30 December 2005

Beyond the Headlights

It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
~ E. L. Doctorow

I would much rather have writer's cramp than writer's block. Unfortunately, the latter has been more in evidence than former for the past few days. Oh, I write every day ~ it is what one is supposed to do to keep the Muse around. But most of what I have put down on paper is drivel that isn't fit to be seen outside the house! And the headlights of my Muse only illuminate far enough for me to see that perhaps someday, some of it may be turned into something beautiful.

I confess I did compose two or three songs over the weekend. Two of the songs that I composed ~ both without titles at present ~ were inspired by the passing remarks of a friend of mine. Aside from the Lay of Life and Loss that I penned with my good friend Sullivan, most of my music is self-expression and melodic therapy, as some who have kindly and patiently listened to my "funeral dirges" will attest. (Mylanta! That was a really long sentence! Should I re-write it again?! No ~ my fingers are cramping up....)

It never ceases to amaze and thrill me what will inspire a song, a poem or a story. Here was my friend, ascending the staircase (literally) and telling me about how she feels when a certain gentleman friend dances. I "just happened" to be sitting at the piano and I laughed and said, "That sounds like a song!" So I wrote one.

Then last night, she was telling me something the same gentleman had said to her. I was again sitting at the piano (what can I say? Music is like breathing, so I sit there as often as life and time permit me) and again I was struck by the sound of the words and the emotion they expressed. I said to her, "That sounds like another song!" And she laughed, and knowing my penchant for "funeral dirges" said, "Yes, but a happy one!" I quickly scribbled the words down and then played around with a melody. Only two verses for both of them, but it is a start and I can work with something more than I can with nothing!
Did I tell you about my other song, Seven? No ~ it is not about the seven deadly sins or the seven Sacraments. But your eyes must be tired and I only have a few minutes left to wrap up, dry the quill, cap the inkwell and get thee to a nunnery ~ or in this case, Adoration and Benediction (I do hope it is in the Mother tongue!!). Ergo ~ I will tell you about Seven some other time. ;o)
Have a safe and blessed New Year's Eve weekend and may 2006 find you one step closer to fulfilling your dreams.

Oremus pro invicem,

23 December 2005

Lo, How a Rose 'Er Blooming

And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, Which shall be to all people. "For unto you is born this day in the city of David A Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, Lying in a manger.
Luke ii. 10-12

It has been a very hectic week between beginning a new job and trying to finish my Christmas shopping and baking. Thank goodness Christmas is not relegated to one day, but to twelve! And Epiphany ~ the first time Christmas presents were actually given ~ buys me some time to really finish the shopping. ;o)

As for baking, I will leave the bulk of that for when I arrive at home with the family. Making gingerbread, Grandma's famous fudge and our traditional boiled custard (surely God's gift to the culinary world!) is so much more fun and sweet to the heart when surrounded by loving family and a thousand twinkling memories.

Since I will be enjoying a peaceful Christmas in the country, I will be away from the snares of email and computers for a few days. I hope that your Christmas is a peaceful one ~ filled with faith, hope and love.

Veni, veni Emmanuel!

14 December 2005

Del Amado

I am my beloved's and my Beloved is mine.
~ Canticle 2:16

Today is the Feast of Saint John of the Cross, by far one of my favorite saints. His biography is incredible and his poetry breathtaking. Read the full text of The Spiritual Canticle.

Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.

Shepherds, you who go
up through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see
him I love most,
tell him I am sick, I suffer, and I die.

Return, dove,
the wounded stag
is in sight on the hill,
cooled by the breeze of your flight.

Happy Feast Day!

Oremus pro invicem,

12 December 2005

Home is Where the Music Is

When a man’s home is born out of his heart and developed through his labor
and perfected through his sense of beauty, it is the very cornerstone of life.
~ Gustav Stickley

Home is a word that conjures many different images. More often than not, “home” is a sanctuary; a place of peace amidst the storms of life; a safe harbour even when those storms rage within, for there is an anchor that keeps one from drifting away. It is snow on the ground outside, a fire in the a fireplace, a big dog on the rug in front of it, a pot of tea on the stove, gingerbread baking in the oven, pen and paper in hand and meeting the loving gaze of one’s Beloved over the heads of children listening enraptured to yet another thrilling verbal enactment of Tolkien or Lewis.

On Saturday, another picture of home was added to the gallery: Studio A. Sitting at the piano, with my drummer and new guitarist (who is one talented player!) and housemate Di for moral support, I had a sense of belonging and homecoming. I was born to be here. I was at peace. And then Mike the engineer’s voice came over my headphones: “We’re rolling.”

I froze. My eyes get twice their normal size and I experienced fully what is meant by the phrase: ‘her heart leapt into her throat.’ I took a deep breath, flexed my fingers and began the opening notes. Halfway through I panicked for no good reason and played the wrong chords. On my own song. Groan. How incredibly stupid is that!? Luckily for all of us, technology came to the rescue and we just played that line over and punched it in.

Note to self: studio time is like God-time: two hours is like a second and a second is like an eternity. Bottom line: two hours is not enough time to walk away with a finished product. Which means going back in a month or two.

For now, I have a CD that I can play in my car. Which is a dream come true for me already.

Oremus pro invicem,

09 December 2005

Chocolate and Fingers

‘Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.
~ William Shakespeare

Flourless Chocolate Cake. The very words make the mouth water and the taste buds grab their forks. This is why God created tongues and the sense of taste. Think chocolate cake only denser. Richer. Darker.

If you are not reaching for your mixer and a jar of Ghirardelli bittersweet cocoa powder or at the least, grabbing your coat and heading to the nearest pastry shop, you either have never tasted a flourless chocolate cake (for which I pity you) or you are dead (and I will pray for you.) Flourless chocolate cake is synonym for decadence. Leisure. Comfort. Pleasure. I’ll stop there lest I scandalize any JQ readers. ;o)

December is the perfect time of year for adventures in baking and as I have been requested to make something chocolate for one the many Advent parties being hosted around these parts, I have decided to attempt to bake a flourless chocolate cake. Lucky reader! Thou shalt be privy to the highs and lows, triumphs and burned pieces of this grand endeavor.

Shall we begin? ;o)

Oremus pro invicem,

08 December 2005

Untainted Honey

MOTHER! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied;
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven's blue coast;
Thy Image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in Thee
Of mother's love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!
~ William Wordsworth

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Being both the Quote Queen and the Dining Diva, what better way to celebrate this great Feast, than with food? :o)

I did some snooping around for recipes and menus applicable to the varying Feasts on the Gregorian Calendar and so far, I can only come up with one that is appropriate for today on a couple of levels: Ciastka Miodowe, or Honey Cakes. These cakes are traditionally served in Poland on the Feast of St. Nicholas, but given that I could not find a dish specifically for today and since Our Lady is considered as "sweet as honey" and my father is Polish, that is enough of a connection and an excuse for me to bake these. :o)

Let me know if you try them!

Oremus pro invicem,

This recipe is taken from the Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton & Helmut Ripperger. (David McKay Company, Inc., New York, ©1951 by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger)

Ciastka Miodowe (Honey Cakes)

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger

Warm the honey slightly and combine with the sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Sift the flour with the soda and spices and stir into the honey batter thoroughly. Let the dough rest overnight. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness; cut out with a cookie cutter. Brush with the slightly beaten white of an egg, press half a blanched almond into each cookie and bake at 375 degrees F. for about fifteen minutes.

07 December 2005

The Bend in the Road

When you encounter difficulties and contradictions,
do not try to break them,
but bend them with gentleness and time.
~ Saint Francis de Sales

Nothing happens by chance and there are no coincidences. "And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good." (Romans 8:28) Now, in light of losing my best and only guitar player to the stress of his workload and other considerations, I find my adherence to this motto wobbling! And to think I was only joking when I said yesterday that he was AWOL! Sigh.

Of course, now I am only half joking. Although it is a great disappointment and I find myself scrambling to find another guitarist, I know that in the end, the one who is sent instead will be sent for a very good reason. And having managed to pack more lives than a cat into a mere *cough* couple of decades, I can take comfort in the few traveling tips I've picked up along the journey:
  1. No matter what path you are on, there is always a bend in it, or an obstacle that forces you to take a different route.
  2. Sometimes it seems like you are heading in the opposite direction of your intended destination, when all of a sudden over the next hill, your quarry rises in front of you once more.
  3. Do not change direction or take a new path on impulse. More often than not, you fall headlong into disaster.
  4. Be silent and listen.

Now, if only He would send me another guitarist! One who can improv and is available in the next three days!

Oremus pro invicem,


06 December 2005

Butterfly Formation

It's all right to have butterflies in your stomache.
Just get them to fly in formation.
~ Robert Gilbert

Five days, one psyched up drummer, one AWOL guitarist, one tentative cellist and one very nervous, I mean, excited, pianist and singer.

You would think that nerves or stage fright would be a thing of the past. I am no stranger to piano competition, nor to the stage. Performing ~ on an actual stage ~ for a small social gathering last Friday night however, showed me that the nerves and shyness that cause my right leg to shake like Elvis has never gone away!

Why is this? When all was said and done, many in the audience Friday evening came up to me afterwards and congratulated me on my performance and expressed their great liking for the music. And yet, I cannot shake the almost paralyzing stage fright that grips my heart each time I play for people other than close friends. Nor the feeling of surprised happiness when people tell me they actually enjoy listening to my music.

Well, it really isn't mine anyhow ~ it belongs to the Lord. May it give Him glory!

Oremus pro invicem,

05 December 2005

Little Rubs & Disappointments

There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere,
and we are all apt to expect too much....
~ Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

Yesterday afternoon, Beth and I went to see the new Pride and Prejudice with much anticipation and not a little skepticism. Would it stand up to the A&E version? Could anyone really replace Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy?

I am glad we decided to see the matinee showing ~ spending $6 as opposed to $9.25 made it a little less painful once we left the theatre. I do not know (or care) what anyone else is saying in the industry, but for Beth and I, A&E is still the best rendition of Austen's classic and Colin Firth reigns supreme as the best portrayal of Mr. Darcy. Although I must say Matthew MacFadyen is exceedingly handsome ~ but then he's a Scotsman and I have never met or seen a Scotsman yet who was "ill-favored." ;)

In some ways, it is not the film's fault. Trying to do justice to such a beloved work of literature in 2 hours instead of A&E's brilliant 6 hours, resulted in much chopping, condensing and too many close ups of Keira Knightly's eyes ~ beautiful I'll grant you, but in a good film, I wouldn't "see" Keira Knightly ~ I'd see Elizabeth Bennet.

Overall, the characters acted very un-English and the timing and delivery of lines was a little off. What can I say? "Art isn't easy." And I spent most of the movie in a cold theatre and not in Elizabeth Bennet's shoes. It did not put me "in the zone." Having said all that, the soundtrack was beautiful (although not period) and certain shots of the English countryside were breathtaking.

In the end, though, Beth and I watched Tapes I and II to get our Colin Firth fix. ;)

In other news, I am looking forward to seeing Narnia this Friday. The previews promise much ~ we shall see if they deliver.

Oremus pro invicem,

01 December 2005

The Beauty of Order

Order is the shape upon which beauty depends.
~ Pearl S. Buck

I was searching online this afternoon for the letters of Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh (not to each other of course; two seperate searches) and I came across the lovielist thing ever: LibraryThing! Did I ever mention I was a bibliophile? Ah yes, well, I am. And LibraryThing? Well, as one user put it: "Introducing me to something like this is like setting an alcoholic adrift on a sea of vodka, in a leaky boat." Amen, brother! :o) Drink up!

30 November 2005

The Lay of Life and Loss

Many readers have asked to see the lyrics of The Lay of Life and Loss. I've posted the first song here. For the full text, go to Sullivan's blog.

Song One: The Wood & the Battlefield
The drums of battle echo in darkness
And sleep eludes my eyes;
The sound of horses pounding past my window
Keeps me awake at night.
Every day they bring them to me
So many men lost to war.
Dying for the sake of dying,
Not knowing what they’re dying for.

Here beneath the Mistress of the Mountain
The witness of my birth;
The trees look on
as death surrounds them,
Mourning the bleeding earth.
On the wind a voice is calling.
Sweetness lingers on the air
As I leave this present darkness
and step into a place more fair.

Whose is the voice that calls me?
Where is the heart I seek?
Where is the valiant man
To make life whole again?

Through the forest
then my footsteps wander.
The din of battle fades away
in the peaceful web
of snow and branches where once I used to play.

In this time, when men are different
Life is death well met
Cup bestowed by queen at table
And sacrifice without regret.

Fraujinondei fairguni sa bairka
Tulgus triggwa standiþ bandwa bairhta.

[Mistress of the mountain, the birch,stands strong and faithful, a bright token.]

© 2005 Silver Scroll Productions

29 November 2005

The Dining Diva: Autumn on a Plate

The qualities of an exceptional cook are akin to those of a successful tightrope walker:
an abiding passion for the task,
courage to go out on a limb,
and an impeccable sense of balance.
~ Bryan Miller

*I wrote this little tidbit about a month ago, and sent it out via email to a few friends. Thought new visitors might like to read it.*

12 October 2005
Having weathered the storms of falling fabric and elastic twisters, I made it home at 4:10. Thankfully, the night before, I had enough energy to stuff and wrap 20 to 30 dates with an excellent manchego cheese and bacon and cut up thick slices of prosciutto for the appetizers. They were ready to pop in the oven 10 minutes before my guests arrived. Now all I had to do was start the pumpkin soup, make the salad and figure out how to cook the pork tenderloin.

All my housemates were out for the evening and while I was alone in throwing together a six course dinner for ten, I was glad for the peace and quiet to get things started. I began by melting butter and heating up olive oil in my blue stock pot. Quickly, I chopped up 1 medium onion and 2 celery stalks (with leaves attached). I added this to the melted butter and olive oil and while that was sautéing, I began setting the table with my damask plum tablecloth and gold damask napkins. I became so enthralled with the artistic arrangement of china, crystal; and alas! mismatched silverware ~ it took me awhile to notice an odd, acrid smell issuing from the kitchen. Hmmm ~ maybe burnt celery and onions will add a smoky, autumn taste to the soup!

I went ahead and added the flour and poultry seasoning and then almost panicked when I realized I needed 6 cups of chicken broth and doubt and fear seized me did I even have 6 cups of broth!? A quick look in the pantry lowered my blood pressure and I resolved to stock up on, ahem, stock in the future.

Once I added the broth, I left it alone to come to a boil and proceeded to slice up the pork tenderloin. The recipe said to place it between plastic wrap and pound the heck out of it. But I felt this was unjust to such already tender meat, and anyway, there were four gentlemen in the dinner party ~ all with hearty appetites ~ and serving them thin slices of meat seemed like a dirty trick.

After I had sliced up the pork, I checked on the soup, adding pumpkin puree spoonful by spoonful, whisking it into the broth, and then adding the heavy cream and nutmeg at the end. By this time, it was already 5:30. As some guests have a knack for showing up early, I placed the soup on very low on the back burner and sprinted for the shower.

True to form, I was standing in my bedroom not quite ready to be seen in public and the doorbell rang. “Well, it's six o'clock, not six-thirty,” I rationalized “and so I'm not going to panic and risk tearing my stockings ~ whoever it is will just have to wait.” By the time I was completely put back together, I opened the door ~ and no one was there! So I left the door open in case they were hanging around the corner and finished setting the table.

Six-ten. I began to panic ~ just enough to make things feel normal. I still had to make the salad and sauté the pork. And all of a sudden my brain turned to mush ~ I didn't know what to do next. Then the doorbell rang again and Julie and Stephen and Christopher came in. Their beautiful gift of wine pushed a new panic button ~ I had been so focused on the food, I had completely forgotten what I was going to serve my guests to drink! Elisabeth was bringing good, imported beer that was not "the "lite" rice water which passes for beer in the major\US breweries" as Dom Capisco put it. Mental note to self: do not forget the beverages!

I had been very smug with myself the night before when I printed out the menu cards and place cards ~ now to my horror, I realized I still needed to print out yet another page of them. The printer seeming to take an hour to print out one page. The table was now complete. I went back to the stove, turned on the oven and stuck the dates and prosciutto in the oven and began melting butter for the pork.

Dom Capisco came in with exquisite Spanish wines as I was pulling out the dates and flipping them over ~ he was duly impressed ~ with both the idea and the amount of work it had taken to do them up. I love it when I find a recipe that looks and tastes wonderful and people think you really did a lot of work to make it that way! The prosciutto was another story. It quickly became a pain in my pork. Thankfully, Kristy and Jeffrey showed up and Kristy soon became the prosciutto/pancetta crisp extraordinaire. Meanwhile, I began browning apples in the melted butter and sugar.

I had two to three different things going on the kitchen by this point ~ Elisabeth had come, bringing the promised non-lite rice water beer and two scrumptious desserts ~ a delectable flan (which we discovered is Jeffrey's favorite dish ever) and apple tartlets. She was pressed into service to make the arugula, pear and manchego salad, while Marie, who had also magically appeared, was given a knife, onions and apples and set to work making the cran-apple relish for the soup. Note to guests: if you ask to help, you will!

A word to foodies - wise, otherwise and stupid (me being in the latter category): read the recipe at least a week beforehand. A) you make sure to have all the right ingredients; B) nothing comes as surprise when you're actually in the middle of cooking. The recipe said I needed to set the apples aside and start cooking the pork in a separate dish. Thinking that I was going to be putting everything in one pan, I had used the biggest one I had for the apples. After a few minutes of staring blankly at the pan with the offending apples in it, I finally plated them, washed out the pan and melted more butter for the pork.

Meanwhile, we had cleared the kitchen of men and sent them with the appetizers into the living room ~ although a couple of them continued to lounge in the doorway to the kitchen. I don't know what it is about that doorway ~ every party I've hosted, it always gets clogged. Perhaps it is the comforting warmth of made-from-scratch food and the craziness and laughter that draws them in and keeps them there.

Surprisingly, it didn't take long to cook the pork ~ although it took longer than the required two minutes ~ I didn't want my guests to eat at my house and then die afterwards! Making the sauce for the pork was another matter. I had to melt more butter (anything less than the real thing is just wrong!) and chop more onions (green ones this time) and then came the moment I had been waiting for all evening ~ the Calvados ~ apple brandy. I didn't even look at the recipe by this time ~ I just poured. And then poured some more. It smelled absolutely divine! But it also took forever to thicken up. So, I decided to start the dinner ~ I was doing it in courses anyway. Dom Capisco blessed the food, cook and eaters (in Latin of course) and Elisabeth and Jeffrey helped me serve the soup. After all that, we almost forgot the relish! And that would have been a tragedy ~ it added a wonderful texture and flavor to the soup.

I kept an eye on the sauce but was still able to enjoy the pumpkin soup ~ which was such a hit, most everyone asked for seconds! Definitely a keeper! While, serving more soup, I checked on the sauce, stirring in heavy cream and nutmeg and setting it on low. Then we served the salad ~ to which Elisabeth again came to the rescue, helping me to plate it and serve it. Again, another keeper ~ the texture and dryness of the arugula went perfectly with the Spanish wines.

Then it was time to plate the pork. Alas, the chef had gotten tired of waiting for the pork to cook, and so had stopped short of cooking all the slices. This is not a good idea. Mental note number 2 ~ next time,. cook the pork the night before and then you just have to heat it up. All the gentlemen had two slices and most of the ladies had one. Ah well, you live and learn! It was worth the wait ~ the sauce was even more divine ~ is that possible? ~ than the soup. But hey ~ it had alcohol in it ~ so it had to be!

The flan was smooth, creamy and like a feather on the lips. And to top it off, my first attempt at Brandy Alexanders was worthy of Waugh and Antoine! And this without the crème de cacao ~ instead, we substituted Hershey's chocolate syrup! Yes, I know. Don't say it. They were good none the less. I didn't have four ~ but the two I did have went merrily down the little red lane!

This morning, as I sit here writing and sipping my Earl Grey, with a pile of china, crystal and silverware waiting to be washed, I am pleased with how everything turned out in the end ~ craziness and all. What's a dinner party without a little bit of panic mixed with a dash of forgetfulness and by-the-seat-of-your-pants substitutions? And I realize that I'm never more happy and fulfilled as when I'm feeding those I love.

Until the next dinner party, bon appetit!

The Menu
Parmesan-Stuffed Dates wrapped in Bacon (I substituted manchego for the parm)
Pancetta Crisps with Goat Cheese and Pear
Pumpkin Soup with Chili-Cran Relish
ArulaArugula Salad with Chanterelles, Pears, Parmesan and Cider Vinaigrette (again, I substituted manchego for the parmesan)
Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Calvados and Apple Cider

28 November 2005

Moments of Thanksgiving

The happiest moments of my life
have been the few which I have passed
at home in the bosom of my family.
~Thomas Jefferson

Alas! No Thanksgiving culinary adventures to wax eloquent about. The family opted to go out for dinner this year. It was a lovely, relaxing four-day weekend nonetheless for we were together. And that is what is truly important, is it not? To be together, no matter where “there” is. At the very least, one must be thankful that one has a family to go home to. There are so many who do not have anyone at all.

Each time I return to visit, it is a little more difficult to leave. I cannot complain ~ the Muse has been very good to me here in the suburbs of D.C. But there is nothing quite like endless rolling hills, open fields and the sound of cows lowing softly close by for inspiring her. And I made a discovery ~ there are more stars in the country night sky than there are in the city. And the night sky itself is a richer, deeper shade of bluish black.

As far as the Muse is concerned, she liked her jaunt into the country very much and handed me two verses of a new song. It came to me as I was running my fingers randomly across the keys. What emerged was the sound of a clock bonging the hour. Quite effective, if I do say so! ;) We shall see where it goes.

I pray that your Thanksgiving weekend was also relaxing and healing.

Oremus pro invicem,

23 November 2005

Half Agony, Half Hope

I can listen no longer in silence.
I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach.
You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
~ Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen's Persuasion

Last night I tried in vain to cajole a song out of MacBeth. There were, indeed, some very good lines (you think?!) that lent themselves to be put in song. But he was as elusive as that "damned spot!" (pardon William's French).

So I put MacBeth away and just sat down and let my fingers talk to me. What came out was Austen. Jane Austen. Probably my favorite of all authors ~ yes, above Lewis, Waugh and Tolkien ~ go ahead and call me a traitor! ;o) I'm a girl ~ and I enjoy being one!

Only one verse came out so far, and then I wisely closed the piano up and went to bed to sleep on it. I hope I remember the melody! :P It is a little different style for me. We shall see how it turns out. I have not decided whether I will draw from one specific Austen novel, or from several ~ as Sullivan and I drew from several Old English and Germanic stories and poems for The Lay of Life and Loss. I am heading down to visit my folks and siblings for Thanksgiving, and will hopefully have a chance to work on it while I'm there.

That being said, I will be away from internet access until next Monday. May God bless you and your family!

Oremus pro invicem,

21 November 2005


I have learned, that if one advances confidently
in the direction of his dreams,
and endeavors to live the life he has imagined,
he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Saturday was a success! We had several performers: a comic monologue; poetry recitations (Sullivan being one of them); drums, piano, guitar and soloists. My friend Natalie sang a few Broadway showtunes that brought down the house! I knew she could dance ~ but her voice! I hope she uses this God-given talent often and well.

For interested foodies, the spread was a hit as well: Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates; Pita Pizzas; Italian-Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms; Antipasto; Bruschetta, Mini Sweet Potato Pies and Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake. To wash it down we served Cranberry Punch and Chaucer's Mead (which went very nicely with our operetta).

As for the Lay of Life and Loss ~ all those nights staying up until 2 am; all the re-writes and revisions; all the tea and hot chocolate ~ paid off Saturday night. Sullivan and I gave the best performance ever (wretched dress rehearsals equal great performance) and the "adoring audience" (my friends) clapped and clapped and clapped some more. The programs Sullivan designed and printed out were beautiful, detailing the story and giving the audience settings to help stoke their imaginations.

My friend Diane, who now lives in New York and knows "people in the business" has asked for a copy of my CD once it's recorded. I must confess that I am a bit overwhelmed! It never ceases to amaze or amuse me that people actually enjoy the music I write. Another friend, Dave, told me that my music put him "in the zone" right away ~ which encouraged me greatly as that was one of the characteristics of a good songwriter that John Jennings had listed last Wednesday: putting the hearer "there" immediately.

Now I am feeling a little after-party let down. So much of my time the past few weeks was poured into either preparing for the party, shopping for the party, writing music for the party or cooking for the party, that now I am at a loss. But not for long! The next item on my list: catching up on all that sleep I lost! And preparing to spend Thanksgiving with my family ~ hopefully a culinary adventure worth writing about!

Oremus pro invicem,

17 November 2005

At Peace with the Precipice

Wherever a man may happen to turn,
whatever a man may undertake,
he will always end up by returning to the path
which nature has marked out for him.
~ Goethe

Last night was....powerful. Incredible. Sweet and liberating. John Jennings is a talented songwriter and a funny and approachable person. Humble, sweet and open. Neophyte though I am when it comes to being in the studio and playing in front of a crowd of strangers, I felt like I was at home among all the songwriters who were there. It felt good to raise my hand with them when asked who in the audience were actual songwriters.

As I told John when I spoke with him after the workshop, I have been writing music since God was a boy. :-) Mostly wretched pieces that no one will ever hear (thank goodness!) But as I have said before, I must write ~ I have no choice. I told him this and he said that it was a good sign. And he gave me his address so that I can send him my CD once it is recorded to get his critique. After so many years of treating my own music either like it was nothing, or a precious child that could no wrong, it is time to let it out on its own and speak for itself. As John said, "let the song do the work."

Sullivan went with me and we both talked about it incessantly on the metro ride back. We were both encouraged and inspired ~ he to write more poetry (as words are his music) and I to continue to compose.

"You are leading over such precipices that, when I look at them, I am filled with fright, but at the same time I am at peace."

Taking a deep breath, I am at last ready to make the jump and return to the path that has been marked out for me from the beginning. This is my gift and my destiny. May He who planted the seed bring it to fruition.

Oremus pro invicem,

16 November 2005

A Musical Rut

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.
~ M. Scott Peck

Sullivan and I did a run through of the Trilogy last night. He had re-written some of the lines in Song Two and I was unhappy with parts of the melody in Song One.

His re-rendering was absolutely breath-taking and made the story come alive so much more. I could hear the clang of steel on steel and see the earth become "stained red with our blood." Very moving.

After staring at Song One for awhile and singing it a couple of times, we figured out what was wrong and making me unhappy and now all is right and sounds as it should. To hear the whole piece at once is incredible. It is difficult to imagine being here, when four weeks ago it was only an idea. I wish you could hear it. Perhaps if all goes well on the tenth of December, you might!

Only three days to go until the moment of truth!

Oremus pro invicem,

14 November 2005

Sailing Into My Dreams

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
~ Mark Twain

The Trilogy is complete. Now Sullivan and I are ironing out the details and practicing our respective solos and the duet. Saturday night, I went to the Guitar Center and purchased a boom stand. Now I look like a real musician. :-) Singing into the microphone took some getting used to ~ but by Sunday, I felt more comfortable and was able to relax and just sing.

Our Second Annual Saint Cecilia’s Evening of Music and Drama is this Saturday, and for the first time, I feel nervous about attending my own party! This piece is so much more complex than I have ever attempted before. It is an incredible story and it has been an honor to set these beautiful languages and words to music. Please pray that the “premier” goes well!

Thank you for all the supportive comments! May we all continue to “sail away from the safe harbor” and live out our dreams!

Oremus pro invicem,

11 November 2005

Surrendering to Creativity

The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.
~ Julia Cameron

It had become my story and I was getting in the way of the telling. Or rather, perhaps I was telling the story, without first really listening to it, living it, breathing it, desiring it, imagining it, seeing it, and making it my own.

Either way, something had to give. And what better way for that to occur than by letting go ~ surrendering? I had to stop seeing this song from the outside. I had to see this as someone's story ~ not just words or notes on a page, but a life, a heart, a soul. I had to smell the mix of blood and gunpowder, snow and soil; hear the sound of the North wind and feel the icy sting of snow-encrusted branches. I had to become my character and experience the pain, confusion, hope and fear and longing that she was experiencing.

So I did. I relaxed my whole being and dreamed about what was happening around me. Touched the last leaf of autumn and saw my own icy breath in the clear air of winter. Walked through a forest lost in snow's embrace and climbed a mountain to survey the ruins of a castle.

Now Song One of the trilogy is almost complete. I am hoping and praying that Sullivan can "hear" the last two lines of the last stanza ~ for the end of this chapter is all that eludes me.

Speaking of, Sullivan graciously mentioned our project on his blog, which gives a better picture of its conception. I must say, it has been a breathtaking adventure to partner with someone who is (almost) a male version of me. :-) Sullivan combines both a scholarly knowledge of languages and words and a melancholic creative side. He is also much more left-brained than I, which an artist definitely needs to be at times, and which I am almost never!

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!

Oremus pro invicem,

10 November 2005

The Truant Pen

Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite:
"Fool!" said my Muse to me,
"look in thy heart and write!"
~ Philip Sidney

Gilbert spaketh too soon ~ Sullivan pointed out some inconsistencies and problems the new song created for our characters. So we took the fourth re-write and revised it, salvaging some of the verses and completely obliterating others. Sigh. Well, didn't someone once say that art is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration? Of course, Plato said that art created by means of reason and technical ability alone pales in comparison before the art of inspired beings.

Songs Two and Three of the trilogy are like that ~ inspired. Sullivan and I talked about it last night as we were trying to pry a verse out of our sleep-deprived brains. We both felt like our songs (he wrote Song Two) had been written through us not by us. Almost as if we were visited not only by the Muse but by the characters in our songs, who said - here is our story - now you tell it to others.

Song One is not like that. It is just taking more work, more hours, and more questions like "Hey - what rhymes with strong?" and "What was her story again? Why is she like this and what the heck is she thinking and feeling now?" The most difficult part is figuring out how to tell the story with beauty and simplicity and in harmony with the other two songs. It should feel like one complete story ~ not three separate, unrelated songs we just felt like singing.

Enter Hero from offstage: A Song Writer's Workshop at The Strathmore! To which I have reserved a ticket. It will be a breath of fresh air to be with other aspiring song writers and a pro. Who knows? My lead may yet find her voice before the premiere on the 19th!

Oremus pro invicem,

09 November 2005

Recourting the Muse

I would especially like to recourt the Muse of poetry,
who ran off with the mailman four years ago,
and drops me only a scribbled postcard from time to time.
~ John Updike

Deo Gratias! Last night, during my Holy Hour, the Muse knelt beside me once again and as always picked the time when I had stupidly left my journal in the car. So I had to excuse myself to the Lord and run out to the lobby and scrounge for pen and paper. Seven verses later, I had the fourth revision of Song One of the trilogy completed. I then knelt again in thanksgiving, promised to come see Him again later in the week, and rushed home to introduce my new lyrics to the piano.

It was a tentative and shy meeting at first, but then they really took to each other! My partner in crime ~ Sullivan to my Gilbert ~ is coming over tonight to work on the whole piece and then we shall see how this new song stands up to another's ears. An artist is always his own worst critic: either too harsh on his "children" or too fawning. I err more towards the former than the latter ~ but I have my moments of proud parenthood as well.

Whatever comes of it, I pray that this work be sung and heard to the greater glory of God. I am only His instrument, trying to multiply the gifts He has given me.

Oremus pro invicem,

08 November 2005


Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations,
the latter (like the river banks) forcing the spontaneity into the various forms
which are essential to the work of art or poem.
~ Rollo May

At times, one questions whether one has any gifts or talents or strengths. Today is one of those days. The Muse has left me. She had been quite generous with me ~ inspiring me to compose three pieces in roughly two to three weeks. But one of them has been giving me a pain in the region of both my base and treble clefs.

That one song has been through three rewrites already. But last night, I began to write music that I was at least not disgusted with. This is a step in the right direction. This morning, I slept in and had to drive in to work ~ which was a blessing, becuase then I was able to listen to Loreena McKennit's The Visit. It helped me to gather my scattered thoughts and refocus on the big picture of what this song is trying to convey. Hopefully that will translate tonight into more music and lyrics that match.

Sancta Cecilia, ora pro nobis!

Oremus pro invicem,

04 November 2005

Eminent Domination

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned -- this is the sum of good government.
~ Thomas Jefferson

The debate over Eminent Domain rages on. In Oakland, California, those who believe in private property have suffered a defeat: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,174519,00.html.
Did I fall asleep a few years ago and wake up in a Communist country? Please tell me this is a nightmare!

But I know it is not a nightmare. It is reality. It is politics. It is the new "Tea Tax." A govenment autority is interpreting a law in an unjust manner and tighteniing the screws on the little man. The one honest thing by the city council in ths article, was Larry Reid: "Sears is our only major retailer," said Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid. "We have a responsibility in terms of being able to keep Sears in downtown Oakland for what we hope will be a strong viable retail base."

Translation: Oakland City Council members are in the pocket of a major retailer. It happens all too often. A few years ago, in my hometown, when we fought (unsuccesfully) our officials against the building of a major dump that would take in all of New York's trash as well as our own, we knew that money was being handed under the table, but we couldn't prove it.

This is a little different in that there is no tea to dump in protest. What weapons do we have? The election process? Too slow and as our group found out, too late ~ the damage had already been done.

I'm afraid I don't know what the next step is. Welcome to the Brave New World of 1984.

02 November 2005

Breaking the Shell

The shell must break before the bird can fly.
~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

This morning was absolutely gorgeous! A real autumn day ~ crisp, with a slight chill, a drop of sunshine and just windy enough to rustle the leaves. I love Autumn!

Yesterday, I alluded to the fact that I struggle with Fear. It is a battle I think most of us face. Fear is a tough enemy and it takes many battles and many defeats before one can really know oneself and the enemy.

But what kind of life is that which is lived in fear? To cower in shadows; to whimper in anxiety; to crawl in despair and defeat ~ these are not the actions of a life well-lived. We were created to walk upright ~ straight and tall! Looking our defeats and challenges dead in the eye and give it our best.

Finally, I am breaking out of the shell of fear that for years I mistakenly thought protected me from the cruel and unforgiving outside world. And it did to some extent. That is the way of all things under his dominion - enough truth to snag you and then the trap snaps shut on your heart. One thing you learn along the journey is that defense tactics may numb you to the pain, but over time, they also numb you to joy and ectasy.

I have decided that the joy and rapture I experience outweighs the pain and suffering I must sometimes endure. That is part of being alive. And I thank God for this great gift.

Oremus pro invicem,

01 November 2005

Hear a Little Music

I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices.
But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important
to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums.
I just couldn't write anything without hope in it.
~ Oscar Hammerstein

A man should hear a little music,
read a little poetry,
and see a fine picture every day of his life,
in order that worldly cares may not obliterate
the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Art has the power to either lift the soul to higher things or drag it through the muck that is the underbelly of humanity. This comes to mind because last night was a slow one ~ only one trick-or-treater all evening ~ perhaps they came around Saturday evening instead. After playing the piano for a couple of hours, I succumbed to the siren call of cable and watched Perry Mason. And then Law and Order. And then Without a Trace. It was after midnight when I finally turned off the technological bong.

The subject matters of both Law and Order and Without a Trace, while instructive, did not uplift my soul. They showed me the dregs of humanity; they showed me what happens when human beings are selfish, imprudent, intoxicated, immoral, unloved or misguided. There were actions and there consequences to those actions. But there was no real resolution. Only despair and defeat. We caught the bad guy, but there was no real peace afterwards, no reason to hope, no redemption, no beauty. Only the ugliness the perpetrator had left behind.

As an artist, it causes me great sadness that my creative brothers and sisters settle for mediocrity and crumbs when I know they are capable of genius and feasting. Why do so many settle for less than Truth? Beauty? Peace? Goodness? Perhaps for many artists ~ whether they be painters, singers, dancers, actors or writers ~ there is pressure to be avant-garde, and shocking. The more disgusting, ugly and soul-shattering, the better. One only has to look at the art exhibitions in New York and film and television award ceremonies in Hollywood in recent decades to see this disturbing trend.

"Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?”
So what is this trend that we are seeing - art imitating life or life imitating art? I believe that art is a relationship and that art and life imitate each other. And the trend we see on our televisions and in print media is indicative of something deeper, something hidden, a cancer so hideously ugly that it cannot remain hidden for long ~ an ugliness that comes out in their art. This monstrous thing is Fear.

Fear is a heavy burden that many of us carry. A daily battle we always seem to lose. This is art imitating life. Of this I have daily proof. If I am feeling depressed or sad, my music is depressed and sad and it is near to impossible to compose a happy melody. And judging by the offerings on my television screen, I can only imagine the depth of despair and fear that the writers of these shows have to live with on a daily basis.

My heart aches for them. It’s a painful existence. I continue to struggle with certain emotional and artistic bogeymen of my own. But I am a person of hope. And I believe that ugliness is a negative ~ the absence of beauty. That to eradicate the ugly, we must put in its stead the beautiful. Only by "hearing a little music" can we hold on to our sanity. Only by doing this, do we artists remain true to ourselves and to our gift.

In the name of the best within you,
do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst.
In the name of the values that keep you alive,
do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly,
the mindless in those who have never achieved his title.
Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture,
an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads.
Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark,
in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all.
Do not let the hero in your soul perish,

in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach.
Check your road and the nature of your battle.
The world you desired can be won,
it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.
~ Ayn Rand

31 October 2005

A Small Drop of Ink

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling, like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
~ Lord Byron

Why do I write? Because I cannot help myself. To write ~ whether it be songs, poetry, or prose ~ is like breathing. I have no choice in the matter. If I do not write, I languish. If I do not write, thoughts become jumbled, perceptions become twisted and my soul wanders aimlessly ~ lost and bewildered. Therefore I write.

Why do I blog? I have never blogged before, although I have read many of them ~ many quite good and some earth-shattering in their ability to change the world ~ or at least make a few people stop and think. I hope and pray that this blog will be one of those. I am not so egotisitical to think that my little scribblings will "peirce your very soul", but if one person out there reads my ink spots and walks away more thoughtful, or kinder or more at peace, then my pen has done its job for the day.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ M. D'eigh