Lines composed while rolling home on Amtrak from a few days in New York and Boston and a week at our daughter’s in Maine.
Just some brief reflections on a few experiences.
Solemn high mass on Sunday at St. Mary the Virgin, also known as Smokey Mary. Just a half block off Broadway near Times Square. High church at its best. Pity the crowds roaming the streets outside seeking – what? When sublime beauty is just inside these doors. Don’t they know? Obviously not. Our failure to reach them? Or theirs? You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink, so said my dad.
We strolled through Times Square. It is always amazing and often astonishing. In the Hershey store, we bought a large chocolate bar with a personalized wrapper with our picture on it. Then we were surprised to see it on display on one of those high-up giant screens in Times Square, cycling every few minutes with those of others who had done the same. I took a picture of it with my cell phone and emailed it to the office and the kids. What fun. But it did remind us of an old saying: “Fools names and fools faces are always seen in public places.”
Saw “Chicago” at the Amsterdam Theatre; a Sunday matinee performance after mass. Very creative staging; the orchestra took up 80% of the stage, and the players acted out the drama with song and dance in the space between them and the footlights. Fresh and energetic. How do they maintain that, performance after performance, year after year? That alone should be an inspiration to everyone who sees that or any other play and who feels bored with a job that once was captivating or with life itself.
In Thomaston, Maine, a kind of busman’s holiday for a day, since one thing I do on visits there is some routine maintenance on the church computers. This time the issue was spam and popups. Over 3000 pieces of malware were removed, mostly just tracking cookies, but a few real baddies. It took all day.
We attended a string quartet recital by the Daponte String Quartet in the library in Tenants Harbor, a small town near Thomaston. Very intimate space. I sat in the fourth row. It was amazing to watch so close. Such focus; such concentration; such subtle communication among the members, eyes darting between the music and each other. Afterwards, over refreshments, chatting with one of the players – the violist – the subject came up of their desire to do a series of recitals in the DC area and, since I was from there, did I know any place where they might play? Well, as it happens I just might. We exchanged contact information and so forth.
I read some, of course. That’s a vacation must, and my daughter has a trove of interesting books. This trip it was something light, “We Are Still Married” by Garrison Keillor. Laugh out loud amusing in places. Also, read the Gospel of Mark straight through. I’ve read and heard all of it, many times, but in the bits and pieces as one gets it at mass or reading the Office. Interesting thoughts formed from a straight through read; I found myself looking after a few chapters for something that ultimately wasn’t there. I’ll elaborate in another Cup someday. Maybe.
We spent a few late afternoons relaxing in the yard watching the chickens after we let them out of their yard to forage in the area outside their pen. They are so interesting to watch. “Chicken TV” we call it.
I wish to thank Rich Jensen, Laura Ingersoll, Jim Quigley, Armando, Pete Raynor, and Sophie, who to varying degrees made it possible for me to be away and who dealt with a couple of emergencies that came up. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Whenever I go away, or go anywhere, for that matter, I am attentive to incidents which might be the reason that I am there. On this trip, I think there were two: one, the most obvious and somewhat routine by now, is the computer maintenance work at the church in Thomaston. The other I think was the encounter with the violist after the string quarter recital. It could lead to some performances in the DC area for them. I hope so. We’ll see.
I close with the Collect “For the Good Use of Leisure.” “O God, in the course of this busy life, give us times of refreshment and peace; and grant that we may so use our leisure to rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 29-July-2014.