Sunday, November 30, 2008

Let's play the 100 things list

FranIAm, Caminante, and Padre Mickey made me do it. Through the power of example. Also, I am procrastinating from reading the Elizabethan Homilies. (Don't ask.)

The things I have done are in bold.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped (and I hope I never do, thank you very much.)
12. Visited Paris (Visited, nothing. I lived there.)
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning (Only once, way back when I was in college, from a bad hamburger in New York. I can't remember the last time I ate a hamburger.)
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (At age 5 and I'll never forget it! Neither will my mother since apparently I bitched and moaned once we got halfway up there, but we couldn't go back down since we were single file on those narrow stairs and all my cousins were there!)
18. Grown my own vegetables (Do herbs and strawberries count?)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (Interesting how we've all done this one!)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb (No, but I held a baby goat two years ago; you haven't lived till you've held a baby goat. They are waaaay cute.)
26. Gone skinny dipping (You betcha, and not just once. Small Vermont lakes are good for that.)
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (I can't remember. My major visit to Venice was when I was four and I remember the canal beneath the window and the song my brother made up about all the floating garbage on the water, but I don't remember a gondola. Probably our parents didn't have the money for it. OCICBW.)
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (All the time. Mostly sunset these days.)
31. Hit a home run (In your dreams!)
32. Been on a cruise (No, but when I was little I crossed the Atlantic on a big ship; it was before taking airplanes was common; ships were cheaper and we were going to the States to visit family.)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors (That would be birthplaces, in the plural, like most Estadoünidenses. I hope to go to one of them. I don't know all the places. Lots of Jews whose records are lost.)
35. Seen an Amish community (Not yet, but I'm going later this year, perhaps in spring, with my colleague who knows the folks from one of the communities not too far from us.)
36. Taught myself a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (Briefly. On the other extreme, I was two or three years under the Federal poverty level when I was in Ph.D. studies. Which is not to say one has to have lots of money to be truly satisfied.)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (No, but I've sung on stage with piano and bands and guitar et al.)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (No, though I've bought strangers food and takeout.)
44. Visited Africa (Expect I'll go someday.)
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance (Once. Thought I might be having a heart attack or some other physical problem; I was dizzy and had what felt like palpitations. It turned out to be a big honking panic attack, though the EMTs and the ER did not diagnose it that night.)
47. Had my portrait painted (Does a sketch artist at Montmartre when I was a kid count?)
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (Snorkeling. Eilat, Israel, 1970 or 1971. Too chicken to scuba dive. Would love to snorkel again. Fishies and corals! If there are any left after we've messed up the planet as we have.)
52. Kissed in the rain (Of course! See above under "lived in Paris.")
53. Played in the mud (I was a kid once, wasn't I?)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (In Vermont, as I recall.)
55. Been in a movie (No, but I'm available. Oh, wait, I was in a documentary in a big group. It was some kind of anti-war movie in the 1980s.)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business (Does my own consulting business for a while count? It wasn't really a business, it was just me being a consultant.)
58. Taken a martial arts class (Once. Just for one session! But it was memorable.)
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (Ugh, no. French Girl Scouts don't sell cookies. They don't even make cookies.)
62. Gone whale watching (No -- shame on me, after all those years living in Massachusetts.)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving (Much too chicken.)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp (I will some day.)
67. Bounced a check (Ouch. More than once.)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (Brother's panda bear, passed on to me, in the family since my brother was one year old, i.e. 1943! Survived the Great Tree Crash of 2008. Needs a little vacuuming or dusting off. I also have a few of my favorite storybooks.)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job (1. Yes, if you count the part-time job in a bakery where the owners kept changing my schedule and then finally announced to me they thought I wasn't happy with the schedule and things weren't working out. 2. No, but I once quit in a timely manner because I saw the handwriting on the wall.)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London (When I was a little girl.)
77. Broken a bone (Thank Godde, knock wood, etc.)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (See above under "too chicken.")
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (I sure hope I do someday.)
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car (Only once in my life, and it died in a freak fire. I wasn't in it.)
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (No, I'm an Episcopalian. ;-) But I have read most of it, and I read it a lot.)
86. Visited the White House (Waiting for an invitation from the Obamas, like everybody else.)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (No, but my cat did.)
88. Had chickenpox (Terrible case, when I was three. Had to be sent to the country for several weeks to convalesce.)
89. Saved someone’s life (Depends what you mean. No, not literally i.e. physically. I have a friend who claims I saved his life in another way, and another whom I drove to detox; she's been clean and sober ever since, and alive and happy too. But that really was her decision, with, I'm sure, help from her Higher Power.)
90. Sat on a jury (No, I didn't get chosen.)
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club (Nah, too many years in school. Perpetual book club and you had to pay for it. But I love to read and to discuss books with friends.)
93. Lost a loved one (Many more than one...)
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant (Sounds like fun, assuming the elephant isn't drunk or angry.)

The Advent Door

Jan Richardson's Advent blog, The Advent Door, both took my breath away and comforted me. I discovered it as I was working on my sermon for the First Sunday of Advent and poking around textweek for resources.

The blog has gorgeous art which I'd like to post here, but it is copyrighted and I haven't yet had a chance to write Jan and ask for permission. I am especially fond of this piece, which bears a direct relation to the Scriptures for the day and to the sermon I've been cooking. One of the extraordinary things about Jan's blog (and her other online work) is that she is equally gifted with the word and with visual art.

I'll post other Advent resources tomorrow. Enjoy this one.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Barbara Lee elected chair of Congressional Black Caucus

My former Member of Congress, Barbara Lee, has been elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Here is a link to the story. I am still on Representative Lee's mailing list even though I moved out of her district over three years ago because I like her so much.

Lee was the only person in the entire Congress to vote against authorizing the use of military force following the attacks of September 11, 2001 and did so at great political risk, even in her liberal district. Indeed, she did so at personal risk and received death threats after her vote in Congress. She has been a consistent critic of the war in Iraq.

Her official website is here. Long may she represent.

Toni Morrison's new book: A Mercy

A good book for Thanksgiving. I won't have money to buy it or time to read it till heaven knows when, but I really want to. The New York Times Book Review for this weekend has a front-page essay about it.

... In “A Mercy,” a 17th-­century American farmer — who lives near a town wink-and-nudgingly called Milton — enriches himself by dabbling in the rum trade and builds an ostentatious, oversize new house, for which he orders up a fancy wrought-iron gate, ornamented with twin copper serpents: when the gate is closed, their heads meet to form a blossom. The farmer, Jacob Vaark, thinks he’s creating an earthly paradise, but Lina, his Native American slave, whose forced exposure to Presbyterianism has conveniently provided her with a Judeo-­Christian metaphor, feels as if she’s “entering the world of the damned.”

In this American Eden, you get two original sins for the price of one — the near extermination of the native population and the importation of slaves from Africa — and it’s not hard to spot the real serpents: those creatures Lina calls “Europes,” men whose “whitened” skins make them appear on first sight to be “ill or dead,” and whose great gifts to the heathens seem to be smallpox and a harsh version of Christianity with “a dull, unimaginative god.” Jacob is as close as we get to a benevolent European. Although three bondswomen (one Native American, one African and one “a bit mongrelized”) help run his farm, he refuses to traffic in slaves; the mother of the African girl, in fact, has forced her daughter on him because the girl is in danger of falling into worse hands and he seems “human.” Yet Jacob’s money is no less tainted than if he’d wielded a whip himself: it simply comes from slaves he doesn’t have to see in person, working sugar plantations in the Caribbean. And the preposterous house he builds with this money comes to no good. It costs the lives of 50 trees (cut down, as Lina notes, “without asking their permission”), his own daughter dies in an accident during the construction, and he never lives to finish it.

True, some of the white settlers are escapees from hell: Jacob’s wife, Rebekka, whom he imported sight unseen from London, retains too-vivid memories of public hangings and drawings-and-quarterings. ...

... This novel isn’t a polemic — does anybody really need to be persuaded that exploitation is evil? — but a tragedy in which “to be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing.”

Except for a slimy Portuguese slave trader, no character in the novel is wholly evil, and even he’s more weak and contemptible than mustache-twirlingly villainous. Nor are the characters we root for particularly saintly. While Lina laments the nonconsensual deaths of trees, she deftly drowns a newborn baby, not, as in “Beloved,” to save it from a life of slavery, but simply because she thinks the child’s mother (the “mongrelized” girl who goes by the Morrisonian name of Sorrow) has already brought enough bum luck to Jacob’s farmstead. Everyone in “A Mercy” is damaged; a few, once in a while, find strength to act out of love, or at least out of mercy — that is, when those who have the power to do harm decide not to exercise it. A negative virtue, but perhaps more lasting than love. ...

Read the rest here.

Essay: David Gates.
Photo: Damon Winter, The New York Times.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Buy Nothing Day

It's Buy Nothing Day. Celebrate.

I'm going for a walk in the woods with friends a bit later.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Your Thanksgiving menus

This is a join-in post, campers.

Your Thanksgiving menus, please. OR your favorite dish on the menu today. OR your recipe for what you brought to your Thanksgiving potluck or for something you made at home.

Your choice.

I'll post my friends' menu in this space later. I know it already because we are bringing different parts of the meal and they announced their main course, but it's more fun to post after the meal.

I am making only the soup (thank goodness, see below) and have been looking forward to being responsible only for two things: making soup and showing up.

The soup is a butternut squash puree (made with itself, not with stock - it's simple and vegetarian) flavored with allspice. Though I'm remembering ginger from my mother's recipe, too. We shall see. I haven't made the soup yet due to the little afternoon episode yesterday. But dinner isn't till 4 p.m. so there's time. I may even go back to bed before then.

P.S. (Added later) I finally remembered the other ingredient! I kept thinking "I haven't made this in a few years, I know there is something in this soup besides allspice, what is it??" It's fresh ginger. How in the world could I forget? Good thing I keep fresh ginger in the house.

P.P.S. (Added much later) Menu of the Very Delicious Foodie Thanksgiving at the Home of Fabulous Hosts:

Cocktails of Prosecco and Lillet (yes, mixed! first time I'd ever had that combo)

Butternut squash soup (see above)
First of several wines brought by Retired Academic Who Is Into Wine:
Lindemans (Western Cape, South Africa) Sauvignon Blanc vintage 2007; fragrant, smelled of flowers.

Duck confit (one leg for each person - which led to jokes about the nine-legged duck)
Mashed sweet potatoes
Sauteed green cabbage (with olive oil and garlic as it turns out, but neither was overpowering; made by Lawerly Spouse of Retired Academic Who Is Into Wine)
Homemade cranberry sauce (made by one of the Fabulous Hosts) with half the sugar and twice the cranberries called for by the recipe on the package - perfect.
Cornbread (made by the Southern-born member of the couple of Fabulous Hosts)
Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon (Domaines Barons de Rothschild) from Colchugua Valley, Chile, 2006; excellent, nice and dry.

Then we went for a walk.

Upon return:

Pear Crostata (made by Lovely Hip Young Artist and Scholar Couple, with a really thin crust and almond slivers all around)
Pumpkin pie (made by Cool Couple of Colleagues of Fabulous Hosts)
Pumpkin brownie pie (a novelty invented by Young Son of Cool Couple of Colleagues of Fabulous Hosts, who was at the dinner but not at the table because he didn't want to be bored by all those grown-ups and because he was the only kid in the house and preferred to entertain himself; the pie is exactly what it sounds like: a pumpkin pie with a layer of brownie cooked on top!) (Confession: I didn't have any.)
All this with the best-wine-saved-for-last by Retired Academic Who Is Into Wine: a 1975 (!!!!!!) Chateau du Mayne Barsac.

After-dinner drinks:
Absinthe (seriously! 144 proof; I didn't have any)
Amaro (Averna brand, from Sicily, delicious, I had some; about 64 proof, more my speed)
Homemade (by one member of Fabulous Hosts couple who is studying Italian on the side and likes to experiment) fennel liquor a.k.a. Finocchietto (I stuck to the Amaro)

Decaf espresso

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A brick through the window

This must be the year of house intrusions. I got back from work in the early afternoon, eager to go on a quick errand to procure butternut squash and to return here and collapse for a very long nap before a quiet evening of soup-making. I found the cat hiding in the bedroom closet, and in the other bedroom, which is my study and which faces the back yard, the window broken and a brick and dirt on the floor.

There was glass all over the room. The window wasn't fully broken, because it is a jalousie window (I just learned that's what it's called -- I used to refer to it as a-window-that-works-like-window-blinds), but enough of it was, and the screen that had been behind it was halfway across the room. No one had broken in and entered, but the crime was intentional: there was a chair outdoors, below the window, and there are no bricks near the house.

The chair usually lives about 40 yards away on the side of the house, with another plastic chair and outdoor table.

When I see or hear about bricks through the window, I think "hate crime," but this did not seem to be one - more likely a failed break-in. It's possible I pulled into the driveway during or right after the person threw the brick through the window. Or they may have looked in the study and thought "boooooooooooring!" There are no fancy toys there. My laptop was with me at work, and the fax machine and printer are very basic. Just lots of books and papers and files, icons, and on the desk, a Bible and a book on Julian of Norwich and a bunch of notes and a few student papers and a bunch of paper mess and a few flash drives. There was original art on the wall above the desk but if you don't know from lithographs, you don't know that.

Of course I phoned the police and my landlady, and I have had two visits from the police, in both cases very nice officers, one man and one woman, the first to check things out and ask me basic questions and assign a number to the case, the second a crime scene investigator (yup, my very own CSI, not that I ever wanted one, and thank Godde it wasn't worse) who photographed and dusted for prints and asked questions.

A neighbor whom my landlady phoned says he saw a kid (by which he meant a teenaged boy or young man) cutting through from my yard to his (there are no fences) and definitely not from the immediate neighborhood, three days ago. He thinks that it was probably this kid (or maybe another kid) who threw the brick, it being a day when school was out and adolescents are bored or looking for loot. His house was broken into a while back. (I forget whether he said six months ago or six years ago. I think maybe six months. I was still a little rattled.) My house was not.

The yoga mat, however, is no longer usable. I'd left it flat on the floor of the study instead of rolling it up as usual since I knew I would be home early with some quiet and I wanted to remind myself to do some good stretches and take some time for some asanas, on this first day of finally-having-time-and-space, the first half day of Thanksgiving break.

So much for quiet life in the suburbs. In the city, people are bunched close together and I have never had any break-ins -- not that I haven't been careful and locked my door, I have, but 90% of the time I have lived on the 2d floor or higher. Living on the first floor is another story, one worries more. Anyway, no robbery and no big damage. It did rattle me a little.

Of course the window break made it possible for +Maya to make a run for it once she got out of the closet and saw the coast was clear, and she has escaped three times already, but she knows on which side her bread is buttered and has always come back a minute or two later. Now she is out again --she was quicker than I-- and I have almost finished my makeshift window repair with much dark plastic and duct tape, and she had better come back in through that window as she did twice, or through the front door as she did once. {...Interruption to talk with a friend on the phone...} Ah, she has returned. As I said, she knows on which side her bread is buttered despite the lure of the great outdoors (where she is not supposed to go, but an open window is a great temptation).

Now we are all safely at home, +Maya is not too traumatized (she did snuggle in my arms purring for a very long time while the second police officer was here, but she was purring and not hiding) and I am okay. I have gone to buy the squash, since I am making butternut squash soup tomorrow (it ain't gonna happen tonight) and after a resolution to save money and calories and not buy any more chocolate from this month onward, I did purchase one large bar of fair trade organic dark chocolate with cocoa nibs and ate some of it, and it was good.

The landlady and her home-repair-gifted husband had already decided they'd come through town tomorrow, so they may fix the windows then, or maybe the next day.

Life on campus was a bit less private, but there were Campus Security people patrolling the place all the time and I felt very safe in my house. This is more quiet but obviously more exposed to the risks of life in the U.S. of A. Well, could have been worse. Probably a good thing I am a boring intellectual church lady with no fancy electronic toys. Or that I pulled into the driveway when I did.

Have a good Thanksgiving holiday, everyone, and remember Native peoples for whom Thanksgiving Day is a Day of Mourning, and refugees everywhere who have been displaced, often violently, from their homes and their land. And enjoy the food, friendship, and family too! (It is possible to do both of these things - remember and feast.) I will write a short foodie post in the next 24 hours inviting your participation, of the share-your-menu sort.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This isn't the first time it's happened

The Canon to the Extraordinary is working at home, tapping away at the laptop, sitting in the study while the Feline Bishop Extraordinaire naps on the living room couch.

The Canon has also been mumbling for an hour about how it's time for her (the Canon) to get off her duff and go outdoors for a brisk walk.

Her Grace walks in, jumps up on the desk, and delicately walks across the keyboard. Not something she is supposed to do, but sometimes she is quicker than her aging biped Canon.

As she walks, she steps on the power button and swiftly turns off the computer.

You think she's trying to tell me something?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Naps and memory: +Maya was right -- but you knew that.

Once again, the local bishop with the fuzzy tummy and white paws knew her stuff. Now the researchers catch up with her and have produced this interesting piece of information on the benefits of naps.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Prayer, body, Incarnation: a short passage from When in Doubt, Sing

*****Taking seriously the Incarnation –God’s presence with us in the flesh– and worshiping with awareness and participation of the body are related. We are embodied beings. God is embodied. We are images of God. The word does not exist apart from the flesh. There is also another way of looking at incarnation and Jesus’ bodiliness: not just as God’s presence with us in the form of a human person, but in the dailiness and detail of it, the way in which Jesus, in his earthly life, dealt with bodies, day in and day out: hungry bodies, sick bodies, bodies of women and bodies of men, bodies of living children and of children who appeared to be dead. The Hebrew Bible is as a rule much more sensual and embodied than the Christian Testament, but the Gospels at least have their own sense of nature and of the body whole and healed, and with this we can pray. Read the Gospels with a focus on the life of Jesus. You will find bodiliness nearly everywhere. Jesus touches eyes, ears, mouths, restoring speech and sights. He heals lame and paralyzed people. He feels the need and the urgent pull of the unnamed woman with the flow of blood who touches his cloak. He eats with reprobates and high officials, drinks wine, multiplies loaves of bread and handfuls of fish. He weeps real tears when Lazarus dies, rests weary feet in the home of Martha and Mary, and receives anointing with fragrant oil from the woman whose name we do not know but whose gesture is recorded in all four Gospels.

*****Jesus walks in wheatfields and climbs hills, goes out on the water in a boat, tells parables of seeds and trees, rock and sand. In his stories, a young man guards pigs, another seeks out a sheep, a woman kneads dough, and another sweeps her house, looking for a lost coin. A hen is an image of God, covering her chicks with homely wings. A shepherd chasing errant sheep is another figure of the divine. Even after the Resurrection, Jesus is still dealing with bodies: breaking bread on the road to Emmaus, grilling fish on the beach for his friends, showing wounds to a doubting disciple.

*****Praying with the body is related to knowing with the body. Body knowledge is real knowledge, not lesser knowledge. To know God is to know with one’s bodily self. Many of us have learned our religion through the body. Orthodox and Catholic Christians especially have spoken to me of this learning, rooted in childhood. “We Catholics,” David Toolan writes, “were a pre-Gutenberg phenomenon with a bias for the charity of God made palpable to the five senses and the sympathetic nervous system.” ...

From chapter 4 ("Praying with the Body") of Jane Redmont, When in Doubt Sing: Prayer in Daily Life (Notre Dame, Indiana: Sorin Books, 2008), 38-39. (c) Jane Redmont 1999, 2008

Friday critter blogging on Sunday

It counts, 'cause this baby elephant was born on Friday. Look, it's fuzzy.

Tip of the Polartec (tm) hat to Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish.

Abiquiu view

Photo nicked from

"God's grandeur"

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
***It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
***It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
***And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
***And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
***There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
***Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
***World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22: death of John F. Kennedy (1963), birth of Charles de Gaulle (1890)

President John F. Kennedy's family has always preferred remembering him on the anniversary of his birth, May 29, to remembering his on the anniversary of his death.

That is the more appropriate remembrance, but for the rest of us, November 22 is the day when we have the reflex of memory. Any of us who were over the age of three or four on November 22, 1963 --45 years ago today-- remember exactly where we were when we heard that the President had been shot in Dallas, Texas, and had died.

As I just posted in comments over at Padre Mickey's (he has a remembrance of November 22, 1963, as does Dcap), I was a child of eleven in Paris. It was evening. My grandmother was visiting from the U.S. The phone rang and she picked it up. (My mother may have been working on Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen.) She walked in from the bedroom to the front of the apartment where the rest of us were and said "the President's been shot."

We really do all remember where we were when it happened. (Now we also remember where we were when the planes hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 9/11/01.)

The next day, when I got to school, one of my French friends said her mother had told her might not be in class that day.

The French were in shock. They loved JFK and remembered his 1961 visit to Paris with his wife, who charmed General Charles de Gaulle, president at the time, and who spoke fluent French. (When was the last time we had a bilingual First Lady? That was it.) JFK knew his wife had been a big hit and at the news conference luncheon of the Anglo-American Press Association, he quipped in his opening remarks, "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris."

General de Gaulle's birthday, coincidentally, was November 22. He received the terrible news the day he turned 73.

De Gaulle, my father wrote in his memoir, "was the man who made the immortal comment: 'How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese?' " He added "I cite this for a reason: To remind ourselves that this austere, grandiloquent guardian of French glory, a man of vision who knew when to take risks, was also a man of wit and humor not just the aloof, forbidding figure of legend." (Bernard S. Redmont, Risks Worth Taking: The Odyssey of a Foreign Correspondent, University Press of America, 1992, p. 144)

Prayers for those who grieve

One of our most active members at St. Mary's House, Noel Melton, has lost his sister Emily Vanessa Hill. She died in a car accident on Tuesday. She was only 43.

Noel is a kind man and dedicated Christian and very active in our local Habitat for Humanity. Please pray for him, his partner Britta, and the family of Noel's sister Emily, as they grieve in this sudden and brutal loss.

November 22: Saint Cecilia, martyr

Icon by Ellen Chavez de Leitner.

Padre Mickey writes about Saint Cecilia, and the veracity and meaning of early Christian saints' lives, here.

I have not written any saints' lives here in months. I shall begin again sometime in the deep winter. Thanks as always to my pal Padre Mickey for edification and inspiration!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The smell of snow

We have had a few days of cold, crisp weather here. Last night as I was shutting down the computer I glanced at the weather information on the side of my Yahoo page, in the place where I have all "my" cities, and Greensboro, at the top, said "partly overcast."

I went out to the car around 11:00 p.m. to retrieve a bag of books and papers I had brought in from the office. Although the sky was indeed a little overcast, the air was still crisp. There was a smell in the air that brought me straight back to winters in the Alps, as surely as Proust's madeleine triggered his childhood memories. I thought to myself "it smells like snow" and breathed deeply, wondering how this smell and feel had come to North Carolina in November.

Around 6:45 a.m. I got up, started padding around the house, and looked out the window, and lo, there was snow.

There is not even an inch, but the ground is covered, and the trees, and the car, on November 21 in Greensboro.

I felt impossibly happy, as if winter vacation at age ten or a northern New England weekend in my thirties or forties had returned.

Who needs meteorologists? The smell was in the air.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sequencing the marsupials - hippety hop

You'd think I was a veterinarian or Saint Francis with all these animal posts. This seems to be what consoles and comes easily these days. I was going to say "you know you're in trouble when you prefer the company of animals to that of humans," but that is not very respectful toward animals and +Maya, +Airedale, +Rowan, and +Clumber will get me for that. I take it back. Animals are creatures of Godde and if I am turning to their beauty and wisdom, it is probably a step forward in the knowledge of the cosmos and its wonders. And a step deeper in the path to true compassion and life in the Spirit.

I also know they are not all cute and fuzzy and friendly. jn1034 has a great post related to this - not about predators, which is what you might expect when you get into a "not all cute and fruzzy and friendly" discussion - but about dust mites. Have a look.

But I digress. Today our topic is the kangaroo and the genome. Check out this story!

I do love the little darlings, a.k.a. my students, and we had a good class this morning. It's the other parts of the teaching life that drive me crazy. Well, some students drive me crazy too, but this semester is a blessing and the dynamics with the classes feel pretty good. I am just behind on everything -- but I met a major deadline yesterday (two months late) and have gotten some sleep and am on to the next piece of bureaucracy. And, mercifully, to a little mentoring and pastoral care, which I love and doesn't drain me half as much as meetings and reports do.

Oh Hild(a), I did remember you

but it was late in the day. Godde bless Padre Mickey for his saints' posts. Here is his post about you on your feast, November 18. And I found an icon which I posted to the Deacon Theology Blog (not open to the public) and then neglected to post here.

Honoring you late is better than not honoring you at all!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Speaking of Senator Ted and Ms. Victoria and the dogs...

*****Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) returned to work in the Senate Monday after spending the past six months battling brain cancer back home.
***** A smiling, upbeat Kennedy made his second public appearance on Capitol Hill since he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was accompanied by his wife and two dogs, and attended a meeting in the same Russell Office Building room where two of his brothers declared their presidential candidacies.
***** "I feel fine," said the 76-year-old senator whose only other appearance came on July 9, when he cast the decisive vote on Medicare legislation.
***** Through video conferences from his Massachussetts home and a series of discussions with other senators, Kennedy has been laying the groundwork for a healthcare push early next year with the incoming Obama administration. On Monday, he wasted little time addressing the topic, the signature issue of his 45-year legislative career.

Read the rest of the story here in The Hill. Tip of the winter cloche (periwinkle blue, if you must know, 100% wool and made in Canada) to truthout.

Yes, lots on animals, bits of news items, and not a lot of deep thought from me these days. Bear with me. I'm just keeping my head above water. I will emerge.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gratuitous kitteh blogging...

... at the end of a working Sunday...

A hairless Canadian sphynx cat at the International Feline Beauty contest in Sofia, Bulgaria.

A Mama lion with one of three cubs to which she gave birth at the zoo in Cali, Colombia.

Photos: Boryana Katsavora, AFP; Jaime Saldarriaga, Reuters.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Doggy post (with some cat thrown in) from Friday, finished today

I've kept the Friday time signature on it, so it is below, though I didn't finish it till this evening. Enjoy. Please note that Acts of Hope, administered by a feline bishop, is in full communion with canine blogs.

More re: the OHC monks

Paul posted this, with prayers. Well worth a meditative look.

James Otis Sargent Huntington, OHC, founder, 1920 (nod of the cowl to Randy, OHC )

Pray for the OHC monks of Mt. Calvary, California

I read last night on my friend Paul's blog that Mt. Calvary, the California residence and retreat center of the Order of the Holy Cross (Anglican Benedictines) was devastated by fire yesterday.

Both Paul and I have ties of deep affection with the OHC monks, he with the Santa Barbara crew and I with the smaller crew at the Priory in Berkeley, which has recently undergone the process of dismantling and merging with the California and West Park, New York monasteries. You can read about the fire and the monks here, chez Paul. Very sad news, though thank Godde all the brothers are safe, so the loss was of things and not flesh.

Paul also reflects on impermanence in this post.

I have been pondering those realities of the "stuff" we carry around and our attachments to it since the tree fell on my former house, as I continue to go through things rescued and moved haphazardly.

I also had horrid nightmares last night, but they were largely about the biennial faculty evaluations and pre-tenure review at school.

In another dream, I walked all the way from Boston to a women's monastic retreat house on Cape Cod, but it took only two hours and for some reason my parents (who generally would not go near a monastery) were meeting me at the retreat. And the road looked familiar. Apparently I had walked it before -- perhaps in another dream, which I remembered inside last night's dream.

Pray for the brothers of the Order of the Holy Cross, who keep their core of contemplation, but who are human as we all are, and who have been displaced by violent weather in the form of wind and fire.

My friend Richard is an Associate of the order, as are several other friends, and I have been pondering making that commitment myself for a few years now. (Though the St. Helena Breviary is more to my liking --more on the Order of St. Helena here-- but I have an abiding love for the Benedictines, and for some reason their communities of men feel welcoming and comforting to me. There's probably some deep psychological reason for that, or maybe it has to do with my being hetero, but ultimately the "why" doesn't matter.)

Grant peace and comfort, O giver of life, to all your children displaced by fire, that they may find shelter through the hospitality of their neighbors and know anew their dearest home in You. Through Christ our strength and our salvation, Amen.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday critter blogging: about that hypoallergenic puppy

The Washington Post has this to say on the matter of non-allergifying dogs.

Enough with the hybrid doggiedoodles and hairless dogs. I want to know why nobody has followed the lead of Doxy and Ted Kennedy and Vickie Reggie Kennedy and gone for the Portuguese Water Dog. Aren't they non-allergifying? Can't you see a nice Portuguese Water Dog in the White House?

More of Doxy's Dog here and here, a year later. As for Senator Ted's and Ms. Victoria's dogs, one of them is a book writer.

On the cat front, Her Grace Maya Pavlova has rediscovered her catnip mouse, which had lain in its basket of toys for weeks and weeks. She grabbed it yesterday and chased it halfway around the house. Go figure. +Maya was in a frisky, playful mood. A visitor and I speculated yesterday evening that it could have been the scent of the visitor's dog (who did not come to visit), a male pug by the name of Kevin (not to be confused with my friend Kevin's dog, whose name is Andy) -- or maybe it was the full moon.

(Note: I am allergic to some animals and not others. Miss +Maya is a mutt cat, but non-allergifying, to me anyway, whereas I had to return not one but two other cat mutts to the shelter a few days after taking them in, the year before she came to live with me, because they gave me serious asthma. It's a dander thing.)

And in case the Obamas are worried about allergies, really and truly, Doxy said the Portuguese Water Dog was non-allergifying, and if they don't believe Doxy, they can take Senator Ted's word. Have a look at this man-loves-his-dog story and interview. (Read it till the end for cute trivia about an episode with Biden and Wellstone - and the dog. There's also an audio of a piece of the dog's book.) And here's the picture from the article.

This blog post has been approved by +Maya Pavlova, Feline Bishop Extraordinaire. Acts of Hope is a multi-species-friendly blog, in full communion with dog-loving blogs.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's a makes-a-me nuts

Okay, that was a very poor Zeppo Marx-like statement.

The short of it is, I have too much to do and am behind on most of it and I am not amused, though I am trying to have a good attitude about some of it. No, I didn't take on too much and I don't love being über-busy, much of this is Part of the Deal. Also part of having been away two very long weekends in a row.

On the happy side, today is the birthday of the Fabulous Fran. Go send her some love. I shall return. I have to tell you about foodie fun in Boston, but it may be a few days. I also missed the feast of St. Martin of Tours.

I am also still pinching myself about the election.

Monday, November 10, 2008

May we remember the struggle and dance in her memory

In the post below you will find a song of the struggle. Here in this post (without video but with very good sound) is a song to which my high school friends and I used to dance in the 1960s in Paris. (More recently, a year or so ago, it got me un-banned at MadPriest's.)

Sing with the angels in paradise, blessed Miriam.

More from the late great Miriam Makeba: "Khawuleza"

For the life, song, and struggle of Miriam Makeba, we give thanks.

Miriam Makeba RIP

The singer and activist Miriam Makeba has died. Rest in peace, "Mama Africa." You sang the struggle. Praise be to the Holy Spirit for your beauty, inner and outer, and for the voice that called us to justice and rejoicing, to mourning and triumph.

Welcomed home with purrs aplenty

Her Grace is a veritable engine wrapped in fur. Purr, purr, purr. I am getting the royal purring treatment after my three days of absence. More purrs than meows this time, and vast amounts of feline cuddles. Life is good.

'xcept I gots to teach at 8:30 a.m. But it was worth taking late flights home since I had the whole day with my folks instead of a truncated Sunday.

The Velcro Cat wants full attention. Off I go. Tales of the Boston visit as soon as I can. +Maya Pavlova says "Don't forget to nap!"

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Father of Acts of Hope is ninety today!

We had a lovely day, Parents of Acts of Hope and I -- just the three of us, which was exactly what we wanted. Phone calls arrived from members of the far-flung Acts of Hope family, as did phone calls, cards, and e-mails from friends and extended family members, so we were also connected with many loved ones on this quiet day.

There was, of course, a foodie expedition. More on this in the near future.

Happy birthday, Daddy. You're the best.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Life with the old liberals, revisited

The title of this post comes from here. I remembered it because once again I am here on a Friday night, watching Bill Moyers with my parents.

Moyers has an excellent show this week (I'm sure it will be archived within a few days and you can watch it on the website) with guests Patricia Williams (of "Diary of a Mad Law Professor" fame) and Eric Foner (author of a noted book on Reconstruction --which I gather not everyone in the field likes-- and a new book on Lincoln). Interesting interview with Foner here. Announcement of Williams's MacArthur Fellowship here.

I am in the Boston area for the weekend to celebrate my father's 90th birthday (tomorrow - he is thus one day younger than Billy Graham) and the big news, besides the birthday, is that my mother now has wireless and I can blog from my parents' living room. Oh dear. (But my time belongs to my parents while I am here, so I suspect this will be it for blogging.)

Moyers also interviewed Kevin Phillips, whom I had never heard before.

He also paid tribute to Studs Terkel and John Leonard, both of whom died in the last week.

Watch those Moyers interviews. Really.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

North Carolina is a blue state

Not by much, but officialdom has finally called the election.

I'm a little confused about why the AP called the election and not the NC State Board of Elections. Is the Associated Press suddenly the arbiter? Were they sick of waiting and therefore eager to announce? The state board still has "unofficial" results.
Click map to enlarge and see details.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes, we can

Our true national anthem

By the great Woody Guthrie, sung here by his son Arlo and by the indomitable Pete Seeger with his fine banjo.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Elizabeth Dole is out of the Senate

The North Carolina presidential results are not yet in. It's very tight so far, with a slight lead for McCain.

But Elizabeth Dole, incumbent Senator, a Republican, is definitely out. Kay Hagan, her Democratic opponent, has won.

Hagan is a Presbyterian elder. Dole, in one last set of ugly campaign tactics, called her "godless" and used a voice that was not Hagan to do so.

It's a night to celebrate with friends, but after four intense days in Chicago and before the usual 16 hour Wednesday work day, I chose to be at home tonight. I just phoned a dear friend in the Midwest who has been living with multiple illnesses and physical and mental challenges and not much money and almost died a couple of times in the last few years, and told her Obama had won. At first she could hardly believe it. She is part Irish, part Jewish, and part African American. I told her "You have lived to see this." She was the first person I called.

I am not sure I will be able to sleep.


Obama has won Ohio. He's over the top!

Election Night jukebox: Pete Seeger sings solidarity

This one comes with a shoutout to Padre Mickey.

Voting as secular sacrament

We vote in order to change the country, to exercise our rights, to make our voices heard and a hundred other clichés as shopworn as they are true. But we also vote because it places us in direct fellowship with other citizens; we vote because it is a secular sacrament, an act of civic solidarity. Because it is the ultimate declaration that we are, indeed, all in this together.

From the final paragraph of this editorial in The Nation. Hat tip: truthout.

Walt Whitman on Election Day

From today's Boston Globe, by Robert Pinsky:

WALT WHITMAN'S poem celebrating Election Day calls our "quadrennial choosing" a more spectacular and powerful show than national scenic marvels such as Yosemite, Niagara Falls or the "spasmic geyserloops" of Yellowstone.

The poem is not wet or glibly sunny. Whitman chooses to speak of voting day not as beautiful or sacred but as "powerful." He compares it not to forest glades or meadows but to the fluid, dynamic energy of rivers, geysers and waterfalls and to the immense scale of mountains and prairies.

The close Cleveland-Blaine election of 1884 included personal attacks, nasty rhetoric, and religious prejudices ("Rum, Romanism and Rebellion" was a slogan). Whitman includes the imperfection with phrases like "good or ill" and "the darker odds, the dross."

The underground pressures that propel "seismic geyserloops," the "paradox and conflict" like a snowstorm of passionate opinions or "stormy gusts" - Whitman marvels at those tremendous forces. He doesn't praise the electoral process with adjectives or justify it with arguments; instead, he commends the day by invoking the past. The journeys of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln were powered by this turbulent, often defective energy, says Whitman. We can look back on his observation, over a century ago, and feel encouraged.


If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,

'Twould not be you, Niagara - nor you, ye limitless prairies - nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,

Nor you, Yosemite - nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyserloops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,

Nor Oregon's white cones - nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes - nor Mississippi's stream:

This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name - the still small voice vibrating -America's choosing day,

(The heart of it not in the chosen - the act itself the main, the quadrennial choosing,)

The stretch of North and South arous'd - sea-board and inland - Texas to Maine - the Prairie States - Vermont, Virginia, California,

The final ballot-shower from East to West - the paradox and conflict,

The countless snow-flakes falling - (a swordless conflict,

Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's): the peaceful choice of all,

Or good or ill humanity - welcoming the darker odds, the dross:

- Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify - while the heart pants, life glows:

These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,

Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.

Robert Pinsky, a former US poet laureate, is the author of "Gulf Music: Poems." Walt Whitman, 1819-1892, was a renowned American poet.

I heard Robert Pinsky read the poem and speak about it on "Here and Now" (great Election Day show, by the way, have a listen, to segments or to the whole show) while driving back from the local Get Out the Vote for Obama meeting-place. Thank you, National Public Radio.

More later or tomorrow on this morning's canvassing experience.

Election Day morning

Chicago was unusually warm and clear. Here in the Southland, we awoke to grey, chilly, wet weather. One of the trees in the yard to the side of my house, at the border of my neighbor's yard, is tipped in golden yellow, the leaves closest to the trunk still green. The leaves and branches are moving: there is also wind today. The fig tree outside the window of my study is nearly bare.

I am still tired from the conference and the trip, but it was good to be in my own bed last night.

Today in the cool weather I will wear a wool sweater knit for my father when he was a Marine in World War II, probably when he returned from the Marshall Islands with a wound in his foot and was in hospital in Hawaii. My father is taller and bigger than I but the sweater has shrunk from washings over the years and just fits me. The wool is tight and warm, a very dark navy blue with a small turtleneck. There is still a bit of the Red Cross label on the neck. A woman whose name we will never know knit this sweater, and perhaps others, for men she would never meet. My father recovered well and has, if I remember correctly, a 10% disability. His automobile license plate has a purple heart on it. He is proud of his service in the war. He has also been, for years, a supporter of peace, speaking out against our current wars in the local high school and giving the young 'uns his "war is hell" speech. In a memoir he wrote nearly two decades ago, he writes that you never forget the smell of death.

Father of Acts of Hope turns 90 this coming weekend, and Godde willing, I will be up in Boston with him and Mother of Acts of Hope, celebrating quietly. Today my parents are voting. My brother is watching the election from overseas. In less than an hour I will go to my neighborhood Get Out the Vote gathering, at 9 a.m. in someone's home, under the leadership of a young Obama-Biden campaign staffer, wearing my father's sweater, knit by a Red Cross volunteer whose name we will never know.

Election Day.

Brought to you by your daily ¡Sí, se puede!

Activated till the polls close on November 4.

Election Day: perspective from the Prayer Book

From this morning's online Daily Office, one of the collects:

God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the whole human family, we pray.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Back in Greensboro, Election Eve

Intense conference (but good, very good), smooth flight back from Chicago, turning in soon. On the 9 a.m. Get Out The Vote shift tomorrow.

As I expected, Miss Maya Pavlova gave me The Speech when I got home. She has now eaten one and a half helpings of Newman's Own dry cat food (the cat sitter only came once a day, through yesterday) and when I turned on the Daily Show a few minutes ago and stood watching it in the living room, Her Grace jumped from the floor onto my shoulders. I kid you not.

More when I can. (It may be a while.) Vote.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Two wonderful men

One live, one gone to the ancestors.

The live one is Gustavo Gutiérrez, whom I had the pleasure of hearing speak today.

The deceased one is Studs Terkel, who I hear died yesterday, and here we are in his city of Chicago.

I will write more about both of these men, but probably not while I am at the conference, which predictably is busy. I am taking some introvert time tonight between receptions and after the second one (for which I am about to leave) but otherwise this is a people-intense experience and a workout for the brain.

I opened my big mouth at the Society for the Study of Anglicanism meeting and now someone wants me to write an article.

That's the update. Blessings, all. Happy Feast of All Saints.

P.S. Yes, we can.