Early fog, Tanglewood


Early fog, Tanglewood

An interesting few days here in the Berkshires. Monday was a hot day and we had a quick piano rehearsal with Maestro Levine and the Tanglewood Music Center fellows. I spent the sunny part of yesterday morning on my laptop for work, and then it rained cats and dogs–horizontally–as I made my way to an afternoon rehearsal with the full TMC orchestra.

This morning? An early rehearsal, but if it means I’m awake to watch the fog burn off the Stockbridge Bowl (above), that’s not a bad thing.

The irises of spring


I always forget how magnificent our irises are when in full bloom. The photos don’t really do them justice. Right now there is a wall of irises rising up between our driveway and our front sidewalk. The bulbs, which come from my grandmother Jarrett via my father, are really in action this spring and have created a spectacular wall of purple.

The wall of iris is reassuring because it’s a risky year for our plantings. We ripped out the remaining “legacy bushes” (big dense evergreens) in front of the house last fall when we redid our front steps. Against all odds the rhododendrons and compact evergreens we planted in their stead survived the winter and are blooming like crazy, but there’s still a lot of empty space to fill with plants. Cue a lot of annuals and perennials purchased and dug in over the past month, and you can understand my relief when the irises simply, reliably, just came up and bloomed.

Also, I built a raised garden bed a few weekends ago. The tomato plants are in, the basil and cilantro haven’t died yet, and the peas and lettuce are just starting to poke their way above the soil.

Finally, we hacked away some of the old growth along our back fence, taking down a nasty thornbush and some subpar “bridal wreath”, and found a big cherry tree hiding among the detritus. Hopefully opening it up will give the cherry the room to breathe and grow that it needs.

The ineffable and the effable

Tonight we’re singing Beethoven’s Mass in C, which is one of those undeservedly underperformed works — at least, compared to the rest of the Beethoven corpus. Compared to the average early English sacred work, it’s practically ubiquitous.

It’s an interesting setting of the work for an interesting time. Beethoven wrote the work in 1807, and it’s hard not to hear the work through the filter of the political and cultural upheavals of the epoch. What role did the mass text have, what resonance and relevance, after revolutions ripped apart the old fabric of monarchies? You can hear some if Beethoven’s response in the setting of the Credo, which opens on an agitato string accompaniment and a low murmured “credo” from the chorus; as our director has remarked, it’s more question than declamation.

And yet there are oceanic passages throughout that speak to a deep tradition–the sacred chant and response of the Benedictus are probably the clearest connection to the old traditions. It is a work that repays close study, and performance.

Basement library complete

Here’s the after to Tuesday’s before, with my row of Bestå shelves from Ikea fully assembled. The doors went on Monday night, and the books went in the last few nights. I’m still waiting on one glass door and a few DVD organizers for the small shelf to the right, which will help with the clutter there.

The hardest thing about the shelves is probably just deciding where to put them to maximize storage. The shelves that meet the bottom of the glass doors need to stay fixed, and there are LPs behind the bottom doors, so that dictates the position of two shelves; and there needs to be another fixed shelf about a third of the way down for stability. But there are a lot of options for the other shelves. I ended up doing something I swore off years ago: sorting books by size and spacing the shelves accordingly. I bought five extra shelves for the units I bought (comprising four 75-inch bays and one 50 inch bay), and I think I still need to buy one or two more extras.

Bonus: click through on the photo and look at the “original size” version on Flickr, and you can get a pretty good look at the titles in my library.

Basement update: bookcases are in

A quick update on our basement project: it looks like we’ll make our deadline. The picture to the right shows a stage in the completion of the project, with the Bestå bookcases mostly assembled and the Flor carpet in.

I was able to finish the carpet with about an hours’ worth of work on Sunday. I was pleased with how well it came together and how solid it seems now that it’s settled in for 48 hours. Oh yes–and it’s bright too! Hoo boy. But it works in the otherwise slightly dark basement room, and helps set it aside as a “family” room as opposed to our more formal spaces.

The bookshelves were pretty straightforward too, though assembling three sets of shelves takes a little time. They’re cam-locked standard Ikea frames, just like a Pax closet or Akurum kitchen cabinet, or just about any other flat pack furniture, so the timely part is in leveling them so that the doors will line up properly, and in securing them to the wall. I was luck and hit studs going into four out of the six locations that were recommended as anti-topple points, so between that and the fact that the frames were screwed together I think we’re in business.

Since the picture was taken, I’ve finished hanging the glass doors on the front of the cabinets and have begun loading in the contents, which will take a while. I’ll post one more update when the shelves are all loaded in.

How does my garden grow?

Coral and green (dianthus and iris)

Originally uploaded by Tim Jarrett

Quite well at the moment, thanks. I just posted some photos of our early flowers this year (remember, those of you who live south of here, we only really got spring about three weeks ago here in Massachusetts). The iris are going great guns this year, with almost all the plants bearing multiple flowers, and we had a few pleasant surprises, like our dianthus coming back voluntarily and the early coral-colored tradiscantia returning.

Those who have been reading for a while will remember that these are the iris that came from my grandmother’s garden. Yes, as usual, I seem to be repeating myself year after year. Oh well.