My mind is done and unsurprised. My heart a stubborn rock. My heart does not give up: loves where it loves. It doesn’t care about reality or whether it is derided or mocked. My mind moves on and kicks my heart, wondering where this tenacity stems from. My heart is done with tears. It agrees to new friends and joys in dance. When my mind says forget, my heart jumps and steers my body into a warrior fighting stance. My mind is cynical and laughs and derides my heart. I let them fight back and forth every day. I cannot reach an end unless I start to honor my feelings, the heart must hold sway. My mind moves on, ignoring what you do. Yet my stubborn heart remains a friend, strong and true.
In college, late 1950s and on, they would have a sing. My father played guitar, they would invite all their friends, and sing folk songs. They used the book in the photograph, Song Fest, edited by Dick and Beth Best. Last published in 1955, I think.
I have no memory of the book itself. However, a friend of my father’s bound his copy in 2003 in leather. When I saw it, I searched on line and bought my own. It has words AND MUSIC and a chord progression. When I opened it, I know a song from about every third or fourth page.
My sister and I memorized the songs. We both had hundreds of songs memorized, many from this book, or from records. We photocopied a Beatles record insert and memorized all the words on a long car trip once.
I don’t know much about the Intercollegiate Outing Club Association, but there are still copies of Song Fest on line. My parents had to edit a number of the songs for two small children, since we were picking them up. They chose silly songs, “Dead Girl Songs” (Banks of the Ohio, Long Black Veil, My Darling Clementine, Cockles and Mussels) and work/protest songs. They rarely sang sentimental songs, except for lullabies. I loved to sing. We used to have reel to reel tape with my little sister singing a fifth off when she was three or four, but it disintegrated.
My father, Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway, was a fabulous musician. He sang in prep school, in college, in choruses on the east coast, in Rainshadow Chorale from 1997 until his death in 2013. He loved Bach and the Band and loved to encourage other people to sing. He was in our Community Chorus for years, to help new singers. People must try out for Rainshadow Chorale, but Community Chorus is for anyone who wants to join and sing. After my father died, men would say, “I would try to stand near your father in Community Chorus, to help learn the part. He was so good.”
Here is one of the lullabies from Song Fest:
At the Sings, my parents would start with a song and then go around the room, asking other people to pick songs. Sometimes people were shy, but my folks were really good at getting people to sing. Sometimes we’d have multiple guitars and other instruments. My sister and I had favorite songs too!
The Ragtag Daily Prompt is valediction. Perpetua is starting the first (to my knowledge) Valedictionary, of letter sign offs. Cool beans.
Valedictionary is a new word. Mine, all mine, but you may use it! I will generously allow everyone to use it! It is valedictionariable! Another new word. I will accept suggestions as to the meaning. For now it will mean whatever I want it to mean when I use it. Words being malleable.
Now, Perpetua, you sign your post “Yours Robotically”. What does that valediction mean? You are an AI? You would like to be an AI? You are a robot? Your post was written with ChatGPT? I am curious.
How do I sign letters off?
Yours sincerely Yours truly, Love, SWAK,* Respectfully submitted, Your corporate policies grieve me, My father has been dead for 13 years, stop mailing him your catalogs, Holy cats, Holy catwoman, batman, Aaaaarghhhhh, Love.
*SWAK stands for Sealed With A Kiss, and we used that when we were kids. Not recommended for professional mail or during outbreaks of covid, influenza, RSV and other plagues.
Isn’t a real piece of snail mail a treasure now? I have quite a lot of blank cards that I’ve collected over the years. Good thing, because cards are now $4-8.00 each! OUCH! I mailed letters to all my children yesterday with recipe cards, from Maline’s memorial. A friend put her photograph on one side and copies of her recipes in her handwriting on the other. Maline was a fabulous cook, fine artist, record collector, made earrings and jewelry from antique buttons, I could go on and on. It was lovely to send the recipes to my children.
I took the photograph in Marshall, Michigan in March. I would LOVE to work in a ridiculous department. Hooray for Dark Horse Brewing Company. Next time I go there, maybe I can have a tour.
I wrote this in 2009.I don’t know why this gentleman comes to mind today. Partly because I have a friend in the hospital. She is in her 80s. When the doctors ask how she is, she says, “Fine.” I want to yell “Liar! She is NOT fine!” Luckily she has her daughter-in-law and me and her sons saying “She is NOT fine!”Sometimes people are very stoic and will not tell you that they are not fine.
When I was in residency we rotated through the Veterans Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Most of our patients were either very elderly or they were alcoholics or addicts in their 50s, starting to really go downhill medically.
One elderly patient is particular vivid in my memory. He was in his 80s and black. He was weak and had various problems. I was not doing a very good job of sorting him out.
He wouldn’t answer questions. Or rather, he would give a reply, but it was not yes or no and I couldn’t figure out how the answer related to the question.
On the third day he gave a long reply to a question and I recognized it.
“That’s Longfellow,” I said. He nearly smiled. “We did a bike trip around Nova Scotia and read Evangeline aloud in the tents at night. The mosquitos tried to eat us alive. That’s Longfellow, isn’t it?”
He wouldn’t answer but the twinkle in his eye indicated yes.
So our visits were cryptic but fun. I would try to guess the author. He knew acres of poetry, all stored in his brain, no effort. I tried to relate the poems to my questions to see if he was answering indirectly. I wondered if he had schizophrenia and these were answers, but I didn’t think so. I thought he was just stubborn and refusing to answer.
I challenged him. “Ok, you are the right age. Come up with a song with my first name that is from early in the century. My father used to sing it to me when I was little. Can you?”
The next day he sang to me: “K-k-k-katy, beautiful Katy, you’re the only beautiful girl that I adore. When the m-moon shines, over the cow shed, I’ll be waiting by the k-k-k-kitchen door.”
We sat and grinned at each other. Soon afterward I moved on to the next rotation. I don’t remember his medical problems. But I remember him and remember wondering what he had done in his life to have a memory and a store of poetry in his head. A teacher? A professor? A man who loved poetry? I started matching him with my own store of poems, the Walrus and the Carpenter, songs, bits and pieces. I felt blessed and approved of when his eyes twinkled at me, when I recognized an author or even recognized the poem itself. I looked forward to seeing him daily on rounds. And he seemed to look forward to my visits. I was sad when I had to say goodbye and the next rotation was out of town. And since he had never told us his name, no way to stay in touch. Farewell, poetry man, fare thee well.
We were not doing nothing. He would not tell us his name, so we were awaiting an opinion from neurology. Waiting.
The photograph is not as old as the song. The young man holding the ball is my father, in the 1950s. My Aunt and I think this was at Williston in around 1956.
What a fabulous line up of musicians! Ben Sollee makes joyous music with a cello, his voice and a drummer! They made more noise and more complex rhythms than many much bigger groups! I got one of his albums and three other fabulous groups!
This is lovely:
All things shall perish from under the sky, music alone shall live never to die.
Yesterday our friendship died for good A small death that won’t be noticed I want to place a small cross on the day to mark this death and life life because my small child is gone she grew up, now part of the quiet woman who came to me in a dream when you left you move on and tell me you won’t change so you will find another to draw close and push away, terror that you will be trapped you already are, in your own mind you say you want freedom in refusing change, that is death slow and alone, is lonely different from alone? call it freedom as you wish
I want to grow, I want to learn always you want your past, your dead you tell me I am keeping you from your life you have it back I say as music restarts I don’t, you say, my brother is dead, my wife I did not cause those they happened before we began to walk and yet you blame me like an angry child
I am in the gardens wandering I am in the gardens wondering the gardens of the world everything is a garden though some are planted with skulls and young people fighting It is strange to feel whole I do not know what to do with it yet but I will
I have fallen for this band. I am really enjoying them.
But I did write another verse for the song SAVED. It might not be the one that comes up on the You tube search. I learn it as a teen from side B of Moondog Matinee by The Band.
I sang it to my father. He said, “Where did you learn THAT?” I didn’t know and did an internet search. I forgot what album I leaned it from. It was his album, that I recorded on tape before I went to college.
Here is my new verse:
I used to Tweet, I used to Twerk, I used to Tweet, Twerk, I was such a Jerk
I used to tweet and twerk, tweet and twerk and I was such a jerk
But now I’m standing on the corner, it was too much work
That’s cause I’m saved, that’s cause I’m saved
People let me tell you about Kingdom Come
I’m saved, I’m saved, I’m going to preach until you’re deaf and dumb
I’m in the Salvation Army, beating on the big bass drum!
Who else sang it? Laverne Baker! She is the earliest I’ve found. Recorded in 1960, though the videos are later.
Refugees welcome - Flüchtlinge willkommen I am teaching German to refugees. Ich unterrichte geflüchtete Menschen in der deutschen Sprache. I am writing this blog in English and German because my friends speak English and German. Ich schreibe auf Deutsch und Englisch, weil meine Freunde Deutsch und Englisch sprechen.
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