“Tell Me What You Pay Attention To and I Will Tell You Who You Are.”-Jose Ortega y Gasset

This morning, the singing of the birds beckoned me to rise from my bed and start the day on a positive note. As I rose, I thought about the interview I saw last week on Oprah’s OWN station with Oprah interviewing the writer, Sue Monk Kidd. In 2002, I read Kidd’s, “The Secret Life of Bees” and loved it…didn’t love the books that came after. Recently, I read her latest book, “The Invention of Wings,” which I really enjoyed, but not as much as “…Bees.” Anyway, I thought of what Sue Monk Kidd said in the interview…to paraphrase, she said, “We become what we pay attention to.” I’ve been thinking about that since I heard it and trying to be more positive in life…instead of focusing on minor aches and pains or inventing “what if” scenarios for things that may never happen. I’m focusing on what I am grateful and thankful for. The singing of the birds inspired a quick haiku this morning:


I heard singing birds
Calling my name to join them
So I rose and did.

And now, just as I finished printing the haiku, my wonderful husband just put on“Looking into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne” CD with Don Henley and Blind Pilot singing, “These Days,” yes, so thankful. “Well, I’ll keep on moving, things are bound to be improving, these days.” (Jackson Browne)

We become what we pay attention to…yes…music always helps…we just listened to Roseanne Cash’s newest album on vinyl, “The River and the Thread” and we give it a thumbs up, especially “Etta’s Song,” which I can listen to over and over again. It’s a beautifully produced album, just the pureness of Roseanne’s clear voice and the clarity of the instruments and her wonderful musician husband/arranger John Leventhal. We are also looking forward to listening to our newly acquired, “Quiet About It: Tribute to Jesse Winchester,” which we’ll listen to later. This cd was released in 2012. It was so very sad to learn of Jesse’s death. He was a beautiful songwriter and had such a lovely presence on stage.
My readers…I have been checking in to see what’s going on in your blogs and am enjoying all that I read. I hope to return more vigorously to my blog. I am thinking of using a new WordPress theme and perhaps when my son returns from India for a vacation in June, we’ll work on it together. He is finishing his first year of teaching in India and has one more year to go. From there who knows where he’ll go, but he’ll go. Just this morning, when we saw each other on Skype, he said he has amazing parents and he is who he is because of his upbringing. Music to my ears. As a parent, you do what you do and hope something sinks in and you don’t expect any thank yous or accolades, but my son is always giving us applause…this from a kid who didn’t like reading or writing and went to school to socialize. It’s heartwarming hearing his hopes, dreams and the absolute confidence he has in himself. He said he and his girlfriend have a 5-year plan…it’s great that they are doing all of this traveling now before children and mortgages, don’t you think? My daughter is doing well in NYC; my mom is hanging in there and for over 90 she’s doing great! My hubby recently retired, but is continuing to work at his present job 2.5 days per week…there are still bills to be paid and improvements on the home to be made and then he’ll fully retire. It’s so wonderful we live in the same town where he works. Now that the nice weather is here, I am doing my daily walks in the park and paying attention to everything I see there. I want to become what I pay attention to. Ah…now Jimmy Lafave is singing Jackson Browne’s “For Everyman,”
“Everybody’s just waiting to hear from the one
Who can give them the answers
And lead them back to that place in the warmth of the sun
Where sweet childhood still dances
Who’ll come along
And hold out that strong and gentle father’s hand?”-Jackson Browne

I remember Linda Loman telling her sons, “Attention Must Be Paid,” and I never forgot that line from Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. Willy mattered to Linda and wanted him to matter to their boys as well despite Willy’s shortcomings. If we become what we pay attention to, perhaps we have to look further into someone to see their goodness and pay attention to that instead of all of the “what ifs,” and “what coulda beens.”

NOTE:  I had a lot of trouble printing this posting the way I usually do!!!!  I usually take my word doc and copy and paste it using the “comic sans” font and it usually looks very nice and the hyperlinks work out well, too. Well today, the print looks so plain when I paste it and none of my hyperlinks came out…I had to insert them on the blog itself. If you understand what happened, please advise…Thanks!!!!!

 

 

“How Are Things In Glocca Morra?”-Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg

       

“When I got finished, Gershwin paid me the ultimate compliment. He said, ‘Boy, even I couldn’t do that.”-Burton Lane

Composer and lyricist, Burton Lane was born today in NYC in 1912 and he is responsible for so many beautiful songs and lyrics that may have faded, so I’m here to remind all of us! How are Things in Glocca Morra is from his play, Finian’s Rainbow, which was also a movie in 1968.  Lane also wrote one other play, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, (also made into a film in 1970) which singer Robert Goulet sang so beautifully. My dad was a big fan of Robert Goulet and he would sing that song in particular and whistle it so well. A personal favorite song of mine is from “Finian’s Rainbow,” titled: Look to the Rainbow. Burton Lane’s songs have been performed by hundreds of artists and are just as beautiful today in 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

“Un Bel Di Vidremo”-(Madame Butterfly)

“Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man’s faculties, and it is manifested in all high artistic achievements.”-Giacomo Puccini

Those first few opening words that Madame Butterfly sings, Un Bel Di Vidremeo and their melody will never leave me. As a youngster, I loved the Puccini opera, Madame Butterfly,” and so did my mom. I remember listening to it in my home and seeing it on TV and I’m sure I probably read it. The original Madame Butterfly was a short story by an American writer, John Luther Long and that short story was adapted as a play by theater impresario, David Belasco…so interesting…never knew that!!!  I know the Belasco Theatre in NYC very well. Another Puccini favorite was La Boheme, which I saw live during an elementary school trip to the old Brooklyn Academy of Music…Mimi and her love for the poet, Rodolfo who lives in an artist’s garret, never left me. Children should be given the opportunity to hear and enjoy all music genres; though I am a folkie at heart, I do appreciate other genres. Good music is good music.

Italian composer, Puccini, was born today in 1858. His melodies were just so beautiful and the librettos by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa  for both Madame Butterfly and La Boheme exquisite and heart-rending.

 

 

 

 

“If Ever I Would Leave You…”-Lerner and Loewe

 

“Everything that has been will be, everything that will be is, everything that will be has been.”-Eugene Ionesco

Several people with voices that were surely heard and will never leave us and continue to be heard, were born today, 11/26. First of all, the great Romanian playwright, Eugene Ionescu was born in Romania in 1909 and is associated with Theatre of the Absurd, which as an undergraduate who minored in Speech and Theatre, I studied. When I went onto grad school and got an MA in Educational Theatre, I once again read Ionescu. I probably read him even before entering college since I’m sure my mom also introduced me to him as she was going to night college as I was growing up for 10 years. Robert Goulet, a great singer and very handsome, whose albums my father loved, played Lancelot in the Broadway show, Camelot, was also born today in 1933. I would swoon when I would see him on TV singing If Ever I Would Leave You from Camelot. Beautiful song, beautiful voice. The ever-great Ms Tina Turner, still around, still kickin’, was born today in either 1938 or 1939, I saw both dates listed at various sites.

All three voices had something to say to us. Robert Goulet sang to our hearts, told us he’d never leave or that On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.  Ionesco’s words spoke of justice and non-conformity and he criticized governments. In his drama Eugène Ionesco focuses on the question of human existence as well as the trivia of everyday life. His most renowned play in Germany “Die Nashörner” (1959) is based on his own experience in Romania. This induced Eugène Ionesco to always oppose conformism, to act against totalitarianism, which changes humans and turns them into “Nashörner”.http://www.ionesco.de/

Tina Turner’s life story spoke of strength and inner strength one gains through difficult times. She once said, “I didn’t have anybody, really, no foundation in life, so I had to make my own way. Always, from the start. I had to go out in the world and become strong, to discover my mission in life.”

Tina Turner, Eugene Ionesco and Robert Goulet all loved their careers and lived for writing, for performing, for reaching out to their audience. As Robert Goulet said, “I like being on this stage because it keeps me thinking.”

I know when I hear Tina singing or listen to an old Goulet LP or read Ionescu, “…it keeps me thinking.”

 

“Let Us Cultivate Our Garden.”-Voltaire (Candide)

 

“I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens.”-JFK

In 1974, I saw a revival of Voltaire’s Candide on Broadway. It was interesting to learn that it was the writer/playwright, Lillian Hellman who first adapted Voltaire’s Candide as a play in 1956. Voltaire was born today in 1694 and was a French Enlightenment writer who brought wit to his writings as he observed and criticized the world around him. “The French Enlightenment philosophers became known as the philosophes.  The philosophes used criticism and rejection of the old authority, along with a desire to explain man’s role in the universe, and in society to reshape the world in which they lived.  They attacked many topics like morality, politics, economics and religion to design their new world.  Along with natural law and human reason the philosophes emphasized toleration, especially religious toleration and progress.  There was a great confidence in modern man and his achievements in technology and understanding the natural world.”-gettysburg.edu

As we commemorate 50 years since President JFK was assassinated, let us remember for a moment, that both JFK and Jackie Kennedy promoted the Arts during his short time in The White House. A series of “Concerts for Young People” at The White House was started by The Kennedys in 1961. French writer, Andre Malraux, who was The French Minister of Culture at the time, was hosted by The Kennedys, whose aim was to promote Washington D.C. as a national hub of The Arts. “President Kennedy affirmed that, “creativity is the hardest work there is” and playfully added that the White House “was becoming a sort of eating place for artists. But, they never ask us out.”jfklibrary.org

Less than a month before JFK was assassinated, he spoke at Amherst College in Massachusetts at a gathering honoring American Poet, Robert Frost, whom JFK greatly admired. As you well remember, Robert Frost created a poem for JFK’s inauguration in 1961. This was the very first time a poet, a creative individual, was part of the inauguration ceremony. At this Amherst College event to remember Robert Frost who had died at the beginning of 1963, Kennedy said, “If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our Nation falls short of its highest potential. I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. And as Mr. MacLeish once remarked of poets, there is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society–in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.”

As a retired teacher and teacher-researcher, I witnessed how important the Arts were to my students as they tried making sense of this world. The Arts gave a voice to my students from other shores and comforted all of my students as they groped with difficult situations in their lives. It was so important to me that they have The Arts in their lives and I always wrote my own plays that taught them (and their audience) tolerance, social justice, history and used folk songs, union songs and songs to which I set new lyrics that addressed the theme of the various plays. All students participated. It didn’t matter if they didn’t know one word in English. The Arts brought us together. My students were my “garden” and my inspiration to always do better.

“Something Told the Wild Geese” and Me!!!

Something told the wild geese

It was time to go,

Though the fields lay golden

Something whispered, “snow.”Rachel Field

The radio told ME this morning that it was 28 degrees in NY! I hate the cold!!!!   So here I am in my basement with the electric heater on. This is where I “work.”  It’s a lovely routine, I get up; Look outside, perhaps bring the daily paper inside; put the Keurig pod coffee maker on; Go downstairs and put the computer and now the heater on…Voila, my early morning!  Routines are nice,they keep you grounded and are comforting. ““The modern world is chaotic, and many things are beyond our control,” says Dr. Sian Rawkins, head of ambulatory psychiatry at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Routines at home work to create a stable foundation that makes it easier to cope with an unpredictable world.”Kim Pittaway, Best Health Mag  At some point this morning, I’ll go shopping for things that both my household (Hubby and me) and my mom need and drive over to mom’s. She’s within 2 miles from my home, very convenient. At mom’s, another routine will commence as I make sure all is well with mom and her surroundings. I know I’ve remarked on this before, but elderly parents must be near their children, no doubt about it. I’m lucky that we were able to make this happen nearly 19 years ago on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!  Mom’s going to be 90 in early December…so fortunate that she’s still with us, is ambulatory and has all of her marbles!!!!  

Today in 1965, the soundtrack from The Sound of Music movie with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer hit #1 on the Billboard Charts. One song, Edelweiss, is similar to following a routine and the ease it can instill, with its lines: “Edelweiss, Edelweiss, Every morning you greet me.”Rodgers & Hammerstein

Well, every morning, I enjoy greeting my husband (who is still sound asleep upstairs since he’s on vacation this week); greeting the morning; the coffeemaker; the newspaper; the computer; my email…and starting the day. Each day may seem repetitious, but it’s never boring. “There IS comfort in routine.”-John Steinbeck

 

 

Sunday Celebration of Writers

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

-Ernest Hemingway

What a day in Literary History, folks…and it’s Sunday, a lovely day to read!  We have 3 birthdays: first there’s Chinese American writer, Maxine Hong Kingston who is 73 today; then there’s Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas born in 1914 and alas, sad and tragic American writer, Sylvia Plath born today in 1932 and ended her own life in 1963. All 3 writers were part of my reading repertoire…probably Maxine Hong Kingston (The Woman Warrior) was more prevalent when I was a graduate student; Dylan Thomas was always around and Sylvia Plath during my teens along with Anne Sexton. (There was a mythological rivalry between the two.)  

“Long ago in China, knot-makers tied string into buttons and frogs, and rope into bell pulls. There was one knot so complicated that it blinded the knot-maker. Finally an emperor outlawed this cruel knot, and the nobles could not order it anymore. If I had lived in China, I would have been an outlaw knot-maker.”-Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior

“I know we’re not saints or virgins or lunatics; we know all the lust and lavatory jokes, and most of the dirty people; we can catch buses and count our change and cross the roads and talk real sentences. But our innocence goes awfully deep, and our discreditable secret is that we don’t know anything at all, and our horrid inner secret is that we don’t care that we don’t.”Dylan Thomas quoted in Dylan Thomas: The Biography by Paul Ferris, pg. 141

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.”-Sylvia Plath

Happy Sunday Reading!