You are viewing mechaieh

Recent Entries 
5th-Sep-2013 11:20 am - Shelley Jackson Denham, 1950-2013
MeEx cover
Last summer, when I went to the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival in North Carolina, I was captivated by the beautiful woman turning pages for William Ransom. She had silver hair and wide eyes and she was so engaged with the music -- not histrionically or showtastically or in any way in the way of the performance, yet vibrantly, fully present.

I was introduced to her at a reception after the concert, but with our first names only, so several minutes went by before the clues added up and I realized I was talking to a woman whose hymns I'd sung many times. At which point I fear I went into stammering fangirl mode, but she handled that graciously, of course.

Last night -- at the end of chamber choir rehearsal -- I learned that Shelley's husband had passed away in May, and that she died on Sunday of a heart attack.

I have Singing the Living Tradition open at the moment to #86:

Spirit of great mystery,
hear the still, small voice in me.
Help me live my wordless creed
as I comfort those in need.
Fill me with compassion,
be the source of my intuition.
Then, when life is done for me,
let love be my legacy.

--Shelley Jackson Denham, 1987

This entry was originally posted at
14th-Jun-2013 10:03 am - momentum
MeEx cover
Two days ago, I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. I had copyediting and lettering targets I'd planned to meet, but I also had a headache, and I haven't gotten past the "eek!" part of the current calligraphy thing, so scrubbing the tub and sanitizing pots and making a new batch of basil toner seemed way, way easier than putting pencil to paper.

Yesterday, I started copyediting after breakfast and worked flat through lunchtime (which almost never happens, because I loooooooove food and get very, very cranky when I'm running on fumes) and didn't stop until 2:45 pm, when I yelped, "Eek!" and rushed out the door to meet my hiking partner. (There are times when I curse pre-scheduled exercise because it disrupts my grooves, but we saw two fawns at the lake, and the ridge that always kicks my ass does seem to be getting slightly easier to climb.)

I worry about losing touch with people. I worry about people dying before I make time to bake the pie and find my crocheting to take over for a long catch-up chat. I worry about not getting around to planting the seeds I bought this year, or the ones I've put in the "plant later" tray because it's already too hot. I worry about the energy evaporating from the sketches of poems I don't have time to amplify or revise right now. I worry that when I finally throw out the bags of tomato seeds my mother tried to preserve -- I tested a few this spring, and nothing came up -- I'll wish I had them on hand a week later when the poem about Rorschach seed patterns on scraps of Bounty finally gels (I could take pictures -- I will take pictures -- but they aren't going to retain the layers or up-closeness of the actual thing. I could keep just one. I could work on the dang poem after all if I'm gonna think aloud about it this much).

I fret about how everything, but everything, expands into a million marigold petals when I touch it. I want to scrape at the scale on my bathroom faucet with a toothpick, and to paint my living room myself, and to redo every inch of my yard. I plan to find the pillow for the cover that's been made out of my wedding dress, and the upholsterer I'd hoped to ask about recovering my dining room chairs has gone out of business. I resent work for taking time away from studying. I am breathless whenever I spend an hour studying, awed at how much more there will always be to learn. I get deep into a manuscript and it reminds me of how much I actually already know, just from the years I've put in and how they've developed that editorial "sixth sense" that tells me when a name is probably misspelled or that something on page 38 isn't in sync with what the author says on page 83, as well as being hyper-conscious of all the little cues and nuances that separate a professionally designed book from a document assembled by an amateur. (Nothing against amateur efforts, mind--as long as the professionals are getting their due.) I miss learning new music, but not enough to rejoin my old ensembles or start the trio I sometimes dream about pulling together.

I am delighted by Cathy Yardley's review of my book. I'm singing along with madrigals in the car to de-rust my voice (I'm leading hymns at the early service this Sunday). I found a Spanish-language copy of Isabel Allende's Zorro at a used bookstore, and gave it to a GA delegate in my congregation to take to Louisville for the library to be established there. I saw that the bookstore had copies of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in both the Reading List and Agriculture sections, and that some of the copies in the Ag section were slightly cheaper, which was intel my hiking partner (and mom of a schoolkid) found useful when she went shopping there a few days later. My E player in fantasy tennis (the delightfully sassy Donna Vekic) has made a surprising run to the semifinals in Birmingham (UK), and I'm still alive in Survival at the Shore (horseracing predictions) -- ranked 1118th, true (my second-best day got negated by a cyberglitch, woe), but I haven't let myself dive deep into researching the ponies, so I'm fine with merely swimming along. Go Chocolate Drops! Go Zealous on the Run! Go Toute Allure! I'm amused by this interview of Charleston chef Robert Stehling, happy to hear reports that Husk Nashville is living up to the hype, and, in the bath, reading a 1996 Baedeker guide to Canada that used to live on the shelves of the Charlotte public library.

(And now it's been more than fifteen minutes since I applied sunscreen, and I've been asked to deliver a shirt and a gallon of water to my favorite motorcycle repair shop. Time to move from inventory to service! :-) )

This entry was originally posted at
MeEx cover
A couple of days ago, I went looking for photos of some of the Bikram postures, and came across a nifty guide (illustrated with colorful stick figures) produced by a NY studio.

(When I manage standing bow, it feels pretty cool. Then there's me getting water up my nose when I tried to sneak in a sip during savasana...)

I am taking a break from it today, though, because my body and brain both need a timeout -- a couple of old injuries have flared up, and I need a day where I don't have to be anywhere by x o'clock. (It's not really a day off -- I'm planning to divide 8-10 hours between lettering and copyediting -- but not having to stop to get myself ready to go somewhere else will make a difference. I'm such a housecat.)

Yesterday afternoon, I went to Rita Frizzell's memorial service. It included humor and drama and tears and quite a bit of music, including Sarah Dan Jones's "Meditation on Breathing" ("When I breathe in, I'll breathe in peace. When I breathe out, I'll breathe out love"). The humor included Dawn Thornton referring to herself as "Buddish" (referring to her sort-of practice of meditation); the drama included a theatre director reading aloud passages from Hamlet and coming up with a new collective noun ("an incandescence of Ritas") to encompass the different facets of she-who-was-called-Rita. There was chanting from the Tibetan Book of the Dead; there was a colorful portrait of an eight-limbed goddess hanging behind the pulpit. There was a reference to "Tibetan Buddhism's glass ceiling for women" (one of the situations leading Rita to Unitarian Universalism) but also glowing descriptions of the Friday night sangha she led, which will be continued by another member of FUUN.

The closing song was a group rendition of "You Are My Sunshine," a song Rita's mother had sung many times to her. We sang through it three times, twice with the words ("Please don't take my sunshine away...") and once simply humming. Afterward, at least two people said to me, "The humming, that's what got me." Music is such a physical act.

After the reception, I hopped into a friend's car and she steered it downtown toward sushi. Sarge talked about her plans to make blackberry wine; B. and I chatted about our connections to Texas. There was a lot of laughing with and at each other, including me at S. when she declared "I'm too old to be butch" (when B. declined her offer to pump gas) and both S. and B. at me when I waxed enthusiastic about fantasy tennis and horse handicapping. ("Look, I'm a nerd. Therefore I have nerd hobbies." "We're glad you know that.")

Speaking of which: Thanks to an $7K bet on Oxbow and a $10K bet on Mylute, I am currently leading the Smarty Jones Stakes (a Triple Crown predictions contest) over at My penchant for humoring my hunches seldom pays out two races in a row, however; moreover, I've noticed that it's always a longshot I don't pick that ends up second. Still, for the moment, peppermints all around! ;-)

This entry was originally posted at
13th-May-2013 03:43 pm - Mother's Day at church
MeEx cover
At the start of the service, the choir sang Ysaye Barnwell's arrangement of Kahlil Gibran's "On Children":

Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself
They come through you but they are not from you
And though they are with you they belong not to you

You can give them your love but not your thoughts
For they have their own thoughts
You may house their bodies but not their souls
For the souls dwell in a place of tomorrow
Which you cannot visit
Not even in your dreams

You can strive to be like them
But you cannot make them just like you

Rev. Gail preached about family and community, and how individuals possess both the desire to belong and the desire for freedom -- the challenge being as a family member (by blood or by choice) to nurture the people we love in such a way that they also feel free to be themselves.

Midway through the sermon, she stated that the largest category of households in the United States consists of people who live alone, which was true of our congregation -- and that the majority of that group at FUUN live alone by choice. She quoted a member of the congregation who had said to her, "I'm looking for someone to date -- but there's NO WAY I'm looking for someone to marry!" This was greeted with a wave of laughter -- and a heartfelt "Amen!" bellowed from the middle of the sanctuary, which triggered a second wave of laughter.

Maybe ten years ago, a group at church performed another Sweet Honey in the Rock piece, "No Mirrors in My Nana's House." This animated version of it (Chris Raschka illustrations) is a joy:

This entry was originally posted at
MeEx cover
Last night's bathtub reading was some of the Spring 2013 issue of UU World. I was pleased to see a feature on UU military chaplains, in part because my church ordained one of them (Azande Sosa) a year or two ago. Two excerpts:

[Rev. Sarah Lammert, on a shift in UU attitudes toward the military:] People began to understand that you could be for or against a war without being against the people who serve the country.

[Rev. Chris] Antal [a National Guard chaplain in Afghanistan] emphasizes the importance of having religiously liberal chaplains in the military. Partly it's about those soldiers who might be unchurched or hold beliefs that are out of the mainstream, including those who are pagan. "Soldiers have told me, 'You are the first chaplain who would ever pray with me,'" Antal said.

He added, "I've been able to do all kinds of meaningful ministry in the past year, especially after 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was repealed last year. Not only does the Army need chaplains, it needs liberal chaplains to balance the overwhelming number of evangelicals within chaplaincy. When we, as a denomination, walked away from the military after Vietnam, the vacuum was filled by others."

Antal said that many soldiers are open to different approaches to religion. "When people face the actuality of war and combat and the possibility of death, they start to search their souls. They want to be prepared."

Congregations have a role too, he said. "Soldiers need to be welcomed when they come to church. Suicide rates of veterans are off the charts. Our congregations and our country as a whole share a moral responsibility to be open to the military. They are working on our behalf."

This entry was originally posted at
13th-Jan-2013 08:46 pm - "daisies, elephants, and flying fish"
MeEx cover
[Subject line from Gary Kowalski's "An Alphabet of Gratitude," one of the readings at church today]

As this morning's lay leader, I lit the memorial candle for Shirley Ryberg, whose memorial service will be held on what would've been her 95th birthday. Shirley, Jan Robinson, and I put together a sermon back in 2009. Well into her 80s, she wrote biographies of the church's new members for the newsletter. Even when she could no longer read the hymnal, she still happily sang along, wordlessly caroling along and swaying to the music.

This entry was originally posted at
2nd-Nov-2012 07:34 pm - a reason to keep a journal
MeEx cover
I'd completely forgotten about the apple tree that ate Roger Williams, until I looked up one of my old entries about an All Saints' Day service.

(Posting on May Sarton and her All Souls poems over at [community profile] poetree tomorrow.)

Today has been the warmest day of the week, but now the sun is down, and my feet are on the verge of clammy. I'll go dig out some socks in a sec.

My church's Room in the Inn program starts tonight -- in fact, the men should be having supper right around now. I have the 4 a.m. shift tomorrow morning, and I'm speaking about it at this Sunday's services. If that's not enough to lure you locals to the pews (jk), perhaps the topic will?

The Reverent Citizen and Leader

For our traditional election sermon, we will examine the virtue of reverence, which does not depend upon any one faith stance or religious belief, but keeps us from trying to act like gods. We will reflect on political philosophy that suggests that reverent citizens and leaders have a crucial role to play in a healthy democracy.

Plus, the opening hymn is "Here We Have Gathered," which is a lovely way to start a Sunday. I especially like the third verse:

Life has its battles, sorrows and regret:
But in the shadows, let us not forget:
We who now gather know each other's pain;
Kindness can heal us; as we give, we gain.
Sing now in friendship, this our hearts' own song.

[Something else that's nifty: an ASL script for the hymn]

(As always, the annotator in me hastens to add, of course we don't necessarily really know each other, let alone the dark stuff. Even the people who love me most and know me best can't always suss out when or how much I'm hurting, especially when I'm making a point of being stoic or even merely functional; nonetheless, singing this hymn among people I do consider my friends is indeed a pleasure. It's being greeted with hot coffee on a cold morning; it's hiking around Radnor Lake this morning with one of those friends, who just got back from Parents' Day at Williams; it's elegant hand-me-downs from an eighty-three-year-old yoga devotee and in turn taking salads and snacks to housebound friends.)

[I didn't sit down to write that. I guess community and connections are on my mind.]

Speaking of older folks, a retirement community in town sponsored one of the scarecrows at Cheekwood Gardens. They called it "Will's Scare Quotes":

Will's Scare Quotes Will Rogers quote Will Rogers quote

This entry was originally posted at
14th-Oct-2012 07:50 pm - notes about church and dinner
MeEx cover

* the pleasure of wearing a favorite dress on an ordinary Sunday
* a violist with the Nashville Symphony/Alias played a Bach courante (from suite #6) after the call to worship, as well as harmony on the hymns and a Faure pavane during the offertory. Lovely stuff.
* the Story for All Ages was about Henry Bergh, a Unitarian who founded the ASPCA.
* the meditation was "Avalokiteshvara Dharani," a Buddhist chant.
* our church placed first in this year's AIDS walk, raising $18,200. Wow!

My original plan was to spend the afternoon at my easel, but tiredness took over, so I ended up sacking out on the sofa. For dinner, I made a variation of Melissa Clark's crispy tofu recipe:

crispy tofu with long beans

(I didn't have peanut oil, so I used sesame. The shiitake mushrooms weren't soft enough by the time I started cooking, so I skipped them. Instead of pork, I cooked half of the long beans I picked up at Shreeji's yesterday. Instead of chicken broth, I used water. Instead of saving the green parts of the scallions for garnish, I mixed them in with the soy and mirin and dumped them into the pan at the same time. And I tossed in a spoonful of minced garlic because I felt like it.)

[Clark won't mind. One of the themes of In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite is how she and her mother seldom follow recipes as written. :-) ]

I also broiled two chicken breasts and made a quick sauce for it by combining orange juice and mustard. Some of it blended with the soy-mirin-garlic glaze on my plate, and that tasted really good, so I might try that combo on purpose later this week. (The Turnip Truck had some aging tofu on sale today...)

This entry was originally posted at
21st-May-2012 09:32 pm - Fiesta de Libros
MeEx cover
From the May Mid-South District (of the Unitarian Universalist Association) newsletter (should've posted this last week, but note that it takes place every Saturday, in Atlanta):

Atlanta Area Mobile Library Project Update

Join us Saturday, May 19 at Plaza Fiesta to celebrate the official launch of the Mobile Library - Fiesta de Libros! The library project had its soft opening April 14 and has been received with great enthusiasm and appreciation by the children and their parents. We are very proud of this UU project and we want to celebrate the launch with our UU community. The celebration will be from 1:00pm to 2:00pm in front of the playground by the food court. We will have musical entertainment, community speakers, including Rev. David, and a Ribbon Cutting ceremony. Bring the family and friends, celebrate with us and enjoy all that Plaza Fiesta has to offer!

The goal of the mobile library project "Fiesta de Libros" is to expose children to age-appropriate bilingual literature at Plaza Fiesta (a Latino mall off of Buford Highway). The idea of the program is to create a library-type setting where the children will be encouraged to browse the book selection, sit down and read, take a book home or exchange one of their own books for a new book. Fiesta de Libros will be set up every Saturday from 1pm to 5pm at Plaza Fiesta.

If you are interested in supporting this project, there are three ways in which you can help:

1) Donate books - Bring books for children up to the age of 12 written in Spanish, English or both languages.

2) Sign up to be a Saturday volunteer - You, your family, friends, or organization can sign up for one of the Saturday shifts to staff the library. The shifts will be from 12:30pm to 3:00pm and 3:00pm to 5:30pm.

3) Join a committee - Join one of the five committees to help administer the program.

Please contact Laura Murvartian at or 770-841-9672 for further information or to sign up as a volunteer.

My tribe: we set up libraries and "smuggle" books. Onward!

This entry was originally posted at
22nd-Apr-2012 04:46 am - let there be light
MeEx cover
Delegate badge and ribbon

Spirit of Compassion
Isn't it amazing
how we crave to know an outcome
before its time
even as we accept
that we cannot know
how anything will go?...

sanctuary, Weatherly Heights Baptist Church

Let there be light,
Let there be understanding,
Let all the nations gather,
Let them be face to face...

Let there be light,
open our hearts to wonder,
perish the way of terror,
hallow the world God made.

    - Frances W. Davis

Hymn geek note: "Let There Be Light" was first published in 1968; the author was a Canadian teacher. It has appeared in Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, UCC, Unitarian Universalist hymnals. (Source re other denominations: Routley and Cutts, An English-Speaking Hymnal Guide [Chicago: GIA Publications, 2005].)

This entry was originally posted at
This page was loaded Aug 27th 2014, 7:12 pm GMT.