Thursday, July 31, 2014

David is dead....

David Bolton, a priest of the church, died on July 19. He was 85. He lived on an island off Maine but I knew him in New Haven.

David was Rector of Christ Church, the great Anglo-Catholic parish in New Haven. I was Rector of St. Paul's, the left wing broad church in New Haven.

When he retired, sometimes between 1980 and 1985, I took him to lunch to say good-bye.

He told me, during lunch that he had prayed for decades for God to speak out loud and in English to him and 'tell him what to do'.

It was an interesting and odd story until he told me that God had answered that prayer.

I dropped my fork full of seafood salad and gaped at him.

"What was that like?" I asked, full of confusion and wonder.

"Well," David told me, "he had a Mid-Atlantic accent...."

"No!" I said, not caring what God's accent was (though I should have cared, I believe), "what did God say????"

David took a bite of good French bread and chewed it and swallowed it. Then he said, "He told me, 'David, do whatever comes next,' in a slightly exasperated tone.

Jesus, the only time I get to hear what God says out loud and in a Maryland accent, it is that banal--"David, do whatever comes next."

Maybe David exasperated God with his decades of prayers. And maybe God answered his question the only way that made sense.

Maybe that's what happened.

But a Maryland accent? I'm not even sure what that means besides saying 'Bal-ti-mor'.

I send a prayer to God for David's soul...he was a good, a very good man. But God probably already knows that since God spoke out loud to David, in English, with a Maryland accent and told him the most reasonable thing: 'David, do whatever comes next.'

May David's soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

So I don't often do this...

I read a lot. 5 or 6 books a week, from Cheshire's library. I am a library rat.

I read dozens of books without recommending one.

But I want to.

Carolyn Barkhurst's novel The Nobodies Album is definitely worth a read.

It is a remarkable story and the stuff that will annoy you at first turns out to be the best stuff of all.

I recommend it highly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

On the other hand...

OK, I'm hard on Israel, I admit it. And there is another side of the story that needs telling.

Hamas is perfectly aware of Israel's tendency to strike back to attacks with gusto. That's what Israel does, always has. Israel is surrounded by people who hate them. And Israel has the firepower to respond brutally. And they will.

So, Hamas lobs rockets into Israel that, to this point,  have done next to no damage, knowing full well that Israel will respond with a heavy hand. There is a sense in which Hamas is playing a cruel and cynical hand, provoking Israel to strike back, knowing many innocent people will die, hoping to garner world opinion against Israel's over-whelming response to the provocation.

I know that is true. The people of Gaza 'should' rise up against Hamas and trust in people who would carefully and painfully negotiate a  "separate state" solution to the madness in Israel. But, again, they probably won't turn against Hamas because people they love are being killed by the Israelis.

It is a cruel and cynical gambit by Hamas. But, ironically, cruelty and cynicism often prove successful.

I think it is next to impossible for any American to 'understand' the Middle East since we are so prone to apply Western psychology to any far-flung conflict. That's why I call it Western psychology--the only people who attempt to explain human behavior by psychology are the folks from Western Europe and North America. Psychological 'thinking' doesn't dominate in the rest of the world. No wonder we are so inept at figuring out what to do about issues in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe. the Arab world and South America.

Most of the world, beloved, doesn't 'think psychologically'. (Unfortunately for them, many Israelis DO! So they don't understand their enemies at all.) Our categories and evaluations are based on our assumption (false!) that everyone thinks like we in western Europe and North America do....And they don't.

The way the rest of the world thinks isn't less subtle or less sophisticated than we think--it simply doesn't have its foundation in Freud and Jung and Adler. ("Psychological thinking" is just over a century is amazing how totally we in the West have bought into it!)

God help us if we ever meet intelligent creatures from another Universe--we'll start wondering about 'depression' and 'anxiety' and 'bi-polar disorder' and they won't have a clue what we're wondering about.

I think as psychologically as the next person--but I do recognize that as a defect when trying to understand people who don't.....

Monday, July 28, 2014

So when is 'enough' enough....

Sanity and reasonableness if unraveling each day. Ukraine, thousands of children at our southern boarder, mass kidnappings in Africa, and the chaos in Israel.

This will not make me friends--but I'm old enough that I have enough friends already--when will the world tell Israel 'enough is enough'.

Hamas lobbing rockets into Israel is like Mississippi throwing rocks into Georgia and all the power of the US armed forces being aimed at Mississippi.

Israel has an armed force just inferior to ours. Israel could wipe out the Middle East in a week or so--Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia--all of it. Their restraint in not doing that is admirable. But the carnage they're unleashing on Gaza is beyond all belief. A thousand Palestinians, mostly civilians, killed and 4 times that many wounded while a handful of Israeli soldiers and 3 civilians have died--that is far beyond an 'eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' that the Hebrew Bible allows.

Gaza is, I believe, about the size of New Haven County. Imagine the Marines by land, the Air Force by air and the Navy by sea attacking New Haven County!

It is incredible to me that Israel has a 'get out of jail free' card to play in this latest deadly game of War Monopoly.

How many Palestinians equal one dead Jew? Eight hundred, a thousand, ten thousand? Hamas can't damage Israel in any significant way--it's like Mississippi vs. the US government. No contest.

When will someone say to Israel, "this isn't can't extract this punishment for what are, in essence, 4th of July fireworks fired from Gaza toward you."

How much is 'enough'? And when will some one tell them to stop this madness?

The attacks on Gaza smell of Holocaust. I'm sorry to say that and regret that I wrote it. But at some point Israel has to be brought to task for the literal 'overkill' they always inflict for lamentable offenses against them.

Of course, if Mississippi were launching rockets and lobbing mortars into Georgia, reprisal would be expected...but there is a limit to the size of reprisals that would be tolerated.

There's no such limit on what Israel does when attacked.

There should be. Enough is enough....

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Finishing my creed

GW Frazier, who used to be a member of St. James in Higganum, but now lives in Costa Rica, used to talk to me a lot about his 'creed', as opposed to the Nicene Creed.

GW pointed out correctly, that the problem with the Nicene Creed is that there is nothing in it about Jesus' life and teaching. This is how it goes: "...he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried."

Nothing whatsoever about his life and teachings. GW used to say Jesus' life was consigned to the semi-colan after "Pontius Pilate"!

So, referring back to my last post, I want to give you my Creed. It was modified today by the reading from Romans. I don't often praise Paul, but in the 8th chapter of Romans, he absolutely 'nailed it'!

Here's what he said:

Romans 8:38-39: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, no height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

That was the only thing missing from the things I believe.


I believe we must strive to love one another as God loves us.

I believe we much welcome the stranger in our midst.

I believe we must treat everyone else as we want to be treated.

I believe nothing--not anything--can separate us from the love of God.

OK, that's it. I'm through now. That's what I believe and all I believe. Everything else--even stuff about the Sacraments, which I have a very high view of--is secondary to that.

I stand by that. That is my Creed. It's all I need and more than enough.

Sometime I'll rave on about the Nicene Creed. But not tonight. Tonight I have said enough. I know, without a doubt, that's what I believe....

Saturday, July 26, 2014

1001--being honest

Somewhere in northern West Virginia or western Maryland, I told my cousin, Mejol, something I've known for quite a while but had never said out loud to another human being.

"The longer I live," I told her, going 80 in her wondrous Honda hatchback, "the less I believe."

It is the truth--I'm being honest here. I believe less and less as I age.

Christianity has been horribly complicated by doctrine and dogma. Here is the essence of Christianity, so far as I can tell: love one another as God loves you; welcome the stranger into your midst; do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That's about it, so far as I can see. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Everything else is window dressing and bull-shit.

Love one another, welcome the stranger, do to others as you would be done to.

'Nough said. No more necessary. Everything else about the church is expendable, clutter, nonsense.

I'm being honest here. There is nothing beyond those three injunctions (love each other, welcome strangers, treat others as you hope to be treated) that matters in the least. Everything Jesus left us is included in those three injunctions. The rest is 'stuff the church made up'.

I truly believe that though I didn't know how profoundly I believed it until I said it out loud to Mejol going about 80 on some interstate highway or another.

It's good to have it out in the open.

Imagine the world we might have if only we loved each other the way God loves us and welcomed strangers as friends and treated everyone the way we want them to treat us.

Imagine and ponder that for a while and tell me I'm wrong about how simple Christianity truly is....

Friday, July 25, 2014

Number 1000

first post

This is the 1000th post I've done. It's only right and proper and good that the 1000th be the first ever, back four years and several months ago. If for no other reason to let you an I know what the title means. Shalom, jim

Sitting under the Castor Oil Tree (March 7, 2009)

The character in the Bible I have always been drawn to in Jonah. I identify with his story. Like Jonah, I have experienced being taken where I didn't want to go by God and I've been disgruntled with the way things went. The belly of a big old fish isn't a pleasant means of travel either!

The story ends (in case you don't know it) with Jonah upset and complaining on a hillside over the city of Nineva, which God has saved through Jonah. Jonah didn't want to go there to start with--hence the ride in the fish stomach--and predicted that God would save the city though it should have been destroyed for its wickedness. "You dragged me half way around the world," he tells God, "and didn't destroy the city....I knew it would turn out this way. I'm angry, so angry I could die!"

God causes a tree to grow to shade Jonah from the sun (scholars think it might have been a castor oil tree--the impications are astonishing!). Then God sends a worm to kill the tree. Well, that sets Jonah off! "How dare you kill my tree?" he challanges the creator. "I'm so angry I could die...."

God simply reminds him that he is upset at the death of a tree he didn't plant or nurture and yet he doesn't see the value of saving all the people of the great city Ninivah...along with their cattle and beasts.

And the story ends. No resolution. Jonah simply left to ponder all that. There's no sequel either--no "Jonah II" or "Jonah: the next chapter", nothing like that. It's just Jonah, sitting under the bare branches of the dead tree, pondering.

What I want to do is use this blog to do simply that, ponder about things. I've been an Episcopal priest for over 30 years. I'm approaching a time to retire and I've got a lot of pondering left to do--about God, about the church, about religion, about life and death and everything involved in that. Before the big fish swallowed me up and carried me to my own Nineva (ordination in the Episcopal Church) I had intended a vastly different life. I was going to write "The Great American Novel" for starters and get a Ph.D. in American Literature and disappear into some small liberal arts college, most likely in the Mid-Atlantic states and teach people like me--rural people, Appalachians and southerners, simple people, deep thinkers though slow talkers...lovely for all that--to love words and write words themselves.

God (I suppose, though I even ponder that...) had other ideas and I ended up spending the lion's share of my priesthood in the wilds of two cities in Connecticut (of all places) among tribes so foreign to me I scarcly understood their language and whose customs confounded me. And I found myself often among people (The Episcopal Cult) who made me axious by their very being. Which is why I stuck to urban churches, I suppose--being a priest in Greenwich would have sent me into some form of I would have driven them to hypertension at the least.

I am one who 'ponders' quite a bit and hoped this might be a way to 'ponder in print' for anyone else who might be leaning in that direction to read.

Ever so often, someone calls my bluff when I go into my "I'm just a boy from the mountains of West Virginia" persona. And I know they're right. I've lived too long among the heathens of New England to be able to avoid absorbing some of their alien customs and ways of thinking. Plus, I've been involved in too much education to pretend to be a rube from the hills. But I do, from time to time, miss that boy who grew up in a part of the world as foreign as Albania to most people, where the lush and endless mountains pressed down so majestically that there were few places, where I lived, that were flat in an area wider than a football field. That boy knew secrets I am only beginning, having entered my sixth decade of the journey toward the Lover of Souls, to remember and cherish.

My maternal grandmother, who had as much influence on me as anyone I know, used to say--"Jimmy, don't get above your raisin'". I probably have done that, in more ways that I'm able to recognize, but I ponder that part of me--buried deeply below layer after layer of living (as the mountains were layer after layer of long-ago life).

Sometimes I get a fleeting glimpse of him, running madly into the woods that surrounded him on all sides, spending hours seeking paths through the deep tangles of forest, climbing upward, ever upward until he found a place to sit and look down on the little town where he lived--spread out like a toy village to him--so he could ponder, alone and undisturbed, for a while.

When I was in high school, I wrote a regular colemn for the school newspaper call "The Outsider". As I ponder my life, I realize that has been a constant: I've always felt just beyond the fringe wherever I was. I've watched much more than I've participated. And I've pondered many things.

So, what I've decided to do is sit here on the hillside for a while, beneath the ruins of the castor oil tree and ponder somemore. And, if you wish, share my ponderings with you--whoever you are out there in cyber-Land.

Two caveates: I'm pretty much a Luddite when it comes to technology--probably smart enough to learn about it but never very interested, so this blog is an adventure for me. My friend Sandy is helping me so it shouldn't be too much of a mess. Secondly, I've realized writing this that there is no 'spell check' on the blog. Either I can get a dictionary or ask your forgiveness for my spelling. I'm a magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa ENGLISH major (WVU '69) who never could conquer spelling all the words I longed to write.

I supose I'll just ask your tolerance.

Memory Lane....

This is my 999th post on The Castor Oil Tree. It is only fitting that it be about 'memory'.

My trip to West Virginia with Mejol (my spell-check always underlines her name, not surprisingly, since she is the only 'Mejol' in the USA) brought me deeply involved with memories of my childhood.  I tend to live 'in the moment' and memory isn't usually a part of 'where I live'. But this trip disrupted the way I live normally and threw me into the past--a place I seldom visit.

It's not a choice I make to live in the now--it's just the way I'm made up psychologically. I live, normally, as if 'this moment' is the only moment that matters. Being with Mejol and Aunt Elsie reminded me that it is 'the past' that has made me a person who lives in the 'now'.

I've mentioned before in these musings and ponderings that, for no reason I can comprehend, my childhood and most of my life has been contented and without drama. My life has fit me like a glove fits a hand. I have no 'great tramas' that I've had to deal with. I've been happy and safe and satisfied most moments in my life. I have to dig deep to find moments that were deeply disturbing or left a scar. I've been profoundly blessed in that. So, perhaps it is that my life has been so comforting for most of it that I am comfortable just living in what is 'right now' and not dealing with 'the past' or worrying about 'the future'. I don't know. But if that is true, I give thanks for it with all my heart.

But Monday through Thursday of this week, that way of being was interrupted by astonishing memories of my childhood.

I don't sleep well when Bern isn't in the bed with me (and our Puli dog, Bela, for that matter) and I didn't sleep well at all on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night this week. But when I slept, I had dreams of the past, of times long ago, of people long dead, of being young.

Mejol is part of my earliest memories. She was five when I was born, but in my memory she seemed much older than that to me. I think she is an 'old soul'. Her life--unlike mine--has been full of pain and fear and drama. She's navigated all that, I think, because of her 'old soul'.

The 'old soul' part of her wasn't a part of my memory of her in my life. That only came later as I looked back and pondered it all. She was simply there, a seamless stitch in the fabric of my being.

Riding with her in her car I discovered that I hear much better out of my right ear than my left. When I was driving, I heard every word of her soft voice. When she was driving I had to ask her time and again to repeat what she had just said. Valuable information, I'd say.

Though normally, I seldom dwell on the past, this trip gave me that opportunity and blessing.

Who I am today, who I've always been, was shaped and molded by Mejol and Aunt Elsie and countless others--mostly family. This trip made that crystal clear.

I've sometimes thought 'who I am' leaped full-grown into existence all by itself.

Oh, no, I've learned these last days, traveling to West Virgina and back in time. I was formed, shaped, molded, created by my past.

This, I tell you, is a gift to know and a reminder to remember.

You can live in 'the now' if your past gave you that permission and formed you that way.

After this journey with Mejol into our past, I will never be the same. I will ponder 'who I am' differently.

That is a blessing I do not deserve. And I welcome it....

Aunt Elsie and Denise

Mejol and I went to West Virginia to visit our Aunt Elsie and our cousin, Denise.

(Before that: my personal Fact Checker, Charles Dimmick, emailed to let me know the name of the restaurant we went to in Baltimore was the Paper Moon Cafe and sent their web page to prove it--and he was always. I often wonder how it would be to be 'right' as often as Charles. Of course, I will never know....)

Aunt Elsie is the only surviving child of Eli Jones and Lina Manona Sadler Jones, my grandparents. She was the sister of Cleo (my mother), Georgie (Mejol's mother) and Juanette (I can't be sure I spelled it right--it was pronounced 'Won-ett'). There were three sons in the midst: Ernest, who died as a child, Leon, who died in his teens, and Granger, who, along with his wife, Elsie May Taylor, sired 8 of my first cousins. (I always called her "Aunt Elsie May" to distinguish her from Aunt Elsie. How many people, I wonder, outside of Appalachia, have ever had two Aunt Elsie's?)

Denise is the only first cousin out of 18 who is younger than me. Aunt Elsie and Uncle Harvey adopted her when she was six or seven or so (remember, I have no concept of linear time!) I was 8 years older than her when that happened.

And here is something I believe devoutly: Denise was the best thing that ever happened to Aunt Elsie and Uncle Harvey. They were devout members of the Nazarene Church--my Uncle Harvey was a Pilgrim Holiness minister until something I was never told about happened, something about doctrine, I would imagine, knowing those two denominations, drove him to the Nazarene Church. They were incredibly strict and doctrinal. No TV in their house. No tolerance for smoking, drinking, dancing, short-sleeves for women, hair not in a bun for women (a lot of stuff for women that was almost radical Islamic). I used to go, as a child, to spend a week with them. Before we went to bed, we got on our knees in the living room and prayed for a long period of time.

Denise untied the knot of all that. Oh, it was terrible when it was happening, for all of them. But she, in a way, brought them into the 20th century and into a kinder, gentler kind of Christianity. And now, when Aunt Elsie is 89 (if my math is right) Denise lives with her and makes her life so good by doing what Aunt Elsie can't do for herself.

Denise has a bi-racial daughter named Lavonza, who came over when we were there with some of the best chicken salad I've ever eaten. I'd only met her once or twice before.Yet she hugged me and kissed my cheek like we were the closest of relatives. She works for a Jobs program and just got a promotion. She is beautiful--40 pounds lighter she would be 'fashion model beautiful'. And she is delightful--charming, funny, engaging--and obviously loves her mother and grandmother profoundly. Denise is divorced from a man that is not Lavonza's father. So the three of them are a Trinity of women, who, from my brief time with them, have found the best of life out of what might have been the worst of life.

It was a joy and privilege to be in the midst of this three generation family of women for a few days. They are my 'family', though I've seen them very little for decades. But for those three days, I felt embraced by them, as if no time had passed since our last meeting, as if 'blood' is all that mattered, even if the 'blood' wasn't literal.

When I was growing up, I thought Aunt Elsie was one of the smartest people I knew. All these years later, given all the smart people I have met over time, I still believe that. I often, often questioned her opinions and still do, but not because her opinions aren't 'smart', just because smart people can disagree.

The trip to West Virginia jerked me back in time to who I was decades ago. And who I am now was not disappointed with that person I used to be. Family stories I knew and was glad to revisit were told and some stories I didn't remember or didn't know came forth. All of it made me, and this is hard to explain, 'more Me' than I had been before the visit.

I'll write more later about this journey into the past and into a new present. Just not any more tonight.

The drive...

Mejol picked me up at Penn Station in Baltimore and we went to The Half-Moon Cafe to have dinner with Elizabeth and Fletch, her children and Elizabeth's boyfriend and Fletch's wife and their two sons. I'm not sure that's the name of the place but it had something about a moon in it and it was truly one of the outrageous places in the world. In the entry hall they had a collection of what must have been 4000 Pez dispensers--probably the whole corpus of Pez dispensers ever made. And on and on that kind of weirdness went: lamp shades made of hundreds of little dolls, huge sailing ships hanging upside down from the ceiling, Barbie's by the dozens, lots of old mannequins, mostly of children, sans clothes and (if I might say) a tad creepy--hanging from walls and ceiling and light fixtures. On and on....I'd like to spend a day or so in that cafe, looking at all the weird stuff. The food was wonderful and the company even better. I've seen Mejol's kids and others maybe four times in the last 20 years and being with them is like being with old and familiar friends. It is remarkable to me, but I feel like I've seen them every day for years when I'm with them. Part of that is Mejol, who has always been so special to me, but part of it is how special they all all.

After a night in Mejol's townhouse, we started the drive to Aunt Elsie's.

And there is this: once you pass Fredrick and are in western Maryland proper, the drive on I-68 W and I-79 S is as scenic and breath-taking as any drive I've ever taken. Being away from the mountains for a few years makes them surprise you all over again. And there are mountains! Mountains after mountains, after more mountains and then, more mountains and mountains after mountains after all that....

Fifty shades of grey can't begin to compete with 400 shades of green in the mountains of Western Maryland and North-central West Virginia!

Mejol said, at one point, "we drive and drive and it's like the scenery never changes." She was right.

Through the Cumberland Gap and down into Preston County, West Virginia, the mountains never end and on to Morgantown (where Bern and I both graduated college--home of Jerry West and Sam Huff's heroics) and south through the very middle of West Virginia to Charleston. And all that way--almost 300 miles--you are in the mountains.

A funny thing about I-79: there are lots of exits, but there's nothing signs of life. One exit, I remember, promised three gas stations, a motel and four fast food places when you were a mile from the exit itself. As we sailed by, I saw the signs telling you which way to turn to get to those places: the closest one was 10.1 miles!

West Virginia is as big as New England (leaving out Maine) and has 1.6 million citizens. A lot of West Virginia is simply natural and empty of humans. You see more cell towers on I-79 than human habitations. At first the emptiness was odd and strange to me--but I grew up surrounded by miles and miles of nothing but nature and after a while it was a deep and satisfying comfort.

We drove for hours through nothing but green and  mountains, the nearest thing I have to a sibling and me. We talked and talked and told stories and laughed and pushed back tears from time to time. And other times we drove in comfortable, companionable silence, engulfed by the wilderness, embraced by the mountains, entranced by the greens.....

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I've missed being here...

By 'here' I mean both being in Cheshire and being under the castor oil tree.

I've been away since Monday--a night in Baltimore with my cousin, Mejol (the only one in the USA!) and two nights in Dunbar, West Virginia with my Aunt Elsie and cousin Denise and 2nd cousin, Lavonza.

I took my laptop so I could blog from there but I have an easy-back-door way to the Castor Oil Tree on my desktop. When I tried to get in on my laptop asked me for my password. I tried three or four and none worked so I had to wait to get back here. I have notes and memories so I'll be writing about WV for a few days.

But not tonight--no matter what time it says I posted this (probably 7:55 pm or so) my blog is on Pacific Standard time for reasons I know not and it's really almost 11 pm and I rode/drove 6 hours with Mejol from Dunbar to Baltimore and rode Amtrac for 5 hours more to New Haven and I'm done in.

Tomorrow I'll tell you my adventures in Appalachia.

(Just one thing--we stopped twice for gas, going and coming, in West Virginia and both places had "West Virginia wine glasses". They were Mason jars with stems....Wish I'd have bought some....)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mimi's here!

I almost wrote "Mimi's home!" as the name to this post, but that's not true. Mimi's 'home' is in Brooklyn with Tim and she lives some of the time in Sturbridge because she works for Jacob's Pillow. This used to be her 'home', but no more.

And when she's 'here' a deep, profound calm and peace falls over us all. It's already  here since Bern and I live within calm and peace, but Mimi brings the 'profound' piece.

I don't know why or how but I know when she shows up the calm and peace get like on steroids....

Sometimes, when she and Tim are with us on Oak Island, North Carolina, at low tide, the ocean seems like a lake, almost no surf, flat and blue as far as you can see.

Mimi has that effect on our home, though we laugh and joke and tell each other serious and not always pleasant stuff.

That's our Mimi--a little anti-tsunami of calm and peace, no matter what.

And when she's here--this time for a day-before-birthday-birthday--I can't stop smiling and feeling good.

It's not just that I love her 'that much' (though I do), it's that, no matter what, she brings me peace and calm.

Can't explain it more than that.

Bern told the dog that "Mimi is coming" about an hour before she arrived. He searched the house and barked and barked and even whined, which he almost never does...longing for Mimi. She is bad-dog-Bela's favorite person. I can't blame him.

Bern and Mimi and John Anderson and I had a dinner of potato salad and hamburgers on the grill--Mimi's request for her birthday dinner--and ice-cream cake (blue-raspberry and vanilla--which I bought at Sweet Claude's not even knowing blue-raspberry is her favorite ice-cream.) She said it was the first time she remembered a birthday cake with her name on it, though I think that's surely wrong.

She took a picture of it and sent the picture, I'm sure, to Tim. Tim sent beautiful flowers to her that arrived before she did.

Mimi and Tim are, to me, golden, wondrous, so good. The only thing missing from this day-before-birthday night is Tim. But Mimi is here.

Mimi's here tonight and I'm going to sleep like a baby.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rush Limbaugh is crazier than the world these days....

OK, the Rush-Man, commenting on the Malaysian airliner that crashed or was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, observed that it was suspiciously convenient to distract media attention from what he sees as the impeachable offenses of the Obama administration at just the right time. So the thousands of children at the Texas border and Benghazi and American inaction in Iraq (oh, please, save me from Iraq!) not to mention an executive order making job discrimination against LGBT folks reportable and whatever other heinous offensives our first Black President has committed are being ignored on CNN because of the Malaysian plane. (Malaysian Airlines has had a really bad couple of months....)

The Rush-Man found it all, and I quote, 'a little eerie'.

So, in Limbaugh-land, Putin told the Russian leaning dissidents in Eastern Ukraine to shoot down an airplane so the main-stream media wouldn't be focused on Obama's Right Wing invented problems here in the US....Oh, I get that....

There has to be an eighth realm of hell that Dante didn't know about for people as stupid and vile and vindictive as the Rush-Man. There just has to be...with punishment that would make him want to die for good so much that he would love the President....

That would be justice and righteousness. And not at all 'eerie'.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The world is going crazy

A Malaysian airplane shot down in Ukraine...Israel invading Gaza...Whatever nonsense in Iraq and Syria....Thousands of children at the southern boarder of the US....People are killing Peacocks in California....China's pollution is out of hand....The Congress unable to act on anything at all....People whining about Pope Francis' open-mindedness....Labron going back to Cleveland....the world is going crazy.

It just is. And there is nothing any of us can do to make it be sane again, if it ever was. And perhaps that is the point--the world has always been going crazy, it's just that we hear about it as it's happening now and it makes it crazier and more frightening.

How long did it take folks in the hinterland to know Julius Caesar had been killed? Or that Attila the Hun had overrun Eastern Europe? Or that Lincoln had been assassinated Or that Duke Ferdinand had met the same fate?

My theory is that we know too much too fast.

The world is no crazier than it has always been--we just know how crazy it it as soon as the craziness shows up.

And it makes us anxious. More anxious than we would be if we found out how crazy stuff was a week or month or year after the craziness happened.

At least I hope that's true. Though I don't know for sure. One more thing to ponder about: is the World going crazy or has it always been crazy?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I used to have a poster on the wall of my office at St. Paul's in New Haven and before that at St. James in Charleston, that said: Sometimes I sits and thinks. And sometimes I just sits.

Since the most used word, I imagine in this space has be "ponder", (which is the sits and thinks part of that poster. I thought I've give you some 'dictionary definition' of 'ponder'.


verb \ˈpän-dər\
: to think about or consider (something) carefully

Full Definition of PONDER

transitive verb
:  to weigh in the mind :  appraise <pondered their chances of success>
:  to think about :  reflect on <pondered the events of the day>
intransitive verb
:  to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply
pon·der·er noun

Examples of PONDER

  1. He pondered the question before he answered.
  2. The team pondered their chances of success.
  3. We pondered whether we could afford the trip.

Origin of PONDER

Middle English, from Middle French ponderer, from Latin ponderare to weigh, ponder, from ponder-, pondus weight — more at pendant
First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of PONDER

ponder, meditate, muse, ruminate mean to consider or examine attentively or deliberately. ponder implies a careful weighing of a problem or, often, prolonged inconclusive thinking about a matter <pondered the course of action>. meditate implies a definite focusing of one's thoughts on something so as to understand it deeply <meditated on the meaning of life>. muse suggests a more or less focused daydreaming as in remembrance <mused upon childhood joys>. ruminate implies going over the same matter in one's thoughts again and again but suggests little of either purposive thinking or rapt absorption <ruminated on past disappointments>.

All this is from the Merriam Webster Dictionary.

I love the "weigh in the mind" piece.

This is what I'm up to most of the time that I'm not sleeping. I want to meditate, muse and ruminate on what's going on around me and within me. I want to chew over, cogitate, consider, deliberate and mull over What It's All About, Alfie?

Like that, 

MUSE on 'pondering' for a bit. I read and re-read the above for 15 minutes or so. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

One way we're different, Bern and I

(I'm pretty sure it's 'Bern and I' since you would say: 'Bern and I are different in one way.' But 'Bern and me' sounds fine when it's 'one way we're different, Bern and me.' Jeez, I'm the English major and I'm not quite sure!!!)

Anyway, here it is: I play Hearts on the computer and she plays Solitaire. I win 50% of the time in Hearts and she wins 16 or 17 % of the time in Solitaire. So we're different because she likes a challenge and I like to win....

We're actually remarkably different:

1) I'm an extrovert and she's an introvert.

2) I'm messy and she's neat.

3) I follow recipes and she makes food up.

4) I stay up late and she gets up early.

5) She organizes things and I like chaos.

6) She loves to work in the yard and love to sit on the deck.

7) I have a car and she has a truck.

8) I wash small loads of clothes, she washes lots when she washes.

9) She holds grudges and I forget why I should be mad about things.

10) I don't mind washing a half-full dishwasher--she wants it packed.

But in some ways we are alike.

*we are both intuitive types and need lists to get things done.

*we both read a great deal and tend to like most of the same books.

*we both love our children and grandchildren  without boundaries.

*we both enjoy solitude.

*we have similar senses of humor. (only she never got Monty Python....)

September 5, when we're on Oak Island, North Carolina with Mimi and Tim and John and Sherry, we'll celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary. That's 1 year short of 2/3 of my life and  2 years more than 2/3 of her life. Two out of ever three breathes I've taken, two out of three of ever time our hearts have beaten, we've been married.

We're different in lots more ways than I listed--and alike in lots more ways as well.

I'm just pondering  how remarkable that seems to me. To be so different and so alike and to have spent so much time together. There were hard times, for sure, but for the most part...well, for the most's been glorious.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Almost a thousand

I just noticed, as I was writing about Mimi's birthday, that I'm only 11 posts--after this one, 10--from a thousand posts.

I tend to like milestones, anniversaries, birthdays, moments to pause and reflect on and ponder.

It's kind of like being amazed at how may hands of hearts I've played on my computer--several thousand and I'm 22 games above winning half the time. Almost a thousand posts. My Lord, why don't I have a life?

And here's what's interesting: I've enjoyed writing everyone of them. I've said before, I'd probably do this if no body every looked at it. It's a form of therapy for me and much cheaper than a psychologist would be!

And that you guys read it just makes it all the more better and special and wondrous.

Thanks for tagging along in the journey. We're coming up on 1000. Pretty good. Ten more. I'll have to come up with something special 10 blogs from now.

Hang in there and see what I can do....

Mimi's coming

Mimi's coming for her birthday next Sunday. Her given name is Jeremy Johanna Bradley, given the names of her two godmothers (who never come through in good ways, by the way) Sister Jeremy Daigler, a Sister of Mercy I worked with one summer and Victoria Johanna Handwerk, the wife of an Episcopal priest we knew well for years.

But, for all that, even though my plan was to call her J.J., she became Mimi because she was a horrible baby who cried for six months and then became the best baby and best kid and best teen and best young woman daughter ever. When she cried and cried and cried and arched and struggled against being held for those first six months, her 3 year old brother, Josh, would sing to her like this: "Jer-e-mimi, mimi, mimi". And it stuck.

Her birthday is Monday, July 21. We'll celebrate on the evening of the 20th, when she comes to us from the Berkshires. My baby girl will be 36 in a week. Imagine that! I can't, I'll tell you that....

She and Tim, who will become her husband on October 12 in Brooklyn, with me presiding, go on vacation with us every September for at least five years now. We love him only slightly less than we love Mimi. Really.

I talked with her on the phone tonight. She wants a grilled meal for her birthday dinner. She--for 35 years and 6 months--has been an 'easy' child. Something on the grill will do--not going out somewhere in New Haven.

Those first six months though, that was madness. I still think I'm catching up on sleep I missed almost 36 years ago!

We've talked about it, Bern and I, what happened to that baby from Hell, who bore no relationship to
'easy-baby-Josh'. Bern says, simply, at the age of six months, "her brain flipped", and we were lucky to get rid of all the badness in one six month period so early on. All the badness.

Since then she, besides the normal stuff you could expect from any 'good child', has been golden.

Sunday and Monday will be so wondrous, so special, so like Mimi....

Sunday, July 13, 2014


I saw Tony yesterday in the parking lot of the package store we must both use. I hadn't seen him for 5 years or so. Our daughters went to school together--Beth and Mimi--from first grade to graduation. They were sometimes close and sometimes not. Tony ran a print shop/trophy shop/where you could get keys made and ship stuff by UPS and FedEx that was just a block or so from St. John's in Waterbury.

I used to see him a lot since he did major printing and shipping and plaques for the church and I always wanted to get out and walk rather than send someone else.

I guess I haven't seen him in a while since he mentioned "my new wife" and I didn't ask for details.

I always liked him because he was very efficient and was one of the few men shorter than me. Short people, I like.

And we always had our daughters to talk about.

He asked me how I liked retirement and I told him (as I tell everyone) "if I'd known how good I'd be at being retired I'd done it years before." He's given up the shop but works 4 days a week in his son's independent pharmacy in New Haven. For both of us, the grandchildren come from the sons. Three each, we learned.

Talking with Tony for ten minutes in the parking lot got me to pondering. He and I could have been friends, I think, under different circumstances--like, if I had a different personality.

I started pondering 'me and friends'. I think my closest friends are John and Jack and Sherry in New Haven. John and I go back to WVU and met in church in Morgantown. Jack and Sherry I met because Sherry came to church at St. Paul's in New Haven and she's married to Jack and she and Bern are in a women's group together for 30 years or so. John and Sherry come on vacation with the two of us and Mimi and Tim each September. Jack runs a Day Care and can't come but may retire in 2015 and then they'll both come.

I consider the people I meet with on Tuesday morning to be friends, but they're all friends because of church. Besides John, the only friend from the past I have any contact with is Mike, who I roomed with in college.

Harriet and Malinda and Bob and Fred are my friends, but we worked together at St. John's in Waterbury.

Most of my friends these days are people who go to the three churches I serve.

Of all my friends, only Mike (who I've only seen once in 20 years) and Jack aren't somehow related to 'church' in some way--though Jack is related by marriage.

I have lots of acquaintances and neighbors who I'm 'friendly' with. But we fall short of being friends.

I have to ponder this some more. I'm an extrovert and quite gregarious, though shy at first meetings, but most everyone I consider a friend has a 'church angle'.

Shouldn't I have some friends who have nothing to do with church in any way? How odd I've never noticed this before.

Talking to Tony got me to thinking....

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Queen Anne's Lace

By our front walk to the driveway there is a chest high, many flowers of Queen Anne's Lace.

Where I come from it is a weed. QAL is the Kudzu of Appalachia. It grow anywhere and everywhere and people try to beat it back like Dandelions--more so, actually, since where I come from people eat Dandelions and make wine from it. Dandelions are encouraged but Queen Anne's Lace is hated.

I knew Bern didn't plant it so I asked her about it tonight. She said it came up voluntarily and she let it grow. It's actually a very delicate and beautiful plant. I'm not sure why people hated it so much back in West Virginia. It has an unusual odor, granted, but up here in the heathen North East, I've seen it in bouquets of flowers as accoutrement. I approve of that.

Here's how hated Queen Anne's Lace was where I come from: in 4th grade, Charlie Harmon, who was (as we said back there in those non-politically correct times) "a tad techted" picked QAL for our teacher, Miss Harmon, no relation to Charlie in any way (who was tall and thin and a bitch of the first order) as he walked to school down the railroad tracks. Charlie was 2 grades behind already and just putting in his time until 16 and permission to quit school but he was a gentle, sweet 'techted' boy, not an angry, aggressive 'techted' boy--we had some of those.

Miss Taylor took those flowers when Charlie offered them and backhanded him with them in her fist though he weighted 80 pound more that her and could have squished her like a bug if he'd been 'angry techted' rather than 'sweet techted'.

"Don't give me weeds!" she yelled at him. (These were also the days teachers could backhand you and yell at you--I'm not sure they, in any way, were 'the good ol' days' people long for.)

I've decided to think of our substantial patch of Queen Anne's Lace as flowers, rather than weeds. I do like to look at them and they don't seem to have the same smell as they had back home. I've become a fan of Queen Anne's Lace.

What I ought to tell you about from the front yard is the Australian Poppy's--so small and delicate and with feathery leaves and yellow flowers. Nobody would backhand anyone with a fist full of those....

Friday, July 11, 2014

What ticks me off about the Lectionary

In the Revised Common Lectionary, when verses are left out, I get curious. Usually I have to look them up in the Bible to know what was left out and then wonder why. But this week I didn't have to look them up because I knew what was left out. Here's the gospel reading for this week in the Lectionary:

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.

13:2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.

13:3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow.

13:4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.

13:5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.

13:6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.

13:7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.

13:8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

13:9 Let anyone with ears listen!"

13:18 "Hear then the parable of the sower.

13:19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.

13:20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;

13:21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.

13:22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.

13:23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

You'll notice that 9 verses are left out. This is one of the passages that occurs in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke. It is obvious that both Matthew and Luke had a copy of Mark's gospel in front of them as they wrote, a decade or more later. "Synoptic" is a word you can figure out from the Greek pretty easily. "Syn" as in 'synonyms", means "the same" and 'optic' means 'to see'. So those three gospels 'see' the 'same' because Mark makes up 50% of Luke and Matthew.

Here's the gospel without the left out verses:


[1] That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.

[2] And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach.
[3] And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow.
[4] And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.
[5] Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,
[6] but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away.
[7] Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
[8] Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
[9] He who has ears, let him hear."
[10] Then the disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?"

[11] And he answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
[12] For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
[13] This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
[14] With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: `You shall indeed hear but never understand,
and you shall indeed see but never perceive.
[15] For this people's heart has grown dull,
and their ears are heavy of hearing,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should perceive with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart,
and turn for me to heal them.'
[16] But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
[17] Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
"Hear then the parable of the sower.

[19] When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path.
[20] As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;
[21] yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
[22] As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
[23] As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

I underlined and made bold what was left out.

The Lectionary people took out the whole meaning of this passage in all three synoptic gospels. It makes it seem, in what I will read on Sunday, that Jesus explains 'the parable' to the crowds. But he doesn't if you put in the missing verses. He only explains it to the disciples and tells them he speaks in parables so they will not understand!!!

This is the 'secrecy motif' of the synoptic gospels. This motif does not exist in John, not at all. But it is part and parcel of Mark, Matthew and Luke. Jesus is always telling people not to tell others about what he does. Scholars have fretted over this for centuries. Why would Jesus want to be 'secret'?

That's a different conversation. What I want to know is why don't those folks who put together the Revised Common Lectionary not want us to hear those missing 9 verses.

Is it because they make the whole passage more problematic--why would Jesus tell the disciples the 'meaning' of the parable but not the crowds that followed him

Is it because this whole passage in all three Synoptic Gospels completely misunderstands the nature of a 'parable'? A parable is a story with one meaning. Parables are more like jokes than any thing. You 'get' them or you don't. Jesus turns the 'parable' into an 'allegory', the only time that happens in the gospels. Parable come's from the Greek word para-ballien, which means 'to throw out together'. There is a story and a meaning, thrown out together, and you either get the meaning of the story or not. In this case, Jesus explains the 'parable' to the disciples as an 'allegory' where every thing in the story stands for something else.

Maybe the Lectionary folks didn't want that to come up any more than they wanted the 'secrecy motif' to impinge on people's understanding. Maybe they just wanted it all to be simple and clear.

But Truth isn't 'simple' or 'clear'. Truth is complex, convoluted and obscure.

Maybe the Lectionary folks (and this is my best guess) don't trust lay folks to deal with complexity, convolutedness, obscurity and paradox. That's what I think.

I think lay folks can easily handle all that. So this Sunday at St. Andrew's in Northford, I'm going to tell them all this and let them sort it out--the whole 'secrecy motif' and the whole parable/allegory thing.

I think they can deal with it. I really do. I trust lay folks a lot more that I trust the people who put together the Revised Common Lectionary.

Was I ever right this time!!!

Remember how I told Mejol to stop looking for other Mejols? My friend Charles, who not only reads this blog but acts on it, sent me this after reading about Mejol.


Pronunciation unavailable

2,263,075th in the U.S.

Quick facts

Very few
people in the U.S have this name
to be exact
has the most people named Mejol per capita

So, according to "White Pages Names", my cousin is the only Mejol in the country!

I told her and sent it to her and she feels special!

Imagine being the only person named James on the block, much less the town or the county...

I've been afraid to go to the website to check on James or even Gordon, fearing I'll be in the top 10 names for James and the top 40 or so for Gordon.

I've always known Mejol was one of a kind. I've been right all along....

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


My cousin, Mejol, told me she keeps hoping to find someone else named Mejol. I told he to give it up. She's 73 and has never met another. I don't think she will. The family lore is that Aunt Georgie, my mother's sister (who was named after the Doctor who came to deliver her, Dr. George Something--more Jones family lore) named her after some character in some book she was reading while she was pregnant. An American Indian name, as the story goes. Maybe, maybe not...the Jones side of my family, my mother's side, had lots of lore.

Interestingly, the Bradley side was almost lore-less. The Bradley side of my family were matter-of-fact, straight-forward. They also drank alcohol, which the Jones did not, and smoked cigarettes and pipes and told bawdy jokes.

My making came from two drastically different families.

Mejol has been in my life since I had a life. Since my parents thought they would never have children and since Mejol's father had been 'shell shocked' in WW2--what would now be Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome--my mother and father had Mejol as a pretend daughter. When I was born, she was 6. As I grew she was always around--going on vacation with us to the Smokey Mountains year after year (why people who live in the mountains would go to the mountains is a conversation for another time) baby-sitting me from time to time, and ,since I spent most of my life until adolescence surrounded by family, Mejol was always in the mix.

We lost touch for decades. I saw her when her brother Bradley Perkins died twelve or so years ago. But it so happens she lives near Baltimore, so in the years Josh and Cathy and the girls have been in Baltimore, I've gotten back in touch with her and her two children and her son, Fletcher's, two children.

I've talked to her on the phone for what may be hours in the last few weeks since Pearl (Bradley's wife) died and we're planning a visit to Dunbar, West Virginia, just outside Charleston, this month to visit Aunt Elsie, our mother's only surviving sister. I'll take the train to Baltimore and Mejol (who I called 'Mesh' most of my life) will pick me up and we'll drive the 6 hours to Dunbar and stay two nights and then come back so I can catch the train to Baltimore.

Aunt Elsie is a member of the Nazarene Church. My Uncle Harvey, her deceased husband was a Nazarene preacher after he was a Pilgrim Holiness preacher and changed denominations for some reason I don't know. Uncle Harvey was gravely concerned that I became an Episcopalian in college and when I was going off to Harvard Divinity School in 1969, he told me gravely, "don't let them make you a Unitarian."

I've always greatly respected Unitarians who, the joke goes, begin their prayers with "To whom it may concern....." I'd be a Unitarian if they had liturgy, I imagine. Many of my prayers begin, "to whom it may concern....." Or else I'd be a Quaker, silent and liberal. That would have really freaked Uncle Harvey out....

I  have 17 first cousins, all but one of them older than me. Two of them--one on each side--dead. And Mejol means more to me that all the others put together.

I actually, in the end, revel in being an only child--much less messy and confusing. But if I had a sister, it would be Mejol.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Accident prone

"Accident prone" is the polite way to refer to it. "Clumsy" would be more accurate.

I am a very clumsy person. I bump into things on a regular basis--things anyone more adroit would never bump into.

I'm also incredibly sensitive to aspirin. I take a baby aspirin every other day since taking one every day means my forearms and hands are constantly bruised. They are still bruised, because I'm clumsy and bump into things, but I think it's a tad better since my doctor, Mark, let me go to one every other day.

People with some medical expertise have asked me if I take cumadin (sp) or some other blood thinner when they see my forearms and hands. Nope, just baby aspirin which is supposed to be good for you.

Right now I am as bruise free as I've been for months. I have a small, fading bruise on my left hand and 5 bruises on my left forearm. The only serious bruise on my left arm in near my wrist and got serious when I scraped it and it started bleeding and then weeping until Bern suggested Aloe, which has done wonders. I have a couple of fading dime-sized bruises further up.

It's rather embarrassing. During half the year I can wear long sleeves and cover up the worst of the bruising. But not these days. I have a slight--very slight--sense of what it must be like to be a leper. People are repelled by the bruises and I don't blame them.

I've also grown rather defensive about it. When Josh asked me about it over the 4th, I was short with him and he said he wasn't being judgmental, just concerned.

Also, an inhaler I take makes me tremble a bit--sometimes a lot. It has a steroid in it and simply makes me tremble. One of my best friends called Bern and asked about it, thinking it might be a sign of Parkinson's Disease. I'm on an injected medication every two weeks called Xolaire that is letting me use the inhaler less and less. I just held up my hands and there was no tremble at all.

Again, embarrassment is the issue.

What is 'embarrassment' about anyway?

Something about defensiveness, surely. And something about feeling 'not good' about yourself.

I'm going to ponder 'embarrassment' for a bit and try to get over it.

That might be something of value for you as well. I don't know, but maybe....

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Looking back

The weekend was great--Josh and Cathy and the girls. Josh loves to organize outings so I went with him and the girls to Sleeping Giant Park--never been there, sort of like New Yorkers' who've never been to the Statue of Liberty or the top of the Empire State Building. Sleeping Giant is 5 miles away and we've lived in New Haven and then Cheshire since 1980 and never once been there.

The 'paths' aren't 'paths' at all, they are areas of large rocks and tree roots around which you can, if you are agile enough, walk. I almost turned my ankle a dozen times. When Josh and the girls went up a 60 degree hill, I demurred and waited on them. Had I turned and ankle or fallen and broken my leg, I could only imagine how Josh and three little girls would get me back over the 'not really paths'. Maybe they'd just leave me or shoot me and put me out of my misery.

My first visit to Sleeping Giant will be my last, I promise.

The 5th was wondrous! What a day! A day to be out in the yard and on the deck. But Josh had another road trip planned. We went to New Haven and had pizza at Pepe's. Since Josh and Mimi spent 5 years of their childhood in walking distance of Pepe's, it is a visit he wants to make. And, by the way, the pizza is beyond belief. Bern and I shared a medium white clam that was larger than any large anywhere else. Morgan, Emma and Tegan ate piece after piece of a bacon pizza and a plain cheese pizza. At dinner that night, the leftovers went on the grill and they ate even more....

We did Italian sausage, chicken and tuna kabobs with rice and corn and asparagus--all on the grill. Again, more eating that should be admitted to. Then roasted marshmallows over the coals and strawberry shortcake--the 4th on the 5th. So good.

The girls were wondrous. Emma with her humor, Morgan with her attention and engagement, Tegan with off the wall questions and comments.

An example: Josh and I are sitting on the back porch reading (me with an actual paper book and him with his smart phone) and the other two girls are in the yard, digging, they love to did--Bern goes inside and Tegan comes over to me eating a ice pop. "Granpa," she says, very seriously, in a whisper, "is your wife crazy?"

I'm startled. "Do you mean Granma?" I ask. Josh is shaking his head and chuckling.

Tegan nods solemnly and licks her ice pop.

After a while, I say, "yes, a little crazy....But a little crazy is good and fun."

She seemed satisfied.

Josh, still shaking his head, said, "I don't know where this stuff comes from, but it's always coming."

I told Bern later and she laughed and laughed. She is a little crazy and it IS good and fun....

Friday, July 4, 2014

rainy 4th

I ran into my neighbor from across the street at Stop and Shop earlier today. "Hey, Joe," I said, "plan B?" We were both there to find dinner that didn't have to be grilled.

The day is rainy but Josh and Cathy and our granddaughters are here so it's bright inside!

They came late last night--after midnight--and were exhausted. The girls got some back yard time between rains and found a multitude of worms and slugs and ballbugs driven out into the open by the wet ground. Kids love gross and slimy and dirty things by their very nature. It seems to me you could predict the onset of adolescence by when kids stop picking up slimy things.

Josh, like Mimi when she's here commented on 'how quiet' Cheshire is. I guess it is but I just take it for granted. Like the Irish cab driver a few years ago who, every time he turned a curve going from Dreury to the Domitine retreat center heard me gasp as the beauty of the landscape.

Finally he said, in a wondrous accent, "Yea, I think we've come to take it for granted."

Too bad how we take blessings and beauty like that. Having the girls around to let me see the world through their eyes jars me out of complacency and I notice how astonishing worms are....

Thursday, July 3, 2014

OK, enough sweetness and light...

Ann Coulter.

You know where I'm going with this, right? If not you haven't been paying attention lately.

Ann Coulter (just to type her name annoys me!) went on a rant of Fox News (where else?) about soccer. Her take on the interest of Americans in the World Cup matches shows 'the moral decay' of American culture.

(Let me give you a minute to take that in...if, indeed, it is take-able in-able....)

OK, so here's her argument (such as it is):

1. America's interest in soccer shows that immigration from south of the border is out of control (because, presumably, white people don't like soccer!--nevermind about Europe....)

2. It is too much of a 'team sport' so there are no superstars and America needs superstars. (Nevermind, again, that there are stars in soccer but it is essentially a team sport...and when did playing as a 'team' become un-American? I thought that was the most American thing of all....)

3. It's boring because the scores are so low and American's like lots of scoring. (Never mind that a 1-0 baseball game is a classic and a 7-3 football game, though unusual, is the most exciting kind of game--since when is defense a bad thing.)

So, Soccer would be ok if the scores were like the NBA and there were super stars and white people played it....

Jesus, how stupid is that?

I didn't grow up playing soccer and neither of my kids played either, but lots of their friends did and now practically every kid in the suburbs plays soccer. And certainly every Hispanic kid does.

Ok, I'm getting irrational about this. Just go on line and find her rant and weep for America....

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

And besides all that

I love her more than life itself...Bern, I mean. What she means to me increases exponentially every day.

I've never told her this--perhaps I should, though it might frighten her--she has become 'my life' in so many ways.

It has not always been this way. But it is now. I am 67 and she is 64 and we're on at least our 5th marriage, and this is the one I value best of all.

Soon I'll stop typing and take Bela out for his last pee of the day and then join her in the bed we've shared for over four decades and realize how blessed I am to have her in my life.

Maybe I'll tell her that and maybe I won't. Timing is everything.

And it is true, true beyond True...Well, either you know or you don't. Either you have a relationship, a love that defines your life or you don't. And there is no value in whatever you have. It's just I have such a relationship. And I count myself blessed beyond belief. I did nothing to deserve this. It isn't because I crossed some t's and dotted some i's, it is just that I am blessed without cause or purpose. In fact, in the real world, I made more mistakes than anyone should ever make. So. that's all it is. A glorious accident, a wondrous happenstance, something the cosmos didn't have in mind but happened anyway.

Like that.

Simply like that.

 And I am more blessed, lucky, fortunate, astonishingly privileged than anyone has a right to be.

Lucky, blessed me.

Just like that. And thanks be to all the gods that be for my life turning out 'just like that'.


Why don't I appreciate that more?

One last thing I don't appreciate enough


My wife of 43 years.

My life in many ways.

Bern does almost everything. I do these things: take the dog for his morning walk (and on Monday for his walk on the Canal--Bern takes him those other six days) his 'little walk' at 5 or so and his last pee after 10 pm, I clean the litter box for Lukie, I take out the trash and recycling on Tues and bring the bins back on Wednesday, I cook dinner 4 out of every 7 days. Besides doing my own laundry, that's all I do.

Bern does everything else. Cleans the house, mows the lawn with her hand mower, pays the bills every Monday (which is why I do the Canal walk that day), does the laundry for everything but my clothes, cooks dinner at least 3 days a week, manages the garden, keeps everything where it should be.

I could help her with all that but, sadly, I'm not capable of doing any of that as well as she does. It's just the truth. So she does all that.

My life wouldn't work without Bern. Not at all.

And I know that.

So, I should appreciate her more. And I vow to do that. I do.

Who in your life don't you appreciate enough? Not like you  have to tell them, just appreciate them more, that's all. Ponder that, if you will.....

More things I don't appreciate enough

As I grow old ('should I wear my trousers rolled, or eat a peach?') I'm coming to notice things I don't appreciate enough. Here's some more:

*maple syrup--living in the part of the country where it comes from, I haven't been appreciative enough of maple syrup. I made salmon tonight (my friend Bea has a salmon aversion, poor her) that was marinated in 1/4 cup of maple syrup, two teaspoons of soy sauce, a clove of garlic chopped, garlic salt and black pepper and cooked at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. To die for...salmon and maple syrup, how odd is that? And it worked...never mind pancakes and waffles....

*summer corn--had corn tonight too, no way to cook it wrong. Wrapped the ears in paper towels after wetting it and microwaves for 2 minutes. Astonishing! How sweet and good corn is. I would have grilled both the salmon and corn but it's raining hard in Connecticut.

*paper clips--I was working on something this week that involved various writings of more than a page, trying to find the right order. I needed paper clips and didn't have any. Went out yesterday and got 45 big ones, vinyl-coated in multiple bright colors. I feel better already.

*floor pads for my car--I had almost ground through the carpet on the driver's side after grinding through the floor pad. So I took Bern's Discover card and went to a Auto supply place and bought new, thick rubber ones for $31.17. Bern'll get some % of that back one day from Discover and my front seat floors are thickly covered and smell of new rubber.

*creatures--we have three: a bad Puli dog, an annoying Maine Coon Cat and a parakeet that brings constant song into our lives. She's listening to SHU public radio that actually plays classical music most of the day and making wondrous music. I actually love Luke the cat more than Bern does and she's always been the cat person and Bern loves the bad dog Bela more than I do and I've always been the dog person. Jung was right--as we age we move toward our shadows and embrace them.

*children--we have two and I do not appreciate enough how wondrous they are. Josh is a big-time lawyer in Baltimore and Mimi is the Development Officer for Jacob's Pillow in MA and lives half time in Brooklyn with her fiancee, Tim, who we love. Josh and Cathy and our three granddaughter will be coming for the 4th. I DO appreciate our granddaughters constantly and greatly, but I need to appreciate our children more and more. No drug problems, good grades, no major arrests, remarkable adults from wonderful children. I don't give enough thanks for how they turned out so brilliantly, better than I could have expected. God, I love them, and should celebrate that more.

*friends--I take them for granted because I assume I'm likeable and should have friends. But the truth is, they make my life so much richer, purer, more meaningful, magic that I should tell them so and appreciate them more, much more, than I do. I vow to do that, more and more.

Ponder, if you will, what you don't appreciate enough about your life. It truly is life-giving to do that, I promise you. Really.


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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.