The kids and I watched a Lawrence Welk Show from 1966 today. I’ll describe parts of the show, using some of the language my kids used while they watched. I don’t remember the names of the musicians, but a true Welk fan might recognize them.
The tap dancer tapped until his pants got ruffles in them. It was like he played piano with his feet. The lady at the bright green upright piano wore a skirt and heels to match it. She played very fast and liked to look up and smile a laughing smile at the camera. The Polish polka singer with the silly red accordion bounced with the music and rolled his eyes at the “sparkling diamond ring” part. It reminded me of nights my Dad and Mom liked to listen to polkas on the radio. My dad would rustle his newspaper in time to the music. Then there was the Irish girl with the long brown hair and the high, high voice. When Lawrence Welk had a talk with her after her song, she wouldn’t quit talking. He handed her a flute, which she grabbed excitedly, put in front of her mouth, and then kept right on talking. Lawrence put her in the band, a brightly-dressed high-spirited girl amongst the gray-suited, dark-framed, serious men musicians. They played lovely together. The band also played a French march song, which highlighted different instruments at different parts of the song. Very good for teaching children the names of instruments. Probably the favorite was the Greek dance. It involved a red ribbon which both the man and the woman held onto and then one of them let go of it. The man wore a skirt, which the girls were sure their dad wouldn’t like to wear.
In the spirit of Lawrence Welk, I would like to raise my baton and clap it into my other hand, a polite clap for a polite and elegant old-fashioned music show. Nobody won, nobody lost, nobody lectured or over-analyzed anything, but my children and I learned a lot and we have another good hook to hang our memories on.
Piet Mondrian, Farm Near Duivendrecht, 1916
The window above my kitchen sink looks out to the patch of woods behind our house. I often find myself staring at the bare tree branches. I love those black etchings against a blue-gray sky. It is so complicated and intricate. Because I like to draw, I stand at the sink and wonder how I would draw that. Would I simplify it? I would have to; there are far too many details for a two-dimensional drawing. But would I simplify it A LOT, or would it still be very complex and time-consuming? At this point I generally remind myself that I don’t have the time to do a very complex drawing, and then I remind myself that I live here and I can stare out my windows whenever I want. I don’t really need a drawing of it on my wall. And that leads me to contemplate the reason why people create art at all.
I have not come to any definitive answers on any of these things I wonder about. However, I notice that Mondrian loved bare tree branches, too. This is a more realistic rendering of them. In other paintings he simplifies, abstracts, breaks things down. He thought about things a lot, too, and he has complex theories that go with his artwork. I don’t know what they are; I just know I once tried to paint like Mondrian and my art professor said, “Yes, but he had theories to go with his paintings…” Well, theories or no theories, I like his tree branches.
I bring this poem to mind because it’s spring, and because it’s Willa; her poetry is so much like her fiction…
Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.
— by Willa Cather (1913)
Last night’s sermon was about rest on the Sabbath day. I wanted to hear the sermon, so I did the very unrestful thing of getting my three children out of the muddy outdoors, into the bathtub, into clean church clothes, into the car, into the back row of church, and then attempted to keep the two oldest from whispering and poking each other while the youngest slept curled up on my lap (and she’s pretty big). I realized at one point that I was listening to the preacher, my eyes on him, while I was shaking my head at the kids, who were trying to tell me something. I hope he didn’t get discouraged. His sermon was good.
I learned that rest does not equal leisure. Rest is what heaven will be like. Our Sundays should be about glorifying God, exalting Him with our praise and worship. Sundays are different from the other days of the week. We should honor them, keep them holy, set apart. There are ten commandments, not nine. One of them is “keep the Sabbath day holy.”
Although I did not take notes, and I didn’t catch everything, I did catch the phrase, “Sundays should not be a burden.” That’s where I’m wrong. Sundays are a burden to me. They are difficult. Because my husband is at church in the morning, he has more chores to finish in the afternoon, so he’s out almost the whole day. He doesn’t get home in time from milking to go to night church. And I’ve been raised to not do extra work on Sundays. I don’t do laundry, I don’t dust or vacuum. If something is dirty (and I have time to notice dirty things) I can’t clean it until Monday. The kids get restless. I read a lot of books, but we don’t do school stuff. I make popcorn on Sundays. Popcorn gets all over the carpet. Mostly, we get exhausted trying to keep Sunday different from the other days. It doesn’t feel restful at all. I don’t like Sunday afternoons.
So there it is. My Sunday joy gets squashed when I’m at home. I will say that church is fine. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing there. I suppose I was hoping this sermon would solve my problem. It didn’t. However, I do have some more thinking to do about the difference between rest (as in relaxing) and rest (as in the heavenly sense).
Jan Vermeer, Woman with a Pearl Necklace, 1664
There are times when I would look at this painting and think of meanings, or imagine what is going on in this woman’s mind, or find connections with other paintings by Vermeer. Tonight, I am only happy that the painting is lovely. The white stretch of wall in the middle is calming. The smoothness of the light irons my own wrinkled moods to the same relaxed, bland expression on the woman’s face. The yellow adds richness. I am glad for the dotted fur. Even the black shadows serve to balance the painting, enough black for white, bright for dim, furry for shiny, colors for neutrals, space for masses. It is all so finely perfected.
Remember last April when I wrote a poem for each day of the month? Well, finally, two of those poems have been published. You can check them out at Red Savina Review. By the way, the dirty dishes in the photo are not mine, but I do own the exact same slow cooker.
I’m reading an exciting historical novel at the moment, lots of action, twists, adventure, love, murder, international intrigue, and I am unwillingly comparing it not only to my fiction but also to my life. I am a boring person. My fiction might be boring, too. So I’m writing this post to convince myself that what I just wrote is wrong.
It’s easier to convince myself that my stories are not boring. I know I am stronger at characterization than plot. I prefer it that way. What goes on in a character’s mind is what interests me the most. My characters might not do much out of the ordinary. They take nature walks, get delayed by a tree fallen across the road, fall in love with former professors. The excitement or intrigue of the story comes from who they are and how they change (or don’t change). Some of it comes from what they say to other people. But I believe even their dialogue is restrained by a good dose of normalcy. It’s what they think about that moves the story along.
So it is with me. Behind my horrible spoken communication skills and my cryptic facial expressions, my thoughts carry me along. I have entire conversations with people while I am making dinner, and I don’t say a word out loud. My thoughts carry me away, sometimes to bad places, and sometimes to good places. I am truly very exciting. You’ll just have to take my word for it.