Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Back to School Lessons


"I'm going to go lay down."

"Just what are you going to lay down?"

"Oh. I mean I'm going to go lie down."

Having a mom who was at times a substitute English teacher (among many other talents and training as a music teacher) meant that eventually, grammatically correct words fell from our lips as easily as maple leaves floating from black branches in September. To this day my three sisters like to hash out grammar questions and pet peeves. It's fun to listen. Lay and Lie are among their bugaboos. Not too many people get confused and say a chicken lies an egg. But when it comes to going to the couch for a nap, a lot of people say they're going to go lay down. Fingernails on a chalk board!

The fall semester has taken off in the English department like a big booming (and creaky) barge, and no doubt professors will be honking their grammar horns along the way, at lays that should be lies, thats that ought to be whiches, and infers, which should most emphatically be implies. The latter was one I had to learn from a professor honking at my term paper in which I wrote that I had implied such-and-such from the passage. He happens to be my boss now. (Embarrassing implication.)

But there is a far more important lesson with lay and lie for me to remember as the semester commences.  This barge will pick up cargo as it lumbers down the river. I need to load up my backpack and get off on the riverbank every now and then, lay down the big heavy load of the day, and lie down in the September grass. When I'm stressed, it helps at the end of the day when I've lain down (and laid down), to close my eyes, and practice this visualization:

There is a free-flowing stream running from my head down through the center of my body, and out my toes into the Earth. As I feel my muscles relax (especially my shoulders), I scan my mind for the burdens weighing me down. One by one, I place these worrisome morsels in the flow of my stream and watch them float away, down my body, and into the Earth's soft loam. When I've donated all my burdens to the Earth, I visualize Her transforming them back into something alive and nurturing, back up the stream in me. (Ohh, I thank Her.) If I haven't already drifted off in the stream of sleep, I am at least relaxed.

Won't you lie down, in this September grass? What about the ants, you ask? No worries. They don't mind working while we lay around, I mean lie around. There's plenty of room: Lay your burden down, and lie here in the grass with me, Bishop and James Taylor. I mean, with Bishop, James Taylor and meWe're so small and the world's so vast . . .

Scoot over, Bish.

I shot these photos of Bishop two years ago;
the leaves have only just begun to fall and are not this far along

September Grass
by James Taylor

Well, the sun's not so hot in the sky today
And you know I can see summertime slipping on away
A few more geese are gone, a few more leaves turning red
But the grass is as soft as a feather in a featherbed
So I'll be king and you'll be queen
Our kingdom's gonna be this little patch of green

Won't you lie down here right now
In this September grass
Won't you lie down with me now
September grass

Oh the memory is like the sweetest pain
Yeah, I kissed the girl at a football game
I can still smell the sweat and the grass stains
We walked home together. I was never the same.

But that was a long time ago
And where is she now? I don't know

Won't you lie down here right now
In this September grass
Won't you lie down with me now
September grass

Oh, September grass is the sweetest kind
It goes down easy like apple wine
Hope you don't mind if I pour you some
Made that much sweeter by the winter to come

Do you see those ants dancing on a blade of grass?
Do you know what I know? that's you and me, baby
We're so small and the world's so vast
We found each other down in the grass

Won't you lie down with me right here
September grass
Won't you lie down with me now
In this September grass

Lie down
Lie down
Lie down
Lie down


Won't you lie down here right now
In this September grass
Won't you lie down here now
In this September grass



Anonymous said...

I love James Taylor and between listening to him and visualizing your visualization, I'm ready to lie down again and it's only 7:00 a.m. So relaxed am I.

*jean* said...

ahhh...i just woke up and now want to go back to bed...i will bookmark this lovely post for when i need to let my worrisome morsels flow...thank you, dear ruth

Gabriele Agustini said...

I just found your blog and I absolutely love it!!
The photographs of the cat are awesome!
I'm now one of your "Followers". :)
Thanks for sharing,

Susan said...

What a relaxing way to start the day, which includes my going to the dentist. Well, actually the dental hygienist, which isn't too, too stressful. She always gives me a gold star and says I'm her best student, er, I mean patient.

I would love to lie down in some soft September grass. My kitties would love it, too. Unfortunately, our grass is crispy and brown, due to the fact that we haven't had more than a drop of rain in a month or more. I suppose I will just have to go there in my mind.

Bishop reminds me so much of my Tobey.

rauf said...

oh James Taylor makes me lazy Ruth. Luckily it is not morning here. i don't feel like doing anything after listening to the song. just sit in one place. JT is a sit and listen kind.

i take grammar as shackles. i just like to put words together and communicate. i spelled grammar wrong here, had to correct when i saw the red underline.

Bishop is in a comfort zone always, very entertaining. Very sharp and beautiful pictures Ruth

Shari Sunday said...

I enjoyed your reveries and photographs and I always love James Taylor. I'm smiling right now because I'm thinking of one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs. Do you know it? Lay Lady Lay, Lay across my big brass bed ... Happy September day, Ruth.

Shari Sunday said...

I missed out on hearing this James Taylor song before. I really enjoyed it.

Judy said...

OMGosh, you made my day with those Bishop pictures! I need to study up on Lay/Lie.... they are bugaboos for me, as well as loose, lose, loss- I never get correct!

George said...

Thank you, Ruth, for this wonderful posting. James Tayor's music is fading out as I write this, and I am now in the mood for a great day. I think I will lie down in the September grass this afternoon.

Margaret Bednar said...

Apple wine... Will have to check that out. My husband is a "grammar head" and has corrected me for over 21 years . I have learned a lot! It was either that or murder him in his sleep as it can get a little annoying :) He is an ER physician and we moved south a year ago and the first few days were interesting for him while he learned the "new" language. Not a few patients opined why they had to get a doctor that couldn't speak (or seem to understand) English. He has adjusted and realizes there are times that ine needs to "bend". At times, in such high stereo situations, he is the one who bends and adapts by using their words and slang for ease and quick communications. What I wouldn't give to hear that!

Bonnie said...

Oh dear ... now I feel a little self-conscious about my choice of words ... Oh well, I is what I is and I usually writes what I writes!

Beautiful lyrics from dear James. I enjoyed reading them even more than hearing him sing them for some strange reason.

When I first glanced at the opening photo of Bishop, I thought it was a butterfly on his (her?) paw. I see now it is a September leaf.

I think I will lay down my little burdens and lie down in the September grass this afternoon with George - several hundred miles apart!!!

Did I get the lesson? Was a little distracted with thoughts of George, grass, September, James Taylor, cool water flowing through tired cells....! Ruth, look what your post has done! ;-)

Margaret Bednar said...

Stress, not stereo. I'm typing on an Ipad and it can be a bit challenging at times.

Pat said...

Thanks for the grammar lesson. I love, LOVE the pictures of your kitty, especially the first one. James Taylor? Great! His voice is as smooth as buttah!! I love your visualization technique, too!

ellen abbott said...

My son went through a phase in high school when he took everything literally, purposefully misunderstanding what you were saying, ignoring popular usage and idiom. I was so glad when he grew out of that.

Loring Wirbel said...

We saw the JT/Carole King concert in Denver, and I sent my mom the DVD afterwards. But only a grammar-head would turn this into a lie-lay discussion. Now let's talk about your-you're!

Amy said...

I giggled when I saw your post because your timing is impeccable! Just the other day I found a link that perfectly explains the lay vs. lie "bugaboo." I think you might have been the one to correct me at the cottage many years ago, and I have taken great pains to say it correctly ever since. The part that still confuses me is the past tense usage, but I have since learned the rule (though I generally have to pause before speaking/writing). Here's the website in case anyone else is interested:

Dennis corrects me on my usage of can vs. may (Can I have . . . vs. May I have . . .) and I continue to correct him on his usage of lay vs. lie. Ah, l'amour! :-)

P.S. LOVE the shots of Bishop!

SamaraZone said...

I Love it! Can you give us a refresher on there, their and they're? I know a few folks who could this. :)

Ruth said...

Bella, I think I should have posted this in the evening, when everyone was ready for bed. . . . :)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Jean, I suppose it's good to be relaxed for the day, but before bed is more like it. I've found this meditation very helpful.

Ruth said...

Thank you and welcome, Gabriele! It is lovely to meet you and be introduced to your blog, which is so full of love.

Ruth said...

Susie dear, I hope you got an A+ from the hygienist, you deserve it, you flosser you.

Isn't it strange how in just a few hours of distance we have had vastly different weather? We have had a lot of rain, and I wish we could share it with you.

Yes, Tobey and Bish look alike. American Wirehair?

Ruth said...

rauf, maybe you were the only one who read this for whom (cough, cough, I used the right grammar, hehe) this post was at the right time. I hope you had a very good and relaxing sleep after ward.

Oh rauf, I wish I could be free of the grammar shackles too. When these things are drilled into you 24/7, there is no freedom, it can't come, it's impossible. I might drive myself insane. Believe me, it's a habit only. Well, and now working in the English department, I suppose I should uphold my end of things.

You know, I learn from Bishop's zone. And she is always affectionate. I wonder what you learn from PPP. Looking out for tough guys? I hope he hasn't gotten beaten up lately. He has gotten very handsome.

Ruth said...

Shari, "Lay Lady Lay", and "Lay Down Sally" too. Some things would just sound wrong wrong wrong if they were spoken rightly. Is that right? Rightly? I think country music is supposed to be bad grammar, otherwise it doesn't qualify.

Ruth said...

Judy, if I hadn't been corrected at every turn, I would have had to learn them some other way, and I'm grateful I didn't have to. One thing I do often when I'm typing is to write a word as it sounds, like "right" instead of "write."

Ruth said...

I'm so glad, George, I hope it was a good day, and it's fun picturing you lying in the grass there in Maryland. I got home after dark, so I couldn't join you after work.

Ruth said...

Oh, no, Bonnie, never ever worry about anything with language around me. For one thing, you write beautifully, and what you write is always a gift, along with your art. These grammar rules were drilled into us kids, and I can't help it, things just sound wrong or feel wrong if I consciously type them wrong. But that's about me, not about anyone else.

Bishop is a she, and this lie-down is turning into an international event. The world can use a lot more relaxation, I'd say.

Ruth said...

Oops, Margaret, I got out of order. I smiled at what you wrote about your husband, because half my family is like that with those of us who are grammar police. I try to not say anything to correct anyone, although I did do it with our kids, not that they always paid attention. I think it's wonderful that your husband bends and uses the vernacular in his work.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Pat. That Bish is a ham and a half. She loves to squirm when I get the camera out. Getting her to sit still is nearly impossible. She just wants to cuddle and drool.

Ruth said...

Ellen, I don't know, that sounds kind of fun . . . if I were the one doing it anyway. Oh man, I just remembered being a kid and repeating everything someone would say. It was SO fun when I was doing it. But when my brother did it, he drove me NUTS!

Ruth said...

Loring, you went to their concert? Oh, man. I would have loved it. They sang me through high school, well you too, although I think your musical horizons were like the Grand Canyon compared to mine. Yes yes, I am miss English priss, because Ms. Sabin did her job right. :D

Ruth said...

Hi, Amy! :D I am happy to see a family member chime in, otherwise it just wouldn't be right. That is a handy little grammar tips site. Wow, seeing the Lie Lay Lain, and Lay Laid Laid takes me right back to school.

As long as you and Dennis correct each other equally, then it's a zero sum game and all is well. Or something like that. I wonder if your mom corrected you growing up? I think Aunt Nancy is the grammar queen in the family, and it's like a game to her, and she knows how to laugh about it. That's what matters, right?

Ruth said...

SamaraZone, I type that one wrong if I'm in a hurry: there, their or they're. Also, I notice that because I type certain words often, they want to come out of my fingers, and I have to be careful that I'm typing the write word, I mean right word.

The Bug said...

I'm always asking Dr. M which is correct - lie or lay. And then I use what sounds best whether it's right or not. Or I just change the sentence to avoid the issue entirely. And all of this is hilarious because I'm the grammar queen in my family - I just never figured that one out. I think that, finally, I might remember - especially after listening to this lovely song by James Taylor!

J.G. said...

Ms. B is delightful and her white is so white! Thank you for sharing her loveliness and James Taylor, too.

I only recently learned the proper use of "since" and "because," although I am otherwise lucky to have untutored grammar aptitude. That and eraser tag are my two claims to fame. No wonder I like school!

Oliag said...

I love this post Ruth! I feel like I need a nice chat with you:) My grammar has always been horrible...I wish I had a grammar check as well as a spelling check...

...and I wish I had?laid?had lain? down in the grass this afternoon after I finished mowing the lawn...maybe tomorrow...Do you ever read Char's blog ramblin? She just wrote about letting go of unnecessary burdens too...synchronicity again...

...and James Taylor...I was unfamiliar with this song and I love it... he had me at "I kissed the girl at a football game"...

...and Bishop...what wonderful photos...he looks a little like my Sally...

...oh and I forgot to write to you in thanks for your concern over our impending storm...Earl fizzled out and I am old enough to be thankful for that!

Dee Dee said...

This has got to be one of my favorites ever. I don't know how you continue to top all your great posts, even if it is my least favorite subject and my most confusing one ( grammar ) at that and plurals...fahgetaboutit!
But, I love JT singing about September, I'll make this blog my birthday gift to me and with Bishop pictures as icing on the cake...Thanks again my sweet.

Ruth said...

Haha, Dana, I'm picturing that, creating sentences to avoid using lie or lay. I am going to go recline . . . . . What's funny is how we English speakers (Americans, OK) struggle with our own language. Did you know that linguistics scholars are really skipping grammar altogether these days? Students can't even find a grammar class at our university. And it's being taught less in high school too. My question is, how are students supposed to know what professors want? It's an odd case of expectation without preparation.

Ruth said...

J.G., pause. Um. There's a difference between since and because?


Now eraser tag is the kind of competition that avoids argument. Either the eraser is on your head or it isn't. I wonder how many schools still have chalk boards. Well I guess there are still dry erasers. Bleh.

Ruth said...

Dear Oliag, after your comment, and then your video/audio post of cicadas-crickets-Emily, I feel that we've touched, even if we can't chat in person. :(


Yes, I follow Char's ramblins, she's wonderful. I like her list. It's really about being authentically and authoritatively yourself. But my goodness, it is so hard not to compare myself with someone else. I've noticed that doing that brings stress quicker than anything. Why can't I just rejoice that someone else embodies beauty in a way I don't? Learning, listening.

We heard James Taylor on this CD tour, October Road, wow, it's been over 10 years I think. I liked all the songs at the first hearing. Don thinks Taylor only uses 3 notes in his songs. Could be, could be, but they mesmerize me all the same. I think it's about his soul that comes through. Something that belies the easy listening pigeonhole he's in, a life of more complexity than maybe many who listen to him realize or would possibly comprehend (like me, I suppose).

So glad about Sir Earl fizzling! Yes, we don't need the damage and drama.

Ruth said...

Dee Dees, I love you to the skies.

And I get to see you on almost-your-birthday! I can't remember the last time that happened. Why is your Joe so adorable? Why are you so precious, and why oh why do plurals have to be so damn difficult? But promise me this, please, I beg of you, I implore you with all my might. DO NOT EVER, I repeat, EVER, learn English plurals. Half - half! - the world's charm would disappear if you get English plurals "right." See you Saturday!

Anonymous said...

oh i am always teasing my american friend james about his use of lay when it should be lie. he always says oh i was just laying in my bed... and i go, are you a chicken to be laying eggs.

Pauline said...

Can't decide which part of this post I liked best - photos, grammar lesson, JT or Bish - so will say thanks for the whole thing! Wonderful from start to finish!

Babs-beetle said...

Can we have some more grammar lessons please? I see so many incorrect words used in blog posts, and probably use some myself.

My pet hate is the use of the word 'ones' How can you have 'those ones' with one being singular? We have many news readers and apparently well educated people who say it, and it drives me crazy. It makes me want to go and lay (lie) down ;)

Lovely photos - and lovely song!

Arti said...

It just takes one single James Taylor song to get us all nostalgic and wishing we were young again. Well we still are, I think, but just not as fresh out as we could have been like before.

Also, I've enjoyed your grammar lesson. And, after coming back from France, I really think that no matter how proficient in English one is just might not be enough... a French lesson one of these days? :)

Jeanie said...

My friend, I love everything about this post (having had the lay/lie discussion this weekend, it resonates!) And the photos of Bishop who is so very handsome and looks as though he simply adores life and relaxation, the stretch, the feel of the grass on his fur. And to top it off with Sweet Baby James singing ANYTHING -- well, a perfect post! Welcome back to school... THEY'RE BAAACCCKKKK....

Cait O'Connor said...

Your pics are the best cat pics I have ever seen. Great post.

Ginnie said...

I had to laugh about Amy's comment and your response. Oh yes. Mommy dearest! Guilty as charged. I always tried to find good ways of remembering the difference in "teaching" the kids. That's half the fun of the have those ways of remembering why. Astrid astounds me when she gets these rules down pat. Her bigger issue is spelling because in Dutch a 'd' is a 't' and a 'c' is a 'g' and a 'v' is an 'f' so on and so forth. It tickles me to death when I read her words because now that I'm learning Dutch, I know exactly why/where she's having problems. Language! Love it, hate it, use it.

Do you know what I learned in my liguistics classes years ago: usuage is what makes the rules. One day it will be correct to say all the things that make us cringe now when we hear it! Perish the thought.

Ruth said...

Kamana, good for you! :D

Ruth said...

Pauline, I am so tickled that you enjoyed all of it, thank you!

Ruth said...

Babs, those ones, hahaha. Well I guess just saying those is too easy?

Ruth said...

Arti, I especially get that way about JT in the fall, because of his CD October Road, that this song is from.

Who oh who will give us a French lesson? ce n'est pas me. :)

Ruth said...

Arti, I especially get that way about JT in the fall, because of his CD October Road, that this song is from.

Who oh who will give us a French lesson? ce n'est pas me. :)

Ruth said...

Jeanie, with a vengeance! Phew, now things have settled down though.

Ruth said...

Cait, WOW. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Boots, that has always fascinated me too. How speakers of certain languages tend to make the same mistakes in English, because of how their own language is structured. And vice versa, I'm sure. Like Asian languages that don't have plurals like ours! No wonder they leave off the "s".

You would be interested to hear the discussions in my department about how linguistics is changing. Very little focus on grammar any more.