Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown today. For people of the Jewish faith, it is a day of very solemn contemplation and prayer, for fasting and sorrow. It is a day to consider one’s failures, and to bewail them, acknowledging where one went wrong, and how one failed to do his or her duty to the Most High and to his fellow men. It was the day of the scapegoat, the animal that bore the sins of the people into the wilderness. It is still for apology to G-d and remembering errors.

“Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,” to mix liturgical languages.

There is also a sense of being close to the presence of the Most High through worship and prayer. Yom Kippur truly is the holiest of the High Holy Days.

To my Jewish readers, may you have an easy fast, and may you find that your name was inscribed in the Book of Life.


Image from: https://torahportions.ffoz.org/portions-library/weekly-torah/head-of-the-year.html

” . . . a decent respect to the opinions of Mankind requires . . .”

Many of my readers can recite parts of the Declaration of Independence, and most people at all familiar with US history know the bit about “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The first two sentences of the second section are what people think about, argue over, and debate heatedly. Should Jefferson have stuck with Locke’s original “Life, Liberty, and Property?” What is liberty, anyway? What if your pursuit of happiness collides with my happiness? It’s easy to miss the next chunks, especially what comes after the right to abolish any government that infringes on inalienable rights.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The Declaration was drawn up in June of 1776, and ratified on July 1-2.* The shooting had started on April 19, 1775, at Lexington and Concord. The Continental Congress waited over a year before declaring independence from Great Britain. Why? The paragraph above explains why.

It wasn’t easy. People had family in England, in Germany and Holland. Ben Franklin’s son ended up on the Loyalist side. Complaints about the Crown and Parliament’s actions went back to 1765, with the Proclamation Line limiting westward expansion, and the Stamp Act. People in England had every right to want the colonists to pay for their own protection and upkeep, since the folks back home already paid some of the highest taxes in the western world. Ten years had passed from the Stamp Act to “the shot heard round the world.” In that time, the colonists had begun shifting from thirteen independent and culturally different provinces into a block with a common sense of what government ought to do, and ought not to do. Not everyone agreed on everything, and some of the people who “should” have supported independence didn’t because someone they hated did favor breaking from England. Others used the chaos of the revolution to pick up old grudges (the Regulators War in the Carolinas and then the Revolution. British officers were horrified by what the back-borderers would do to each other.)

People would – and will – put up with a lot if they thought things would get better, or if they were just to focused on survival. But once a critical mass of people agreed that enough was enough, then all Dade County broke out and armies came into being. Armies of soldiers, armies of support, armies of clergy to explain why the Scriptures did not prohibit — or even encouraged — overturning an unjust government, armies of people who just stayed as far out of the way as possible.

The next part of the Declaration lists the things the King (and Parliament) had done wrong. If you compare the accusations with the Magna Charta’s 1215 edition and the English Bill of Rights of 1689, you will see that Jefferson and Co drew straight from English history and law. They are arguing as Englishmen that the King has failed to follow the laws that bind him, and thus forced the English people to take matters into their hands to fix things. Because of that:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Or, translated into modern English, “Guys, we tried, we warned you, we did everything we could by the laws we share to keep this from happening. You wouldn’t listen, the king became a tyrant, and so here we are. G-d help us, because we know what’s coming even if we win. Bye.”

*John Adams famously assumed that July 2 would be the date of Independence Day, if the colonists won. Americans being Americans, we went with the Fourth instead.

Citations from the Declaration of Independence are from the National Archives: https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

Hot, Busy, and Blessedly Normal

Blanco, Texas, is a small county-seat town on the Blanco River in the Texas Hill Country. It has a lovely old courthouse and courthouse square, an enormous BBQ place across from the courthouse, a very attractive if modern high school that serves the entire county, and an attractive setting. It is also the center of lavender growing in the state.

Lavender field near Blanco Texas. Fair Use under Creative Commons. Original Source: https://blairhouseinn.com/blog/lavender-fields-tx/

Every year in June, Blanco’s chamber of commerce hosts a Lavender Festival. This includes talks and demonstrations about growing and using lavender, trips to a lavender farm, food and cosmetics made with lavender, lavender-inspired clothing and art and jewelry, other regional products, and “fair food.” You know, frozen lemonade, funnel cake, and other things. (I highly recommend the lavender iced tea. Wow. Mom got the lavender snow cone and it rocked.) The festival centers on the courthouse square, with the talks taking place in a heavily shaded and breezy park just of the square, down toward a branch of the river. The Chamber had shaded tents with large misting fans and seats for those who might start feeling a bit peakéd. Why?

This being Texas and June, it was warm. You know, 93 F with a dewpoint of “ick.” That didn’t stop people from loading up on hot food (and cold food and drinks). However, there was a steady stream of customers for the shade/mister tent, and the hand-fans with the program and vendor list on them sold briskly. I know that I got a touch overwarm, but that’s just something you plan for and prepare for. EMS lurked quietly in a corner of the square, watching out for people who might be in trouble.

The former Court House in Blanco. The festival is on the lawn. Image Source: https://blancotexas.com/the-old-blanco-county-courthouse/

After parking, Mom, Dad and I met Sib and Co. They ate lunch after going riding. The rest of us found the port-a-lets (abundant and well located), then started looking at displays and festival booths. There was a lot of art on display, ranging from fine art photography to paintings to pressed lavender flowers used to make pictures. Jewelry too was common. Hats seemed to be selling well, and of course “things made with lavender” abounded. Mom got some hand lotion and mosquito spray. The spray really does work, and it’s safe for people and pets. I sighed over a few things, eyed walking sticks, giggled at some of the handbags for sale, and entertained fond thoughts of just hooking the car up to the entire sausages-for-sale display (freezers and all) in the food sales section and taking it home.

All the products I looked at were high quality. Most of the vendors were from the Hill Country or San Antonio, so everything that wasn’t clothing or leather came from the region, or close to it. I got a glass hair clip made by a glass-worker from Austin. There are also a lot of goat farms in the Hill Country, so goat-milk products with lavender were available. Wine, olive oil, spice blends, honey and wax products, and other regional ag wares rounded out the offerings. Did I mention lavender stuff? Oh, and pecans. Flavored pecans, roasted pecans, candied pecans, pecan oil, spicy pecans . . . Ahem, where was I? Oh, yes.

The best thing about the Blanco Lavender Festival? It was normal. Blessedly, wonderfully normal. A few people wore masks, but not many. Everyone smiled and seemed to be having a lovely time. Folks pulled toddlers in wagons and wiped ice cream off kids’ mouths, chatted with vendors, sighed about the heat, and clustered in the shade and always found room for one more. Folks with fans waved air at those resting in the shade. In other words, it was normal. No politics, no social distancing reminders, nada. Just people having a good day and grousing about the humidity, which happens to be a seasonal sport in Texas and other parts of the South. It was everything a small-town festival’s supposed to be.

Proceeds from the Blanco Lavender Fest go to the Chamber of Commerce. If you park off-site and take the shuttle buses in, the fee goes to the Fire/EMS Auxiliary. https://www.blancochamber.com/festival-info

Happy Canada Day!

There’s a tempest-in-a-teacup going on up north about should Canada Day be celebrated or be a day of repentance, sackcloth, and ashes. For . . . um . . . doing things that the US, Australia, and others did because at the time it was a good idea and helped people in the long run. Among other terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad things. That completely miss all the very good things in Canadian history, and how much good Canada and Canadian people have brought into the world.

Canada is a beautiful place, with a fascinating history. Yes, it has problems. No, it is not perfect. The national anthem is as hard to sing as is the “Star Spangled Banner,” except that the Canadians start by weeding out most musicians in the first three measures instead of waiting.

Happy Canada Day! Here’s to our neighbor in the north, and here’s hoping that things improve and that Canada returns to being one of the beacons of freedom in the world.

Source: https://cottagelife.com/entertaining/5-canada-day-celebrations-to-check-out-in-ontario/

Memorial Day (Observed)

Despite all the chaos and craziness around us, despite the denigration of the past and of those who died in combat (or of combat related injuries), a lot of Americans choose to honor our military dead on this day. I associate Memorial Day with Rudyard Kipling’s “Recessional,” although in some ways, his point is more applicable to July 4. Kipling’s three part “Song of the Dead,” including the memorable “Price of Admiralty” also fits. Although never a soldier himself, I think he understood more about the cost of war than many people. Even before he lost his son in WWI.

God of our fathers, known of old,
   Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
   Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;
   On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
   Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
   Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
   Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
   In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
   And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

From: “Song of the Dead:” http://www.online-literature.com/kipling/849/

We have fed our sea for a thousand years
And she calls us, still unfed,
Though there’s never a wave of all her waves
But marks our English dead:
We have strawed our best to the weed’s unrest,
To the shark and the sheering gull.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha’ paid in full!

There’s never a flood goes shoreward now
But lifts a keel we manned;
There’s never an ebb goes seaward now
But drops our dead on the sand —
But slinks our dead on the sands forlore,
From the Ducies to the Swin.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha’ paid it in!

We must feed our sea for a thousand years,
For that is our doom and pride,
As it was when they sailed with the ~Golden Hind~,
Or the wreck that struck last tide —
Or the wreck that lies on the spouting reef
Where the ghastly blue-lights flare.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha’ bought it fair!

Anzac Day 2021

Today is Anzac Day, the Australian and New Zealand version of Memorial Day.

‘They shall not Grow Old’. Fair Use under Creative Commons. Image Source: https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/anzac-day/

This year, some of the regional governments seem to feel that commemorations are best kept small and private, instead of allowing people to gather as is proper. Not everyone agrees with this.

Monday is Anzac Day observed. Thank you to all Australians and New Zealanders who served and who are still serving.

When I was in Australia, my parents made a special point to take Sib and I to the war memorial in Sidney. You look down on this statue from above. It is very thought provoking. We also went to the Australian Military History museum in Canberra. I had no idea all the conflicts Australia had contributed troops to – a lot.

The figure in the war Memorial in Sidney. Fair use from: http://www.changesinlongitude.com/australia-military-history-victoria-barracks/

Lest we forget, lest we forget.

Easter – for the Western Church

He is Risen! And this year those of us who celebrate the feast can celebrate together.

Tintoretto (Jacobo Robusti) “The Resurrection of Christ” 1565

One of our local Catholic priests observed that “This has been the longest Lent.” Leaving aside some theology about the life of the believer being a Lenten observance until the Second Coming, if you see Lent as the period before the feast of Easter, he’s right. Many Western churches in the US did not get to celebrate Easter in person in 2020. No sunrise services, no masses, perhaps a clergy-only TV broadcast or a parking-lot service, depending on your state, country, and denomination. This might work for hermits, or those of an anchoritic* persuasion, but not for most Christian denominations, and I dare say not for most believers.

This year, at least where I am, we are having the usual services, with the usual chaos (for the choir at least). Truly, it is good to be here.

(Needs more basses, but that’s true of almost every Western choir doing Russian music.)

*Yes, I’m making “anchorite” into an adjective. At least I’m not verbing it! Happy Easter, for those who celebrate it today.

Green Beer Day

OK, not really. For some this is a day to honor one’s Irish ancestry and heritage, and to eat corned beef and cabbage and potatoes, drink good beer (Guinness, Harp, et al), listen to Irish music, and honor the efforts of an early Christian missionary who is associated with Ireland although he is a Briton. If you are a politician in Boston or New York City, you’d better be seen at an Irish event, or your absence Will Be Noted.

Yes, this is an Orthodox icon of an Irish saint from Britain. Next question?

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Epiphany and Christmas

Because I think we could do with a bit of musical humor to wrap up the Feast of Christmas (Western calendar) and celebrate Christmas (Eastern calendar).

Alas, they left out the verse most often associated with the bass.

“Myrrh is mine/Its bitter perfume/Breathes a life of gathering gloom. Sorrowing, Sighting, Bleeding, Dying/ Sealed in a stone cold tomb.”