Et lilium convallium

Made it to shape note for the first time in over a month, the singing just a few blocks away, bearing white bean & tuna salad and freshly baked cookies for the pot luck that distinguishes the Brooklyn sing. Fortunately the unofficial but acknowledged leader of the local shapenote community was with us, averting the crisis of authority that sometimes arises.

Another local singer invited us back to her house after the singing, and four of us ended up going. A.’s house on Third Place is terribly skinny, just two windows wide, and divided from the train viaduct rising just there from the ground only by another two-bay house. But we sat in the garden – the border between the two skinny plots marked chiefly by a clothesline – admiring the cardinal and yellowthroat and the irises coming into bloom, inhaling the thick sweet scent of lilies of the valley, and talking (except when the train went by). Among other things we spoke of “couth,” the presumed opposite of “uncouth.” One of us remarked that it meant “known,” and that it survives in the pairing “kith and kin.” I remembered it from the General Prologue, where palmers journey “to ferne halwes kowthe in sondry landes.” When it got cool we went indoors, to sit in the skinny front parlor, and eventually to sing. The parlor has what I mistook for an upright piano and is in fact an organ, and odd old guitars hung on the walls, and a giant painting of Cleopatra with her maid that A. said was painted by a relative from a postcard-sized reproduction of an original she’d never been able to find. “An original chocolate box” was my suggestion. There’s a lot of character there.

Next Saturday, Garden State Convention at the Quaker meetinghouse in Upper Montclair — always a good time. And so exciting to actually cross state lines, even if one is underwater while doing so. A(2) reminded me that I have accepted the awful responsibility of food chair for the New York All-Day Singing in September. I hope I am up to the job.

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