Saturday, November 20, 2010

The wild November come at last
Beneath a veil of rain;
The night winds blow its folds aside,
Her face is full of pain.
The latest of her race, she takes
The Autumn's vacant throne;
She has but one short moon to live,
And she must live alone.
Richard Henry Stoddart   November

I am restless these days.  I think it is the change of seasons, – ten days ago the valley was filled with glorious light and colour, and now the wind is raw and cold, the sky is grey and dour, the sun just slides above the hills, and goes immediately into hiding.  A few days ago there were interesting rolling clouds, some of them reaching half way down the the mountains,  but now there is a pewter lid on the sky, and here we are, worrying about whether the roses are well enough protected from this early winter weather, blown by the wind when we do go outdoors, getting out scarves and boots and hats and warm coat,  and just being generally at sixes and sevens….

In a few more days surely the Christmas spirit will appear, – or at least a realization that there are dozens of things that will require doing in the next six weeks, and that they will all delight me in the doing.

Today, in fits and starts, I have been refurbishing the computer with music, and many of the CD’s I have ripped have been carols and beautiful Christmas music.  I left them on long enough to transfer them, and then went on to the next disc, but the Schubert I saved for last and have been listening to The Trout this evening while I knit around and around on a handsome pair of green socks with white stripes.  Two more pair after this one is finished, and then I will look elsewhere for knitting to absorb me in January.

This morning, looking for some comfort food to jolly up the day, I made a nice puffy golden bread pudding and we had it with yesterday’s clam chowder, (which I made for the same reason)!

Maybe I will make Christmas lists tomorrow to stir my heart a little into bearing with this sorrowful weather.  Or perhaps it will snow, solving the rose problem and making the world beautiful and delicate and pure again.  Which reminds me of a hymn I love…..

All beautiful the march of days as seasons come and go
the hand that shaped the rose has wrought the crystal of the snow
has sent the silvery frost of heaven, the flowing waters sealed,
and laid a silent loveliness on hill and wood and field.

O’er white expanses sparkling pure the radiant morns unfold,
the solemn splendours of the night burn brighter through the cold,
life mounts in every throbbing vein, love deepens round the hearth,
and clearer sounds the angel hymn, good will to all on earth.

Frances Whitmarsh Wile, 1911
the melody is Forest Green by Ralph Vaughan Williams.


Friday, November 19, 2010

William Wordsworth said it first,

'The world is too much with us;
late and soon, getting and spending,
we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours.'

I take my book to bed with me.

'Life is a Miracle, an essay against modern superstition' by Wendell Berry and I come to the sixth chapter.
This is a library book, but someone has been here before me, underlying very faintly Berry's comments on Science and Art in which he observes that these disciplines are neither fundamental nor immutable, but are instead the  'cultural tools' of our society.

'Science cannot replace art or religion for the same reason that you cannot loosen a nut with a saw or cut a board in two with a wrench.'

Wendell Berry is writing about the lack of conversation between the disciplines in higher education, and he goes on to point out the necessity for these tools to be used in collaboration in order to 'build and maintain our dwelling here on earth.'

The further I read the more my head nods in agreement.
When we ask if Science and Art  are at odds with each other and think constructively about this question we see that science means knowing and art means doing and that 'the one is meaningless without the other.'

I go on to the next chapter where Wendell Berry observes that at one time these disciplines were thought of as ways of being useful to ourselves and to each other, to help us to be self-sustaining and useful members of a community, and to see that this way of living survived the 'passing of the generations.

But then along came Professionalism, rather than Vocations and professional education became mere job training or career preparation, abandoning the ideals of service and good work, citizenship and membership in a community.  To quote Wendell Berry, 'the context of professionalism is not a place or a community but a career, and this explains the phenomenon of 'social mobility'..........'the religion of professionalism is progress......professionalism forsakes both past and present in favor of the future' and 'is always offering up the past and the present as sacrifices to the future, in which all our problems will be solved and our tears wiped away - and which, being the future, never arrives.'
'The present is ever diminished by this buying and selling of shares in the future that
 rightfully are owned by the unborn'

This is the answer, but what is the question?

Wendell Berry is a writer of immense imagination, but what drives him is his passion for the land and for a way of life that protects the earth and inspires a reverence among people that is mirrored in
their stewardship, their awareness, their fidelity, their commitment and their place in 'community'.

He questions the collaboration of a 'pillage and run' science with the same type of industrial corporations which has imposed a virtual total economy where everything has its price and materialism reigns supreme.
He laments the corporate freedom to pollute and exterminate and what he feels is the dominant tendency of our age, -' the breaking of faith and the making of divisions among things that once were joined.'

'Suppose', says Berry,' that we could change the standards....  Suppose that the ultimate standard of our work were to be, not professionalism and profitability, but the health and durability of human and natural communities.  Suppose we learned to ask of any proposed innovation the question that so far only the Amish have been wise enough to ask.  What will this do to our community?

Do you agree that not all the contributions of science in the last one hundred years have  been of benefit to society and that many of them have caused  regretful changes to our morality?

'Suppose we attempted the authentic multiculturalism of adapting our ways of life to the nature of the places where we live.  Suppose, in short, that we should take seriously the proposition that our arts and sciences have the power to help us adapt and survive.  What then?'

I cannot possibly impart here all of what I deem to be the wisdom contained in these few pages, but I will take the book to bed with me again tonight and re-read them in hopes that the ideals they espouse will be recognized  and the future for our children and their children will not be as bleak and lacking in the richness of  reverence (that word again) and appreciation for the sublime gifts of nature and the strengths of community; the neighbourliness; the building of trust; a return to simplicity and an understanding of the benefits of minimalism and kindly awareness.

"The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love"
William Wordsworth

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ABC Wednesday

The letter R

R is for ROSE

'Tis the last rose of summer left blooming alone
All her lovely companions are faded and gone
No flower of her kindred, no rosebus is nigh
To reflect back her blushes and give sigh for sigh.

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one, to pine on the stem
Since the lovely are sleeping, go sleep thou with them
Thus kindly I scatter thy leaves o'er the bed
Where thy mates of the garden lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow when friendships decay
And from love's shining circle the gems drop away
When true hearts lie withered and fond ones are flown
Oh who would inhabit this bleak world alone?
This bleak world alone.

Poignant words by the Irish poet, Thomas Moore in 1805.
The melody composed by George Alexander Osborne from Limerick City

Here is the last rose of summer in our garden, before the first snowfall

and a sweet rendition of the song 

For more interpretations of the letter R visit here at ABC Wednesday,
 with thanks to Mrs. Nesbit, her helpers and all participants.