Sunday, January 27, 2013

worrying about Luke

Ok, I know I write too much about our creatures. But we love them so.

Maggie, the parakeet is listening to classical music right now--her favorite thing. We switched from WNPR to WSHU because the talk agitates her--and us too--I'm much calmer with Mozart and Bach than with endless political talk.

God knows what Bela, the Puli is up to. Tonight he grabbed one of Bern's socks from where she'd dropped it in the bedroom, took it to the TV room, shook it at her and ran, making her chase him to get it back. Then, just now, in the dark, he went off into the back yard and wouldn't come when I called him, making me search for the flashlight (he's so black--as black as midnight in a cypress swamp--that I can't see him in the dark) but then he came to the kitchen door and barked.

Luke, our cat, is, I now know, 13 years old. I know that because I asked Bern (linear time being a confounding thing to me) and she told me we got him when Mimi was 22 and now Mimi is 34 and (wonderful) and Luke wasn't a kitten but half grown when we found him at MEOW, a cat rescue place, so he's probably 13.

I've probably mentioned my affection for Lukey, not being naturally a cat person though we've had a lot of them over the years. I sleep later (except on Sundays) than Bern, so she lets him into our bedroom when she gets up and he curls up around my head. I wake up with a Maine Coon Cat on my head and a Puli against my legs. Not a bad way to wake up, by the way. Astonishing, actually. So I rub them both for a while before getting out of bed and going to the bathroom where I first draw Luke a glass of water before doing the other things people do in the  morning in the bathroom.

He drinks a great deal of water, which worries me, since many cats die of kidney disease. He hasn't been to a vet since MEOW had him. He's been an indoor cat and never sick. But now that I know he's 13, instead of 10 or 15, which were my two guesses being unstuck in linear time, I'm concerned.

I'd like to always wake up with a yellow Coon Cat around draped around my head. Maybe, if God is in his heaven, the afterlife will involve a yellow cat around your head in some way. I'd appreciate that kind of Eternity.

So now, I know, I'll start noticing even more how much water he drinks and checking that his nose is pink and that he seems energetic (he still is because when I came down the hallway to my little office to write this, Luke raced ahead of me, jumped up on the banister to the back stairs and laid on the table beside the table where my PC is for a while, rolling and showing me his belly.

The older I get, one of things I don't understand even less than I did, was how people without critters get along. Dogs and cats and birds, I know, intellectually, aren't everyone's cup of tea. But I love them so. I really do. They teach me so much about dependance and joy and love....

We once had a cat who lived to be 23. I hope Luke does and I hope, if he does, I'll still be spry enough to bury him beside our deck, with generations of creatures, with dignity....That would be good, I think....I believe....I know....

Friday, January 25, 2013

Going to see Mimi....

Tomorrow I'm going to see Mimi...and Tim, two of the people I love most in the world. I'll get on the train in New Haven at 9:27 or so and I'll be at Grand Central by 11 something and I'll find my way to the 4 or 5 train and ride to Brooklyn and be at their apartment on South Elliot by noon or so. I bring the stuff Mimi couldn't take home with her because she flew to Florida the day after Christmas and I'll take their Valentine's gifts (a bit early) that Bern takes so seriously and looks so hard for. Some of them hilarious and some touching. And I'll take them to lunch somewhere in Fort Green and we'll talk and laugh and be happy. What could be better than that? Then I'll ride the train back to New Haven at 4:34 or so and be home to my life.

(My whole life is like "going to see Mimi". I live in a house I love and we almost own outright--a couple of more years--with a dog and cat and bird {a gift from Mimi} and a woman who, in our latest marriage [we've had a few!] I love more than you can imagine, more, even, than I can imagine. And we have enough money and don't lock our doors and live in a wonderful town and read lots of books and cook good food and sleep soundly and don't worry or fret about much of anything. And I have two miraculous children--Josh and Mimi--and three astonishing grand-daughters--Morgan and Emma and Tegan--and two wonderful partners to those two children--Cathy and Tim. And, to my knowledge, I did absolutely nothing to deserve the life I love so much. I'm not particularly brave or strong or noble or even good. Yet my life has turned out so incredible, so well, so perfect, in many ways.)

I'm trying, these days, to live a life of total and eternal gratefulness. I don't pinch myself because I'm afraid I might wake up and things would be a mess. I teach at UConn and love it. I work in the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry and love it. I  have good health, in spite of smoking and drinking white wine to a bit of excess. I have good friends who give me great joy. I dream dreams that either make me ponder or bring me an excess of joy. I do whatever I want whenever I want.

How could anyone deserve all that?

I don't, I know. I don't 'deserve' it. It is a gift from God or wherever that I can neither deserve or earn...I long ago quit trying to earn it!

So, what to do with all that? Ponder it, certainly. Be profoundly thankful, that goes without saying. And get up tomorrow and go see Mimi and Tim and ride the train and read a book and have a good lunch and deliver gifts and be with people I love so much it hollows me out so I can be filled up anew in their presence.

Just that. And, if it doesn't seem too presumptuous or arrogant, pray for all those who don't have my life, that they might. That they might....

I was just talking with Bern about our life. The way she put it is this: "it's all right". Most people worry, she said, that 'things won't be all right'. And for us, they are.

I've quit fretting about why my life is so good (there's no reason, really, so why fret about it?) And I don't, any longer, feel guilty about being joyful and fulfilled. Something about 'grace' in there. But I realize I am profoundly blessed and know that blessedness will give me the strength to deal with things when they aren't alright, which will happen, I surely know.

But for now, all I'm thinking of is going to see Mimi and the wondrous joy of all that, and how eternally thankful I am.

Something to ponder: living a life of eternal thankfulness....

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

the beetle in our bathroom

OK, after my rather elongated navel-gazing last post, I realized what I was trying to say is encapsulated in a poem by a woman I think named Elsie Langstrom called "Song to my other self". Neither of which--her name or the poems name--I could find anywhere on line. But today, I realized where I read it: in a book called Our Many Selves. So, I went to Amazon and found the book and ordered it, paying for express shipping, so I hope to share that poem with you soon.

After all that and a trip to the Y where I walked for 2 miles on a treadmill and read a book called The Beautiful Mystery, which is really good, I came home to take a shower.

When I opened the shower, there was a beetle in the middle of the floor in the shower. I'd seen him a couple of days before and wanted to keep him going so I put him in the sink while I took a shower. After my shower, I put him on the floor (it could be a female beetle, I realize) but he/she wandered off toward a little hole in the wall. A house built in 1850 has lots of places beetles can squeeze through.

But, after all, what is a beetle doing in our bathroom when it it 8 degrees outside? Where did he come from and what's the chance she could stay alive until spring? I don't even know how long beetles live. And, by the way, I'm not even sure it's a beetle. It's about an inch long and has a triangular head and a square body--but, not knowing what it is (and knowing it's not a roach of any kind) I wanted to give it a fighting chance. How did he/she get in the shower--the door is always shut when it isn't being used...?

Lot's of thing to ponder about this bug that has ended up, on the coldest day of the winter, in our bathroom. Well, if you were a bug and were in our house, which we keep at 65 degrees, I guess one of the bathrooms would be the best bet where there might be some steam and an electric heater for taking showers. So s/he is showing some intelligence.

It is very cold. When I went to bed last night the thermometer on our back porch read 6. When I got up it was 4. I don't think it got above 12 all day. (All those are Fahrenheit, by the way, though the Celsius reading make it sound better.)

I just went downstairs and had a cigarette and saw it was 4 degree (-21 Celsius) so the Celsius readings don't sound better at all! Which reminds me that I'm personally glad that the US never accepted Celsius and Metrics. It never made sense to me and I'm gratified that it is only +4 rather than -21 right now. And the Australian tennis Open, which I watch from time to time since Bern watches it pretty much all the time, records the miles per hour of serves in the metric system, which makes less than no sense.

But I was writing about the cold. I don't  mind the cold nearly as much as I did when I was younger. When I was younger, I loved heat. People would say when it was 92 or so (which honors heat better than saying it's 34 degrees Celsius) "Is it hot enough for you?" And I would answer, "Hell no! And I'd like a little more humidity!" When I was young, I loved to sweat and steam.

But now, as I'm a senior citizen (I got 15% off a pair of jeans today at Bob's because it was Wednesday and I'm over 55...) it's no big deal to go out in 4 F/-21 C to have a cigarette. I even say a little longer to look at Jupiter and the moon with just a hat and a wool sweater.

So, it seems to me, I'm not a typical elder person. I wouldn't live in Florida for a million dollars (well,maybe $1,000,000 but not by choice). I'd move further north though Connecticut suits me fine. Not so hot as some places and colder than many.

I grew up in an apartment in Anawalt, WV that didn't have central heat. We had a warm morning stove in the living room and a wood/coal stove in the kitchen. But both were 25 feet or so from my room. So it got cold during the winter. I would turn my electric blanket up so high that when I woke up in the morning, my pajamas would be pressed. And our bathroom wasn't heated at all except by a kerosene heater that covered your wet body with little black dots when you got out of the bathtub--no showers in my childhood. So, I was cold a lot back then.

But now, 65 degrees seems pretty warm (and I have lots of hats and sweaters) so the cold, I suppose, just isn't as big a deal as it was earlier in my life. I've even started calling it 'brisk', the way real New Englanders  do (though I'll never be, really, one of them). I actually like the cold better than the heat, so go figure.

But I'm still pondering the very existence of that bug I call a beetle. I'm glad to keep rescuing him, but what in creation is he doing in our bathroom?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pondering my emotions

Recently I was somewhere and one of the other people there was truly annoying me. Nothing they were doing or saying had any inherent annoyance factor in them. But I felt myself getting agitated and anxious. I wanted to say something (which would have been inappropriate and wrong given the circumstances) or I wanted to escape (which wasn't rational either).

An hour or so later I found myself in my car with a 40 minute drive ahead of me and decided to ponder the emotions I had felt. I wanted to unwrap what was going on inside me. I wanted to understand, in some way, the feelings I had experienced in those moments. What was it that was annoying and agitating me so much without any rational reason?

I long ago came to believe that we don't 'have feelings'--Feelings 'have us'. My emotions and feelings, I've come to understand over the years, are autonomous things that rush in and seize or embrace me. A feeling of love and wonder 'embraces' me. Feelings like I had that day and like embarrassment or anger, 'seize' me and hold on for dear life. (Just remember when someone you cared about was sad or mad or afraid. Then remember how you saying "don't be sad/mad/afraid" seemed to help things....) No 'feelings' I believe, or inherently 'good' or 'bad'. That's  just what we judge and call them. Fear, for example, is as morally neutral as awe. My feelings come and go. I can neither bid them come or command them to leave.

Feeling are in an existential way. I'm not my feelings. I am merely embraced or seized by my emotions. Who I am is the being experiencing the feelings and emotions. They don't define me anymore than I control and manipulate them. They are like autonomous things that I encounter during my life. And there is more value in pondering them than in reacting to them.

And, perhaps the best way to react to the feelings--whichever they are (the ones I judge 'bad' and resist or the ones I judge 'good' and enjoy)--would be to embrace them, whether they embrace me or seize me. Sort of like holding a crying child in the latter case or holding a loving child in the former case. Sort of like holding myself whatever I'm feeling....

You know, I just re-read all this and think I've gone too far to fast.

This is the way I deal with emotions (at least the ones I find unpleasant) but reading this makes me sound like a mad man of sorts.

Here's the truth, cutting to the chase, what I most often find is so about people who annoy or upset me is that I am either reacting to some part of me I don't quite embrace that I see in them or reacting to something in me that I truly embrace that I find contradicted by them.

Does any of this make any sense?

Since I'm not sure, I'm leaving it there.

(By the way, what I figured out about the guy who annoyed me was that he is a lot like me but doesn't agree with me. He was acting out his formality and conservatism the way I act out my informality and liberalism. So, in a technical term, he PISSED ME OFF. That simple. I saw my own obsession with the way I want to be perceived mirrored and backward in him. I don't know, that seems sort of valuable to know to me....But like I said, I'm leaving it there....)

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Moon, the Moon....

I was just out with the bad dog to 'go bathroom', which is what I tell him this last trip outside of the day since it's after 10:30 p.m.

Today was a great day for me. I watched Obama--TV for hours and thrilled to the day of his second inauguration.

At some point Bern said (and I agree), "I'm glad we lived long enough to have a President we could really love...."

So, my political leanings are not a secret  (if they've ever been!!!)

And out with the bad dog in the Arctic air that is moving into New England, I saw the moon, draped in haze and clouds, no other lights visible in the sky, no stars, no Jupiter, that has been brilliant the last few nights, about a third through its waning, it was so mysterious and veiled and beautiful that I took it as a sign for our future.

Mysterious, veiled and beautiful.

I'm not sure what that means, but I am so pumped up from this Martin Luther King holiday and Barack's inauguration that I believe it might just be true.

The Future: mysterious, veiled and beautiful. 

Much to be desired. Much to be longed for. Much to lean into.

I want to lean into such a future, for me, for you, for all of us.

Ponder that possibility.

Lean into that Possibility.

Long for it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Stan the Man

Stan Musial, who played 22 years for the St. Louis Cardinals died today. (Nevermind that I assumed he died years ago, it was just today and he was 92.)

Stan Musial was the reason I wanted to be left-handed all through my childhood. Stan the Man was left handed and his batting stance was so weird that I tried for years to emulate it. He crouched and had his legs close together and his arms near his body and when the pitch came he 'uncoiled' and hit it a mile.

I grew up watching him and Ted Williams on the Baseball game of the week with Dizzy Dean as the announcer. They were the two best left-handed hitters, in my mind, of all time.

Ted died years ago and had his body frozen to be thawed out when it would be possible to live again.

Stan was normal as hell--as normal as Ted was odd. Just a normal guy who could hit the hell out of a baseball.

Ted played 19 years (missing three years in the height of his talent by serving in WWII) Who knows what he would have done if he'd played those years.

Here were some of their records.

Ted       Stan         
19          22    years played
2292    3026   hits
521        475  home runs
1839    1951  Runs batted in

Stan had many more doubles (725) and triples (177) than Ted.

And they both played their whole careers for the same team (Cardinals and Red Sox), something very rare these days.

Stan the Man was a part of my childhood and one of purest hitters ever. He never struck out more than 50 times in any year. Good players today strike out 100 times and think nothing of it.

The Man could play.

I'm sorry I didn't realize he was still alive. I'm sorry he's dead.

We won't see his kind anytime soon....

'Course, if you don't like baseball, I've just wasted your time....

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Somewhere over Western Pennsylvania


It's 8:13 p.m. and I should be on a plane from Philadelphia to San Francisco by now, probably west of Pittsburgh. And I'm not.

My week long trip to San Francisco would have included a Board Meeting and School Builders Meeting of the Mastery Foundation, worship at Gregory of Nissa church and a three day program called "Music that makes a community". All of which I looked forward to greatly, along with the possibility of meeting with Jen Hornbeck, the last of 32 seminarians I supervised and one of the best.

Fred, my friend, had volunteered to drive me to Bradley Airport, which would have been a good conversation about life and the church and how the two are really not the same. He was an hour and a half from coming by to get me. My bag was packed and my Puli dog had been staring at it for most of the afternoon knowing bags are not good news. He even barked at it for a while, expressing his anxiety and distress. When I knew I wasn't going, I took the bag and the Puli upstairs and unpacked while he laid on the bed. He calmed down after that.

So, here's what happened. At about one p.m. I went to the bathroom and had blood in my urine. I drank copious amounts of water and discovered after a couple of quarts, that I had blood clots as well as blood.

This is not unusual. The radiology I had after having my prostate removed 6 or 7 years ago, scarred my bladder. So, every few months this happens. Just scar tissue slothing off and going the only way it has to go. The doctors tell me it will just continue to happen, drink more water than makes good sense and hope it clears up in a day or two. However, it can cause a urinary blockage--which has happened twice, one of which meant a three day stay in hospital as the pumped about a hundred gallons of saline solution into my bladder and back out which, not unsurprisingly, required not one but two tubes up my you know what. Not pleasant, let me tell you.

So, when it happens--and it happened the last time less than a month ago (it will become more frequent, the doctors tell me, as I age)--I begin to drown myself with fluids and pee about every 15 minutes. If I'm lucky, it clears up in a couple of days or sooner. But if I'm not, the whole thing could shut down and I'd have to go to the ER.

Didn't seem to be a situation conducive to getting on an airplane. I would have had to get the cabin attendants to bring me fluids on a constant basis and would have had to go to the bathroom around 40 times between Hartford and San Francisco. So, my heart breaking, I had to call Ann, the head of the Mastery Foundation, and Michael, the guy I'd be staying with in San Mateo and the airline and my urologist. I was feeling cowardly and guilty about not going, but Michael is a prostate cancer survivor like me and has had experience with this kind of thing and told me I was doing the right thing.

One good thing is that I won't miss Bern and the creatures for a week, I'll see the NFL playoffs and the Inauguration.and not miss a week of writing here.

But I am disappointed. But peeing blood clots in an airplane bathroom (you can't control where the damn things go!) would have made it look like a slasher film.....I know, more than you needed to know.....

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fido vs. Dad (RIP)

OK, so my friend's father is dying. In hospice care in Ohio. And he's planning to go out and be with him until he dies.

"I've wished him dead so many times," my friend told me, "and now that it's going to happen I am torn up inside in more ways than I can count."

It wasn't just a teen-age rebellion that took him away from his father--it was a life-long thing. They never seemed to connect. A stern, cold man and his son. As my friend describes his father to me--as he has over many years--it has become obvious to me that his father was a classic, text book Narcissistic personality. Their relationship--tepid at best and bordering on psychologically abusive at worst--has always been problematic. But my friend didn't cut his father off, as some may have, he visited a couple of times a year every year. He spent time with his father--painful though it was in so many ways. He gave it the old college try. And it never worked. Never. My friend's sister had a more compatible father/daughter relationship, but even she saw how troubled the relationship between her father and brother was.

My response to his 'wished he were dead...torn up inside' confession prompted me to say, without really thinking, "It's much easier when a pet dies...."

I thought I'd gone too far too fast but my friend looked at me and said, "you know, it really is...."

Take me for example. I had an almost idyllic childhood. An only child with two doting parents. Never anything like my friend and his father. Oh, when I came home for Christmas in 1970 with long hair and a beard, my father greeted me at the door and then wandered off in the snow to weep. And he certainly drove me crazy from time to time. My mother was the tough one, but we seemed to get along even in hard times. I was at my mom's bedside when she died and had left my father in hospital, driven home in 10 minutes and walked in the house to a ringing phone to tell me he had died.

But relationships with human beings are always fraught with mixed emotions and unspoken things and things left undone. The last time I saw my father alive I said, "I'm going home now, Dad". He was in a later stage of dementia but that last conversation was as lucid as we'd had in two year. He replied, "I am too." Had a parishioner said that, I would have sat back down and knew what it meant. But not my father. And I've spent decades regretting that I didn't sit back down and be there with him as he went through that mysterious door to whatever comes next.

But Fido, that's different. Our relationships with pets--dogs and cats and even Guinea pigs and birds in my life--are devoid of the drama and complexity of human relationships. When a pet dies, the pain is intense and pure. It is like a scalpel slicing cleanly through our hearts. When people die--especially our parents--it's like trying to cut open your heart with a butter knife.

The circumstances have taken a butter knife to my friend's innards. It's not pretty and not clean. Decades of complexity have been funneled down to what will be a single moment, a single death.

I'm a priest. I've seen what dead does to people more than anyone should have to. I've seen more people die than anyone not in a medical profession. I watched the kaleidoscope of emotions flash across the family's faces. I know how inscrutable the pangs of death are.

I am probably a good person to have with you when someone dies since I just lay low and don't say anything. I'll hold your hand as long as you want. I'll listen to whatever--whatever--you need to say and share and I'll be present to what every you need to feel. But I won't say anything. I'll just hug you and let you cry and talk.

If your pet dies, I have lots to say. The death of a pet is universally similar, I think. The death of a human being holds individual pain/guilt/regret/confusion that none of us can truly share with each other or ever understand.

Who was it that said, "Happy families are mostly happy in the same way. Sad families have their own unique sadness." Some Russian and I didn't get the quote accurate.

The same could be said of death. When a pet dies, we all know how it feels. When a parent dies, the whole gamut of feelings is up for grabs.

So it goes.

(I'll be in San Francisco for a week and won't be able to blog since I don't have a laptop. And, for those of you of a proper age, "I will wear some flowers in my hair..." I said that to a colleague who is in her late 20's/early 30's and said, "But you aren't old enough to remember the song...." She replied, "I know it from the Forrest Gump soundtrack...." Imagine that.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Waiteville of my childhood

I have two 6 foot high bookshelves in my little office at home. One of them is solid and has  lots of the copies of stuff I've written and several volumes of the Interpreter's Bible and my printer and two things that have to do with my computer and Bern's which I don't understand but which blink at me all the time and I know if I disconnected them I'd be thrust immediately into computer hell, so I leave them alone, blinking aimlessly, so far as I can tell. I also have pictures of my children as babies and toddlers and a picture of my Dad an a chalice and several stone lions on that bookshelf.

The other bookshelf is unstable and held straight by a piece of laminated coal that someone gave me because I'm from West Virginia. So, a week or so ago I decided to empty the unstable book shelf and give the books away. I gave the novels to the Cheshire Library and the religious books to St. James in Higganum for their library. I've never been attached to books as books. I go to the library in Cheshire weekly at least and check out books I want to read. And if I ever need any of the religious books, I know where they are. But they were very dusty and made me sneeze, so I can't imagine needing them any time soon.

I did keep some books of poetry and a book called If you meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill him which I've had for 40 years or so, and my copy of Joachim Jeremias' The Parables of Jesus, absolutely the best book about parables ever, and Lamb by Christopher Moore (which everyone should read) and The Hundredth Monkey and The Giving Tree. Everything else is gone to Cheshire Library or St. James. Next week, when I get back from San Francisco, I'll take the rickety bookshelf down and out.

On it, though, I found a plate with a likeness of the New Zion Union Church in Waiteville, West Virgina dated 1863-1966. It was something I took from my parents home. Waiteville is in Monroe County, the most South-east county of the state. Monroe County is where White Sulphur Springs is, which is the only name you might recognize from the whole county unless you're from West Vriginia and realize Lewisburg, the county seat, is where the WV State Fair was held--and may still be.

Zion Union Church is called that because everyone in Waiteville was either a Baptist or a Methodist and there weren't enough people there to have two churches. So a Baptist would preach one week and a Methodist the next. And the graveyard for Waiteville was there where most everyone buried there would be in some way related to me.

We used to go to Waiteville every Memorial Day for the Dinner that raised money for the graveyard's upkeep. The dinners were unbelievable: fried chicken, baked chicken, chicken and dumplings, pork in an endless variety of forms, rare roast beef, green beans cooked into an inch of their life in fatback, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, baked potatoes, fried potatoes, potatoes au gratin,  potato salad (lots of Irish folks there, including the Bradley/McCormick clan) sweet potatoes in several iterations, lots of jello salads, carrots and onions, peas and onions, just plain onions, gravy in several forms (gravy is a food group in Southern West Virgina) and desserts beyond imagining all topped with whipped cream or brain-numbing homemade ice cream.

Once, on some Memorial Day (linear time confounds me) I was wandering around the grave yard where countless ancestors were moldering in the grave, and happened upon two grave stones that said: JAMES GORDON BRADLEY and JAMES GORDON BRADLEY, JR. That is my name and I almost fainted away (I was, hard to believe, a delicate child). I'd never known I'd been named for ancestors. Those were my great and great-great grandfathers. My grandfather's name was Filbert and my father's name was Virgil. God figure. I could have been James Gordon Bradley V but for Filbert and Virgil in between.

Another year, my crazy great aunt Arbana (ever know anyone named 'Arbana'?) had put confederate flags on many of the graves of my ancestors for Memorial Day. Though Monroe County was a boarder county and there are slaves somewhere in there, most of the Bradleys and McCormicks had been true blue Unionists. My Uncle Sid and Uncle Russell went around gathering the Confederate Flags and cursing their Aunt Arbana.

My great uncle Amos was buried from Zion Union Church. I was at his funeral when I was 8 or so. (Linear Time, like I said....) It was February and bone cold and the boys digging the grave were having trouble with the frozen earth and kept sending messages to the Baptist minister to keep preaching, which he did, for an hour or so before the grave was ready.

Great Uncle Amos was a man about 5'4". He was a McCormick. He liked a bit of whiskey from time to time and used to keep it in his barn where my father and uncles would go with him whenever we were in Waiteville.

The story goes like this: there was a revival at Zion Union Church and great-uncle Amos responded to the altar call. He had his head down and the Revivalist came by, laid hands on him and said, 'bless the little boys', though Amos was 24 or so. Afterwards, out in the night, some of his friends were kidding him, being much taller than him.

"God bless the little boys," they said, circling him out on the road.

"Hump," Amos is reported saying, though I don't know if this is true, "I'd rather be a little man like me and go to heaven than a great big son-of-bitch like all you and go to hell." Then, I was told as a child, he hitched up his britches and walked away. That was the night, the apocryphal story goes, that he met my great-aunt Arlene, who had been saved like him. Only her salvation 'took' and she was a teetotaler while Amos had some whiskey in the barn. Arlene was 5'10' and weighed about 200 pounds to Amos' 95. But they had, so far as I knew, a joyful if childless marriage.

New Zion Union Church, founded in the midst of the Civil War, is, so far as I know, still there, though I haven't been to Waiteville for 40 years or so. Maybe I'll go someday before I die, to walk the graveyard and say soft things to those of my blood.

That might be something I should do....

Monday, January 14, 2013

The World Book of Records

I need to get in touch with the Guinness World Book of Records to see if I qualify as the World's Clumsiest person.

I am so clumsy it is terrifying. If something can be dropped, I will drop it. I dropped a tiny little glass bunny into the sink (and therefore into the garbage disposal) which would have had terrible results. So I reached down into the garbage disposal and fished around until I found it, scraping and bruising my hand and, for a few minutes, since I was holding the little bunny, couldn't get my hand back out. I was just praying that Bern wouldn't find me with my hand stuck in the garbage disposal--which is probably why I got the scrapes and bruises.

If something can be tripped over, I will trip over it. We have a rag rug on the back porch and it froze during the recent cold spell so that a little piece of it stuck up and I tripped over it every time I went outside. But now, with the rug flat and thawed, I still trip over it every time I go outside.

And talk about bumping into things! I am the champ at bumping into things. I always have a couple of bumps or blue spots on my body from bumping into things. I bumped into the piano at Emmanuel Church in Killingworth a few weeks ago and still as a little blue where I hit it. That piano has always been in the same place--it didn't move in my way--I simply stumbled against it, probably tripping over the century old + hardwood floors.

Now comes the 'hitting your head on stuff' part of my claim for the world record books. I hit my head on something almost daily, even stuff you should never hit your head on. And when I don't hit my head, like in our basement where the washer and dryer are, I'm always ducking under the heat pipes. I must look like one of those birds you can get to dunk their heads into a glass of water. I flinch when I'm still several feet from the pipes. And today I realized there is a new thing to hit my head on--our kitchen renovation ended up with getting a new cabinet hung above where we keep the food for the dog and cat. I bent down to get the dog food to feed Bela dinner and almost hit my head. I will, eventually, hit my head on that cabinet though I know it is there. I hit my head on things that are not even at head level. I hit my head the other day on my steering wheel when I reached into the front seat of my car to turn off the motor. I'd gotten out of the car without turning off the motor and taking out the key, which I do more than you would expect--just jump out and start away when I realize the key is in the ignition and on.

I'd like to claim all this is a result of aging. But it isn't. When I was 8 or so, my father took me up on a strip mine to teach me how to ride a bike and I road the bike off the strip mine. So, I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was in 30's.

And getting lost, oh, don't get me started about getting lost. When our kids were little we were on the way to North Carolina for vacation from New Haven and somewhere in Maryland I somehow got on an Interstate that had no traffic on it, which was great, except it suddenly ended and I had to drive our VW bus over the median to go the other way on a yet unopened section of some Interstate I got lost on. Every since then, our son just expected to get lost on any trip we took. More often than not, he was right. Once I was coming back to Cheshire from Wolcott and ended up in New Britain, which, if you look on a map seems an unlikely place to end up....

And if 'opening things'--or, more correctly, 'not being able to open things' is a category of Clumsy, well, I can't open anything without a sharp knife and a screwdriver. But this piece has gotten worse with age because 'packaging' has become an art form. Lots of people I know who used to be able to open things can't now. Progress, that's what they call it, ironically. "True Progress" would be making things easier to open, it seems to me....

Don't drop or bump into anything and don't get lost or trip. "Opening things", in that you're on your own....

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I used to, back when I was Rector of St. John's in Waterbury, send emails to Harriet, the Parish Administrator, with the Title 'stuff'. Now Harriet and I, neither still where we were back then, sometimes send emails with the title 'stuff'' to each other.

"Stuff" is a good tag line. It just means the things that make up the puddle of life, the things that need handling and can be handled or simply pondered. "Stuff" is what makes up most of our days, truth be known. "Stuff" is the very nexus of events and the ordinary and the wondrous and the unexpected and the miraculous. "Stuff" is existence itself. Without 'stuff', what is there?

So, on Thursday I'll be flying to San Francisco for a week for some meetings and a workshop--mostly 'stuff'' in my definition of the word. I'll see people I love and admire. We'll talk about things mundane and vital. We'll eat and drink and spend time together and, I'm led to believe, sing more than ordinary.

Which means, since I have a desktop computer and not a laptop, I probably won't be writing here from January 17 until the 24th, though I'll try to borrow some one's laptop and send you some ponderings if I can.

But tonight, "stuff".

As I was driving to get some wine, a golden hawk flew over my car about 7 feet above me. I almost wrecked, he was so beautiful.

This morning, during the Eucharist at Emmanuel Church in Killingworth, I anointed people and prayed for their health. I don't do that enough and intend to do it more and more. Just the touch of another and a smear of oil somehow makes a difference.

I watched a squirrel in our yard for 10 minutes this afternoon. I normally hate squirrels because they sometimes find their way into our attic and make me crazy, but all the work on our house this year probably will prevent that from happening and I was pleased to admire the agility and speed and grace of the squirrel.

I've decided to write here everyday until Friday when I'll be in the city by the bay and won't be sure I can write here for a week or so.

It's been remarkably foggy lately. Driving to Killingworth this morning was like being in a vampire movie--so foggy. I love fog. I hope there will be some in San Francisco while I'm there and why shouldn't there be, after all?

Last night, to eat with the potato/leek soup Bern made, I put bread with butter and garlic I cut as fine as I could under the broiler of our new stove to eat with the soup. I can't think of anything I like as much as butter and garlic, unless it is bacon and vanilla ice cream and peanut butter--which might make an interesting omlet some day. (But the ice cream would be problematic in an omlet.

So, that's some 'stuff' to ponder and wonder about. Just enough for a Sunday night....

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

OK, I screwed up...quite a bit...

The Great Seal of WV was kinda like I said, but not really.

First of all, the date was June 20, 1863--I knew that back when we were doing The Golden Horseshoe test of WV history over 50 years ago!

I got the buckskin guy, but he's holding an ax, not a gun.

two hunting rifles are on the ground with a Phrygian Cap (google it) or 'cap of liberty' laying on them. There are growing vegetables and a hammer and anvil.

I got like 50% right. It's a lot more complicated than some garlands and a church steeple, that's what I saying and standing for.


(I probably misspelled some of that on my first try.)

But it is true, believe me, "Mountaineers are always free...."

They just are.

Garbage Day

Wednesday is garbage day, one of my favorite days of the week (which probably indicates I should 'get a life'....)

On Tuesday we put the garbage out in our full garbage cans and when we get up on Wednesday morning Cornwall looks like there was a shoot out at the OK Corral--empty garbage cans up and down the street, thrown on their sides, some in the road, strewn around like so many dead cowboys.

It's just amazing to me that we just put the garbage out every Tuesday (and the re-cycling stuff in our new garbage can sized re-cycle cans that say "Cheshire Recycles" on them and even has the town seal on the side--which isn't very interesting, just a couple of garlands and the top of the steeple of the Congregational Church...not, as seals go, very spectacular.)

Take, for example, the Great Seal of WV, one of which I have on the trunk of my car. Now there's a 'seal' to be proud of. It has two figures, one a coal miner with a pick over his shoulder and a cart of coal and a guy dressed in buckskin, like Davie Crockett, with a blunderbuss over his shoulder and some vegetables (rather than some dead animal) at his feet and their are eagle feathers and the date of WV's founding June 5, 1863 and the motto Montani semper liberi "Mountaineers are always free" for those who weren't paying attention in Latin class.

(Course, in the morning I'll go out and find I've made several factual mistakes about the Great Seal of West Virginia--but, hey, I'm trying to remember a lot more than a couple of garlands and a church steeple....)

Garbage day also reminds me of the three groups in our country that should be paid extremely well: garbage collectors, day care workers and aides in nursing homes. (I've most likely said this before in this space since I really think it about it a lot, but this time I've got numbers to share....)

Garbage Collectors should be paid at least as much as members of Congress. Nevermind that Garbage Collectors have an approval rating some 60 points higher than Congress, Congress makes messes (the fiscal cliff, the 'next' fiscal cliff, not renewing the Violence Against Women Act, not being sensible about the debt ceiling, I could go on and on...but I won't) while Garbage Collectors take away messes every Wednesday before I wake up.

Day Care Workers should be paid about as much as college basketball coaches. After all, Day Care workers are taking care of our most precious resource and college basketball coaches are hand-picking already accomplished athletes to play for them who are already alright since they are athletes and in college. Pre-school kids are waiting to be formed. So who deserves the big bucks--Geno and his ilk just trying to perfect almost finished products or those folks who every day work with toddlers and small children who need to learn what it means to be a good human being? Answer me that....

Nursing Home Aides should make as much as the President of AARP and the Deans of Medical Schools. Everyone (including the Congress I've already trashed) 'talks the talk' about caring for the elderly, but the President of AARP and Deans of Medical Schools don't actually 'walk the walk', the underpaid, overworked aides in nursing homes do. And their job--like garbage collectors and day care workers--involves cleaning up lots of messes.

People who clean up the messes of our children, our families, our parents and grandparents should be some of the best paid people in the society. I truly believe that. If everyone who had trash or small children or senile parents had to stop what they were doing day-to-day and handle those three issues, civilization as we know it would grind to a stop.

These are the people who handle the messes of our lives, shouldn't they make as much as a law firm partner or a bond trader? Or, for that matter, a pro basketball player. Nevermind Congress, we've already dealt with that.....

Hey, I'm a big labor union guy--can you imagine NHA-DCW-GC Union? They might have enough leverage over all of us to get those salaries....

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.