Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hidden Art: Chapter Two

Chapter Two: What Is Hidden Art? 
(Cindy at Ordo Amoris is hosting this book study.)
 Art needs to come out of hiding.

Schaeffer says art is hidden because it's found in the small parts of life, in the mundane, if you will. We're so familiar with it we don't think it's art at all. "Every person ... has some talent which is unfulfilled in some 'hidden area' of his being ..." (31).

I have a weird relationship with Schaeffer's book. I know my mother loved this book, and I got the impression many years ago that it was somewhat life-altering for her. My mother loves art, loves artists, and loves beauty. But she's not an artist herself; she doesn't paint, knit, crochet, sew, play an instrument, or do any of the usual artistic things. She's had a lovely voice in years past. But generally speaking, no one would consider her an artist.

Except Edith Schaeffer, that is.

My mother has stayed home, making a home, all her married life. She said recently that although her friends often have larger, more expensive homes than hers, she knows of no other home she'd rather be in. It's full of old furniture, some of it broken. Used rugs she bought at thrift stores. Rusted this and dented that. But she loves it all. And she has spent a lifetime turning her home into a beautiful, welcoming, warm place. Everyone feels it who comes there.

My mother has the gift of hospitality, she's an excellent cook, and she's a genius at flower arranging.
My parents always welcome friends and strangers in their front door.
My mother's hands have made hundreds of loaves of wheat bread.
This is a little arrangement she put together quickly for a tea honoring Anna at a friend's home.

I think my mother took Edith Schaeffer's words to heart and practiced them for decades. I wonder -- did she read the book, look around her, and ask: "What can I do to make life beautiful for those who come here?" She gardened, and then gardened more. She grew flowers and arranged them for her home, and then for church. Beauty became for her a regular discipline, a daily evaluation of how to make her home pleasant.

Schaeffer: "We should look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, response to what has been created for our appreciation." And, "A Christian should show in some practical area ... a growing creativity and sensitivity to beauty, rather than in a gradual drying up of creativity, and a blindness to ugliness" (32, 33).

My mother has a deep, abiding aversion to ugliness in all forms. She abhors the ugliness of sin and debauchery in culture. She's not a snob, and she's seen her share of darkness. But she chooses the beautiful, always. I think Schaeffer is saying that, in choosing to love beauty, we are being creative -- just the choice is a creative act. It is a constant battle, in our day, to choose beauty, to choose goodness. The pull is ever downward to degradation, to slovenliness. My mother can take a broken tea cup and make a treasure. She can take a few weeds and wildflowers and make a display. She can take other women's cast-offs and make an outfit. All these are redemptive acts. Having expensive, flashy possessions is not really creative. Taking something simple, mundane, common -- and finding beauty in it? That's creative. That's my mother.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Greenfield Civil Wars: Chapter Eight

(Other chapters of this book can be found by clicking the box above, in the tab bar, called Greenfield Civil Wars.)

Chapter 8 –‘Inflammatus’

Athena Shepherd bustled into the choir room at Leach Street Presbyterian, prepared to sing with a community choir for the funeral and rehearse the solo that Aunt Hipp had requested, “Shall We Gather at the River.”  Her husband was overseeing the digging of the grave and the arrangements between the funeral home and the Mt. Moriah Cemetery. Thus it was, when Billy Greeter tapped on their back door, no one answered, and he let himself into the house. What is more disconsolate than a man, anticipating unburdening his weary bosom to his friends, who then finds no friends upon whom he may unburden? Poor Billy.  But we must leave him momentarily to his contemplation.  Funeral preparations are underway, and, dear readers, I would not want you to miss a single note of music, a single morsel of funeral-food, a single sedate expression on the faces of the funeral home men. For funerals are rare experiences. When else do we allow just anyone to blubber from the pulpit? When else do family members who’ve not spoken for decades suddenly weep upon each other’s shoulders?  When else do total strangers bring casseroles to one’s house, and small communities of bereaved sufferers manage to consume enough food for an brigade? What a study of human nature, is a funeral! What a comic tragedy upon the stage! So let us look behind the curtain at the actors, and see what they are about.

Mr. Paul Shrilling is forty-four years old. He has been serving as Leach Street’s music director for thirteen years. It is generally understood in Greenfield that he is the finest musician for many miles, indeed that he could easily transfer his talents to any large church in the Southeast.  Thus, although he and Dr. Cloudee lock horns often and play tug-of-war with the worship, the senior minister lives in great fear of losing his Orpheus, and always manages to express the correct gratitude and obligatory reverence due to one whose temperament is, as it should be, musically testy. Maestro Shrilling seems ageless. He is tall, slim, quick, private, and uncommunicative.  All this changes, however, when he is behind his stand and at the other end of his wand. Truly, he points his wand, and magic occurs! Only the rarest of directors can elicit from gravelly basses, raspy altos, wobbly sopranos, and (of course) no tenors, the kind of ethereal strains that Mr. Shrilling obtains every Sunday.

For the college president’s funeral, he will have a large choir – a choir he wishes he could have every day of the week! For all the best college singers would be there. And Athena Shepherd with her golden voice would grace his choir room with her high B-flats. In fact, all of Mt. Moriah’s choir would come. The Snarkians are great singers, robust vocalists, and Mr. Shrilling often listens longingly to their psalm-singing, as he walks quietly by their church on a dark fall evening. Such brave forays into the land of a cappella, his choir would never dare. So Mr. Shrilling debated what to ask of his combined choir on this one, unprecedented, stupendous day. The man in the coffin was of little significance, except that his moldering state limited the available choices. The “Hallelujah Chorus” was out, of course, as was “I Was Glad.” He toyed with “He Watching Over Israel.” He thought the audience might well appreciate the image of God, watching sleeplessly over Dr. Jones and his grievers. Personally, Mr. Shrilling wished to perform the entire Brahms Requiem, but everyone would object to a three hour funeral. At last, he had decided upon the following:  “When Thou Comest,” with the glorious soprano solo by Mrs. Shepherd, a choral arrangement of “The Lord’s Supper” to appease the general hoi polloi, and a thunderous finale of “Worthy Is the Lamb.”  He felt a bit sorry to use something from Handel’s Messiah after all, but it couldn’t be helped, and he needed pieces that would be at least vaguely familiar to his singers. Finally, he had asked Emilia Greeter, a very fine pianist even by Mr. Shrilling’s standards, to play “Pavane to a Dead Princess” from the Steinway baby grand in her parlor, as the funeral procession moved gravely from the college chapel, through the wooded path and side gate, down to the cemetery at Mt. Moriah Church, where the great Snarkian president would rest in peace. Mrs. Greeter would open all her windows and serenade the mourners as they passed behind her house.

Thus, Mr. Shrilling was surprised when Athena Shepherd rushed into the choir room with a crumpled copy “Shall We Gather at the River.”  He had never imagined that Willina Hipp would interfere with his music. The woman had the voice of a toad.

What?!” he exclaimed.

Breathless, Athena replied, “Aunty Hipp called me yesterday. She and Juanita want me to sing this,” and she held up the crinkled copy of music by its detestable corner.

Mr. Shrilling pursed his lips, as he often did when fighting such wars. He invariably won them.  It mattered little what opinions were proffered by others beforehand – when he stood before his choir and his organist during the actual service, what person among the listeners would stand up on hind legs and contradict him in mid-service?  None. Men and women may boisterously intrude into private conversations, phone calls, confidential meetings and romantic tete-a-tetes.  But almost never does one hear of a person bellowing out in the middle of a worship service – and especially a funeral – a protest to the music director, “But I told you to sing ….” No, Mr. Shrilling always got his way, because he held the baton.

“I have planned the music, Athena.  Here.”  And he handed her a lovely Schirmer’s copy of “When Thou Comest.”  She’d sung it before, he knew.

“Oh, how lovely, Paul.  The “Inflammatus.”  If only ….”

“Don’t worry about a thing, Athena. Simply put it in your black folder.  This is what you’ll sing, and the choir’s part is not difficult.  The college singers will lead us there easily.”

“Aunt Hipp will be livid.”

“Aunt Hipp can talk with me afterward. But I will not have photocopied hymns sung at the college president’s funeral.  Not if I’m directing.”  And he walked over to his growing bass section.

Mr. Shrilling’s first skirmishes were not over, however.  Just after he’d warmed up his 52 voices and begun instructing them in the difficulties of Rossini’s harmonies, Willina Hipp and Juanita Jones entered the choir room.  The organist stopped playing, and the singers’ voices sputtered out gradually, until only two sopranos were left, longing to sing a high note into the silence.

“Ladies,” Mr. Shrilling said. “Welcome. We are rehearsing.  Can I help you?”

“Rehearsing?”  Mrs. Hipp began.  “I’m certainly glad to see you warming up your choir, Mr. Shrilling, but I hardly see how you can be rehearsing anything, since you do not yet have the music for the service.”  Mrs. Hipp strode across in front of the choir.  The powerful scent of jasmine and musk preceded her, and her deep green shawl billowed behind her in full sail. In her hands was balanced a mountainous stack of photocopied pages.  She set them down heavily on the lid of the piano.  “Four of President Jones’s favorite hymns, at his sister’s request.  I’m sure they will be no trouble, since all the singers will know them already.”  She turned her icy gray eyes upon her acknowledged opponent. “’Victory in Jesus,’ ‘When We All Get to Heaven,’ ‘In the Sweet By and By,’ and of course a solo for my niece – ‘Shall We Gather.’  You’ll hardly need the two hours of rehearsal you’ve requested of these dear people.”  Here, Mrs. Hipp panned her frozen, thin-lipped smile across the room.  Half of the singers were desperately hoping to sing the simple hymns.  The other half were pulling for Mr. Shrilling.  All of them were watching like gladiatorial spectators the scene playing out before them.

But Mr. Shrilling disappointed them. He would not enter the fray. He smiled benignly.  He’d done all this before and knew that in the end, his choir would sing what he directed them to sing. He decided what music sat snugly in their folders. The Mrs. Hipp and Jones could fume in their seats, but victory goes to the one in front. He picked up the stack of music and held it to his chest.

“Thank you, Mrs. Hipp. Most appreciated. Mrs. Jones, lovely to see you again, although regrettably in such sorrowful circumstances.”  He turned slightly toward his choir.  “I know the choir shares in expressing our deepest condolences.” He bowed gently to the women.

This unexpected commiseration took Mrs. Hipp off her guard. As a well-battered warrior, she was used to open combat. The slight man before her seemed no adversary at all.  He handed the music to a young alto and asked her to distribute it to the choir.  The two visitors looked on satisfactorily as the singers fluttered and fumbled and got the pages somehow into their folders. Mr. Shrilling smiled ever so slightly to the women.

“And now, we must be sure we are prepared for the service, if you’ll allow us.”  His baton lifted slightly in his hand. This was their cue to depart and leave the choir to his devices.  But Mrs. Jones was less easily fooled than her friend.

“Ah, Mr. Shrilling, you won’t mind if we just stay and listen.  It would greatly comfort me to hear my brother’s favorite hymns of the afterlife, sung by your choir. Just for a few moments.”

Paul Shrilling’s face tightened, and the corner of his mouth twitched.  It was then that Willina Hipp realized that here was a foe of deep and intricate cunning. She had almost trusted him. Never again!

For forty-five minutes, the choir went over, and over, and over, the drudgerous pieces. The portly women sat, and smiled, and oohed. At last, Mr. Shrilling was left with no choice but to call an end to all their miseries.

“Thank you, choir. And thank you, ladies, for listening so attentively.  I hope we did not disappoint?”

If they had drawn sabers, clashed shields, strung their bows taut and dug spurs into their horses for the joust, these enemies could hardly have looked upon each other with more animosity. But the women were smiling. They had won. The organist closed her instrument and changed her shoes.  All the sopranos drank their last drops of water.

 “Mrs. Horner, will you be sure our new members are fitted out in choir robes?” Mr. Shrilling asked of his chief alto. The singers stood and began to mingle. Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Hipp turned to go.

Miss Jones’s deep voice resonated over all others: “Thank you, choir.  We’ll see you at the college chapel.”  And they were gone.

Everyone froze for the shortest moment. Their lord and master held them silent with his gaze.  He raised his baton. His organist slipped her toes back into her little leather shoes. The sopranos sighed, and everyone opened folders once again. Mr. Shrilling quietly picked up the trash can next to the piano, and handed it to Mrs. Horner, to be passed around the room. The hymns met their fate. He placed his thin, white finger against his lips, and his choir opened to Rossini’s “Inflammatus.” Mr. Shrilling’s face wore the smile of victory.

(Copyright by M.K. Christiansen)

Here's a video of Rossini's "Inflammatus" for your enjoyment.

Dinghy Days

We've been doing dinghy work around here. Remember the dinghy/sailing pram that Adam's making for Julia? He's been sanding it for months.
 Well, at last the sanding was done, and we had weather for painting the thing.  Julia wanted a bright red. So bright red it is!
Adam applied the paint with a roller, and Julia came behind him, doing a brush maneuver called "tipping," to get all the bubbles out of the first coat.
It looked very good. She loves the color.
She was going to name the boat "The Minuet," but somehow that elegant name doesn't go with the paint color she's chosen. She's re-evaluating the name now.
After this, they applied a second coat, and now it's beginning to look like a real boat!
Remember the little white dinghy that Adam got for free this past week? He wanted to take it on Smith Creek and see if it was sea-worthy. We drove to the Oriental public water access over at the wildlife ramp. Many other boaters had already arrived and put their boats in the water, as you see.
Julia and Adam carried the little white dinghy out on one of the floating piers.
Adam hooked up his newer 4 horsepower outboard motor to it. It was, shall we say, a bit too much motor power for a bit too little boat? Adam is heavy, so he hoped his weight in the boat would keep the weight of the motor from flipping the boat up and over. Hmm.
I can tell you, I was nervous watching them take off. It seemed there were only a few inches of gunwale showing above the water line. I just couldn't watch.
Sandy and I waited on the dock.
They disappeared into the distance. My phone rang and I chatted with my mother, but eventually I had to say good-bye because I told her I couldn't really focus on a conversation when I thought that $600 motor might be on the bottom of Smith Creek. The dinghy, I was not concerned for. Adam and Julia are both fine swimmers with life vests. But the motor? Without it, our sailing days this summer are seriously curtailed!
The fellow next to us was out of luck. He couldn't get his batteries to start on his fine fishing boat.
This young fellow didn't need motors or batteries. He's got muscle power! I don't know what they call those long boards, but they're cool.
Finally, my pair came motoring back down the creek. When they were within hollering distance, the motor ran out of gas, and they rowed the rest of the way in. Julia threw me the painter.
We got them in safe. Adam says he won't be putting that motor on a dinghy again; he could only run it just above idling, because he was afraid they would sink.
We loaded up and drove the 3 minutes back home. Even when you're nervous, Smith Creek is a nice place to spend the afternoon ~
Our temps are unusually cool, and there are no mosquitoes yet, which is something, if you know Oriental! Continued cool temps and rainy weather this week.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

For Those Not Weary of Oriental Flora ...

At last! I discovered that my pictures could load;  they just needed about five minutes apiece to do it. Sigh. So, without further ado, here are more flowers from our little village. These were almost all taken at a friend's home.
She has such irises!
These were in one of her hanging baskets:
An adorable Gerber daisy popped up by herself.
These flowers are a mystery. Their greenery looks like simple, weedy grass. They're very pretty.
Here's another frilly iris!
The knock-out roses that flourish all over town are starting to bloom. 
This is my favorite bush because it's right by the street as I ride on my bike.
This iris is purple -- I promise. Why the camera changed its color, I can't guess!
I really did want you to see this bank of abundant purple bloom, but I couldn't resist getting the very-silly church sign. These kinds of ridiculous sayings drive Adam and me nuts, but they must appeal to some people, since they're so popular.
Merry Spring!

One Lonely Flower Picture :(

Blogger is driving me crazy.  Okay, crazier. I know I was already crazy.
I can't upload pictures At. All. I nabbed these two stray photos by going into my Picasa picture storage, and for some reason they were sitting there. Oh well ...

This hanging basket was at a friend's house. Sometime, I'll share the other photos I took of her gorgeous blooms.

I will figure this out. I cannot go for the rest of my life with no photos on my blog! Argh! Oh, sometimes I wish I were more tech-savvy. If worst comes to worst, Philip will be home this Saturday, and he'll figure it out. I've never met a computer problem he couldn't master.

Greenfield Civil Wars: Chapter Seven

(Other chapters of this book can be found by clicking the box above, in the tab bar, called Greenfield Civil Wars.)

Chapter 7 – An Unexpected Arrival

Jonquil Jones exited the college grounds for her daily exercise as the Cloudees entered her uncle’s house. Her route the previous morning had taken her along College Street toward town, up Leach Street past the churches, through the shady residential section behind the Baptist church, wiggling along Serpentine Alley with its mossy bricks, and then back to College Street, out in the country where Mt. Moriah Church and its tiny day school sat under the pine trees. It was only a two mile jog, if that. This morning, Jonny nodded to the ladies in the Tuppence Tea Room window.  She gasped breathlessly at the old men outside the Post Office. As she turned up the slight incline toward Leach Street Presbyterian, she grasped the handles of her jump rope more tightly and pursed her lips. She disliked jumproping past people’s homes.

Reginald Heeler had noticed her the morning before. As he sat at his kitchen table, nibbling toast and sipping V-8, gazing absently at the house across the road, suddenly a flashing vision of femininity crossed his line of sight. Her pink jumpsuit sparkled in the sunlight. Her blond mane bounced on her back.  Her rope whisked around and snapped on the pavement – he could hear it whip! whip! whip! as she bobbed along. Mr. Heeler sat upright and his eyes followed her. Afterward he had a hard time focusing on his “Puritanical Ponderings” devotional, and he neglected his toast. Less than a minute later, Lily Cloudee saw her skipping past as well.

On the second morning, however, he was ready. He had moved a lawn chair next to his lone azalea bush, brewed a cup of coffee, applied tweed and leather to his wardrobe, and he lounged as a man of leisure, waiting for her. He’d debated pulling out his grandfather’s monocle, with which to peruse the morning paper, but decided that might be a bit much. Promptly at 8:20, her heard her rope smacking the pavement.

Jonquil came puffing up the hill. She was still thinking of the Cloudees, of Dr. Cloudee’s surprise at seeing her.  Why, she’d seen him a dozen times in her life! She’d spent summers with her Uncle Jeremiah, climbing the college trees! She’d had tea at their house, and took painting lessons from Mrs. Cloudee!  And now he didn’t even remember her. She snapped her rope more sternly and huffed up the hill to the church.  She noted a man sitting in his yard, his legs jutting out, his bedroom slippers muddy on the bottom. She glanced sideways and saw his eyes, following her over the top of his newspaper. He winked at her. Jonquil tripped and nearly lost her balance. The man sat up in his chair, and his coffee cup, balanced delicately on the arm of his chair, tipped and dumped into his lap. She barely regained her rhythm, and hurried past his house as best she could. Her admirer was left with hot coffee in his lap and a damp paper.

“Silly man,” she muttered to herself. “That’s what he gets for gawking at women over his morning news.”

At the same moment, a young man with auburn hair, round glasses and a lanky frame was stepping off the bus on the far end of College Street. Greenfield is no major hub of transportation, but a weekly Greyhound that runs from Charlotte to Atlanta does slow down at the little bus stop on the west edge of town, just long enough to throw off a passenger or two. Fitzwilliam Greeter retrieved his old red suitcase and began the long walk home. Before we allow him to proceed further, however, I must address with you, dear readers, the matter of his name.  Mrs. Greeter – Emilia Rockingwood as was – knew full well that Fitzwilliam was not a good Southern boy’s name.  All her friends in Georgia chose names like James or Edward or Kevin.  They were always called Jimmy or Eddie or Kev. But Emilia came from the British Rockingwoods, and only a British name would do. Fond as she was of reading, and fonder still of Austen, and fawningly fond of Pride and Prejudice, she could find no other name that warmed her heart like Fitzwilliam. Her husband grumbled, but agreed as most husbands do, when their wives are in the throes of labor, and are clearly bearing the lion’s share of the work to produce the child. Fitzwilliam it was.  Everyone called him Billy.

Billy Greeter was unexpected by his parents on this fine April morning. They thought he was happily ensconced in his cubicle, in his accounting office, in his sky scraper, in Atlanta. But Billy had left all that.  He hadn’t actually quit, but by the time his boss realized that he’d been gone three days, they would clean out his cubicle and find some other sorry, desperate fellow to sit there. Billy breathed deeply and smiled at the warm pine scent in the air. It would get stronger as the summer progressed and the heat warmed the sap and nearly baked the pine needles underfoot. There was nothing quite like it.

As Billy crossed Leach Street, Jonquil turned onto College Street and jumped her rope in front of Mt. Moriah Church.  Thus they were destined to cross paths for the first time, a few minutes later, in front of the college gates.  Jonquil was focused on her rope and on not tripping and smashing her face because of the uneven sidewalk bricks. She was subconsciously counting the steps from the church to the college. “ One hundred fifty-three, one hundred fifty-four ….” Billy, meanwhile, was rehearsing what he would say to his mother, and then to his father, when he walked in the door. “Hello, old things! Surprise!”  No, that didn’t quite seem to work. And as he ruminated on his plan of attack, he heard a distant whip! whip! whip! and he looked up. Her flashing knees, like Achilles’ as he circled Troy! Her heaving bosom, like Dido in her grief for Aeneas! Her golden hair, all falling now about her face, sticking to her temples! And the flushed face, the slight glisten of exertion on her forehead! (I’m sure my readers know that Southern girls do not sweat, nor do they perspire.  They merely glow.) Billy stopped in his tracks and watched her. And as she drew nearer, her face became familiar. He’d last seen her when she was a thin, wiry, mean-spirited little squirt of a girl. “Jonny Jones,” he whispered to himself. A small smirk tickled his lips, and he stepped forward toward the college gates.  He knew where she was going – to the president’s house.

Billy leaned languidly upon the gate.  “Well, Jonny Jones, bless my boots! Come to visit your old battle grounds?”  He applied his broadest, most confident grin to his handsome face.

Jonquil’s rope dropped and she stopped a few feet from him. “Silly Billy!”  She gasped briefly for breath.  Billy had trouble keeping the grin on his face. Truly, she was beautiful. “What’re you doing home?  I thought you were in Atlanta,” she puffed at him,
and pressed one hand to her side. She glanced at the suitcase. 

“Where’s your car?”

“Totaled it last week. I took the bus.”

“Staying long?”

“No, no,” he said, and followed her through the gate. “Must come pay homage once in a while, you know. Got to keep the home fires burning in their hearts for the loving son.”  He glanced at her face.  “You haven’t been here in a coon’s age. What brings you to see old Jerry?”

“You haven’t heard?”  Jonquil stopped and turned to him. “Uncle Jerry died last week. Very suddenly.”

“I’m so sorry! Man, that’s rather a shock. He was fine when I was home at Christmas. Mother never said a thing.”

“Oh, it was sudden. We didn’t suspect. A bad heart, apparently.”

“Then, that means….”

“Yes, Auntie Jaunty is here too.”

“Ah.” They continued walking and came to the end of Billy’s driveway. “When’s the funeral?”

“Today at 4:00.  You’ll be there?”

“Of course, Jonny.”  She walked a bit past him, and smiled.

“See you there then,” and she skipped away. He watched her, hardly believing that the beautiful woman with whom he’d just walked was the same sniveling girl he’d tormented only ten years before. Coming home was hard on a man’s senses.

Billy set his suitcase in the garage and walked back down the drive and out the college gates. He wasn’t quite ready for the inevitable conversation with his parents. Instead, he strolled past the college to the edge of town, to 117 Highland Circle. There he hoped to find either Sam or Athena at home – it mattered little which one. He could with equal ease unburden his heart to either friend and ask for comfort and advice. When Sam was in seminary, Billy was in college, and they’d sparred on the soccer field and tussled on the basketball court, eaten hot dogs in the cafeteria and turkey dinner at the Greeter table. Billy encouraged Sam to court Athena, and supported the groom as he awaited the bride at the head of the aisle. The couple had watched their young friend date a steady stream of college females, without matrimonial success. Billy sat at their kitchen table more comfortably than he did at his own. What bachelor table is comfortable? Where is comfort in a home, without a woman? Having left just such a cold apartment in the metropolis, and then slunk away from his own mother’s door, and finally faced confusion of heart at the sight of Jonquil Jones, Billy Greeter hardly knew what to think of his state in life. Thus, he kicked at the pine cones as he walked into the country, and picked up the occasional magnolia seed pod and heaved it into the trees like a grenade. In the young man’s mind, there was no solidity in life – the old are dying, the friends of one’s youth turn upon one and develop shapely bodies and luxurious hair – why, a man can’t even walk to his own parents’ home without trepidation! Billy Greeter turned into Highland Circle with a worried heart, seeking the kind words of a friend.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Hi, friends.

Blogger isn't uploading any pictures for me today. I have lovely flowers to show you. I have fun boat pictures. I have the next chapter of the book. Alas, they'll all have to wait! More tomorrow ....

Friday, April 26, 2013

Greenfield Civil Wars: Chapter Six

(Other chapters of this book can be found by clicking the box above, in the tab bar, called Greenfield Civil Wars.)
Chapter 6 -- A Morning Visit

Bright and early Tuesday morning, Dr. Cloudee walked down Leach Street in the company of his wife. He assumed correctly that if he called on Juanita Jones early enough, Willina Hipp would not yet be with her, to lend assistance in the gentle fray that must ensue. Dr. Cloudee preferred to carry the advantage when meeting his worthy opponent. The April sun shone brilliantly on his white hair as he led his wife toward the college. He led her by the hand, and Mrs. Cloudee unsuccessfully tried to hum “We’re Marching to Zion.”  She lacked adequate wind for her vocal energies, sailing along as she did at the end of her husband’s arm. Emilia Greeter nearly choked on her toast as she noted their entrance onto the college grounds. She knew immediately where they were going.

“Round One commences!” she shouted to Dr. Greeter, as he shaved his chin.

Dr. Cloudee’s energetic ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ on the door of mourning was anticipated by Miss Jones, however.  And let this be a lesson to you, astute readers, that one must never assume that one has taken one’s enemy unawares. Juanita Jones anticipated this visit for several days. In fact, her secret weapon even now is moving boldly toward the door.  It grasps the knob with friendly fervor, and opens the portal upon the unsuspecting man. In the morning light, at first James Cloudee believes that his eyes deceive him.  Standing in the doorway is Juanita Jones – the Juanita Jones of yesteryear! She is thin, beautiful. Her thick golden hair tumbles ‘round her shoulders.  Her thin arms and shapely legs are brown and youthful. She wears sneakers and gym shorts, and a jump rope dangles over her shoulder. He gawks in stunned speechlessness, his mouth sagging. But the woman does not hesitate. She opens the screen door, steps toward him, smiles sweetly and picks up his limp hand, clasping it in both of hers.

“James Cloudee.  It’s so wonderful to see you again.”

His wife pecks at his elbow with her fingers.  “See! I told you she was jumping rope!”

He turns absently toward his wife but back again to the young face immediately. She squeezes his arm, twinkles her eye, brushes past him, and walks away. 

“Must dash!”  she says.  And she’s gone.  A vision of his past. The first romance of his youthful heart.  The very image of all he longed to remember and forget.

“Who was that?”  he mumbled.

“That,” said a deep voice from inside the house, “is my niece.”  Dr. Cloudee did not jump; his feet remained solidly on terra firma.  His heart, however, leapt in terror in his bosom. That – that was most certainly the voice of the aged Juanita Jones.

“Hello, Jimmy.”

Mrs. Cloudee giggled.

“Juanita,” he rejoined.

The speaker approached the screen door and opened it wide for their admittance. Her ample hand grasped its edge and her plump fingers, resplendent each with a large ring, curved around the door. Dr. Cloudee noticed the deep purple nail polish.

“Come in,” she said.

“…to my parlor, said the spider to the fly,” finished Lily Cloudee, in her mind.

As the Cloudees walked down the hallway, signs of Miss Jones’s occupation were on all sides. Dr. Jones’s familiar walking sticks and smoking pipes were removed forever from their accustomed places. His well-worn lounging sofa had been whisked already to a pile of refuse in the back yard, as had his slouchy coat and floppy hat. From the kitchen wafted, not the smell of warmed Chef-Boyardee ravioli and black coffee, but the stringent nasal attack of bleach. In fact, nearly all vestiges of the old man’s presence in his home were gone. His tattered map of the world, hung proudly in the hall and stuck through with push-pins for all the countries from which his students had come; his full set of Zane Greys lining the den wall; his collection of macramé owls which had adorned the living room; his John Wayne movies, Tony Bennett albums, Gilligan’s Island episodes and Fish and Field magazines – all banished! All abhorred! But most tragically, old Bowzer, his Bassett Hound, was tied to the back gate, and his smelly bed and slobbery toys had been removed by the trashmen already that morning. The Cloudees could hear Bowzer moaning pitifully as they stepped into the living room.

Juanita Jones began.  “I’m sorry I can’t visit long, friends. I have so much yet to do. Jerry did leave such a mess.”

“What changes you’ve made already!” Lily Cloudee noted, glancing around.  The curtains were half-removed from the living room windows. “How have you had time?”

“Efficiency, dear Lily! And I have Jonny’s help.”

“Jonny?” Dr. Cloudee inquired.

“Jonquil Jones.  My niece, whom you met at the door.” 

“Jonquil?”  both Cloudees asked simultaneously.

“My sister-in-law had a penchant for yellow flowers.”  Juanita placed her hands behind her back, stood squarely before her guests and heaved out her large bosom. Her many chins rippled ominously. “James, Lily.  What can I do for you?”

Dr. Cloudee’s ministerial manner took over for him at this point, and he began: “Miss Jones….”

“Miss Jones! Come now, Jimmy! We’re too much old friends for that!” And her dark eyes twinkled in the fatty rolls of her cheeks.

Dr. Cloudee closed his eyes, raised his eyebrows, and continued with an angelic demeanor on his cupidic face. “We are deeply grieved by your family’s loss, indeed by the loss to our whole community.  And we’ve come to offer our condolences and ask if there is anything we can do to assist you in the midst of your sorrow.”

“Hogwash,” the lady returned, as she walked to a window, stepped up on a groaning stool, and yanked at a mildewed curtain.  “You came to see how thoroughly I’d moved in, and to scout out the territory.”  She turned to them.  “Well, now you see. But Jimmy, I won’t trouble you – I promise you.  You’ll be in your big church, and I’ll be down at Moriah with the SNARK folk. You tend to Leach Street, and I’ll tend to the college. Can’t we agree on a truce?”

“A truce?” he asked.  “I don’t know what you mean. What battle has been joined? You’re here for your brother’s funeral. That’s no time for disagreement.”

Juanita bundled the decayed curtains in a wad and dropped them into a corner.  “My point exactly.  Why disagree?”  She smiled in a grimacing way.  She approached him, her hand extended.  Instinctively, Dr. Cloudee reached out to shake, but a deeper instinct warned him this was a mistake.  Still, he did the social thing, felt the squeeze of her fingers, the discomfort of her rings, the cold and clammy palm. “I’ll see you and Lily at the funeral.”

James Cloudee turned toward his wife, but she was not there.

“I think she drifted away into the yard,” Juanita said, over her shoulder.  She had already regained her stool.

He was left with no choice but to wander outside in search of Lily. Juanita had staked her claim, established her post, declared a cease-fire indefinitely, and secured his hand-shake on the matter. He was unsure how she’d done it.

In the backyard, Lily sat beside the gate with Bowzer in her lap.  He was licking her chin. And as her clear blue eyes looked up at Dr. Cloudee, he realized he was about to lose yet another battle to his wife. The three of them – man, wife, and dog – marched down the lane and out of the college gate.

“Round One goes to Miss Jones!” Mrs. Greeter announced to her husband.

The Boat Addiction

I was chatting with a friend yesterday. She said of her husband, "When I married him, I didn't know he was a sailor." I giggled, and we both understood. I added, "It's almost like saying, 'when I married my husband I didn't know he was an alcoholic.'"

Because sailboats are a bit addicting.

Today my husband came home in the van with his third -- yes, third -- boat. It's just a little dinghy, almost identical to the one he's building for Julia. A friend gave it to him for free. It's for Philip to use this summer, he said.
The "new" dinghy
But we both know the truth. We've been here only one year (almost), and we now have three boats. And two of them, we got for free. Julia's dinghy, he's paying for as he builds it.

All that to say, if you've always had a heart-longing for a boat, just a little boat to carry you away over the waters with the wind in your hair, the salt-smell in your nostrils, and your hand at the tiller, you should move to a sailing village. There are boats going begging, if you look around a bit.

I think I may have to put a stop to the boat collecting around here though. There's only so much room in the yard.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hidden Art: Chapter One

Over at Ordo Amoris, Cindy Rollins's blog, we'll be reading Edith Schaeffer's wonderful book, Hidden Art, also called The Hidden Art of Homemaking. We'll cover one chapter each week. Please feel free to join us, if you have access to the book.
Chapter 1:  The First Artist

That's God, of course. Schaeffer spends a lot of time drawing her reader through all the ramifications of God as the first artist, the primary creator. I won't go through all that. But she asks some compelling questions about what Art is. And she makes a few statements worthy of close consideration for us who consider ourselves to be artists -- to be creating something worthwhile.

How do we know if something is Art (she asks)?
Is Art beauty, or depth, or expression?
Is Art communication calling for response?
Is Art the talent for involving other human beings in what otherwise would remain locked in the mind?
Is Art something that draws many into the beauty, joy and vividness of another person's understanding?
Is Art something that includes others in the torn struggling of another person's suffering?

This book was published first in 1971. I find it fascinating that so many of her possible definitions of Art include involving a person other than the artist. She seems bent on a definition that draws in the observer.

If a lone person on a deserted island created some piece of art, would it be Art?

It seems to me that in 42 years, we have digressed a bit from what Schaeffer saw as important in Art. She doesn't allude to the aspect of human talent, the artistic skill or gift. She doesn't seem interested in the artist himself, or even the art, but more in his ability to form a bond with other humans viewing the art. Why is that?

Toward the end of chapter one were observations I found worthy of underlining. Here is one. "Man was created that he might create. It is not a waste of man's time to be creative. It is not a waste to pursue artistic or scientific pursuits in creativity, because that is what man was made to be able to do" (24).

I am the mother of three college students. There is quite a bit of dusting up online, a flurry of opinions, about college studies, whether college is worth the bother and the money, whether it is financially viable or useful, how best to get a good-paying job and make a living. Few people out there think it's a good idea to spend 4 choice years of your life, go into $30,000 of debt, and come away with an English major, or a music major. Those were my two majors, by the way. What's the value of four years of studying literature or music? Will it get me money to live on?

How do you deduce the value of four years of studying beauty? In dollars? Dollars borrowed, dollars owed, dollars earned later?

Schaeffer avows boldly that it is "not a waste of time to pursue artistic ... pursuits ...." Thank you, Mrs. Schaeffer! Someone, in our modern world, needs to have the courage to say that! Oh, how I hope my 22 year old son, who is spending five years to get his music degree, will find this true.

She also says, "Man has a capacity both for responding and producing .... It is important to respond to the art of others, as well as to produce art oneself" (25). Again, wonderful observation. Don't we often divide humanity into two groups:  the Artists, and the Observers. One group makes the Art, and the others, who can't do anything artistic, must only look on and say, "Ooooh, Aaaah."

No! Everyone can create something. And those of us who do consider ourselves to be "creators," to be making something beautiful and worthy, must also be Art Consumers. We are ALL Artists and Art Consumers. It is a perpetual feast in which all are making the delicacies, and all are eating them. How much more inspiration would occur, if we all views ourselves this way?

How much more Art would be born, if everyone stopped comparing herself to others, and simply created what she, herself, loved.

That's why I'm "publishing" my little book, Greenfield Civil Wars, here on my blog. It's a humble place for a book to live. But I'm weary of my little engagement in the book world of wanting to make a pitiful dollar by hawking my book on Amazon. I don't like that. The real joy of a book is in the creating, and in the reading. I wanted to get straight to the joy. I don't want to gauge the value or success of my book by how many copies it has (or hasn't) sold. I want to gauge it by the joy it brings.

Schaeffer says that the "hidden art" that we all create -- the beautiful, joy-bringing, worthy -- "should be more important to one who knows and admits that he is made in God's image, than to those who do not" (29).  So, Christians, are you joyful in the hidden art around you? Within you?

Greenfield Civil Wars: Chapter Five

(Other chapters of this book can be found by clicking the box above, in the tab bar, called Greenfield Civil Wars.)
Chapter 5 -- Greenfield

Before we proceed more deeply into the funeral week of President Jones, dear readers, allow me to take you on a flying tour of Greenfield. Thus far, you have only received glimpses into the kitchens and meeting rooms of its nobler citizens. This will not do – for Greenfield’s beauty is best seen in its grounds, its walks, its gardens, and its peaceful bowers. And to see these, we must examine its schools and churches, in almost an aerial fashion.

Greenfield lies north of Atlanta, far enough from the coast to be unscathed by hurricanes, far enough from the mountains to be genteel, and far enough from Florida to escape the note of Yankees. No interstate highway assaults its environs, but its proximity to the bustle of the big city prevents Greenfield from sliding into oblivion, or worse, the tired look that is common to so many Southern towns. The industry that keeps its citizens in pocket change and petticoats lies to the south of town. Leach Street, the broad avenue whose resplendent oaks battle the Presbyterian church spire for sunlight, runs north and south. The Presbyterians and the Baptists face each other, brick to brick, across the quiet asphalt, and rarely come to theological blows. For decades they have alternated weeks on Christmas programs, shared piano tuners and puppet show props, and mutually despised the Lutherans.  They don’t even compete for parking space. Each Tuesday morning Dr. Cloudee and Rev. Rivers meet for breakfast at Murphy’s Café downtown.

Two blocks below the churches, Leach Street meets College Street and we find ourselves in the thick of downtown Greenfield. Through the stalwart energies of Mrs. Hipp, Mrs. Rivers and the town council, Greenfield’s downtown is awash in potted flowers, wooden benches, streetside parking and ornate black lamps. While the men of town frequent Murphy’s Café on College Street, the ladies prefer The Tuppence Tea Shop across the way. The women keep a weather eye on their husbands through the tea shop curtains, sipping Lady Grey carefully as the men order hash browns, ham and eggs, and coffee. Promptly at 9:00 each morning, the men move to the benches outside Barney’s Barber Shop and spread their newspapers to the morning sun. A few drift into the post office and return with yesterday’s mail. The women shop, making the rounds of the Fabulous Five and Dime, Mildred’s Dry Cleaners, Ace Hardware and the local Feed and Seed. The Piggly Wiggly is two blocks west. K-Mart set up shop in the industrial section and, due to such limited demographics, has thus far kept Wal-Mart at bay in the environs of Greenfield.

On the south side of College Street, just east of the post office, the mature grounds of Hezekiah Strong’s schools unfold themselves to the visitor’s appreciative eye. The seminary is first. Set back from the road lies the president’s house. Here, Mrs. Hipp observes all the goings-on in Greenfield and informs her husband of the evils committed by Greenfielders in the light of day, as if she were a pastor’s wife. Of particular note to her are the behaviors of the college students and the Lutherans. Wise seminary students and their wives take care never to pass before her windows. With her binoculars she can see to the back table in The Tuppence Tea Shop, if she stands very close to the windowpane.

None of the college or seminary buildings crowd themselves against the old iron fencing that runs the circumference of the campuses. Grass, azaleas & acorns abound. This fence is high enough to keep out dogs but low enough that many a college boy has leapt over it with ease to beat his curfew. The schools have expanded little, leaving plenty of space for the pecan, oak and elm trees that students and squirrels alike enjoy. The students doggedly put up hammocks, and Mrs. Hipp just as doggedly orders them down. She is a stickler for appearances.

As a line of demarcation between the two friendly campuses, a long pebbled walk runs straight south from College Street. It comes first to the library, shared by college freshman and learned seminary seniors alike. They brush shoulders over Bonnhoeffer and spar over copies of Spurgeon. The building itself is not as attractive as it might be, but it is serviceable – three stories of bookstacks, microfiche and study carrels. In the quietest, most distant corner of the third floor is the reference desk.  Here, Miss Magenta Meager, grumpy librarian extraordinaire, waits patiently for a student who dares to approach with inquiries. She does not tolerate college freshman; she adores seminary seniors. She has barred babies from the hallowed walls of Hezekiah Strong’s library. This prevents the harried wives of her beloved senior students, with babies on their weary hips, from entering to retrieve their husbands from her adoring gaze. Occasionally one brave wife will watch all the children while the rest invade the fortress, later to emerge victorious with their spousal captives.

Behind this building is a rectangular fountain with chipping cement and two stone porpoises spewing blue water. Overlooking the fountain, and finishing the division between the underlings and the overlings, a beautiful gothic chapel stands as witness to the unity of heart and mind among Hezekiah’s descendants. Although the slim, brick structure is not quite large enough to seat everyone at once, twice each year the institutions do try. Commencement and graduation are times of giddy excitement, sweating, fanning, robe-wearing and long-windedness. Dinner on the grounds always follows, and at least one college student is customarily dropped into the fountain.

The campuses also include: administration offices cramped randomly into unused space in classroom buildings, student housing in constant need of repair, a green pond, a soccer field, and an old gym. Two homes grace the college campus, which extends east to Greenfield’s city limit. One is the mournful home of the deceased Jeremiah Jones, college president. Here, as we speak together, dear readers, Juanita Jones has already begun her ministrations as sister of the deceased, and squatting resident of his abode. She has changed the sheets on the bed. She has hung her polyester pants suits in the closet of the master bedroom. Her stockings dangle limply in the shower where only a week before, Dr. Jones offered up a rousing rendition of “Three Little Maids from School.”  The spices in the kitchen have been alphabetized, all copies of “Golfing Weekly” are consigned to the recycle bin, and the Lazy-Boy in the den, the president’s own holy of holies, has been replaced – replaced, dear readers! – with a gliding rocker and an embroidered footstool. One does wonder how, in mere hours, the woman can have accomplished such transformations. Did she conjure them from the deep? Did she pull them, like Mary Poppins, from her carpetbag? Such are the dark arts of Juanita Jones, and for good reason do the elder statesmen of Greenfield respect their Amazonian foe. These simple tricks are only a prelude to the larger acts to follow.

The other house sits by the college gate. In it reside Dr. and Mrs. Ernest Greeter. Dr. Greeter is the college dean, professor, advisor and host. He is loved, respected, skirted around by students, sought after by faculty, and is generally the dog of all duty. Ernest Greeter is a capable, clever man. He has learned to avoid both collegiate and denominational politics, yet he knows how to conquer in both arenas when absolutely necessary. As the years have spread into decades, Dr. Greeter finds it necessary to conquer less and less often. He is a tall, stooped, but agile man with waving wisps of sandy hair streaked with gray, that flap around happily as he lopes from classroom to office to meeting to home. He peers benignly over his little slits of spectacles and smiles in a most disarming way. No one would ever call him handsome, but the tender kindness in his brown eyes, and the gentle sweetness of his friendly smile have warmed many a freshman’s anxious heart. And although he may give a frazzled and absent-minded impression, Dr. Greeter is no slouch in organization abilities.  He can get more done in a good morning than a committee of Presbyterian women, and that is saying something. Lastly, he has the uncanny gift of many older academics to read the minds of those around him. This perturbing trait allows him to escape many a sticky trap from the likes of Willina Hipp. Dr. Greeter has learned how to warmly squeeze Mrs. Hipp’s hand, while simultaneously extracting himself from her clutches.

He is companioned in this life by his spousal partner, Emilia Rockingwood Greeter. Mrs. Greeter would join her husband in his duties on the campus grounds, but she seldom leaves the house.  Like Nero Wolf, she surveys the vicissitudes of this world from the safety of her parlor, with the assistance of telephone, computer and village gossip. Her husband is the legs of the operation, she says, and she is the mouth. From the nerve center which is her writing desk within her bay window, she knows who comes in the college, who is going to town, which young couples are dating or engaged, who did not make it to Mt. Moriah Church on Sunday, whether Dr. Cloudee is doing visitation, what shoes Mrs. Rivers is wearing to the tea room, and which of the 42 children from the seminary apartments are absent from Greenfield School today. She is a busy woman. Her titles have included: community newswriter for the county paper, president of the SNARK Presbyterian women, secretary of the Greenfield Music Society, Sunday school teacher, garden club president, and church librarian. Just as a lively dog seems unimpaired by the absence of one leg, Mrs. Greeter moves happily through her duties, unbothered by the limitations of her four walls. Since she and Dr. Greeter are known throughout town as the bastions of hospitality, she assumes everyone will prefer to come to her, rather than wait for her to come to them.  And she is right. No home was ever so pleasant, welcoming, and calm, as the Greeter home. No hostess was ever so able to put her guests at their ease. And since she will not leave her door to dash about town, I have had to take you to her door, patient reader.  Thus concludes our initial tour of the city.

Copyrighted by M.K. Christiansen

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beauty in the Yard

The azaleas across the street:
Sandy posed for me like a professional.
It's azalea heaven around here.

The Garage Transformation

Meet our Garage.
This is actually a vast improvement, reflecting over a day's worth of serious cleaning.
We moved from a 2400 squ. foot house, into a small duplex. We're thankful for this garage, because everything I couldn't fit into the duplex, was dumped in here. Boxes of china, crystal, books, Christmas stuff, lamps, and the usual tools, bikes, lawn mower, lawn chairs, air compressor.
But. At least one of our boys is coming home for the summer, and last summer's "sleep on the couch in the living room" for three months scenario, was not happening a second time. Where do you put a spare boy or two? In the garage! Argh!
So, Adam and I went to Lowe's and bought lumber. And yesterday morning, Adam built himself a set of shelves. He had nowhere to put any tools or anything else. The shelves are a huge improvement, and they are unattached to the wall, so we can take them elsewhere when/if we move.
In the afternoon, Adam built Philip a bed.
It's very sturdy, built to support a grown man, which Philip is. If Peter comes this summer, Adam will build him one too. Julia likes the bed, and says she wants it in her room next fall. I'm way past trying to figure out a 13 year old female.
The last essential piece necessary to making the garage scenario work, was an air conditioner. We bought this one at Lowe's also. It doesn't need a window, thankfully. It does have a long piece of tubing that stretches -- you have to get rid of the hot air somewhere. Adam will vent it into the pull-down stairs in the ceiling of the garage. This little baby will keep that garage very cool this summer. And it may come in handy later for us. These units are also popular for boaters, b/c you can vent them out through a companionway, and move them around. We may sell if after we're done with it.
Today I'm supposed to paint the bed frame. I'll post more pictures for you when the garage is finished.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Greenfield Civil Wars: Chapter Four

(Other chapters of this book can be found by clicking the box above, in the tab bar, called Greenfield Civil Wars.)

Chapter 4 -- Dr. Cloudee Gives an Opinion


This response burst from the lips of both Dr. Cloudee and Constance Waight, upon hearing, in their separate homes, the rumor of Juanita Jones’s hope of ascendancy.

Although Rev. Shepherd’s concerns kept him from delivering a sermon as fine as his usual standard on the day following his clerical conversation in chapter three, Mr. Heeler was so unbothered by the new rumor that he failed to tell his employer of it until they were sitting over the Sunday roast beef at noon, dabbing gravy on Mrs. Cloudee’s Lennox ware.

“Preposterous!”  Dr. Cloudee repeated, in case he was not believed.

Mr. Heeler informed the man of his agreement, and that he’d assured Rev. Shepherd there was no need to worry about such an upset at the college. Dr. Cloudee glowered at him as he passed his assistant the rolls.  Mrs. Cloudee hummed “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship” lightly to herself and minced her carrots. Mr. Heeler winked at his peas.

“You do not know the lady in question,” Dr. Cloudee told him. “You should not underestimate her influence.”

Mr. Heeler clinked his ice in his tea, and Mrs.Cloudee switched to “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.”

“You see, Associate Heeler,” as Dr. Cloudee commonly called his assistant, “Rev. Shepherd has inadvertently hit upon an eventuality which, although it cannot come to fruition, could in its attempt prove rather irksome.” He picked his teeth.  “He is most astute.”

“Asparagus, Mr. Heeler?” the lady asked, to the tune of “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks.” He winked, and accepted.

Connie Waight was pushing hot dogs into their buns and passing out paper plates. Three other seminary couples and their babies of various sizes had come for Sunday lunch. Since the Waights were renting the old Mt. Moriah manse, they generally had more space for hospitality than the poor students and their families, cramped together in Strong’s apartments at the rear of the campus. Sunday lunch in their yard, around their picnic table, had become a friendly custom.

Our hostess dropped a hotdog on her foot when she heard her husband telling his classmate of Miss Jones’s hopes for the presidency.

“Preposterous!” she burst out.

Both men stopped in mid-sentence and stared at her. Frank Waight was surprised at his wife’s apparent conviction on the matter.

“But Connie, it’s all over campus. Harold Bloomer is dating one of those college girls and she says that’s all anybody is talking about over at Hezekiah too. Some students think it’s a done deal.  Even the librarians were whispering about it last night.”  Her husband stooped and retrieved the hotdog. “I’ll give this to Zeke.” Zeke was their black Lab.

Connie took the hotdog, wiped it with a napkin, and put it in a bun. “Sam Shepherd told me about Juanita Jones’s coming. Told me himself. He never said anything about her being president.”

“Well, she’s arriving this evening. The funeral’s on Tuesday. It’ll all hit the fan this week.”

The buzz continued spreading, and by the time classes were over the next day, all of Greenfield knew for a certainty that Juanita Jones was to be appointed the new president of Hezekiah College, and Dr. Cloudee was resigning his post at Leach Street in protest. Some even asserted that she had begun replacing her brother’s extensive collection of B.B. Warfield’s sermons with her videotapes of the Holy Land and commentaries on the Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, but this bold-faced lie is beyond our ability to countenance, dear readers. Although we have not officially met Miss Jones yet, I assure you she is no demon, no infidel, no grasping usurper. She is no Jacob. She cannot help the rumors that the Greenfielders delight to cook up, and delight even more to consume.
The rumors could not be stopped, and to be frank, James Cloudee didn’t want them stopped.  In his mind, everything was proceeding nicely. No appointment would come from the committee, he would see to that. With that security pacifying his mind, he could turn his thoughts to the real effect of Miss Jones’s visit to Greenfield. Without her presence, he knew that the schools’ demise might be laid squarely at his feet, and this accusation worried him.  Others in his denomination might kill off the schools without a qualm.  But he must live in this town, and if its inhabitants blamed him for the death of two schools of ancient and revered reputation in their midst – he squirmed under such censure. Here, however, was a blessed opportunity, the arrival of a scapegoat. Perhaps, just perhaps, Juanita Jones would obligingly serve his purposes.  With her temperament, she could hardly do otherwise.

Dr. Cloudee rose from his high wingback chair in the solitude of his home office on Monday evening, and padded in his slippers to the den, where his wife Lily sat embroidering roses on a baby blanket.  James Cloudee is a slight man, careful in his dress and dignified in his demeanor. His face wears the studied look of a man who has learned always to think before he speaks.  His one handsome trait, even at 64, is the beautiful wave of snow white hair that graces his head and tucks neatly along his collar. Not for him the mortifying comb-over of the Baptist clergyman across the street. Even in his maroon bathrobe, he was handsome in an elderly sort of way, and his wife smiled up at him as he slippered across the Dhurrie rug. Behind her, a large bay window looked over their back yard, filled with scores of rose bushes in oval beds. The setting sun shone on her head.  Mrs. Cloudee had not one hair that was gray.

“For the little Shepherd baby.  Isn’t it adorable?”  She held up a white square with blue roses running around its edge.  Her blond hair, always worn in a loose bun, slipped a little to one side as she tilted her head. Quiet strains of “Jesus Loves the Little Children” were floating through her mind.

“Fine, dear, fine.  We will be calling on Miss Juanita Jones tomorrow, Lily. She arrived yesterday for the funeral.”

“Yes, James, I know.  I saw her today.  She ran past with her jump rope.  I waved at her.”

Dr. Cloudee was momentarily ruffled.  “Her jump rope?” The image of a woman of Miss Jones’s stature, size and age, jumping rope down his sidewalk, was disturbing. “I think at 10:00. A private visitation with the family.”

“Oh, James, you know she isn’t staying with the Hipps this time.  She’s staying in her brother’s house.  On the college campus. From what I heard on the grapevine today, she’s nearly moved in.” Lily Cloudee shifted her lopsided hair, jabbed the embroidery needle into the center of a blue rose, and hummed “One Bright Morning” in a minor key.

Copyrighted by M.K. Christiansen

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Two Oriental Homes

Adam says this is his favorite house in Oriental, and I think I agree. It's lovely old stone, and it's so settled into its surroundings, you know? Like it's been there forever, nestled in its lawn, gazing out over the Neuse River.
Here it is from the other side. Yes, it does sit right on the river, with only a slim road between, a road which I love to ride along on my bike. I've only once seen a person, an elderly person, sitting on the porch. It's a prime piece of real estate with huge gnarled live oaks stretched across the front lawn.
Next door, an impressive tent was set up at the River Neuse Suites. This marks the first wedding of the season. They have the reception, the music, the dancing, under the "big top." The ceremony itself is held across the street in LouMac Park, with the waves lapping at the couple's feet.
The Stallings House, one of our more magnificent older homes, is only a few doors away. There are a handful of large houses along the river, and this is the big one that is easily spotted from a sailboat, if you're out on the water. The family has been cleaning out the house, and now it is offered for rent, I suppose if you'd like to have some large gathering for a week in a picture-perfect location. The house sits directly on the water; if you could peak around the corner of those tall columns, you'd see the river stretched out before you -- seven miles of it. You could watch the sailboats bobbing along.

Flowers are everywhere, in every yard and every bed, now.
You've now seen two of the nicest houses in town.