Come Rain or Come Shine, The Book

I once prayed, Lord, please let Jan Karon live long enough to get Dooley and Lace married. The answer to that prayer was a whelming flood; I started crying on page 32 and sniffed and sobbed my way—punctuated by laughs—to the final page. Redemption, benediction, healing, holy amazement, connection. Reading this brings the satisfaction of resolution, the “two bits” after the “shave and a haircut”.

Weddings are my thing. Joyful solemnity, giving, sharing, joining, celebrating, laughing, crying, hugging, singing, dancing, rejoicing, thanksgiving. I love a good wedding and I’ve been to a few profoundly remarkable ones.

There was joy in the air; you could sniff it as plain as new-cut hay.

The focus of Come Rain or Come Shineis on the month before and the day of The Big Knot. Dooley and Lace want a small, intimate ceremony at Meadowgate Farm. Karon enjoys poking fun at the myth of a ‘simple country wedding.’  There are obstacles and annoyances. There are secrets and surprises. There is the unrelenting pressure of diminishing time to get the place wedding-ready.

DSC_0964The main character is Lace Harper. Her journals reveal her heart, her hopes, her fears, her loves. She wants to find a wedding dress for under $100; she is thankful for the callouses which document her hard work. She wants to get it—this whole starting a new family—right. I appreciated the ways Dooley and Lace honor the memory of Sadie Baxter (benefactor) and Russell Jacks (Dooley’s grandpa) in their wedding. Fun stuff: there is a Pinterest page for Lace Harper’s wedding!

Jan Karon and Wendell Berry are both skilled at portraying a community where giving, helping, and reciprocating are the norm. In their novels they don’t cover up the hurts, the anger, the tensions, the troubles. Weddings can be awkward with family drama. Karon handles the presence of Dooley’s birth mom, Pauline Leeper, in the same room as his siblings with utmost care. There is no easy resolution, no instant reconciliation, just baby steps, tiny beginnings towards the on-ramp to healing.

I connected with this book in many ways. This summer we went to a small, simple country wedding (see picture above) in a pasture. My son and daughter-in-law have a wind storm and fallen trees in their wedding story, too. I know what it is to be gob-smacked by blessings, reduced to silent tears of joy. Live music is the best for dancing the night away. I love the song in the title.

‘Why can’t life always be lived under the stars,’ she said, ‘with great music and family and friends?’

♪♫♪ Come Rain or Come Shine ♪♫♪ is a standard (music by Harold Arlen, lyrics Johnny Mercer) that has been covered by scores of recording artists. I used it ten years ago when I made a PowerPoint slideshow for Curt’s folks’ 50th wedding anniversary. In the course of my work, I listened to B.B. King and Eric Clapton on endless repetition. And I can honestly say, I never tired of it. But there are so many recordings of this song, that I put my listening of them in this post.

This book.

I finished it last night. I started it again this morning.

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Winter Watch

I’m a fan of cozy mysteries. Miss Marple, Brother Cadfael, Mma Ramotswe, Alan Grant, and Flavia de Luce are guaranteed to bring pleasure. Especially if they are read with a steaming pot of tea while sitting on a leather couch with a fire snapping close by.

In Winter Watch, Anita Klumpers has written what I call a cozy-eccentric book. Barley, Wisconsin, is a isolated northern burg where the Justice of the Peace is also the dog catcher and where a few crazies reside. Bernice, a miscreant referred to as the resident killer, is the battiest of them all. After a family member dies, Bernice gets meals and kindness and concerns. And wouldn’t you know, she likes the perks of grief. More relatives mysteriously die. Sympathy can be mighty addicting.

Like Alexander McCall Smith, Klumper weaves humor into the warp and woof of her prose. Blizzards are snowstorms with enthusiasm. A woman was proud to give her son a Biblical name—Tubal—until the nurse told her it sounded like a female medical procedure.

DSC_7902There is comfort—I like a woman who knows her way around an egg—and a passage about joy that is flat out lyrical.

Joy arrived unbidden and unpredicted to pour from heart to fingertips to toes. She held her breath, everytime, to preserve and examine it but it forever danced just out of her grasp and slipped away. Claudia stayed still, focusing, her heart ready to burst. At the last crucial second joy seeped through cracks and crevices of her being until her every extremity and pore rejoiced before the evaporation worked backwards and she sat in the afterglow.

The focal point of the narrative centers on an old watch. The prologue and epilogue added more layers of history regarding the watch. The story line had me eagerly turning the page, and a bit annoyed with life’s beckoning demands when I needed to put the book down.

In short, this is a satisfying and entertaining read.

15 New Words

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In writing I am seduced by the sound of words and by the interaction of their sound and sense.

— Barbara Tuchman in Practicing History

I read all books—even borrowed ones—with a soft-leaded pencil in my hand. When I come across a word I don’t know I put a √ in the margin. When I copy quotes into my journal, I add the words I’ve learned. I also add to my collection of be– words (beguiled, bewhiskered, betake, etc.), but that’s a story for another day.

Here are a few of my favorite 2013 additions to my treasure chest of words:

taradiddles — lies
shrammed — benumbed with cold
virago — loud, overbearing woman

flibbertigibbet — silly, flighty person
semaphores — visual signaling with flags or light
boulevardier — man who strolls on Paris boulevard

billyho — unimaginable large amount
fortnight — contraction for “fourteen nights”
carnival = carne vale = goodbye meat

aptronymic — suitably named
debouched — to cause to emerge
snuggery — a snug, cozy place

smeddum — spirit, energy, determination
plaint — expression of grief
puling — whining, whimpering, crying plaintively

Song of Joy and Strength

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Creation begins with song. We know this because God asks Job where he was when God laid the foundations of the earth, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.

Singing and joy go together like champagne and bubbles: they are linked in God’s Word, in our response, and particularly in your life, Joy.

Marriage is a song.

Sometimes you will sing in unison, one voice high and one low. Other times you will sing in two-part harmony. The fugue employs different voices expressing the same theme in succession, weaving in and out, finally coming together at the end.

When quarrels come there will be discordant notes, squawks, squeaks and growls. As your arguments mature, they will sound less like a cat landing on a keyboard and more like two strong notes pushing together for resolution. A song without tension would be bland, and ultimately difficult to listen to. Some marriages avoid conflict, moving apart into parallel melodies that aren’t related. The tension of sustained chords comes when notes are close together.  Tension is not bad unless it is unresolved. Think of a four-part Amen, stopping on the AH–.

The time signature determines the rhythm. One of you can’t play a waltz (3/4 time) while the other is marching to the 4/4 beat.  Curt and I tried that this summer: it led to hiccups, glitches and confusion. Follow Stephen’s lead, secure in the knowledge that different seasons of life will bring new rhythms.

You are starting your life together in a major key. Your wedding will be a minuet: a bright and cheerful celebration. But, in your life, minor keys will come; grief is a part of all of our lives. Your song can reflect glory in both major and minor keys.  Accept the minor key seasons as a gift.

In one of Anthony Trollope’s books, a wife obeys every word her husband says with a treasonous attitude. He is a piece of work, but that’s not the point. She is icy, remote, but, in her mind correct and proper. This illustrates how vital our tone is. Timbre is the musical term for tone color. When Stephen tells you something, you respond “You did?” The tone of these words could communicate scorn, apathy, delight, or shock. May the tone of your marriage be as rich and warm as a cello or a saxophone.

Beautiful music requires practice, discipline and work. When you run across a glitch in a musical piece, you know that is where you need to slow down, understand the notes and repeat it again and again and again and again! There’s not much glamor in practice, but faithful diligence brings rewards.

Do you remember the flash mob videos in a shopping mall? It is always a delight to see a bystander perk up her ears, look around in wonderment and then settle in with a smile to see what happens. People stop talking, they stop walking, they stop shopping and they watch and listen. This is what your marriage will do when you are singing in tune, making a harmonious sound.  Your song will invite others to the Music.

I began with the pairing of singing and joy. Singing and strength is another common coupling. In some cultures, singing is a necessary component of work. Think the chain gangs in O, Brother Where Art Thou?, slave ships, cotton fields. Singing keeps you in sync, it helps you work harder than you thought possible. In Estonia the folk songs liberated the country from communism. Song brings the strength of unity.

Joy, everyone agrees that you are perfectly named. And, your new last name reflects joy and strength.

Song is powerful. It reaches into the nooks and crannies of our souls. It fortifies us; it loosens us up.  It bedazzles our senses; it thrills our spirit; it expresses our worship.
It changes us.

 ~ The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation. ~