29 March 2013

Easter Bells And Other Things That Make Me Happy

I treated myself to a bunch of daffodils for Easter. They were only a couple of bucks - okay, $2.50 maybe - and they're so cheerful. Osterglocken, they're called in German, Easter Bells. I love Easter Bells, both the flowers and the items that toll in church towers. Hearing church bells is one of the things I miss about Europe. Every Sunday morning you hear them, and in many places every day at noon, to pray an "Our Father" and take your lunch break, and again at six or seven for quitting time, Feierabend - "celebration evening". There really is something festive about the sound of bells.

Church bells are impressive items. They're huge, for one, often as tall as an adult human, and they weigh a ton - literally. And up close, they're so loud they can kill you; at least that's what Dorothy L. Sayers says in The Nine Tailors, where Lord Peter barely escapes with his life when he is accidentally caught in a church tower while the bells are tolling. I believe her - I was on top of a church tower once when the bell struck the hour, and even though we were a floor or two above the bell (or below, I can't remember), we all stood there with our hands pressed over our ears, the noise was so painful. But bells have to be that loud, so they can be heard in the whole town. Else how would you know when it's time to go to church or take your lunch break, or when someone is getting married or buried or christened or anything else important happens? Church bells were the Twitter and Google Calendar of pre-technology days.
My lovage doing its spring thing

Over here in the New World, church bells are few and far between; I have never lived within the sound of bells here. But I do get to have the flower kind of Easter Bells, and they make me happy.

And on that note, some other things that make me happy are rhubarb, lovage, and chives - the first food crops that start poking their heads out of the ground. I love snow drops and crocuses, because they say that winter is nearly over and spring is here, but it's those green needles of the chive shoots and the red bump of sprouting rhubarb that put the full stop behind that statement. Winter is done. Now when I make soup I don't have to stint on dried lovage any more in order to avoid running out - the new crop is growing, and within a few months that lovage bush is going to be taller than I am and I'll be hacking back the celery-flavoured greenery to keep it from choking out its neighbours in the vegetable bed.

Rhubarb rhubarbing
Oh, and those of you who are still buried under ice and snow, thumb your nose at winter - he's had it. My rhubarb says so.

Life, the Universe, Easter Bells and Things That Make Me Happy. Have a wonderful spring!

24 March 2013

The Mary Ellen Carter

Two days ago we attended the memorial service for our friend, mentor and role model, a truly remarkable man. With just his twelve-string guitar and his voice, he would lead crowds of sixty or more people in singing. He gave the biggest hugs and shoulder squeezes, and had the most penetratingly blue eyes of anyone I've known. His deep love of God and of people made an indelible impression on countless lives.
Three of his four sons, one of them a professional musician, stood at the front of the church, and in his honour they sang this song.
Goodbye, my friend; rest in peace until we meet again.


10 March 2013

Holy Sonnet X

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those, whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'rt slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke;  why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more;  Death, thou shalt die. 

(John Donne)