Category Archives: Getting older

25 years

Twenty-five years ago this week, I was singing daily at Westminster Abbey in London.  I was soloist with the mixed choir from Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, on a tour of Scotland and England, culminating in a week-long residency at Westminster Abbey.

We had sung at the Abbey on Monday and Tuesday, then had Wednesday off.  Twenty-five years ago, this day was a Thursday.

And on this Thursday 25 years ago, after singing Evensong, and the vergers closed the Abbey, the choir broke into two groups and had a guided tour of the Abbey.  No others present. Just us and the ghosts and the saints.

Our tour took more than an hour.  Then the guides said to us “Stay as long as you’d like.  We have a late prayer service at 10 p.m.”  So in the twilight (the sun did not set until 10 p.m. or so) I wandered the Abbey and visited the monuments for people who were already important in my life — Handel, Purcell, Stanford, Vaughan Williams.

I explored the family chapels, the tomb of St. Edward the Confessor, the graves of Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I.  The incredible Mary Chapel.

But most importantly for me, I stopped for a long time at the grave of Herbert Howells.  (Just search this blog for Howells!) To be alone with him for those few minutes, in the quiet of the Abbey, was a powerfully emotional, even transcendental experience.

Howells, Vaughan Williams, and Stanford, all together in eternal rest at Westminster Abbey.

Three days later I sang his Westminster Abbey service, and Vaughan Williams’ “Lord, thou has been our refuge,” just steps away from their graves in that north choir aisle.  And barely made it through the emotions.

Every subsequent visit to the Abbey has included a moment of quiet at HH’s grave.  I hope to visit once again before I too am gone.

Guncles Day

I learned last year that the second Sunday of August is Gay Uncles Day, or Guncles Day.

So, happy Guncles Day to me.

Photos of me being a gay uncle:

Tuesday morning

Tuesday morning on the farm.

I have a candle lit to dispel the gray gloom and to bathe in light the weathered yellow plank walls of this cozy kitchen. An oil lamp is on the sideboard, but I have no paraffin oil to burn, so a candle must suffice.

The walls in the kitchen appear to be original planks.  Over the stove is an original brick flue, with a twin in the living room.  This was where the coal or wood stove was vented; the stoves would have provided the only heating in the house, back in the day, with a stove in the front room and one in the kitchen.

Nelson has now spotted the horses in their enclosure to the east of the little white farmhouse.

The problem with Nelson on a farm is that he has apparently never seen a big animal, so the bull on the other side of the (electrified) fence seems to him to be a challenge.  And challenge to perhaps engage.  I had him on a leash, of course, so no engagement took place, and the bull, brought in from a neighboring farm in hopes of making bullocks, as it were, munched on grass and completely ignored the little varmint.

Now it’s the horses that need engaging.  We shall see.  I brought apples to feed them, so we will take a (leashed) wander over there soon enough.

We both had a restless night.  Nelson seemed to be disturbed by a couple of moths flying around, a price we pay for life on the farm.  He was up and down all night.  Truth be told, so was I, thanks to a noisome chattering fan that seemed slightly out of kilter, and my poor decision to turn off the air conditioning on a muggy but cool night.

We had a rainstorm come through around 5 p.m., and at 11 p.m. we were still getting a shower.  The pond was glorious in the rain, and mist-shrouded this morning at daybreak.

Our first morning walk in the dewy grass led to me doing battle with a horsefly that was determined to dive-bomb.  Fool me once . . . fool me twice . . . but the third time . . . well, the string of expletives I unleashed upon the little flying creep must have scared it away.

Nelson meanwhile sniffed and peed (and pooped) thoroughly.  There isn’t a fencepost that hasn’t been marked by the little terrier.

Connie, my host, has a wee dog too.  Sugar.  She’s black with some white markings, and looks like she has some poodle in her.  She’s a sweety.

Today is, in the communion of saints in the Episcopal Church (USA), the Feast of Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Frederic Handel, and Henry Purcell.  Reading their hagiographies at Morning Prayer reduced me yet again to tears, something that seems a near-daily occurrence.  I think the tears are a release from the weariness with uncertainty, our national devastation of leadership, the pandemic, the state of the world, and much more.  I’ll own these tears if they keep me out of therapy. (And so far, they have.)


“Avoiding” the news

I wrote in my journal this morning that I thought I might just avoid the news today.

That didn’t last long.

Take a look at

I share the outrage.  I am doing my part to quell this pandemic and help get our lives back to normal.  I want to hug again.  I want to sit with others again.  I want to perform, and see others perform.

The selfishness and arrogance inherent in those who do not distance and practice the safety measures — well, the mind is boggled.  And angry.  And infuriated.

I shouldn’t have read the news.

Then I watched the arrival of Congressman John Lewis’ mortal remains at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

And I found myself weeping again.


Pageantry?  Certainly.

Grief?  Not for him, now on a brighter shore.

But for us.  For U.S.  For our national life and discourse.  For our commity.  For our place in the world.  For the work yet to be done.  For Black lives.  For my part in this continued struggle.

And then the farce just makes me furious again — the farce of Mitch McConnell eulogizing John Lewis when the Barrier from Kentucky (I wrote a different B word in my journal) has fought so much and so hard against things that Lewis fought for.

Olivia de Havilland

As my friend Darin has posted, the last link to the great Golden Age of Hollywood is gone.

I have a short little Olivia de Havilland story.

The context:

I was at the Episcopal church in Paris, France.  Singing Evensong with the choir. One of the readers of scripture that evening was an elegant older lady in a beautiful but simple black dress, with an expensive-looking brooch, and an elegant coif of white hair.  She spoke in the most beautiful tones.

That lady was Olivia de Haviland.

She was magic, even reading a portion of a letter from Saint Paul.



GSE final report

2001.  I was one of four younger professionals chosen to be cultural ambassadors on a Rotary International Group Study Exchange, going from central Indiana to the area outside of São Paulo, Brazil.

My page about this life-changing trip:

In my recent basement-cleaning, I found my Brazil box. And this final report I provided to the district GSE committee after returning:

And my bio page, in English and Portuguese, from the booklet we gave to people:


More basement cleaning.

This was a resume I put together to get a church gig. And I got it. At Christ Community Church in Blue Springs, a mission Reformed Church in America congregation that is sadly now defunct. This was my first step away from Southern Baptist, and several years later led to my spiritual home, the Protestant Episcopal Church in America.

#TBT: My Favorite American

Having now found my first scrapbook, I am in possession of a faded, scrawled speech I gave in fifth grade.

My teacher was Miss Mann.  The school was Pleasant Lea Elementary in Lee’s Summit.

And in that oration contest, I won first place.

[In this photo, notice the comb in my shirt pocket. This was the first year I had hair that was not a buzz-cut.]

Here’s the speech (and some commentary), delivered on Sunday, 19 July 2020, nearly 49 years after its first delivery:


The circus

Well, apparently I ran away and joined the circus much earlier than I remember!

I’ve been telling people I ran away and joined the circus when I was 57 years old, and joined up with Circus Harmony.

But NO!

I have uncovered documentary evidence that I joined the circus in 2001 in Brazil, where I was on a Rotary International Group Study Exchange program, and was plucked from the audience to be part of the on-stage activity: