Archive for December 9th, 2015

O Tiny Tree, behind which a lit tree on our lawn may be glimpsed

Dear friends and readers,

People often do not recognize one another’s achievements for what they are, especially when they seem things other people do as a matter of course, or come without certificates (tickets punched to get you somewhere else) or money. Small successes are to be measured against our past, our expectations, our horizons, where or who we are. And these things are again often not to be understood except inwardly, in someone’s memory, a living consciousness.

As you know I bought a Christmas tree for the house for the first time in six years. As Izzy said in her blog, it’s small enough to be tucked away, crowded in by objects so that the cats cannot easily attack. Indeed over the past few days I’ve discovered they do not want to, they are too old to be perplexed and attracted; we were wise enough (Izzy was) to say no lights on this indoor tree so there’s nothing to glitter and attract attention. They did wonder why a water bowl was put in a place hard to get at, but soon forgot about it as they have three others in the house.

But I went beyond this. All this solemnity to say for the first time ever I put lights on a tree on my lawn. Two lines of small colored blubs wound in and around a small maple tree — which you can glimpse in the photo (at top of blog), to the right, just above in the indoor tree. Or directly below in twilight:


Sybille, my neighbor across the street helped. She told me that Home Depot sells tremendously long extension cords colored green. So I bought one of these and trailed it from the tree outside through my porch door, up into a window, down an inner wall to a plug. There I was stopped for a bit. As luck would have it, the nearby plug is a two-prong type and the cord ended with a three-prong plug. A hasty hunt through the house turned up one plug that allowed for 2 prongs on one side and three on the other. I probably should have dragged out a ladder so as to wind the lights higher and more effectively. Next year.

What’s the big deal? You do need to know I longed to have lights for many years, but during the brief time Jim and Caroline put them on the bushes, I was not the person doing it at all. And then it was over, no lights again. Well when I determined on it this morning it took me less than 45 minutes.

“Just” that I thought it would somehow be too hard for, beyond me.

I had a few weeks ago when the darkness began to encroach on the morning once again and began by 4:45 pm paid for 5 new ceiling lights in the house and replacement of the fixture itself in the porch area. My ceilings are way too high for either Izzy or I to replace the light blubs when they go, and 3 of all these said fixtures came from 1947 (in very bad or feeble shape). At the time I asked the electrician if he could put a plug outside the house. It seemed this required drilling through the thick brick wall, making a line up to the attic as well as my box in the wall with all the ultimate plugs. He looked at that and told me it was not up to code so while he could charge me another (mere?) $600 for the plug in the wall, he ought really to replace that box and charge more like $1600. That would have brought up the total bill to near $3000. A helluva lot to be able to string some lights in a tree in the middle of my lawn.

Probably I assumed that most people had a plug outside. Sybille does. The man down the street who each year strings lights around a super-tall tree at the corner of the block has two plugs outside his house. But why did I assume that? Because I notice people will spend large sums on their property. I don’t unless I have to; Jim didn’t even when we should have. Why should other people be all that different? They think this way whatever they spend will come back to them by owning it? or when they sell what they have? But lots of people live in old houses and can’t afford expensive frivolous extras or won’t spend that much on such a thing and find a way to get round this lack.

From the time I was a child I’ve wanted, tried to be cheerful or happy or feel special during the time for Christmas. The irony is that I can now since I’ll be mostly alone — there is now no one to ruin it. Never mind low, I’ve no expectations at all (!). I made out my ten paper cards, one to a fellow widower, a special one for my aunt and uncle, five, one each to the women friends I’ve visited (one visited me) since Jim died. Those I’ve gotten thus far (two with letters written inside) I’ve put on the piano.

As Izzy says in her blog on these doings, all done now. Preparation complete. Christmas is here. Kat over on her blog says of her preparations they are good enough. Emily Dickinson’s words are how I feel.

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious —
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –-
Emily Dickinson


John Sessions as Fielding (1997 The History of a Foundling, Tom Jones, the last sequence, at a loss to explain what he meant, what happiness might be, turning away)

I’ve more. The last day of the ten Monday 2 hour meetings at OLLI at AU over Fielding’s Tom Jones has also been gratifying: after all the people liked it; they said they liked the academic approach and all but one of the men were still there! The man I had thought stopped coming (he just could not accept that we look at Tom Jones as a prostitute, as selling his body, even apparently enjoying sex sufficiently with Lady Bellaston) had not been able to make it for a couple of weeks because he had had to visit his aged mother for over a week. We watched clips from the two different films of Tom Jones and then they applauded me. This made me feel very good. I never know how I’m doing. If money matters the envelope had $160 in this time — I won’t have to take cash out for quite a while.

I’m not in love with Fielding but the whole complex mind of the man, his evasive, intriguing deeply pessimistic and subversive ironies in this and his other writing, his hard life are well worth much study. And I did a little these past months. It was a genuine success because this is a different kind of teaching and I’m not doing what others do quite I gather. Whatever that is. I now want to go on to do more with Tom Jones. Two women encouraged me to think of Richardson’s Clarissa. Why not just explain we all need to have the same abridgement?

My Poldark sessions at the OLLI at Mason went well too and the last session there was also filled with warmth; I also showed clips from film adaptations.

For the spring I’ll be doing Gaskell and her North and South at Mason’s OLLI so now I realize in a way I’ve never done before. I go into these books thoroughly and produce close context for them in the form of the author’s life, the era, talking about them in ways that make them closely analogous to our own time. My proposal was accepted some weeks ago.

Today Making Barsetshire was accepted for the AU people:

Making Barsetshire: We’ll read The Warden, Barchester Towers, and Doctor Thorne. Trollope said that he conceived The Warden while walking in the purlieus of Salisbury Cathedral; that he took “great delight” in the writing of Barchester Towers and he predicted it would be a novel that would “live” on. By Doctor Thorne he was filling an imagined a parallel world with rich characters; in Framley Parsonage, he mapped it. Elizabeth Gaskel’s “I wish Mr Trollope would go on writing Framley Parsonage for ever” has become proverbial when people describe how many readers have felt about the Barsetshire series. We’ll study the making of the first three books in context, and compare them excerpts from the 1983 BBC Barchester Chronicles. It’s suggested that students watch the mini-series over the summer. If in spring the new Julian Fellowes mini-series Doctor Thorne airs on time (BBC/PBS), we’ll compare that too.

My plan is to “do” Small House at Allingham in the summer at the other OLLI. It will be the first time I’ve read this book in about 15 or 16 years. I should try to write up for the 18th century Intelligencer what this kind of teaching is like; that would help me understand it more too.

David Pleasance perfect as Mr Harding (1983 Barchester Chronicles)

Miss Drake


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