Saturday, May 31, 2014


OK, my favorite singer ever was Cat Stevens. I wore out a couple of his albums and was devastated when he converted to Islam, changed his name to Yusaf Islam and stopped recording. He disappeared into his life of prayer and devotion and left me deeply respecting his life choice and yet begrudging his leaving me.

Bern and I were watching the Thunder/Spurs game and she kept flipping back to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions because Cat Stevens was to be one of the inductees. Neither of us believed he would be there--Linda Ronstat wasn't, after all. But after Kiss was inducted (Josh's favorite band when he was a young child--Bern used to paint his face like their's) there was Art Garfunkle, of all people, introducing Cat Stevens.

Not only was he there, dressed as you expect middle-class Arabs to be--a coat, a collar-less shirt, a vest and comfortable pants--and he sang three songs.

I had almost forgotten how wondrous his music and lyrics were. The third, and last song was Peace Train. Amazing....

God (Allah) bless him in his new life. He, as a gray  haired man, can still sing the shit out of a song......

Thursday, May 29, 2014

In full bloom

The Rhododendron around our house is in full bloom. We have three plants that hang around the edge of our deck and three in front of our front porch and one on the side yard that I transplanted from the deck area and is 12 feet high and about to collapse under the weight of the blooms.

Rhododendron, which my spell check underlines in red but won't give me an option to for spelling, is the state flower of West Virginia. Some call it Mountain Laural, but I prefer the long name.

In early May, when I was a kid, would load me in the car and we'd go Rhododendron looking the way people in New England go 'leafing' in the fall.

A thousand shades of green would be interrupted all across Peal Chestnut Mountain and down through the little towns along RT. 52 until we went up Elkhorn Mountain and back home.

Our Mountain Laural is pale purple, but back home there were pink and deep red variates as well. It was wondrous, all the color among the endless shades of green.

Green is a color with endless shades, if you ponder 'green' for a while.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My baby girl's getting married...

I've known it for a long time. I've longed for it much longer. But today it hit me for the first time that my baby girl is getting married in October.

I couldn't be happier for her and for Tim. Tim and Mimi have been a couple for over a decade. They've lived together for most of that time. I was used to that and it seemed right. Then, six months or so ago (my problem with linear time and all!) they got engaged.

Delighted as I was, it seemed perfectly normal and I settled into that.

Then, for the last few days, we've been making reservations for the hotel in Brooklyn and it hit me between the eyes--my baby girl is getting married....

Even while I was getting permission from the Diocese of Long Island (Brooklyn is part of that Diocese, go figure...) and the City Clerk of New York City to officiate at their wedding, it didn't totally sink in. Mimi's getting married.....

Tim is one of the best guys ever. He's a computer guru (works for Linked In) and a talented musician. He went to Bennington with Mimi, a year ahead and just friends. And when both of them were in NYC, they found each other in a real way.

For the last five years or so (somewhere between 3 and 6--linear time and all that...) Tim and Mimi have gone to Oak Island, North Carolina with us for a week in September, just after Labor Day when no one with kids are there. We went to Oak Island for almost 20 years (until the kids didn't want to be in such an isolated place for several weeks). The first time was after my first year at Virginia Seminary, with three other couples from my class, two of whom were from North Carolina and had known the place. The second summer, Bern was pregnant with Josh. Every year after that until Josh (in high school) didn't even want to go if he took a friend. Then, over a decade later, Mimi called and asked where it was we used to go so she and Tim could go. After that she insisted we needed to go together and we have, along with John and Sherry, two old friends. It's always a blast and Tim is an integral part of it all.

We love him. I introduced him, even before this marriage thing, as "almost my son-in-law".

I couldn't be more delighted.

But she's my baby girl--certainly not a baby or a girl anymore--a full grown woman who makes more money than I ever did as a Development Officer for Jacob's Pillow, a dance place in the Berkshires. She has two in Brooklyn and the other in Stockbridge, MA. She is frighteningly smart, remarkably kind and beautiful as can be.

I've been looking at the pictures of her scattered about our house. Three of them are my favorites. First, she's 3 in a tank top and shorts, running recklessly down a hill in my father's yard, face as serious and intense as only a 3 year old can have running recklessly. The second is in a door way in the suite Bern and I stayed in when Josh was graduating from Law School. Her arms are thrown out like a character in a Broadway Musical and she is smiling to beat the band. And my favorite of all is one time took of the side of her face when she was smiling and her dimple looks like a hole in her face. (My second cousin, Kim, who is maybe ten years younger than Mimi, took me aside when she was 5 and Mimi was 15 and said, in a whisper, "Mimi has holes in her cheeks!" That's how pronounced Mimi's dimples are when she smiles.

She was the worst baby ever for the first six months--crying, arching her back when you tried to hold her, never sleeping. Then, at six months, something in her brain flipped and she became the most charming, wondrous, engaging child ever. And as an adult, none of that has changed.

Sometimes, she calls me 'Baba', what she called me as a small child. I have a photo of her taken in Australia when she was there, tan and lovely and holding a post-it note that says, "Hi, Baba" did I leave that out of my favorite pictures of her...?

And she's getting married. Be still my heart....

Memorial Day

We went to Baltimore Saturday morning and came back Tuesday. I meant to write something last night but was too worn out from driving and three days with little girls!

While we were there we went to Fort McKinley, where the Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Keys after one of the battles of the War of 1812. I'm not a big fan of visiting historic places, but Fort McKinley was really great. A video about the battle in the visitor's center was great and ended with everyone singing the SSB. And the Fort is pristine and well restored. The girls' favorite spot was a barracks because there was an old fashioned broom there. They took turns sweeping, over and over. Anytime there was a lull they'd run back there to sweep! (If only they got that focused about picking up toys and clothes....)

It was there that I witnessed an example of what I call: It's A Wonder Our Children Don't Kill Us the First Chance They Get.

A man wanted to take his toddler's picture. The little boy, for whatever reason (probably just because he was sick of having his picture taken!) wanted no part of it and kept walking away until he came to a wall--his father pleading for him to turn around all the way. The boy put his head down on the wall, hoping that would put an end to the whole picture taking thing. Then his father said, "Look, candy!" The boy turned around for candy and got his picture taken instead. Immediately, he burst into tears....

We went to a sea food restaurant with Cathy's parents and had a crab fest. There was wrapping paper on the tables and the waitress just dumped the crabs out. We used to eat crabs a lot when the kids were little and we'd go to North Carolina for three weeks every summer. I caught most of them--a nasty bit of work involving a piece of twine, a rotten chicken back, a sinker and a net. Crabbing was guaranteed to give you sunburn, fly bites and ankles bitten by shrimp. But I loved it.

But it's been years since I'd eaten crabs and, though it's sort of like riding a bike, the process comes back to you, my hands were a lot younger back then. Tearing the crabs apart started giving me cramps in my hands after a while. Tegan and Morgan ate as much as anyone would pick for them but Emma wanted no part of it! Between us, we ate 18 medium and a dozen large crabs. Messy business but oh, so good....

On the way back, we started listening to 880 AM to see how the traffic was. When we got on the Jersey Turnpike we were told there was at least a 2 hour delay on the GW Bridge. By the time we got there it was more like 10 minutes and I thanked the Baby Jesus that I didn't go through the Holland Tunnel like I thought about doing. All my travel in New York is by subway so I wasn't even sure where the Holland Tunnel came out but thought I could find the West Side Highway.

I went to pick  up the Puli at the Kennel and he was much better in the car than usual. For one think I had on the classical music station and I think that suited him better than NPR talk...the half a baggie of treats I fed him bit by bit when  he didn't bark may have contributed as well!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Going away

We're taking the dog in the morning to Holiday Hills in Wallingford and then driving to Baltimore until Tuesday.

I'll take my lap top and try to post something--but three grand-daughters take up a lot of time! Joyfully.

See you then or on Tuesday.....

Be well and stay well, my friends.....

Connecticut Spring

One of the joys of Connecticut is that we really have four distinct seasons. And when Spring come it comes with a vengeance!

Where only a few weeks ago, there was dirt, plants now thrive. The hostas and ferns are back in our side yard; the 6 rhododendron plants are about to burst into bloom: in our back yard alone, there much be "50 Shades of Green" which are a lot more life-giving and inspiring than the gray shades.

Tulips and daffodils came early, before the host of flowers and fauna that are now exploding all around us.

It is rained most of the day, on and off, (I wish we could outsource some of our rain to California) which is making more things wake up.

Spring and the growth of things is something that makes me hopeful that life really does triumph over death in the end. I ponder that every year. Late may is a tad late for the final and irrevocable arrival of Spring, but I'll take it with joy and gratitude....

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Vanity, Vanity, all is Vanity...

I went into the package store where I buy wine to buy wine and a guy was there who I sometimes see late at night or on weekends. He obviously has another job and this is just a part-time guy.

I was the priest at his marriage--that I know--but I can't for the life of me remember his name. He still has a wedding ring on but I don't ask about his marriage. He's very friendly, though, so things must be OK...I only pray....

He has a goatee and I mentioned there were so gray hairs in there. He laughed. And then, for no reason I currently understand, told him something only a few people know.

My beard, which I've had since I was 25 except for two small interludes, started turning white when I was 35. So I colored it until I turned 40. At that point my hair was still dark brown and I thought--"I'm 40, I shouldn't be vain any more" and stopped coloring it.

It came in all white, as it still is 37 years later--not that I expected it to go brown or red or anything again.

And what was interesting is that people who knew me then knew something was different but not what. For months people said to me things like "are you OK?" and "how are you feeling?" and "anything up with you?"

Then my hair started turning white, so it didn't matter any more.

(The only two times I've cut my beard since I was 25 was once when we were going to Oak Island, North Carolina for vacation. Josh was maybe 6 and Mimi maybe 3. We stopped at a motel on the way and I cut my beard so I had a goatee that night. The day we arrived, I cut the rest off and my children were horrified and wouldn't have anything to do with me for several days.

The only other time was when I was on Block Island for two weeks by myself. And when I looked in the mirror I looked like John Goodman and immediately willed my beard to grow back super fast....)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bern is Home!

She came at 3:11 to Union Station in New Haven. For some reason it seemed like all the people on the train must have gotten off. I went outside to look for her and she wasn't there. I wanted to call Tony and make sure she made the train, but of course I didn't have my cell phone. (For the most part, my cell phone lives in whatever jacket I wore last....But this time it was charging in the kitchen....)

No one had come up from the tracks for several minutes, then there she was on the escalator, moving toward me, smiling. I suddenly felt whole again....

We talked all the way home from the train about lots of things: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which I've read and she's reading, what she did in Providence, how much of Uncle Frankie's house they got packed up, how neither of us has slept well while she was away, the kids, how Tony's doing, the closing of Everybody's, a Cheshire super market that sold out to Big Y, lots of stuff.

When we got home she spent about 10 minutes greeting the Puli, who really gets confused when one of us is away, then made coffee and appreciated the flowers I'd gotten for her homecoming  and took a shower. I did a conference call about the last workshop I helped lead and then went to the store to get a chicken for dinner and then read in one room while she read in another. We agreed there was nothing on TV and made dinner and went to my computer after I cleaned up.

We've exchanged a hundred words or so since we've been home and then we sunk into our 'being alone together' normal routine.

But there's no one I'd rather 'be alone together' with.

Everything's all right now. Bern's home. We'll sleep well tonight.

The on Saturday the dog goes the the Kennel and we go to Baltimore to see Josh and Cathy and the girls.

Everything's back to normal and normal is what I like....

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bern's still away...

I didn't sleep well last night and I'm sure it's that Bern isn't in the bed with me.

I woke up at 5 and then 6 and then got up at 7 (I thought it was 7:30 because, for reasons I don't understand, Bern keeps her clock over 20 minutes fast). Since she's not here, I took the dog for his first walk (which I always do) down Cornwall to the alley to the Congregation Church parking lot. Then, I took him, after his breakfast, to the Canal (which Bern does every day but Monday--which is the day she does the bills.) And I never walk him as far as she does on the Canal--they go about .7/mile (1.4 miles round trip) and I only go half-a-mile or so and back.

So I yawned all through Eucharist and the conversation of our Clericus group from 9:30-11. But I had three mugs of coffee and was alright after that, except for going to the bathroom quite often.

Anthony sent me a picture of Bern he took on his smart phone while they were eating lunch in Providence at an outdoor place. I wish I knew how to send it to you. She's so beautiful.

I do miss her madly.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bern's away

Bern went to Providence yesterday to be with her cousin Anthony who is trying to clean out the house where he and his father lived--Bern's Uncle Frank who died a month or more ago.

The dog is a pain. He listens to Bern but not to me. I'm yelling at him a lot to no avail. Usually I just go and make him do what I want.

I woke up this morning and Bela was on his side, his head on Bern's pillows, looking, for all the world, like a 55 pound version of her!

It's odd, Bern and I can be in our house all day and rarely exchange words besides "I'm going out" or "be back soon" or "do you need anything while I'm out?" Yet her absence makes an enormous difference.

Oh, often we talk for long times, but mostly we're just so comfortable being with each other that few words matter. "What can I make you for dinner?" is something we both say.

And, when she's gone, I miss her madly. Nothing is quite right, know what I mean? An emptiness that is palpable and a little painful.

She'll be back Wednesday. I'll have flowers and dinner all planned. Things will be better when Bern comes home....

Friday, May 16, 2014

Happy Anniversary to me....

Yesterday was the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood on May 15, 1976. The only reason I know this is that on every anniversary of my ordination I get an email from Louie Crew (who teaches at Rutgers, is a big deal lay person in the national church and founded Integrity.) And Louie's email always says something about the line from "The Messiah" by Handle that says, "How beautiful are the feet of he who brings good news...."

Sometimes Louie suggests I get a pedicure to celebrate my anniversary. This year the subject line was "See how beautiful your feet are...." followed by a lovely collect and best wishes.

I've never heard another priest talk about his/her emails from Louie on their anniversaries, but I bet he sends one to every priest...or at least to every priest who has ever been at General Convention with him. I'm sure (if you're not ME!) it would be easy to do on a computer...log in the email addresses and dates to send into some program, write the email for the year and then it would happen automatically.

(There is a lovely Indian woman at a local package store that always say, "Thanks, Love" to me when I buy some wine. Being an only child, I naturally assumed I was the absolutely only person she said, "Thanks, Love" to. Then I realized, standing in line, that she called everyone 'love'. It was a painful moment to realize how I consider myself the center of the Universe so much of the time....the 'norm', the 'template'....)

Which I why I know I'm not the only person Louie sends Anniversary greetings to. But when I get them, since without them I'd never remember the significance of May 15, I feel special and acknowledged and deeply rooted.

It was a great service, by the way, and the next day--the day of my first celebration after almost a year doing Deacon's Masses, the St. James Dancers did their first Dance Eucharist to the songs from Duke Ellington's 'Sacred Concert'.


Bill Pregnell, one of my professors at Virginia Seminary came to Charleston, West Virginia to preach my ordination sermon. I remember not a word of it.

I have pictures, some framed, of the event--so long ago, so far away.

As a priest, I've just reached the outer reaches of middle age--38. That's good news since this afternoon, standing out on the deck in an atmosphere that obviously wanted to rain but couldn't quite manage it, I, for the first time, marveled that I'm 67 years old! How did that happen? I feel about 38 (except for some aches and pains I can't explain)

I never intended to be ordained an Episcopal priest and in fact went, in some ways, kicking and screaming to knell at Bishop Atikinson's feet and have, over the years often questioned what the hell I'm doing here and why on earth I didn't go do something like be an English Professor that would have made much more sense.

But here, 38 years and 1 day after the fact, most of what I feel about how I spent much of my life is rather sweet and satisfied and 'at home with' in an odd way, like I ended up, against all better judgement and my own desires, exactly where I was supposed to be.

That's not bad, I wager, for how to spend the better part of your life.

I'm still swimming in the irony of the whole thing, but, quite honestly, it's been a 'long, strange trip' and I've mostly enjoyed every moment.

That what I would wish for everyone when they come to the end of 'work' and look back on those years. Really....

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A soft, spring rain

A soft spring rain is falling outside. I love rain in any form (unless it is part or a destructive hurricane) and especially the kind of soft Spring rain that is falling now.

Rain always makes me reflective. It makes me ponder stuff I normally don't--not because I don't want to but because pondering will get you into trouble on a sunny, 70's kind of time.

Here's what I'm pondering right now with the soft Spring rain falling: Life is, by it's very nature and essentially, empty and meaningless.

Life comes at us like the weather--it just comes and we can't determine it in any way that would matter. Empty and meaningless....

Today, the 9/11 museum was dedicated, The president and most folks who we assume matter about it all were there. What happened on 9/ll was like the weather--empty and meaningless--it just happened.

9/11 seems an odd thing to have a museum dedicated to, on one level. Just like Holocaust museums and the Quinnipiac University museum in Hamden dedicated to the Irish Hunger. Go figure....

But it makes my point for me: 9/ll, the Holocaust and the Irish Hunger simply happened. Like tonight's rain. But we human beings are "meaning" creating machines. There is no such thing out in the universe called 'significance'. You can't bring me a cup of 'significance' the way you can bring me a cup of coffee or water. You can't bring me a bag full of 'meaning' from anywhere.

Significance and Meaning is what we human beings make up about the weather, about a soft Spring rain.

I make up that Spring rain makes me ponder. All the rain is doing is falling. I decided that 'pondering' was caused by it.

I know I'm not making a lot of sense--because 'making a lot of sense' is what we human beings made up to deal with the emptiness and meaninglessness of life.

All I want to say about 'emptiness and meaninglessness' and 'making sense' is this: we would be a lot better off if we noticed the distinction between 'what happened' (a soft spring rain) and what we 'said about what happened' ('rain makes me ponder things....').

It would make us acknowledge that whatever 'meaning' there is to life and time and things and events, is what we 'made up' about 'what happened'.

That might just free us, I think, to 'make up' MEANING in a different way--a way that brought into being compassion more than conflict, love more than hate, openness more than bigotry, acceptance more than judgment, calmness more than anger, wonder more than fear, hope more than anything....

That's just the pondering that I know the rain didn't cause but I'm glad I 'made up' that the rain did cause it so I could ponder it.....

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

You must read this! I think....

I just finished a novel titled The Goldfinch, written by Donna Tartt (imagine being a girl and growing up with that last name...especially in Greenwood, Mississippi, as she did.) She went to Bennington College and Bern thinks Mimi knew her there. Bennington is so small you know everyone there, so maybe Mimi did, I haven't asked her when we've talked lately.

Anyway, as I said to Bern about The Goldfinch, "Jesus, people from Mississippi can write!"

There is, among other things, something Faulknerian about her style--so dense and so complicated and so ironic. But what is truly remarkable is that the first person narrator is male. I'm always amazed when writers can write in the voice of the other gender and get it so right.....And Donna does.

It is a pain-filled read--all 770 pages or so of it--but except for a conceit in the last chapter I don't see why she did, it is compelling, riveting, always surprising, full of information about art, wood working, philosophy, pain and wonder.

I'll take back the "I think" in the title of this blog. I would say, if you're relatively stable, have a good self-image, not addicted to any controlled substances and prepared to be astonished: you should read this book.

It is a challenge, I assure you. But the journey is worth the effort.

Something I always judge a book by is this: when I'm 60 pages from the end, do I want to finish it or not? I read 700 pages in a day and a half--it took me 2 and a half days to read to the end because I didn't want it to be over. I didn't want to lose the characters from my life. I wanted them to stay with me for years and  years.

So, using that as a guide, I think everyone should read this confusing, paradoxical, painful, finally joyful (in an ironic way) novel.

Happy sails to you.....

Monday, May 12, 2014

So bad it is beyond's Evil

I know I recently called Louie Gomes the 'stupidest person' in the world. But what happened the last two days in CT goes far beyond 'stupid' to 'evil'.

As hard as it is to believe, there are people who call themselves 'truthers' who don't believe the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School actually happened--that it was a hoaks designed by people who want to take away guns from everyone who owns them

Two of the 20 playgrounds that have been dedicated around the state to the 20 children who died in the Newtown murders have been vandalized in the last few days and one of the 'truthers' call the mother of one of the dead children to tell her her daughter never existed and she had participated in the frabrication of the whole thing.

He called her on, of all days, Mother's Day.

Stupid is one thing...Evil is another.

There is no ring of hell terrible enough for these people who think Newtown never happened and it is all a government plot to erase the second amendment. I would, had I the power, erase the second amendment from the Constitution and seize all the millions of guns in this country. But to denigrate the 26 deaths at Sandy Hook--20 of whom were children--is beyond any stretch of the imagination, beyond belief....simply and only Evil.

A poem I found

My little office here on the second floor, south facing in our house, is full of stuff I've written in the past. Every once in a while I come across something I have no memory of at all and doubt that I really wrote it.

This poem is one of those. I should have found it back in December when it was the Feast of the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28) which commemorates the children King Herod slaughtered in an effort to kill the "King" the Magi were seeking.

But I didn't. I found it today.

You can imagine yourself back on that much neglected Holy Day, or just read it in May.

The Gospel of Matthew 2.16-18

King Herod, slumbering by his table wakes,
from too much wine and dreams of some new King.
His choice he takes, royal decision makes:
kill them all,” he decrees, “to me blood bring”.

That those children died we too soon forget,
Caught up, as we are, in the Holy Birth.
Shepherds, Mother, Child, Angel wings, and yet,
the innocent ones died...returned to earth.

The Star swings 'round again, again we gaze
at the stable rude, the child sleeping there.
While thousands die, innocent, in our days--
more than we number, far beyond our care.

Innocent in life, in death we must face
that all thing: Known, Unknown are but God's grace.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Right Wing Christians are like the Jews in 1939 Germany...

OK, here is my nomination for the Stupidest Man in the World--Louie Gomez, member of the House of Representatives from, I think, the second district of Texas. There's lots of competition for the esteemed title of Stupidest Man in the World right there with him in the House. But, yesterday, he ran away from the competition.

On the floor of the House of Representatives (one of the most prestigious deliberative bodies in the world) Louie Gomez yesterday compared Conservative Christians who oppose gay marriage to the Jews in Nazi Germany, I kid you not.....

Louie's point, as abstract and ridiculous as it was, was this: just as the Nazis labeled, vilified and marginalized Jews, Liberals are doing the same to folks who oppose gay marriage and the end of civilization as we know it that will be caused by gay marriage.

He even used psychological language--he said Liberals were "projecting" onto conservative, God fearing Christians, the kind of evil and moral taint that Nazis put on Jews before they started building the gas chambers.

Since members of the House have a limit on how long they can speak, he didn't get around to saying that the GLTB community and the "liberals" had started building gas chambers...but, I'm sure he thinks we have.

Doesn't Rep. Gomez realize that the reason 'liberals', moderates and anyone with a shred of common sense don't respect people like him is that people like him say nonsense like that?

Jews should go beat him up by trivializing the holocaust in such a painfully stupid way.

God help us when people that stupid and irrational can be sitting in the lower house of our national legislature. God help us, indeed....

Friday, May 9, 2014

Somethings I can't get my head around....

Just today, for example:

1) Monica Lewinsky: her article in Vanity Fair laments that she hasn't been able to get on with her life because we all still think of her. Well...I didn't 'still think of her' until her article in Vanity Fair. I haven't thought of her for years. And if I did in the last decade plus think of her, it was to momentarily hope she'd been able to get on with her life.

2)All the theories about why Monica wrote the article now. I've heard everything from 'the Clinton's paid her to' so by 2016 we'd have all forgotten her again (no less than Dick Cheney's wife said that on Fox news...there's tape) to the Koch brothers paid her to to derail Hilary in 2016. I just don't care. She wrote that I hadn't forgotten  her though I had and in a few months I will have forgotten her again.

3) Benghazi: correct me if I'm wrong (But I'm Not!) hasn't Benghazi had six congressional or senate committees already and haven't we all agreed it was horrible and nasty and not at all handled well by anyone AND that's what happened? (And maybe the Koch brothers are behind it to make Hillary look bad again--and she did look bad and admitted looking bad--before 2016?

4) The Koch brothers: I'm sure Tea Party Folk think about them a lot, but why should I--a left-wing nut--have to as well?

5) The NFL Draft: why is ESPN televising every moment of it? I wanted to know who got picked first and second and third, but now we're down to 81st and 82nd and 83rd and it's still on TV, I notice as I flip around between the Yankee game and the Red Sox being no-hit through the 8th inning.

6) Why am I still a Red Sox Hater and a Yankee my age shouldn't I be over all that kind of stuff? I talked to a man today at UConn in Waterbury who thought people over 45 shouldn't be allowed by law to wear team jerseys. He said he was moving toward not allowing anyone who was older than any athlete who was playing in whatever game it was shouldn't be allowed, by law, to wear and college, hockey, football shirt at all--including children not old enough to be involved in whatever game it was. He was very convincing and definitely a socialist, if not a communist since all those shirts aren't about sports at all, but capitalism. I saw a short sleeve tee shirt in the gift shop of UConn-Waterbury today about the double NCAA basketball win by both the men and women's teams for $23.99. That's a tee-shirt, mind you. All that stuff is about money, not being a fan.

There are other things today I couldn't get my head around...quite a few, actually. But then, there are every day. That's what makes me ponder so much, not getting my head around stuff. So, I'm going to stop there for now, if you don't mind....

Tomorrow is another day to encounter even more things I can't get my head around. I look forward to it all.....

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Personality Types and Jobs

I listened to a radio show today about personality types and jobs and it was very revealing to me.

I am (in  the Meyers/Briggs model) an ENFP.

That means I am and Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceptive personality type.

My Extrovert score is just barely higher than my Introvert score. I move easily between social situations and being alone. Either one is fine with me.

All the others (the NFP scores) are off the chart in their direction.

An Intuitive (N) is someone who knows the answer and doesn't know how. The opposite is a Sensate (S) who follows the rules and goes from a to b to c.

A Feeling person (F) vs. a Thinking person (T) listens to their heart instead of the intellect. (Not always a good thing!)

A Perceptive (P) is unlike a Judgmental (J) personality type since a P takes in all options instead of knowing which option is correct and which other options are, by definition, incorrect.

I would have made a terrible trial lawyer. A lawyer needs a strong S and T and P.

Luckily my Extrovert/Introvert scores are always nearly equal since I can function wonderfully in social situations or alone. Being an only child also gave me lots of introvert leanings. I love to be alone and I love to be in a group.

According to the show I was listening to on NPR, the two roles and jobs that would have suited me perfectly were being a college professor and being an Episcopal priest. The Former is what I longed to be, the Latter is what God ended up making me, against my better judgement.

I couldn't, on a bet, as smart as I am (and I am very smart, by the way) have been a physicist or mathematician or scientist of any kind and certainly not a CPA. So Fate and God (depending on which you believe in) led me to be what I was meant to be. And I've never been unhappy about what my work was. Though I would have enjoyed that graduate level class on modern poetry and the one on the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I would have enjoyed all that and been good and happy doing that. But I came down where I was meant to be.

According to the show I heard, I am in the minority. Most people, for some reason, end up doing things that are unsuited to their personality type--hence the general unhappiness with their job...something that I've never understood.

I've been always happy and fulfilled with what I had to do each day. It suited me to a T.

Go ponder that....

A mouse in the house

Bern told me this morning she saw a mouse in the bedroom and put our 12 year old Maine Coon Cat, Lukie, in there and shut the door.

Later I heard her yell and she told me the mouse had been under the little table beside our front door and Lukie had chased it upstairs.

Now, I haven't seen the mouse, but I trust Bern to be honest about such things and Luke has been slinking around all day, stalking, I pray, the mouse.

I have no experience with mice in the house and if Luke is too old to catch it, I have no idea what to do next.

And Bern's reaction (she mostly being nonchalant and calm about all things domestic), has surprised me. She seems a tad freaked out by the mouse in the house. Not up on a chair screaming, but certainly not her normal placid self.

Lukie had better get busy and do his 'mousing-job' or we'll have to take further measures. I just don't have any idea what those are...mouse traps? a fumigator? moving?.....

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


I woke up this morning (after hitting my snooze alarm four times) and what I felt was this: privileged.

I only set my alarm on Tuesdays (to go to Clericus) and Sundays (to go to church). But I enjoy the snooze alarm so much, maybe I should set it every day. I'll ponder that....

When I wake up (as I have for over 67 years now, thank God) I realize how privileged I am.

I live in a free country. I live in a safe town. I have a wife I love like a rock. I have two wondrous and gifted children (both of whom read a lot). I have the best three grand-daughters ever. I've never been abused in any way. My parents and my extended family on both sides loved and spoiled me. I'm smarter than I need to be. I have a remarkable sense of humor. Nothing much makes me tense or anxious or mean. I read a lot. I'm older than I ever imagined being and still feel decades younger than I am. I know how to type and write a blog. I love white wine. I can eat almost anything and not feel bad later. I love my life. Almost everything either amuses or engages me. I am a liberal Democrat and an Episcopalian. Olives are wondrous--as is blue cheese and Italian ices and Marlboro Red Label cigarettes (I know, I know, don't hassle me about that, ok?) And I really enjoy bird songs and our Puli dog and Lukie our cat and Public Radio and movies and our parakeet and TV and the Yankees and the night sky.

I don't have to spend any part of my day walking somewhere to a well and carrying water home on my head in a bucket. The electricity is always on. Our house is heated and cooled as needed. Bern's garden gives me joy. I do almost nothing most of the time (besides reading a lot) and have all the money I need and more I don't need.

So, why shouldn't my attitude on awaking be 'privileged'?

Perhaps better, it should be called blessed, since I'm a priest and all.

Don't know why that wasn't the word I first thought of.

I am, by God, BLESSED!!!

And because of that, by God, I am grateful, humble, privileged, wondrously thankful, ecstatic, That's what I plan to be tomorrow, when I wake up, whenever I do, not prompted by an alarm could be nearly 10 a.m., by the way, since I'm retired and that can be...but whenever I wake up tomorrow, one more day toward paradise and so grateful to be alive, I plan to feel 'blessed' and ecstatic.

I promise you that....

Stuff that makes my head feel like it's about to explode

1. Parallel Universes

We started a conversation about parallel Universes today at Clericus. Mike seemed to know more about the physics that I do. But it makes my brain seriously near exploding to talk about how, in a parallel universe things might be happening differently. Like I might have married someone besides Bern, had different children, been killed in Viet Nam (For my friend, Bobby Joe, who was killed in Viet Nam, I hope things worked out differently in his parallel universes), had different grandchildren, committed suicide, had parents that didn't love me, won the Nobel Prize.

I have enough to deal with in this Universe. Don't blow up my mind with other options....

2. Bit Coins

I don't even know what they are or how it works and yet today I listened to an hour long discussion about 'Dark Wallet', where you can keep you Bit Coins secret. Bit Coins aren't, in any sense I understand, "real". My checking account will be worth as much tomorrow as it is today. And the day after. Bit Coins, as I understand it, can be worth vastly different amounts from day to day. You could get rich tomorrow or be broke. And to have a "Dark Wallet" to keep them in in doubly brain explosive since they aren't 'real' and the 'dark wallet' isn't REAL either. Leave me out of this conversation.

3. People who don't believe in Climate Change

I have no time to even discuss folks who don't believe in Science.

4. Made up days

Last week I discovered there was a 'Daughter Day'. I called Mimi and wished her well. I wish now I hadn't. I don't have a Father or Mother any more so I don't need to observe the made-up days of Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day, but I am a Father so I'll have to endure it in June. How about a "CPA Day" or a "Garbage Collectors' Day" or a 'Day Care Provider' Day? Those make as much sense. When, by the way, is "Guys whose brains are about to explode Day?"

Monday, May 5, 2014

Birds--how I love them....

I was sitting out on our deck at dusk and heard the songs of at least half-a-dozen birds. Wondrous! Beautiful.

I even saw two young Blue Jays. I'm not sure I've ever seen baby Blue Jays before. We have lots of Robins and Cardinals who are young--but a Blue Jay is a new one on me.

I sometimes think that it might be better in the long run for us humans to simply disappear and give the world back to animals without our carbon footprint.

A baby Blue Jay doesn't exist simply to give me pleasure. It exists because the world belongs to the creatures.

If we weren't here, the polar ice would return. The climate change we've caused would, soon enough, regress. And creatures would live without fear of our taking away their land to make subdivisions. Actually, it wouldn't take very long at all for nature to take back the space the humans have claimed. My house is 214 years old. It would only take a decade or two without our caring for it for it to began to be overcome by nature. Creatures would find a way in, trees would grow near the foundation, vines would overcome the walls. In a century or so, there would be little recognizable as a human habitation.

Maybe Nature would be better off without us.

But I'd sure miss the birdsongs at dawn and dusk. I truly would.....

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Distopian hopefulness

My friend, John Anderson, sent me this poem, thinking I would like it. I do, but it is terribly troubling and right on. Thought I'd share it with you.

A Brief for the Defense --Jack Albert
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in a tiny port
looking over the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come

today was Emmaus...

I don't have the sermon I preached today written down, not even notes. But the gospel was the journey to Emmaus and when I got home I found a sermon on my computer that I preached on April 14 some twelve years ago. Because I love the Emmaus story so, I thought I'd share this sermon, written 7 months after 9/11.

APRIL 14, 2002

We don’t know why they’re going to Emmaus, we are told only of the journey, not the reason for it.
Maybe they lived near Emmaus and were simply headed home after spending Passover in Jerusalem.
Maybe they had business there—business so vital that it had to be handled even though their hearts were broken and their minds confused.
Or maybe they felt they had to “get out of town”, had to escape the hysteria that had gripped the disciples since Jesus’ crucifixion. So maybe they just needed to get away and sort out their feelings and thoughts at a distance.
We don’t know why they’re going to Emmaus, we only know they are.

And we don’t know exactly who they are. We only know one of their names: Cleopas and his name appears nowhere else in the gospels. John’s gospel tells us one of the women who stayed near the cross was “Mary, the wife of Clopas.” The names are similar and if Cleopas and Clopas were the same person, we might speculate that his companion is his wife, Mary. But all that is conjecture. We don’t really know who they are.
We know this: they were not members of Jesus’ inner circle. But they must have been followers of his because they knew the details of the women who went to the tomb at dawn and came back to tell “the apostles.” Cleopas and his traveling companion had been with the Eleven before they sat out for Emmaus. More than that, we do not know.
Truth be told, we don’t even know where Emmaus was! There were two villages called “Emmaus”—one some seven miles from Jerusalem and the other nearly 20 miles away. Both are a long walk, even for people used to walking, so scholars have tried to locate some place closer to the Holy City. But, in the end, we don’t know where Emmaus was.

This is what we do know: two travelers set out on a journey and encountered a stranger on their way.
A friend of mine says there are really only two ways to start a story. Either “someone begins a journey” or “a stranger arrives.” This story is so rich and rare that both those things happen at the beginning.
And this is what else we know: the two travelers tell the Stranger their tale of pain and confusion and he teaches them what the story means.
And we know this, as well: as they arrived at their journey’s end, they “urged him strongly” to stay with them. The Stranger became their “host” at dinner and when he took, blessed, broke and gave them bread and in those actions, in that moment, they knew the Stranger wasn’t a Stranger at all. They had shared the road with Jesus.
Finally, we know this: after Jesus disappeared, Cleopas and his companion remembered how their hearts “had burned within them” as they journeyed on the road and they left immediately to go back to their community in Jerusalem, to share their news. And when they arrived, the mood of fear and confusion had been changed to rejoicing because Jesus was risen from the dead, Simon Peter has seen the Lord. And they shared their story too, the story of the breaking of the bread.

This is my favorite passage from the gospels—it is so rich and full that I wish we could spend hours just being with the Emmaus story.
I want to spend the rest of our time this morning looking at encountering Strangers and welcoming them into our lives and to our table.
I always tell the seminarians who minister with us at St. John’s that the best way to preach is to always “preach to yourself.” Preach to yourself, I tell them, and let the people in the congregation eve’s drop.
I’ve seldom preached a sermon so much to myself as this one. But you can listen in.
Of all the negative effects of September 11 and the events since, the one that pains me most is the new-found fear of the Stranger. It began with the irrational, but understandable, fear and distrust of anyone who seems to resemble an Arab or a Muslim. But it seems to me that it has mushroomed far beyond that. In many ways, it seems to me, we have “circled the wagons” as a culture. Our society has taken on a “siege mentality”—a distrust of whatever and whoever is not familiar and immediate to us.
I notice it in myself—and what I should talk about is ME, and let you see if you recognize yourselves in it.
I have a low-level anxiety that I didn’t have seven months ago. I notice that I don’t smile and greet people on the street the way I used to. I notice that I avoid crowded places—which I never much liked—even more than before. I haven’t had to be on an airplane and I’ve noticed I’m relieved that I haven’t needed to fly. Someone I care for deeply told me last week that I seemed “paranoid”. And since she said it, I’ve been wondering if there isn’t some truth in that. I know that I’ve been more self-absorbed—I find myself “complaining” more and being more skeptical and cynical and negative about world events and daily events than I’ve been before. My life-long tendency toward being a hypochondriac—something I’ve dealt with well for a decade—is creeping back into my day-to-day experiences. I sleep well, but I haven’t been dreaming much and my dreams have long been a way for me to sort though what’s going on in my inner life. I feel cut off from my inner life. I don’t pray as much. I feel lonely sometimes, something I almost never feel.
All little things—things that taken one by one might be explained by indigestion or too little sleep—but taken as a whole, I can see a shift in my life that matches our culture’s mood. This is just about me, but you can listen in….
At least I’m beginning to notice these things. I think they’ve all been true for months now and I’m only beginning to notice. But noticing is good: being present to the darkness is the first step toward embracing the Light.
And that’s what we’re called to do as Christians—face the Darkness and embrace the Light. Find new life in the midst of death. Cling to hope and live out of hope in the midst of despair. Remember how our hearts burned within us when all occasion spoke of chill and loss. Invite the Stranger into our hearts and lives and to our Table.
But all that is part of “the next steps.” The first step is to “notice” the darkness and pain and death and hopelessness—not flee from it, not deny it, not avoid it, but recognize and acknowledge all that.
The beginning of healing, for me (since this is about me) is to “notice” and recognize and acknowledge how broken and incomplete and dis-eased I am.
The first stranger I must welcome is the Stranger within me—the one who “always” journeys with me, the one I cannot leave behind, the one I cannot avoid except at my own souls peril.
How can I pray for the terrorists as well as their victims—and I know, deep down, I am called to pray for the terrorists—until I can embrace the revenge and anger in my own heart.?
How can I pray for my brother priests in the Roman Catholic Church, as well as for their victims—and I know, deep down, I am called to pray for those priests—until I can embrace the abuse and misuse of power in my own heart?.
How can I pray for the Israeli’s and the Palestinians—who seem literally “hell bent” on destroying each other—and I know, deep down, I am called to pray for both sides in that war—until I can embrace the resentment and jealousy in my own heart?
How can I pray for those who, in the name of SECURITY, would take away my rights and liberties—rights and liberties secured by heroism and sacrifice—until I can embrace the fear and distrust within me?
How can I pray for and support those more courageous than me who stand up and seek to make peace and find justice until I can embrace the cowardice and selfishness within me?
It is only when we can 'embrace' the Stranger within us that we are freed to 'embace' the Stranger beside us, sharing our road, opening our minds to 'the other', making our hearts burn within us....

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Where are you Spring?

It's 40 degrees and raining right now. I have stubbornly worn sandals for the past two week, urging Spring to come in glory, to no avail.

It's 40 degrees and a cold rain is falling on the evening of May 3rd.

I often tell people about the seasons in Anawalt, WV where I grew up. In my childhood, even though we were south of Richmond, Virginia, we were far enough up in the mountains that the seasons looked like this:

Winter didn't really begin until after Christmas and only lasted until the end of February. We had lots of snow but seldom had a 'snow day' since we were far enough south that the snow tended to fall and melt over and over for about two months.

Spring came with a vengeance in early March and lasted through April, May and June. Verdant doesn't begin to describe how the mountains were for those four months. It was abundance multiplied by abundance. Abundance squared.

July and August were summer--dry and hot because of the latitude--but short because of being at 1800 feet or so above sea level. The altitude brought autumn in early September--and like spring--it lasted around 4 months...well into December because of how far south we were. It almost never snowed before Christmas.

Now, for my money, that 2/4/2/4 ratio of winter/spring/summer/fall is about as perfect as you could desire. All the seasons, but in a more pleasing balance.

Too bad that to live in Anawalt would be to live in an area where run-off from strip mines and mountain top mining has damaged the water, where the average age is the highest in any US county and the age of death is lowest, where 100,000 people lived when I was a child and now 27,000 live, where your kids ride an hour on a bus to high school and Oxycontin addition is higher than almost anywhere.

What a waste of a wondrous and gentle temperate climate....

Right now--on May 3--it is raining and 40 degrees in Cheshire....In a couple of weeks, I predict, it will be 85 and we'll all be complaining about the heat the same way we've been complaining about the cold since November. Connecticut is the Land of No Spring--straight from sleet to blistering heat most of the time.....Fall is nice here though. One out of 4 doesn't seem quite fair, though....

Friday, May 2, 2014

God Bless (truly) Janice Hahn

I have never been one for ecumenical worship and prayer. I am an Anglican for a lot of reasons that make worshipping with other Christians problematic.

Ecumenical worship is where nobody gets what they want from worship.

At a Prayer Breakfast in California this week, James Dobson, who is the head of a leaning-toward-
fundamentalist 'family' group, interjected his opinion that President Obama is 'the abortion President' into what was to be a 'religious' gathering, not a political one.

Janice Hahn, who is a member of California's congress, walked out and later said "James Dobson highjacked what was supposed to be a religious gathering and made it political.

Religion and Politics have, over the last couple of decades, become one in the same. Folks hold political views for what they see as 'religious' reasons and in an area where never the twain should meet, the two categories--religion and politics--collapse into each other.

If I wanted to make a political statement about my 'religion' I would have to say that Jesus taught an ethic of love for the outcast and condemned, at every opportunity, wealth.

That would not make me very good 'ecumenical' fodder.

That's why I'm not big on ecumenical things. I am an Anglican and a Liberal for lots of reasons.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Reading the Gospels side by side

I'm teaching a course at The Osher Life-long Learning Institute at UConn in Waterbury called "Reading the Gospels Side-by-Side".

The point to the course is to make distinctions between the 4 different stories the 4 gospels tell. Matthew, Mark and Luke are quite similar because both Matthew and Luke had a copy of Mark to work from Over 50% of Matthew and Luke are plagiarised from Mark though altered in some ways--Matthew to make his story more "Jewish" and Luke to make his story more "compassionate". Matthew and Luke also share a source--"Quella" in German and therefore referred to by scholars as "Q". And their are exclusive Luke and exclusive Matthew stories--Luke tells the birth narrative from the point of view of Mary, for example, and Matthew tells the story from Joseph's perspective. Neither Mark or John tell the birth narrative at all: Mark begins with Jesus being baptized by John and John--remarkably--begins his story "In the beginning" where "there was the Word".

In the 'synoptic' gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke--syn in Greek means roughly "the same place" as in "synonymous" and optic, of course, means "to see"--so those three 'see from roughly the same place") Jesus is constantly struggling to understand his identity--who he is and what he is meant to do. John has no such struggle. John's Jesus knows exactly who he is. The synoptic gospels tell us of Jesus' teaching (in parables for the most part) and his healing ministry (one out of five verses are about healing...which the church doesn't seem to take very seriously....)

John, on the other hand, is about Jesus' Identity--'who he is' rather than 'what he does'.

My favorite Gospel has always been Luke--the gospel of compassion. But this Lent and Easter were the year to read John and I must admit, several times during the Lenten and Holy Week and Easter Gospel reading, I found myself near tears. John is so beautifully written and so mystical that I was profoundly moved by his words almost every Sunday.

I think I may offer a class at OLLI in John's gospel--just reading it from beginning to end and noticing how wildly different it is from the other three. If  we only had John, Christianity would be quite different: more contemplative, more mystical, more sure of itself.

Every time I do this course on the gospels side-by-side, I am more appreciative of their differences and the difference their differences makes to the reader....

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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.