Saturday, November 24, 2007

Poem of the Week (about Autumn)

Going for Water
Robert Frost

The well was dry beside the door,
And so we went with pail and can
Across the fields behind the house
To seek the brook if it still ran;

Not loth to have excuse to go,
Because the autumn eve was fair
(Though chill), because the fields were ours,
And by the brook our woods were there.

We ran as if to meet the moon
That slowly danced behind the trees,
The barren boughs without the leaves,
Without the birds, without the breeze.

But once within the wood, we paused
Like gnomes that hid us from the moon,
Ready to run to hiding new,
With laughter when she found us soon.

Each on the other a staying hand
To listen ere we dared to look,
And in the hush we joined to make
We heard, we knew we heard the brook

A note as from a single place,
A slender tinkling fall that made
Now drops that floated on the pool
Like pearls and now a silver blade.

This is why Frost is so good, lines like these:

...And in the hush we joined to make

We heard, we knew we heard the brook

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Grace and Peace: Poems and Songs for Mothers

Sweet Afton
Robert Burns

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes!
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream --
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream

Thou stock dove whose echo resounds thro' the glen,
Ye wild whisting blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear --
I charge you, disturb not my slumbering fair!...

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides!
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave!

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes!
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays!
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream --
Flow gently sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Friday Night Lights

Texas is a lot of things, and one of those things is Football.

The Frisco High School Raccoons played the North McKinney Bulldogs last night at Pizza Hut stadium, and we were there! A Friday night football game is a community event in Texas, attended by grandparents, parents, yuppies, toddlers, and various and assorted locals who have nothing to do, otherwise, with football. You get your tickets early. You put on makeup, your best jeans, and you curl your hair. You bring a wad of cash for the concessions, and you sit down for the show.

Our next door neighbor is a defensive teams coach for Frisco High School. (They have multiple coaches for their high school football team, and headsets, and a booth up high for the Head Coach!) My sweet friend, his pretty blond wife, graciously offered to take us on their guest passes. I think she just took one look at us -- pasty, bland-looking people, no lipstick or sparkle to speak of -- and knew what we needed: an introduction to the Wide World of Texas High School football.

Folks, these people know how to do football! The jumbotron registered the general delight of the crowd; the cheerleaders were sunny and spirited and did towers and jumps; the half-time show was impressive; and the Raccoons won! The marching bands were big, had amazing uniforms and marched and played excellently, accompanied by elaborate color guard routines and twirlers, and followed by the drill team, dressed up as star-spangled cowgirls in red, white, and blue. I was impressed at the wholesome show-tune routines and cute but appropriate outfits of the drill team. We had such a fun time cheering for the Raccoons and just absorbing the fun into our drab, boring un-Texan souls.

Sarah and I feel we came home with a little more sparkle and pizazz in our hearts. Maybe we'll pick up some of this good Texas spirit after all!

Surrounded by the Good Stuff

I have found a good way to introduce younger children to skilled musicians and complex music is through Bluegrass. My kids love to hear the sad tale of sweet Molly Ban as sung by Allison Krauss, or that famous Fox [who] Went Out One Chilly Night as sung by the talented and young band, Nickel Creek. Along the way they are slyly introduced to skilled guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo playing, among other instruments.

Nickel Creek is a great band for beautiful, complex instrumentals and songs that tell stories or recite poetry: fun and lively music, rollicking melodies and mournful, poignant ones as well -- great depth opens doors in the minds of little children. The Hand Song is a story of a young hero who goes to war for the love of his country. They sing a beautiful ballad with the words entirely composed of the Burns poem above.

It takes a little time and getting used to, and you do need to stay away from or downplay the despair fare that sometimes creeps into a Bluegrass song. But explain the story a bit, and you'll be surprised what the kids might pick up. Allison Krauss and Union Station's story of The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe His Corn is another favorite in our house -- a fancy way also to discuss not procrastinating. (He does and loses his crop and his girl.) These songs are full of jokes and lessons. Bob Dylan even has a great version of Froggy Went A-Courtin' out there that I have on a mix tape (CD mix from Starbucks).

I think, at least I hope, good music is like anything else...introduce them early and you sow the seeds of love for beauty and appreciation for creativity and skill.