Friday, December 26, 2008

Of hymns and trees and grandfather clocks

The first Sunday in May, 2009, will mark 30 years since I first stepped foot in the church that I have attended ever since (except for a brief 18-month period four years into the gig). The strange thing to me, as I think about it, is that after reviewing my previous post about ten hymns that together have truly shaped me, that speak to me, that comprise my theology, I realize that only two of them -- “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today” and “Holy, Holy, Holy” -- have ever been sung in our church in all that time. A few years back, we stopped using hymnals altogether. Now we sing mainly contemporary choruses, with an occasional old hymn thrown in, I suppose, for auld lang syne.

But our Christmas musical program this year on December 14th did include “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” by the choir, so I suppose there is still hope. At that rate, though, it will take until the year 2308 for my closest friends to hear my list of ten important hymns in my life, and by that time the Klingons may have taken over. I don't expect they’ll be all that musical.

We received a great Christmas gift this week that didn’t cost anyone a cent. About twenty years ago we acquired a grandfather’s clock, but for the past nine years, through two moves, it has not worked. My oldest son’s family came over the other day so that the grandchildren could help decorate our trees, and while we were doing that my son figured out what was wrong with the clock: a little arm that extended into the works behind the face was just sitting alongside the pendulum when it should have been inserted into a little hole near the top of the pendulum. For two days now we have been hearing Westminster Chimes as of old! Our clock is a Baldwin -- the case was made by the piano people -- and it can be switched easily to St. Michael chimes and Whittington chimes as well with just a flick of a finger. Hearing it again has been like welcoming an old friend back into the family, one that has been greatly missed.

And you read that correctly: trees. We have two. Both are artificial and both are pre-lit. Hey, I'm all about ease and convenience. One is four feet tall and last year stood in our bay window on a cedar chest. The other one is eight feet tall and for the last five Christmases stood in our great room. I wouldn't say we are tree huggers, but my daughter had five trees in her house last Christmas. This year we (okay, Ellie) decided to change things around a little at our house. The short tree is now in our foyer and the tall one is in our keeping room. Before we bought this house five years ago, I had never heard of a keeping room. It just looked like a big country kitchen to me. But there is plenty of room there for our main tree and we (okay, I) didn’t have to rearrange all the furniture in the great room this year.

One thing we liked about our house when we first saw it was that it reminded us of living in Florida with its 14-foot ceilings and open floor plan. The kitchen, keeping room, and great room are all really one big room with a ledge separating the kitchen from the rest. We changed what was supposed to have been a sun porch/TV room into a dining room by having six-foot-wide French doors replaced with a nine-foot encased opening and extending the carpeting from the great room all the way to the windows. From the outside, our house looks rather small, but everyone always comments upon entering how spacious and roomy it is. I suppose all the little tricks employed by the builder were meant to fool the eye, and it works! Also, this year, for the first time in several years, Ellie put out the entire Christmas village and spread it around in three places: on the ledge, on the huntboard, and on the mantel over the fireplace. The village is lit up as well, so our entire living space is bathed in a warm glow. I will hate to have to take it all down and put it away for another year.

I know a blog is supposed to be a great place for exhibiting all your treasures and family photographs but I am just a bit too private a person for that. I don’t think I would ever publish my children’s or grandchildren’s pictures, although I am extremely proud of them and love them as much as the next fellow. But there are too many weirdos out there in the real world to take a chance. Besides, we don't own a digital camera or a scanner, so that makes things a bit more difficult. It’s hard enough keeping the hamster running on its wheel to power up the computer without worrying about all that other newfangled stuff.

You’ll just have to use your imagination. My job will be to keep you coming back, mostly with words alone. Speaking of which, here is a poem of mine that is several years old. I don't think I have posted it before. I hope it turns out to be spaced the way I wrote it, but you never can tell what may happen.

The Writer

With words alone, he paints
from the palette of his mind,
hues and tints
until he sees the exact shade
he wants.

With words alone, she chips away
rough edges of meaning,
the solid rock
until the long-sought shape

With words alone, she pins and drapes
original ideas
over the naked manikin page,
tucking in a bit of material
snipping off
a dangling thread
dropping thoughts
as easily as hemlines.

With words alone, he composes
irresistible music,
seducing the ear,
searching for a particular chord,
the one right sound his words must make
for echoes
to linger.

(P.S. - It didn’t work. Can anyone tell me how to make a block of text appear just the way you want it to? This blogger thingy thinks everything is supposed to start at the left margin! --RWP)


  1. owhousethe writer....that's me...of tunes and shrubs and grandmother's flocks....and thoughts of intense porportion

  2. the putz is honest, true chased by a elephant, kind, ugly giving,.....pretty perfect pl;us pretty pleasant, putting people past persecution permanently ..philosophy of life...this is my humanity that is urgling to the top without placing THEM in harm's way

  3. Putz (David), are you on the sauce again and so soon after Christmas? I'm sorry, but I don't understand anything you said in either of your two comments, or how either one relates to my post!

    If you want to back up and start again, I'm willing to have another go at figuring out what you are talking about.

  4. How wonderful that your grandfather clock is now chiming away! I do love the sound of clock chimes. My tenth wedding anniversary gift (which I picked out myself since a multitude of hints were being ignored) was a Howard Miller weight-driven grandfather clock. It has three chime selections: Westminster, Whittington, and Winchester. I leave it set on Whittington, because the chime sequence is the longest -- eight notes on the quarter, sixteen on the half, etc., etc. Did I say I love clock chimes?

    I very much like your poem about writers, whether or not Blogger spaced it as you would have wished. It's the words that matter.

    I've had a tree only one year since I became a certified cat-nut. I spent more time picking kittens from the tree than I did in enjoying it. I guess I *could* put up a tree sans ornaments and just let them enjoy it, but as big as they are now, they would probably topple it. Ah, well! I had a merry Christmas anyway.

  5. Your great room or keeping room floor plan sounds.....great! When we remodeled a few years ago, we designed a very open and connected kitchen/dining/living area, and we love it!

    Your privacy concerns about blogging are understandable. In your case, your writing is so well-done that photos are certainly not needful.

    Your fine poem describes that writing process of yours, I would say. And, by golly, I thought I had caught you misspelling a word...."mannikin". I have NEVER seen it spelled that way. "Mannequin" is the only way I've ever seen it.....until today. I looked it up in the dictionary and, yes, it can be mannikin, or manikin, or mannequin. Quite a word picture you painted there.

  6. Lovely poem. I, on the other hand, would be lost without my images. I think I've posted only three without...

  7. Thanks, everyone, for commenting!

    Putz - Even you!

    Pat - We held our breaths, but the dog wasn't even tempted by the two trees. I'm glad you liked the poem.

    Jeannelle - Manikin, mannikin, mannequin, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet! I actually think I like mannequin best. I'm glad you liked the poem, too (along with Pat).

    Katherine - Welcome all the way from New Zealand! I'm glad you liked the poem, too (along with Pat and Jeannelle).

  8. I did like the description of your house with the Christmas trees - I think you should get a digital camera, I'd like to see them. I get cross with Blogger too for not setting out poems properly - but yes, a good poem!

  9. explanation that does correspond with the comment i made on my philosphy and might explain goes. chased by an elephant was just a way to remember the two attitributes i cherish most.... and benevelent...get it bob....chased by an, benevelent

  10. Daphne - Thanks for dropping by all the way from Leeds, Yorkshire, England! You were a lot closer when you were in Sebring visiting Silverback! And thanks for the kind words about my writing and my poem; they mean a lot coming from you. We do not yet own a digital camera, but we were given a 12-inch digital picture frame for Christmas. Does that count? I suppose not.

    Putz - Thanks for explaining yourself! I would never have figured out chaste and benevolent (note correct spelling) from "chased by an elephant"! You must have taken Jerry West's memory system course. At least, you are employing his methods! Remember Jerry West? Played a little basketball way back when, as I recall....