Hilltop Diary, November 14, 2021

Welcome back to the Hilltop! As this will be my last post before Thanksgiving Day, I will begin by giving thanks to all of you who follow these musings, plus the usual thanks we all share for God’s many blessings. My new Thanksgiving column in The Epoch Times will appear online in the next couple of days and in the national print edition early in Thanksgiving week. In it, I share the stories of the great Thanksgiving Hymns that many of us remember from childhood: “For the Beauty of the Earth, All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures of Our God and King, This Is My Father’s World,” and “Count Your Blessings.” 

Crystal and I have been travelling on weekends to some beautiful fall sites in the area, two weeks ago to Bledsoe Creek State Park in Gallatin, Tennessee (photo with waterfall), and this past weekend to Breeden’s Apple Orchard in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. At the latter we enjoyed wonderful fall colors in the trees, fresh squeezed apple cider and doughnuts, and we bought a big bag of “Arkansas Black” apples and a few locally made Christmas gifts to send to family out of state.

Bledsoe and Orchard Montage

Being a foody, I would normally leap from here right into what we’re going to cook on Thanksgiving Day! But I believe we will keep it simple and conventional this year, so I will share instead my more adventurous culinary exploit from last week, learning (and attempting) to make Egg Foo Yung! All the demonstrations on YouTube made it look so easy! It was quite a bit trickier when I tried to do it. My mixture for the patties was a bit too wet and, though edible, was a bit soggy rather than fluffy. I will try once more, but it was a big job in both prep and cleanup, to make something you can get cheap and quick at Chinese takeout.

Apart from all of that, I’m on another diet now and doing really well! (Oops, pride goeth before a fall.) The only secret that works for me is to just starve the pounds off and then eat less, once they’re off. In the immortal words of Dolly Parton during an interview after she had just lost a lot of weight, when asked her secret, she replied, “Unhook the feedbag, honey!” Yet another celebrity of yesteryear, Don Ameche, famously ate only one normal-sized meal a day for years, because he had a slow metabolism and would gain if he ate any more than that. Don’t ask me how I know that.

My other fall resolution is to avoid being so insanely busy as I have been since supposedly “retiring” from my teaching job, which is to say, working harder free-lance than I ever was when teaching. I quoted an old saying to a friend who is in the same situation: “Death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.” We don’t wish that! No sooner said, though, than an e-mail came, offering to pay me rather well to write a two-to-three-thousand word music article in Plough Quarterly, a century-old Journal of faith and culture published by an Anabaptist group, with two million readers. Two million readers who might then consider buying my book or latest CD. How could I say no?

Last week came the third rejection from a publisher of my fantasy/fiction novel, Tales from the Realm of Faerie! The novel is a fat 81,000 words and is a companion to my forthcoming symphony recording with the same title. I know that J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by twelve publishers before the thirteenth got rich off of it, so I will forge ahead and work my way through several more publishers!

What am I learning from these rejections? 1) A book’s contents should match the marketing niche in which the publisher specializes, or they won’t publish it, so first you must find out what that is and submit it to the right publishers. 2) The decision to accept or reject your book is, in the end, at the mercy of someone’s personal taste. Two of my rejections have stated the exact opposite view from each other. One said it was right for their genre but not very good, another that it was extremely good but not in their genre. So, I will roll the dice again and keep hoping to find a kindred spirit out there somewhere who wants it. Viva Las Vegas!

I’m still formulating a concept for my next sketch for the ballet (see my last Hilltop entry). This one will have the working title “The Land of Nod” from the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894) in A Child’s Garden of Verse, about going off to sleep. I had some dry composing sessions at first. That is nothing new to me! Then a good musical idea was suddenly right there in my brain, to be picked like fruit and put onto the page. I didn’t think of it — It was just there on its own. I have been tinkering more with that and making progress. Meanwhile, I leave you with this lovely little childhood poem:

Land of Nod

The Land of Nod

From Breakfast on through all the day  / At home among my friends I stay, /  But every night I go abroad / Afar into the land of Nod.  /  All by myself I have to go,  / With none to tell me what to do–  /  All alone beside the streams  / And up the mountain-sides of dreams.  /   The strangest things are there for me, / Both things to eat and things to see,  /  And many frightening sights abroad / Till morning in the land of Nod. / Try as I like to find the way, /  I never can get back by day, / Nor can remember plain and clear  /  The curious music that I hear.  

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