Wednesday, August 27, 2014

two sleeps and we're gone...

When our kids were small and didn't get linear time so well (as I still don't!) Bern would tell them, "three more sleeps and it will be your birthday/Christmas/time to go on vacation."

Well, two sleeps and we're off to Oak Island, North Carolina for a week. We could stay two weeks or even three but Bern wouldn't leave our dog for that long and he would be absolute hell to travel with. The only way you can take him on a trip is to drug him until he's about to fall over. Otherwise he would bark the whole way--I kid you not.

If Bela traveled better, we'd stay longer on the island where we've probably, over the years since 1974, spent about two years all told. We used to go for a whole month when the kids were small and then three weeks when they started to find it boring to be on an island. Finally, before we stopped for a decade or so, for just two weeks.

Actually, parceling out time in 'sleeps' makes a lot of sense. It is, after all, the activity we spend more time doing than most anything and our lives are punctuated by 'sleeps'.

Since I'm sometimes not sure what day it is until I turn on my computer, planning my life by 'sleeps' makes a lot of sense. I can keep track of that better.

So, instead of, "I have to go to the Dr on Friday" I tell myself "I have to go to the Dr in three sleeps" and when I wake up, I tell myself, "two sleeps now".

Makes perfect sense to me.

It doesn't work with the dog or cat though since a day for them might involve 8 or more 'sleeps'.

I get thrown off on this system if I ever take a nap....

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bern and blood

Bern has a reflex about blood: she faints.

Today we took the Puli to the vet for shots and blood work. It is a two person job! Bern was fine, holding his head, muzzled, so he wouldn't bite the vet or the assistant, who was also holding him. He got an exam, two shots, then the young, blonde vet was going to take his blood. Notice I said "going to take...".  There was no blood at all yet, but I glanced at Bern and knew she was only a few moments from fainting. She sat down and put her head between her legs were I took her place, holding Bela's head. She kept her head between her legs until it was all over. She looked shaky as I took the dog outside while she paid. We walked all the way around the building and I saw her at the counter to pay. Then I saw her sit down and put her head between her legs. Then she went back to the counter and retreated quickly to the chair. The vet's assistant brought her water. I kept walking the dog. It must have been an hour or so after we got home, her riding with her head between her legs, before she was back to something that passed for 'normal'. (Who wants to be 'normal' anyway? But it's better than about to faint, I grant you that.

Once when I was Rector of St. Paul's in New Haven, Mimi fell against a huge island in the middle of our kitchen in the Rectory and started bleeding like a stuck pig from her forehead. (I've never seen anyone 'stick a pig', but it means, I think, lots and lots of blood.) Josh somehow dialed the phone and called the church. The parish office was next to my office and Marcie, the secretary ran in saying, "Josh is hysterical on the phone!"

I took his call. "Mimi is dying! Mimi is dying!" he was shouting.

I ran next door to the Rectory and he was still on the phone yelling, "Mimi is dying!"

Bern was on the kitchen floor holding Mimi's head.

"Put your hand here on the towel," Bern said calmly. When I did, Bern fainted dead away.

"Mommy is dying!" Josh started yelling, still holding the phone. "Mommy is dying!" he said over and again.

Somehow we got Mimi to the ER where it took four stitches to close the wound near her temple that was bleeding like crazy. Since she had hit her head the doctor didn't want to sedate her so he put her in what looked like nothing else but a straight jacket and closed the wound with only a local.

I've waited all these years (Mimi was 3 and Josh was 6--now they are 36 and 39) for this trauma to emerge in some psychological problem for Mimi--being tied up and stitched at 3--but it never has. She is one of the most well-balanced and sane people I know.

But Bern has a thing with blood. She held Mimi's wound until I could...but just the mention of blood with Bela and she had her head between her legs.

She apologized later today about being so sensitive. But it's one of the things I love about her--a frailty I adore. She is so strong in so many ways that this little glitch seems sweet and oh-so-human.

And since I could be awash in blood and fine, it balances our relationship out....

Monday, August 25, 2014

"Going to the country"

This is something I wrote a while ago. I don't think I've shared it and even searched my 1000+ blogs to make sure (I can do that!). Hope you like it.

Going to the Country

My father had a compulsion about ‘leaving early’ that bordered on a mental illness. And that never showed itself with such clarity as when we went to ‘the country’. Truth is, where we lived was ‘country’—extremely rural. I grew up in a town with less than 500 residents and McDowell County was about 1/3 the size of Rhode Island and had some 68,000 citizens when I was growing up—nearer 25,000 now, which makes it a ‘ghost county’ rather than merely ‘rural’. Nevertheless, we called Monroe County, where my father grew up, ‘the country’ and when we went there we had to leave an hour or two before dawn.
When I was smaller, he would take me from my bed and put me in the backseat of whatever Ford he owned at the time and we’d stop somewhere along the two hour drive for me to put on the clothes my mother had brought for me. Later, he would simply wake me up at 4 a.m. and tell me “it’s time to go to the country.” We went once or twice a month, leaving before dawn on Saturday and coming back in the early afternoon of Sunday. I have hazy and dream filled memories of those early morning trips. We’d arrive before 6 a.m. at the house where my father lived as a boy and be greeted by my Grandmother Bradley—her name was Clieve, pronounced ClE-vE, which, if were short for anything I never learned what. I was a teen-ager when I realized that Clieve wasn’t truly my grandmother—she was my step-grandmother, the wife of my grandfather in his later life, after my father’s mother had died. But that wasn’t simply an oversight—not knowing our actual relationship—it was the way the Bradley side of my family operated. I grew up calling lots of Bradley relations “aunt” or “uncle” only to realize when I was older that they weren’t aunts or uncles at all. This for example: Aunt Ursa and Aunt Denie (Geraldine) were the children of “Aunt Annie” and “Uncle Buford”, who were, in truth, my father’s Aunt and Uncle. That made Ursa and Geraldine my second cousins! Such misrepresentation would have never happened on the Jones side of my family. The Jones’ were very precise about relationships—“your third cousin by marriage”, like that. The Bradley’s were less formal and anybody you were related to might be called “aunt” or “uncle”—it just didn’t matter as much to them. My actual first cousin Greg Bradley (well, actually, actually my double-cousin, according to the Jones’, since his mother was my mother’s first cousin and his father was my father’s brother…but the Jones clan kept score relentlessly) tried to put together a genealogy for the Bradley family but kept running into trouble since no one seemed to know the exact relationship of relatives!
Uncle Ezra is a good example. I called him Uncle Ezra all my life but as close as I can get to figuring out how we were related was this: Ezra was the first cousin of Filbert, my grandfather, and Annie, my father’s aunt. That means that ‘Uncle’ Ezra’s mother was the daughter of my great-grand mother’s sister. So, if I can do the math, that would make him my third cousin, once removed, whatever the hell that means! I need a Jones relative to help me sort it out. All I know is that he was Uncle Ezra to me.
Ezra was a tiny man married to ‘Aunt Clovis’ (actually my third cousin, once removed, by marriage—go ponder that!) who was a woman of substance, which means, in Bradley Family Speak, she was a big, big woman. The last time I saw Ezra on this side of the mysterious door of death, his eyes looked into my chin. I was only 14 or so and about 5’7” tall (I reached my full growth at 15 which explains why I was a star on my junior high basketball team and didn’t make the cut in high school). I suppose, just guessing, Ezra was 5’4” or so and probably weighed 115 pounds. At 14, when Clovis hugged her ‘nephew’, my face was pressed against her ample breasts. So, she might have been 5’10 and weighed, let’s be Bradley nice now…220 pounds. Jack Sprat and his wife, for sure—that was Uncle Ezra and Aunt Clovis.
Ezra’s stature was fertile ground for jokes his whole life. One story I was told a hundred and one times over the years was about the night Uncle Ezra got saved. It seems he had gone to a revival meeting and felt his heart convicted to give his life to Jesus. He’d gone up to kneel at the rail and when the out-of-town revivalist came by to pray with him, that preacher said, “God bless the little boys….” Well, as it turned out, Ezra was 22 years old and long since fully grown. After the service some of the local young men gathered around Ezra and started saying, over and over: “God bless the little boys….”
As the apocryphal family story goes, Ezra, who was little but not meek, hitched up his pants and told the crowd around him, “I’d rather be a little fellow like me and go to heaven than great big sons-of-bitches like you and go to hell.” Well spoken, Uncle Ezra, well said….
Uncle Ezra, like most of the Bradley side of my family, was a man not unacquainted with strong drink. Whenever we visited my father and Uncle Russell would disappear with Ezra into the barn of his farm while I was being loved up and fed sweets by Aunt Clovis. When they returned, a half-an-hour later or so, they were flushed and glassy eyed and full of salt and vinegar. Aunt Clovis would shake her head and say, either to me or the cosmos, “Men have to drink, but not in my house….” Most of the men on the Bradley side of my family, all of whom liked a drink or two, seemed inevitably to marry women who didn’t approve of alcohol. My Uncle Sid was the exception that proved the rule. He and my Aunt Callie (who was both my aunt and my second cousin—go figure my family!) both liked a taste….God bless them.
When Ezra died (since I’m still on him and will get back to Grandmother Clieve soon) I was 15 or so. He died in February of one of the winters of my life. His funeral was in the Union Church (Baptist 1st and 3rd Sundays, Methodist 2nd and 4th) in Waiteville. The preacher took a great deal of time preaching Uncle Ezra’s funeral since the young men hand digging the grave were having a hard time. They’d started two days before but the ground was so frozen and it was so cold to dig that they kept having to pause for coffee and a drink of bourbon, just to warm them up. But after a dozen or so pauses those first two days, they were too drunk to dig. One of them kept coming in to whisper to the preacher that the grave wasn’t quite deep enough yet, so the sermon got longer and longer. Finally, after we’d been there for almost three hours, one of the grave diggers stumbled up the aisle and said, in slurred speech, “da hol is ready, preeecher,”
So Ezra joined the scores of those sleeping in that little country cemetery. Many of them are somehow related to me. I remember on one Memorial day, wandering through the graveyard, coming upon two worn tombstones with my name on them: James Gordon Bradley. The sky was white, as in often is in those climes, and I felt dizzy for a while. It was my great-grandfather and my great-great-grandfather. I hadn’t realized I had a ‘family name’ since it skipped two generations. My grandfather was Filbert and my father was Virgil—good time to go back to what worked in the past!
Most Memorial Days, my crazy ‘Aunt Arbana’, who I never saw because she was crazy and a recluse (and Lord knows what my true relationship with her was—she was probably a fifth cousin once removed or something) would come over before anyone else got there and put little Confederate flags on the graves of many of my distant relatives. Uncle Russell would take them off in a huff while Uncle Del was laughing and Uncle Sid was making jokes. My father would just shake his head and wonder. “Some year I’m going to take them and stick them up her ass,” Russell would say. “Do we even know where she lives now?” Del would ask. “Or how big her ass is?” Sid would ask.
Back at Aunt Clovis’ house, after Ezra had joined his not so clearly defined ancestors in the so frozen and so rocky dirt of the Waiteville Cemetery, I noticed that there were several bottles of whisky set out with all chicken and green beans and pies and cakes. At that time, I simply noticed it—now I wonder, why couldn’t that have been so when Ezra was alive and thirsty?
We’d arrive at Clieve’s house and she would start talking the minute we came up the walk. She was the most talkative person I’ve ever met. When you were with her you were reduced to listening and listening only, with an occasional nod or clucking in surprise. My father’s brothers—Del and Russell and Sid—would never come to stay with her. Russell had a farm in Waiteville through his wife’s family—she was a LaFon, just like my aunt Annie’s husband (actually my great uncle by marriage—I’ll stop trying to explain my family now!) but Russell’s wife Gladys wasn’t from the same LaFons as Annie’s husband…just because I’m from West Virginia doesn’t mean I’m the product of massive intermarriage). In fact, one of them spelled it with a small ‘f’ and the other with a capital ‘F’, though for the life of me I don’t remember which was which now. Anyway, my father’s brothers wouldn’t visit Clieve because she never stopped talking and they couldn’t stand her, never had. But we always stayed with her when we were in the country.
So, surrounded in stereo by Clieve’s constant chatter (oh, by the way, though I called her “Grandmaw”, my father called her Aunt Clieve though she was his step mother—one last example of the looseness of the Bradley clan regarding relationships) we’d enter the little house to the smell of a full breakfast. By ‘full breakfast’ I mean this: sausage gravy, scratch biscuits, fried apples, grits swimming in butter, country ham and red eye gravy, eggs fried within an inch of their lives so the yoke was hard and the edges were brown and crunchy, coffee perking on the stove, three kinds of home canned preserves, fresh churned butter, and potatoes cut thin and fried in bacon grease plus the bacon they were fried in. Clieve must have been up before my father to assemble such a feast by 6 a.m. I had a method to the madness of such a meal. I put sausage gravy on my eggs, biscuit and potatoes and red-eye gravy over my grits and ham (usually a lot since red-eye gravy is made with coffee instead of water and my parents wouldn’t give me coffee yet). Then I’d have another plate for apples and biscuits with butter and preserves. Lordy, lordy, what a banquet! It was in Grandmaw Bradley’s kitchen, under the drone of her gossip and stories (like elevator music, in a way) that I came to believe, as I believe to this day, that gravy is a food group.
We made that trip to the country dozens and dozens of times while I was growing up. And the day we never missed was Memorial Day. There was a Memorial Day dinner in the grange hall that raised the money each year for the upkeep of the Waiteville cemetery where generations after generations of my family lay sleeping. People who had years before moved away came back on memorial day because someone they had loved was in that cemetery and the only way to insure the well-being of that four acre plot of hilly ground was to buy your ticket to the Memorial Day Dinner and eat yourself into oblivion.
I’d be introduced to and shown off to about a hundred people who I was told were my relatives every Memorial Day. Given the Bradley proclivity of fudging relationships, I have no idea how many of those people actually shared my DNA. But let me try to tell you what there was to eat.
There was pork ribs cooked off the bone with sour kraut, fried chicken to die for—crispy on the outside and cooked to juicy perfection within, country ham sliced as thin as paper (as it must be) and cured ham pink and tender, beef stew that would melt in your mouth, baked chicken, and fried pork chops. There was corn—on the cob, slathered with melted butter; creamed, cut from the ear; beans cooked in bacon with potatoes you didn’t have to chew; squash of many sorts (which I didn’t like as a child and long for now); tomatoes huge as softballs cut into thick slices; cucumbers and onions cut up and brined in vinegar; tomato stew with dumplings; fried onions and peppers; rhubarb cooked to tender, tart perfection; creamed onions and peas; green salad made from lime jello, nuts and cottage cheese; red jello with fruit cocktail suspended in it; baby carrots cooked with brown sugar and walnuts; slaw—both vinegar and mayonnaise based; and tossed salad with vinegar and oil. There was, for desert: pecan pie, cherry pie, apple pie, fried apple pie, strawberry and rhubarb pie, German chocolate cake, devil’s food cake, angel’s food cake and homemade ice cream to pile on top of it all. And to drink there would be (what else) sweet tea and perked coffee…is there any other kind of tea, any other kind of coffee, really?
Here’s the point to all this: one of the images that Jesus uses for the Kingdom is the image of the Heavenly Banquet. I take great joy in that and in the passages from the gospels where the resurrected Jesus seems hungry. If there is a life to come—and for me the jury is still out, probably will be until I come face to face with my finitude and stare off into oblivion or whatever comes next—I am ecstatic to imagine there will be eating and drinking there. And that Jesus chose to leave us as a metaphor of what heaven is like, a table set with fair linen and candles where we share in a Eucharistic feast of bread and wine—that is the kicker for me.
Breakfast at Grandmaw Clieve’s house and dinner at the Memorial Day dinner—I couldn’t ask for anything more. Over the years I have certainly developed a palate for other things: Chinese, Thai, Italian, French cuisines; however, if it is eternity we’re talking about, for my taste those two menus will suffice for the first eon or so.
I don’t have a view of heaven much past a place where there are giant women—like Aunt Clovis, sitting in enormous rocking chairs who will rock you and sing to you and stroke you whenever you want. But beyond that, the best I can do with the whole life/death thing is to imagine that someday I’ll be lifted from my bed by strong, loving arms and placed in the backseat of a car, covered carefully with a blanket and, after a trip of confusion and dreams, I’ll wake up “in the country.”
That’s the best I can do about ‘heaven’.
And, for me, at any rate, it works….

The Trouble with Finitude

I try, from time to time,
usually late at night or after one too many glasses of wine,
to consider my mortality.
(I have been led to believe
that such consideration is valuable
in a spiritual way.
God knows where I got that...
Well, of course God knows,
I'm just not sure.)

But try as I might, I'm not adroit at such thoughts.
It seems to me that I have always been alive,
I don't remember not being alive.
I have no personal recollections
of when most of North America was covered by ice
or of the Bronze Age
or the French Revolution
or the Black Sox scandal.
But I do know about all that through things I've read
and musicals I've seen
and the History Channel.

I know intellectually that I've not always been alive,
but I don't know it, as they say,
in my gut”.
(What a strange phrase that is,
since I am sure my 'gut'
is a totally dark part of my body,
awash with digestive fluids
and whatever remains of the chicken and peas
I had for dinner and strange compounds
moving inexorably—I hope—through my large
and small intestines.)

My problem is this:
I have no emotional connection to finitude.

All I know and feel is tangled up with being alive.
Dwelling on the certainty of my own death
is beyond my ken, outside my imagination,
much like trying to imagine
the vast expanse of Interstellar Space
when I live in Connecticut.

So, whenever someone suggests that
I consider my mortality,
I screw up my face and breathe deeply
pretending I am imagining the world
without me alive in it.

What I'm actually doing is remembering
things I seldom remember--
my father's smell, an old lover's face,
the feel of sand beneath my feet,
the taste of watermelon,
the sound of thunder rolling toward me
from miles away.

Perhaps when I come to die
(perish the thought!)
there will be a moment, an instant,
some flash of knowledge
or a stunning realization:
Ah,” I will say to myself,
just before oblivion sets in,
'this is finitude....


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Caesarea Philippi

The gospel today was the confession of Peter--Peter, that most bungling of all the bungling friends of Jesus acknowledging Jesus as the 'Messiah, the son of the living God'.

The most interesting part of the story, for me, is not 'what happened' but 'where it happened'--Caesarea Philippi.

Caesarea Philippi is far north in Galilee--near what is now the border with Lebanon and Syria. It is a ruin today, though it was a thriving city in Jesus' day. It was built by the Tetrach Philip. He was politician enough to name it after the Roman Emperor as well. And he put Caesar first!

The city was built over the ruins of Banus--actually known earlier as 'Panus' because that was the supposed home of the Greek God Pan. There is, in that place, a cave that was believed to be Pan's home. A stream runs out of the cave that becomes, miles along, the Jordan River. When I was there I took water from the head waters of the Jordan and brought it home to use in baptisms.

The ruins of Caesarea Philippi reveal that Philip built great temples there to the Greek and Roman gods and a Temple to the god-king Caesar (I told you the boy was a sly politician!)

In the first century the city was on both a north-south and a east-west crossroads. It was a city that contained people and travelers from all over what we call the Middle East. And it was home to the worship of may gods.

I think it remarkable that Jesus took the disciples that far north to ask them: "who do people say that I am?" But there couldn't be a better spot for the question.

When Peter confesses Jesus' identity is when Jesus says, "You are Peter and on this rock" (petros in Greek is the word for 'rock') "I build my church".

Then Jesus tells them not to tell anyone he is the Messiah.

It's a wonderful passage that introduces the theological discipline of 'Christology'--seeking to understand and explain 'who Jesus was'. It's a little disappointing for the preacher in me that it ends with that secrecy motif because the next verse is Jesus' explanation that he had to go to Jerusalem and die and Peter rebukes him and Jesus says that great line: "Get behind me, Satan" to the 'Rock' of his church.

My maternal grandmother always told us cousins, "don't get above your raising"--don't think too highly of yourself. Peter, being proclaimed the 'petros' on which the church would be built, decided he could rebuke Jesus for claiming he had to die--that wasn't what the Messiah was supposed to do...he was supposed to expel the Romans from Israel and sit on the throne of David.

Peter 'got above his raising' in a big way....

Saturday, August 23, 2014

my friend John

John is my second oldest friend. The only older friend I have is Mike, who I saw this spring for the first time in 20 years. But John has lived in New Haven almost as long as we've been in Connecticut. So, I see him a lot. And have for years. He was a graduate student in Morgantown, WV when Bern and I lived there in 1971-73. He's a West Virginian, like Bern and I. He's a psychologist who works for the VA in West Haven and has a private practice. He is an unconventional therapist, which is one of the things I like about him since I've always been an unconventional priest.

We met because he's an Episcopalian and we went to church together. In fact, now that I think about it, I met him in the late 60's, before Bern and I were married, at St. Gabrial's in Morgantown and then re-connected when Bern and I came back after my two years at Harvard and our marriage in rhere.

John is one of the two people who goes on vacation with Bern and Mimi and Tim and I each September. This time next week we'll be in our house on Oak Island and ready for our first night there.

John is remarkably funny. Not just humorous but by having jokes.

Two he told tonight when he came for dinner.

A blind cowboy walks into a girl's Biker Bar. He gets a drink and says, to whoever is near him, "Anyone want to hear a blond joke?"

The woman to his right says, "I'll give you a break because you're blind. But need to know that I'm blonde and I'm an ex-Marine and the bartender is blond and she's an ex-Marine and the woman on the other side of you is blond and she's an ex-Marine and four women at a table over there are karate teachers and they're all blond. So, do you want to tell your 'blond joke'?

"Well, no," the man said, "not if I'll have to explain it seven times...."

The other one goes like this:

A man sees someone he's known for years and is really good friends with and is so excited to meet up with him on the street. The only thing is, his friend has a big orange head.

So the guy talks to his old friend for a while, catching up, and then says, "what happened to your head?"

"Oh," the old friend tells him, "I had a genie in a bottle and I had three wishes. My first wish was for a wonderful house. See that house over there with  the pool, that's my house. My second wish was for a beautiful, loving wife. See that beautiful woman by the pool? She's my wife and she loves me to death. Then, I think the mistake I made was that I wished for a big orange head."

People differ greatly about what they think is funny. John had told those two jokes to Sherry, the sixth person of our vacation 'family' and when he told the second one she said, "why did he wish for a big orange head?"

I'm sure you've been in the position to 'explain' a joke. You just can't. Jokes are like this--you 'get them' or you don't and there is no place in between to explain them.

John and Sherry will be going to Oak Island with Bern and Mimi and Tim and I. And at no time will any of us try to explain that joke.

John is dear and funny and a profoundly good friend. I look forward to our time together in a week.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The invitation came.....

Yesterday, in the US Postal service 'mail' came the invitation to Mimi and Tim's wedding. I wish I knew enough about media to reproduce it here for you. But I don't.

It's in odd colors and invites us to be there on October 12 in Brooklyn. The address was, in wonderful calligraphy, The Father and Mother of the Bride and our address.

I just took a deep breath. My little girl is getting married. (Of course, she is 36 years old and not a 'little girl' by a long shot. But in my heart and mind she is that little girl running down a hill in my father's front yard that I took a picture of and have it in a frame downstairs. Toe-head child, jaw set, arms pumping, 4 years old, running.

Even when I pronounce Mimi and Tim, "husband and wife", which I shall do on that day (given permission to do so by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island and the City Clerk of New York City) I will see, in my mind, that four year old puffing down that hill that I captured on a real camera--not on a smart phone.

And she is breath-taking. Really. And always has been.

And Tim is her mirror image.

They'll be with us 8 days from now on Oak Island, North Carolina where she went for 17 years or so, with Bern and me and her brother Josh, until neither of them wanted to go to a place so deserted and cut off from the world as that. And then, maybe 6 years ago, she called to find out where that place was and she and Tim went and ever since we've gone with them, along with John, my longtime friend, and Sherrie, Bern's long time friend.

We'll leave a week from today, all of us--John and Sherrie and Bern and me in John's Landrover and Mimi and Tim in Mimi's Forrester, which is her first car, being a NYC girl but needed because she works for Jacob's Pillow now and has an apartment in Stockbridge, MA as well as the apartment she shares with Tim in Brooklyn.

And we'll spend a week on that deserted island (since it is a "family beach" and school will be in session and we'll have a hundred yards or so of private beach, like we always do after Labor Day.

I remember so much about Mimi from her early childhood.

Now she's getting married.

Now Tim will really be our son-in-law, though it's felt that way for a decade or so.

And a week from tomorrow they'll be with us again.

I can hardly wait. I love them both so.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Two Nature Miracles

So, I was out on our deck waiting for the charcoal to be ready in our chimney (yes, Beloved, we still have a Weber grill and still use charcoal) when two remarkable miracles of nature happened.

First, on the south end of our deck. I saw a spider, seemingly hanging in mid-air. But then I realized the spider had spun a web, vertical to the earth and sky. But as closely as I looked and peered, I couldn't see the strand of web that held the web vertical. It could have been to a Rodademdrum tree a yard or more away. Beyond that, it must have been attached to a fir tree 8 feet away or a Red Maple even further away.

I knew I could find out by moving my hand above the web--but that would have destroyed the whole thing.

Seemingly , to me, the web simply hung, unsupported in the air. Amazing.

Then a few moments later, walking back to the north side of our deck, I heard something whiz by my head. I thought it must be a bumble bee--but when I turned, I realized it was a ruby-throated humming bird that hung, suspended in space like the spider's web, about two feet from me. The wings were a blur, but I saw it's tiny body and face clearly, and the legs/feet tucked tightly  against it's body. I could have reached out and touched it (not really, it would have easily escaped my grasp). It hovered for a moment and fed for a moment off a red flower on a vine Bern has on our deck. Then it looked at me again and off it went to the north and disappeared.

I'd never been that close to a hummingbird before. It was magic, transforming, amazing.

All that on a cool (for August) afternoon on a deck in Cheshire.

How much more could you ask for or stand without breaking into song and leaping into dance?

Thinking back, I should have found both song and dance. Instead, my heat almost broke from joy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Darkness and the Light

The Darkness and the Light are both off the Sports pages today.

The Light: Mo'ne Davis, the 13 year old Little League pitcher who was the first young woman to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series. In an interview she is sweet and modest and smiling. What a great kid. Cover of Sports Illustrated this week, no less!

Good for her.

We are all better than Mo'ne is in our world.

The Darkness: Johnny Manziel, the rookie with the Cleveland Browns who was a Heisman Trophy winner at Texas A&M and a hopeless bore.

He was captured on film giving the finger to the Washington Redskin bench because they were razzing him for having a piss poor game. "Johnny Football" has annoyed me from the beginning in college. He was too fond of the spotlight, to quick to seek applause, too glib to be gracious.

Look, Jerk, you are a high payed rookie quarterback that has shown very little in the pre-season other than late night antics and partying with people even richer than you. You are going to have other teams yelling at you. You just are. And you cannot respond like a prick. You take the cat-calls away with your performance. You think it was bad against Washington, after the low rent response you gave it is really, REALLY going to get BAD now!!!

All those big old boys striking out against a small girl--Priceless.

Johnny Manziel, what a waste of protoplasm.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Ivy League

I listened to an hour long discussion on Public Radio today about Ivy League education and college education in general. I found it fascinating. One guy had written a book about how 'the elite schools' were no longer the 'best schools'. His theory was that the Ivy League creates a new generation of 'elites' because you need to be rich or extremely lucky to go to one of those schools and many of the students (not all by any means) see going to Yale or Harvard as a ticket to the 1% rather than a place to be challenged, to learn and grow, to find your 'true self'.

It reminded me of a story from my past.

I went to West Virginia University and got a BA in English and a minor in Political Science--thinking I either wanted to be a college professor of American Literature in some small Liberal Arts College (and write THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL along the way) or, if I found money mattered to me, I could go to law school. I had a 3.87 GPA and graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa (I long ago lost my key). But instead of going to graduate school in American Literature or Law school, I got this crazy 'Trial Year in Seminary' offer from the Rockerfeller Foundation. The committee asked me straight out where I wanted to go to seminary, and I said, off the top of my head: "Harvard". So they got me in without applying. (What the 1% can do!)

I was terribly intimidated about going to an Ivy League school, thinking I surely didn't belong. Harvard Divinity School had folks from several state schools, but I was from West Virginia. I had a hick accent. I surely didn't measure up. Plus my next door neighbor in Divinity Hall, where I lived the first year, was a Harvard College undergrad. I was sure I wasn't up to Cal's standards. I mean, West Virginia University vs. Harvard College--no contest, in my mind. He must be a font of wisdom and knowledge and I must be only a trickle.

The first time we talked I was very nervous and he talked fast and I thought slow and at some point he said to me, "you just contradicted yourself."

I'm sure I had, but I replied, "Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradicted myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."

He gawked at me and said, "wow, that's great!"

"It's Walt Whitman," I said.

He looked confused. "Walt 'who'?" he asked.

Suddenly I wasn't nearly as nervous about being on Harvard's hallowed grounds as I had been but a moment before....

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Another beautiful day...

August rolls along in Connecticut the way it has--high to  mid 70's in the day low 60's in the night. We haven't used the air conditioner in our bed room for over a week. Wondrous weather. I slept until 10 a.m. on Saturday! I know that as you age you are supposed to sleep less--but I've been able, since I retired from full-time ministry, to sleep past 9 most nights I don't set my alarm and I only set it on Tuesdays (I have a 9:30 commitment) and Sundays. Go figure.

We'll be waking up on Oak Island, North Carolina on Sunday, two weeks from now. Vacation is upon us. We drop off the dog on August 29 (the kids next door look after the cat and bird) and stop in Virginia for the night and get to the beach on Saturday. John and Sherry will go with us, as they do. Mimi and Tim are driving down in Mimi's first car and are going to make it a three day trip and stop in places they want to stop.

Here's what we'll do when we're there: read, play in the water and eat. That's about it, besides talking and laughing only as people who have done this five or six times (or over 20 times for Bern and Mimi and me....) can do.

I want some of my ashes scattered in the waters off Oak Island--that's how important that place is to me. And it will be achingly joyful, as always, with wine enough to make it mellow. We used to spend three weeks or a month there when the kids were young. Amazing memories. We 'grew up' as a family there.

I was talking to Darcy today, telling her about it, about Oak Island. She said she'd look it up on line because it sounds like a place she and Justin would like to go. But I don't want to talk to too many people about it--it's almost empty after Labor Day and I want it to stay that way....

I'll take my lap top and blog from there...if I can remember my password. On my desktop I can go straight to it. But not always on the laptop....

It's still too weeks away, but I'm ready inside. More from me before then in this place, under the Castor Oil Tree.....

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Enough is enough

We really have to do something about Westboro Baptist Church--they're the folks who bring hate and nonsense to the funerals of brave men and women who die in defense of our country because...hell, it's hard to say why exactly...but it has to do with GLBT stuff and the Defense Department's acceptance of the fact that there are military folks who are gay. Go figure.

Now they have announced via Twitter that they plan to protest against the hellish behavior of GLBT folks at Robin Williams' funeral. Apparently he was an 'enabler of gays' (whatever the hell that means) and he make jokes about God.

(What did Jesus say to the bartender? "Bring me water in a wine glass."--Maybe the Westboro folks will show up at my funeral now.....)

Seriously, this kind of hate and nonsense has no place in the world of death and funerals.

I often ponder the hate that people have for 'the other'. The gospel this Sunday is about Jesus' conversation with a Gentile woman in Matthew( also told in Mark). She comes to ask him to heal her daughter. The disciples want to send her away because she is 'the other'. And even Jesus tells her he has come to the children of Israel and the bread of the children should not be fed to 'dogs'.

Jesus Christ, what were you thinking?

That passage, only in Mark and Matthew is the only place in the gospels where 1) Jesus is unkind to someone asking him for help and 2) learns something from 'the other'.

The woman says to him, bowing before him, "but shouldn't the dogs be allowed to eat the crumbs from the children's table?"

Jesus is suddenly stunned by the Gentile woman's faith and heals her daughter.

I don't want to suggest we should wonder "What Would Jesus Do?"--those wrist bands with WWJD drove me crazy.

But isn't it time that the supposed sane--you and me, for example--stood up in some productive way to the obviously crazy--like Westboro Baptist Church and say, "For God's sake, enough is enough! Go under whatever rock you crawled out from under and hate as much as you want--but you have no right to be in 'our space' and especially in the space where we are mourning the death of a patriot or a beloved comedian...."

Wouldn't that make sense? I'm just asking.....

Friday, August 15, 2014

The last thing I want to write about....


I don't want to write about that. But the truth is, Robin Williams' suicide has put the issue front and center. Never mind that hundreds? thousands? each day commit suicide. All of that hasn't made it the thing that dominates social media. So, I feel I have to write about it, want to or not....

First of all, I'm the worst person to write about suicide since, and I believe this is true, I've never had a suicidal moment, not ever. I'm not sure I've ever even been 'depressed' in a way that deserves that title. I've seen a lot of psychologists and counselors in my life--but it was never about 'depression' in any clinical sense, it was always about: 'what do I do next in my life'.

I have, however, known suicidal people. One of the wards I covered in my Clinical Pastoral Counseling summer Spring Grove Mental hospital in Maryland was a ward of suicidal teenage girls. Most of them had tried more than once and most of them would keep trying, I believe, until they succeeded. They were dead set (excuse the pun) on killing themselves. They talked to me about it very matter-of-factly. It was what they were eventually going to do as soon as they could figure out how to have their doctor check all the right boxes and let them out of the hospital--where suicide was more difficult than out in the world. (One girl got her wish without getting out of the hospital--she filed down the tend of a plastic fork she stole from the cafeteria until it was sharp enough to slit her wrists, which she did.

The day after, in the ward, everyone was trying to counsel girls to not be upset, when, in fact, all they were upset about was it wasn't them in the morgue.

So, here's my first observation about something I have no first-hand, experiential knowledge about: for the person committing suicide, it is an act of hope.

Those girls convinced me of that during that summer of 1974. People who commit suicide think of it as a hopeful act since they seem to assume that death is 'better' than life.

One thing lots of mental health care folks got upset about regarding Robin Williams' suicide was that somebody involved in the movie Aladdin (where Robin was the voice of the Genie) and a movie critic on National Public Radio reflected on the reaction of the Genie upon getting out of the lamp and compared that to Robin's death. "He's free of his demons", both those people said. I disagree. What I believe is 'the demons WON'.

Joan Rivers, of all people, not my top echelon of psychological experts, said that Robin's suicide was 'a permanent solution to a temporary problem'. An amazing insight.

Suicide doesn't 'free' us--it kills us.

Now, I don't think any of us has the right to judge anyone who chooses that 'permanent solution'. We haven't walked in their moccasins. Not for a moment. No one can understand why someone kills themselves any more than I can imagine being Nigerian or Palestinian. I just can't imagine that. So, don't judge them.

It's possible to disagree and not judge. It really is.

Of course, great pain is left behind and visited on people who didn't decide to kill themselves. That much is obvious to the point of being overstated. Robin Williams' wife and children and friends will be second guessing themselves for the rest of their lives. "What could I have said/done/been that would have mattered?" they will ask themselves always.

But here's my second observation: someone who 'hopes' death is better than life is not held responsible for the pain their suicide causes. They just didn't consider all that--probably 'couldn't consider' any of that. Life had simply become so globally unbearable that nothing and no one could have possibly considered into the decision.

I don't think people should kill themselves, though faced with unendurable pain--psychical or psychological--pain I can't imagine since I've never had it...well, who am I to say.

I never met him, of course, but I think of Robin as my friend. Rest in Peace, my friend. I'm sorry you felt you had to grab for this particular hope. And I will miss you always.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, Baby Boy...

My son, Joshua Dylan (after 'Bob', not 'Thomas'!) turned 39 today. What on earth are we doing with a 39 year old son??? We're barely that ourselves....How did I live this long? After all, I was part of the 'live fast, love hard, die young and leave a beautiful memory' generation....

I have a picture of him in my desk that was taken shortly after they cleaned him up by the hospital. He looks a little confused and is holding his hands up by his face as if to say, 'what are these things'.

The little holder the hospital gave us says "our new manager". Ain't it the truth! He weighed 7 pounds and 1 ounce and we had no idea what to do with him....First children are a fly by the seat of your pants kind of thing. By the time Mimi came along three years later we'd learned owner's manual and were much calmer and confident.

The birth announcements Bern and I made (being still semi-hippies) were in the shape of an apple and said, "Guard him, O Lord, as the apple of your eye...." I pray that still, every day.

He was a great baby, fun, a good sleeper, fast to adjust to his life. And he has grown into a great man. (On their birthdays each year, whether in person or on the phone, Bern tells Josh and Mimi the story of their birth. They've heard it enough that I think they look forward to it and they're old enough to not think it's 'dumb' as they did as teenagers

Oh, we had our moments: I used to tell people, "Josh spent his Junior Year of high school abroad and forgot to leave the country". That year he went from 8th in his class to 48th and when we heard from him much later about skipped classes and drinking beer and smoking dope, we were horrified and blessed the powers that be that kept it from us at the time....And his first semester at U. Mass, Amherst, his GPA was like 1.9. That's when we told him we were paying for 8 semesters and no more--not even summer school. Give him credit, he finished in 8 semester with (somehow given that start!) a cumulative GPA of 3.4 in History.

He spent the year after college in England, working at a pub in Chelsea. He came home and worked at the Rare Books library at Yale and even caught a guy who was defacing valuable books, while he decided to go to law school in Brooklyn.

That's where he met Cathy Chen, our daughter-in-law and they are both lawyers in Baltimore--Josh at a firm that does lots of 'out of court' stuff and Cathy in the Prosecutor's office, specializing in prosecuting spousal abuse defendants.

Together they gave us the loves of our life: Emma, Morgan and Tegan, our grand-daughters par excellant.

I love Josh immensely and so very proud of him--not just for making twice the amount of money I ever made, but because of the man and husband and father he is.

They do an incredible job--Josh and Cathy--of making those girls life wonderful. As busy as the two of them are and as crazy as it is to raise children in an urban center these days, they get it done.

So, happy birthday 'bonnie Bobby Shaftoe' (one of our many nicknames for him). Be happy and content and fulfilled. You couldn't have turned out any better....I love you....

I would be so very happy if I could be sure Josh knows how much I love him and how proud I am of him. Fathers and sons are complicated, you all know, and I'm not sure he does 'really know it' though I tell him all the time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reading too much?

Since last Friday, when I found John Stanford's Field of Prey on the shelves at the library after being on the call list since April, I've read that, Robert Galbraith's (aka J.K. Rowling) The Silkworm, Vicki Delany's Canadian mystery Under Cold Stone, The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman, Mark Billingham's The Bones Beneath and am entranced by The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (which the jacket says is 'a pseudonym').

So, I'm 127 pages into my 6th book since Friday--5 days.

I had a friend once who I thought 'meditated too much'. He was always just a tad beyond contact on a meaningful level.

I think maybe, just maybe, I read too much.

I tend to live in the novels rather than in the world I share with Bern and the rest of the world. I think about what I'm reading a lot when I'm not reading. I read when I eat breakfast and lunch. I read on the deck or at a table or in a rocking chair in the living room or standing up while I'm cooking or on the back porch standing up having a cigarette.

I truly love to read. I'm just not sure if I'm keeping it in check....

I don't watch much TV at all. I used to watch Yankee games and college football and pro football and college basketball a lot. One year--maybe a decade ago--I either watched or listened to about 130 Yankee games in one summer.

No more. I'll watch an inning or two or a few games of the tennis Bern is addicted to before going off to my addiction--reading.

Maybe it's that I'm 67 (How in the Hell did that Happen???) and realize there are a finite number of books I can read between now and when I shuffle off this mortal coil....Who knows? I could be addicted to drugs or alcohol--we'll I do drink a considerable amount of Pino Grigio--the only thing I drink....But this reading thing in my real addiction. A book always, always goes to the bathroom with me....I always, always have a book in the car....When I go to movies, I read through the previews until the lights go down....I read outside until it is so dark my opthmologist would have a fit.

Maybe when I finish the Claire North book--sometime tomorrow evening, I suspect--I'll see if I can go through Friday and Saturday without reading...just to see if I can or if I need a Bibliophile 12 Step Group....R.A. it would be....

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams--may the souls of all the departed rest in peace

So funny.

So wondrous.

So unpredictable.

So needed right now.

Maybe I can be logical in a day or two.

I feel like a part of my youth and my life is gone....

Our hawk

We have a hawk--well, obviously we don't 'have' a hawk, hawk's cant be had. But for the last month or so a yellow tailed hawk and his/her family have been around. We know because we hear them.

If you've ever watched "The Colbert Report" with Stephen Colbert, there is a sequence where an bald eagle comes flying through and makes a scary sound. Bald eagle's don't make that sound. Hawk's do.

I know this because I listen to National Public Radio's 'Bird Note Moments' and they told me this.

So, I know what a hawk sounds like--a really creepy, scary shriek. Which we've heard for the last month or so on a regular basis. We think the hawk's had chicks in a tree in the vacant lot behind our back yard. Lots of shrieks from the trees around our yard and the tree out there. So, we've had hawk patrol for a while.

I haven't seen a squirrel or chipmunk for over a week in our yard. Maybe they just moved on, but something tells me hawks like squirrels and chipmunks for snacks.

There was a bunny that came into our yard from time to time. I hope the hawks didn't get the bunny. I'm not sure why I like a bunny more than squirrels and chipmunks but I know I do.

I imagine that sense the area seems rather clear of fuzzy things, the hawks will find a new home base soon. It must be like that for them. I've seen one of them soaring over the graveyard of St. Peter's Church last week. Lots of squirrels there. Maybe they're moving a little to the north.

If they leave, I'll miss their shrieks. It's good drama, hearing hawks shriek.....

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Just something to ponder...

I was cleaning the kitchen after dinner (I cooked fresh green beans and potatoes, grilled red and yellow and orange peppers, baby cucumbers in balsamic vinegar and sliced tomatoes--a vegetarian meal--except for the massive amount of bacon that was in the beans!) when a song came on the radio, sung by a beautiful soprano voice without accompaniment, except for a bridge to the last verse on a mandolin.

Here are the words to that song--you probably know them already:

I peeked in to say goodnight
And then I heard my child in prayer:
"And for me some scarlet ribbons
Scarlet ribbons for my hair."

All the stores were closed and shuttered
All the streets were dark and bare
And in our town no scarlet ribbons
Not one ribbon for her hair.

Through the night, my heart was aching.
Just before the dawn was breaking,
I peeked in and on her bed,
In gay profusion lying there,
Lovely ribbons, scarlet ribbons,
Scarlet ribbons for her hair.

If I live to be a hundred
I will never know from where,
came those lovely scarlet ribbons,
Scarlet ribbons for her hair.

When the mandolin came in for the bridge to the last verse, I burst into tears, so full of joy and wonder I doubted I could breathe.


This is about what happens when we age. The popular opinion is that we get more conservative as we age--draw in on ourselves, as it were.

That's not my opinion. I believe as we age we get more like we are already.

It's true for me: I get more liberal and open every day. And more weepy. I've always tended toward tears, but the older I get, the more I find myself weeping at the least provocation. More often tears of joy and wonder, but listening to a radio report on what's happening in Gaza the other day, tears started running down my cheeks at the awfulness of it all.

As you age (and you do every single day!) pay attention and ponder whether you're changing or just becoming more and more who you have always been. My money is on the latter....

Friday, August 8, 2014

Conversation with myself in the basement

I was down in the basement getting my clothes from the dryer when I noticed about half my shirts were 'inside out'. As I was turning them 'right side out' I realized that's what I've always called turning inside out shirts the right way--turning them 'right side out'.

Often as small children new to dressing themselves, Josh and Mimi would put on a tee-shirt 'inside out'. I'd see it and smile and say, "you need to turn your shirt 'right side out'."

But down there in our low ceiling-ed, mostly dirt floor basement with many rooms (I think I've told you before that our house was built in 1850 by a Congregationalist minister named, of all things, Bradley--there are many rooms and I've pondered whether or not he was part of the underground rail-road, though it seems runaway slaves would have stopped before Connecticut) anyway, taking clothes out of the dryer is mindless work and I suddenly realized that what you should probably say to a child or adult (I do it from time to time!) who puts a shirt on inside-out is this: "turn your shirt outside out."

Since the wrong way is 'inside out' the right way should be 'outside out', not 'right side out'.

Dumb as I now realize that is, in the moment I thought it was a brilliant insight so, when I carried my clothes upstairs I went to tell Bern, watching tennis on TV, about my 'brilliant insight'.

After I told her my pondering about what to say to someone with a tee-shirt inside out that I'd been talking to myself about in the basement, she looked at me the way she would have looked at me had I said: "I found a wombat in the basement."

Like that.

After a long silence when she must have realized what the silence was saying to me, she said, "that's interesting." Being told some profound insight you've had is 'interesting' is on the same level of reaction that you would have if someone said they found a wombat in the basement.

After another long silence and a gaze from her that seemed to indicate she was going over the nursing homes she knew in her head, she said: "I don't think there is a term for what's 'the right side' of a shirt. There's only a term for what isn't the 'right side'...'inside out'...."

Incredibly chastened, I went to go fold my underwear (or 'roll' it, since that's what I do to boxer shorts...though you probably would have been fine not knowing that fact...) and considered what she'd said. I pondered her words for a while and decided she was quite wrong. There's 'in-sync' to balance 'out of sync' and 'plumb' to balance 'not plumb' and 'in tune' to balance 'out of tune'....I thought of a couple of dozen and was about to go tell her how horribly wrong she was to think there was no value in the distinction between 'inside out' and 'outside out' when I decided I truly didn't have a dog in that fight and let it go. What would be the point, anyway....

Thursday, August 7, 2014

'by date' horror

So, I had some store-made crab cakes and a can of crab meat and I thought I'd add some more crab meat to the filling of the store-made cakes. I opened the can and gave Luke, the cat, the water out of the can. He began to drink it like it were the water of life...and I checked the used by date of the crab.

It was 6/13/09--which, having 4 degrees like I do, I knew meant June 13, 2009--which is 4 years and two months ago.

First you might wonder how anyone could have something that old in their can goods cabinet. And I couldn't tell you. Maybe because we use crab meat, when we use it, from the chilled section. And we probably could have used that crab meat a dozen times, but we got fresh instead.

So, why did we buy it in the first place? I have no idea. I would say Bern bought it and she would probably say that I bought it and we'd be back to the conversation about who needs to go to 'the home' first and I don't want to go there.

I tasted it after Bern smelled it and ruled it 'probably ok' and I thought the texture was wrong and I'm the one who won't eat chicken three days after it was cooked anyway. Bern believes in a much longer 'shelf life' than I do. I'm constantly asking Bern if she thinks this or that in the refrigerator is still good. She always says yes and half the time I throw it out anyway.

And I certainly wasn't going to eat crab, of all things, four years out of date.

If Luke dies tonight, I'll know I was right. But I don't want him to die, so I hope I'm wrong and my crab cakes would have more tasty than they were and I would have been happier about dinner than I was.

But who knows....4 years and 2 months is too long a stretch for me and I don't think I'm being unreasonable about that....

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Our yards

I know I've mentioned it before, but the truth is this: one of the reasons I believe in God is Bern's yards.

We've lived here since 1989, so she's had a quarter of a century to get them right--and they are so right!

From April on, something is always happening in the front yard and back yard. Just this afternoon I noticed yellow, purple, blue, white and orange in the back yard that weren't there a couple of weeks ago. I don't know any of the names of the flowers, but they keep coming all Spring and Summer and into the Fall.

In the front yard, she really specializes in exotic grasses that grow to washer/drier size and are in many hues of green. Nevermind the several species of ferns and ground cover.

I've loved her since 1964 and been married to her since 1970, but I'm still amazed and honored for what she brings into my life--among which is what she has transformed our back and front yards into.

Amazing. What a blessing....

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How stupid can white people be?

A guy named Bo Brooks, which I wish I could like because there were lots of Brooks' where I grew up and not a few 'Bo's', is a Republican Congressperson from Alabama and he told Laura Ingreham on Fox News ('Lord help us') that the only people it is safe to discriminate against are "white people".

He blamed the Democrats for fomenting 'race warfare' and 'hating white people'.

To her credit, even Laura Ingreham called Bo's remarks "a little over the top".

Lord Jesus, how stupid can White People be?

Being white in this country IS a problem--a problem for everyone who isn't.

White People run everything. Or, let me correct that, White Men run everything. Oh, women have made some progress but they still make 68 cents for every dollar a man makes in most states, doing the same jobs. But people of color--give me a break Bo...Black and Brown people in this country clean our toilets, cut our lawns, fill our pools, pick up our trash, don't get to go to college and over-populate our prisons. Raising the 'race question' is something that needs to be done.

(I have this unsubstantiated theory that the reason we have bent over backwards to send out electric bills and lots of other stuff in Spanish--unlike our refusal to make allowances for European immigrants--is that we want to keep the Brown underclass as an underclass to do our dirty work. And by 'our', I mean White People.

If there needs to be a war on anyone in this country, it needs to be on White People (Men). I just pray enough of the women (a majority, by the way) get together with the Hispanic, African American and Asian folks to turn our government around and truly, just like Bo fears, throw the White Men out and take over.

That's what I hope. They'd do a much better job of running things than White Men are doing...hell, my two 7 year old and 4 1/2 year old Asian/American granddaughters could do a better job of running things than Bo Brooks and his white male peers in the House of Representatives.

I assure you they would because they are loving and inclusive and really worry about (sometimes to my distress) about 'being FAIR'. That's more than Bo and his Bros do, believe me.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Disappointment in my alma mater...

My alma mater, West Virginia University, did no better than 4th on this year's list of 'best party schools'.

And that after several years of being in the top 2! WVU is where people burn couches on the street when the football team wins...I'm talkin' about serious 'party-time'!

And who squeezed them out of NUMBER ONE, you might ask...that's where the embarrassment and disappointment comes in.

In third place was UCal Santa Barbara. Ok, lots of sun and surf and no sports teams to speak of...why not party? I can get that.

In second place, though, the University of Iowa! Iowa, Jesus/Mary/and Joseph--a place that flat and dull, in the part of America most of us only fly over? Help me with this...maybe it's the flatness and dullness that drive them to drink and party, who knows?

And the 1st ranked Party School in America...give me a break...Syracuse of WVU's top rivals until college sports went crazy and WV is playing in the Southwest as part of the Big Twelve and Sryacuse--hundreds of miles from the Atlantic--is playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Syracuse? Give me a break? How can the Orange party? Well, it is cold as hell up there and those long winter nights drag on and on...OK, I get it.

At least we're still number 4. When Providence or Southern Methodist get ahead of WVU, I'll seriously start worrying about the party vibes in Morgantown.....

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My sermon today

(Here's the sermon I gave today at St. James in Higganum. I really didn't prepare it very much--since I've been doing this forever and think I know what I'm doing....The thing was, the way it turned out sort of astonished me. I never meant to go where I went. Maybe the Spirit led me and maybe I'm getting 'a tad off' as we would have said where I came from if someone was slipping into dementia. I even sent it in an email to Bea at the Cluster office to forward to Cluster members with the notice that it was preached at Emmanuel instead of St. James! Don't tell Bern, we have a running total of reasons the other should be 'in the home'!)

Matthew 14.13-21

The gospel today about the feeding of the multitude is interesting in several ways.

First of all, it is one of only three stories told in all four gospels. In fact, Mark likes it so much he tells it twice! Chapters 6 and 8--look it up.

The other two stories in all the gospels are the cleansing of the Temple and the Anointing. John puts the cleansing story near the beginning of his gospel and the other three have it near the end. And all four versions of the woman anointing Jesus with expensive oil is very different in each of it's telling--no one agrees who the woman is  and what the moral of the story is.

But the five telling's of the Feeding are remarkably alike--differing only in minor detail. When we get the same story told five times it, we should ponder it's meaning carefully.

It takes place in what Matthew calls "a deserted place"--though anywhere where there are five thousand 'man', plus ever how many 'women and children' there were is difficult to think of as 'deserted'! It's time to eat supper and the disciples urge Jesus to send the crowds to villages to buy food, but he tells them 'feed them yourselves'. Feed this mob, he says, with five loaves and two fish. Right, Jesus!

People are always trying to explain this miracle. I had an assistant once who preached on one of the Feeding stories and said the people were so moved by Jesus' faith that they pulled out the food they had brought and shared and that's where the leftovers came from. She and I had quite a conversation after her sermon. I couldn't see why she just couldn't be satisfied with it being a miracle--five loaves, two fish...everybody eats and twelve baskets left over....

One of the reasons this story is so provocative is that eating is one of the most basic of human needs. Stop eating and you'll die. We all know that.

Besides, how do we celebrate as human beings? Holidays and special occasions a observed by sharing a meal with loved ones and friends. Not only is eating vitally important, it is our way of acknowledging and celebrating important events.

Plus, this story points to what we do at that Table up there when we gather. We eat and drink. Not filet mignon and fine wine--rather bad Port and bread more akin to fish food. But that wine and that bread is the very blood and body of Christ. It fills our hungers, our needs, our longing.

We 'hunger' after much more than food. We hunger after hope. We hunger after joy. We hunger after peace. We hunger after safety. And most, most of all. We hunger to be 'whole'.

Was it Pascal who said 'there is a God-shaped hole in each of our hearts'? We can never be 'whole' until that hole is filled in. Jesus never said we should be 'good'. But he said over and again we should be 'whole'--complete, full, finished....

Let me tell you something that might give you pause about coming to this railing in a little while: when you leave here you will be carrying Jesus within you--literally! You will have taken his Body and Blood into yourself and will carry him out the door.

Can you imagine what truly understanding that would mean? It would transform our lives! What if we were totally aware that when we leave this place we are carrying Jesus into the world. What a difference that would make in how we meet people and 'be' in the world. Our 'God shaped hole' would be filled in. We would be 'whole' and would carry that 'wholeness' into our daily lives.

What a difference that would make! It would transform our lives and the lives we lead.

Ponder that. Ponder 'carrying Jesus' into the world.

Try to imagine....


Friday, August 1, 2014

This is August in Connecticut?

We have windows open at 10:13 p.m. and air conditioning off!

I'm astonished by the summer in New England this year. We usually get 90's and 95% humidity in July and August. So far there's only been one day that I would consider Summer In New England. We sit outside and read most every day, Bern and I. I haven't cursed the gods of summer once yet.

So what's this about?

It tried to rain all afternoon but couldn't, yet there was a cool breeze and it wasn't humid.

I'm beginning to feel like I live on a mountain though Cheshire is probably about 300 feet above sea level--if that.

I'm not complaining...far from it...if this is August in New England I'm glad I live here!

I just don't get it.

But I'm not complaining...not a bit...keep August coming like this....

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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.