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Over the phone as I was sitting in O’Hare Thursday evening:

Soon-to-be Thirteen Year Old Gel: Um, Dad…I got my science test back.

Self: Oh? How did it go?

STB13YOG: Well, um, I failed it. I’m so sorry.

Self: WHAT!!?? How could that be after you studied so much?

STB13YOG: HA! Ha! Fooled you! I got a 93!

Self: You stinker.

The good news is that the gel is finaling beginning to see that there is some kind of connection between studying and good grades. A mysterious, indeed almost unfathomable connection, but a connection nonetheless.  She’s also discovering that she likes getting good grades.  I’ll gladly take a little ribbing if it helps reenforce that idea.

When Legolas first sets foot on the grass of Rohan in The Two Towers, he says something like, “Ah! The Green Smell!”  I know exactly what ol’ J.R.R. was talking about, and about this time of year I start to become impatient for my first sniff of it.

I mention this because I spent  my first Saturday morning of the new year pottering about the port-swiller grounds, getting things ready for the onset of spring. [In other words, doing the chores you should have taken care of last fall – Ed.]  Quiet, you.

First task was to clear away some big maple limbs brought down by the mighty wind that swept through yesterday.  After that, it was on to paring the wisteria along the west fence, ripping out the wild grape that had invaded the forsythia hedge and then hacking back Kong the Buddleia and all the Konglings scattered about the place.   I also took out the remaining joe-pye stalks & c. in the garden, which now, instead of looking desolate and shabby, looks desolate and bare.  Finally, I nailed back up a part of the east fence recently taken out by yet more falling limbs.  It’s been a big year for falling limbs.

In all this, I was aided and abetted by the nine year old.  At least, that was her initial intention.  After she’d picked up a few wisteria bits for me, keeping up a running story about how each one was a beloved son or daughter of the main bush and that I was a plant killer, she said, “Daddy? Will you tell Mom that I was a good helper when she gets home?”

“Well,” I replied, “That rather depends on whether you will be, doesn’t it?”

She thought about that for a minute.

“Dad,” she said, “I think I’ll go inside.”


(Later on she came back out and proceeded to hurl herself about on the tree swing, howling at the top of her lungs.  Why someone in the neighborhood didn’t summon a fire truck and ambulance, I don’t know.  Unless, of course, they’ve simply gotten used to her over the years.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  One of my resolutions this year is to stop losing my temper in re the gels and instead enjoying them more for who and what they are, so I just smiled quietly.) 

Next task will be to do something about the climbing rose out front.  I want to spread it out more across the face of the house, but have not yet decided how to go about it.  This will probably involve some hacking, and I notice that the thing is already starting to bud, so perhaps I should wait until after the bloom before messing about with it.

Happy birthday, Dame Emma Kirkby, born this day in 1949!

Kirkby is perhaps my very favorite soprano of all time, with a voice that can only be described as angelic.  (And Evelyn Tubb is no mere shrieker, either.)

This “Venite”, by the way, is from this album of Monteverdi solos and duets, which also happens to be one of my very favorite vocal recordings of all time.  Half the selections are secular, half are sacred.  All are divine.  If you don’t already possess it, I highly recommend that you obtain a copy for yourself and can promise you that you won’t regret it.


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February 2011