Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

Comforts

Note: I began this post the last week of May 2020.  I had an idea to write about things that comfort me in, as they say in those T.V. ads, “these uncertain times.”  I have been thinking about these uncertain times.   I thought about the plagues of Europe I had read about. I thought about the Navajo Nation. I miss being with my children, but I know I am lucky; I just can’t hug them right now.

Then, things fell apart (even further than they ever have since January 2017). How can a pandemic with over 100,000 dead not be first on my list of sorrows this morning?  I feel like I am back in the uncertain times of my youth, circa 1967-1968, but worse.

I need comfort even more today and I hope I can offer some respite for a few minutes.


About seven or eight years ago I asked my sister-in-law Judy if she would teach me to knit and she said sure.  I have always admired my relatives and friends who could knit, crochet, and do other crafts.  I thought I would enjoy knitting while I talked or watched T.V.  Lord knows I could use the comfort and calm that such activities are supposed to provide.  I bought enough soft brown (mostly) alpaca yarn to knit Tom a scarf.  You will see below how far I got on the scarf.  I wanted to concentrate on my knit/ purl tasks, but sitting with my family on reunion weekend, I just couldn’t. The words were more important to me than the task, I guess.  Back home, I asked my friend Robin to help me back on track a couple of times, but I did not understand. I did not persevere.

my knitting

A couple of years later when my friend Donna heard this story, she offered to teach me to crochet instead. I tried. Donna was very patient. She told me there were YouTube videos I could watch to help me when I forgot–again–what I was supposed to do. You can see how far I got on whatever I was making below.

my crocheting

While I have not yet learned to do calming and lovely crafts–no March sister here knitting socks for the Union Army while waiting for Marmee to come home–I can do some things that comfort me some in these times.

 

 

For example:

I love nature and I love writing lists. Related to that, I have–sort of–wanted to be a naturalist for about 50 years. So, I love writing lists that include plants, animals, and specific tidbits about nature.  I recently started a list describing the flora and fauna of Hillside Park, a nearby little public park where Tom and I volunteer.  Just setting up the table and starting to list the trees helped me feel more relaxed than I had in days.  Here is a sample from the list:

Name Scientific Name Native? Notes
Trees/Shrubs  
arrowwood viburnum Viburnum dentatum yes
beech Fagus grandifolia yes
black cherry Prunus serotina yes
fragrant sumac Rhus aromatica yes
black locust Robinia pseudoacacia) yes
catalpa Catalpa speciosa yes blooming now; end of May
hackberry Celtis occidentalis yes
kousa dogwood Cornus kousa no
mulberry, prob white Morus alba no if this turns out to be red mulberry, it is a welcome native, but not likely, I think

oaks, Hillside Park, Arlington Virginia

Books about trees comfort me. Last week, Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests by Joan Maloof reminded me of old forests I have walked in. Just writing this now, this morning, calms my anxious heart a little.

Like so many others, I have been doing quite a bit of baking these last months.  Actually, I have needed to curtail this urge somewhat because a) while we do exercise and take walks, there has been a great deal of sitting while reading, watching T.V. and, for me, compulsive solitaire playing b) we don’t have the metabolisms we had back in the day when I would bake a treat every day.

butter tarts with Michigan cherries and walnuts

Even more than my baking, watching Tom cook old favorites–remembering happy times with family and friends–comforts me.  Both my appetite and my heart have been satisfied with Tom’s meals: Lasagna, albondigas soup, chile verde, meatballs and tomato sauce!

I don’t think listening to music calms me down; more like it excites me, makes me cry, and, sometimes gives me the shivers–but those reactions provide their own comfort. Mostly, we listen to classical music, but lately we have also been listening to folk and rock, too.  Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Doc Watson, the Beatles, even the Beach Boys (Good Vibrations), have caused that sharp intake of breath.

I have been thinking about Leonard Cohen these last several days. The song I am particularly  thinking about is Democracy. I hope Leonard is right and that someday (soon) , “Democracy is coming to the USA.”  This idea comforts me and I still (mostly) believe it. Please be well. Please be safe. Peace.

Love,  Lynda

 

Music for January

taking down the dogwood

taking down the dogwood

This morning the Woodson’s Complete Tree Service guys are taking down our dogwood tree.  I expect that this is not a foreshadowing of my or Tom’s early demise. After all, we aren’t as old in people years as the dogwood was in tree years. We sometimes wonder whether this tree was planted when the house was built.  If so, it would be 85 years old. In any case, the dogwood has had dieback for years and had to come down (see the post To Autumn).

Forgive me, it’s just that January’s short days and cold nights make me think long thoughts. I told you a while ago that I was going to write more about the 2014 road trip. I was hoping for a brief, yet comprehensive, summary of what we saw and felt and what we learned. Maybe later.

Back to January My mother died in January. Three years later my dad died in January. That was okay, really, but I do get a bit pensive whenever there is snow on the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes (the route we take from Virginia to Michigan for the funerals).

Music of the Spheres Tom bought some new speakers for the stereo system. So we had to try them out by listening to music we’d heard many times to see whether or not the new speakers sound significantly better than the older (by 20 years) speakers.*

The first song I listened to was “Secret Gardens” from Judy Collins’ True Stories and Other Dreams. I listened to it a couple of hundred times when my parents were dying and then died. Thinking back though, even in 1973 when I first owned the album, I cried when I heard this song. I cried Monday when I heard it again. I think they are tears of happiness: “I see you shining through the night through the ice and snow of winter.”

Next, we listened to Joan Baez’s version of “North Country Blues” from her Any Day Now: The Songs of Bob Dylan CD. I think I was checking out the speakers to see how they worked on pure human voices. Very well, I can report.

Next,  I made a quirky choice: “Land of the Navajo” by Peter Rowan. The majority of our CDs are still in storage, maybe that’s my rationale for choosing this CD. Or maybe it’s because, while the plot of the song is opaque to me, Rowan’s evocative yodels (or whatever they are) take me back to the land of the Navajo, which I love.

Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly

Tom chose Abbey Road, you know by whom. We listened from “Here Comes the Sun” through “Her Majesty.” I was astounded. They sang with the voices of angels. I hadn’t remembered that.

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right

How did they know how to write “little darling” instead using heavier words? Baby, I’m amazed.

Next, we listened to “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” from Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde CD. Tom has been listening to this song since he was a teenager in the town he always characterizes as “the armpit of Utah.” Looks like songs of love and yearning may work anywhere. I note that I am a person from the lowlands.

Finally, we listened together to some songs from Judy Collins’ Wildflowers including “Since You Asked”:

What I’ll give you since you asked
Is all my time together;
Take the rugged sunny days,
The warm and rocky weather,
Take the roads that I have walked along,
Looking for tomorrow’s time,
Peace of mind.

As my life spills into yours,
Changing with the hours
Filling up the world with time,
Turning time to flowers,
I can show you all the songs
That I never sang to one man before.

We have seen a million stone lying by the water,
You have climbed the hills with me
To the mountain shelter.
Taken off the days, one by one,
Setting them to breathe in the sun.

Take the lilies and the lace
From the days of childhood,
All the willow winding paths
Leading up and outward.
This is what I give
This is what I ask you for;
Nothing more.

Maybe I can use this song as the summary of the road trip/marriage we’ve been on so far.

wildflowers

wildflowers


 

*The verdict on the speakers: I am not an audiophile. I don’t usually listen consciously for sound quality. Nonetheless, the minute I heard these speakers, I had a simile for Tom. The speakers are like my sugar cookies (really Joy of Cooking’s rich sugar cookies). They are so pure, simple, and unadulterated that a person used to inferior baked goods might not notice how delicious the cookies are. Same deal for the speakers.

Flexibility, Part 2

In my last post, I noted that I thought my physical flexibility was lessening somewhat.  I am not happy about that, but my chief concern is that I remain (or maybe the correct phrase is become more) mentally and emotionally flexible.

I like to think that, at least sometimes, I embody definition #3 for flexible: “characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements….” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flexible) This is not just some random idea I picked up on the Internet.  I did once have an actual mental health professional called me flexible (and, for the record, resilient also).  My family seems to expect me to be flexible and I think they are more or less satisfied with me on that point. I was going to write that my coworkers have generally thought I was flexible, but I don’t think that is completely true.  However, many of my coworkers/friends have found me friendly, cooperative, and non-doctrinaire.  Anyhow, back to considering my flexibility quotient:

How I have become or tried to become more flexible:  

  • I now like to listen to opera.  This is not because I’ve changed my bourgeois Midwestern spots. It’s just that our parrot friend Phoenix enjoys opera and I trust his instincts.
Phoeni

Phoenix

  • I used to despise eggplant.  I don’t blame myself.  I think when I was young, I only had tasted horrible school-lunch style eggplant parmesan. I mentioned this dislike to an Afghan student.  She said that she would change my mind when I tasted her eggplant dish.  She was right and between the baba ganoush and that Chinese dish of fried eggplant with lots of garlic, I am now a dedicated fan.  In fact, I am growing four Japanese eggplants this year (a huge crop when one gardens on 1/20 of an acre as I do).
eggplant

eggplant

  • Time was—back when I was a new gardener—just sighting a slug was cause for loud complaints and gross-out noises. There was the time I ran barefooted to answer the phone and stepped on a giant, spotted, end-of-summer specimen. I washed off my foot in the tub for five minutes.  The thought of slug slime on my foot was just too much for me to bear.  It’s been a rainy spring and early summer here and just last week, I flipped a page of The New York Times Magazine, which had been out on the patio, and found a slug making itself comfortable inside.  I took the slug outside and, with Tom’s help, we liberated it.  I don’t usually even sprinkle my diatomaceous earth around the vegetables to tear the slugs’ little bodies.  Life’s tough enough all around already without it.
diatomaceous earth

diatomaceous earth

  • About five years ago at one of our Deep Creek, Maryland family meetings, one of my sisters-in-law  introduced me to Sudoku. Not only introduced me, but left her puzzle book for me to finish. She told me that, to begin with, it was okay to fill out a few of the squares—using the answers in the back—to help me get the idea.  Well, it took me more time than I want to admit to figure out the logic involved in Sudoku, and I still cheat on every game I play.  At first, I kept playing because the puzzles were fun and because I love my sister-in-law and her book.  Later, I played compulsively to help me through a tough patch or two. Also, at the back of my mind, I remembered that pop culture tells us that doing this stuff (crosswords, playing bridge, etc.) is supposed to help keep our cognitive functioning up to snuff—flexible, that is. I have about a fifth of the puzzles in the book yet to complete, so I guess I will see whether my slow and unsteady pace wins the prize of maintaining well-oiled cognition.
Sudoku

Sudoku

  • I was the youngest of five children and so I never spent too much time alone when I was growing up.  I had roommates in college and at my first jobs away from home.  Then, for two quarters—maybe one—when I started graduate school, I lived alone in a cellar—more or less—in Salt Lake City. Some things happened there. A figure crouched at my window in the night staring down at me in my cellar. A thief robbed me of my Zuni bracelet, my mother’s brooch, and the Swiss Army knife I kept by my bed for safety. Many early mornings a greasy crone greeted me when I stumbled from my little space through the laundry area to my even smaller bathroom. I was not a success first time out alone.  So, later on, married with kids, I used to worry when my husband would go away on business trips.  I don’t know what I expected. We had nothing much to steal and, by this point, we lived in nice neighborhoods.  When the children got a bit older and life became—let’s say—complicated and, maybe, not easy, I learned something new. The scary things were no longer separate from me crouching above my bed the way they had been when I was young.  I realized that the fear, insecurity, and pain were inside of me.  I became flexible (and resilient) because I had to do so. And I keep trying most days.

Note: My husband read these words and mentioned that I haven’t  actually explained why I became flexible. I guess that’s because a) I don’t know why and b) it’s not totally true. Maybe it’s because as the youngest child and the only girl, I fit naturally into the already well-developed family structure: not too much complaining or crying or I couldn’t tag along; once a brother deemed me able to walk home from kindergarten by myself, I just had to find my way home (I did); don’t flinch when the hardball comes at you–hold your glove in the right place.  As an adult, I have sometimes taken sips from the cup of bitterness.  Happily, I never gulped.  Instead, I would remember the Bob Dylan lines, “Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now” (from My Back Pages) and it  has seemed true for me, whenever I shook loose of the bitterness.  Also, I am a stick-in-the-mud about many things–from how I put dirty dishes in the dishwasher to my politics. Furthermore, I am becoming less flexible and resilient about driving.

I don’t know whether or not my examples have convinced you or me that I am flexible.However, when I have been writing, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about some words from a W.B. Yeats poem that give me comfort.  Here they are from  “A Dialogue of Self and Soul”:

I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.

From The Winding Stair and Other Poems, 1933