Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:51 AM

Today I'm taking a page out of thrifty Brillig's book and re-posting something I wrote back when I only had a tiny handful of readers. For those of you who have read this before, you have my apologies; I wanted to participate in Music Monday this week, and I didn't have a minute to write something new. The following is from February 2007.

Last Friday night I was driving home from Book Group. It was late and it had been snowing for several hours. I love being alone in a black night with snow; it always reminds me of one of my favorite paragraphs in the world, the last sentences of James Joyce’s The Dead:

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It
had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark,
falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on
his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over
Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless
hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly
falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every
part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay
thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the
little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow
falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of
their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Karen, Melissa, and I had carpooled to Book Group over at Camilla's house in Golden’s Bridge, chatting the entire time. On the way home, after I dropped off my two friends, I turned on the radio. I had for company someone playing the piano. I half-recognized the piece, but there was something so different about what I was hearing that I didn’t make the connection for a minute or two. Then it hit me with a flash: it was Bach’s Goldberg Variations. And played on the piano, not the harpsichord—but it didn’t sound like Glenn Gould.

I find it particularly appropriate to listen to this piece of music when the rest of the world is asleep. Bach wrote the Goldberg Variations for a Count who struggled with insomnia; the Count had asked Bach to write some clavier exercises to be played in the middle of the night, something to soothe and cheer him through long, sleepless hours. The Variations are named after the Count’s talented young harpsichordist, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg; I imagine the poor young man being roused from slumber on any given night to play for his patron, because the Count apparently never tired of hearing them.

The Variations were published in Bach’s lifetime, but for many years afterward were regarded as dry, rather difficult pieces to be played on the harpsichord. In the middle of the 20th century, however, a brilliant young pianist changed popular opinion of Bach’s piece forever.

I know Gould’s landmark 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations as well as I know any piece of music. I’ve listened to it hundreds, maybe thousands of times. It has been a great friend to me, as the Variations were for the Count who commissioned them. But what I was hearing Friday night was so alien: haunting, personal, almost painful in its execution, where the version I know—lively, technically flawless—evokes a detached, peaceful mood.

Puzzled, I drove on and thought about our Book Group meeting earlier. We had had a intelligent and compassionate dicussion of a modern classic: Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner. Its main character, Susan Burling Ward, has chronic myopia when it comes to the life she has chosen; throughout her life, she compares her situation unfavorably to that of her best friend, Augusta. She doesn’t realize that she has within her grasp all the ingredients for a wonderful existence.

Her interpretation of herself, the reader easily sees, is faulty. She has, in fact, married the better man; her life of ‘exile,’ as she terms it, has defined and refined her work as an artist, not limited it. One woman in our group raised a question: How do you know when to be content? In other words, when you are in the middle of living one of life’s countless challenges, how do you stop looking over the fence at seemingly greener grass? It’s a good question, and an old one, one that has given philosophers pause for centuries.

After a lot of thought on the topic myself, I think the secret lies in our interpretation of what we’ve been given. Happiness is a choice; for some it’s a harder choice than for others, but it is there all the same. One need look no further than Victor Frankl for proof of this truth.

I myself have been given all the components for a perfect life: good health, every temporal comfort, lovely friends and children, meaningful work, and a dear man who loves me. But if I’m not careful, I can take the route Stegner’s heroine takes. I can focus exclusively on what I see as being wrong: my weight; brain chemistry that defaults to a baseline level of melancholia; the current state of our yard; the child who is misbehaving on any given day: the list could go on for quite a while, if I let it. But that interpretation of my life is a sure path to misery; I believe this is one of the points Stegner is making in his beautiful book.

Once home, I sat in my dark car in the driveway for few minutes so that I could discover the identity of my mystery musician. At the stroke of midnight, after the last few notes of the Aria died away, Bill McGlaughlin came on the air and informed me that it was, indeed, Glenn Gould playing the Variations—but that this was a performance recorded shortly before Gould’s death in 1982.

This was the same music played by the same artist I thought I knew so well. But the interpretation was so different that it changed the piece completely. Older, wiser, at the end of his life, Gould let his life inform his art and transform it; he put himself wholly into his work, and both were changed thereby.

Stop looking over the fence and start doing all you can to green up what you’ve got. Take plenty of time to rejoice in its verdure, and take plenty of time pay respects to the Source of all that is good and green. It is advice simpler to write than it is to live, but the secret to happiness is in the interpretation.

For more Music Monday, visit Soccer Mom in Denial!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:28 AM

Daniel: Mama, knock knock.

Me: Who's there?

Daniel: Graham cracker.

Me: Really?

Daniel (rolling his eyes, whispering): Say "Graham cracker who."

Me: Graham cracker who?

Daniel: Graham crackers can't fly. People eat them.

Me: Yes...yes. That's right.

I think we possibly have a new income stream here; I'm now considering producing our own series of educational videos entitled "Baby Ionesco."

What: you don't think they would sell?
Author: Luisa Perkins
•9:03 AM

Before we get started: above is Christian in full lacrosse regalia. It's not that he's consciously trying to look grim and foreboding; his newly-braced teeth are just pretty achy still.

So, here's my problem. Blog geniuses like Jane Brocket can make each day and each season seem fresh, new, and gorgeous, despite the fact that they have been posting for several years.

I'm just not that good. (Don't argue with me; Jane got a fabulous multi-book contract purely on the strength of her blog. Me? No such offers are coming in. I rest my case.)

It's spring, but I blogged last year about seed starting and crocuses. You've seen most of my best recipes, and I haven't come up with much that's new and kitcheny lately. Last year I was writing; this year I'm writing. You've endured me rambling about great restaurants, great books, great music, and my great family. Last winter I knit hats, scarves, and socks; this winter I knit hats, scarves, and socks. Here are the latest:
This hat was made after Sarah Lilly's "Bloody Stupid Johnson" pattern from the Winter '08 issue of Knitty. It's for a certain Pratchett-loving, near-Arctic-Circle-living blogpal o' mine; my goal is to MAIL IT TO HER before winter has entirely left her region (don't worry, Kim; though Daniel is the model here, the hat fits my head perfectly, and thus should be just right for yours).

Cable enthusiasts, this is the hat for you; it was challenging, but great fun to make (see the pattern link for how the cables 'unravel' on the back part of the hat), and a nice little clinic on short rows, to boot.

Here's what's on the needles now: a scarf after Vyvyan Neel's Argosy in Knitty's Winter '06 edition. It's made with some Lorna's Laces sock yarn Mom sent me recently.

This pattern is a bear. I've started this scarf at least five times, and even now that I have the repetitions basically memorized, I still find myself doing a ton of tinking and frogging. But I think it will be worth it; once I finish it and block it, the cool square lace pattern will be much more apparent.

Anyway, today I'm feeling like there's not much going on in my life that's very blogworthy. I had thought that in my two weeks off, I'd come up with a bunch of exciting new post ideas; instead, I came up with a bunch of weird short story ideas that are fun, but aren't really shareable at the moment.

So, there it is. Life is good, but when reduced to a few lines on a screen, not so interesting. Anyone have a good meme out there?
Author: Luisa Perkins
•5:09 PM
1) All credit for the blog's new look goes to the ├╝ber-gifted Kim of Temporary? Insanity. She's got a fun thing going with her Template Tweakings website; go check it out if you are feeling the need for a spring makeover. Thanks, hon! I love it. I'll figure out how to put my blogroll back on the sidebar eventually....

2) Christian got his braces on this week and played his first lacrosse games today. We had to get him some gear this week in preparation. His new cleats? Men's size 13, thank you very much. They look like Jaredite barges, I'm telling you.

Christian is loving lacrosse and looks very manly trotting around the field in all his armor while brandishing the 6-foot-long defensive stick. Ahh, my little boy. I'd better stop before I start crooning "Sunrise, Sunset."

3) All debate over the next presidential candidate should end now. Why? Because Tess has the perfect platform, set forth in a school assignment for Presidents' Day last month:

Here's the transcription, edited for spelling:

"If I were president I would help the poor people and I would give the poor food and I would give the poor children toys. And I would stop the war."

We're still working on spelling and punctuation, but note her correct use of the subjunctive. Now we just need to get an amendment passed changing the minimum age for a presidential candidate from 35 to 6.

4) I've been waiting for two years for iTunes to acquire Wire's 154. I checked today, and they finally had it! What a fantastic album; I'll have to do a "Music Monday" on it at some point.

5) The pregnancy is progressing miraculously well, I'm thrilled to report. Tomorrow marks the end of Week 28; by this time with both Tess and Daniel, I was on bed rest. Not so this time; I'm getting around with no pain, and while I'm tired, I've had enough brain function to write consistently and to make it to Day 81 (and counting) of the Read the Bible in 90 Days study program I started back on January 2nd.

6) I'm still racking up the rejections as I shop The Holly Place and ZF-360 around. In the meantime, I've been writing short stories and sending them out to various genre periodicals. This has been great fun! (The short story part, not the rejection-of-my-novels part; that part is really lame.) For anyone interested in writing sf/fantasy short stories, you simply must check out Ralan's fabulous website. It has been an invaluable resource for me.

I don't think I'll start another novel anytime soon; the short story groove is working well for me (for the first time in my whole life), and I don't want to commit to anything longer until after we settle into some sort of routine with the new baby. So, you know, that could be this time next year (or the year after), for all I can predict.

I guess that's it for now. I missed you all during my bloggy break; I think I'm back on board for the moment. Oh--and the post title? This is post #250 for me. Wow. Happy Easter!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•2:51 PM
There's a lot going on here; pardon me while I try to attend to it all. I'll see you soon!
Author: Luisa Perkins
•8:31 AM

Daniel (petting Goldberry, our cat): Mama, why is Goldberry a girl?

Me: Because that's how Heavenly Father made her.

Daniel (throwing back head and yelling): Thank you, Heavenly Father!
(pauses, then looks at me): He says, "You're welcome."
Author: Luisa Perkins
•7:11 AM

Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:40 AM

Let me just get this out of the way: I don't love Bob Dylan's voice. I appreciate it on classic folk hits such as "Like a Rolling Stone," but his voice doesn't get me all goosebumpy the way Brian Stokes Mitchell's, Bryn Terfel's, and Alan Doyle's do. Dylan purists, feel free to sue me (be warned: I have a fabulous lawyer).

But as a pop songwriter? Bob Dylan is unparalleled in both quality and quantity of output. My respect for him approaches worship. It never fails to amaze me how great his songs are, how outstanding his genius is. I'll give you a couple of examples.

I absolutely adore the bluegrass band Nickel Creek. These kids are amazingly talented writers and performers, hopefully with a very long and successful career in front of them. But when their album Why Should the Fire Die? came out, what was the best song on it? Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow is a Long Time," by a country mile.

Solas? One of my favorite Celtic bands. They write great stuff, and they can jig and reel like nobody's business. But once again, when I first got their album The Edge of Silence, one of the two stand-out tracks was Dylan's "Dignity" (the other was Jesse Colin Young's "Darkness, Darkness").

Plenty of top-tier songwriters seem to agree with me. Joan Baez, June Carter, and Bono aren't exactly slouches when it comes to crafting a great piece of music, yet they've all chosen to record Dylan songs. Fabulous performers like Hugues Aufray, Robyn Hitchcock, Bryan Ferry, and The Hollies have recorded entire albums of Dylan covers. The breadth of Bob's appeal astonishes me: from Echo and the Bunnymen to Earl Scruggs, from The Dubliners to Waylon Jennings, they've all done some Dylan in their time.

There are SO many from which to choose, but after some soul-searching, here are my top ten favorite Dylan covers:

10. Olivia Newton-John: "If Not for You"
9. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash: "It Ain't Me, Babe"
8. Bryan Ferry: "Positively 4th Street"
7. Buckwheat Zydeco: "On a Night Like This"
6. Felicia and the Hotheads: "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
5. The Byrds: "Mr. Tambourine Man"
4. Sting: "I Shall Be Released"
3. Solas: "Dignity"
2. Nickel Creek: "Tomorrow is a Long Time"
1. Jimi Hendrix: "All Along the Watchtower"

Here's a Youtube 'response video' with Nickel Creek singing my second favorite. The melody and words are so very lovely; the song is pure joy. See what you think.

Visit Soccer Mom in Denial for more Music Monday!