Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dogs at play

I just heard that a colleague added some favorite pictures to her Facebook page. One of them is of the two of us in full academic togs, pausing on the way to an event, smiling, having a good time, but thinking the event would be more fun if our dogs were along to enjoy the speeches.

So not to be outdone, here is one of my favorite pictures: Dogs at play.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Horace Boyer

Professor Horace Boyer has died a week shy of his 74th birthday. He was an elegant, joyous presence who dramatically shaped Episcopal church music through his singing, playing, conducting, composing and scholarship. He has composed anthems for our childrens' choir as well as the senior choir, our rector and various church events, and his arrangements and compilation of Gospel music in Lift Every Voice and Sing, an Episcopal hymnal, enrich our liturgy beyond measure. He was a generous, gracious man who shared himself and his music with all comers.

Photo by Nancy Lowry, Grace Church, Amherst MA

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Liturgical Arts Camp

I spent the week starting July 13 at full throttle at the Liturgical Arts Camp at Grace Church. I have developed this camp over the past ten years, thinking it would be fun to work with kids on art projects that have been part of church practice for centuries. This year they drew inside and outside the church, worked with clay (gargoyles or angels, their pick), sang, did some calligraphy, and made stained glass mozaics. We prepared a handbell piece and an anthem for the Sunday service, and wrote the Prayers of the People. The Altar Guild showed all their wares and each kid gets to grind some incense and swing the thurible. The rector had them plan and act out the 23rd Psalm for the Sunday sermon.

We climbed the bell tower, passing many solitary spiders along the way and admiring the beautiful tower clockworks a parishioner and his daughter restored a few years ago on the way to see the five foot tall bell up at the top.

Oh, and we drink gallons of juice, hundreds of grapes and goldfish, and played a few running games outside to let off steam.

The week is energetic and joyous. I am struck by how, one moment, a seven year could say how he couldn't draw anything "good," and the next moment, bring me a gorgeous outline drawing of the church - in orange marker with no erasings!

Here are just a few of their phrases that went into the Prayers of the People this time around:

We pray that people in different countries will learn to get along, and that all will be able to live a happy life.

We are thankful for colors.

We wish all people could have a cat or a dog, and we pray for people who don’t.

We thank you for making us who we are.

Dover goes for the third one.

So now, the week after, it is back to life as usual, so to speak. Dover and I strolled almost three miles this morning, and he has spent a good deal of his time searching me out at me with those haunting, inviting eyes. Nifty.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Circus Smirkus

Speaking of the happiness quotient of the world - last night we went to see our granddaughter in Circus Smirkus (http://www.smirkus.org/). The full house was delighted with the music, choreography, and especially, the young performers, all 18 and under. What a wild, energetic and enthusiastic evening. I was exhausted by the end of the show. Happiness was rampant.

These photos from two summers ago and this past Christmas show our grandkids with circus thoughts on their minds.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dover and the Happiness Quotient of the World

Today Dover and I went to the Amherst Common Market, where we strolled among the cabbages, radishes and flowers, not to mention kids, other people, and assorted dogs. We had a fine stroll, and Dover spent a most of his time meeting and greeting - every five or six steps, to be exact - people who stopped and asked to pet him.

After a few turns around the market and a stop at a Peace in the Middle East table, we went and had a midmorning coffee and snack with some friends at Amherst Coffee. We sat at a sidewalk table, where Dover settled down, content with the occasional dog biscuit bribe, never guessing what treasures lay on the table over his head. Traffic on the sidewalk was heavy, and as people passed by, they stopped to pet him, talk with him, talk with us about life in general or, more likely, dogs in general, which is pretty much the same as talking about life.

All shy people should have a dog. I might say that Dover is my assistant - drawing people in, starting conversations, returning compliments, and bringing out the best in all who make contact, even if it is just a glance and a smile as they hurry by.

The added bonus is that by just being there, Dover's presence on the sidewalk ups the happiness quotient of the world.

I can think of hardy any better job than that.

Photo: A passer-by shares her water with Dover at the July 4th parade.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Visiting dogs

I knew that visiting people in rehab and nursing homes would be an interesting and rewarding experience, but I wasn't prepared for the joy we all experience as we make our way around a hall or gathering

Dover, of course, loves the attention. He knows when I put a neckerchief on him that life will be getting interesting.

The people we visit are delighted, and will tell us about their dogs and remember days when the dog was always by their sides.

I am extremely moved by people's hands on Dover's head. Tentative hands, enthusiastic hands, playful hands, longing hands, quiet hands. One hand, two hands, a pat on the top, or a ruffle around the ears. Once a man in a wheel chair saw us as we were leaving after a visit and he came tearing down a side hallway - calling out at top voice: "Stop! I want to pet that dog!" Sometimes, when I ask, "Would you like to pet Dover?" a woman might look away, and then her hand will move tentatively towards him, as she reaches quietly and tremblingly to touch his soft fur.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dogs of 2008

Two of our dogs died in 2008. Mungo, the love of my life, aged only 5 years, died suddenly one February night, with no warning, from spleen cancer. Jonah the Paper Dog had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in 2007 and given a short life expectancy, but he outlived Mungo, dying in November, 2008, aged 12, and a year and a half after his diagnosis. He lived on Cheerios, cottage cheese, rice and egg white, a diet we discovered because when he was not able to eat even the very pricey special liver-diet food, he still snarfed up Cheerios from the floor with wild abandon. So we poured his dish full of Cheerios twice a day, and he graced us with more of his life than we had any right to expect.

Dover was born in February 2008, and we fetched him home in April, much to our delight and Jonah's disgust. Dover adored Jonah and was swift to move in and snuggle up, but Jonah considered Dover a cockroach in his life. He tolerated Dover's adoration and taught him how to bring in the morning newspaper, although he continued to be the main paper dog up until the last day of his life.

This blog will have a lot to say about Dover. I knew when I retired I wanted to visit nursing homes with Mungo, but Mungo, first of all, didn't live long enough, and second of all, would have been a dismal failure because one of his goals in life was to eat everything in sight within a nanosecond of spotting the goods - not good manners for a visiting dog.

So Dover now has his CGC (Canine Good Citizenship) and TDI (Therapy Dogs International) certificates, and we do visit nursing homes, currently two, three or four a month. I hope to add a few more soon.

Where I am starting from

I sauntered towards retirement, crossed the line at midnight June 30, 2008, and am now Professor emerita of chemistry. I was a faculty member at Hampshire College from the time it opened in the fall of 1970, and found it to be an extremely rewarding, exciting, and challenging place to be every day.

An essay by Richard Harries (retired Bishop of Oxford) on the BBC’s Religion and Ethics “Thought for theDay” discussed work. He llisted five goals that one might hope for in work - whether it be done for pay, love, or both.
  • work that is fulfilling and uses one’s gifts
  • work that one believes actually does some good for others
  • work that enables one to live reasonably (which begs a whole lot of questions)
  • work that gives one time to be a parent and friend, pursue some leisure activity and serve the wider community
  • work which is recognized and validated by society.
Hampshire College, specifically the School of Natural Science, has offered wonderfully satisfying work - I would even call it vocation - and it has fulfilled all of the criteria listed by Bishop Harries.

In a nutshell, I flunked retirement in the first six months. As a retired teacher, I discovered that I had lost an important intellectual, scientific and social community. My job as a retired faculty member is to find new communities and activities as well as renew old ones as appropriate, fulfilling and useful as my work at Hampshire.