Welcome to Lydia McCauley's Garden of Simples Blog

The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get from it, but what they become by it. - John Ruskin

Lydia McCauley and Kurt Scherer are owners of STONEHOUSE ARTIFACTS, offering Treasures from Colonial India. Online Here.

Our shop is located in Bellingham, Washington. We welcome you to come and visit our small estate, enjoy the grounds and share a cup of Chai.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Lunchmaid and Willow

Our story begins at the end of Willow's life of thirteen years.

Willow Violet Scherer, born April 1.
Grandest kitty in the world, princess kitty, best kitty that ever lived.
Found at the pound from a ferral mother.
Named by Hannah at the age of eleven, while looking at a blue willow-ware platter.
Lover of Wisteria and Ocean Spray, Hostas, and Cat Mint.
Beloved by her family.
Bonded by life and death to the Lunchmaid

The Lunchmaid was accustomed to feeding Willow every afternoon. A little 'wet' food and a little 'dry' food in her little willow ware and glass bowls. Willow would come inside from her daily rounds of hunting grasshoppers, lightly making her way back to Yellow Lily Pond, napping under the cedars, and generally sitting, simply viewing the world under the ocean spray that arched its branches over the entrance of Willow's Path.

This went on for years until one day Willow did not want to eat. And she didn't eat for several days. And she didn't drink from her little bowl. Nor did she prance about anymore. So, the Lunchmaid put Willow in the car (Little Stuart - an Austin Somerset with a big steering wheel. He was made in England, but felt himself to be Scottish at heart) and proceeded to drive all the way to the Vetenarian's house away into the countryside with Willow in her lap, strangely quiet.

At the Doctor's first glance Willow simply needed some rehydration. A further exam determined a tumor in her tummy. The Lunchmaid put her back into the car, on her lap. When out on the road home, the Lunchmaid's tears began to fall and a hollow sound came from her body, a deep sorrow poured from her heart. Willow heard her mourning and laid on her lap in a knowing kind of silence. The two would soon part.

It happened that the weather at Yellow Lily Pond was quite warm and all the doors and windows were open in the house. Willow did not have the strength to walk outside, so the Lunchmaid would carry her gently down to the pond to catch the gentle breeze. They would sit together and listen to the frogs and birds. Willow would make her way to the edge for a small drink.

The Boatman's hostas were fully leaved and provided Willow a respite from the heat. There she lay where she once played Tiger in the perennial garden next to the house. She barely moved.

Meanwhile, the Boatman was busy being a carpenter, building a very fine house further down the road. The next morning he bought a piece of cedar to form a small casket for his beloved kitty. He cut the pieces and nailed them together at about three in the afternoon. It hurt his heart to do so, but he wanted Willow to have a beautiful box that water could not penetrate when put in the ground.

That afternoon was a blessed one for Willow and the Lunchmaid. Again they visited the pond and Willow drank a sip from it. It was as though the organic green of the water was the only thing that could sustain her, and she toddled to the edge, with the Lunchmaid carrying her back, so as not to topple over. A great silence fell over the pond. No frog, no bird, no wind.

They went back into the house. Willow began to cry, the first sound that she had made in days. The Lunchmaid sought to comfort her. And then something happened. Willow rose up on her forepaws and stretched her head back and let out a wild kind of howl. Something primordial, something so deep and real that the Lunchmaid began to chant. She began to chant a song of death, a song for God to take the soul of her Willow. For angels to take Willow across the great waters. This is a chant that the Lunchmaid had to sing, and she made up the words and tune as she went along. Just then Willow took a breath. She took one more deep breath and all of the air went from her body. Her head rested on her paws. Her spirit was gone.

The Lunchmaid was afraid to touch Willow's body. She sat in front of her in awe. Life to death.

A few minutes passed and the Lunchmaid heard a knock at the door. There stood a friend who she had not seen for many months, bearing a basket of freshly picked strawberries and some whipping cream. The Lunchmaid brought her over to Willow's body. It was then that the telephone rang. It was the boatman and he had just finished putting the last nail in the coffin a few minutes before and was on his way home.

Beautiful white linens were wrapped around Willow's body as she was laid out. Candles were lit on the dining room table around the open casket. Potpourri was sprinkled inside. The cream was whipped, the berries eaten, wine was opened, and stories began to flow from the three at the table.

Another knock at the door and a friend from far away stood with four children in hand. In they came to see the beautiful kitty. They petted her, they said a blessing for her. They ran outside to find daisies, clover, and other wild flowers which they made into necklaces to place around the head of Willow. Now her casket became a bower and joy was all around. Joy stayed throughout the evening as another friend came to view the body. And the candles burned. And the Lunchmaid and her Boatman slept until morning.

And the next day was the burial. Early morning sun was pouring through the grand firs. The Boatman so carefully dug the plot of soil, deep, deep enough very near to Willow's Path. Together the two closed the lid and nailed it. The Boatman asked the Lunchmaid to say a prayer and silence and joy were present. Willow was lowered into the ground, and yes, next to Lady Guinnivere Pig ( a beloved Guinnea Pig, a story for another time). The earth covered her casket. The sun sprayed down upon it. Ocean Spray was laid upon it.

Let the wind say Willow
Let it say Beauty
Let the portals open
and freely pour out
and pour out Life,
The preciousness of it.


Click on this post's title and find a link to QUIETING. Song number 6 - Willow - was written the week that she died.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Contemporary Mass

Lydia McCauley, Composer

A Contemporary Mass Setting

Commissioned by
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Bellingham, Washington
Frederick Frahm, Director of Music

A new Mass setting is being sung at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bellingham, Washington. MISSA AZZURRO VERDE, commissioned by St. Paul’s in 2006, is used in the nine a.m. less formal Eucharist service, and is supported by an ensemble of vocalists and musicians with flute, guitar and piano.

Composed by Lydia McCauley, professional musician and co-owner of the independent music label Brimstone Music, “Missa Azzurro Verde” (mass of blue and green) is a tribute to the heavens and the earth meeting as one in unity. The Mass includes settings of the Kyrie eleison, Gloria in excelsis, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. There are also optional settings of the fraction anthem (Pascha nostrum) and the Trisagion.

Frederick Frahm, prolific composer of organ works, chamber music and choral scores, asked Lydia to compose the Mass for a contemporary Eucharist in her simple songwriting style. He mentored her through the process, engraved the music, and arranged the keyboard setting of the Sanctus. Lydia was deeply honored to write music for a church congregation and to be tutored by a master such as Frahm. [Learn more about this composer at http://www.frederickfrahm.com]

Missa Azzurro Verde is set for Congregation, Choir, Keyboard and Guitar. It includes a pew score.The Kyrie and Christ our Passover are set in a minor key and may be performed unaccompanied as plainchant, with or without a faux bourdon. The contemplative settings of the Trisagion and Agnus Dei incorporate Lydia’s love of Celtic and Appalachian music, which grows full with joy in the Gloria in excelsis
and Sanctus. Performance licences for the Mass are available from the composer.

Lydia McCauley is a singer, pianist, and composer whose music is influenced by Folk, medieval, and Classical genres. She began studying piano at age five, grew up singing in choirs, documentedAppalachian Folk music in college, and maintained a piano studio while raising a family. She has released six full length albums on her own music label, and has been touring the U.S, and Canada with her ensemble of musicians for ten years.

Lydia’s album cut “Kyrie eleison” from The Beauty of the Earth recording is currently featured on Jet Blue, Frontier Airlines, Musak, Sirius Satellite Radio, and Martha Stewart Living. [For more information visit her website at http://www.LydiaMcCauley.com]

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Dalai Lama

Kurt and I spent most of this winter in India. We stayed in the South for one month, then travelled in the North through Rajastan, the Punjab, and into the Himalayan foothills to the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We were there for the 50th Anniversary of the Chinese takeover of Tibet. The photos above are from the temple just outside of The Dalai Lama's residence. It was truly a wonderful thing to hear The Dalai Lama speak, to hear him chant in the temple, and to simply be in his presence.

Recently I received an email from my daughter's husband's sister's husband. (Did you get that?) He is currently attending MIT and had the opportunity to hear The Dalai Lama speak on April 30, at the Inaugaral Event for The Dalai Lama Center For Ethics. Here's what he had to say about the event:

"It was very interesting to hear him speak. His English is a bit hard to understand, but he seems to be a very genuine and humorous person. He came to MIT for the opening of the new Center for Ethics and Transformational Values (http://www.thecenter.mit.edu/) that he is setting up in cooperation with MIT. Basically, the institution is being established to explore how compassion can be taught in a formal sense to non-religious people. He believes our global economic recession was proceeded by a recession in ethics and values. He does not feel he needs to promote Buddhism, rather he hopes that compassion can be taught. He feels MIT can help finds ways to do this. He clarified his definition of “secular” as one who has respect for all religions rather than one who rejects religion (the MIT center is secular). He accepted the fact that a growing portion of the developed world is becoming secular and that their needs to be a way to instill compassion and values into this portion of the world. He does not feel that everyone in the world needs to become a Buddhist and that other religions can serve a purpose for others. He is a surprisingly realistic leader. He accepts the reality of history, while hoping for a better future. He hopes for a more democratic United Nations (indicating that the Security Council was not ideal). He stated that if he were able to return to an autonomous Tibet (clearly stated as not independent) he would not serve as its leader. He feels the people in Tibet, who have suffered through oppression, would best lead their own region. He hopes for a demilitarized world, but understands that it is not realistic in the short-term. He indicated that the individual should be disarmed, but seemed to feel that inter-country conflict may be necessary. When questioned by a student who asked about the moral conflict of working for a defense contractor, he affirmed that people kill people, not weapons. Implying that some weapons and violence may be necessary as long as it kills the right people, but he also feels this line of thinking is unrealistic. He never gives clear-cut answers, but his responses usually guide you in a direction." - Matt Thompson