Category Archives: Music

The Beauty of Early June

Editing, editing, editing. The work is intense, but somehow I find it satisfying to tighten my writing.

The gardens are flourishing. The weather has been a nearly perfect combination of rain and sun. How often does that happen?

The other morning, I went out with my camera to record some of the beauty of early June.

My favorite iris.

Rain drops on hostas.

Minerva, guardian of the front yard.

Elegant Solomon’s Seal.

Finally, a whirring visitor to the feeder. A little blurry, but I know that many readers love seeing pictures of hummingbirds.

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Because I’m still in the weeds of gardening and editing—couldn’t resist that description—I don’t have time for my usual slate of recommendations. And I probably won’t until late June, when (I hope) the bulk of the work is finished. However, I do have time to  include a link to Alisa Amador’s Tiny Desk Concert. What a musician! Easy to understand why she won the 2022 Tiny Desk Contest.

Friday Favorites: March 4

I’ve decided to bring back Friday Favorites, where I highlight some of the things that have made me happy during the week—music, TV shows, movies, podcasts, food, nature. On the third Friday of the month, I’ll feature books I’ve read and tie in with Donna at Retirement Reflections, who is one of the hosts of the monthly “What’s on Your Bookshelf?”

Each Friday, I’ll provide a short list of nifty blog posts from some of my lovely blogging friends. Let me tell you, it’s not easy to winnow the list down to a few choices. So many good posts from blogging friends near and far. But never fear! I will get to everyone eventually.

In the comments section, if you are so moved, feel free to let me know what has made you happy this week. It doesn’t have to be anything grand or exciting. I’m especially fond of simple pleasures, and I always enjoy getting suggestions of what to read, watch, or notice.

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This week I watched—all right binged—the delightful sitcom Abbott Elementary, a mockumentary about a group of teachers and the challenges they face in an inner city school in Philadelphia. The humor is gentle rather than uproarious, and this a show with warmth and heart. The ensemble acting is fabulous, and each of the actors shines like a tiny jewel.  Abbot Elementary is an ABC show that’s also available on Hulu.

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Nifty Posts from a Few of the Lovely Blogs I follow

The Sydney Opera House aglow with Ukraine’s colors. Birds, gardens, kangeroos. Gerrie, of Canberra’s Green Spaces, features them all in a recent post. As always, this Mainer is agog over the beauty of Australia.

On the blog Now I’m Sixty-Four, Platypus Man takes us on a tour of the Burghley Sculpture Garden. Oh, be still my trembling heart. I have always loved sculpture gardens but had never articulated why. Platypus Man hits it right on the piton—as we Franco-Americans would say. He writes “In galleries and museums sculpture is contained, hemmed in by walls and ceilings, often difficult to fully appreciate. In sculpture gardens and parks however, sculpture sits comfortably within a spacious, natural environment, with room to breathe. And the sculptures and the landscape in which they sit enhance one another: the gardens and parks frame the sculptures, while the sculptures become visual anchors within their surroundings.” Yes, Indeed!

On Going Batty in Wales, there’s a recent post about the kindness and generosity of a blogging friend from far away. This line really struck me: “I never thought that writing about my simple life in this rural backwater would result in my having wonderful friends all over the world.” Same, same, same. And what a delight!

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This incredible performance of songs from the Broadway musical  Hadestown was recorded on NPR in the “Before Times,” as Stephen Thompson put it—just before Covid cracked down on the world. Wonderful, wonderful music, and the last chilling, thrilling song, “Why We Build the Wall” is especially relevant.

 

 

Step by Step in the Garden

Along with buying lots of annuals to brighten my shady yard, I also bought a handful of perennials, including Jacob’s Ladder, which is now in bloom. The flowers are modest but pretty, and I am already planning to buy more plants for various spots in the relatively moist areas in the front garden. Plus, now that I have hoses in the front, I can baby, at least a little, the plants that like extra water.

This plant always puts me in mind of the Bruce Hornsby song, “Jacob’s Ladder,” and the plaintive line “All I want from tomorrow is just to get it better than today.”

Step by step, one by one…in the garden. And in life?

One Day More

Well, in the United States, here we are, the day before the big election. In truth, many people have already voted, including me and my husband. I understand that because of all the early voting, we might not know the results on Tuesday evening. No matter. This song from Les Misérables captures exactly how I feel.

To calm myself down, I have been watching this short video—Blessings—from Emergence magazine. Recently, my blogging friend Robin from Breezes at Dawn shared this on her blog. As soon as I saw that the video featured David Whyte and his poetry, I was in. If there is one thing I like better than reading Whyte’s poetry, it’s hearing him recite his own poetry.

This beautiful video is very soothing. Exactly what I need to calm my one-day-more jitters.

 

Taking a Short Break but Still Time for a Couple of Friday Favorites

The time has come to take a short break from blogging, maybe a week, maybe two, as I finish proofing my new YA fantasy novel Out of Time, Book Three in The Great Library Series.  Proofing is fussy, time-consuming work but absolutely necessary. Out of Time will be published in November, which is just around the corner. Hence the need to focus all my creative attention on the book.

Still, it is Friday, and before I go on my break, I do have time to slide in a couple of things that are making me happy.

Even in mid-October, when the leaves are falling and the air is decidedly crisp, the patio is still one of my favorite places. Nowadays, Clif and I must bundle up for drinks and snacks on the patio, but we still enjoy being out there. Notice how the patio has now been set-up for socially-distanced visits. The patio is twenty years old, and never have the chairs and tables been arranged the way they are now. A sign of life during the pandemic, that’s for sure.

Now on to an inside pleausre—music. What in the world would I do without NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert? Not only have I been able to listen to old favorites such as the Avett Brothers, but I have also been introduced to groups I’ve never heard of. One of those groups is alt-J, an English indie rock band. Why had I never heard of them? Indie rock is one of my favorite genres, and alt-J’s debut album, An Awesome Wave, came out in 2012. I have no excuse. But thanks to NPR and Tiny Desk, I now have another group to add to my list of favorites.

And because I’m going to gone for a while, here’s a bonus Tiny Desk Concert with musicians Lily & Madeleine. Such lovely harmonies.

As we Franco-Americans would say, à bientôt.

Strawberry Challenge

The high heat has gone away, and we are having pleasant sunny weather in the low 80s. No AC needed. But the summer is still young, and I expect we’ll be using Eva—my name for the AC—many times before the cool snap of fall comes.

No rain yet, but it is in the forecast for this weekend. Fingers crossed because central Maine is dry, dry, dry. One of the driest Junes in my memory.

In the backyard, the evening primroses are in bloom, and the back garden is aglow with yellow, a jaunty contrast to all the green.

Clif took a closer look at these bursts of yellow.

Recently, we bought ant moats to attach to the hummingbird feeders. Filled with water, the moats keep the ants out of the enticing sugar-water mixture. What we didn’t count on was that the birds would view the moats as another place to drink water. Somehow, a nuthatch taking a sip of water from a moat doesn’t bother us one bit.

With all the hostas I’ve planted, the front yard is not as flamboyant as the backyard. Still, there are pleasures to be found.

This week, strawberries came in our CSA share, two quarts of sweet gems. The berries are small but utterly delicious and extremely ripe. It will be a challenge to eat them all before the berries go bad.

Are Clif and I up to the challenge?

You bet we are.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

Starting this week for my Friday posts, I’m going to take a leaf from Pop Culture Happy Hour’s book. On that excellent podcast, movies, books, music, and TV shows are reviewed and discussed. On Friday, after the lively discussions, the hosts and guests share what’s making them happy. Not surprisingly, the recommendations are media related.

I’m not sure I’m always going to stick to the media for my happy reports. After all, birds and plants make me very happy. But this week I’m featuring Rodrigo y Gabriela, two dynamic Mexican musicians who got their start in Dublin, thus proving that music is one of the things that binds us all.

So if you’re feeling a little glum by all that’s going in all the world, then click on this link. I challenge you not to tap your feet.

What I’m Listening to: Lavinia Ross and NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts

Every morning while I’m going through my emails and other correspondence, I listen to music via YouTube, which provides me with a variety that can only be called astonishing. This morning music both grounds and energizes me. It helps prepare me for my fiction writing, an arduous but satisfying  wrestle with words and story. (Silence is always required for my fiction writing.)

Lately, I have become especially taken with National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concerts—“Intimate video performances, recorded live at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen.” The Tiny Desk Concerts feature music for all kinds of tastes. What a gift!

Here are a few of the many video performances I listen to on a regular basis.

First, there is this joyful, luminous performance by Coldplay and the absolutely amazing For Love Choir. I listen to and watch this almost every day. Much needed during these grim times. I can’t be the only who “wants to party like it’s 1999.”

For a walk on the weirder yet strangely compelling side, you can’t beat Sylvan Esso, a cross between the German band Kraftwerk and the American band Blondie. You might notice this video has been labeled a “tiny desk Home concert.” During this time of the pandemic, it’s part of a new series recorded in musicians’ homes. I’m impressed by the quality of the sound. Very impressed.

Time for a change of pace with Death Cab For Cutie. My daughter Dee introduced me to this soulful, melancholy group led by Ben Gibbard.

I’ve saved the best for last, not a tiny desk concert. Instead, a CD—Keepsake—from my blogging friend Lavinia Ross of Salmon Brook Farms.

Here is how Lavinia describes Keepsake: “[I]t is quiet peaceful folk music. Four songs are mine, four are Kate Wolf covers, one Bob Dylan cover and one James Taylor cover….Guitar playing is mine except for the fretless bass (Jim Lamontagne), and the last song, a Bob Dylan one called ‘Tomorrow is a Long Time.’ ”

Lavinia does most of the singing—her husband Rick does sing one song. Holy cats, what a voice she has! Last night Clif and I were listening to Keepsake, and he said, “Lavinia’s singing reminds me of Aimee Mann.” Yes.

In a lovely case of serendipity, Lavinia features a couple of “tiny farm concert” videos on her website. Here is one featuring the song “Weary Stranger.”

I could have shared so many wonderful music videos.

What are you listening to?

These Are the Days

This morning Clif said, “My underwear is in the mailbox.”

My first thought: What a place for underwear!

But this is life during the time of the coronavirus: Underwear in the mailbox because we don’t want to go to Target. Instead, we have been ordering online the necessities of life.

In the days before the coronavirus, we ordered online maybe five or six times a year. Now, it’s about five times a fortnight. I wonder how it will be when this is all over. Will we go back to shopping the way we did before?

Or, will this new habit of online ordering become a trend? It’s hard for me to predict. However, after a year or a year and a half of doing something, it could become permanent. We shall see.

In other groundbreaking news…Because Clif is still recovering from his sprained ankle, I hefted the round table up the bulkhead stairs from the cellar and onto the patio. Although my knees did not thank me when I was done, what a sight for sore eyes to see the table on the patio.

Soon it will be warm enough to have a glass of something nice as we sit on the patio.

After cleaning the table and taking pictures to celebrate the arrival of the table on the patio, I poked around a bit and discovered the that the ferns have begun to unfurl.

By the basement, where it’s warm.

But even a little farther away, in the leaves.

Despite having underwear in the mailbox, despite covid-19, despite the isolation and confinement, spring has arrived. The trees are in blossom, the ferns are coming up. As Natalie Merchant so beautifully sings, these are the days.

 

A Weekend of Trivia, Chocolate Pretzels, Music, and Friends

What an action-packed weekend we had! It started on Friday morning when Clif dipped pretzels in Ghiradelli chocolate to bring as a treat to trivia night at Van der Brew.

Now what could be better than beer, popcorn, and chocolate-covered pretzels?

I’ll tell you what. During the trivia game, I actually answered a sports question correctly. As I’ve mentioned before, sports is not my thing, and I always dread those questions because I never, never know the answers. Except this time I did. The question was this: Which baseball team won the World Series in 2016 after not having won since 1908? Readers, I almost fell out of my chair. Thanks to Chicagoan Scott Simon, the most excellent host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, I knew it was the Chicago Cubs. (I can still recall how excited Scott Simon was in 2016 when the Cubs won.) Holy cats, I was thrilled that I remembered this. The rest of the night had its ups and downs, but through it all I basked in the glow of my knowledge of the winner of the 2016 World Series.

For someone who lives in the hinterlands, the excitement of Friday night would have been more than enough for one weekend. But, readers, there was more. Much more. On Saturday I went with friends to Mount Vernon (population 1,640) to listen to the Sandy River Ramblers, a blue grass band. All the players and singers were good, but my oh my that mandolin player—Dan Simons—was outstanding. His fingers flew so fast on the strings that I thought my heart was going to break. Here’s a picture of Dan Simons playing the mandolin. Unfortunately, the light was not good, and I wasn’t sitting near the stage.

Then it was Sunday. Friends invited us over for for a late afternoon dinner. Other friends were also invited. We drank wine, we had delicious macaroni and cheese, and one of the best homemade cob salads I have ever eaten. I made my not-so-famous apple crisp. Kittens romped around us as we talked about music, books, and politics. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures.

But what a way to end a terrific weekend.