Geocaches, books, and whatnot

Image taken this past Sunday.

During the first of our two trips downstate last week, we found our fifteenth cache. Small and craftily hidden on campus, it is one that we had been unable to locate in February and March. We must be gaining some skills, eh? Maybe. With our sixteenth find this Sunday, we achieved the sixth of fifteen required caches for the challenge in which we’re participating. Although it is still quite cool here, I suspect it will soon become warmer and buggier than we typically appreciate during our walks in the woods. By Memorial Day, we may need to set aside the challenge until autumn. We’ll see, though.

In the week since my last post, I (re)read eight books:

Fatale (Jean-Paul Manchette; 1977 (2011, English). Fiction.)
Tenth of December (George Saunders; 2013. Fiction.)
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching, (2012. Non-fiction.)
Briggs Land, Volume 1: State of Grace (Brian Wood; 2017. Graphic fiction.)
Those Who Wish Me Dead (Michael Koryta; 2014. Fiction.)
Henry IV, Part 1 (William Shakespeare; 1597. Drama.)
The Rape of Lucrece (William Shakespeare; 1594. Poetry.)
Henry IV, Part 2 (William Shakespeare; 1597. Drama.)

Graphic novel readers, add Briggs Land to your TBR stack. Short story lovers? Have you met Saunders? He reminds me of Vonnegut in all the best ways. Try “The Semplica-Girl Diaries.” It it works for you, put Tenth of December on your nightstand. (Lincoln in the Bardo should already be there.)

The spring semester of my music lessons concluded last week. As I have done for the past two summers, I will take one lesson during each of the summer months and resume weekly lessons after Labor Day. For my solo piece, I am moving from Sadko’s “Song of India” to Bach’s Arioso from Cantata BWV 156. My older daughter, who is taking organ lessons at the University, and I will also be working on Michael Conway’s “Elegy for Flute and Organ.”

In other news, a female Eastern Towhee spent the day in my yard late last week, so I had a new addition to my backyard list. I haven’t seen the grosbeaks, orioles, or hummingbirds yet, but it is getting to be that time of year again: I have begun assembling my garden containers, and my husband and I redefined a corner of our backyard, adding a border and new plants. I repainted all of the outdoor furniture and repositioned the bird feeders. As soon as the evening temperatures increase a bit more, I will finish planting and install a new, wasp-resistant hummingbird feeder. Welcome to my house, butterflies and birds!

Coming up: My daughters will soon conclude their spring semester. Once they return home, our first two theater adventures will be Harvey at the Court and Relativity at Northlight.

Pursuits

Site of our seventh geocache.

In the week since I last posted, I

■ saw Captain Fantastic — and loved it;
■ caught up on all of my comics, including the final issue of Revival (which was lame);
■ realized that Season Five of The Americans begins this week and set my DVR (Woot!);
■ counted the days until my daughters return home for break (Woot! again); and
■ thrice-dreamed that I was mowing the lawn. It cannot be time for that already, can it?

This weekend, I read and then saw Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. National Theatre Live’s rebroadcast of the production featuring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Hirst and Spooner, respectively, earned two enthusiastic thumbs up from us.

From early in Act I:

HIRST: Tonight… my friend… you find me in the last lap of a race… I had long forgotten to run.

Pause.

SPOONER: A metaphor. Things are looking up.

Later in the act:

FOSTER: We protect this gentleman against corruption, against men of craft, against men of evil, we could destroy you without a glance, we take care of this gentleman, we do it out of love.

And from the play’s conclusion:

SPOONER: No. You are in no man’s land. Which never moves, which never changes, which never grows older, but which remains forever, icy and silent.

Silence.

HIRST: I’ll drink to that.

If I were a drinker, I’d toast our seventh geocache find. Yes, we made two entries in our log this weekend, one of which occurred before a leisurely walk/hike in a new-to-us park. We arrived at geocaching long after its surge in popularity, but we are thoroughly enjoying this mini-adventure.

If I were a drinker, I’d also toast my new flute. On the recommendation of my teacher, I’ve graduated from a perfectly delightful student instrument to a bold, responsive intermediate instrument that was designed to surpass a player’s needs through college studies. It’s a treasure.

My flute lessons began two years and five months ago, when my daughters, now juniors, began college. My current studies center on Rubank Advanced Method: Flute, Vol. 1. and Pares Scales. I am also preparing the solo “Song of India” from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Sadko. Hadyn’s “Serenade,” which is the fortieth of Louis Moyse’s Forty Little Pieces in Progressive Order, preceded this and is technically more difficult, but working on expression in “Song of India” has been developmentally appropriate for me, and I will be sorry to set aside this beautiful piece. Speaking of Forty Little Pieces, although I’ve already presented the most difficult, we continue to pepper my list of open assignments with the remaining songs. For this week’s lesson, I have prepared No. 33.

As an adult student and a retiree, I bring two things to this pursuit most of my teacher’s other students do not have: experience and time. Experienced learners tend to question, clarify, synthesize, and study — a lot. All of this requires time. During my first year of lessons, I once confessed to having only thirty minutes each day to practice before that week’s meeting. Usually, I made time for at least three fifteen-minute practice sessions daily; often, four. “Forty-five minutes?” my teacher responded, wistfully. “I’m happy to hear that students [in Rubank Elementary Method: Flute] have done fifteen minutes a day.” These days, I’m deeply chagrined when I haven’t put in at least four twenty-minute sessions daily, and I aim for six or more.

Of course, younger students rarely struggle, as I most certainly do, with velocity, and they have fewer problems “translating” unfamiliar music. Generally, too, they will travel further and do more with their music, including performances, than an adult learner will be able to do. Still, this is a worthwhile pursuit, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Coming up: My progress on the “Shakespeare in Year” project; what else I’ve been reading; and more.

“Science fiction was a big help.”

imageHas is it really been two weeks since my last post?

■ Only a few pages in the Rubank Intermediate book remain, so I was advised to bring Advanced, Vol. 1 to my October lessons. I’ve been assigned Haydn’s “Serenade” as my new solo piece, and one of my instructor’s colleagues has suggested that two of his students and I form a trio jointly supervised by the two instructors. A year ago, this idea would have made me shudder. Now? I am excited to begin!

■ In forty-eight days, I will be an election judge at a nearby precinct. Earlier this month, on a whim, I looked over our county’s website, made a call, emailed an application, and registered for training. What a lot to remember! Fortunately, the training included several hands-on exercises, and if I am chosen to work early voting, I will gain experience prior to the big day.

■ This is Week 3 of the University of Warwick’s rerun of “Literature and Mental Health,” and it has been every bit as compelling as I had hoped.

■ Like any over-fifty, my husband and I make a number of annual health appointments, and this year, we decided to schedule all of these in September and October. Waiting rooms have this to recommend them: They give one time to finish a couple of books.

From Slaughterhouse-Five:
p. 4

And even if wars didn’t keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death.

p. 101

So they were trying to re-invent themselves and their universe. Science fiction was a big help.

From The Code of the Woosters:
p. 221

“You can’t be a successful Dictator and design women’s under-clothing.”
“No, sir.”
“One or the other. Not both.”
“Precisely, sir.”

Because I only include cover-to-covers, ninety-three titles appear on my list to date. In these years of reading slowly, my goal is usually a minimum of two books per week, and I am positioned to exceed that next month.

What am I reading today? A Fair Maiden (Joyce Carol Oates) and the poetry volume, Stressed, Unstressed. My husband and I will see Julius Caesar at the Writers Theatre later this month — our first just-us theater adventure in thirty years — so I am also rereading that, one of my favorite works of Shakespeare. (“Would he were fatter!”) And I am savoring Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, which features an over-fifty woman with a “never-absent pain in her back.” I think I may love the fictional Vellitt Boe as much as love the non-fictional and now ninety-eight-year-old Diana Athill, whose latest memoir is winging its way toward the forever home.

■ Speaking of the forever home, how much I love it! Although my daughters regularly contributed to its care, over the last two years, they had increasingly less time for all of the tasks that ensure a property doesn’t succumb to “kipple,” so I often worked solo, on the yards, for example. And now that they are at university, it is generally me alone performing the daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, and annual home rituals. When he can, my husband helps, of course, as when he made the end-of-season inspection of the crawlspace. And we have services for some tasks — for example, soil aeration; tree care; furnace, air-conditioning, and appliance maintenance; and critter control. But often, it is just the cats and I, which means that the rituals take a bit more time and that I must perform more of them (including pet care, which was once the exclusive domain of my older daughter). What I had thought might prove annoying, though, has mostly represented only a slight tempo change in my life’s regular rhythms. In fact, I find that being needed in these new ways is oddly comforting, as if the forever home is enveloping me while I continue to adjust to my latest “new normal.”

Practice

IMG_7196

From Bill Richardson’s charming novel, Bachelor Brothers’ Bed & Breakfast:

Many people have had this experience, I think, especially where music is concerned. We become steeped in the notion that if we can’t excel, there’s little point in pursuit.

As I’ve maintained before, for me, the pursuit is the point, although when I studied piano, I regularly likened the pursuit to learning a second language as an adult: No matter how much I practiced, facility eluded me, and my “accent” was unmistakable. Now that I teach English to adult non-native speakers, the comparison seems quite apt, but my flute teacher (I’ve been studying flute since September 2014) prefers to focus not on the disadvantages but the many, many advantages adult learners have over younger learners, including their maturity about practice and the purity of their motivation.

I will try to remember that when I screw up the chord and chromatic études yet again. Heh, heh, heh.