Tag Archives: vacation

Art Institute of Chicago

The view upon leaving the Art Institute on Sunday.

Most any trip to Chicago includes some time at the Art Institute of Chicago, called by some the greatest museum in the world.  I never tire of the Impressionists, of the miniature rooms, of the great masters, of the architecture collection, of the paperweight collection.

Hello, old friend.

Hello, old friend.

This trip included the America After the Fall exhibition, the collection of modernist chairs, and some Napoleon stuff.  And my old friends Messrs. Seurat and Monet.

From the 1930’s American exhibition, viewed during a private members-only morning:

Edward Hopper, 1939. New York Movie. This painting is filled with incredible suggestive detail.

Edward Hopper, 1939. New York Movie. This painting is filled with incredible suggestive detail.

I loved the symmetry of the view: a visitor and the painting he observes.

I loved the symmetry of the view: a visitor and the painting he observes.

Edward Hopper, 1940. Detail of Gas.

Edward Hopper, 1940. Detail of Gas.

Grant Wood. American Gothic.

Grant Wood. American Gothic.

Alice Neel, 1935. Detail of Pat Whelan.

Alice Neel, 1935. Detail of Pat Whelan.

Charles Sheeler, 1931. Classic Landscape.

Charles Sheeler, 1931. Classic Landscape.

Thomas Hart Benton, 1938. Cradling Wheat.

Thomas Hart Benton, 1938. Cradling Wheat.

Thomas Hart Benton, 1938. Detail of Haystack.

Thomas Hart Benton, 1938. Detail of Haystack.

Grant Wood, 1932. Daughters of Revolution.

Grant Wood, 1932. Daughters of Revolution.

Paul Cadmus, 1934. The Fleet's In. Notice the prim lady at the left, and her dog.

Paul Cadmus, 1934. The Fleet’s In. Notice the prim lady at the left, and her dog.

Paul Sample, 1933. Church Supper. I love the sly glances at the lady in pink.

Paul Sample, 1933. Church Supper. I love the sly glances at the lady in pink.


Vacation ends

Truth be told, I only had off eight working days over the past two fortnights.  Such is the life of an administrator.

And over the holiday break between semesters, I’ve dealt with a dozen and a half church services, a few days away with family, a leak in the bathroom, a dead dishwasher, cabinets falling off the kitchen wall, and prep for the foundation repair that starts tomorrow.

Three Webster kids descended at 5.25 p.m. tonight to help.  Twenty minutes later, they had moved everything in the basement that needed moving.  I fed them homemade lasagna and panna cotta in thanks.

I also coached five students today on audition music for tomorrow’s theatre auditions at Webster.

Tonight?  Downton Abbey, and putting my latest choral music in Finale.

Pics from the week:


And just like that, with snow blowing in a howling wind, I am on vacation.

Leaving the office at 1.15 today, I said goodbye to Jean, looked once more at my boxed-up office awaiting a move in two weeks, checked in with the Boss, and drove home.

A grilled cheese sandwich and some chips comprised my lunch – a perfect wintry day meal.

Hallelujah for vacations!

Away day in Hannibal

Beth has been hoping to visit Hannibal with her children, since the kids have never been and Beth has not been back to Hannibal since she was 18.  So I drove up this morning to meet them and play tour guide.

We lived in Hannibal when I was in elementary school, moving away toward the end of my fourth grade year.  Beth barely remembers living there, since she was just turned four when we left.  So today, Beth had some very jumbled memories of the two houses I remember, of where Dorothy Watson lived, and the Gruber house, and of Fifth Street Baptist Church, and so on.

We had a fun day, taking in all the Mark Twain & Tom Sawyer stuff, climbing up Cardiff Hill to the lighthouse, going up to Lovers Leap, touring Mark Twain cave, and playing on the banks of the Mississippi from the Illinois side.

And, five minutes shy of 12 hours away, I was back home!

To home and back

At 7.30 p.m., I am back in Saint Louis after making the return trip from Lee’s Summit today, non-stop, in three hours and 23 minutes.  Samson slept the whole way, from the moment I got on I-70 in Independence to the moment I pulled up on Lawn Place.

While I took my D-XLR camera, I didn’t use it.  In fact, this whole trip was spent in driving, sleeping, eating, or visiting.  I suppose that’s what a whirlwind 23 hours in my hometown should be.

My father is having surgery on Thursday for cancer in his lymph nodes.  The cancer is consistent with a merkel cell that was removed from his arm two years ago.  He is a man of extraordinary religious faith, and will weather this latest ill health with dignity and aplomb, if also some soreness.  Further biopsies will determine what further course of action is necessary.

Meanwhile, my sister Karen is recovering well from surgery on her wrist.  I enjoyed laughing with her today!  And Beth and Robert and kids are all fine.  Anna will be 16 soon; both boys are in elementary school, one at either end of the age range.

Sadly, Aunt Esther has noticeably aged (she is 100, after all) in the last three months.  The sparkle is gone from her eyes, and she had a certain look that I’d not seen in her before.  I wonder if today’s brief visit will be my last.  I asked her to hang on until Christmas, but she hung on until 100, and truth-be-told she deserves a rest.

Here are shots from the last two days:

Summer’s end

I am keenly aware tonight that summer (in the academic sense) is at an end.

And I am not melancholy, although this poem, one of my favorites by Houseman, certainly is:

XXXIX (from Last Poems by A.E. Houseman)

When summer’s end is nighing
And skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
And all the feats I vowed
When I was young and proud.
The weathercock at sunset
Would lose the slanted ray,
And I would climb the beacon
That looked to Wales away
And saw the last of day.
From hill and cloud and heaven
The hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
And hushed the countryside,
But I had youth and pride.
And I with earth and nightfall
In converse high would stand,
Late, till the west was ashen
And darkness hard at hand,
And the eye lost the land.
The year might age, and cloudy
The lessening day might close,
But air of other summers
Breathed from beyond the snows,
And I had hope of those.
They came and were and are not
And come no more anew;
And all the years and seasons
That ever can ensue
Must now be worse and few.
So here’s an end of roaming
On eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
For summer’s parting sighs,
And then the heart replies.


My poor parched back yard.

As I write this evening near 8 o’clock, the cicadas are buzzing, their cries filling the cool evening air.  Looking west from the window of my study, over the roof of SLU High, I see a few clouds backlit by the dying sun, and a baby blue sky as the backdrop.

I’ve spent the last three hours outdoors, washing Ingrid the Volvo and sprucing up the leather seats after scrubbing the floormats and vacuuming the car, barbecuing charred meats (actually, burgers cooked medium with Montreal steak seasoning, sauce, and Cheddar cheese), reading a book about Her Majesty the Queen of England, teasing Samson, and generally enjoying the delight of a cool summer evening.

Samson begs at the table.

My morning did not start well, as I had to call in ill to church, thanks to a wonky gastric system.  By noon I was feeling better, so I ate some toast, then headed to the office.  I got through about 60 emails, dusted my desk, prepped a syllabus for my 11 a.m. class tomorrow, filed a number of things, worked through a pile of music, and proofed the print calendar that goes to press tomorrow.  And then I drove up Big Bend to my manicure place.

Also today I’ve pressed my new shirt for tomorrow (one to be joined by a new tie and pocket silk), finished more laundry, cleaned house a bit, and watered flower beds.

Self-portrait after dinner.

Summer’s end is a portentious time, one filled with hope and possibility and expectation.  I certainly expect that this will be a fine year at Webster University.  I think that my colleagues and I are ready for some challenge that lies ahead of us.  And I’m looking forward to meeting a new class of freshmen tomorrow, and to starting three new voice students very soon.

Shrouding all I did and do today is that sense that ‘school starts tomorrow.’  When I was a kid, this day, and especially this evening, was filled with anticipation.  All these years later, it still is.  And I am glad this is so.

Here’s another poem for the end of summer.

Ingrid the Volvo is washed and shined.

Burgers for dinner, along with purple potatoes and some lime pickles. Grapes were the dessert.

My Samson.

And Samson begs some more.

Montreal Sunday

[For some reason, this did not publish on Sunday.  So here it is, four days late.]

It’s been a quiet day in Montreal.

I woke with the sun this morning, then closed the night curtains tighter so I could sleep a while longer.

My breakfast was a bacon, cheese, and apple crepe from a restaurant around the corner on Rue Peel.

And then I walked a ways -just about a mile – to church, arriving at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in quite a state of damp sweatiness!

I chose to attend the Anglo-Catholic parish in town this morning, and of course was glad to be there, but I found the experience a bit frustrating.  None of the music that the congregation was expected to sing was available in print; one must have insider knowledge in order to participate.  This is one of my peeves about churches of many denominations!  Making your way through the missal or the prayer book is tough enough if one is unfamiliar, but wanting to sing and not being allowed to is truly a travesty.

The church was not air-conditioned, and Montreal is having a hot month, so I never did really cool down.  I walked back to the hotel, took off my black silk shirt, and napped for a few.  After lunch of a salad, I enjoyed the Napoleon exhibit at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, just down the street from my hotel.

And then it was time for more church, this time Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Montreal in the Anglican Church of Canada.  The walk was only about 15 minutes, but lordy, the humidity and heat took a toll on me.

Another cool-off followed, then dinner at a Mexican place on Rue Peel.  (I shan’t go back there again.) I was oddly amused by the couple next to me, fighting alternately in English and French.

And now, after a shower, I’m tired and weary.  My feet hurt.  I’m staying in to watch Olympics, write post-cards, and read a book.

Montreal feels very much like a more European city.  French is the predominant language in this province, and all greetings and personal transactions start with French before moving to English.  (I walked into the hotel this evening to a concierge saying “Beau soir.  Good evening.”  This kind of greeting is standard.)  Menus are printed in French with English underneath.  At both services today in Anglican churches, at least one reading and several prayers were in French.

The city centre is quite walkable.  I expect a bit of a hike tomorrow to Old Montreal, though!  Much of the isle (for this is the Island of Montreal) is connected by subway, with an extensive public transport system.  I’ll see the Saint Lawrence River tomorrow as I’m in the old town.