Three Coins in the Fountain

lily pond waterfall

While trying to take a picture of a water lily in my neighbors fish pond I was struck by how lovely the music of the waterfall was.   

lily pond waterfall

There’s something about the tinkling of water in the background that is so relaxing, be it a small backyard waterfall or fountain, or one in a local park or in a big city like Rome.    

concrete structure with group of people statues

Photo by Sarah Acconcia Norris on Pexels.com

The Trevi Fountain in Rome is one of the most famous fountains in the world.  They say if you throw a coin in the Trevi that your return visit to Rome is guaranteed.   Back in the last century during the Audrey Hepburn/Roman Holiday craze there was a movie called Three Coins in the Fountain, a 1950’s chick flick, about this same legend.    I watched it recently (inter-library loan having managed to locate it in some obscure archives, thus saving me the $60 advertised on Amazon), and while as a movie it was rather dated, the scenery and especially the fountains were…….bellisimo.   (Coins are meant to be thrown using the right hand over the left shoulder.  An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day.   The money has been used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome’s needy;  however, there are regular attempts to steal coins from the fountain, even though it is illegal to do so.   Wikepedia)   

If you are a Frank Sinatra fan like me, the best thing by far about the movie, other than the stylish clothes of the era, was the song of the same name.  

While replying to a comment back in August, I stumbled upon a travel blog about Rome, with lots of gorgeous photos.   So if you wish more information check out this blog……there’s no point in me recapping the whole history of the Trevi fountain when there is a very excellent blogger (Musings of a Whimsical Soul) who already has.    

There are two fountains near where I live, one in a local park where I should be walking every day for exercise but don’t.  There is often a cold wind off the river in the winter and in the summer it is too hot, but I have no excuse for spring or fall.   Still, is is lovely to look at while driving by. 

Fountain

The other one is a larger more expensive fountain downtown.    Someone with a lot of money and no heirs (or spending their inheritance), bequeathed $250,000 to the city for a waterfront legacy.    Although officially named after it’s benefactor, it is commonly known as the Fish Fountain, because of the fish on the sculpture, thus destroying any hope he might have had for lasting fame.   It looks nicer on a clear blue sky day, not foggy like here.  Although still warm, we have had many cloudy, rainy days in September and a whole week of the same forecast ahead.    

Fountain

For those of us with less money, the craft store, Michael’s has their fountains on end of season clearance now.   

water fountain

Not quite the Trevi…..

A small indoor fountain can provide some tranquility over the winter as well as add moisture to the dry air. 

 The local garden center was all sold out of outdoor fountains, although they assured me that one of their landscape architects could design me something like this. 

garden waterfall

No thanks, it looks like a cross between a fake fireplace and a sacrificial alter/crypt.   Still, something smaller for next summer would be nice – gardeners like to plan ahead.   In the meantime, I will throw a coin in one of the fountains, and make a wish that the warm weather would never end.   

Arrivederci Summer!    I know someday you will return…

A Farewell to Summer

Please join me while we take a last peek at summer and enjoy the first signs of fall….no pumpkin spice or mums involved! 

Let’s say goodbye to the flowers first.    The petunias fared well with all that rain.Petunias

The dinner plate hibiscus are always late to the party, but they are like Beyonce, they make such a statement when they finally arrive that nobody minds.

Dinner Plate Hibiscus

The Rose of Sharon was so full of flowers it bowed down to Mother Nature.

Rose of Sharon

But the morning glories were not so glorious, lots of foliage draped over the back fence but no buds in sight.   

morning glories

They were very late last year so I still have hope, but here’s a link to last years (unpublished blog), A Glorious September Morning, plus a bee having his last drink of the summer.  

morning glory and bee

The nectar of the gods

My mother always grew glads and zinnias in the farm garden, but this year my glads were a disaster both in color and form.   My vision of them lining the back fence like little pink soldiers faded into the sporadic appearance of a spike of pale lavender or orange.   Lavender is okay, and peach I could handle, but I dislike orange, and pale orange is even worse.   Is it too much to expect the color on the box is the color you get?  

Next year I’ll just buy some at the farmer’s market. 

pink glads

I have never had any luck growing zinnias but my neighbors were prolific,

and the water lilies in their pond finally bloomed.   

pond lily

The sunflowers are drooping but are decorative enough for a vase.

Sunflowers - AMC

Sunflowers in a Vase

The lavender was late as I replanted it all in the spring, but it still bloomed if not extravagantly.  

monarch

The hot humid rainy summer produced a rain forest jungle of a vegetable garden which desperately needs sorting out.   More on the potager in another blog, after the harvest.

potager before

Where are the monkeys?

The monarchs have all flown south, except this little guy with an injured leg/wing who I rescued from a parking lot.   He was able to crawl a bit so I brought him home to lie among the lavender.   

monarch

This year I have seen more monarchs than I have in years.   After the township sprayed all the ditches, they almost became extinct, but now that gardeners are planting milkweed again, they are slowly making a comeback.  They tend to congregate in Point Pelee Park in southern Ontario on their annual migration route, before crossing Lake Erie to the US and eventually Mexico.   Tens of thousands cluster to rest and wait for the right wind conditions to cross the 40 km stretch of lake – the park posts the daily monarch counts on it’s social media pages.   One picture is of a friends backyard near the lake, and one is a weather-watcher picture of Point Pelee.   I wonder how such a small creature can make such a long journey?    For more information on monarchs, check out garden blogger Invitation to the Garden‘s wonderful post on The King of Butterflies.  She also has posts about the different kinds of milkweed you can plant to attract butterflies.

monarchs

just dropping in to say goodbye

Monarchs

Rendevous at Point Pelee Park

Our last look at the beach, and my favorite photo of this summer.

Beach umbrella

Beach Day

Our first look at fall, the maple leaves they are a changing….

fall leaves

The chestnuts are starting to fall from the trees near the library.   Chestnuts always bring back memories of gathering them on my grandmother’s farm at Thanksgiving.   Last year one of the librarians made the nicest wreath from chestnuts…..nothing I would attempt as I’m sure it involved lots of glue. 

chestnut tree

The crab-apples are ripening and getting ready to drop and annoy all the grass cutters.    

crabapples

The first of the apples are being harvested.   We stopped at an orchard last week and they had Galas and Mac’s just picked that morning, a bumper crop. 

Gala Apples

The scarecrow festival has started with a large party in the town square.

scarecrows

The crunch of dry leaves underfoot and the smell of wood smoke reminds us summer is winding down.    The days are growing shorter, it’s getting dark by 7:30, time to go inside, light the candles and welcome fall.     And if you are in the mood to feather your nest check out last years (unpublished) Autumn Decor blog for some cozy fall ideas. 

Asters - AMc

Fall Flowers

There will be a harvest moon on Sept 24, so here’s some music for a fall night.    This song is about as jazzy as I get but it has great lyrics and it always reminds me of my student days and walking home through a park after pub crawling….not sure anyone would do that now in downtown Toronto, they’d probably be mugged or shot.

Song of the Day:   Moondance by Van Morrison 

“Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling…”

 

 

 

 

Summer Playlist

            Here are six pieces of musical nostalgia for your summer playlist, and a list of activities to accompany them – because life should have a soundtrack.   As I am a fan of all things vintage they are oldies but goodies, dating from the 50’s to the 70’s.    A millennial told me recently that he wished he had been born in 1960 because we had better music, and we did, but I would welcome any newer suggestions.  

Sailboat

Old Cape Cod – I love all those old classics from the 50’s and this song paints a picture of a part of the world I would love to visit, being a big fan of Elin Hilderbrand’s Nantucket novels and Susan Branch’s Martha’s Vineyard books.  It was first recorded in 1957 by Patti Page, but I like Bette Midler’s 1972 version as well.   Best served with a lobster stew in a restaurant with an ocean view.     

 

Hovercraft

You have to be crazy to try this…

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer.     Originally recorded in 1963 by Nat King Cole, this happy summer song is best served with soda, pretzels and beer while reading a book on the beach and wishing summer would always be here.    

 

Indian Lake

Indian Lake

Indian Lake – another tune from the sixties – 1968 The Cowsills.   I remember listening to this (now politically incorrect) song when I was a kid and we would go up to the Grove-on the-Lake to swim on summer Sundays after church.   Best served with a snack at the Grove diner after renting a canoe or while camping.  

 

picnic basket

 Hot Fun in the Summertime – recorded in 1969 by Sly and the Family Stone shortly after their performance at Woodstock.    Best served out in the country sun with a picnic basket or at any outdoor music concert.

 

sailboat river In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry – a British rock band debuted this hit in 1970 which became the carefree summer song of the baby boomer generation.   Best served with a milkshake or smoothie while driving a jeep along the lake.    (Don’t drink and drive!)

 

pool chair

photo from poolsuppliescanada.ca

Sunny Afternoon – recorded by The Kinks in 1967 as a protest to the British taxes paid by rich rock stars.    Best served while lazing in a swimming pool with an ice cold beer in hand while dreaming of winning the lottery. 

 

Postscript:  I suppose I could have called this six summertime hits from the sixties.  Notice I said we had better music, not hairstyles or clothing!    

What is your favorite summertime song? 

 

  

The Simply White Dinner

simply white dinner

           The Simply White Dinner is an annual event which originated in Paris twenty-five years ago and has now spread to cities all over the world.   The local version of this outdoor picnic has sold out again.  Every year this event gets bigger and more extravagant and every year people pay for the privilege of sitting with 300 other guests all wearing white on a summer evening and listen to jazz music while they dine on their own picnic fare.    Tickets are $60 per pair, (only pairs as the organizers want an even number of tables), and every year it sells out.   And yes, you bring your own food.   The $60 charge is only for the ambiance.   Bottles of wine (presumably white) are available for purchase, but you must bring your own bottle opener, white picnic basket/bag/cooler, white china, glass ware, real cutlery, (no plastic please), white linen napkins (to wave in the air for the group picture) and centerpiece (perhaps white hydrangeas).   You must wear white, and only white, except for footwear.    Elegance is encouraged, hats, fascinators, white boas, white gloves etc.   They supply the tables and chairs, the white tablecloths and the music.   The rest is up to you.   The location is top secret until the day before the event, presumably to avoid gawkers (although it might be hard to hide 300 chairs) but is usually somewhere along the waterfront.   This year they had a perfect summer evening with a lovely breeze coming off the water, last year it was sultry and sweltering hot.   It’s hard to dress chic when the humidity soars to over 40 C. 

           Now if you are a romantic at heart this sounds very enticing.   The event organizers promise a magical evening of outdoor dining, music and dancing under the stars.   It does sound wonderful and very Gatsbyish….who wouldn’t want to dress up like Daisy Buchanan?

       Except even the local newspaper christened it The Chic Potluck because……where are all the men?    The closeup in the paper showed a long table of stylishly dressed women with hats and white flowers or wreaths in their hair, with a few dapper men here and there, coerced into white suits or white golf shirts and white pants by their wives, but they were older, grayer men who may have grown up with John Travolta’s white disco suit in Saturday Night Fever, or perhaps Don Johnson’s pale linen jackets in Miami Vice, or maybe even Humphrey Bogart’s white tuxedo in Casablanca.    White is not a color favored by a lot of men, except for the classic white dress shirt which accompanies suits and ties, and I believe even that has fallen out of favor except for funerals and weddings.   Women enjoy wearing white, and as Jane Austen famously quoted in Mansfeld Park, “A woman can never be too fine while she is all in white” but I think Jane was probably thinking of younger women.    I abandoned white years ago as it can be unflattering to the skin tone of women over fifty.   In fact I don’t believe I own a single white item in my wardrobe.  I also can’t sit in the direct sun for three hours – would my beige parasol be confiscated at the door?   Parasol

Informal poll:  Female readers would your boyfriend/husband/male significant other be willing to don white (and we’re not talking white t-shirts here), to attend such an event?  (Male readers I would like your opinion too).  Men might be enticed by the promise of a good meal, but remember you are bringing your own food and it probably won’t be them making or packing the picnic lunch.   All of these are perfectly valid reasons to just stay home.   Still I am feeling a bit wistful about missing the promise of an enchanting evening(musical interlude from South Pacific) 

             The first year they allowed registrants to pre-order a boxed meal of a salad with protein/chicken for $22 (has anyone noticed that the $15 salad has now become $20) but that was soon abandoned, probably for liability reasons.   There are suggestions for picnic fare on the website…..appetizers, sandwiches, deserts.   The food does not have to be white, but what if it was?  If we’re going to have a theme here let’s go all out.   How about aged white cheddar with crackers, and white radishes and cauliflower veggies with ranch dip as appetizers.   Lobster or lobster rolls, or tuna on French bread.  Or that perennial picnic favorite, cold chicken and potato salad with white chocolate mousse or  crème brulee for desert?    Sounds like a plan, and you don’t have to pay sixty dollars to do it – you can put the money you save towards the lobsters.   Just organize a party for your own backyard some soft summer evening.   Invite some friends over and serve Prosecco or Pina Coladas.   Play old vintage Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin tunes instead of that horrible screechy jazz.   You might even cheat and stay out until midnight if your neighbors don’t object, instead of packing it in at ten as the official white party does.   (I’m not sure how much dancing under the stars would get done when it doesn’t even get dark here until well after nine, but you might get a good forty-five minutes of twilight twirling in). 

      Being possessed of an analytical mind, I decided to do the math.    300 tickets X $30 is $9000.   Nine thousand dollars to cover the rental of the table and chairs, the tablecloths and the jazz trio and DJ, might still leave some money left over, but as I don’t know anything about event planning, maybe they just break even?   They say they do it for the fun, it’s not a charity event.   It does seem like a lot of money though for some ambiance.   Last year I had tickets for a Local Harvest dinner, where for $30 a person you got an actual meal outdoors at the local farmers market square.   Although it was the end of September (timed for the harvest moon) and a coolish night they had heaters and a band played later.  (This reasonable price however might have been subsidized by the culinary arts students from the local college learning their trade).   The meal itself consisted of artisan bread, potato soup, locally sourced salad greens, a beef and a turkey entree, rustic vegetables and assorted homemade pies for desert.   And recently I attended a church dinner where the menu was a starter chopped salad, roast beef, chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes, carrots, coleslaw and homemade strawberry trifle for desert.  (This meal however might have been subsidized by the church coffers as a thank you to the volunteers).    And last June I attended a WW2 swing dance in an airport hangar, with a truly memorable roast beef and chicken buffet with the most scrumptious cheesecake for desert with a choice of lemon, cherry or blueberry toppings, and afterwards an evening of big band music with a 23-person orchestra.   Vintage dress was encouraged, some women did, most men did not, although I did see a few who might have been wearing their grandpa’s old uniform.   Tickets for that charity event were $75 per person, but as they have increased it to $100 per person this year they must not have made any money.   So, it is possible to have both food and ambiance for a price, (and it is possible to get members of the male species out for an evening of dining and dancing if there is a vintage B17 bomber on display to tour). B17 bomber

        Perhaps it is a case of country mouse versus city mouse, but if given a choice I think I prefer food over ambiance.   Still if Jay Gatsby offered to buy the tickets next year and pack me a picnic basket I might be persuaded to attend.     

Song of the Night:   Dancing in the Moonlight

Quote of the Day:    “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights.  In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.  (The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald)

 

 

         

 

 

On Books and Reading

           I am writing this in the waiting room of the Eye Institute watching the computer board for my mother’s cataract surgery to be finished.   Hospital technology has advanced to the state that you can now track the patient’s journey from pre-op to OR to recovery room, and then a volunteer will come and kindly escort you to your loved one’s bedside.    I suppose it saves the nurses time not having to answer all those pesky questions.   My mother has a particularly dense cataract which has been interfering with her ability to paint.   (Most of the paintings on the website are hers, she is also under The Artist on the main menu).   Claude Monet had the same problem in his later years, as his vision loss progressed his colors became more muted.  (If you look at this paintings after the surgery the blue green colors are so vibrant).   As a painter her eyes are important to her, as painting is her passion, while mine is reading.   Both our hobbies are dependent on clear vision.    A cataract is easily fixable, but some other eye conditions such as macular degeneration, are not.  I hope someday medicine will have progressed to the point where they will be able to implant stem cells into eyes and restore vision.   What a miracle that would be for those facing vision loss.    You hear a lot of tragic stories in the waiting rooms of eye clinics like these, but these doctors, they are the unsung heroes.

           Not being able to read would be the worst nightmare for me.   I know there are audio books but I want a book in my hand.   I don’t remember ever not being able to read, although I have a vague recollection of taking one of those Dick-Jane-and-Sally-see-Spot-run books to my mother and proudly showing her I could read by myself.   The letters made sense, they were words!  It was a momentous discovery.

           I read vicariously and from an early age.   I started school in a rural one room school house, and as there were only three of us in grade one, I listened in while the very frazzled teacher taught the older grades.   It seems archaic now but I suppose it isn’t much different than home schooling, all ages together.   Our farm was within walking distance of the school but after it  closed in grade two (it was archaic even then), my parents drove us into town to the Catholic school until the bus service was started a few years later.   One of my earliest recollections is sitting at the dining room table while my mother helped my older siblings with their homework.  I  would sit and soak it all in.  To me learning was fun, a whole new adventure.     

          I always loved books.   My maternal grandmother immigrated from Holland so English was a second language for her.   Her verbal English was good, her reading not so much, and I, a precarious four-year-old, would correct her if she strayed too far from the story-line or the ending wasn’t the way it normally was.    When the teacher assigned a short story to read in the grade five reader, (a Stephen Leacock tale about Mother’s Day),  I took the reader home and read the whole book.   I read the usual children’s books, Black Beauty, Heidi, Pippi Longstocking, The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew, a series called the Borrowers which involved tiny people living in a big house, and the rare treat of a Jack and Jill magazine once when I was in the hospital for tonsils, which was full of puzzles and activities.  Around age ten I went through a Trixie Belden girl detective phase, (no Nancy Drew for me, it was the sixties, who would wear a twinset even if they did get to drive a convertible).  Trixie Belden  Living on a farm with few playmates, I read for entertainment.   It was something to do in the summer, and as I was not good at sports and hated the heat, you could usually find me on a blanket in the shade of a tree reading.  As a middle child I was accustomed to being on the periphery, but I could always be found somewhere with my nose in a book.  When the library opened my mother would take myself and my younger brother every Saturday (after his hockey game and penny candy treats), and I would stock up on books for the following week.   The library was one of the few air conditioned buildings in town and I still remember the blast of cool air that hit you when you entered the vestibule, and the musty smell of books.   The librarian would often comment on my choices, because while our little library stocked picture books for kids and adult fiction, the selection for Young Adults, if that genre even existed, was limited…. perhaps only L.M. Montgomery (I read the whole Anne series) and Louisa May Alcott (like many girls Jo was my heroine).   And so I read the classics, Dickens, the Brontes, my mother’s copy of Gone With the Wind, what ever I could get my hands on.    Occasionally, when I would come across a Young Adult book, I would find it fascinating reading about teens my own age.  Several of those books stand out clearly in my mind, although I can’t recall the titles, one in particular about a young girl going to work at a summer resort.  I’m picturing bonfires on the beach right now.   If you lived an isolated life without a driver’s license, those literary ventures into a normal teenage world (parties, boys, jobs), can seem memorable.  Once I was in high school I discovered Seventeen magazine (50 cents an issue), and it became my fashion bible, and then later Mademoiselle and Glamour.  Although I read it for the clothes, magazines used to publish short stories back then and I read my mother’s Good Housekeeping and Redbook magazines for that reason as well as her condensed Reader’s Digest books.   

Seventeen Magazine

Vintage June 1970 Seventeen Magazine – from farmhouse attic

 I was one of the few students who didn’t groan about doing book reports, because it gave you an excuse to read a book.   I would read on the bus ride home, although often I would get all my homework done then too. 

       During my university and early work years, I hardly read at all, only scientific stuff – it was hard to keep up with the sheer volume of information, between work terms and school.  I only picked up reading again as a hobby at around age thirty, and then it was mostly vacation/beach reading. Throughout my working years I read at least a couple of books a month, mostly before bed instead of watching TV, or after I got home if I was working evenings and needed to wind down.  (There are entire decades of TV I have missed, although lately I have developed a taste for anything Masterpiece).   I am still an avid reader but now that I am retired, it’s more like one per week, and reading has crept into the daytime hours.   Reading outside on the swing in the summer is pure bliss.    I used to have a hammock where I read but the trees had to be cut down due to ash-bore disease. 

           My taste in books runs to more mainstream with a few eclectic choices.  I tend to haunt the best seller and new release lists, and recommendations from friends with similar tastes.   I avoid the Danielle Steele romance genre (romance is okay if it’s part of the story, but not the whole point), sci-fi fantasy, most Canadian prize-winners (too weird), and the majority of Oprah’s book club selections.    I don’t like too light and fluffy but I don’t want depressing either.   I enjoy fact as well as fiction, lately my choices have ranged from First They Killed My Father, a Cambodian refugee memoir, Quiet, a fascinating must-read for introverts, to The Sleep Solution (see Counting Sheep blog), and I still love a good medical book such as Five Days at Memorial, a tale of evacuating a hospital post Katrina.  

        I often try to work a book I particularly enjoyed into my blogs if it suits the theme, and sometimes it serves as the inspiration.   Lately I have been reading a lot of mystery thrillers and a few months ago I discovered the bookoutlet website, wandered into the travel section and never left, (see April Paris and Italy blogs). book outlet  I have my favorite authors, Jodi Piccoult, Cathy Kelly, Elin Hildebrand, John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, Clare MacIntosh, and often pre-order from the library so I can be number one on the list.    The bookoutlet is a discount website (both US and Canadian sites), for remaindered or overstock books with very cheap prices.  Recently I ordered eleven books for $102, (free shipping over $45), which came Canada Post.  There’s nothing like getting a big box of books in the mail – and isn’t there something wonderful about opening a brand new book and inhaling the scent of newly cut paper.  book outlet

 There have been a few times in my life when I have been too stressed to read – I could not concentrate on the words on the page, but luckily those were few and far between.   Reading can be a distraction, a solace, a balm for over-stressed minds, a portal to another universe, when this one is too hard to bear.   That is why one of the most often requested items in a refuge camp is a book.  It passes the time and takes you away to some other universe, if only for a few quiet hours.    

                A book journal is a lovely way to keep track of your reads, although I am not always diligent about recording the authors and the dates.

Old Book Journal

Old Book Journal

  The editor of the New York Times Book Review, Pamela Paul, wrote a book about her book journal (My Life with Bob – my Book of Books – click here for my review).   I used to keep my own BOB/book journal but lately I have been recording my reads on my Good-reads profile.    It you aren’t familiar with it, Good-reads is like a candy store for bookaholics.  To quote L.M. Montgomery, “I am simply a book drunkard,” with no wish to recover.   

           Recently I found a new book journal with a lovely lavender cover on a remainder table, a bargain at $2.99.   A lavender pen would be just the thing for writing in it.   There is something about holding a book in your hand… New Book Journal 

Quotes of the Day:  “I opened up two wonderful gifts this morning – my eyes.”

“Oh for a book, and a cozy nook, Oh for a quiet hour.”                                                                                                

What was your favorite childhood book?  What are you reading now?   What is the best book you read last year?  Please leave a comment if you wish.  

 

Music and Poetry for a Snowy Day

Karen Cullaton - In The Moon of Winter - Alcohol Ink on Yupo

                   In The Moon of Winter – Alcohol Ink on Yupo                                                                                                                                     

          I love music, but I’m not a big fan of poetry.   While I have no wish to offend anyone, I find a lot of it depressing, although it is entirely possible that I might be basing my opinion on too much Sylvia Path, having had little exposure to more modern poetry.   But then I feel the same way about most abstract art.  If I have to spend too much time figuring out what something is supposed to mean, I lose interest.  Too many high school English classes spent deconstructing metaphors ruined poetry for me for good.   Not that there aren’t perfectly wonderful poems out there.   While searching for a quote on winter in my new Bartlett’s Book of Quotations, I came across the poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost.   Robert Frost (1874-1963) was an American poet famous for his poems about rural New England, winner of four Pulitzer prizes and poet laureate of Vermont.   This poem was published in 1923 when he was living on a farm and horses were still a big part of the countryside and it seems particularly appropriate for this wintry time of year.   His other most famous poem is The Road Not Taken. Both are lovely poems but I will spare you the analysis, because that is the part of poetry I hated.   A good poem should be able to explain itself.   

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening 

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”  Copyright 1923. 
Snowy Woods - AMc - 2018

Snowy Woods – 2018

        It may be old-fashioned but I like the rhyming of the stanzas, that is an art form which you don’t see much anymore.   I remember studying both poems in grade eight as poetry was part of the curriculum.  Our teacher was a sixties hippy-child and being only nineteen herself, she wore mini skirts and maxi coats and let us listen to records in class, I Am A Rock (music link) and Sounds of Silence, the music of that generation being a form of poetry in itself.   Although I am fairly certain Simon and Garfunkel were not part of the English curriculum, no one told.   

I Am A Rock   

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December
I am alone
Gazing from my window
To the streets below
On a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island

I’ve built walls
A fortress, steep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock
I am an island

Don’t talk of love
Well, I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
And I won’t disturb the slumber
Of feelings that have died
If I never loved, I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room
Safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

Simon and Garfunkel – I Am A Rock – Sounds of Silence copyright 1965

            Our young teacher was correct, for what is a song but poetry set to music?   I sometimes think that is what is lacking in modern music, often the lyrics are stupid, profane, repetitive or just plain bad.  I think that is why I prefer those old classics from Sinatra & Company, the lyrics rhymed.   Taylor Swift is a modern musician who uses rhyming effectively.   While rap music may have rhyming lyrics it is sorely missing in melody, being able to string stanzas together does not a song make if there is no discernible tune.    Check out this 1937 Irving Berlin tune, I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm, for a cheerful rhyming melody about winter.    Click here for link to Ella. 

The snow is snowing and the wind is blowing
But I can weather the storm!
What do I care how much it may storm?
For I’ve got my love to keep me warm
I can’t remember a worse December
Just watch those icicles form!
Oh, what do I care if icicles form?
I’ve got my love to keep me warm
Off with my overcoat, off with my glove
I need no overcoat, I’m burning with love!
My heart’s on fire, the flame grows higher
So I will weather the storm!
What do I care how much it may storm?
I’ve got my love to keep me warm.
Here’s a sadder tune with a Toronto locale from Bruce Cockburn, a Canadian singer/songwriter, with simple but vivid lyrics.  (music link)     
The Coldest Night of the Year  (Bruce Cockburn – copyright 1981)
I was up all night, socializing
Trying to keep the latent depression from crystalizing
Now the sun is lurking just behind the Scarborough horizonAnd you’re not even here
On the coldest night of the year.I took in Yonge Street at a glance
Heard the punkers playing
Watched the bikers dance
Everybody wishing they could go to the south of France

And you’re not even here
On the coldest night of the year

Hey look at me now
See the shape I’m in
It’s taken me so long to catch on to what’s going on
Inside this skin
When two lovers really love there’s nothing there
But this suddenly compact universe
Skin and breath and hair

I watched the all night TV show
In the all night bar
I drove all the people home
I was the one with the car

Now I’m sitting here alone and sleepless
And wondering where you are
And wishing you were here
On the coldest night of the year

 

        Gordon Lightfoot, a songwriter/poet from the sixties was another master at rhyming stanzas, his Song For A Winter’s Night is a Canadian classic.
 

Song For A Winter’s Night  (Gordon Lightfoot – copyright 1967)

The lamp is burning low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon the page
The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are lifting
The morning light steals across my window pane
Where webs of snow are drifting

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
And to be once again with with you
To be once again with with you

Song For A Winter’s Night – Gordon Lightfoot – click here for music link 

                There was an article recently in the newspaper about a lecture series and one of the topics was how to write a hit pop song in thirty minutes. A local musician is going to solicit a poem from the audience at random and write a hit tune to that poem on the spot.   Sounds intriguing….so I got out my old rhyming dictionary and set to work. 

On a winter afternoon
a summer’s day in June
cannot really come too soon
let’s all go to Cancun
(Chorus)
Forget the snow
Let’s pack and go

There you have it – my first song.   Ok, it needs work…..but it’s clear all the good lyrics are already taken.

Postscript:   While the lecture was interesting for a non-musician like me, I was disappointed in the song.   Since no one was brave enough to volunteer their own creation, the musician selected a W.B. Yeats poem (the Lake Isle of Innisfree) from a book of poetry someone had brought and sang what sounded like a Gregorian chant.  Lacking proper rhyming structure poor old Yeats did not translate well to melody, but perhaps it might have been a hit in 1888?  

Postscript:   My apologies if the spacing is off in the lyrics sections of this post. There must be something I am doing wrong with WordPress, as it looks fine in Draft form,  but they seem to have a mind of their own and swear they Ain’t Misbehavin‘.   

 

 

Joy to The World – Christmas Playlist

Violin and Horn - AMc - 1990

Violin and Horn – 1980

 I have been listening to Christmas music lately, because it’s hard not to, with it blasting over the intercom twenty four hours a day in every store and workplace, telling us ’tis the season to be merry and be of good cheer, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la.  This is the most profitable time of the year for most businesses and they are just doing their part to get us into the Christmas spirit.   I love Christmas music, I really do, but in small doses, and not the same old songs, over and over again.  You hardly ever hear a lot of the old Christmas classics anymore, especially if they are religious hymns, so last week when I found a stack of vintage records from the 40’s and 50’s in my mother’s basement it was like finding treasure.   They were stored in brown cardboard albums, a 78 in each paper sleeve, mostly Hit Parade tunes,

but also a few smaller 45’s of children’s music.   I was surprised at how thick the vinyl was, compared to albums from later years.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I didn’t recognize many of the Hit Parade ones but I took a trip down memory lane with the 45’s – Horace the Horse, On Top of Old Smoky, Did You Ever See a Lassie – the lyrics came back in a flash.   We had a portable stereo in the sixties and then one of those big furniture cabinets in the early seventies that played eight tracks too, but my mother says she remembers playing those vintage records on an old phonograph that you wound up by hand when she first moved to the farm in 1944.   Her farm had hydro, but my father’s didn’t until after the war. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 There were a few Christmas classics in the bunch – an original Columbia records Gene Autry – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, (one of the best selling records of all time), with If It Doesn’t Snow on Christmas on the B Side, and a Silent Night/Oh Come All Ye Faithful and Silver Bells by Bing Crosby.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe children’s 45’s included Frosty the Snow Man, with God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman and Joy to the World on the flip side, and Santa Clause is Coming to Town with Silent Night.    (Note to self – check Ebay to see if any of these are worth anything…just out of curiosity, you can’t sell childhood memories).   

I used to listen to Christmas music every day during my commute to work, (while an hour a day of Christmas music can be good for the soul, listening to it for eight hours a day in a retail environment is not).  I would flip over to an American radio station which had made it a tradition to start playing it the day after Halloween.   This station tended to play the same soundtrack, over and over again, and while I liked most of the selections, there were some that just made me cringe and change the dial – Feliz Navidad, You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch, Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas time, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Santa Baby, the Charlie Brown Christmas instrumental, and that annoying Chipmunk song. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer is just plain wrong, what kind of song is that for little kids, reindeer bashing at it’s worst!    And I am probably the only person who doesn’t like Mariah Carey’s, All I Want For Christmas Is You – that high note at the end hurts my ears, and it reminds me of old episodes of Ally McBeal walking home by her lonely self at the end of every single episode.  I can listen to Jingle Bell Rock and Rocking around the Xmas Tree, but only once per season.   While I realize everyone has individual favorites, why would they include those when there are so many wonderful songs to get you in the Christmas mood.       

Old Christmas hymns can bring on an instant attack of nostalgia.  Going through the stack of old albums from the sixties I came across Christmas with Mitch Miller.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When my dad used to watch Sing a Long with Mitch on Saturday nights, there were lyrics at the bottom of the tv screen, and yes tucked inside the album cover was a yellowed song sheet if you wanted to sing along.   Does anyone remember when newspapers used to print songbooks for caroling at Christmas?   What wonderful memories that album evoked, of going to midnight mass, when it was still at midnight, and struggling to stay awake, while the choir boomed out a resounding version of Hark the Harold and Joy to the World at the end, and you went out into the frosty night wishing everyone Merry Christmas, and then home to a midnight feast of bacon and eggs and sausage and then to bed way past one.  This was a family tradition as we always slept in on Christmas morn, except for my poor mother who would get up at 4:30 to put the turkey in the oven for the 1:30 dinner with our grandparents and then go back to bed.   We weren’t allowed to open our presents until my dad came in from milking the cows.  The last time I went to Christmas eve mass, about a decade ago, it was at 9pm and there was folk music, which was okay but not compared to these…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

   The Andy Williams Christmas album was another favorite, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(although I now dislike the highly overplayed Most Wonderful Time of The Year), as was Burl Ives, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.  My mother used to sing that in the kitchen, and it really was her favorite time of year.  We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but my parents always made sure we had a good Christmas.  Other memorable songs off that album were, Please Send Some Snow For Johnny, and Silver and Gold.   Other great albums were the Carpenters – Karen Carpenter had the clear pure voice of an angel, (There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays, Merry Christmas Darling, What are you doing New Years Eve), Boney M (Mary’s Boy Child, I’ll be Home for Christmas, When Darkness is Falling) and the whole soundtrack of the movie White Christmas, (Snow, The Best Things Happen While Your Dancing, Count your Blessings, and the army songs).   My Dad had a deep baritone like Bing Crosby, and used to sing the odd line in the barn while feeding the cattle, so I have a hard time listening to White Christmas.   Any Christmas song that makes you think of happier times can be a sad song when you are feeling nostalgic for Christmases past and loved ones who are gone.   Then there are others, the songs that are just plain sad, like Grown Up Christmas list, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, I’ll Be Home for Christmas if only in my Dreams, Blue Christmas, The Christmas song (NatKingCole), Silver Bells etc.    I love the Rosemary Clooney verision of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, but that line, “through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow” always makes me feel sad. 

If you want some merrier songs – We Need a Little Christmas, Must Be Santa, Christmas in Kilarney, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, are good choices and I can even stomach I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas if there are some wee ones around to march to the beat.   Ring Christmas Bells by the Trans-Siberian orchestra remains a personal favorite of mine for it’s uplifting beat, their Christmas Cannon is a like a soothing meditation with a children’s choir, and Here We Come Awassailing reminds me of a Dickens Christmas.  

For romantic Christmas songs you can’t beat, Let it Snow, Baby It’s Cold Outside or Sleigh Ride, for invoking visions of a simpler old fashioned time.  Who wouldn’t want to go for a ride in a one-horse open sleigh like Currier and Ives? 

sleigh ride 3 (2)   This is a picture of my uncle in the old cutter sleigh from the farm.   When we were kids the sleigh was stuck up in the rafters of the implement shed where it’s black leather seat made a fine nesting place for mice.  In the early nineteen hundred’s my ancestors used to go to church in this very same sleigh when the roads were bad, because despite the snow and the cold, no one ever missed church!

Sleigh Ride - AMc - 2016

Sleigh Ride – 2016

 There’s a wonderful stanza in Sleigh Ride – “There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy.  When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie.  It’ll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives. These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives.”   When we are older we don’t remember most of the presents we got, but we do remember the whole family sitting around the dinner table and talking and even after the big turkey feast there was always room for desert.   After the table was cleared, we ladies would spend two hours in the kitchen hand washing dishes, and then it would be set again for evening supper after the presents were played with and the chores were done, and we would end the day with a late-night game of euchre, except for me.  I would be curled up in a corner reading whatever book Santa had brought me, as that was always my favorite present.  (There may be a blog on Dickens A Christmas Carol next week if time and snowstorms permit). 

me reading (4)

      Down in my basement I have an old stereo unit that I bought at Sears years ago.  It plays cds, tapes and albums, and while I’m wrapping presents this year I will be singing along with Mitch.  What’s on your Christmas playlist?  Your most loved and most hated Christmas songs?  Please leave a comment if you wish.

Song of the Day:  Joy to the World – Mormon Tabernacle Choir – click here for music link