Sunday, November 30, 2008

First the bats, now, acorns?

The bat problem is old news. Mosquitoes in New England rejoiced this summer, and feasted well into November in this area. But I was wondering why weren't seeing as many acorns this year as in years past. Oak trees abound on my neighborhood's walking trails, and my children had noticed that there weren't a lot of "haycorns" to throw at each other or to bring home for the nature table.

Evidently in some parts of the U.S. there are no acorns to be found, at all:

The idea seemed too crazy to Rod Simmons, a measured, careful field botanist. Naturalists in Arlington County couldn't find any acorns. None. No hickory nuts, either. Then he went out to look for himself. He came up with nothing. Nothing crunched underfoot. Nothing hit him on the head.

Then calls started coming in about crazy squirrels. Starving, skinny squirrels eating garbage, inhaling bird feed, greedily demolishing pumpkins. Squirrels boldly scampering into the road. And a lot more calls about squirrel roadkill.

Read the rest of the article here, at the Washington Post online. Photo by Richard A. Lipski, of that same publication.

Some botanists believe the incredibly wet spring experienced by the Mid-Atlantic region and New England could be to blame--all that rain may have washed away enough oak pollen to have impacted acorn production. But no conclusions have been reached, and further study will be done to ascertain both the cause and effects of the dearth of acorns.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Music Monday - Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Here it is, the entry about the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major I mentioned two weeks ago. Of all the violin literature out there, this piece is the most inspiring to me in its attainability for the musician, its accessibility for the audience, and the pure joy of its themes. Beethoven's music in general is usually quite uplifting, and I look forward to beginning work on his Choral Fantasy in a week at the rehearsals of the community chorus with which I sing.

Once upon a time I actually used the first movement of the violin concerto as the basis of my master's thesis, which was a dissection of the technical aspects of the music in order to create exercises to learn the solo part more easily. In other words, I took the hard parts and broke them down and made up ways to practice them. Too many years later, I find that I can still more or less play the whole first movement (up until the cadenza, at least), with some skill even in these currently mostly unused fingers. I think that, for my 40th birthday, which looms ever nearer on the horizon, I will promise myself that I will continue working on this piece (maybe even the more difficult 3rd movement) with the eventual goal of performing it in some respect. Ack. Those words look scary in writing!

Here's the dreamy Joshua Bell playing the first part of the first movement (visit here, here, here, and here for the rest of the concerto--listen to the last one if you only have time for one more). Take a listen, and see if you can understand why it moves me so!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Interesting parts of my week

Adhesive wrapping paper--a good idea in theory, perhaps? Just say no, unless you are not wrapping children's gifts (the paper was hard to rip off), are not contac-paper challenged (as I am), have no pets, and vacuum every hour. See the wrinkles? Granted, the one with the worst wrinkles was the first one I wrapped, but I did end up wrapping one more gift that was not in a box, and it wasn't pretty--at all--the process or the result. Loved the stripes, though, which is why I bought it even though my inner voice told me it was a specious idea at best.

My baby is four years old! I can't believe how fast the time has gone. The positives: no more diapers, no more nursing, more sleep (theoretically, anyway), and more nights out. The negative: no more baby! Though my little M. is still cuddly, is generous with hugs and kisses, and will sit in my lap without a fuss whenever I want him to, so I have the best of both worlds right now.

The arrival of my parents from the Deep South (blame them--they brought the cold weather North with them) for M.'s birthday also meant that we had extended family that live locally over for "Thanksgiving Lite" yesterday evening. Two of my relatives have Celiac disease, so our gluten-free menu included boneless turkey breast, roasted potatoes, peas, and salad, and gingered dried fruit slow-cooker compote with vanilla ice cream for dessert. I think I prefer the lightness of this menu (and the ease of its preparation) to the all-out Thanksgiving meal we'll be enjoying next week at my sister's house in the Mid-Atlantic region. I'm getting stuffed just thinking about it!

I missed Music Monday (and Poetry Friday on my other blog) this week, as I was too tired all week to post. It was a very musical week, though, with dress rehearsals, a performance by our homeschooling, multi-generational chorus today, and the community chorus (my Monday night chorus) concert tomorrow afternoon. Here's a song our family chorus sang today, as sung by the entertaining Perry Como--enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Poetry Friday - Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849)


by Hartley Coleridge

The mellow year is hastening to its close;
The little birds have almost sung their last,
Their small notes twitter in the dreary blast--
The shrill-piped harbinger of early snows;
The patient beauty of the scentless rose,
Oft with the morn's hoar crystal quaintly glassed.
Hangs, a pale mourner for the summer past,
And makes a little summer where it grows:
In the chill sunbeam of the faint brief day
The dusky waters shudder as they shine,
The russet leaves obstruct the straggling way
Of oozy brooks, which no deep banks define,
And the gaunt woods, in ragged, scant array,
Wrap their old limbs with sombre ivy twine.

Hartley Coleridge was the eldest son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan

Poetry Friday is being hosted today by Yat-Yee Chong. Head on over and see what poems are being rounded up today!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Music Monday - Country Roads (from Whispers of the Heart)

I was all set to post an entry about the Beethoven violin concerto when I got home from my Monday night chorus rehearsal, but two of my children were still awake, watching a Hayao Miyazaki film whose English title is Whispers of the Heart. They made me sit down and listen to an enchanting version of John Denver's "Country Roads," which makes an appearance in this film with different lyrics and with an ensemble of violin, lute, viola da gamba, tambourine, and recorder accompanying it. A shawm even makes a brief appearance, setting the heart of this early music lover all a-flutter! I haven't seen the rest of the movie yet, but my kids loved it and begged to watch it again tomorrow, so I'll likely see it soon. Enjoy!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Poetry Friday - Dixie Wilson

The Mist and All

Dixie Wilson

I like the fall,
The mist and all.
I like the night owl's
Lonely call--
And wailing sound
Of wind around.

I like the gray
November day,
And bare, dead boughs
That coldly sway
Against my pane.
I like the rain.

I like to sit
And laugh at it--
And tend
My cozy fire a bit.
I like the fall--
The mist and all.--

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted at Check It Out. Head on over!

Photo courtesy of Jim Wegryn.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Music Monday - Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

Tomorrow we choose a new President here in the U.S. It's an important day for this country. I can think of no other composer who more fabulously represents American classical music than Aaron Copland. Most people are familiar with the opening brass and percussion extravaganza in Fanfare for the Common Man, but there is much more to explore in Copland's diverse litany of work. Michael Tilson Thomas presents the Fanfare and several others in Keeping Score: Copland and the American Sound, part of a series both on DVD and re-running on PBS that I highly, highly recommend for anyone even vaguely interested in orchestral music. The DVDs are in our library system here in New England, but I'm hoping St. Nick drops them down the chimney for me in a few weeks.

One of my favorite Copland compositions is Appalachian Spring, another piece of music that is featured on Keeping Score. Copland uses Simple Gifts, a Shaker tune, in the middle of the piece, and this particular section is just plain inspirational. Enjoy, and go vote!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Thanksgiving Poems for kids

Acting upon a suggestion from a founding member of my oldest child's poetry club, my ten-year-old son will be memorizing a poem about Thanksgiving to recite at this month's poetry club meeting. I'm thinking that my seven-year-old and even my almost-four-year-old may want to join in on the fun here at home, at least, so to that end, I've been ILL-ing many books with holiday poetry in them. In case anyone else is searching for something similar, here's the list as it stands right now. Let me know if you have any suitable titles to recommend, and I'll add them to the list, as well.

The Circle of Thanks: Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving, told by Joseph Bruchac; illustrated by Murv Jacob.

Thanksgiving Poems, collected by Myra Cohn Livingston; illustrated by Stephen Gammell

Merrily Comes Our Harvest in, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins; illustrated by Ben Shecter

Holiday Stew with Seasoning, Too! A Kid's Portion of Holiday and Seasonal Poems, by Jenny Whitehead

The Book of Thanksgiving--Stories, Poems, and Recipes for Sharing One of America's Greatest Holidays, by Jessica Faust and Jacky Sach

It's Thanksgiving! by Jack Prelutsky; illustrated by Marilyn Hafner

Over the River and through the Wood, by Lydia Marie Child; illustrated by David Catrow (in this particular incarnation, anyway)

Thanksgiving with Me, by Margaret Willy; illustrated by Lloyd Bloom