Sunday, November 30, 2008

December 1


"I Wish You Christmas"
by John Rutter
performed by The Cambridge Singers and the Farnham Youth Choir

Happiness is... December.

I'm so glad you've dropped by to listen to the first day of my annual "Musical Advent Calendar". If you are new to "I Can Fly, Just Not Up", then you will want to bookmark this site for the next month or so... Every day, I will be posting a new piece of Christmas music for your listening enjoyment. The player is up over there on the right of your screen-- just click on the little arrow button. Each selection will be available for you to hear for twenty-four hours, as many times as you'd care to listen.

The American author Bess Streeter Aldrich wrote, "Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart... filled it, too, with a melody that would last forever."

That's what music-- and Christmas-- is all about: that incredible feeling of the lifting of the spirit. The cares and worries of the daily grind falling away, even if just for a few moments.

I hope that your daily visits here will help you to feel just that.

"I wish you music, I wish you song,

With voices echoing joyous and strong,

I wish you church bells ringing true and clear,

I wish you Christmas,

A Merry Christmas,

A Merry Christmas to remember all the year!"

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sae let the Lord be thankit.


Thanksgiving.

I remember my little Scottish grandmother not only on Thanksgiving (yes, both the Canadian and American Thanksgivings!), but on any holiday on which serving a "major meal" is involved.

My grandmother was a good, plain cook. And by that I mean that she cooked an abundance of family fare, and she did it with excellence. She could feed the entire brood of us-- and there are many, in our clan of "oatmeal savages". We would all eat hearty, in abundance, and push back from her table feeling satisfied, warmed-through, and most of all, loved.

When she was well into her eighties, she continued to cook turkey dinners whenever a few family members could be gathered together, even when her diminutive size and aching back made it difficult for her to hoist "The Bird" in and out of the oven. Indeed, on my last visit to her in her own home, she staunchly refused to allow me to assist her in any way with the meal. And, because she was Grandma-with-a-capital-G, I obeyed. I stood back, even as I saw her clearly struggling with that enormous, black roasting pan. And in watching her, I came to realize that the ritual was just as important to her as the people who gathered together to eat.

As we settled around her table, set with wedding china and the "Coronation" pattern silverware I can still feel in the palms of my hands... we would all bow our heads, and she would softly begin to recite the Selkirk Grace... her Grace, in the lilting brogue of her father's:

"Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit."

The family would not stir, much less lift a fork, until Grandma had looked up. She would smile at us, and inquire:

"Who's like us?"

To which we would respond with a resounding:

"Damned few!!!!"

And then, we would enthusiastically tuck in, and feast till our skins felt tight.

Family dinners are not the same without her, but her memory lives on in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It is my own mother who recites the Grace, now, in a very different dining room, in a different part of the world. At this past Thanksgiving, she quietly asked me if I had learned the verse by heart, so that one day I would be able to "serve the family", as the eldest female member of my generation.

I have. And I will. I know in my heart the importance of family... of "passing down" the traditions, the memories, and most importantly, the love.

I am so thankful for all of it.

Wishing you all health, happiness, and love in abundance
on this day, and every day.

xo CGF

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One month 'till Christmas...


Have you untangled your *$#@!! lights yet???

Monday, November 24, 2008

At Knit's End...


"I recognize that knitting can improve my mood in trying circumstances."

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, a.k.a. "The Yarn Harlot",
from her marvellous book
At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much

This past week, I've been making a concerted effort to "get me some happy", in advance of the onslaught of the Christmas holidays. For, as it turns out, it is impossible to "make merry" for those around you if you're not actually feeling merry, yourself.

I'm trying, people. In the face of all. this. mess. I'm really trying.

A good friend recently asked me whether I have been able to get back to doing any of the things that I have really enjoyed in the past. You know, for fun.

And it occurred to me, that "fun" is something I haven't felt capable of for a very, very long time now. The very idea of "enjoying myself" in the face of disaster just didn't seem right-- the guilt took any possible feelings of pleasure away.

How sad is that?

Too sad. Even for me.

There is no way out of all this but through, after all.

And if I have to keep pressing through, I might as well knit something while I'm at it.

I grabbed my friend by the arm on Saturday afternoon, and gave it a gentle twist... And the next thing we knew, we had swept ourselves over to our local knitting mecca, where we spent a surprisingly happy and relaxing few hours browsing through the stock, which is artfully arranged in floor-to-ceiling wall units that are always full to bursting. The owners know exactly what sort of stuff to put where-- what combinations of jewel-like colours will "sing" together, and which incredible textures will entice you to reach out your hand and stroke them... This is not just a yarn shop, but an other-worldly experience that awakens the senses, and entices you to imagine exactly what sort of marvellous creation each skein is crying out to become...

In spite of being on a budget, I confess. I came out laden with bags full of the most exquisite yarns, inspirational patterns, and beautiful bamboo needles that are easier on my hands and make a soft "swish" sound, rather than an annoying metallic "click" when I use them...

Yes, I had fun. Fun! And it felt great.

Almost as great as it has felt to start these projects:

Socks! I have always had a sock project on the go... and usually one on-the-needles and stuffed into my ridiculously large handbag, to whip out and fill time whenever I find a couple of minutes on my hands. The pair I am currently working on was actually begun in August, when all hell was beginning to break loose around here... We have dubbed them my "stress socks", and to be truthful, I'll probably have to throw them on a bonfire and get rid of them, once they're all done! No matter HOW gorgeous they may be...


A warm little sweater for Wee Three. She is my "sweater girl", and always cuddles up enthusiastically in whatever I make for her, without protest. The "Cabin Fever" pattern company has some spectacular designs that are available online from their website, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. Their "top-down" patterns are knit on the round in one piece, with nary a seam to stitch up when you're done! Miraculous. Easy. And gorgeous. What more could you want? Except perhaps the divinely soft green flecked yarn I bought to make it out of... I can't wait to see it on my littlest girlie, her brown eyes shining... She is already hounding me to "FINISH IT!!"

And last, but not least... The Scarf.

Anyone who is a true knitting devotee knows of The Yarn Harlot, a.k.a. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Canadian needlewoman extraordinaire. Well, recently she's been rhapsodizing on her blog about a certain scarf she simply cannot seem to put down, and after seeing pictures, I was hooked:

This is some of the most beautiful yarn I have ever had the pleasure of working with-- Noro Silk Garden; 45 silk /45 kid mohair/ 10 lambswool, and the colour that evolves as you work with it is simply spell-bindingly beautiful. The pattern is so simple, yet the results are spectacular. Like Stephanie, I simply cannot seem to put this project down, and if this keeps up, some lucky people are going to receive some very special hand-made Christmas presents this year... Or, maybe I'll feel so greedy and possessive of these divine, six-foot long creations, I'll just hoard them all for myself... It will be worth venturing out into the Great White North, simply for the pleasure of showing them off!

Yessirree.

I may be more than a little nutty these days... but still.

"Knit's End" has never looked so good.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Joyful Noise

"St Cecilia"
by John Melhuish Strudwick

Today is the feastday of Saint Cecilia, who is the patron saint of musicians, and more specifically (and dear to my heart), church music. She is often represented in art with an organ, or holding organ-pipes in her hand.

And so, in her honour, I post one of my favourite pieces of music, played on the magnificent pipe organ at King's College Chapel, Cambridge, England. Turn up the volume, people, and enjoy!



The Toccata on Placare Christe Servulis Op. 38 No 14,
by Marcel Dupré, and played by Philip Ledger

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth:
make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise."
-Psalm 98

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Daughter, The Athlete.


Upon discovering Child Number One slouching lugubriously in her chair at the lunch table, wearing a foul expression:

Mother: What's up, Buttercup? Why the long face?

Child Number One: (mournfully) We have GYM CLASS this afternoon...

Mother: So?

Child Number One: (clearly exasperated) That's FIFTY MINUTES of my life I'll NEVER get back...

If she weren't so damn good at math, I'd swear I've cloned myself...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Garden in Winter


Blow, blow, thou Winter Wind

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remember'd not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most freindship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

--William Shakespeare

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sure on this Shining Night...


It's snowing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A New Mantra.


Things have been a little too "heavy" around here, for way too long, folks.

So, I've made a conscious choice to do just this.

To give you a brief update on what's been happening around here in the "positive" department lately...

-I've spent the past month undertaking the Herculean task of applying for graduate school at five different universities. To date, all but one are written and submitted. After nearly twenty years, going back to "academic" writing has been more than a slightly daunting experience. But let me tell you, after hacking through all those pages and pages of essay questions, the way I figure it, if I manage to get accepted, the rest of the degree should be a breeze by comparison.

-I am spending most mornings volunteering in my children's public school, and have begun teaching an informal literacy program in the kindergarten classroom every Friday morning. I. Am. Loving. It. And so, have pitched two 10-week programs to our local library. Two branches have approved my curriculum so far, and it looks as though I'll be running programs on Saturday mornings, beginning in the spring and continuing through till the end of the summer.

-I have officially agreed to relinquish the title of Almighty Christmas Queen this year. For the first time in a long time, we will be "on the road" this holiday season, and will spend it in my childhood home with my family. It's going to be cramped, it's going to be more than slightly crazed... but it will be good to pass on the responsibility of Making the Holidays to someone else. And, let's face it, no matter how hard I try, no one does Christmas better than my mother.

-That said... even though Christmas seems to have arrived at a "bad time" (in my wee corner of the world, that is), I'm going to do my very best to rise to the occasion and celebrate with all of you again this year. Beginning December 1, I will again be posting a "Musical Advent Calendar" for your daily listening enjoyment. I have already started perusing my collection of Christmas carols, and plan to bring you many beautiful new selections, as well as a few of the best-received ones from last year.

Stay tuned, my friends...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nooooooooooooo...


Need I say more?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Remembrance.

video

The Floo'ers o' the Forest

I've heard the lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Lassies a-lilting before dawn o' day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning;
"The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away".

Dool and wae for the order sent oor lads tae the Border!
The English for ance, by guile wan the day,
The Flooers o' the Forest, that fought aye the foremost,
The pride o' oor land lie cauld in the clay.

I've heard the lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Lassies a-lilting before dawn o' day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning;
"The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away".

Although the original words are unknown, this melody was recorded in c. 1615-25 in the John Skene of Halyards Manuscript as "Flowres of the Forrest", though it may have been composed earlier. Several versions of lyrics have been added to the tune, but these are the words of Jean Elliot, who wrote them in 1756. It is the official lament of the Canadian Forces, played to honour fallen soldiers.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Towing Path

Tow Path at Argenteuil, Winter c.1875
by Claude Monet

"The Towing Path"
by John Ireland, and performed by John Lenehan



"If music be the food of love, play on," the Great Poet wrote.

And so, in my family, we do.

Music, to us, is not only the food of love, music IS love. Music is an embodiment of love, between the person who plays, and the people who listen.

A few short weeks ago, when things seemed very, very gloomy for me, indeed, I packed up my little family in full-on "emergency mode", and headed home to my parent's house in Stratford. For there is nowhere on earth that carries the feeling of such calming reassurance for me, as the place where I grew up.

After a long drive, we arrived in the dark, with two out of three little girlies fast asleep in the back seat of the car. My mother gently led the two eldest upstairs, while I carried the comatose form of Wee Three. After changing them into their pyjamas, we tucked them into their beds-- the youngest ones curled up together, side-by-side, like two little kittens in a basket.

Downstairs once more, I poured my heart out to my parents, who sat at the kitchen table and listened. Once I had exhausted myself of frustrated monologue, my mother quietly got up and walked into the living room, where her beautiful baby grand piano stands in front of a picture window.

She sat down to play. She played this piece: a piece I hadn't heard since the very early days of my childhood. As her fingers gently brushed the keys, the melody filled the rooms of our house, and I felt some of the tension I had been carrying slowly begin to ebb away.

And I realized that she played because she and my father have no words for me at this difficult time. I have my own decisions to make, my own path that must be followed. But instead of sitting in silence, or trying to fill up the void with "small talk", playing this beautiful, soothing music was my mother's way of conveying how much she and my father will always love and support me.

"If music be the food of love, play on. Give me an excess of it..."

--William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Congratulations, America.



It's About Time.


"God bless us, every one!"


 
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