. And then Gabe was coming up the stairs just as we started down, his arms likewise full of miscellaneous things including highlighters. 

They settled down to do Theology review, and I read Olivia’s text over her shoulder and made sarcastic comments about the professor’s dating system, and took breaks from my knitting to write Chesterton quotes in chalk on the boards. Somewhere past ten o’clock they both decided they weren’t getting any more out of the reading, and we went to bed, though not without an extended conversation in the hallway where our paths diverged. 

(To be continued.)


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In Which I Forget Clothes

(In Which I Forget, part V. If you’re just joining me at this point, you really should read parts III, III, and IV before jumping in.)


I didn’t exactly forget clothes on that day, but it was the day I noticed. I had a cashmere sweater to wear to church, which I wear with an undershirt because active things like washing dishes tend to make the neckline creep annoyingly, but when I got my clothes together to get dressed for church I didn’t find it. So I had to make do without that. But we hoped, this late in my trip, we would only have forgotten these three important things. 

So we went to service at her little Baptist church, where we were in full communion with people in all the important theological things, but where as usual I couldn’t help being out of place in other ways. I could approve of the fact that they had crosses in the sanctuary, but the presence of the American and “Christian” flags in the same place brought my scorn, and the political discussion in Sunday School which threw all logic out the window brought it even more, though both annoyances were nothing compared to my ire at the discovery, as we left, that they have a Thomas Kinkade painting in the sanctuary!!!

(Forgive the intrusion of Miss Climpson’s epistolary style.)

The fact that they’d ignored Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light (complete with Bach’s harmonization) in favour of a sentence-fragment song on the facing page, was already bad enough. But Thomas Kinkade! I mean really, Patrick. 

You have found truth and goodness — why then neglect to search out beauty? Why let the Catholics and Anglicans and even Lutherans (our ecumenical dialogue on Sunday night found that Unitarian Universalists and Mormons don’t count) have a monopoly on beauty? Why is it okay for us to slack off on aesthetics because we’re doing all right on theology?

There’s so much gorgeous stained glass in Winona, and you had to choose the lowest of the low — Thomas Kinkade himself? St Mary of the Angels is full of meaningful detail and nothing in it is aimless. The number of spires all over the place (which prompted me to call it “city of dreaming spires” as we drove down a street with three on one side and one on the other, with apologies to Oxford) points even the casual tourist heavenward, and, as Pastor would say, rightly so. And you had to choose Thomas Kinkade. Sure, it’s good for the budget to get your art from the thrift shop, but have you considered how you’re forming the moral imaginations of your children?

*sputters incoherently about Tolkien*

And we should know better. If we’ve got, as I believe, the fullness of the truth (at least in the most important matters), we have no excuse for neglecting the things that show us the truth — good art done well, an accurate reflection of the real world. And if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I believe the real world to be far more nuanced than either the optimist or pessimist views would have it to be, far more full of light than the crime noir writers like to point out, and with a great deal more suffering and darkness in it than people like Thomas Kinkade want to admit. Both such black-and-white views are wrong and insufficient and deceptive. Neither can handle the weight of a Lord of the Rings or a So That Others May Live. Or Handel’s Messiah, for goodness’ sake. The Thomas Kinkades would tear out the first half of Part II and pretend the Resurrection bit made sense without death, and the crime noir people would take their discarded part and hold it up as the whole story. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

All right. Moving on then.

Before Blue Heron we had a little time, so Olivia took me by St Stanislaus, where they’d practiced a few times, and we saw the seraphim on the roof and encouraged them, melodically, their loud uplifted angel trumpets to blow. 

(I didn’t realize how much random breaking-into-song went on all weekend until I got home and realized there’d be no music in my apartment at all unless I turned it on. What, nobody practicing or whistling or belting out the tune that’s been stuck in their head or just came into their head? Nothing at all? It was a weird feeling.)

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In Which We Lose Track Of Time

(In Which I Forget, part IV. Read parts I, II, and III first, please. Otherwise this will make even less sense than it otherwise would.)

Saturday morning Olivia had an eight o’clock final, and she went to it and returned while I slept. We were engaged to go to brunch at her church at ten-thirty, and here a discrepancy inserts itself, with great irony, into a story organized around forgetting things. I had already observed the atmosphere of the finals-week alternate universe, and it apparently affected me too. Neither Olivia nor I can now remember whether our first conversation with John Paul and his older brother Gabe took place on Friday or Saturday night. Both sides can cite evidence, which in neither case interprets itself, and we are left to rely on our obviously faulty memories. One fact of which we are as certain as we can be of any empirical evidence, is that at some point before Saturday morning John Paul said to Olivia, “Remember how you were sad that you’d have to miss caroling here and the caroling at your church? Well, we’ve been invited to carol at somebody’s house on Saturday from ten-thirty to eleven, and you’d be welcome to come.” 

Olivia revised her plans for Saturday morning to include eating brunch and running from there to caroling, and from there to Blue Heron rehearsal from noon to two. She was dragging me along, of course. 

As Olivia parked in her church’s lot she was randomly singing “sanctissimum sacramentum” from one of the Blue Heron pieces. “That’s a good way to get yourself kicked out of a Baptist church,” I told her. She stopped before we met her pastor going in.

Brunch turned out to be a lot of little old ladies asking me if I was planning to go to college out here too, and things like that. It started on SCA time too, so we really had to eat and run. Some singer doing modern worship-music arrangements of Christmas songs was on the radio in the basement. The pastor came in and asked if they’d gotten a minstrel to sing. Olivia and I exchanged glances.

The farm at which we were caroling was on the Wisconsin side of the river, and Olivia had gotten directions to the address John Paul gave her. Once we got there we weren’t sure where to go, but someone peeked out of the house door and waved to us, so we went in. 

We joined the singers, who were using a red hymnal with a really good Advent section (a built-in bookshelf on the wall opposite us had quite a collection of different hymnals and service music books), at the tail end of the seven verses of O Come O Come Emmanuel. We also sang Of the Father’s Love Begotten and several other good ones, including O Come, Divine Messiah, which transported me to last winter with the lines “when hope shall sing its triumph / and sadness flee away”. 

When we had exhausted the hymnal, either Olivia or John Paul produced a Blue Heron music folder and we sang the easier pieces from it — Veni, Veni, Emmanuel; and In the Bleak Midwinter and Lo, How a Rose and the Coventry Carol (which I learned a slightly different version of, and it bugged Olivia all weekend whenever I’d try to sing along). And then I said, “What time is it?” and Olivia pulled out her phone and it was four minutes to twelve.

We scrambled to get out of there, but the owner of the place stopped us in the doorway, saying, “I pay all my accompanists with bread,” and took a loaf of white bread off a rack next to the door and gave it to Olivia, who had played the piano a little bit. Then she turned to me and said, “Do you like rye?” and gave me a loaf. 

We saw John Paul running down the hill behind us, his arms also full of bread. 

So we were all a little late to Blue Heron rehearsal. Fortunately, when we got there, they were practicing singing Veni Veni while processing around the sanctuary, and had just gotten to the door when we did, so they were able to slip in at the back of the line. And I went up to the balcony. 

If this was the day on which we actually got locked out of the church after rehearsal, and stood on the sidewalk according to Motley Crew tradition, broaching the subject of Creation versus Theistic Evolution (“But what about death before the fall?”) and freezing, that’s what we did next. When John Paul’s teeth started to chatter too obviously, Olivia broke the conversation off and whisked me away to see if we could go inside the other Baptist church in town, which had a proper spire and stained glass and everything. Unfortunately it too was locked. 

We made arrangements to talk to John Paul and Gabe at seven that evening, in an upstairs room in St Mary’s Hall, which is connected to Olivia’s dorm. The room itself was locked when the two of us got over there, so we sat down by the stairs and waited for the boys.

And waited.

They showed up at seven-twenty, and we made our way over to a room which used to be a theatre and whose present purpose was unclear. But it had good acoustics, which we made use of. (Oh dear, there’s me ending a sentence with a preposition.)

Though we picked up the Creation conversation where we left off, with the question of growth, rather than instant perfection, being part of the divine plan for origins, or whether growth meant also the possibility of decay and death, in things developing over millions of years, soon we veered off into the question of poetic forms and then into another of John Paul’s burning questions: what did we think about theatre? And then Gabe had to ask about beards. 

My first impression of Gabe was that he’s like a combination of two people this blog has not heard of, and I’m aware of how unhelpful that is. His chief distinguishing features seem to be a beard, plaid shirts, and a tendency to crack unrelated jokes in the middle of otherwise serious conversations. First impressions of John Paul were that he’s a small person with surprisingly big hands and voice considering; also rather more noticing than the average guy, which occasionally means you’ll make a random throwaway comment and he’ll bring it up again forty-five minutes later. He takes a long time to think before he finishes his sentences. Sunday night, at the edge of exhaustion, he said, “Tomorrow will —” and paused so long that I added, “Be my dancing day.”

At some point I finished the cable part of Olivia’s headband and went to cut the yarn, only to find out I’d forgotten to bring my knife over from Olivia’s room, so we cut it with my keys instead. 

The music came out again, and the two Blue Herons sang this and that while Gabe ostensibly worked on a paper (which he made the mistake of asking for my criticism of, after using the phrase “abstractly substantive”) and I picked up stitches.

“Did you notice they changed There Is No Rose?” Olivia asked presently. Not everyone in the ensemble was singing that one, officially at least — I’d noticed some of the guys not doing it singing along. 

“No, how?” John Paul asked.

“In the third verse — ‘that she is God in persons three. Which doesn’t make any sense.”

We were shocked and agreed — as that verse includes the doctrine of the Trinity, attempting to make it politically correct or something simply by changing one pronoun doesn’t get you anywhere. Also, the only two people to be mentioned so far in the song are Mary and Jesus, so grammatically the “she” would have to refer to Mary, who in the previous verse was said to contain God, and that makes no sense whatsoever, theologically or otherwise. 

“That’s actually rather disturbing,” John Paul said. “Because Mary isn’t God.”

Past ten o’clock we started to make our way back toward the dorm. We were all tired, John Paul even more than the rest of us, and it was easy to get mixed up about the respective shapes of infinity, eternity, and time, when they came up. An attempt to distinguish between the Buddhist and Christian conceptions of the shape of infinity (circle versus straight lines) led me to reference Orthodoxy, of course. Then I found out neither of them had read it (I was kind of surprised) and had to recommend it. 

“But wasn’t Chesterton a Catholic?” John Paul asked.

“Yep,” I said. 

“Hey, John Paul,” Gabe said, turning to his brother, “I’ll buy you Orthodoxy for Christmas if you buy Orthodoxy for me for Christmas!”

“Oh, do you want to borrow a book?” John Paul asked. Of course I could not say no. He set his bag down on the stair and pulled out a book he’d used earlier, quoting the authour’s quote of Augustine in support of evolution. “I think you might get something out of this.”

So that was how I came home with Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith, which so far I haven’t lost or forgotten anywhere. So far the authour hasn’t addressed the problem of death before the Fall, but he has been good about acknowledging that your beliefs about the beginning of the world affect other things too, and distinguishing between theistic evolution and evolutionism, the latter of which, as an ideology involving things like the survival of the fittest, is flatly contradictory to the Christian insistence on every human life being worthwhile. 

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In Which I Forget My Toothbrush

(Part III of In Which I Forget. Read parts I and II before jumping in at the middle.)


(Friday, cont’d)

We arrived at St Mary’s in time for Olivia to say goodbye to her two friends, set up the air mattress for me, and get supper. 

I reabsorbed the feeling of finals week as being a slightly different universe from the usual one; also felt like a babushka because I’m ahead of almost everyone we met (even if they all think I’m Olivia’s younger sister); from the occasional glimpses I caught in the full-length mirror in the dorm hallway, spent most of my time looking like one too.

The choral group Olivia and John Paul have been singing with all semester, the Blue Heron Consort, had a concert on Sunday (“two concerts in four days” we kept saying), and rehearsals both Friday and Saturday, and, of course, a dress rehearsal on Sunday. All this and finals too. Rehearsal this evening was from six till eight, and like many others, at the site of the concert: the Chapel of St Mary of the Angels. She brought me along with her. 

We walked into the sanctuary and I fell in love. 

You can see pictures of the place on the Internet, and Olivia had showed me some of them, but they cannot do justice to the experience of standing in the nave with all the grandeur surrounding you, to be taken through fingertips and ears as well as eyes. It’s a stone Romanesque building with stained glass and a mosaic of gold and stars in the dome (and splendid acoustics), and even in the out-of-the-way corners and the small entryways at the side doors, the ceilings and windows are painted and stained. The overall effect makes clear that the people who made it thought nothing was too good for the house of God — and no detail is meaningless. Even the blank space (I kept thinking there was more of that than the artists of the Benedictine Renascence, whose art style was similar, would approve of) directs the eye toward the altar. 

And for it being named St Mary of the Angels, the focus is consistently on Christ. The most common motif was an equal-armed cross, or, as on the arches, and covering the robes of the angels in the windows, interlacing crosses in gold, red, black, and white. (And no stickers unrolled and glued on, these — you can see the conscientious efforts to get straight lines and right angles in those many tiny squares, along with the occasional imperfection that testifies to the work of real human hands.) Apart from where she appears in the Stations of the Cross around the walls, I only saw two images of Mary in the sanctuary, and neither was near the altar, above which, under the words ECCE AGNUS DEI in gold lettering, hung a crucifix and nothing else. As clearly as art can say it, Christ is central there. (Generally speaking, at least. I am aware that at least half my readership will wish to quibble with me on this point.) 

Olivia dropped me along with her things in a pew on the left side, too close to the front for this Baptist’s comfort, and joined her fellow singers up front. John Paul was not in evidence, though it was time to start. And Olivia had said he was always punctual. 

I got out my knitting, a bright pink cabled headband for Olivia’s Christmas present, and listened to the rehearsal. The concert was only three days away, but they seemed unchaotic. John Paul arrived eventually.

As I knitted and looked around me, I noticed the aforementioned Stations of the Cross, and followed the story on the opposite wall. Here first (for this weekend) it was borne in upon me that however far from Granite I am physically, I cannot quite escape STOML. The scene of the Deposition from the Cross startled me, coming suddenly before my eyes, and Mary’s agonized face stared out from the frame where she held her Son’s broken body. I couldn’t see clearly for a moment after that. I wrote about artistic depictions of this scene at some length in STOML, and the comparison between the two Marys, and the significant difference in the deaths of their sons, has stayed with me. 

When I got over that, I put my knitting down and went exploring. I have a tendency to get height-sick for no apparent reason (I enjoy heights, except for the feeling sick part, because it’s so rare I get to look down at people), so it was a pleasant surprise when the balcony was no problem. The choir blended beautifully up there (Olivia can confirm this, having joined me once when the men were rehearsing the piece they did by themselves), and I spent the next two rehearsals and the concert mostly up there. 

I was leaning over the stone railing when Olivia first noticed I was up there, and she signalled with her eyes to John Paul that he should look in that direction, which he did. (Or at least it looked to me as if she signalled; Olivia maintains that she was just looking at me and he noticed, because he’s observant like that.) I stayed up there and listened, as it got even darker out, and the sanctuary glowed. The angels got dimmer along with the outside light, as I noticed on Sunday also. (On Saturday at rehearsal the director told people to “pick an angel and match it”, and her dress, which was a gradient blue-green with black patterns, actually coordinated with most of them quite well. In fact a part of the pattern looks like eyes, so I told her she was twinning with one of the angels, near the front, who is covered with eyeballs. The other singers’ clothes, except for the director’s tie, which copies a manuscript about contemporary with the music, were less exciting.)

Roaming around such a place with medieval and renascence music going on — I can think of worse ways to spend an evening. 

After rehearsal we may or may not have gone straight back to her room and taken showers and all that before going to bed. More on that later. When we were getting ready for bed I discovered that I hadn’t brought my toothbrush with me. Days later, when I got home, I discovered it sitting in its usual place on the bathroom counter, and right next to it the ziplock bag I meant to transport it in. Fortunately for me in the meantime, Olivia had spare toothbrushes, because of course she does. Well, that was two important things I’d forgotten, but we could hope they were the only ones. 

(Merry Christmas!)

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In Which I Forget the Books

(In Which I Forget, part II. Read part I here. You do not want to jump into the middle of this story.)



In spite of Olivia’s hopes, we left my place after eight the next morning. We had to get back to Winona soonish, so she could say goodbye to two friends who were leaving, one of whom was transferring and would truly be gone next year. Despite Joel’s dire warnings (sent at a quarter to three in the morning) we found the roads were fine. Still, when we drove into a little snowfall and Olivia asked me, “Would you say your windshield wipers are in good condition?” and for answer I held up the end of one of them from behind my seat, the look of shock and horror on her face was something to behold. At some point before that morning, when scraping my car off before going to work, I had lifted the wiper and the end had simply come off in my hand, and I’d forgotten to put it back on, as I’d intended.

No sooner had we finished cleaning off the windshield, having pulled over onto a side road, than we found ourselves stuck behind a plow going some fifteen miles an hour under the speed limit. 

“Do you know how to write a gripping story?” I asked. “No sooner do your characters overcome one obstacle than they encounter another one.” I repeated this so often over the next five days that at last I only had to say “Gripping story,” for her to screech at me. “Oh, I’ve got the perfect book to read for this situation.” Before you laugh too hard, you should know I had checked out half-a-dozen picture books for her enjoyment, and one of them was an Elephant and Piggie book (Let’s Go For A Drive!). Usually I am the elephant and she is Piggie, but in this particular story she was both of them.

I reached behind me to pull it out of the purple bookbag in our pile of things, and when my hand felt its way down into the bag, the first book I touched was unquestionably a thick grown-up one. I remembered that after packing the kids’ books in the bag, I had — temporarily, I thought — switched them out to bring home a few books I’d gotten for myself. I must not have switched them back again that morning. 

Having thus illustrated our own principle, we resigned ourselves to having forgotten one of the important things — but, we could hope, the only really important one. 

(To be continued.)

Merry Christmas!

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In Which I Forget (part I)

From Wednesday of last week on, I have thought every day I’ve experienced has been full to bursting, usually of good things — and then I look at the schedule for her week Olivia so graciously provided us, and I change my mind. Owing to the natural limitations of the human memory in general, and mine in particular, this chronicle cannot hope to be an exhaustive list of everything we did and saw and ate and sang in the last five days, but I will try to capture the best parts. 

Last week was the last week of classes for Olivia at St Mary’s University, with the occasional recital thrown in. Wednesday the true insanity started: I stayed up past ten-thirty making orange sauce for my Grandma’s Christmas present, to be sent down to her by way of Olivia; and Olivia, between juries, classes, math tests, the aforementioned recital, and practicing, was up even later. 

Thursday I went to work and did a few other mundane things, most of the packing being finished the night before, and then at three o’clock left for Marshall, to drop off a doughnut in the Social Sciences breakroom freezer, pick up a circular needle I left in somebody else’s car the week before (a story in itself, and bearing out one of the themes of this work), and meet Olivia, who that morning had left Winona so as to arrive (as well as Joel and the cellist in their trio, John Paul) in Marshall in time for the SMO’s Christmas Concert’s dress rehearsal. 

Sitting through a dress rehearsal knowing that whatever happens, the chance that if music is missing I will have to go fetch it is, at least, very slim, is a new feeling. But it was good to see most of the orchestra again — even if one member, who shall not be named but is called David, was wearing shorts in Minnesota in the wintertime  — and the Chorale came down and we had fun. Unlike previous years, this Holiday Cheer! concert was not held in Holy Redeemer but in First Lutheran, which is not nearly such a beautiful space, but oh well.

To do David justice, I must add that he was wearing Our Lady of Guadalupe socks and chose the shorts the better to show them off, heedless of the probable cost to his health. “Don’t you know what day it is?” he asked us indignantly in FA. 

“Wednesday,” Olivia replied. 

“No!” he said. “Thursday, and I don’t mean what day of the week,” tossing his head as if no one could possibly have asked that, “but what feast day!”

After rehearsal, before he changed, he explained his fashion choices to the also-dubious Joel and John Paul. “Way I see it, no Mary, no Jesus,” he said and shrugged. 

“Well—” John Paul began. “Incarnate Jesus.” David conceded the point. 

Joel and John Paul showed up late to rehearsal, stressing Olivia out. Joel offered as excuse that they got lost. But John Paul was known for being punctual or early, all the time, at least that’s what Olivia said. 


The concert itself went off very well — characteristically, we heard, rehearsal on Tuesday night had not inspired confidence, but as usual, they pulled together at the last minute and did well. Sleigh Ride had to be done, of course, in honour of the absent Kurt; the ‘conductor’ this year was the university’s new president, who has talked a lot about the value of the fine arts, although in this particular situation (when asked if he’d conducted before, he said “I may have conducted a train. . .“) he expressed as his goal “to prove that an orchestra doesn’t need a conductor”. When the piece was over Dr Rieppel said, “That didn’t hurt too much!” and then, stepping back up on his podium, “But I intend to keep on conducting.” Sarajevo happened again, and sounded good; so did the Farandole. You could tell who had played the latter before. Dr Rieppel introduced the Farandole with a reference to the SMO’s first year doing it (at Joel’s insistence, though he did not say so), and he found out that people always play it at Christmastime because “It’s a song for the Epiphany, which is the other end of Christmas that so often gets forgotten.”

With the Chorale, they did part of the Christmas section of the Messiah (“There Were Shepherds” up through “Rejoice Greatly”), with the Hallelujah Chorus thrown in; also, with a guest singer who was very good, Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim, which has been stuck in our heads off and on ever since. And two of my favourite Christmas carols, In Dulci Jubilo (taken rather slowly) and Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, the Chorale did by themselves. Dr Rieppel and Bacco played a piece together, which Dr Rieppel introduced, “A little something we threw together twenty-five minutes ago,” and though everybody laughed, it’s too close to what sometimes happens to be funny in quite that way.

The one obvious slip-up was that at one point Dr Rieppel lost his place, said, “I must consult my plan of action,” looked at his printed program, and announced the wrong piece anyway. Disaster was narrowly averted between the second and third movements of Let the Bright Seraphim, when several people put their hands together to clap, but fortunately the strings started up again just in time. 

After the concert, we went downstairs for cookies and so on, and the trio plus David and me congregated near the kitchen, and I was introduced to John Paul.

“It’s a bit awkward meeting someone you’ve already heard a lot about,” he said, and I was inclined to agree, as Olivia has not stopped talking about him all semester. 

“All good things?” I said, and said he thought so. “I hope she didn’t make me come across as intimidating.”

He thought for a moment, as he does, and then said, “Not intimidating — I don’t think it’s much use to start off being intimidated.”

“Oh, why?”

“Because — it might not turn out to be something you should be intimidated by, and it doesn’t do you any good. It might not be so bad.”

Both David and Joel told me they had missed debating me. At last we parted ways. Joel and John Paul had to go back to Winona that same night — five hours after a concert after driving out just that morning — but Olivia and I got to go back to my place and leave in the morning. So we said “See you tomorrow!” and it wasn’t too sad, except that we couldn’t bring David with us, and the boys were caterwauling as we walked through the parking lot of the same church we got locked out of after one of the first concerts in the Motley Crew’s existence. 

Olivia had made chicken soup with stars in it (I am still not sure whether the stars were noodles or what), and the container it was in leaked all over her skirt for the concert. As we packed up my van to go home, it spilled again, all over the floor of the van and my paystubs from the bakery for the last several months, but mostly on the foil covering the plate of cookies she’d gotten. 

In my apartment, as she was tucking herself up on my couch, Olivia said, “One of the best things to say in the world is ‘See you tomorrow’.”


(To be continued.)

Posted in Non-fiction, Ordinary life | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Updates on all fronts (and some sides)

It has been an eventful three weeks here. Three weekends ago I didn’t post because I had opened up the Two-Legged League again and that kind of swallowed me, two weekends ago I had just come down with a cold (spending Friday in bed with books, and barely getting through work Saturday before collapsing on the couch for a nap — the only other thing I got done that day being dishes). This week my sister came home from college for Thanksgiving, I was part of a cat rescue which involved various parties breaking sundry rules in a good cause and which I should probably be discreet about on the interwebs, and I pulled out my Black Wasp garb project again.

So there has been a lot of excitement lately.

I’m really happy about how the cyrtel is coming along — I started it at or just before camp last year, so it’s been officially in progress for about a year and a third. On the spur of the moment I decided to do Sleeves of Doom despite the fact that they’re sort of overdone in that period and I was going to do plain rectangular sleeves to make a point about that — you know, I understand the fascination. So I took the squares I’d cut out to make loose sleeves, and made even looser ones with them. (And the gussets came from the corner I cut off anyway — so zero waste, which is a very period practice and makes me happy.) All my progress pictures of it so far are rather grainy, because I no longer live with the professional photographer, and my laptop’s camera isn’t the greatest, kind of like the lighting in my living room. Putting in the sleeves is still going to be lots of fun, by which I mean it’s never fun trying to figure out how not to leave holes at the underarm join. When I pulled out the documentation paper I was doing for this, to note my decision about the sleeves, I had to change the cover picture for it, because the sleeves are kind of a major deviation, and then I went down a Pinterest rabbit-trail, because it had been several months since I looked at any of those pictures. This had the good effect of making me excited about it all over again.

I finished the green shawl I’ve been knitting since last May, and it is ginormous and very comfy. It’s square, as long as I am tall, so it works best folded diagonally. And because somehow I still haven’t had enough of that yarn, I’m making a miniature one for my sister’s bunny, because the colour looks so good on him, and he’s not the sort to mind a neckerchief. I should really be knitting a mitten instead, because I lost one of the pair I made in 2008. . . but am I? No.

The TLL are running around again (I can’t stop making puns about them, nor will I try), and I’ve come up with some good ideas for revision, including one Ariana and I thought was a genius solution to a rather large problem — we’ll see if it brings any new ones with it. The wordcount of the story proper hasn’t really increased, though it has in the document where I write my ideas and bits of scenes I’d like to see. Some snippets may appear presently. I’m really excited to be working on a story that gives as well as taking, for a change.

Which brings me to STOML. When last I left you, I had just finished the first draft and given it to Levi’s parents to read. They have since finished it, and have offered to work with me in revisions — we’re going to meet some evening to talk about it, and I am simultaneously terrified and elated at the prospect. It will be a relief not to have to take the next stage alone. I mean, I shared everything with my sister, and many things with one or two other people, but when it came down to choosing words to put on the page, I had no visible helper, no one who, when asked a question, audibly answered back. (The Holy Spirit, divine Editor, was a constant unseen presence — but not quite the same thing.)

And there’s a new cat at my parents’ place, and he may or may not be staying there, but, you know. We can’t say no to an animal in need. Also yesterday Olivia and I got to work together, with Linda, and it was a pretty quiet day and I think we had fun. In the evening we ate most of the Rutabaga Experiment (it probably should have been roasted) and walked to the grocery store for milk and hot cocoa, and then made hot cocoa and read Time to Breathe, which may be found here in three parts (part III has the most views, why I do not understand) and enjoyed ourselves.

It’s really nice to have energy for work and handcrafts and cooking food and doing blog posts and even doing the dishes, for a change, instead of having to pick just the few most important things and hope you get more energy later. Is that how most people live all the time? I could get used to this.

On Thursday we watched The Secret of Kells, done by the same people as Song of the Sea, both of which I highly recommend — and honestly I think I might like Kells better? Our heroes defeat the power of evil using art, I mean, how could I not love it. And the art is lovely — it’s all hand-drawn animation. And it’s all about a book that turns darkness into light.

Blessed Advent, readers!

Posted in History, Ordinary life, Revision, SCA, So That Others May Live, The Two-Legged League, work in progress, Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment