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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reformation Day……...

 happens to be memorialized on the same day that  plastic pumpkins, bed-sheet ghosts, glittery witches, and even the terrifying electric bats are unleashed the world over in honor of All Hallows Eve. Meanwhile, perhaps the occasional Renaissance reenactor gone a-monk will nail a provocative piece of parchment to a perfectly good door to stand out among the crowd. But is there a deeper meaning to all this? Hopefully we’ll be able to fish a couple things for tonight, while the pumpkin-bearers and protesters alike are hitting the winding highways and byways, adorned in feathered hats and knickers, searching the universe for milky ways and snickers!

    So we might as well begin at the beginning: what are my personal views about Reformation Day? As a Catholic, I naturally won’t be baking a cake to celebrate the division of Christendom, but I will grant that some good things came about a result of the turmoil. Martin Luther, initially, had some valid points with regards to corruption in the Church and the sale of indulgences. He might even have become a great reforming saint had he remained an obedient son of the Church instead of taking off to start his own. But, as I see it, the gentleman was a little manic about seeing himself as “unworthy” and therefore felt it necessary to rewrite doctrines as he saw fitting and proper. Two prime examples are Sola Fides and Sola Scriptura.

    As it is, regarding “Faith Alone”, Catholicism teaches, and has always taught, that we could never “earn” our salvation without the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, whom we must accept as our Lord and Savior. However, we must continue to work out our salvation day by day, through our actions as well as our words. The greatest of the theological virtues is love, and we must show that through our deeds, or otherwise our faith is really dead. Luther could not bring himself to believe that anything he did could be worth anything at all, and therefore he believed that the human race was totally depraved. Our only hope for salvation was to have our sins covered over, like a dung heap covered with snow. This is in conflict with the Catholic belief that human beings can be transformed through the grace of Christ and our works do have value. The result was that he had a hard time getting his Lutheran followers to continue with their good works at various intervals.

    As for “Scripture Alone”, Luther was, ironically, advocating an idea that is nowhere stated in the scriptures. Again, Catholicism has always placed great importance on the Scriptures. Catholics were the ones who comprised the canon of Scripture, and the Liturgy of the Word takes us through the Biblical journey every Sunday at mass. However, the Church also emphasizes the belief in Sacred Tradition, the truths that have been passed down to us outside the written word, and the format in which the Scriptures were preserved before they were written down. In my opinion, there are any number of things Luther could have done to be helpful without ever having to break away from the Church, including advocating higher literacy levels in Europe, emphasizing the need to make full use of the printing industry, and encouraging accurate translations of the Bible by going through the right channels.

    None of these efforts at improvement would have required dismembering Christendom and starting a chain reaction of bloodshed and persecutions of which both sides were guilty. Even Martin Luther seemed to be a bit disillusioned with some of his own “extra curricula activity” towards the end of his life. Nevertheless, there were several positive notes of which Reformation (even though I hesitate to call it a “Reformation” since it actually shattered the structure instead of reformed it!) set into play:


1. The Catholic Church was forced to face up to its own faults and corruption, as well as going the extra mile to better explain doctrines formerly taken for granted, culminating in the Council of Trent.

2. Catholics and Protestants alike gained many martyrs who showed an example of Christian fearlessness in the face of death for their beliefs, from the Catholic 40 Martyrs of England and Wales to the Presbyterian Wigtown Martyrs of Scotland.

3. The different Protestant denominations developed their own distinct traditions, customs, and contributions, ranging from hymnody to garmentry to literature, a special dedication to the written word and a lively expression of religion.

4. Without the Reformation, the misplaced Protestants dissenters of England would never have felt the need to make the long ocean voyage to establish many of the 13 American Colonies in hopes of attaining religious freedom for themselves, serving as a type of genesis for the USA.

5. Religious diversity meant that religious toleration was bound to come about sooner or later and that people had to learn how to walk the thin line of respecting another person’s beliefs without abandoning their own.
   

    So, for better or for worse, Reformation Day is a day that has unquestionably affected the world. Of course, I personally hope that, generations down the line, Christians will have cause to celebrate “Reunification Day”, when we all are able to iron out our differences and unite as a formidable force in an increasingly irreligious world.  And yes, I do hope it will be with the Pope as shepherd of the flock and keeper of the keys, just as I believe that this way Christ intended it when made Peter head of the apostles. Until then, let’s hope we can unify through out commonalities and respect our differences on Reformation Day and all others.


A perfectly good door! 
   



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

British Music......

is something that I have long been a lover of. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the British Invasion, believe it or not. Personally, I think the guy who pulled the plug on the ancient Sir Paul McCartney cavorting with the decrepit Bruce Springsteen should be knighted as a servant of the public good! But aside from all that (especially since I think popular opinion would be against me on that one…), below are some of my favorite pieces of music that remind me strongly of the British character and spirit.

“The Three Ravens”
    
    Few songs convey so much evocative power for me as the rendition of this piece at the end of Simon Schama’s History of Britain. The lyrics, dating back to the Middle Ages, tell the story of three ravens observing the corpse of a slain knight with the intent of devouring it. However, they are prevented from doing so by his hawks, his hound, and the knight’s former lover, who comes to bury him before dying herself. Paired with a hauntingly intense tune, the very fact that it does not mention Britain directly serves to transform it into an anthem of the cultural bloodstream of the British. It is an organic ballad grown out of a rich folk tradition, welded by various peoples, and stamped with the mark of a tempestuous past. Made even more engrossing by the video clips of knights riding to slay Thomas Becket, a statue of Robert de Bruce mounted proudly on his steed, a great cathedral with light filtering through the stained-glass windows, wild ocean waves crashing on a dark-sanded coast, and Winston Churchill giving his immortal “V for Victory” sign, Simon Schama’s choice of a theme rings with a quiet patriotism grounded in historical turbulence.

“A Man’s a Man for All That”
    
    As an American, this song can’t help but strike a chord. Ian Bruce’s rough and rousing Scottish lilt makes it all the more poignant. Too often, with memories of our revolution dancing in our heads, we will identify Britain as the great enemy of liberty, inextricably immersed in the class system and in bondage to her own straight-laced complacency. But this piece reveals the moving and the shaking that rocked the social order of Britain during the Enlightenment and afterwards, challenging shallow logic that caused men to shun other men based on rank and inspiring our Founding Fathers to take their own stand. The ripple effect, started by liberty-loving Brits, altered the course of world history towards one of greater equality, brotherhood, and plain good sense. Whether rich or poor, noble or commoner, a man is only what he makes of himself and how well he does the work at hand, and he has the right to be judged accordingly.

“The Gael”
   
    I may not be a major fan of Dougie MacLean, but this composition is a noteworthy exception. Used as the theme for the film The Last of the Mohicans, I am always drawn by the haunting depth of the melody that has all the simplicity of a traditional bagpipe tune and all the complexity of a choral piece as different instruments are added and the score builds. It seems to contain both an ominous lament and a rousing call to battle, telling the story of the Scottish influence that permeated every aspect of British military life with Gaelic culture. With the Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards taking command on this one, it’s sheer majesty. While Dougie MacLean may serve as an occasional poster-child for the “Yes” Campaign and The Last of the Mohicans seemed bent of painting most of the British characters as monsters, I can’t help but think that beneath the surface, “The Gael” is a very British piece indeed. If you’re catching the trend, the paradox just assures that this is so.

“The Shepherd’s Carol”
   
    The Brits are generally at their best during a crisis or at Christmastide. It’s an undisputed fact of life. This carol demonstrates the latter with its simplicity that touches the heart and beauty that astonishes. Performed enchantingly by King’s College Choir, It is an Anglican hymn and yet strikingly Catholic in its manner of devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since England was long ago designated “Our Lady’s Dowry”, this is no great surprise. As I have long suspected, in spite of themselves, the British will always have an element of Catholicism running below the cultural surface. In this piece, it is the shepherds who tell the Lady their story of keeping watch on a wintry evening, being blinded by a miraculous star, and being called out by a heavenly voice. Then they obediently go to offer their lives, hopes, and selves to the son of the virgin. As the masterful choral arrangement concludes, one gets an infused sense of the British religious heritage that has defined her and influenced the world.

“Scots Wha Hae”
   
    No, I’m not kidding. Let the Nats bellow it as they will; let the masses call this the greatest paradox of them all; but I’m calling this song British, through and through. It can’t be anything less because it symbolizes the British fighting spirit and refusal to submit to tyranny. Robert Burns was a product of that spirit, in all its forms. Just as he could revel in past Scottish victories against English aggression and rail about the injustices of the British establishment, so he could rally the British people in time of war and potential invasion, stating that “never but by British hands maun British wrangs be righted”. It was said that “Scots Wha Hae” was written during a night ride through a thunderstorm. This would make sense, as the beat is rollicking and words are pithy and powerful like a lightening bolt. They tell of Robert de Bruce’s speech to his men before the Battle of Bannockburn, exhorting them to fight while at the same time giving them the option to leave if they dare to fill “a coward’s grave.” The final lines demonstrate the lengths to which men have been willing to go for freedom. These sentiments fit well with both Scottish and British identities. 



 (A version of this article was posted on "Open Unionism": http://www.openunionism.com/british-musical-classics-as-seenheard-from-over-the-pond/)



King's College Choir

Monday, October 28, 2013

Parson Weems......

was the author of the famous, near-hagiographical account of The Life of Washington that was so beloved by Abraham Lincoln in his youth. I was given a copy, dating back to 1859, by a family friend who used to be a Lincoln reenactor in Gettysburg. It a treasured addition to my bookshelf for its age alone, but I also am coming to appreciate some of the poetic lines within. Although I was originally turned off to it by its blatantly partisan view of the American Revolution, it seems that Weems had a keen grasp of the civil-war-like elements of the conflict that are rarely touched upon. For the month of October, I wanted to post his romanticized yet moving description of the aftermath of the Battle of Saratoga, the second part of which was fought on October 7, 1777:


   “High in air, the encountering banners blazed! There bold waving the lion-painted standard of Britain, and here the streaming pride of Columbia’s lovely stripes – while thick below, ten thousand eager warriors close the darkening files, all bristled with vengeful steel. No firing is heard; but shrill and terrible, from rank to rank, resounds the clash of bayonets – frequent and sad the groans of the dying. Pairs on pairs, Britons and Americans, with each his bayonet in his brother’s breast, fall forward together faint-shrieking in death, and mingle their smoking blood.
    Many were the widows, many orphans that were made that day. Long did the daughters of Columbia mourn their fallen brothers, and often did the lovely maids of Caledonia roll their soft blue eyes of sorrow along the sky-bound sea, to meet the sails of their returning lovers. But alas! Their lovers shall return no more. Far distant, on the banks of the roaring Hudson they lie, pale and helpless on the fields of death. Glass now and dim are those eyes which once beamed with friendship or which flamed with war. Their last thoughts are towards the maids of their love; and the big tear glistens in their eye, as they heave the parting groan.
    Then was seen the faded form of Ocean’s Queen far-famed Britannia, sitting alone and tearful on her western cliffs. With downcast look her faithful lion lay roaring at her feet; while torn and scattered on the rock were seen her many trophies of ancient fame. Silent, in disheveled locks, the goddess sat, absorbed in grief, when the gale of the west came blackening along the wave, laden with the roar of murderous battle. At once she rose – a livid horror spread her cheeks – distraction glared on her eye. The groans of her children fast sinking in a distant land! Thrice she essayed to curse the destroyers of her race; but thrice she remembered that they too were her sons.”


And here is an imagined lament, also penned by Weems, describing the departure of the British from their final stronghold in New York at the end of the Revolution. Since there are so few laments of this type for their lost cause, I found it to be quite fascinating, and a few of my favorite redcoats even get a mention in a positive light:


    “The battle raged along a thousand fields – a thousand streams ran purple with British gore. And now of all our blooming warriors, alas! How few remain! Pierced by the fatal rifle, far the greater part now press their bloody beds. There, each on his couch of honour lie those who were once the flower of our host. There lies gallant Frazer, the dauntless Ferguson, the accomplished Donop, and that pride of youth, the generous Andre, with thousands equally brave and good. But, O! Ye dear partners of this cruel strife, though fallen you are not forgotten! Often, with tears do we see you still, as when you rejoiced with us at feast, or fought by our sides in battle.”




The Surrender at Saratoga, October 17, 1777



Monday, October 21, 2013

Lord Nelson......

is a figure in British history that supersedes the normal boundaries of historical memory. His scarred body, lager-than-life persona, and bloody death at the height of victory have served to make him into something of a mythic figure. Just like King Arthur, he has become the invisible rescuer of bygone days who will come again in the spirit to save Britain in her darkest hour. During the two world wars, this sense of presence was fully realized. Nelson drove back the enemy by sea; the world wars saw the enemy come by air. Even though sea and the air have an aura of otherworldliness about them, they both cast the stark realities of invasion on the island nation.
    
    Nelson was neither saint nor supernatural being. But he was extraordinary, in every sense of the word. His paradoxical character only heightens this fact. He loved with passion and hated with ferocity. He was the epitome of egotism, and yet he was not haughty or unreachable. He was very religious, and yet his actions were often in contrast with his deeply held beliefs. He ran off with another man’s wife and left his own. He could be callous and mean-spirited. His vainglorious pride sometimes jeopardized the success of his mission and the lives of others. But he also had a personal touch, a genuine belief in and love for his cause and the men who fought under him.
    
    Nelson’s courage was of a raw nature, nurtured by an independent spirit and a glory-seeking instinct. He saw himself as God’s officer, fighting for the cause he had been entrusted with by the Almighty. As a young officer, bedridden with a fever, Nelson claimed to have experienced a vision of a glowing orb which inspired him with a sense of purpose and a love for king and country. Later, during his time in Italy as a seasoned naval professional, a Catholic priest approached him, prophesying that he would be instrumental in saving Rome, not just as a city, but as the capital of the Catholic World. This was highly ironic since Nelson was a hard-core Anglican, the son of a vicar. But that didn’t stop him from writing a letter to the pope afterwards, informing him when British naval victories did indeed affect the liberation of Rome, proving the accuracy of the priest’s declaration.
    
    This type of spiritual magnetism electrified the mood of Nelson’s career. But of course, he wasn’t all focused on the abstract world. His genius was quite concrete. He was an innovator and an instructor, never afraid to break tradition and color outside the lines. He wanted his subordinates to learn from him, and yet he also wanted them to experiment for themselves. His aggressive, sometimes impulsive, tactics reveal an appealing rebel streak beneath the conservative veneer, so much like the spirit of Britain in the fullness of her heritage. Also, as the incarnation of the British spirit, he was flawed yet always fighting, never willing to say die or give in to personal apprehensions. Survival with honor was what he gained for his country.                                                                    
    On October 21, 1805, just before the epic naval Battle of Trafalgar which saved Britain and Europe from Napoleonic domination, the Admiral of the British Fleet, wrote the following prayer in his diary. Since his youth he had been of a religious inclination, and despite his less than sterling personal episodes, he did not hesitate to turn to God in his hour of greatest need:

     “May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my country and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature in the British Fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may his blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.”

    The first Brit to hear the news of the victory at Trafalgar and Lord Nelson’s death by a musket ball was a fisherman from Penzance who had heard the tidings from a passing vessel headed for Falmouth. The excited fisherman made landfall and burst into the Union Hotel where, from the gallery above the dining room, the news of the victory was first proclaimed to one and all. The result was a mixture of celebration and sorrow throughout the land. Though the bells were rung for the victory, the clappers were muffled in mourning for the naval hero who had battled to the death so that Britain might have a new lease on life.                                                             
    
    Meanwhile, Nelson’s body was pickled in a barrel of brandy on board his flagship HMS Victory. On the voyage home, however, there was a bit of a mix-up, and no one was absolutely certain which barrel contained their beloved admiral. Hence, by the end of the trip, the thirsty sailors had dispatched with protocol and sanitary concerns and consumed every drop of brandy on board. This is the origin of the phrase “tapping the admiral”, meaning getting an alcoholic beverage!   

    Nelson’s body was finally relocated and hurriedly made a part of an elaborate funeral procession en route to St. Paul’s Cathedral. His coffin was made of wood from the mainmast of the L’Orient, a French ship that he had burned off Abu Qir, Egypt, in 1798, and his marble sarcophagus had originally been intended for Cardinal Wolsey before he fell into disfavor with King Henry VIII. His tomb, needless to say, became a major sight-seers destination. But today, even beyond the significance of his actual resting place, is the aura that hangs over his flagship Victory, where the Trafalgar Prayer was written, the battle was directed, and the commander died. Perhaps it can be summed as one of the great memorials to answered prayer and resilience of the human spirit.       
   
    Lord Nelson sacrificed his life so that Britain might grow strong and Western Europe might regain its freedom by breaking the back of Napoleon’s Navy in successive victories, culminating in Trafalgar. For better or for worse, his legacy should be appreciated and remembered, especially in his native land. The lack of interest in him nowadays reveals a dismal reality that modern assessments of the past are clogged with political correctness and shame for past jingoism. The history of a country is the ingredients of identity, and rejecting any part of it is to invite cultural degeneration. The bad should be lamented and the good should be celebrated, but all should be taken into consideration, equipping future generations to imitate the good and avoid the bad. That’s what patriotism, and humanity, is all about.
   
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let your perpetual light shine upon them,
May the souls of Lord Nelson and all those who died at Trafalgar
Through the mercy of God rest in peace.
Amen.



(A version of this article first appeared on Rae-Rae Franchi, my British friend and teen Nelson-enthusiast’s blog, “HMS Hinchinbrook”:  http://hmshinchinbrook.weebly.com/3/post/2012/08/the-legacy-of-lord-nelson-by-pearl-author-of-blog-longbows-and-rosary-beads.html 

Another variation of it later was posted on “Open Unionism”:  http://www.openunionism.com/broken-yet-unbending-lord-nelsons-legacy/)




The Young Horatio Nelson


Monday, October 14, 2013

Looking at wedding magazines......

has a way of making me feel rather sick. You might be surprised at that statement, but somehow the methodology of modern marital preparations strikes me as being so over-the-top, extravagant, complicated, catty, worldly, and, to put it bluntly, sexually oriented. All these adjectives I have a deep loathing for, so I am naturally repulsed by the array of flashy catch items meant to make a solemn covenant of life-long fidelity into some sort of wild orgy.

    For example, the styles of the day seem to dictate that wearing the most revealing thing possible on your wedding day is a way of showing the world what you used to hook your man! It's stupid and disturbing. Who would ever want to indicate that to begin with? And why would the guy ever let his bride be seen like that in public on their first day of wedded bliss? You wouldn't catch me that scantily dressed ever -- and I mean ever -- for anyone, and that includes my husband! It's lowering one's dignity to flaunt one's body that way. As a Child of God and a human being, I'm confident I'm worth more.

    Then there's the issue of atmosphere. Yes, let's get married in the Galapagos Islands by a ukulele player surrounded by native island dancers and have a pig roast! No, let's get married in the arctic by an Eskimo encircled by penguins doing the hoky-poky! No, let's hang ourselves upside down at Blarney Castle so we can recite our vows to a wandering Leprechaun......!!! Give me a break! Has everyone forgotten the charm of normality found in a church building with a man of the cloth pronouncing the couple man and wife? And the honeymoon advertisements are just as bad. It seems as if everyone wants to go on the most expensive, opulent, stuffy escape ever taken by man (and wife, for that matter). And much of the appeal said to be found on the cruises and tours is that they are somehow "sexy." It's beyond me.

    Furthermore, I hate to say it, but there are some traditional marriage customs that I find distasteful. For example, the bride having to walk up the aisle like a lamb being led to the slaughter with everyone gawking at her. Her father having to "giver her away" to an awkward groom, making it look almost as if the daughter is being disowned. The dizzying panoply of maids and grooms. Too many guests from one's past life that could count for as many past lives as belong to a cat. The dramatic entrance of the bride and groom at the reception. The big-deal-super-pressure dance they have to do. The generally over-elaborate food that looks "elegant" but sometimes tastes lousy. The frilly-and-fluffy outfits that are suffocating and easy to trip over. You get my point.

    So here's how I'd like to be married. (No rumors; this is all hypothetical!):

    Naturally, I'll be getting married in a Catholic church somewhere on the planet, although I can't foresee where, with a priest scheduled to perform the ceremony. I'd like to wear a fancy blouse with ruffles at the sleeves, a dress-belt, a long, swooshy skirt, and boots. Yes, you heard me right, boots. Simple lace veil. Simple bouquet, of which I'd like daisies and Black-eyed Susans to be a part. I'd like to take a seat in the front pew with my husband-to-be early, before everyone else arrives so there is no "big entry" involved. Our families can sit in the front pew across from us. When the time comes for the official ceremony, we just step up to the altar with no fuss involved and do what we’re there to do. Then we return to our pew like normal human beings afterwards. One Maid of Honor is all I'll need, which will naturally be Emerald (yes, she does prove difficult at times, but I couldn't really do without her on my wedding day, now could I? ;-)

    For the guests, at least on my end, it would just be my parents and personal friends who could make it out to wherever I was getting hitched. Sadly, that probably will make it difficult for most of them, since my contacts are so wide-spread, from my home in the Penn-Mar Borderlands to Alabama to Missouri to Texas to Canada to Britain and beyond! However, if I marry a prince or an oil tycoon, I'll be sure to send all of my intimates plane tickets! Even if they all did make it, that still would only be around 15 or 20 -- far less than even the bare minimum of Uncle Harrys and Aunt Ednas most people are obliged to invite to their wedding!

    As for a party, a friendly reception in which everyone (including bride and groom) arrives at the same time would be delightful. As for dancing, keep it limited. If anything, maybe a bit of folk-style dancing just for fun. In the area of food, I'd actually like to make it. My idea of a good meal is an assortment of pasta dishes and salads, as well as some chicken and potatoes to supplement. Buttered breads, crackers, and cheese balls can cover the rest. As for cake, please no five tear monstrosity decorated to look like a dress or something!

   I would suggest one normal size cake (Angel Food, carrot, German Chocolate, cheese....?) and some smaller desserts to supplement (pastries, like éclairs, or maybe some type of pie......coconut custard, pumpkin, blueberry, cherry.....?).  And please no drinking -- I've witnessed weddings that go terribly awry due to that! Fruit punch or lemon water should be sufficient. If anyone feels the need to get themselves worked up into a state of sloppiness, let them do so after they leave the wedding.One traditional marriage custom I do appreciate is the exchanging of Welsh Love Spoons. I find them beautifully crafted and a simple yet unique manner of plighting one’s troth.

    As far as any trip, just as a wish list thing, whether I'm married or not, Britain will always hold pride of place, but that's just a wish. Failing that, I'll settle for the Historic Triangle down in Virginia as a nice Honeymooning vacation. Or maybe somewhere in Canada. I've always wanted to see St. John's. It all really depends on how things unfold. The one thing I know I won't be going for is some sort of atmospheric sense of "sexiness."

    So, those are my thoughts on weddings and my own hypothetical one somewhere in the misty future --- I hope! How about the rest of you? If you're single, what kind of wedding would you like to have? If you're married, how were you married?

A Welsh Love Spoon -- Now there's a custom I like!
 


---

Check out my family's band, BlessTree, on BandCamp for music clips and price listings: http://blesstree.bandcamp.com

Monday, October 7, 2013

Putting BlessTree on BandCamp......

and setting up a cozy little domain space complete with music tracks and album covers for your perusal and perhaps even purchase (please do visit us for samples and price listings here: http://blesstree.bandcamp.com) is what's been keeping me extraordinarily busy as of late, preventing me from posting on the blog as often as would have liked. I have so many subjects I'd like to write about, including books, movies, TV shows, music, politics, spring/summer experiences, and my musings on the pros and cons of Ringer-ism. But for now, the focus is computer technology, online businesses, and cooking at a lake house. Allow me to explain.

     As most of you know, my father, along with family and friends, has recorded various musical tracks in recording studios under the band name "BlessTree." Until now, however, we only had two completed CDs fit for the public ear and a handful of half-finished conglomerations from earlier years when I was still a tiny tot. We managed to get some of the finished CDs sold in Catholic gift shops, but it was a mere handful, simply because there wasn't a large enough traffic of people coming in and out. Then my friend “Sasch” helped me considerably by directing me to a site called BandCamp where musical artists can upload recording tracks and sell them online. The concept of uploading the tracks onto the internet really enthused me. So much hard work had gone into our music, and I wanted it to at least get off the ground in the World Wide Web.

    I started off by discovering how to rip music tracks onto my computer. I copied the two completed CDs and then started the work of separating the wheat from the chaff with our unfinished symphonies. I came to appreciate how crisp my dad's voice was back in the day, and did my best to pick the cream of the crop from the songs recorded from 1994 to 2002. The background music was a mixture karaoke recordings and Charlie the elderly organist's well-intentioned but none-too-pleasant pounding. He had served in the navy during WWII, and his hearing was almost nonexistent, causing his playing ability at that late date to follow suite. Hence, I had to make the call that all songs involving Charlie had to go bye-bye, along with any songs involving the off-key yelpings of my 5-year-old former self and those lacking musical accompaniment. Weeding through the remaining karaoke tracks, several over-enunciated or slow-as-molasses vocal tracks from my dad had to be scrapped before I reorganized the remnant and saved it as an album.

    Next came the unfinished or overlooked tracks from later years, involving hymns of Marian devotion. Several songs lagged in pace and lacked proper music, so they were left out of the final draft. But we did manage to come up with enough songs from our two unfinished sets to organize a single album fit to be listened to. With all this done, I headed off to BandCamp and signed up for a domain for BlessTree and then typed out all the names of our tracks. I naively assumed that I would be able to upload the songs easily, but this was not to be the case. Evidently, I needed an adobe file update, and I was able to obtain the program through the skilled hands of my Richard, the brother of my librarian friend, Kat. He successfully downloaded it, along with several anti-virus program and Skype, onto a disc and had it passed onto me through his sister. 

    Unfortunately, I found that each time I tried to run the Adobe download, the connection died. I was beginning to think I might need to bring my comp into a tech shop and plug it into Wi-Fi lest dial-up rob me of my big chance to launch onto BandCamp. Happily, after quite a few failed attempts (Robert de Bruce with his double-bladed-axe and his spider friend hanging on a thread swing again!), I succeeded in my oh-so-tedious mission and found that Adobe could be downloading from home......after some 4 hours of waiting! I charged back to BandCamp, all prepared to download, when a flashing red pop-up sign informed me I was unable to do so because my tracks were in the wrong format. I whined and stomped around in technical despair for a little while, took a few deep breaths, and returned to my station to try and download iTunes, the online musical wonder which claimed to be able to fix the format of my tracks. But lo and behold, iTunes simply refused to even open up for me, no explanation given.

    Needless to say, I slept fitfully that night, bounced up in the morning, and called my other librarian friend, Lisa. She helped me find another program called WavePad Sound Editor that said it could end my format troubles if I could download it. For once, my fortunes improved. The download worked out, I clicked the icon on my desktop, and I was able to walk through the steps on the road to reformatting all the tracks. It was a glorious experience to watch it all going so smoothly. Once again, I returned to BandCamp to upload our products. It was then I realized just how hard that process would be, even if it had moved into the realm of feasibility. Dial-up is simply not the right tool for such a process, and it took some five hours to complete a relatively small upload, leaving my computer overheated and unhappy. We were going to have to do it all at the library. Until then, I finished writing up bios and descriptions and roped some of my friends, from Rachel in Texas to Richard Canada, into running tests with me to see if it was all visible to the public. 

    When we finally got to the library, I was truly in awe over the ease of high-speed! The green loading line on the screen skipped along so merrily, I was actually lulled into a false sense of security and neglected to save after each upload. The result was one of those shocking computer crashes that leaves nothing but a darkened screen and shattered dreams of early completion. I lost six songs, and that time took away from my loading the rest. The library closed early that day, so my dad and I knew we would have to return to complete the project. Still in something of a state of disillusionment with modern technology, high-speed or otherwise, we settled down to split a sub sandwich at a local Italian restaurant and mutter about the plans of mice and men, etc. 

    Putting our collective nose to the grindstone two days later, we returned to the scene of the crash and started to load once again. This time, I refused to me negligent, and made sure to save after every successful upload. Before long, the precaution proved to be a necessary one because the computer crashed again! Fortunately, nothing seemed to have been lost, and we finished all the uploads just in time to shoot out for a long-awaited meeting with Pat the choir director who recently moved out of town to spend his days at a new house in a lake community. We rendezvoused at the backroom of his old studio where are latter albums were made. I must say I felt a wave of déjà vous being back there after having such an intimate connection with our musical past through all the downloading and uploading. 

    We all piled into Mr. Maestro's van and drove off into the sunset towards lake-land. Although we initially didn’t realize just how far-out his new abode was, it proved to be about a 40 minute drive through some very scenic but altogether unfamiliar terrain. Along the way, he offered to pick up a pizza, and we mutually agreed to order one with mushrooms and onions, avoiding meat since it was First Friday. While we waited for the pizza order to be prepared, Pat and I went into a supermarket and purchased a few accessories for the meal. I must say I think I made a rather good "nagging wife" for a day, planning a balanced meal for my dad and uncle-figure including salad, bread, and carrot-cake to go with the pizza! 

     Going back to the pizza place, it was discovered there was a mix-up and our pizza had been given away to another! They offered to replace it with pepperoni, but we specified that we were Catholics and preferred to simply dine on meatless cheese pizza. And so it was we made landing at the lake house with pizza pie and groceries in hand, meandered on the dock overlooking the spacious lake and headed in the house to start to prepare all our goodies into something coherent. Once again in my futuristic "house-wife" mode, I gave the instructions and participated in cutting up the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, carrots, and mushrooms, sprinkling the conglomeration with cheese and croutons and dousing it with ranch dressing. Then we started getting brilliant and decided to fry some of the leftover mushrooms and onions in butter, put them on our plain pizza with an extra sprinkle of cheese, and stick it back in the oven. When it was brought forth, we were happy to see that the different components were welded to near-perfection. 

    As we said grace and settled down to our feast by candlelight, I suggested that that Pat should pull out his iPad and locate our BandCamp site so we could listen to our music while we ate. He did so and set it at the center of the table, where we had the privilege to hear the music tracks the three of us had worked so hard on. In truth, we were just a little bit proud of ourselves, in a good way. We had put out our all to give glory to God through story and song, and now it was on the internet for the public to access. To make my day complete, we got back home we discovered that my dear friend Kat had successfully uploaded all our album covers for us after having generously offered to do so on her own time. The wheels were finally beginning to turn for BlessTree, and God willing they will continue to turn in a forward direction. 


BlessTree Striking Out........