Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The True Gentleman

My Grandfather, 93, had a stroke last week which landed him in the hospital and then at the skilled nursing facility in his retirement community. He didn't allow anything of this unfortunate circumstance to deprive him of his gracious spirit, his hopeful outlook, or the twinkle in his eye. Obviously, you can't keep a good man down.

He is adored by everyone who knows him, and described as "sweet," "charming," "devoted," "faithful," and "love in action." But what people say to me most often is, "Your grandfather is a true gentleman." It reminds me of a verse I first heard a few years back, a description which suits him to a tee:
The True Gentleman

The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.

John Walter Wayland

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Practice Makes Perplexed

It's obvious, looking at the generous coating of dust on the keys, that I haven't practiced the piano in awhile. But hey, it's supposed to be like a bicycle, right? Jump right back in there and do your thing? Nyet. Nein. Non. Nahin. Playing the piano with any finesse at all requires regular periods of uninterrupted attention, something that's entirely impossible in my current daily repertoire of events.

Still, I thought I could fiddle around a bit, just for fun. My plan was reasonable enough: the day's dealings had already fried my brain by two in the afternoon, so half an hour at the piano seemed like a good way to reset the system. The piece is interesting, but simple: the Barcarolle from Louis Vierne's Sihoutettes d'Enfants (you can hear a tiny snippet here). Normally, I'd read the music, play the left-hand notes, play the right-hand notes, and then put them together in some reasonable semblance of the piece.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the formula: my glasses literally got in the way. With progressive lenses, I have to tilt my head back to read the music, then forward to see the keys. The bottom of the frames cut my plane of vision in half. I lost my place every time. I couldn't put left and right together. I tried not looking down, which made it worse. The whole thing was a disaster. I guess this is an old lady's problem. I guess I'm back to square one. I guess it's time I learn to play by ear...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bucket List: Walking the Right Path

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela is the most recent addition to my bucket list. The cathedral of Santiago, considered the burial place of Saint James, was one of the great pilgrimage goals of the Middle Ages, with some pilgrims traveling on foot from as far away as Paris. Those who completed the arduous journey where granted full remission of their sins. My goals aren't quite so lofty, and anyway, I'd probably have to circumambulate the entire globe before I'd have a shot at forgiveness (but that's another story all together).

It's not the getting there that's my objective; the journey is its own reward. I'm most interested in what happens along the way: the setbacks, the surprise encounters, the self awareness, the serendipity. But first, since it's 750km from St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago, I'd better get a new pair of walking shoes Or two.

photo, Maren Misner