Friday, March 21, 2014


On Saturday I emailed my mother a question about a sewing needle and found out my Nonnie, my maternal grandmother, was not doing well. She sometimes knew people, but a moment later might not. And I carried this thought - would she know me? -  all that day. That night I dreamed I was standing outside the little Catholic church of my childhood, wearing a black dress. I saw my Nonnie and approached with hesitation, "Nonnie?" and she beamed and said "Jeannine!" and we embraced tightly, laughing and sobbing.


The thing you should know about her was her voice. She sang. With Evelyn, there was always singing. On stages and in choirs, and once or twice - almost - on the radio. Maybe, most probably, if things had been different, she'd have had a professional career. She sang while making cannelloni, while driving in the car, at my mom's second wedding. She sang for her six kids, and she sang for her grandchildren, and most recently for her little blond-headed great granddaughter. Always, the singing. Always, the voice. It was the thing that was solely hers.


Nonnie told me once that when her mother, my great grandmother, had Alzheimer's disease and didn't know anyone, she would walk in to her mother's room for a visit, and her mother would immediately hum a melody. So even in a memory woven with cobwebs, her mother recognized her daughter.


"My little girl, pink and white as peaches and cream is she ..."

Until a few years ago, when I saw Carousel for the first time, I had no idea that this song*, Soliloquy, was ten minutes long, mostly about a boy, and sung by a man. For me, it was these few words and Nonnie's song; her song for me.

She was a soprano, a lyric soprano when she was younger, and I don't really know what those designations mean, but her voice was so clear and true, it went in through your ears, wrapped itself around your heart and squeezed. When I watch The Sound of Music or Mary Poppins, I see Julie Andrews, but hear Nonnie. Very similar. And how lucky to be able to listen to Nonnie's pretty voice any old time I wanted.


My first Evelyn, the original, my Nonnie, died on Monday in California. 

May she rest in sweet peace. 


And this morning, the first pink blossoms on the neighbor's tree, and the first bluebird - like a little neon light with wings - greeted me on the brick steps of my office. 

*This bit of song starts at 4:08

Friday, March 14, 2014

mermaid lessons, part ii

little works, big happy

what inspiration looks like these days

"Writers think in metaphors.
Editors work in metaphors.
A great reader reads in metaphors.
All are continually asking, "What does this represent? What does it stand for?"
They are trying to take everything one level deeper.
When they get to that level, they will try to go deeper again."


Artists ask those same questions.

As do mermaids.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

on matters of friendship according to Mr. Lewis

Remember last Sunday, a slice of spring,
24 hours before another serving of winter.
Newport News Park

The Four Loves
C.S. Lewis

"In our own time Friendship arises in the same way. For us of course is the shared activity and therefore the companionship on which Friendship supervenes will not often be a bodily one like hunting or fighting. It may be a common religion, common studies, a common profession, even a common recreation. All who share it will be our companions; but one or two or three who share something more will be our Friends. In this kind of love, as Emerson said, Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth? -- Or at least "Do you care about the same truth". The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer.
Notice that Friendship thus repeats on a more individual and less socially necessary level the character of the Companionship which was its matrix. The Companionship was between people who were doing something together -- hunting, studying, painting or what you will. The Friends will still be doing something together, but something more inward, less widely shared and less easily defined ... still travelling companions, but on a different kind of journey ..."

(From the chapter on Friendship. Italicized items are per the original formatting of the text in the book).