Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Human knees are remarkable architecture. They were designed to help us stand upright and walk without dragging our hands on the ground. All that happened over 200,000 years ago and knees have been working ever since.

Mine aren't. I had surgery in September of last year to reattach my quad muscle to my knee and let the ligaments and all grow back. I walk OK--except for steps--but there are still some issues with my right knee,

And my left knee 'pops', audibly when I stand up from sitting down.

I went to my orthopedic surgeon this week. He told me to give the reconstructed right knee another three months and that my left knee was full of arthritis. All the cartilage that lubricates my knee has been dried up by the arthritis and the 'pop' I hear is just bone against bone. (Pleasant though, huh?)

He told me that the X ray of that knee would usually mean I had a lot of pain. Which I don't. Just popping.

He told me I was lucky.

I'm glad I don't have pain in that knee, but I don't feel lucky. Not by a long shot.

"Pop", "pop", "pop" doesn't feel lucky....

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Happy Father's Day (to me)

(I wrote this on Sunday and neglected to hit 'post'. Two days late....)

There are almost no other days that make me as humble and proud and blessed as Father's Day.

There are very few parents I feel comfortable talking about kids with because ours turned out so remarkable...and not everyone's did.

Mimi (38) is the Director of Operations and Special Projects at the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, a nationwide non-profit organization housed in New York City. Josh (41) is a lawyer at Rosenberg, Martin and Greenberg in Baltimore and three times voted 'rising star' by the Baltimore Legal Association.

He's married to a prosecutor, Cathy Chen, for the Baltimore City Prosecutor's office. They have given us three wondrous grand-daughters.

Mimi is married to Tim McCarthy, who works for Linked-In (his office is in the Empire State Building!) and they gave us baby Eleanor.

I wish I deserved them, I really do.

But, instead, they have blessed me so.

Happy Father's Day to me....

Saturday, June 17, 2017

So I play on-line games

Lordy, Lordy, I have to admit it--I play Hearts and Solitaire on line.

Here's the thing, I win about 90% of the time in hearts and only 15% of the time in Solitaire.

One reason is the hearts game is badly formed. Throw the Ace of Hearts and you'll get the King and Queen. Real people, as opposed to a computer, would hold on to the King and Queen in case they needed them to stop a run.

But in Solitaire I'm playing against the cards, not three computer driven opponents.

Thing is, which gives me something to ponder, I love both games equally.

I love trying to get above 90% in Hearts (I never have!) or 15% in Solitaire (I never have!) though that's a 75% difference in winning or losing.

Maybe those games, like life, aren't about the winning or losing percentage but about simply 'getting better' at what your doing.

I invite you to sit with that possibility for a bit.

What if--just, what if--the whole game we're playing that we call life, isn't about winning or losing but about simply 'getting better'. What if that's the Truth?

How would that alter the occurring of 'how life shows up' for you?

It's not about 'winning' at all, but simply 'getting better'.

I'm going to have to dwell on that for a good spell.

I hope you will too.

Maybe there's just some wisdom and possibility and creation in there somewhere if we ponder it long enough.

Greatly to be wished for and wondrously to be received.....

Brooklyn and back

8:20 a.m. train down and 3:02 train home. In between, 6 stops on the 4/5 train to within 2 blocks of Mimi and Tim's apartment.

An hour or so adoring Eleanor and then a walk through a worsening rain to have lunch. Ellie fell asleep on Mimi's shoulder about half-way through and then we sat in a little area at the front of the restaurant for an hour or so with some friendly people until the rain slacked. Ellie woke up halfway through that and totally charmed the strangers around her.

A just right visit--a hit of Mimi, Tim and Ellie. And riding Metro North instead of driving made all the difference in the world! I read half a very good book and dozed a little. The train takes 90 minutes. No way to do that in a car because from our house to theirs is exactly 90 miles and driving 60 once you hit the city is something you could (maybe) do at 3 a.m.

On the subway there was a family from Brazil speaking Portuguese on one side of us and a family from Germany speaking German on the other side of us. Ah, New York! And in Brooklyn I saw a lot fewer couples who were both straight and both white than otherwise. Ah, Brooklyn!

I could never live in Manhattan--still too much a country boy. I might survive in Fort Green, the part of Brooklyn Mimi and Tim live in--though Brooklyn has nearly 3 million souls in 71 square miles. But I'd have to have a garage and a deck and a yard--which probably would put me in the $3million range, which I'm not in!

A wild trip, but manageable. Much better than driving.

And Eleanor IS the best baby....

Mimi and Tim are two of my top people as well.

Friday, June 16, 2017

going to Brooklyn

We're taking the train tomorrow to Brooklyn to see Mimi and Tim and, of course, baby Ellie.

Ellie is pulling up and crawling like crazy. Mimi said they thought they'd get her a cage--she said 'pen' but I thought 'cage' after seeing them chase her around their apartment on Bern's phone.

I swore I wasn't driving to NYC again after our last trip. It took us 4 hours and 15 minutes from Brooklyn to Cheshire. We've actually driven to Baltimore in that time!

So, a quick trip. Down to visit and have lunch and then come home. Got to get back to the old dog at a decent hour.

But even a few minutes with those 3 is worth the hassle of riding the train and subway and driving to New Haven. Lovely.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

ok, F--- Facebook!

I used to be on Facebook when I was Rector of St. John's in Waterbury. I looked at about a dozen times in a dozen years and got bored. Then, when I retired, I got off Facebook after about a half-an-hour of clicks.

Then, a couple of months ago, I went on to see if I could see a video of a sermon of mine that was supposedly there. It wasn't.

Everyday I get 7 or 8 emails about people who have said something on my...what's it called? My 'frame'? My, uh, 'pallet'? My, is it, "wall"? Well that makes less than no sense. I don't have a wall except in my house and there's nothing there.

I always look if my son put something on whatever it is I have on Facebook. But tonight I decided to explore a bit and it was horrible. People put up nonsense and there are ads and people I never heard of are there saying things I think are deplorable (Yes, Hillary, I think that word applies from time to time!!!)

So, 'begone, Facebook'! I'm not going to try to get 'off' since I know what a pain that is. I'm just not looking anymore. I'll let Josh know in case I'm supposed to reply to anything he puts there--though I don't think I'd know how!!!

Since I'll be wrapping up this blog after 116 more posts, maybe I'll just sign off social media altogether. No email. No texts. Call me or send me a letter, that kind of thing.

I'll have to ponder it, but it seems like something to lean into.....

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Faith as a possibility....

We had a long discussion about faith/believing/knowing at the little group I go to on Tuesday mornings today. For some reason I just couldn't get into it too deeply and didn't know why. On the way home, I remembered why...I wasn't 'letting the workshop be the workshop!'

I help lead this "Making a Difference Workshop" where we spend 4/5 of the time either doing centering prayer or dealing in two domains--the domain of experience and the domain of concept.

So, we spend most of the workshop exposing how wed and trapped we are in the domains of concept and experience, where our concepts, which come from our experiences, begin to color and determine future experiences. We 'work backwards' until we can reach the point where we can un-conceal (different from 'reveal' which is why my spell check doesn't like it) a third domain. Experience and concepts are all about 'getting somewhere'. The third domain--the Domain of Possibility--is a place 'to come from...."

Our conversation today was bogged down (as we almost always are) in the two domains of experience and concept, which actually collapse on each other into a vicious circle. What I needed to say, if I'd only remembered to let the workshop work, was to create the possibility of 'faith' or 'believing' AS A POSSIBILITY.

Everything exists in all three domains. God, for example, exists as an 'experience' of God/Spirit/the Holy and a 'concept' of God. But both the experience and concept are dwarfed and transformed by God 'as a possibility', as a creation, as a limitless declaration. God then become a place to 'come from' and BE, not a place of presence or representation. (That's 'doing and having', or 'experience and concept'.)

Am I going too fast? We use three days to do this workshop and I'm trying to re-create it in a blog post!!!

Faith as a possibility helps us to create a future that wouldn't happen anyway.

That's one of the mantras of the workshop--'there are two futures: the one that will come if you just wait and the one you can create that wouldn't happen anyway.'

Faith as a possibility means we bring the limitless possibility of 'faith' into the moment. We 'be' faith, rather than experiencing faith or having a concept of faith. That's why the second rail of the workshop is centering prayer. Centering prayer is a prayer of 'being' rather than 'doing' or 'having'.

I'm not sure any of this is making sense--but I know our conversation today needed a high octane injection of 'being'. We were talking about 'experiencing God' and having 'concepts/traditions/theologies about God. What we needed was God as a limitless possibility to 'come from' into the next moment.

(Coming from 'being' devolves into experience and concept--we call that, my favorite bit of workshop language: 'the ontological cascade' (cool, huh?)--but we can also return to 'being' again and again and 'come from' being by, guess what?, merely 'SAYING SO....'

Should be familiar as a way of creating: "God SAID 'let there be light....."

You know the rest of that.

Maybe next Tuesday I can come from 'Being' into the conversation....Devoutly to be hoped.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

me too...

Bern and I were talking earlier about getting older. She told me that turning 30, for her, was an opportunity to leave behind some things she no longer had to think about. "I knew I'd never be a model for 17 magazine," she said. "Took pressure off. One less thing to worry about. That's the way we should be now."

How right she is.

I wrote about Bela, our 12 year old Puli getting older. Well, so are we.

Our daughter, Mimi, told Bern a while back, knowing we have always had a dog--"when Bela dies, you and Dad should get an older dog...."

We probably will--though I dread the day Bela dies. I've thought, more than once, that it might be better for Bern if I died before Bela. Our house is paid off. She'll get part of my pension and SS. She'll be fine. And Bela could comfort her more about 'the man' (which is what I am to Bela) than I'll be able to when he dies.

I've backed off that. I want to outlive Bela and get a 7 year old rescue dog after an appropriate mourning.

But I am getting older.

That whole conversation about turning 30 was spurred by my telling Bern I can't jump anymore. With my repaired knee and the other knee that pops audibly whenever I stand up, I just don't think I can--or should--jump.

She told me then about her turning 30 and also told me 'jumping is over-rated'.

Granted, it is. But I used to be a pretty good basketball player and loved to shoot jump shots.

Playing basketball, she told me, is also over-rated.

I'm going to ponder 'the opportunity to leave things behind' as opposed to regretting I can't do things I used to do.

That may be the thing to do as I move toward 80 in a decade.

Yea, I think that's a plan....

Friday, June 9, 2017

He's getting old

Our dog, Bela, is 12 now--what's that, 84 in dog years?

He's on some new pain meds that have helped a lot, but his joints are, like my knees, problematic.

He hesitates to go up steps without help. Jumping on the bed is an issue.

I tend to stay downstairs or upstairs longer than I would normally just so he doesn't have to navigate the steep steps in our 1850 house.

Jumping in the car or Bern's truck is tricky--as is jumping out. He slips on our hardwood floors downstairs.

He eats like a champ and sleeps well, but his body just isn't what it used to be and he is coward-ed by things like he's never been.

He's so much a part of our lives--bad, bad dog that he is--that watching him breaks my heart.

Getting old isn't a bed of roses, that's for sure.

Lordy, lordy, Bela, it's so hard to see you like this....

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dear Lord, help me be calm....

Well, today James Comey, fired FBI director, testified before a Senate Committee.

Lordy, Lordy, our President lied about the FBI Director. Lordy, Lordy, Trump asked Comey for 'loyality' when Comey's job was to be objective about the President. Lordy, Lordy did he really ask Comey to step back from an active investigation?

Take a big breath, Jim. Calm down. Go to your silent space. Relax.

All this is as bad as it gets.

The only thing worse is to imagine Mike Pence being President!!! He's a 'true believer' in Right Wing stuff. At least Trump (the only good thing I can say about him) really isn't a 'true believer' about anything, anywhere, anytime....

Dear Lord, help me be calm.....

Deep breaths, Jim. Deep breaths....

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How Great Is This?

I went to the Cluster Council Meeting tonight--representatives from all 3 of the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry where I've served for 5 years or so (me and linear time again, who knows how long it's been???)

Two of the 9 were absent but with the Cluster Administrator and me there were still 9 folks.

The meeting was full of joy and wonder and sharing and seriousness and commitment and good humor and stories and hard work and fun.

How great is that?

I don't know when meetings, in my life, were so life-giving.

Remarkable people, ideas and groundedness and a real commitment to who we are and how we serve.

"Better than that," as Yoda would say, "it does not get."

How blessed and privileged I am, here, later in life, to be able to serve and be served by the folks at Emmanuel, Killingworth, St. James, Higganum and St. Andrew's, Northford.

Thank you POWERS THAT BE (and Episcopal priest should probably say 'Thank you God', but I'm not a traditional priest anymore than the Cluster is a 'traditional Episcopal Church'. 'Powers that Be' works for me and I think for that group of people around the table with me eating remarkable desserts and finger food St. Andrew's provided. (By the way, St. Andrew's does food way beyond the other two. They just do.)

I never eat breakfast when I go to celebrate at St. Andrew's--coffee hour will be 'brunch', I know.

I simply can't imagine what I'd rather be doing as a priest at 70 that would be better than this.

Lucky me. Blessed. Full of joy. Wonder. Love.

Monday, June 5, 2017

2017--that's it....

When I decided I needed to decide when to retire as Rector of St. John's in Waterbury, CT, I finally came up with the idea of retiring the month I had 30 years in the Church Pension Fund.

I could have stayed on--I was only 63, after all--but., because I was going to be 63, I could get early Social Security. I know, I know, people tell you to wait to take SS benefits. I think the Social Security Administration is who does that. I did the math and taking SS at 63 vs 70 means that until I'm 82 I'll get more money taking it at 63. Go figure that.

So, anyway, that  story is about my wondering when I'll stop writing my blog.

I've written 1904 posts. I don't post every day, but most days, except when I'm away and since I can only post from my desk top computer--having no other web devices--I don't post when traveling.

I decided I'll stop at 2017 posts. That's 113 more posts and since it's only June 5, I'll get it done before the end of 2017.

I could hang on, just like I could still be at St. John's since I'm two years from mandatory retirement in the Diocese of CT. But I needed a stopping place so I would stop and it would be over.

So, 2017 posts will be the end--the stopping place--for "Under the Castor Oil Tree". I'm sure I'll miss these musings and ponderings, just as I missed being Rector of St. John's. But I got over that and I'll get over this.

I like 'clean breaks', so I'm delighted I've made the decision of what the 'end' of this is.

113 to go. Lots of pondering and musing left. But at least I know now when I can stop.

That feels good for me. It really does.

Stay with me until the end, OK?


I read an article on line about how Harvard had taken back some offers to be in the class of 2021 because of the racist and otherwise unacceptable 'memes' some of those who had been accepted posted on a group created by those accepted to Harvard.

I realized I really didn't have any idea what a 'meme' is.

So, I went on line for an hour or so--read Wikipedia (the article  was more complicated than an article about 'String Theory' or "Black Holes") and got on a site that had a collection of 'memes'.

I looked at that for a long time.

A 'meme', unless I'm really missing something (which is totally possible) is a picture with words on it that make it either ironic or funny or something else.

There was a picture of a man mowing a lawn with a tornado in the background. I found dozens of variations on that picture with different messages on them.

Is that a 'Meme'?

And how do they get offensive? I must have looked at a couple of hundred on that web site and none of them offended me though lots of them made no sense to me.

You know, as the last flip-phone, only a desk-top computer person I know--there are lots of times I feel pleased to be that 'out of it'.

And this is one of them.

I don't need to know what a 'meme' is, which is lucky since after a lot of research, I still don't know what a 'meme' is.....

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Bern's owls

Bern ordered two owls from Amazon. Amazon has everything!

They're not real owls--fake ones that are supposed to scare away creatures.

I must admit, since they came I have seen a squirrel or chipmunk anywhere near our deck, though I didn't believe the hype.

One is sitting up and it's head moves. I'm not sure what the mechanism is but it won't be looking at you when you go out on the deck and when you glace up, it is. Creeps me out a bit.

The other is flying on plastic wings and will be down by the strawberry patch or next to the tomatoes to keep birds and squirrels away.

She moves the head turning one around and it always startles me when its been moved.

I'm not sure, but I may be more weirded-out by the owl than by squirrels and chipmunks....

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Letter to my granddaughters

Dear Morgan, Emma, Tegan and Ellie,

Today your President--well, no one you voted for, thank God--but the guy who is sorta 'running our country' chose fossil fuels over your future.

Not exactly, it's much more complicated than what I just said--but he made us one of three countries (the other two are Syria and Nicaragua) not part of the Paris Climate Control Accord.

It is a sad day for us all and for the world, that the country that contributes almost a third of the greenhouse gases with only 6% of the world's population (do your fractions and percentages girls!) is no longer a part of a world wide effort to save the planet for you.

Oh, the planet will be fine for the rest of my lifetime...but yours, I'm not so sure. Baltimore and Brooklyn, where you live will start having sea rise issues before you're half my age.

I just hope I live long enough to vote for someone for President who will run on fixing all the nightmares He Who Will Not Be Named is creating.

That's my hope for me--but more so, for you.

I love you so much. You are, along with your grandma and Josh and Mimi (your dad, M/E/T and your mom Ellie) my life.

You just all.

Live long enough to have grandchildren to worry about and live more than life.

Love you, Granpa

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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.