Friday, August 29, 2008

Don't ask, don't meow: a disaster update


I have limited access to the 'net because the WiFi at the college guest house doesn't work, the internet at my erstwhile house is kaput, and I haven't been in the office until now except for one unfortunate half hour earlier this afternoon.

But here I am. I have had a little walk, my hot flashes and I are in the air conditioned quiet office at work, the computer is humming, and sometime I will have a chance to watch Barack Obama's speech online. Probably not tonight, but soon. I missed the speech because a friend wined and dined me last night (the second glass of wine was his fault, all his fault, so there) to Get Me Away From It All. Yes, the meal involved serious protein. Fish, in fact, and a great cheese course.

Today was, in a word, nuts. The tree people came yesterday and removed the tree (actually one tree and a section of another) and today the professional disaster recovery people came. I keep saying it all could have been much worse, and it is true. I am also getting a small, ever so small glimpse of what people's lives are like when a natural disaster strikes and strikes big. I was almost paralyzed part of the day, emotionally and mentally. Too much hitting at once, too many decisions to make, the shock of seeing my bedroom full of ceiling insulation and tree branches and knowing my grandparents' bed which is probably a hundred years old was underneath there. Last night I remembered that the panda bear my grandfather (from the other side of the family) gave my brother when he was one year old (in 1943!) was in that room and might not in any shape to be recovered -- a family stuffed animal I have dragged around with me to every place I have lived, informing my brother at each step that his panda was still in one piece. Little if any of this has been about money, at least the bedroom part. It has been hugely about family and love and sentiment. I don't care what the jewelery cost or whether it was "real" or costume jewelry (mostly it is the latter). I do care that my mother gave it to me or my aunt willed it to me or my grandmother once wore it or my friends gave it to me for my fortieth birthday.

There is, of course, the money side. The college insurance, thanks be to Jesus and the insurance companies (never though I'd say THAT and must tell the insurance exec ex-boyfriend who will howl with laughter -- he knows my lefty proclivities) will pay for my move. More difficult is the search for an affordable place to rent for me, the cat, my gazillions of books (no, there is no more room at my office, these are the house books), and my stuff. I was renting from the college at below market value, though not too too far below. And of course who wants to move the second week of school, on Labor Day Weekend when we don't get Labor Day off? That's right, we don't get Labor Day off. Don't get me started. I am trying to stay polite and cheery here. I teach at 8:30 Monday morning. So I have a litte window of today, tomorrow, and Sunday to get my life back together and if I find a place, move.

Anyway -- the disaster relief people. I will write more about them later. I just realized I am due at dinner at a neighbor's house, but I must tell you the Don't Ask, Don't Meow story.

I smuggled Her Grace into the college guest house, into the small but nicely appointed room where we have stayed for the last two nights. A few clothes that weren't in the bedroom, toilet articles (no damage to the main bathroom -- really I am very lucky), a small litter box (carefully placed on a large plastic bag), a dresser and big bed, not much floor space, and the cat and I. It was, I admit, a case of Don't Ask, Don't Meow. It was nighttime when the tree hit, the security and facilities staff said not to leave the cat in my house, I had a room to stay at the guest house and the key, so I snuck Maya Pavlova in, reminding her that she was generally an Out and Proud Feline but that this was a brief keep-quiet circumstance. She was mostly fine with it.

So I get into the office a few hours ago to check mail and there is a message on my voice mail from the guest-house manager (who also works for another division of the college) saying "The woman who cleans the house heard a cat in your room. Please remove the cat." She said several other sentences about why, but the gist of it was "remove the cat." No preliminaries, as in "Hello Jane, so sorry to hear a tree fell on your house and you are homeless, I realize you want your cat with you but unfortunately we can't accommodate her," or something of the sort. Just "remove the cat."

So I called a colleague and asked if I could board Her Grace with her (mercifully she lives nearby) and she said yes. I went to the guest house, "removed the cat" (this time Maya Pavlova slid into the cat carrier and didn't scratch me till I bled, which she had the night of the big adventure, but she was traumatized at the time - she did try to hide under the bed this time, but not for long) and moved her and her accoutrements into her new digs, went back to my soon to be ex-house to inhale some more particulate matter (I'm saying this to sound dramatic, actually the nice people gave me a mask which I wear when I need it) and decided that I would remove myself from the guest house as well. So I am sleeping on my colleague's floor tonight. No cat, no Jane. Where the cat goes, Jane goes. Harrumph!

I have a lead on a house which I visited this afternoon. I think it may work out. It is smaller than where I live and less beautiful, but sweet and workable and with a larger kitchen than where I am now. My foodie heart rejoices. It also has a little garden and yard beyind with a grapevine and a fig tree! Can you say "biblical image" ??!! The price is workable. The deposit is quite large, though, but I may be able to swing it.

I am off to dine with colleague and daughters and cat now. MEOW!

More updates when I can. I am really tired and there may be people putting things in boxes in the house tomorrow. Thanks for all your kind notes, prayers, virtual hugs, warm thoughts, and friendship. They mean a lot to me.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A tree fell on my house

While I was out teaching last night, a tree fell on my house.

The good news is, thanks be to Godde, I am fine, and Her Grace, Maya Pavlova, Feline Bishop Extraordinaire, is fine. She was scared since she was in the house when the crash happened. But we slept in close quarters and she was purring this morning.

Things could be worse. We could be wet hurricane survivors. We slept in a dry place last night --the college guest house which is near my house. I am now in a bit of shock as reality is starting to sink in.

Thanks to my friend Wormwood's Doxy for getting the word out so fast. I called her not too long after all this happened.

Oddly, the rain was a soft lovely rain, not a thunderstorm (though a tornado did touch down in our county earlier yesterday) and it was not a case of the tree being hit by lightning. The first guess of the campus facilities staff was that the rain loosened the earth around the tree, which was a big live tree, not at all a dead one. I rent a house from the college where I teach and it is on the edge of the campus near the woods.

I don't know why everyone worried about earthquakes when I moved to California. The center and south of the country are really worse...

Oh, and another piece of good news: Wednesday is my longest day of work. So, after not getting enough sleep because of staying up correcting student work and prepping for my 8:30 a.m. class (I was being observed by a colleague in both my classes, the early one and the late one, for the dreaded Fourth Year Evaluation for which all materials are due September 15) and holding office hours and having lunch and going to a 1:30 thing, I found out that my 2:30 p.m. meeting was canceled, decided to blow off the 3:45 faculty meeting because it was closer to 80% required than 100% required, and headed home for a long nap so that I would be coherent for my 8 p.m. class. And a fine, restorative long nap it was. You see, I obey the four-legged one whose Canon to the Extraordinary I am and who issues such sensible pastoral directives.

So I taught half the class before staff pulled me out of it (the colleague who was observing me took over the second half) and when I got home to the crashed-in house with six men running around inspecting damage and moving furniture and a scared cat hiding in a closet, I was rested instead of exhausted and cranky. More proof of the wisdom of naps!

Though the "gee, what lovely soft sleeping-weather rain" proved to be deceptive.

I will have to move. Most likely soon. Which means looking for a place. The college is helping me with that, but since I was renting from them at a somewhat under market rate (which is why I chose to keep living on campus - big house for good rate) it will be hard for us to find a place, apartment or house, for the same amount of money for the same large space.


The Adorable Godson, alerted by our rector, came by as I was writing the above and we went off to find me some late lunch with protein to shore up my energy.

Everyone is being sympathetic and I have a good social network, so things should be all right. It will just take a while and interfere with my plans for a quiet weekend. Sigh.

How is Louisiana doing? I haven't had time to check and I heard last night that there might be bad weather and possible evacuations. Big shoutout and hug to Paul and Mimi down there.

More when I can. Peace out.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Call me an old sap

I was going to go to bed really early and miss the Kennedy tribute, but once I finished one last piece of work that couldn't wait till tomorrow, it was only 15 minutes till the scheduled time. So I turned on C-Span live, plunked myself down in front of the television, started tearing up during Caroline Kennedy's introduction, got seriously misty during the film tribute, and wept while Ted Kennedy spoke.

Now the Dems are dancing to the tune of Kool and the Gang's "Celebrate" (one of my favorite songs). Someone has orchestrated this well, literally and figuratively.

It's not the Kennedy mystique that makes me weep. It's the lifting up of the people and especially the poor, and the way in which Ted K has been my senator (literally - I lived 15 years in Massachusetts, not counting three earlier school years) and theirs. I've seen him work, year after year. (Flashback: Seeing him at a community health center in Boston, at an AIDS-related event. 20 years ago.) And there he was, brain tumor and all. I hope he lives to see President Obama.

Something else brought me to tears, and Caroline Kennedy spoke of it. It was that mobilizing energy. That desire to get to work. That urge toward the common good. That wish to love our country the way we want to love it and the way it deserves to be loved.

Now I can go to bed.

Swift-Boating and the Oily-Garchs

It's a political day here at Acts of Hope, and the Acts of Hope extended family is publishing like crazy.

(Yours truly, on the other hand, is two weeks overdue with her Episcopal Café August column and drowning in back-to-school work. Taught a class on 2d century Christianity on four and a half hours of sleep at 8:30 a.m. Not good. Well, the class was good, but I am going to have a nap this afternoon, once I am done with office hours, from which I am stealing time right now since there are no students in my office.)

"Oily-Garchs" is the not too subtle but accurate term used by a friend of the family, Jerry Landay, who is a contributor to the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal. Here's his latest column. A little something for Paul the BB's McCain watch.

Back to my stack of student writing. Yup, assignments already. We waste no time.

Two Days With Joe Biden: Cassandra Joins Charisma

That's the title of an article by Brother of Acts of Hope in the Turkish Daily News.

Here it is. Very interesting!

Alert: As usual, the Turkish Daily News (Istanbul's English-language newspaper) is a little weird with the punctuation. There are commas missing and a few other glitches. Don't blame my brother, okay?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Aux armes, citoyens!

(nonviolently, of course)

Last Call for Change We Can Believe In

Frank Rich, The New York Times:

"As the real campaign at last begins in Denver this week, this much is certain: It's time for Barack Obama to dispatch 'Change We Can Believe In' to a dignified death. This isn't because - OMG! -Obama's narrow three- to four-percentage-point lead of recent weeks dropped to a statistically indistinguishable one- to three-point margin during his week of vacation. It's because zero hour is here. As the presidential race finally gains the country's full attention, the strategy that vanquished Hillary Clinton must be rebooted to take out John McCain."
Read the full article here or click on the red headline above.

Tip of the summer straw hat:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Summer tunes: Ray Barretto, Tito Coro, and Ruben Blades, 1974! With a Tito Puente bonus.

What we've been listening to in the Acts of Hope study tonight: the Live 50th Anniversary double CD of Ray Barretto, "The Giant of Salsa."

What we've got for you: a 1974 piece, Ban Ban Quere, with Ray Barretto, Ruben Blades on vocals, and Tito Gomez on coro. Enjoy. '70s haircuts, oy! But the salsa is still tasty.

Note: I already had Latin jazz on the brain, and then heard a great piece on NPR earlier today with a tribute to Tito Puente. Transcript and audio here.

"In Afro-Cuban music, we've inherited this concept of being possessed by the music on the dance floor," [Bobby] Sanabria says. "The same thing used to happen in jazz ... But we have this concept that goes way back further in terms of having a spiritual experience on the dance floor. And when you hear the power of this band coming at you like a tidal wave, and with those rhythms percolating, it excites the human organism to its utmost. It's like being in ecstasy.

"I'm not saying it's better than sex, but it's close to it."

Go here and click on "El Rey del Timbal" on the left, suffer through the short NPR announcement, and you can hear the the whole song.

P.S. I'm trying to learn how to use the block quote feature, but I'm not quite there yet.

Rising Meadow Farm and religious pluralism in the U.S.

I think I posted a link to this farm in a previous foodie post some weeks or months ago, but just in case, here it is again. Rising Meadow Farm is in this immediate region of the North Carolina Piedmont, a drive of an hour or two away, and it has beautiful sheep who give gorgeous wool, as you can see by clicking your way around. Very nice material for you knitters and weavers out there. It also has lambs who give their life for your dinner table. The farmers are appropriately grateful for both.

I was delighted to see on the package of stew meat I bought today (frozen - they do this with all the meat since there is local transportation involved) that the processing is done by a local halal institution. Halal, for those of you who don't know, is the Muslim equivalent of kosher: if a butcher is halal, this means it follows Muslim religious law, which, like Jewish religious law, has guidelines for the treatment of animals. Yes, this is all right here in North Carolina.

Want to read more about religious pluralism in the U.S.? Have a look at the website of the Pluralism Project, which I use in my course on the History of Religion in America (Religion 101, actually about 3/4 historical and 1/4 contemporary) here. If you don't have time for school, or even if you do, this is a great resource with pictures, primers on many religious traditions, recent news (updated daily) on religious issues in the U.S. especially from religions we don't tend to think of as "American" (though they now are), and other interesting religious matters. Hindus in the Boston suburbs! Muslims in Mississippi! Cambodian Buddhists in New Hampshire! Great visuals too. Enjoy and learn.

Photo (c) Cindy Brown, The Pluralism Project, 2003.
Masjid al-Halim, near Sumrall, Mississippi

As for the lamb (she says, feeling a little embarrassed to be de-vegetarianizing) I am probably going to save it for next weekend since it is frozen. It is stew meat and I have made great stews in the past with my grandmother's stew recipe which Mother of Acts of Hope reconstructed for me, but it is not quite stew season. I bought the meat because it was cheaper than chops or rack of lamb and other cuts not quite within reach of my budget. It is from such a good source, though, that I can probably grill it just fine. I will probably marinate it first. Stay tuned. For now, I'm eating tomato salad and goat cheese on whole grain bread. The corn, by the way, was very good, though not quite as good as Vermont corn, but I have a Vermont bias in matters of corn on the cob.

+Maya and Jane's happy first year

I almost missed the anniversary of when the lovely Miss Maya came to live with me. A year ago this weekend!

This is a photo the shelter took of her while she was living there. And here are photos I posted soon after she came to live with me. Maya Pavlova almost immediately charmed the blogosphere and photos of her appeared at MadPriest's and PeaceBang's.

This is from the same first week. Aw heck, I'll just post it so you don't have to click the link:

Since then, of course, Maya Pavlova has become (or maybe she was already and we just didn't know) the Right Rev. and Right Honorable Maya Pavlova, F.B.E.

What a fine feline she is. How very fortunate I am. She doesn't have it too bad, either.

Big purrs to all our four-legged pals out there: Ermengarde and Max, Jasper, Señorita Chompita Wiggletail, Callum and Co., +Rowan, +Clumber, +Airedale, BooCat's cats, Kitten's kittens, Witty, Mr. Booboo, Miz Scarlett, La Doyenne and Orange Guy and Younger Guy, Grendel, SweetieCat (with a fond memory for her pal, the recently deceased BabyBoy), Rebecca and Jan's Slightly Surly Cat (whose name I keep forgetting even though we lived together for a week), and the anonymous English cat who loves the boys of the Global Center. (Apologies if we forgot anyone; it's my fault, not +Maya's.) And of course, to all our two-legged pals who do such a good job of being Fans and Friends of +Maya Pavlova. Remember, four-legged friends are good for your mental health!

One tired puppy and a foodie post - and more on lizards

Whew, I am one tired puppy after the first week of school. But all is well, or well enough, and the magic of the first week did happen despite all the craziness: it is always exciting to meet the new students and see the old ones again, to see colleagues after the summer, and to have nice new syllabi and revamped course websites even if one has been up half the night getting them finished.

And then of course there are all the meetings. And more and more meetings.

I am also up for the dreaded Fourth Year Evaluation, which will take up a lot of time and energy the next few weeks. That's all I am going to say about that on a Saturday! In fact, from next week on I think I am going to observe computer Shabbat and not post from Friday evening to Saturday evening.

I am about to go back to bed since I did not get enough sleep last night. I stayed up very late and got up early (for a Saturday - which still means three hours later than usual) to go to the farmers' market and buy fresh produce. There are two farmers' markets in these parts. The one where I've been more often in the past is the downtown Greensboro one. This summer I have gone often to the one several miles out of town, the Piedmont Triad Farmers' Market (the Piedmont Triad is the cluster of Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem, not to be confused with the Triangle, which is Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, a ways north of here) because it has a better selection of summer produce.

In brief: I got yellow peaches, several kinds of heirloom tomatoes, assorted peppers, apples, and goat cheese (two kinds). Also three ears of corn, because I almost missed the corn season. It's been around for weeks and I haven't had any yet this summer. Guess what I'm having for lunch in a few hours?

I also got the first lamb of the year. I am mostly a vegetarian, but unlike Mother of Acts of Hope, age almost 90, who has been a real vegetarian (no dead animals of any kind) since the 1960s or so, I have a little fish once in a while, and even less often, I eat lamb. More on the area sheep farm once I have had some rest and sleep.

I didn't get okra at all this year, or beans, because it was a more worky summer than most and I have been very minimal about cooking. I have delicious meals, and they are nutritious, but they don't require a lot of preparation. You've never had bread and cheese for your main course? Give it a try. With a salad of summer tomatoes and lettuce it makes a great meal. I'll slice and cook and fuss over more complicated dishes next summer, inch'Allah.

No lizards on the ledge today, but it's not as sunny as yesterday. Answer to JohnieB's question in the comments of the last post: I'm not sure one can do anything to attract lizards. They just show up if there is a wall for them to crawl on and it's very hot and sunny. I live within the city limits but I am on the edge of a college campus and against some woods, so there are a lot of critters around. I'm not sure what constitutes lizard habitat, but "hot and dry" describes most places where I've seen lizards in my life -- though "dry" doesn't mean it's not muggy. I have seen lizards both in Mediterranean climates and here in North Carolina where "hot" means "humid" most of the time, though there are some dry exceptions that fill me with nostalgia for California.

Time for a fresh peach and a long nap, or maybe it's more like the end of the night's sleep during the day.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday cat blogging: Maya watches a blue-tailed lizard

A quick note.

'tis the warm season of lizards lounging in the sun, and the ones who lounge on the walls and windowsills of my house are pretty, electric blue-tailed ones. When they appear and slither along the outside of the windows, Maya Pavlova makes guttural cat-sounds and flicks her tail and runs along the windowsills (inside - she's not allowed outdoors). In my study there are two windows, almost a whole wall's worth of window space, and the inside windowsills are narrow enough for a little cat bottom and little cat feet.

So Maya leaves her shelf in front of one of the windows and zips along the inside windowsill, following the lizard as it zips along the outside windowsill.

I haven't managed to photograph one of our house lizards yet, but here is what they look like:

The tail is even more shiny and electric blue in real life. The rest of the lizard's body is shiny, too. I don't think they are phosphorescent at night, but they look as if they could be!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Friday cat blogging on Thursday

Both +Maya and I are out of words for now. I am all wordy on campus in this first week of school, both listening and dispensing, and Her Grace makes great speeches when I come home. I suspect she sleeps while I am away --I know she has not been blogging-- but who knows, she may be working on the Great Feline Novel or off on pastoral visitations.

We do, however, have pictures for you. This one is from the Lambeth trip and we have been saving it. You didn't know +Maya had an English cousin, did you? Well, here she is. Or he? It matters not.

Photo courtesy of our friends from the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil. All hail to the Global Center. As you can see, the gorgeous feline is deep in conversation with Brazilian interlocutors and about to extend the right paw of kittehship.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A quiet night in the Acts of Hope study

Here we are in the study at home, Her Grace and I. I have been out a lot (meetings galore all week, a daylong diocesan committee retreat Saturday, chunks of time at the office including this afternoon and early evening) and Maya Pavlova, Feline Bishop Extraordinaire, is peacefully settled on a stack of papers on the desk. Her furry grey self is breathing steadily as I sit here revising a syllabus. Usually I play music when I do this kind of work, but we are just enjoying the silence here.

Earlier today I listened to this fine piece of jazz, courtesy of Dennis. That's Classy Dennis of Psychology, Dogs, Politics, and Wine, not Classy Dennis, Brother of Acts of Hope, who also loves jazz.

First day of class, tomorrow!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mother of God Similar to Fire

This rendition of a 19th-century Russian icon, Mother of God Similar to Fire, is by the Jesuit iconographer William Hart McNichols. It shows "the Mother of God on fire with prayer and the life of God within her."

Feast of Mary

I have a copy of this icon by Robert Lentz on my desk.

I know Trinity Stores is Robert Lentz's exclusive distributor (well, not exactly, you can buy the cards in some specialized stores too) but that little square commercial thingie in the lower left corner is really irritating.

I've had "Protectress of the Oppressed" in my office or in my study at home for nearly two decades. She's in my study now. (In the company of her hubby.) In my office, I have Mother of God, Mother of the Streets.


That last post, Blogger tells me, was # 1,111. (Almost as good as having the Olympics start on 08-08-08 at 08:08 o'clock.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

August 14: Maximilian Kolbe and Jonathan Myrick Daniels

For a memorial to these just and holy men, who lived the Beatitudes and died under the sign of the cross, visit Padre Mickey here.

First (administrative) week of fall semester

We're really busy here....

Lots of meetings this week. Lots of computin' still to do. All day retreat coming up Saturday for one of our church group. (That's Church Lady Jane, not Professor Jane.) Classes start Monday at 8:30 a.m. (Early morning History of Christianity, anyone?)

+Maya still napping. Jane, not so much. But a little, because she does obey her Extraordinary Feline.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jeff is back and well! Thank you for your prayers.

Some of you may remember my colleague Jeff, a much beloved professor of English and advisor to the student newspaper, who was literally at death's door this past winter. He was quite severely ill and I asked for prayers and posted updates on several occasions. (See links below.)

Jeff is back at work this fall semester. He will, in fact, be giving the Opening Convocation Address. (Unusual -- the speaker is usually from outside the college, or has been the three years I've been here.) When faculty and staff heard about this at our opening meeting yesterday, we all stood and gave Jeff a long ovation. It was his first time back among us. A very moving moment.

Jeff is deeply grateful for your prayers. He is convinced that they made a huge difference. Thank you all so much. (We also had two faculty on sabbatical who said they lit candles all over Siena, Italy; a lot of other people, formally religious or not, were praying for Jeff.) Besides those who read this blog, I want to thank especially Shannon's guys, the men in the prison where Shannon is a chaplain. She wrote in the comments section of this blog, when I first asked for prayers, that they would be praying. Shannon, please tell the guys that many people are grateful, including Jeff, and remind them that we pray for them too. (You do pray for people in prison, all y'all?) I told Jeff yesterday that they had prayed for him, along with other people on the Pacific coast and people on on both sides of the Atlantic coast and places in between.

Thanks be to Godde.

Requests for and updates on Jeff, since last February: Here and here and here and here and here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Birthdays and commemorations: August 11

Today is the feast of Clare of Assisi.

Padre Mickey, El Hagiografero (¿¿¿Is that a word???), has posted reflections on Clare, as has It's Margaret. Thanks to Margaret and Mickey for the inspiration and for telling stories so well!

* * * * *

Today is also the birthday of my beloved friend David, who died six years ago last month. He would have been 73 years old.

Here is a fine article he wrote called "Praying in a Post-Einsteinian Universe." In it, he writes:

What, I ask myself, is the effect of post-Einsteinian cosmology on my spiritual practice - and by that I mean both the inward work of prayer and contemplation as well as the outward work of social action? Does the expanding, replenishing universe of the big bang, black holes, and "dark matter" make a real difference to the way in which we believers pray and work?

His account of a short trip he took to Kosovo with Catholic Relief Services is here.

One of his obituaries, written by fellow editors of the magazine where he worked till a few months before his death, is here. I posted the whole piece, with a brief remembrance of our last visit, last year on this date.

I miss my friend.

* * * * *

Today is the birthday of the beautiful and talented Diana, my cousin the dancer/choreographer/poet/yoga teacher. She is 54. My mother, several cousins, one of Diana's sons, a couple of college friends and I saw her perform in Washington, D.C. last month.

* * * * *

It is also the birthday of my former vicar from Berkeley, Kathleen. She is now the Venerable Kathleen, Archdeacon (in the Diocese of California).

For the lives of your people, Creator God, we give you thanks.

On the Necessity of Naps: A Pastoral Letter from +Maya Pavlova

Beloved two-leggers and four-leggers all, and three-leggers and wheel-riders too,

Grace, peace, and purrs to you in the name of the One who feeds us and keeps us safe and provides us companions with whom to play.

I have been meaning to write this pastoral letter since my return from London and Lambeth, but have been much preoccupied with {{{yaaaawwwwn}}} the very subject of this letter. Canine and feline time, as my brother bishops +Clumber, +Airedale, and +Rowan have noted, is a time unfettered by the meetings and schedules of humans.

Yesterday afternoon, on the blessed Day of Resurrection, my Canon to the Extraordinary, having returned from church, had a light repast and headed for her bed, declaring that she ought to make up a deficit of sleep from the previous night. After jumping onto the bed and sniffing about, I decided to depart curl up on my own, on the other bed in the house, in another room. I am +Maya Pavlova and I sleep wherever I want.

We slept for well over two hours, so the two-legger said. Myself, I do not count.

When we got up, she was of a peaceful spirit and I of a sprightly one.

This led me finally to compose this episcopal admonition to you, my beloved.

I have noticed that the Canon to the Extraordinary is occasionally cranky. "Occasionally" is a kind, moderate, and appropriately Anglican word. So is "cranky."

There seem to be two ways of applying a remedy to this most unpleasant state of hers: dipping her in hot water (what she refers to as "a bath" or "a nice soak in the tub") or seeking the blessed peace of sleep.
Only one of these remedies, the second of the two, functions in all seasons (hot water is no remedy in the muggy summers of our fair state), is appropriate for all species (we felines never engage in such wet pursuits as "baths") and requires minimal shifting or changing of the clothing which fur-less two-legs must wear. The short version of this happy remedy is the nap.

Where, you may ask, is this nap mandated in Holy Scripture? And if we are Anglicans, what of the other sources of our common life? Are we not departing from tradition? What of reason? Notice, my friends, the three legged stool: and what better place for a small cat like me to curl up in a ball and slumber?

But I have digressed, or perhaps not. That is my privilege as a cat.

Holy Writ, my friends, does mention Jesus going to a place apart in the midst of his ministry. Certainly he prayed. But think you not that he had another thought as he drew apart to commune with the Creator?
Get me away from these people!

You will argue that there appears to be in Holy Scripture no explicit reference to naps. There is, friends, there is. I speak not only of the blessed sleep of Jacob and his visions, and of the exhausted slumber of the weakened friends of Jesus in the garden --surely a sign of nap deprivation over the long term-- but of even more certain and detailed nap references in a recently discovered non-canonical writing, the Feline Apocryphon of Maya Magdalena.

Maya Magdalena, an ancestor of mine, is said by this scriptural fragment to have been a four-legged companion of one of the friends of Jesus. Certain references even indicate that she was for a time a faithful companion of Jesus himself. The surviving fragment of the Feline Apocryphon of Maya Magdalena states that on several occasions, this four-legged feline wrapped herself around the ankles of Jesus and twice slept on his lap. Yes, Jesus had a lap. Was he not fully human and fully divine? Do humans not have laps?

Did Jesus not embrace small children and praise the insight of such little ones? Surely he saw also the beauty of dogs and cats. Anthropocentric editors of the Gospels and Epistles have suppressed the tales of animal companions. They have paid some attention to other animals: the wild beasts who with the angels fed Jesus in the desert, the ancient sacrifice of animals (+Maya does not want to hear of this), the beasts and birds and dragon in the Apocalypse of John. But what of the real and daily creatures, four-legged, winged, and slithering animal companions? Were they only the dogs in the story of the Syrophoenician woman, eating the crumbs under the table?

The Feline Apocryphon of Maya Magdalena shows us that creatures of all kinds, especially felines, were bearers of the Gospel. Indeed, it is in a scene depicting Jesus with the sleeping Maya Magdalena that we hear him say, softly and admiringly, "Be ye like this feline of peace, and nap often, for of such behavior is the kin-dom of Godde made."

Increase the number of naps in your life, beloved. Your level of doctrinal irritation will decrease immediately. You will neither sue nor be sued. All creatures will appear more beautiful to you when you wake, though before you gaze at them you will feel the need to stretch and sigh, and so you must do, extending your limbs and breathing and perhaps grooming yourself before rising to greet the world again.

If you have not known the bliss of the nap, seek out a napper who may witness to you calmly and joyfully.

Are naps with other creatures permitted? I have napped with my human companion, when I so please. The decision is mine. The two-legger Caminante, a friend of creatures of many nations and a Canon in fair green lands, has shown us, in her electronic epistles, her feline companions
curled up against one another. Love and nap with each other in freedom, dear ones, as the Spirit and your own free will move you.

+Maya has spoken.

Yours in the grace of recurring snoozes, with pastoral love for all, without exception,

The Right Rev. and Right Hon. Maya Pavlova, F.B.E.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to curl up in the sun by the window of the study. Meet and right it is that the Canon to the Extraordinary set up a cat-sized perch parallel to the window and the desk so that I might enjoy my leisure. I wish for you the very same. And if no one makes you such a perch, make it yourself. I also recommend the top of a pile of clean, soft laundry. - +MP, FBE.

P.S. To behold me in detail, click on photos to enlarge.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Slowdown update

It looks like the blog slowdown has un-slowed. Not sure why, since I am still in hiding for another day and a half. (Could it be... procrastination? Surely I didn't suddenly acquire more wisdom, valuable information, or literary talent.)

Why another day and a half?

'cause we have to be back at work on Tuesday.

Not that I haven't been working. There's the planning for the conference on the racial history of the diocese, the Anti-Racism Committee (which is having its annual retreat day next weekend), proofreading the new edition of the book on prayer and sending it back to the publisher and also filling in very long and detailed "author questionnaire" for the p.r. and marketing division, ongoing and heavy work on a piece of Massively Overdue Theological Writing, the monthly column for the Episcopal Café (speaking of overdue, I must write another essay in the next couple of days), designing my new little course for the diocesan Deacon Formation Program which begins in September, local churchy things, and of course housework.

Also, I had to cancel one of my (three) fall courses due to low enrollment (I think the word "theology" scares people away and I am going to banish it from the course title and offer the course again next semester and see what happens) and replace it with another one -- a 101 course that always draws students but that I wasn't going to teach again till spring semester and don't really have time to revise as I'd planned, since this just happened in the last few weeks, when I was spending time off with my family and then had some previously scheduled projects on deck.

Anyway, we faculty are due back, so the literature says, on the 15th of August, but due to this year's academic calendar we are really due back on the 12th. That's Tuesday. We have an all-day mandatory faculty-staff meeting. On Wednesday there's an almost-all-day Advising Workshop (to continue teaching us how to be good academic advisors). On Friday I am scheduled to be in my office all day to advise transfer students. Then classes start on Monday, August 18. Two weeks before Labor Day. (And the college does not take Labor Day off.)

So, "fall" is upon us here even as the summer heat continues and the tomatoes grow in the gardens and the bugs bite and the lemonade chills in the fridge.

Meanwhile, I went to bed and slept for most of the afternoon (when in doubt, sleep) and Her Grace, the Feline Bishop Extraordinaire, is finally about to issue her pastoral letter on naps.
Stay tuned.

P.S. I'm not any more busy than the rest of you workers in the vineyard out there. I just happen to talk about it once in a while. Really. And I don't have children or elders to care for, speaking of huge and busy occupations.

Time for a geography lesson

Janinsanfran at Happening Here speaks of the arc of mountainous agony and offers us a map. Study the map. I'm going to.

the still, small voice

It's interesting to me that none of the sermons I have heard or read online for today have dwelled upon today's first reading in the Revised Common Lectionary.

Which is not to say they didn't do a fine job with the powerful Gospel story and in some cases (a friend who read me parts of her sermon last night from North of Boston) with that story plus the final sentence from Paul about the beautiful feet of those who bear good news. (Echoes of Christmas...) No one I know tackled Romans, a lot of which (thank you, Krister Stendahl) is Paul's theological meditation about what happens to Israel --i.e. Jews and Christians and their relationship-- in the new dispensation.

I know, there was another option in the lectionary, another compelling story from Genesis. Kevin picked the I Kings option for us at St. Mary's.

I wasn't preaching today and I probably wouldn't have been able to resist the Gospel if I had preached, but I do love the stories of Elijah and in particular the passage we knew as young 'uns as the "still, small voice" passage and we now hear in the lectionary as "a sound of sheer silence."

I'm not going to write an essay on this passage, but I want to share with you a beautiful translation of it by Rabbi Larry Kushner. (Not to be confused with Rabbi Harold Kushner.) It's from his book The Book of Words. I quote it in When in Doubt, Sing. (About which I will post a shameless plug in the next couple of weeks. But I digress.) I find it a delicate and inspiring gateway to prayer, or just to slowing down and watching my breath. And listening.

And lo, the Lord passed by. There was
a great and mighty wind; splitting mountains
and shattering rocks by the power of the
Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind, an earthquake; but
the Lord was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake, fire: but the Lord
was not in the fire. And after the fire,
the soft barely audible sound of
almost breathing.

****** I Kings 19:11-12

Note: This translation and two other biblical quotes are part of a longer excerpt from Rabbi Kushner's book at the end of Chapter Four of When in Doubt, Sing. I'll post the longer passage sometime. It is about breathing and the Name of God (HaShem).

Arrupe and the Bomb

Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the deeply prayerful, justice-seeking General of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) from 1965 to 1983, was for many years a missionary in Japan. (Arrupe was Basque, just like the founder of the Society, Ignatius of Loyola.)

Fr. Arrupe was working as a missionary in Japan when war broke out with the United States and the Allies. While the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7th in Hawaii, in Japan it was already December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Arrupe was saying mass when he was arrested and imprisoned for a time. His attitude of profound prayer (he would later describe it as one of his most transforming spiritual periods), his lack of offensive behaviour gained him the respect of his jailors and judges, and was set free in a month. He was appointed Jesuit superior and the master of novices in Japan in 1942.

He was living in suburban Hiroshima when the atomic bomb fell in August of 1945. As a trained doctor he headed the first rescue party to arrive in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb. He described that event as "a permanent experience outside of history, engraved on my memory." He utilized his medical skills in the service of the wounded and the dying, transforming the novitiate into a make-shift hospital for over 200 grievously scarred human remnants. He eventually was appointed the first Jesuit provincial for Japan (1958-65). [ Encyclopedia]

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Nagasaki Day

Nagasaki Day often disappears among our remembrances of the first atomic bombs.

Today is Nagasaki Day.

Grandmere Mimi has a commemoration with heartfelt prayers from Holy Trinity Church in Nagasaki.

Ken has two posts about this day, 1) The saddest of anniversaries, and 2) a creative imagining (a midrash! if one can make midrash about opera) of the sequel to Madama Butterfly, Related to Nagasaki, A Follow-up to "Madama Butterfly".

Mahmoud Darwish, R.I.P

A humane and heartstrong poet has died, of consequences of heart surgery. His physical heart had been ill for some years. Mahmoud Darwish was the leading Palestinian poet.

The BCC story is here from the Agence France-Presse (AFP). One learns more about Darwish there.

I'll try to find a poem later and post it.

Photo: AFP, 2005.


"I Come From There and Remember"
*****by Mahmoud Darwish

I am from There:
I come from there and remember,
I was born like everyone is born, I have a mother
and a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends and a prison.
I have a wave that sea-gulls snatched away.
I have a view of my own and an extra blade of grass.
I have a moon past the peak of words.
I have the godsent food of birds and an olive tree beyond the ken of time.
I have traversed the land before swords turned bodies into banquets.
I come from there. I return the sky to its mother when for its mother the
sky cries, and I weep for a returning cloud to know me.
I have learned the words of blood-stained courts
in order to break the rules.
I have learned and dismantled all the words to construct a single one:

(Translated by Tania Nasir for publication in Marwan’s 1998 exhibit catalogue: “An Die Kinder Palästinas”, published in Berlin by the Goethe Institut.) H/T: Annie's Letters

A video of a song by Marcel Khalife, "Ummi" ("My Mother" in Arabic) whose words are a poem by Darwish. H/T: Annie's Letters

Here's the info about a book of selected poems by Darwish published by the University of California Press, Unfortunately, It Was Paradise.

And here is a review of a Hebrew edition of a book of poems (Mural in English) by Darwish in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. The review is titled "Palestine as Poetry." Its author is Sami Shalom Chetrit, who teaches literature and politics in the film department at Sapir College in the Negev (Israel) and at UCLA.

Science-and-religion resources (and foodie postscript)

No, this is not about creationism or intelligent design or science in the public schools. That's a whole other set of resources, websites, and organizations.

This is about the conversation between science and religion, which is alive and well. It's not my field, but I know a few things about it and have had colleagues and teachers who specialized in this area. It's fascinating and important.

I had dinner last night with the Adorable Godson, who as you may or may not recall is a budding astrophysicist. He has a bachelor's in computer science already and is getting a second bachelor's in physics so that he can go on to graduate school in this field, which he has decided is his vocation. We caught up on the summer and various matters not for blog consumption, he told me about his summer internship and taught me all sorts of interesting things about light and telescopes and and stars and galaxies, and we had a brief conversation on science and religion. I promised I'd follow up with some resources, and having just written him a letter that took over an hour to compose because of all the hyperlinks, I thought I'd post it here (with the personal bits taken out) as a resource for blog visitors.

There were two questions that led to this letter. One was whether there were physicist-priests out there. (The answer is yes.) Another was a more general one about science and religion. The Adorable Godson has been reading a book on this topic by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

It's really fun having a godson and having him be local. I have two goddaughters who are the same age (all of them are in the 22-23 year old range) but they are not in town --one lives in Europe-- and neither is an Episcopalian. I love them all dearly, so this isn't an issue of favorites. I'm just tickled to have one of them be local and involved in the same congregation as I. As you may recall, he's a recently baptized member. Also, he can explain computers and stars. And he and Her Grace, the fabulous Maya Pavlova, are fond of each other. What's not to love?

Okay, here is the slightly edited letter. Enjoy the resources.

The best known priest-physicist is John Polkinghorne, who was the recipient of the Templeton Prize half a dozen years ago. A short bio is here. There is a website about him with all kinds of links here. You can find the text of an interview of him (from sometime in the last decade, I think, maybe late 90s) with a bibliography at the end.

Maybe an even better place to start: A lovely intro to Polkinghorne and issues he addresses is the episode of the excellent, excellent radio show
Speaking of Faith called "Quarks and Creation." There is an interview of Polkinghorne there. The show has podcasts, too :-) but its website is also worth exploring at length.

There are three U.S. centers for science-religion dialogue. They always host a reception together at the
American Academy of Religion (AAR), the professional society whose meeting I attend every November.

One of them, CTNS, the
Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, is part of the GTU where I did my Ph.D. studies. Poke around their website (I made a hyperlink, as you see) - it has great stuff on it.

The other two centers are the
Zygon Center for Religion and Science in Chicago and IRAS, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. They co-publish the journal Zygon.

CTNS has gotten a ton of grants from the
Templeton Foundation and they had a project (one among many, you can see on their site all the books their affiliated scholars have produced re: religion and science) called "Science and the Spiritual Quest." That is also the title of the book I mentioned to you; I have the book in my office. All the essays in it are by leading scientists who have varied religious affiliations and backgrounds.

CTNS has had several joint projects with the Vatican Observatory, which is not just at the Vatican but in Arizona. The main researcher there, a very sweet guy, is a Jesuit priest and physicist named
Bill Stoeger. You'll like his bio -- I think some of the work he's done is in areas of physics in which you are interested.

CTNS's founding director is a physicist (Ph.D. in physics) who is also an ordained
United Church of Christ (U.C.C.) minister. His name is Robert John (Bob) Russell and he was my friend Kirk's dissertation chair.

Kirk Wegter-McNelly is my classmate and he specializes in the dialogue between physics and religion. He was a physics major as an undergraduate and wrote his dissertation in theology on quantum nonlocality and the Christian theology of creation. Click on his publications and you will see he is the author of a forthcoming encyclopedia article on physics and religion! Kirk just got a humongous research grant for a wild project with Raymond Chiao at UC-Merced.)

A former professor at the GTU who was also part of CTNS is now teaching at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (know as "General"). His name is
Mark Richardson. (That link will also show you the Metanexus Institute.) Very nice guy.

They are all nice guys. Yes, this is a male-dominated field. There are a few women in the science and religion biz and at one point they founded their own support and research group. The main person I know from that group is
Lisa Stenmark, whose major work has been in high-tech-related science as I recall and who teaches in the area of Magic, Science, and Religion according to the San Jose State website. (The other major person I knew in that group was Lou Ann Trost, whose doctorate is in theology, and I see that she's now teaching with Lisa in CA.) I see that Zygon, the center in Chicago, has just appointed a woman as its new director. This is a big deal and a first. Her name is Gayle Woloschak and she is an Orthodox Christian. She's a molecular biologist and medical school professor.

The issue of course is not just having women in the field but including in the field feminist, womanist, and other theoretical or theological approaches. Here's
a very short essay or piece of essay on this. Also a short essay , "An Ecology of Knowledge," by Lisa Stenmark. (A lot of the issues raised are epistemological as well as ethical.)

Oh, and CTNS also has a new project called
STARS. Check out the research topic and the theme! Lots of physics there.

For one of the basic books on the whole religion and science dialogue, go to the works of
Ian Barbour and see his short When Science Meets Religion. But he has, as you will see by the bio, written a lot of books. And yes, he is a physicist. Here's another bio of him.

I'd be very interested to hear more about the book by the Dalai Lama. Eric and Don's course [These are my colleagues -- Eric Mortensen in religious studies, my department, an expert in Buddhism, shamanism and folklore et al., and Donald Smith in physics; they team teach a course on science and religion; I'd love to take it!] probably has perspectives from Asian and other religious perspectives that the folks above have not explored in depth, if at all. So of course, a look at their syllabus would be really important. The science-and-religion field is vast. It is also serious and scholarly and a lot of people don't realize this -- which is why it's great that Krista Tippett has done shows like the one with Polkinghorne. Another thing that helped spread the wealth, so to speak, was a curriculum contest (I have friends who applied for grants via this competition back in the day) and program on teaching religion and science. CTNS called it the
Science and Religion Course Program.

That should get you started ;-) .

* * * * *
P.S. JohnieB, Pablito, TCR, and others will want to know what we had for dinner.

I cooked, if you can call such a simple meal cooking. Four courses:

1. Crenshaw melon.

2. Salad of mixed greens with heirloom tomato slices, avocado slices, red bell pepper strips, and cold salmon (not much, left over from my dinner of the night before -- cooked en papillote with absolutely nothing, just the fresh fish, and yes, it was the ecologically okay kind, wild caught from Alaska, thank you to my local supermarket, big ol' corporate Harris Teeter), dressed with extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground French sea salt.

3. Whole wheat fusilli with pesto. (Pine nuts are too pricey and hard to digest, though classic pesto calls for them; I was out of walnuts; and the only nuts I had in the house --I keep nuts in the freezer so they won't go stale or rancid-- were cashews, so I experimented. Besides the cashews, the classic ingredients: olive oil, garlic, fresh basil, grated parmesan.)

4. Small amount of Julie's Organic Mocha Java ice cream with blueberries on top. (Originally it was going to be just the ice cream; but the Adorable Godson caught sight of the blueberries in the fridge and said, "Mmmm, blueberries.")

The melon, tomato, pepper, basil, and blueberries were from the farmers' market.

Oh, and to drink, iced peppermint tea; it was a no-wine evening.

The Adorable Godson says he's cooking next time.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Beijing business

...Most disgraceful of all is the fact that six of the 12 worldwide Olympic partners are American companies. This has to heart-sicken any patriot. These companies will reap the full exposure of the Summer Games, swathing themselves in the flag, and rationalizing that their business is helping uplift the Chinese people. Don't buy it -- or them. You should know exactly who they are: General Electric (which owns NBC), Coca-Cola, Visa, McDonald's, Kodak, and Johnson & Johnson.
******* Sally Jenkins, The Washington Post

Read more at janinsanfran's place, Happening Here, and see a picture of Beijing's air.

Friday cat blogging and the fleeting days of summer

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Feast of the Transfiguration / Hiroshima Day

I have been haunted for years by the juxtaposition of these two days on August 6. I cannot hear the Bible passage about Jesus blazing with light without remembering the deadly, blinding light of the Bomb.

Likewise I cannot remember the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima without searching the scriptures, my heart, and the wisdom of others to ask what the story of the Transfiguration has to say to this weapon-infested world, especially in the nuclear age.

The last time I preached on this feast was more than half a dozen years ago at Ghost Ranch, the Presbyterian/ecumenical conference center (history here) near one of Georgia O'Keeffe's homes in Abiquiu, New Mexico, not far from Santa Fe. Rather than leaving you with my words, I offer links to the words of friends and to some of the images they have posted. The image on Padre Rob+'s blog is particularly powerful.

Padre Mickey on the Transfiguration. (Beautiful icons and meditation.)

Grandmère Mimi on the Transfiguration and Hiroshima (with an excerpt from a sermon by Jesuit peace activist John Dear) and on another anniversary.

Padre Rob+ on Hiroshima and the Transfiguration. (Stunning image and poem).

Janinsanfran on Hiroshima Day. (With a Martha's Vineyard perspective.)

Ormonde Plater reminds us of deacons martyred on this day during the persecution of Emperor Valerian in the 3d century C.E.

Images: Transfiguration 2003, Transfiguration 2006. Tip of the summer straw hat to impossibleape at R2E. Not sure who the artist is.

Monday, August 4, 2008

North Carolina (and Virginia?) churchy folks: registration open for event on racial history of the Diocese of North Carolina

I've mentioned before that a group of us have been planning a one-day conference on the racial history (particularly slavery and the Jim Crow era and their legacies) of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. It will take place September 6, about a month from now.

Registration has been open for a while, but we now have registration forms online (printable). There's a link on the other blog.

All y'all come if you are within driving distance and can spare a Saturday. Even if you are not from this diocese or are not an Episcopalian, it should be an event well worth attending.

I'll post on this event as time allows and will likely do some kind of writeup afterwards via my monthly column at the Episcopal Café, but you may want to bookmark the other blog, Race, Justice, and Love, since I am about to start updating it and posting there more often and it will have related posts and resources.

I updated this post on August 6. --JCR




Yes, I am breathing.

Also, Her Grace the Feline Bishop Extraordinaire had a little unexpected escapade yesterday, but it was short and without ill consequences except a bit of pouting.

Here's a sweet sculpture of la Virgen de Guadalupe which I found online earlier today. (Yes, work-related; I was finishing up some icon research for a late set of changes in the text of the book.) Apparently she lives in a cottonwood tree in Albuquerque, New Mexico, permanent home of my friend the Bear-in-Exile, Paul the Byzigenous Buddhapalian. Paul heads back to the beautiful city of New Orleans today for more work and more long-term-temporary sojourning in humid climes.

Credit, as you can see, goes to something called Not sure who the artist is (in addition to Mother Nature) or whether one ever signed the work.

Aleksandr Isayevitch Solzhenitsyn, R.I.P.

Thank Godde for friends who say things better than we can and have more time to say it. My friend Chris has posted a photo of and tribute to the writer Solzhenitsyn, who has just died.

Let me take this opportunity to introduce Chris's new blog, the Gifts of God. You can read a bit about Chris, in his own words, here.

Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy saints:
where sorrow and pain are no more;
neither sighing but life everlasting.
Thou only art immortal,
the creator and maker of man:
and we are mortal formed from the dust of the earth,
and unto earth shall we return:
for so thou didst ordain,
when thou created me saying:
"Dust thou art und unto dust shalt thou return."
All we go down to the dust;
and weeping o'er the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

From the Orthodox Memorial Service
Trans. W. J. Birkbeck (1869-1916)

It's also in our Episcopal Hymnal to the tune of a Kievan chant -- wish there were a better link than
this midi, but you can sing along - or point me to a choral version somewhere online.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

More prayers for X, who leaves anonymity

My friend X has come out of anonymity on his blog. I will let him tell you his name. It's his right. As you will read, he still needs our prayers.

The post in question is here.

My previous posts requesting prayer for him are here and here.

Do your thing, Prayer Posse. In the power of the Spirit and the Communion of Saints, I thank you.