Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Does anyone recall Lark Ascending, by Ralph Vaughn Williams? 
A few of you raised your hands, and I'm proud of you.

That's nothing compared to a hawk descending.

Let's preface this by saying that my back was destroyed last winter from falling on the ice so many times. Mornings are the worst. When I first get out of bed I can hardly walk from the searing pain. I literally have to force myself to do chores.

Like cleaning the damn litter boxes. For the cats. Not me. I usually empty the boxes outside, far away, near the abandoned realms of the meadow.

And if anybody tells me that this is bad for the environment, I'm gonna slap you with my used pooper scooper.

So, I'm in agonizing pain from my back. I'm carrying a litter box brimming with cat shit, limping like Quasimodo, heading for the meadow.

Suddenly, out of absolutely nowhere, a huge hawk swoops down right at me, nearly grazing my head. I could feel the aerodynamic breeze.

How do you know it was a hawk, Jon?

Because a sparrow doesn't have a five-foot wing span. And I've seen this hawk on previous occasions. He resides in the neighborhood. 

I must have looked like an easy target - - shuffling like Methuselah and toting a box of cat crap.

I think the swoop was merely a friendly warning. If the hawk wanted to, he could have plucked me from the meadow and taken me to his (her?) nest.

When I first moved to the mountains, I innocently thought that I would be living an idyllic existence - like Heidi or the Von Trapps. Instead, I'm riding the Dante Express to Hell.

Yesterday I was attacked by a hoard  HORDE of butterflies. Yes, I said butterflies. When I stepped outside, I was immediately besieged by an aggressive and colorful mob of lepidopterans.They were intent on intimidation.

The hawk was probably laughing.

My back yard - - a haven for hawks and butterflies

So, Jon, what did you do over the long Memorial Day weekend?

Well, I spent some time wondering how I'm going to fit 4,000 square feet of unpacked possessions into a 1,200 sq. ft. house.

I considered getting a helmet to wear outside - - along with a few butterfly nets.

I'm still battling bees and wasps and have eradicated nearly thirty nests.
That's progress. 

In the process of painting the swing

I painted my front porch and quickly ran out of paint. The back porch will have to wait.

I went through a pile of my old piano compositions, which I mostly wrote between the ages of 16 and 25. I haven't looked at them for decades and was stunned at how many things there are: 
24 Preludes (in all the major & minor keys), 24 Symphonic Etudes, Sonatas, fugues, valses, variations - -
much more than I ever remembered. 

If I hadn't thrown these manuscripts into the trunk of the car when I was moving to TN, they would have undoubtedly disappeared - - along with all the other stuff that the movers "lost". 

 A small sample of my old compositions

I attempted to play some of them
this afternoon



  1. Porch swing looks great, Jon. And I commend your fortitude, getting chores done despite hawk and butterfly attacks. I am working on the inside of the west fence clearing more gum trees but got sidelined with asthma, allergies and panic-attacks today --had to stop and phone the doctor. Must see an endocrinologist on the 2nd but today I nearly called myself an ambulance even though I know, deep down, I am not one. Point is, listen to your body and get the pain under control. Take it slow and take lots of breaks. We'll get through this.

  2. I agree, Geo - taking it slow should be foremost on our agenda. I'm sorry to hear that you got sidelined with your work. I can FULLY sympathize with allergies, asthma, and panic attacks (I've almost "called myself an ambulance" numerous times - lol).
    A few weeks ago I had a major panic attack in the middle of the night - - one of the worst ever. I'm sorry to dwell on the negatives.....but I'm an expert. As for the back pain, all I can do is take it easy and survive. You will, too.

  3. Distressing tale, Jon. - I'm referring to the hawk episode - not to also mention the the flutter-bys, which sounds like a variation on the Du Maurier/Hitchcock story.
    As for your crippling back trouble (which makes me squirm just reading about it), it's a lesson in having to be even more thankful for not having to suffer the like oneself. May you have a respite - if not a complete cessation - from those agonies very soon.

    Your early composing achievements look and sound impressive ( at least I assume they sound impressive). Mine, in my late teens, were nowhere near as prolific and prodigious as yours were - my 'major' works being two large-scale fantasies (because I couldn't be bothered with having to follow all the rules of sonata form!) in E major and F minor, each taking around half an hour to play. I still have them somewhere but, frankly, they are both complete, pretentious tosh. Maybe you could video a brief recording of you playing some of your own compositions?

    You start by mentioning 'The Lark Ascending'. It's extremely well known here, I'd imagine because of this being the country of its genesis. We have a commercial classical music radio station (which I never actually listen to because of all those adverts) which holds a periodic poll of listeners to compile a chart of favourites. The R.V.W. composition almost invariably finishes as the most popular of ALL music, or if it doesn't in any given year, you can bet it'll be in the top three, along with Beethoven 6 and the Bruch V.C.
    I don't think R.V.W.s music travels particularly well out of his home country. He's very little known in Europe - maybe in the States too, though Andre Previn did champion him when he was chief conductor of the London Symphony. I think he's almost certainly the greatest composer the English produced in the 20th century - AND I once met, sat down and chatted with his last wife, Ursula, at a friend's garden party in the late 80s. An experience I cherish in memory.

    1. Ray, I've responded to this comment on your blog, on the "Tomorrowland" post.

    2. And I've just responded there with a substantial reply. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to visit me there. Always grateful to get some attention ;-)

  4. Hawks seem to be on a rampage everywhere this season. I could enjoy that porch swing with a cup of coffee in hand.

    1. I love the swing - - it's so relaxing. Before I painted it, the wasps were always after it.

  5. Your long holiday weekend does indeed seem like some kind of demented Hitchcockian fantasy, with birds of prey and butterfiles instead of nasty blackbirds (or whatever they were). I commiserate regarding your back, I suffer a similar issue but it doesn't sound as severe as yours. How is your posture when sitting?
    Mine was awful and a friend turned me onto an office chair wedge type cushion like this (I picked a US source for you):
    It forces me to have better posture and has lessened my back pain by a huge amount. Worth a try?
    Most impressed with your composing. How lovely that you found them again after all this time.

  6. I admittedly have always had bad posture (especially when sitting). The cushion is a good idea. Thanks for the link, Craig.

  7. My little 15-year old, 4 lb. Yorkie disappeared from my backyard a couple of months ago. I am pretty sure he was taken by a hawk. There is one, which pays us a visit from time to time. Watch your cats.

    1. How incredibly horrible! I'm so sorry to hear that. I always keep my cats indoors, but occasionally they get out. Last night my cat Scruffy managed to escape during a storm and she was outside for nearly two hours.

  8. Jon, DUDE (as my young family members would say), get thee to a physician for thy back! And don't worry about the hawk carrying you away; it would just like to kill you and eat your eyes and face and neck (true; you can google it). Or one of your cats if it makes it outdoors. I'm thinking a BB or pellet gun would be a good addition to your arsenal.

    I was so moved by your Memorial Day post that I couldn't comment. Very well done.

    I recommend one of those OFF! clip on's to keep bugs away. I don't like spraying myself with pesticide, but sometimes it is necessary. Wait until later in the summer when the midges attack!

    There are exercises you can find online for your back, if you can't/don't want to see a doc.

    I still think you should lodge a complaint about your missing items from the moving company.

    Please share some pix once you get your stuff arranged. Take care. ~~~ NB

    1. You're definitely right about doing exercises for the back - they do very often help. Lately I've just been in one of those "I don't give a damn moods".
      When I was fourteen years old I shot a blackbird, and I felt so remorseful that I cried and vowed I'd never shoot another bird again. I never did........
      BUT I would definitely consider it if a hawk was in the process of carrying me away.

      I'm DELIGHTED that you liked my Memorial Day post!!!!! I received so few comments that I thought everyone hated it. It's one of my favorite (literary) efforts. Thanks.

      If I can EVER get settled (i.e. the process of moving in) and get my back in working order, I'll be okay.

  9. holy crap! I could never live there in the woods!

    have you ever made videos of your compositions?

    and yes, I have listened to "lark ascending"; my classical music station plays it at least once a week.

    1. I've never made videos of my compositions, but I do have them on some audio cassettes. I'm not sure what's worse - - the West TX plains or the TN mountains.
      Of the two evils, I'll take the mountains.

  10. Here, I thought your wolves and wasps were threatening! I know people flock to pavilions and the like to witness butterflies, but they've always given me the creeps. Your horde reminds me of the gypsies in old Rome. Nevertheless, a pith helmet and netting might be appropriate.

    The porch swing looks really lovely!

    1. Thank you for providing me with the correct spelling of "horde". I knew it was wrong when I wrote "hoard". Hey, I'm not as smart as I think.
      I never thought butterflies were particularly creepy, until recently.

    2. Jon, I was so caught up in your narrative, I didn't even realize hoard/horde was misspelled!
      Goodness, I've inadvertently published more than a few 'uh-oh's' of my own!
      (I once enjoyed working for a executive who'd apologize for his spelling or grammar, but I'd remind him just to do what HE did best (write speeches) and leave the minutiae to me.)

    3. Myra, when I initially wrote "hoard" I had a strong feeling it was wrong. After I saw how you spelled it ("horde") I realized my big mistake.

      Since I'm usually perfect, it isn't easy to deal with (*smile*).

  11. No doubt about it certain chores stink. Litter boxes are heavy. Juggling them to keep from getting doused in urine and poop takes talent. Doing it with a bad back, I can not imagine. And then to be attacked by a hawk and butterflies. My lord you are really ONE with NATURE on that mountain top, aren't you? I am glad you had the wherewithal to throw that pile of your old piano compositions in the car. A treasure, indeed.

    1. I'm glad I brought my piano compositions, but I could kick my ass for not bringing my journals and diaries.
      Now that I have three cats, I have two litter boxes and they always need cleaning. It really gets tedious. Being at one with nature isn't quite as joyous as I thought it would be.....

  12. See a doctor, says the guy who didn't for 27 years (boy did I make up for that this month.) I love music, but never could read it. It is just random dots to my odd brain, I recently discovered that my sweet bear has the same issue with reading music. Similar minds - we have been together a long-long time.

    1. I'm allergic to doctors - - haven't seen one in decades.
      I can attest to the fact that even trained musicians often see nothing but random dots when they look at music......

  13. Hi Jon:

    "Lark Ascending" is one of my most favorite orchestral pieces. I"m a big fan of Ralph Vaughn Williams. :-)

    Sean R.

    1. I've always liked the music of Vaughn Williams. "Lark Ascending" is one of my favorites, too....
      and "A Sea Symphony".

  14. Sounds like the "long wolf" isn't exactly alone. Lots of other critters to keep you company, whether you want them or not. Certain cat litters are supposedly okay to flush down the commode. I've never used any, but you might want to look into it. It'd beat having to haul the boxes, and it'd DEFINITELY beat having to scrub the mess off the kitchen floor.

    Love that porch swing. It looks like a terrific place to relax with a good book. (If the hawk and butterflies stay away.)

    1. My cats refuse to empty their own litter boxes. Perhaps I could toilet train them.....??

  15. Jon,
    That hawk is going after your luxurious mane of hair. Maybe you should wear a hat when venturing outside into your Tennessee sylvan oasis. The picture you posted of your backyard is gorgeous. That's not "hell" Jon, that is perfection. Bill would love to live where you live. I would too but at this time of my life I need more civilization nearby in case I fall down and can't get up (which happened last February 18th when I feel and tore my quadriceps). I think you're taking a big chance living so far from "civilization" but I understand your desire for peace and tranquility. Just be careful when hauling those litter boxes out in the woods.


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