Cloister Commentary, Day 223: The Worst Year of My Life

On several levels, this has been the worst year of my life. I am incredibly grateful for the love, support, and friendship from my circle of fellow humans, who have stood like iron-clad gates between me and sorrow, cynicism, defeat, raging and crippling moral anger–and retreat. I know I am not alone in expressing this seeming extreme state of being, and I have never experienced any week like the nerve-torturing one of which we are in the midst. I’ll just say now what I’ve said privately to a few: maybe this is the reckoning we’ve been putting off, and maybe if we keep our nerve the outcome, however long it really takes to arrive, will shine in history’s annals.

OK, now that I’ve released those thoughts into the cyber-ether, what about yesterday? I caught up with Nicole on The Queen’s Gambit (I had missed the first three episodes), and together we took in the final episode. Though it fell prey to some cliches and poured on the sentiment as it closed, I’d still recommend it; in fact, I bought the novel from which it was adapted, which apparently has a cult rep. We may have to get out the chess board–that’s a high compliment to a work of art, that it jolts you into engagement.

Hey…get out and vote if you haven’t already.

Streaming for Strivers:

The “other” Coltrane can be just as effective a salve.

Cloister Commentary, Day 222: The Second Time, He Did It On His Own

Vote. The last day to absentee vote in person in Boone County is Monday, November 2. I read a short story by Octavia Butler yesterday in which God gives the protagonist (Martha) the chance, in his stead, to do one thing for humanity. This morning, if that were me, I would make voting easier for all U. S. citizens. It astounds me, though that’s just my naïveté, that large numbers of elected are striving to make voting more difficult.

The great Corsicana, Texas, songwriter Billy Joe Shaver passed away yesterday. Long a favorite of ours, his music was a presence as we left Nicole’s mom Lynda Jo Evers at her final resting place. We were able to see him live as well, and I gave Dad his memoir for Father’s Day a few years back–he was Dad’s kind of guy: a little rough-hewn, no-nonsense, common-sensical, old-school, witty. He’s even been one of the keys in keeping me in touch with one of my all-time favorite students, one who became a teacher himself, Mr. Ryan Smith.

I suspect Billy Joe will always be a presence in our lives, and if you’re unfamiliar with his work, I direct you to two stellar recordings: Live at Smith’s Old Bar, where he lays down terrific versions of many of his greatest songs backed by his late son Eddy on fire-guitar, and The Earth Rolls On, which demonstrated he could still write tough, smart batches of songs.

Hey–need a new series to stream? Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit is an exciting limited series about a chess prodigy (that’s right), who’s played by the talented young actress Anya Taylor Joy, recently splendid as the title character in the reboot of Jane Austen’s Emma and as a Puritan teen who chooses to live deliciously in The Witch. I overheard Nicole watching it on her own and quickly got drawn in (I will be catching up today).

Streaming for Strivers:

For those in need of whoops and hollers.