Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sage's Corner: Little Red Riding Hood

We were playing in the basement and then I thought that it might be fun to do a play, so I told Lucy that we were going to do Little Red Riding Hood.  Lucy got a little red cape and a towel to be the hood, and I got a thick yarn blanket and a checkered cloth over my head and tied it at the bottom.  Then, Lucy got a basket and put almonds in it, but we didn't have a wolf.  So then, we started playing.  Lucy started to come to my house.  I had to talk in an old grandma voice.  Lucy came into the basement, and then we had a tea party together, and then Lucy went back home.  Then we did it again!  And after that play was finished, we got in our costumes, and we showed Mom and she took a picture.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

And All Thy Day Be Bright

K. must know me very well, because this week she surprised me with a recording of Ralph Vaughn Williams's Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.  I can't really describe the swell of emotions I feel when I listen to the Tallis Fantasia, the way the strings flow back and forth in chords both triumphant and sad, pushing from the low into the transcendant.  That blending of major and minor was a particular gift of Vaughn Williams, and probably the reason so many of my favorite hymns and orchestral works have his mark on them.  Still, in this case his achievement was largely in orchestrating what was already a beautiful melody.

[especially from 1:05 to 3:24]

As a hymn, the Tallis theme has had many incarnations.  The original, Renaissance song was a somewhat melancholy meditation on man's tendency to strive in vain.  In the early 18th Century, Joseph Addison--one half of the Addison & Steele essay-writing powerhouse--was prompted by personal illness to refashion the song into a hymn of deathbed consolation.  Both of those versions lean heavily on the theme's solemnity, but a later adaptation gets the lyric just right, each verse tracking the melody's progression from sorrow into peace:

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down
thy head upon my breast."
I came to Jesus as I was, 
so weary, worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

   ---   ---   ---

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am this dark world's light;
look unto me, thy morn shall rise,
and all thy day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found
in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I'll walk
till traveling days are done.

[1st and 3rd verses of "I heard the voice of Jesus say" by Horatius Bonar, 1846].

I was thinking of the Tallis Fantasia on Good Friday, and was humming it again today.  It's a beautiful song and if K. loves me she'll play it at my funeral.  When I hear those heartbreaking chords, my thoughts turn again and again to the Atonement, understanding again how the sweetest joys have come at great cost.

Good Friday

K. and I are trying to get into the habit of saying yes to good things.   It's funny how easily we can talk ourselves out of doing the things that bless us the most, falling back on those comfortable phrases--too busy, too difficult, too tired.  To counteract that kind of defeatism, this year we've made a point to take a trip to the DC temple whenever I get a day off work.  Normally, this means trading off attendance while the other watches the kids, but for Good Friday we traded with another couple and were able to walk into the temple arm in arm.
K. never looks more beautiful to me than when we go to the temple together, and I think there really must be a special kind of light that accompanies spiritual things, illuminating from within.
While waiting for the other couple, we took all the kids over to the LDS Visitor's Center and spent a few serene moments considering the Christus statue.  Sage, in particular, seemed to have a great reverence for both the temple and the statue.  Here she is with her friend, Avery.
After we rendered unto God the things of God, we decided we had enough time to pay our respects to Caesar with a quick (ha!) trip into DC.   I have decided that seeing DC by car is a game for suckers.  It took us an hour and forty-five minutes to drive twelve miles from the temple to the Jefferson Memorial.  By coincidence, that is how long it took us to get from home to the temple, driving across two whole states.  Of course, once you've parked and don't have to go anywhere, it's a beautifully plotted city.

President Obama even flew by to make sure we were enjoying the Cherry Blossom Festival.  We all thought that was very nice of him.
By the time we got there, the memorial was clothed in the last golden hours of daylight.
Coming from a slightly more northerly climate, we were surprised that the cherry blossoms were already more than halfway off the trees.  A couple of strong gusts treated us to the occasional shower of petals.
On the way back to the car Ian and Lucy threw some driftwood back into the Potomac, which is how all evenings should end.  It was a good friday.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

When Animals Attack

Last fall we bought a membership to the Philadelphia Zoo (Motto: "America's Oldest Zoo, and Looks It"). The cost of a yearly membership was slightly more than the cost of taking our whole family for a single visit, so this was the trip that made our investment pay off.In additional to the obligatory gangs of geese and squirrels, the Philadelphia Zoo is also features free-roaming peacocks, many of whom enjoy cuddling, long walks on the beach, and getting caught in the rain. One male was looking for love in the prairie dog town, flashing his plumage at four or five uninterested ladies before perfecting his routine.
When we saw him later, neck entwined with one of the females, Ian and Sage had this exchange:

S: Look, he got married.
I: Well, we don't know if they're married yet.
S: Yeah, maybe they're still dating.

At the lion exhibit, everyone wanted to get their picture taken in front of a female who came right up to the glass. When Ian sat down in front of her, she suddenly reared up and started doing this:

At first it was startling (Ian got up pretty fast), but if you look at the expression in her eyes it makes you kind of sad. Zoos fill me with wonder and pity, seeing these wild, wondrous creatures who so obviously want to be free. The fact that they are sometimes locked up for their own survival makes their confinement palatable, but only just.

The best part of the trip was an indoor playhouse complete with giant-sized animal habitats. The kids had a ball, and were busy as--well, you know.