Monday, December 18, 2017

Edinburgh for Inklings

Dear Inklings,

I thought this would be a good venue through which to share about my and David's recent celebratory trip to Scotland.  I'll just choose two highlights - reason for celebration - and bell ringing (since that ties in with our recent reading of Sayers' Nine Tailors).


On November 2, 2017 we celebrated 10 years of stroke recovery for David.  Among other reasons for our trips, climbing Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh seemed a particularly good way to celebrate that recovery:
St. Margaret's Loch, ruins of St. Anthony's Chapel, and Arthur's Seat
Arthur's Seat
Ten years ago David suffered a massive stroke and spent a month in rehab relearning how to walk (as well as relearning a lot of other things).  Last month he climbed to the top of Arthur's Seat, which towers over the city of Edinburgh.  I consider this a picture of triumph!


I had worshiped in St. Cuthbert's last spring during my sabbatical.  It is Presbyterian, which is closely related to my faith tradition - and it is also where John Napier, a mathematician I'd been there to study the previous year, had served as elder in the 1500s.  

While looking into worship times for this fall, I noticed that bell-ringing practice would be taking place on Tuesday night while we were there.  I looked into attending practice and was told by one of the clergy that I might be allowed to sit in - certainly if I were a bell-ringer from elsewhere I would be - but that it wouldn't be a sure thing since I was not myself a bell-ringer.  Because David and I had only three days and so much we wanted to see, I decided not to plan around that possibility but rather to hope to at least show up in the surrounding kirkyard to hear the practice from outside.

After a long day of walking, while David saved me a seat at Shandwick's for dinner a couple of blocks away, I (foolishly?) headed back down into the kirkyard.  I ADORE creepy cemeteries and make a point of seeking them out.  And in the daytime this is one of the creepiest I've ever seen.  At night  .  .  .  in the dark  .  .  .  quite far below the level of the street  .  .  .  alone  .  .  .  umm  .  .  .  let's just say I REALLY wanted to hear those bells!

First a video of practice and then some pictures of the kirk:

My camera picked up a lot of light and made it look brighter down there than it actually was  .  .  .  just sayin'  .  .  .

Tombstone in St. Cuthbert's kirkyard taken earlier in the day

St. Cuthbert's as seen from Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle as seen from the south side of St. Cuthbert's
St. Cuthbert's viewed from the south
Though our "related" mystery reading was by Sayers, I thought it worth noting that mystery writer Agatha Christie was married in the small WWI Memorial Chapel of this kirk, which is where the evening service David and I attended was held.  I don't have pictures of the inside, but I snapped one of the entrance to this chapel.

For bell-ringing comparison, here is a video I took during my sabbatical on my way to worship Sunday morning.  Sadly, you can barely hear this wonderful artistry above the street noise!

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Our Trees: In Memorium

Learning By Doing

They're taking down a tree at the front door,
The power saw is snarling at some nerves,
Whining at others. Now and then it grunts,
And sawdust falls like snow or a drift of seeds.
Rotten, they tell us, at the fork, and one
Big wind would bring it down. So what they do
They do, as usual, to do us good.
Whatever cannot carry its own weight
Has got to go, and so on; you expect
To hear them talking next about survival
And the values of a free society.
For in the explanations people give
On these occasions there is generally some
Mean-spirited moral point, and everyone
Privately wonders if his neighbors plan
To saw him up before he falls on them.

Maybe a hundred years in sun and shower
Dismantled in a morning and let down
Out of itself a finger at a time
And then an arm, and so down to the trunk,
Until there's nothing left to hold on to
Or snub the splintery holding rope around,
And where those big green divagations were
So loftily with shadows interleaved
The absent-minded blue rains in on us.
Now that they've got it sectioned on the ground

It looks as though somebody made a plain
Error in diagnosis, for the wood
Looks sweet and sound throughout. You couldn't know,
Of course, until you took it down. That's what
Experts are for, and these experts stand round
The giant pieces of tree as though expecting
An instruction booklet from the factory
Before they try to put it back together.

Anyhow, there it isn't, on the ground.
Next come the tractor and the crowbar crew
To extirpate what's left and fill the grave.
Maybe tomorrow grass seed will be sown.
There's some mean-spirited moral point in that
As well: you learn to bury your mistakes,
Though for a while at dusk the darkening air
Will be with many shadows interleaved,
And pierced with a bewilderment of birds
~by Howard Nemerov

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


For God is in heaven, and you upon earth.
—Ecclesiastes 5:2
Don’t take your eyes off the road.
Accept nothing as given.
Watch where you put your hands.
You’re here and God’s in heaven.
Be careful where you step.
The drop-off’s somewhere near.
The fog won’t lift tonight.
God’s in heaven. You’re here.
That word you wish to say,
That score you’d like to even—
Don’t hurry either while
You’re here and God’s in heaven.
The earth says, “Take the wheel.
But no matter how you steer,
I’ll still go round in circles.
God’s in heaven. You’re here.”
by Mark Jarman

Monday, August 07, 2017

The End of Liars

But the king will rejoice in God; Everyone who swears by Him will glory, For the mouths of those who speak lies will be stopped.
~Psalm 63:11 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Haply May Remember, Haply May Forget

When I am dead, my dearest, 
Sing no sad songs for me; 
Plant thou no roses at my head, 
Nor shady cypress tree: 
Be the green grass above me 
With showers and dewdrops wet; 
And if thou wilt, remember, 
And if thou wilt, forget. 

I shall not see the shadows, 
I shall not feel the rain; 
I shall not hear the nightingale 
Sing on, as if in pain: 
And dreaming through the twilight 
That doth not rise nor set, 
Haply I may remember, 
And haply may forget. 

~Christina Rossetti

Rossetti Grave at Highgate Cemetery, London, April 2016

Monday, March 20, 2017


This blog seems to be becoming "Mostly Math" instead of "Mostly Poetry." Once again I'm posting one side of a "private" math conversation.  Feel free to take it or leave it - or try to figure out what is going on!


Here are copies of a few problems involving the graphing of rational expressions from my precalc notes.  My notes are usually pretty sloppy - work presented on the board being prettier, but, hopefully, this gives you some ideas.

Rational Graph Problem 1:

Rational Graph Problem 2:

And now moving on to math that I think is prettier, but I'm not sure why this image decided to go in upside-down (and no matter what I do they won't flip)!!  This is the beginning of my notes on the binomial theorem, which relates to combinatorics and Pascal's Triangle:

Binomial Theorem Introduction:

And, last but not least, we have Mathematical Induction.  Part of why I think this is pretty is because you often get to use sigma notation in the proofs - see the second-to-last and third-to-last pictures, although there's not much sigma notation there.

Mathematical Induction:

I wish we lived closer!  It would be so much fun to go over these with you rather than just sending pictures.  I also wish I had time to Skype right now, but this semester is TOTALLY kicking my butt!  A good resource for further explanation of these topics is the Khan Academy videos.  The best way to get there (to navigate) is to go to YouTube and then search for the topic and type "khan" - rather than trying to go to the Khan Academy site, which for some reason wants you to sign in, even though it's free, and that makes it a little hard to navigate.

I hope this helps!!!!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Poem as Mask

When I wrote of the women in their dances and wildness, it was a mask,
on their mountain, gold-hunting, singing, in orgy,
it was a mask; when I wrote of the god,
fragmented, exiled from himself, his life, the love gone down with song,
it was myself, split open, unable to speak, in exile from myself.

There is no mountain, there is no god, there is memory
of my torn life, myself split open in sleep, the rescued child
beside me among the doctors, and a word
of rescue from the great eyes.

No more masks!  Mo more mythologies!

Now, for the first time, the god lifts his hand,
the fragments join in me with their own music.

~ Muriel Rukeyser (1968)