Tuesday, September 30, 2014

watching Bern in the yard

I watched her on and off for two hours, from cloudy daylight to almost dark.

I have no idea what she was doing--well, actually, I do, she was recreating a flower bed in our back yard. What I didn't have any idea about was why or how or what it all meant.

Bern works with bricks and rocks and shells (some of which she brings back from North Carolina every year) and she makes divides between what is 'yard' and what is flower bed. We used to be able to play croquet in our back yard, but no more, Bern's creations of boundaries have made it impossible. Bricks and Rocks and shells, divide our yard into areas where it is obvious you can't walk.

Today, for two hours, as light failed, I watched her, on and off, create a new space that will have a particular purpose for being. I have no idea what that purpose will be--being oblivious to her 'grand plan' for our yard--but knowing it was with purpose.

She is a thin, wiry, supple woman in her mid-60's. She can squat for so long that my knees and ankles and hips begin to ache just watching her.

She never knew I was watching her because she was in a world all her own, doing what she was doing--whatever it was.

She dug in the dirt with a tool and then with her hands. She moved rocks and bricks around and then re-arranged them. She tamped down dirt with her hands and feet. Moving slowly, but with purpose, always intent on what she was doing.

I envy her connection to things--earth, rocks, shells, bricks--and her commitment to have them be 'just right' and where they were meant to be.

I am so disconnected to 'things' compared to her.

She had on thin, khaki pants, a dark shirt and a pink hoodie as she squatted and worked and moved around. I knew she had no knowledge of my watching her.

Her back may hurt tomorrow...that happens from time to time...but what she was doing was finished when I told her dinner would be ready in half-an-hour and she had a cigarette and then a shower.

As I carried our food up to the TV room, she said, "perfect timing" and we ate.

I am astonished by her. And though we've know each other since I was 17 and she was 14--a full fifty years, a half a century now, when she's like that...working in the yard...she is a holy mystery to me.

I simply don't understand. And I love that about who we are--that I have no understanding at all about who she is when she'd like that.

Mystery is engaging, wondrous, amazing. Especially after all these years.

Monday, September 29, 2014

odd day

It was cloudy and heavy all day. Not quite right for late September.

But then, nothing's quite been right this year. Winter was too cold, spring too warm, summer too cool and autumn, so far, too warm.

Don't tell me 'climate change' isn't real. Nothing is working quite right. During what has been called the hottest summer in history, New England hasn't had a day over 90.

Maybe living in New England is a good deal right now. Cloudy and heavy late September, but warmer than we would normally expect.

We still have our primary air conditioner in place--the one right beyond me that drives cold air downstairs because I close the door to the upstairs hallway. It's not on, of course, but if fall gets hotter, we have the relief.

Fans in the TV room and our bedroom will be enough, no matter how Indian Summer works out.

But an odd day, none-the-less, and a good time to live in New England, it seems to me.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fireflies, Nintendo, bug zappers, my cat Catherine, and other cosmic thoughts

Every month for 21 years, I wrote an essay for 'The Outrider', St. John's in Waterbury's monthly newsletter. My essay was called, 'The View from Above the Close' because my third floor and then second floor office looked out on the Close of the church. (Like most things Anglican, we have funny names for simple things. Most people would call 'the Close' the yard or the lawn. The grass inside the gate and fence is, in Episco-speak, 'the Close', from 'enclosure', go figure.)

I happened today to be looking at hard copies of some of those over 200 essays when I happened across this one--entitled "Fireflies, Nintendo, bug zappers, my cat Catherine and other cosmic thoughts."

I wrote this in July of 1990. Catherine is long dead, alas. About a quarter of a century has passed and this was written in Summer rather than Autumn. But I want to share it with you to let you know what I was pondering 34.3% of my life ago. I wish I'd come across it in July, but I stand by it none-the-less.

A few things first.

1. Newsweek, a few weeks ago, had an editorial by a man who had refused to budge on the issue of Nintendo games for his children. NO WAY, JOSE (or more accurately, NO WAY, MARIO! He had said to the incredible advertizing and peer pressure trying to convince him to let his children play Nintendo games. My children play Nintendo--in fact have moved on to Sega Genesid.

For the uninitiated, these are video games that usually involve slaughtering innumerable video enemies before they slaughter you. I've never seen the point myself, being a child of 'team sports' and the outdoors. Nintendo bores me. I simply don't have the time. However, I know my children can kill millions of video villains and still refuse to squash a spider or other bugs in their rooms. They squeal if I squash them--wanting me to capture and liberate them outside.

2. Where I come from, fireflies illuminate the summer sky like the Northern Lights. They swarm and blink. As a child I would catch a jar full on a July night, squeeze off their blinking tails and make a bracelet out of light. When I tell my children this, they scream and wail. They are not so cruel. Maybe I should have played Nintendo rather than slaughtered fireflies.

3. Our neighbors across the street have a bug zapper--a luminescent blue coil that kills bugs with a noise like static on an old Motorola radio. I went to a lawn party in August years ago when bug zappers were brand new. One of the guests was a Buddhist. Each time a bug died in a fit of static, he blanched and ached. The Cosmic Force moaned within him. The host turned off the machine. The party continued--insect bites were a small price to pay for having the Cosmos at peace with Itself.

4. Our kitten--Catherine--kills bugs for sport. She must have read King Lear at some point. Sometimes she eats them and shakes her head from the bad taste. Most often she chases them and catches them and plays with them until they die. There is no static sound. And if I see her chasing a firefly, I shoo her away.

Out on our back porch--our deck--the bugs rule. We burn citronella and talk about buying a yellow light. We get bit and listen to the static zaps across the street. And there are fireflies--"lightening bugs" I learned to call them--that flicker and fade from time to time. There aren't as many in New England as in West Virginia. There are buckets full there. In Cheshire, I can count them on my fingers.

Here's a summer evening cosmic thought for you--we are like lightening bugs...we glimmer and glow for a while and eventually a bug zapper or a kitten or time itself snuffs out our light. All flesh is like grass, the Prophet Isaiah said over 2800 years ago. Like the flower, we wither and die. And, I say, like the glowworm, we glitter and then fade away.


Out on my deck, in deep summer, life seems almost as fleeting as it is wonder-filled. How odd--noticing the fragile-ness of life enhancing its value. Something Rare and Precious. A Gift.

If I weren't so happy to be alive, I might think of some profound moral to all this. As it is, I will enjoy the fireflies, thank God for my children, honor the lives of bugs, acknowledge that Catherine was born to hunt and kill, despise the bug zapper across the street, slap and scratch when need be, and--being like the flower that faded--make the most of the moment.


Summer invites cosmic thinking. Some holy 'round the edges.

If you need some evidence about the wonder of God, I'd invite you to sit on my back porch for a while, just after dark. It is so still, you can almost hear the whisper of our Creator, singing the cosmos to sleep. And life whispers back, softly as a firefly's glow.

When I wrote this, we had more cats than anyone needs.Catherine, the kitten, gave us her daughter, Millie, so bad none of Mimi's friends would adopt her. Chuck and Luke came to us later at the same time. Chuck lived and died, a bad cat. Luke lives on, happy that the others are long dead, loving being 'the only cat'. When I wrote that, Josh was 15 and Mimi was 12--now they are 39 and 36 and Mimi is getting married in October. We've had three different dogs since I wrote that.

Life does move on and things change, evolve, transform.

But when I read what I wrote over 24 years ago, I still believe it. It still rings true.

Ponder what is Holy 'round the edges. Ponder how God sings the Creation to sleep. Ponder how life answers back, glowing....


Friday, September 26, 2014

buying a suit

I need a new suit for Mimi's wedding.

The problem is this: it's been so long since I bought a suit that I'm rather lost at sea trying to do it.

I've gone to Macy's in two malls and a Men's Warehouse in one, but there is no one there to help you and I have to take off my glasses to see sizes and when I see sizes I don't have a real good sense of what the suit looks like.

And, the last time I bought a suit in a real store, the pants and the coat came together. Now it seems, pants and suit jackets come separately.

I've been trying to remember when I last bought clothes in a real store and I can't remember. All the clothes I own now were either purchased in a consignment shop or Marshall's. For a decade or so, a lawyer in Cheshire, who was just my size, used to take his suits to the consignment shop and I bought them. But then that stopped. I hope he moved away rather than died.

So, screwing up my courage, I asked Bern if she'd go with me tomorrow or Monday and help me buy a suit.

She was waiting for me to ask and so with her in tow, I think I might be able to do it.

Suits--indeed, all the clothes--these days seem to be very expensive...which is why I go to Marshall's and the consignment shop. I am much cheaper than you might imagine. I don't like to spend money on clothes--which is probably obvious to anyone who sees me with my clothes on.

But, for Mimi and Tim, I need a new suit.

And I'm committed to doing it, willing to suffer both pain and indignity to do so. I love them that much.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Captain is leaving the ship

My father was in New York City, waiting to ship out to Europe in the second World War. People couldn't do enough for the troops, so someone gave him tickets to a Dodgers/Yankees World Series game. And he decided that whoever won would be 'his team'.

The Yankees won.

So, I grew up in southern West Virginia rooting for my father's team--the Yankees.

I remember being under the covers with my little transistor radio, hearing every third word from a Yankees broadcast.

But all things considered, I could have done much, much worse. What if he'd been given tickets to a Chicago Cubs game, for goodness sake?

The late news on Channel 6 is Bluefield, had a sports reporter that begin his segment by saying, "Let's see who the Yankees clobbered."

Being a kid in the mid-50's, rooting for the Yankees was like Christmas every day. I grew up with Mantle, Maris, Berra, Skowren, Whitey Ford, Andy Carey, Bobby Richardson, Elston Howard, Ralph Terry...on and on, one the great dynasties of sports history.

And I've loved the Yankees ever since.

Then came the Joe Torre years and Pettit, Posada, Mariano and Jeter.

Tonight is Derrik Jeter's last game at Yankee Stadium. I've been watching it on and off, trying to be there when Jeter is batting.

He doubled and scored a run in his first at bat.

He started a double play that was deemed true by video replay.

He had a walk-off single in the 9th to win the game 6-5.

He is the Captain. He is the man. After tonight he'll never play in New York again, except in Old Timers' Games.

Only five people of the thousands and thousands who've played major league baseball have more hits.

Pete Rose, much maligned, and Ty Cobb both have over four thousand hits.

Hank Aaron, Stan the Man Musial and Tris Speaker are the only other three that have more hits in their career than Derrik Jeter.

He walked the walk and talked (when he spoke) the talk.

He gave me so much and all I've given him is my admiration and applause.

Tonight in the Bronx, a era ends.

I will miss him so. Many will.

He was the definition of dependable.

Not a bad thing to be.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

From hitting kids to hitting Obama

The latest tempest in a teapot haunting our president is that he got off a helicopter in New York City this morning and saluted the service members saluting him with a coffee cup in his right (saluting) hand.

The Internet is outraged. Fox News probably needs a new studio for the anger/bitterness/hatred that will provide toward the Commander in Chief.

First of all, I saw a photo of George W. Bush getting off a helicopter and saluting the troops while holding his Scottie dog...lots heavier than a coffee cup.

Second of all, he's the Commander in Chief for goodness sakes. He doesn't have to have military bearing to salute. He could give them a wave or just nod. He's their boss, don't you get that? So he's carrying coffee and salutes...what's the problem? Really?

I don't know if I've said this before here, but I've said it over and over in other parts of my life--the biggest and actually, only, problem Obama has at being President is that he's Black.

Have you ever heard such minute and minuscule complaints about a President before? Really. Ask yourself.

It's just like all the people who get pulled over by cops in Cheshire for DWB or DWH. I've lived here since 1989 and I guarantee you a majority of people I've seen pulled over in Cheshire have been either Black or Hispanic and not many of either live here. And I'm not picking on Cheshire--I'm sure it is true most places...even places who have a majority Black or Hispanic population.

The Race Issue is still buried and disguised by the illusion and dangerous mis-truth that we, in this society, are in a post-racial age. The President is Black. Lots of athletes and entertainers are Black. Everyone loves Shakira, for goodness sake, we're passed all that, really....An Enlightened Society, we are....


The invective and hatred of President Obama all gets root and grows from a deep and abiding and probably never ending racism of a dwindling segment of the American population. We white folks, beloved, are soon going to be in the minority--there will be more Blacks, Hispanics and Asians in this country than Caucasians. Suck it up. Get used to it. White America is going color.

If you pay the least bit of attention to anything I write here, if you care at all, I really ask you to ponder and dwell on where, besides racism, the invective and harshness toward President Obama could come from? That and knowing the time is passing away for the White majority.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could salute with a coffee cup in his hand and no one would notice or care. It happens all the time. The great thing about salutes is how sloppy they are!

What is it that has made so many people so vitriolically and steadfastly oppose our President, just because he's President, if it isn't his race?

Ponder that please, for all our souls sake....

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Nearly the last word I have on adults hitting kids....

Actually, it's not 'my' word at all. It's my friend, Fred's. Then, actually, it's not Fred's word either--it comes from Matthew 18:6 and I'm embarrassed to say I didn't think of it when I was ranting about how adults shouldn't hit kids.

Matthew 18:6: "If anyone of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in my, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depths of the sea."

I'd say hitting children was a stumbling block of some great measure. Thanks, Fred, for reminding me.

I did make an allusion to what comes right before that, but Matthew says it much better than I did.

Matthew 18:1-5: "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.'"

Both quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version of the bible.

Over the course of my ministry, I have had a few people come to me to complain about how distracting the children in the sanctuary were. I've usually told them, kindly and without rancor, "better get used to it if you plan to be in the kingdom...."

OK, I know I'm 'on it' about this. I'll 'get off it', but it just seems so abundantly clear to me that no adult should ever hit a child that I might 'get on it' again sometime....

Elbow redux...

OK, you know you're getting elderly when you talk too much about your aches and pains....I get it.

However, back to my elbow. Yesterday it seemed much better but when I woke up at 6 because of the dull ache--something different than pain from movement--it was clear I needed to have it looked at.

I wasn't sure I could get in to see my GP on short notice, so I went to Mid-State's Urgent Care about a mile away. I was their first patient after they opened at 8 and I'd had good experience with them. However, rather than ordering an X-ray to rule out any structural problem, the doctor just prescribed prednizone. I know about steroids--they mask symptoms until the body can heal.

I wasn't happy with that and called to see if I could see Dr. Olsen and sure enough, I could at 2. So I didn't get the prednizone. Dr. Olsen put me on a anti-inflammatory and sent me for a blood test to rule out uric acid (gout) and an X-ray. He didn't think the steroid was a good idea either.

Lo and behold, I  have a bone spur in my elbow. I looked 'elbow bone spur' up on line and found out a lot of people have them but they never cause pain. But the symptoms in the articles are exactly what I'm experiencing. I have an appointment with the orthopedist who operated on the elbow years ago to see if I need some more surgery. The procedure I read about is not serious, probably one day surgery.

I don't know why I waited almost two weeks to go see about it. Is it that I just thought I could imagine it away or didn't want to know or figured I could tough it out and it would go away.

I need to think through that and ponder it. Why did I put up with pain for two weeks?

I remember once, when Mimi came home and had laundry, I went down in the basement with her and showed her the rubber mat to stand on so the dryer wouldn't shock her. She looked at me like you would look at a blithering idiot and said, 'get a new dryer!' I did, the next day.

I tend to make the best of a bad situation too much. I call it optimism. It's probably closer to stubbornness and stupidity. Probably....

Monday, September 22, 2014

Spare the rod and spoil the child

I've been thinking since yesterday about 'spare the rod and spoil the child' which most people believe is in the Bible. It isn't. That phrase comes from a poem by Samuel Butler in 1644.

What IS in the Bible is Proverbs 13.24: "Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them."

So the 'spare...spoil' line is from a 17th Century poet, not Proverbs!

Let's ponder what a 'rod' is for a moment.

The two instruments of a biblical time shepherd were 'the rod and the staff'.

The rod was a piece of wood about 5 feet long and the staff was longer, usually taller than the shepherd and had a crook on the end--the model for the crozier a bishop carries.

The rod was used to literally, 'keep the sheep in line'. It was not used to hit them, but to guide them by leaning it against their side to make them change direction.

I know a bit about sheep, and hitting them does about as much good as hitting children does. A sheep has no idea what a blow means and will simply try to get away--but a gentle push on the side...a sheep understands to move the way he/she is being guided.

The staff, with it's hook, was to help sheep go down hills or up hills by being hooked around their neck and giving them a pull.

Remember Psalm 23, how the shepherd 'maketh me to lie down' and 'leadeth me beside still waters'. How the Lord 'leadeth me in the paths of righteousness' and how even 'in the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."

How could a weapon 'comfort' anyone?

The Biblical 'rod' is an instrument of discipline, certainly--but a discipline of guiding and leading, not of punishment.

So, next time you hear someone say that the Bible says, "spare the rod and spoil the child" you'll know it doesn't! And you'll be able to give some insight in to the guidance and encouragement and even 'comfort' of being gently being put back on the right path, without any violence.

Here's something to ponder: how could so many people be so wrong about what they think is in the Bible? And, more importantly, is that the only thing they are wrong about.

And always remember, Jesus said, "let the little children come to me" and "to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you must become like a little child" and  Isaiah said, "a little child shall lead them...."

Just some things to ponder while you're pondering whether it's a parent's right to hit their children....

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hitting kids

I listened to an hour long conversation on Public Radio about 'corporal punishment'--the nicer way of saying 'hitting kids'.

All the evidence of much scientific study proves that 'hitting kids' doesn't work in any way. In fact, 'hitting kids' has bad results--humiliation and withdrawal, later violence, no change in behavior.

I was never hit as a kid. Bern wasn't either. So we didn't hit Josh and Mimi (though I did put my fist through a wall in New Haven when Josh did something I could not abide.) And, so far as I know, Josh and Cathy have never hit their kids.

Here's the first question (AND maybe the 'only' question) to ask: why is it a crime to hit another adult and not a crime to hit your kid?

Did you know that the US is the nation that most often hits kids? Many Western nations and nations in the second and third world, have made hitting your kid a crime.

It doesn't fuckin' work! Hitting your kid has no effect whatsoever on future behavior. So why do we still do it?

Here's an interesting fact: a much larger percentage of 'born again Christians' hit their kids than other populations. Something about 'spare the rod and spoil the child' kind of mentality.

And people who were hit as children tend to a much greater degree to hit their children than parents who weren't hit as children.

It's about breaking the cycle, as so many things are.

When you hit someone--your wife or husband, your kid, another adult--you have already lost control of the situation. "Hitting" is the last resort. So, if you are hitting you've already lost the strands that would make for a healthy relationship. When you hit your child it is about 'you' not them. They learn nothing and gain nothing from the hitting. You channel your frustration into striking out but don't learn anything or gain anything from the violence inflicted on a helpless, defenseless child.

All this radio conversation was spurred by the accusations against Adrian Peterson, the MVP running back of the Minnesota Vikings who apparently switched his 4 year old so badly he needed emergency medical assistance.

By the way, a four year old doesn't have enough frontal cortex development to control their behavior. Hitting a four year old is like hitting a hedge-hog. No message gets through. Not at all.

I think we can thank the NFL, ironically, for giving us a forum to talk about domestic violence (Ray Rice and others) and hitting kids (Adrian Peterson).

It's long past time that both conversations should be gripping our culture.

In an ironic way, thank God for pro football players. Maybe now we can truly face the twin horrors of domestic violence and child abuse and not let ourselves off the hook.

(Interesting, isn't it, that it takes millionaires behaving badly to get us to pay attention?)

Autumn light

I was out on the deck when the light gets the way it only gets in Autumn--so rich, so full, like you can touch it and taste it and inhale it.

The Celtic folks called it 'the gloaming'--that time after sunset and before dark where magic and spirits and wonder and marvel might just show up.

The light in the gloaming is so wondrous...a bit off color, hazy almost, translucent.

Here's the song about it.

"Roamin' In The Gloamin'" is a popular love song written by Sir Harry Lauder in 1911. The song tells of a man and his sweetheart courting in the evening. The title comes from the chorus:
Roamin' in the gloamin' on the bonnie banks o' Clyde.
Roamin' in the gloamin' wae my lassie by my side.
When the sun has gone to rest,
That's the time we love the best.
O, it's lovely roamin' in the gloamin.![1]
The song was a hit for Lauder in both his music hall shows and his 1912 recording. It has been recorded numerous times since.

It happens most in Autumn. Keep an eye out for the Gloamin'.....

Friday, September 19, 2014

"That made it worth it...."

Somewhere, in the last few days, I either read or heard someone say, "that made it worth it."

Something, in life, made life 'worth it' for whoever said that, real or fictional. (I only read fiction these days--four or five books a week--no wonder I can't remember where I heard that.

But it made me think about 'what made it worth it' to live my life.

In my life as a priest I baptized almost 800 children and the rare adult. I was the celebrant at over 600 funerals. I was the one who pronounced almost 400 people married--including 2 same sex couples.

All of that 'made it worth it' to have been alive.

But as a man, I have raised two children who turned out better than I could have imagined.

And I have three remarkable grand-daughters who make my life golden.

And I've been married to Bern for 43 years--full of joy and pain and wonder and worry and fulfillment beyond anything I deserve.

All of that 'made it worth it' to be alive.

More than 'worth it'--amazing, astonishing, profound beyond belief.

I'm so grateful for having been alive. Really. Beyond reality--just perfect.

And I say 'thank you so much' to whatever powers that be, to God and Allah and Yahweh and Jesus and Buddha and Moses and Mohammed and all the others I'm forgetting. And the Goddess. And the stars in the sky and the planets in their courses and the Universe itself.

Thank you.

It has been so 'worth it' I can't even put it into words....


Your elbow is something you hardly ever notice until you do.

I've been noticing my left elbow now for over a week. I have a theory about why it is hurting. Nobody would believe my theory, and I don't blame them.

But here it is: I am lucky (or unlucky) enough to have such severe allergies that I qualify via blood test for a medication called Xolair. It's two shots every two weeks to give me allergen blockers. I can really tell that it's working 9 months after starting. I haven't had asthma once in all that time and though I still cough and sneeze, it wasn't nearly as bad as it has been in the past this summer. Not nearly as bad. Plus, I'm on half the medication I used to take before the shots and in October may, if my doctor agrees, go off it altogether. So, good news.

Bad news is this: I broke the two bones in my left forearm in 8 or 9 places in a car wreck 6 or 7 years ago (I'm not sure since linear time confounds me...) and have two titanium rods in that arm. The first time I took Xolair I had one shot in each arm and my forearm started aching until I went to the surgeon who put them there. Everything was fine according to X-ray and some anti-inflammatory pills made the ache go away in a day or two.

Then, two weeks ago, for reasons beyond all comprehension, I let the nurse give me a shot in both arms. I woke up two days later with pain in my elbow that only got worse when I was in Chicago. I still had the pills from the last time and though I've been taking them for three days, my elbow still hurts. I can't quite put my left forefinger in my left ear. I can't lift anything heavy with my left arm. It wakes me up a couple of times a night when I'm not on my right side with my left arm folded over my chest.

Very annoying.

Noticing your elbow is a pain in the...well, elbow.

I'm going to urgent care tomorrow if it isn't a lot better. Could Xolair and titanium really react that way? I have no other explanation--I didn't hit or injure my elbow in any way.

Pondering the human body will get you thinking too much....

Thursday, September 18, 2014


This whole Scottish independence movement is hard to follow from here. I've always thought that Scotland and Wales and even Northern Ireland, had distinct identities and did not think of themselves as 'British'.

This movement seems to emerge from two distinct and very different situations.

1) The Iron Lady and beyond: Some Scots wanted a third choice on the ballot along with 'Yes' and 'No'--'Devolution'. Until Margaret Thatcher, Scotland had a great deal of control of their education system, their health-care system, their banking system...they even had the right to add a tax to the British income tax of 3 pence to a pound that would stay in Scotland for Scottish use. They never did it, but they had the option. Actually, Scotland made out like bandits in the 'marriage of convenience with England, Wales and Ireland (now just Northern Ireland). The Scottish economy, semi-autonomous from the rest of the UK, flowered in the alliance in trade and manufacturing and banking. But beginning with Thatcher, lessening with Blair and increasing again under David Cameron, Westminster took back some of the autonomy...quite a bit of it. "Devolution" as an option would give Great Britain the opportunity to 'devolve' powers back to a Scotland still in the union. In fact, Cameron and others have suggested that would happen if there was a 'No' vote. However, the thing politicians do worst is make promises they keep.

2) The discovery of oil in the North Sea 30 years ago: all that oil (mostly undeveloped) is now in the ocean of Great Britain. If the vote is 'Yes' today, the ocean belongs to Scotland. Don't need to explain that much more. Follow the money....

The vote was on paper ballots and the total won't be known until Friday morning sometimes although the population of Scotland is only a tad larger than the population of Connecticut.

Bern said she hopes the vote is 'Yes'...just to see what happens!

Who knows what will happen--but the vote will be extremely close although about a month ago "No" had a big lead. Then England started sending PM's and others to croon about how lovely it is to be 'British' and the Scots were appalled.

Whatever happens, this close vote will change the conversation in Scotland from "Why should we be independent?" to "Why shouldn't we be independent?"

That shift in the conversation is a crack in the dike of unity. That much I know from the 2% or so of my DNA that is Scottish.

Scottish DNA is DNA on steroids and bagpipes and haggis....

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One thing I notice

When I come back from leading a workshop I am calmer and more laid back that I was before I went.

Now, truth be known, I am calm and laid back to a degree normally not seen in nature.

So, coming back more so, deepens the calmness and laid backness.

Maybe, if I lead enough Making a Difference Workshops, I'll just show up as 'present', with not much attached.

That would be good, I think....

Monday, September 15, 2014

Coming home

When Jerome, one of the Chinese participants in the workshop in Chicago, was leaving, he gave me half-a-pack of Chinese cigarettes. Though some people would think that was akin to giving a razor blade to a person in a warm bath, I was deeply touched.

Chinese cigarettes, by the way, taste the way I had imagined they would. But I smoked them anyway so I would honor the gift.

We had the widest cultural group I've ever seen in a workshop--4 Chinese, 4 Vietnamese, 2 Africans (Togo and Somalia), an American raised Korean who spoke Chinese as well as English and Korean and two Hispanics. Amazing. We had to keep checking if everyone understood 'Americanism'--like I said, "frozen in amber" and Ann explained resin and insects to the group!

Ann and I had dinner with Nancy and Jens, both of whom are involved in the Mastery Foundation. They live on the 28th and top floor of a high-rise in North Chicago. Their South facing wall is all glass and looks over downtown and the lake. To the west, floor the ceiling windows view the sunset. I have difficulty (as I've said before, I'm sure) with heights. I didn't get too near the windows, but the views were beyond belief. Four friends of theirs, all Bosnians, came as well and were delightful.

Ann took a cab to O'Hara and I took one to Midway. My cab driver was from Nairobi, and we listened to the end of the Bears game on his radio, turned up loud, us cheering all the way. Chicago Bears fans from Nairobi and West Virginia--ponder that.

I took the shuttle to the airport this morning and flew to Atlanta--Chicago to Hartford through Atlanta, imagine that.

My connection was in a different concourse and I had to take a train and didn't have time for a meal so I bought a Boar's Head wrap to eat on the plane. Atlanta still has smoking areas--which, to me, seems very civilized. I had a Chinese cigarette in a pub that had glass doors that kept the smoke inside. You could have had a smoke in there without lightening up. It was about 30 feet by 20 feet and sealed in and full of smoke and the friendly and marginalized folks who are smokers. When smokers are in the presence of only other smokers there is an almost tribal feeling to the gathering.

The flight to Bradley Airport was supposed to take an hour and 59 minutes. We were 27 minutes early so I got through Hartford traffic before 5 and got home much earlier than I had imagined.

The Puli almost had a stroke from the exuberance of this greeting and Bern was there, wondrous as always, and the cat came out and put his paws up on my leg for a scratch and the parakeet was singing up a storm.

How much I love home!

The day may come when I won't travel at all, as much as I enjoy it.

Coming home is always just the absolute, positively, best thing ever.....

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Chicago 2

It's the end of the second day of the workshop--right on schedule where we should be in the material. Tomorrow we finally stop going backwards and move toward the future. The first two days are all about clearing away the stuff in the background in order to create a clearing from which to create a future that wouldn't happen anyway. Tomorrow is always exciting for the participants, and for us....

Where we're staying doesn't have a cafeteria so we take all meals out. But we're right between the University of Chicago and the Catholic Theological Union so there are any number of good places to eat. Last night we had dinner in a glorified diner: Ann Overton and I had biscuits and sausage gravy and fried green tomatoes...I also had grits. Imagine such a wondrous southern meal in the upper reaches of the mid-west! And it was as good as I've had anywhere. What a find--a place for gravy and biscuits that is open 24 hours.

Tonight, John Ibel treated us to a really fine Italian Restaurant. I had some of the best salmon I've ever eaten with shrimp and scallops still in the shell with sun-dried tomatoes and olives and mushrooms and spinach mashed potatoes. There was enough left that I brought it home for lunch tomorrow. The last two days for lunch I've had soft shell crab salad and shrimp spring rolls for a Thia place a couple of blocks away. Today I also had some muscles on rice noodles with a warm green curry sauce. Who knew Chicago was a seafood gem?

(Enough about food already--leading the Making a Difference Workshop works up an appetite....)


Flying on 9/11 was a bit eerie. Waiting for my flight at Bradley, the entire airport was asked to observe a minute of silence at the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center. I didn't realize how chaotic, loud and full of frenetic movement the airport around me had been until everyone stopped moving and talking for a minute--a long minute.

The trip out was interrupted by a layover in Detroit. In fact, I spent more time in Detroit's airport than in the air the whole day! Two and a half hours in Detroit, two hours and 25 minutes flying. But, luckily, it's a nice airport.

I few to Midway where John Ible, who put together the workshop, picked me up. We're at the Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park, just three blocks from Lake Michigan.  I'm in a large room with bath on the 9th floor--a little high for me given my issues with heights, but as long as I stay a couple of feet from the windows, I'm fine.

The workshop has 29 participants--just about the perfect size. Most are RC religious of some ilk--not unusual since the workshops tend to reflect the producers and John did it all himself and  he's a Maryknoll priest.

I couldn't get on line Thursday and much of Friday until I looked at the small envelope my room key and card to get into the building came in--there was the name and password I was to use printed clearly!

Will write more later.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

going again

I'm flying out of Bradley Airport (my own personal airport!) tomorrow at 11:10 am to got to Chicago to help lead a Making A Difference Workshop (those of us involved call it MAD).

I wish I could figure out how many workshops I've helped lead over the last (what is it?) 25 years or so. But I can't. A lot, I know.

It is one of the things that convinces me that who I 'be' is who I am meant to 'be'. I love doing it. It never gets old. And 'the workshop works', as we leaders remind ourselves over and again--in spite of our limitations.

It is a workshop about ontology--the study of 'being'...as opposed to 'doing' or 'having'. It is for people in ministry--it doesn't matter which kind (ordained, lay, tangential) so long as the participant thinks of what they do as 'ministry'. I think everyone in this Chicago workshop (25 last I heard) is a Christian. There is a richness that is added when we have folks of other faiths involved--but, never mind, all will be well.

Most of the participants will be Roman Catholic, since it was put together by a Maryknoll priest. The Mastery Foundation 'delivers' the workshop, but people on the ground have to put it together. So, the folks who put it together usually determine who's in it.

All three of the leaders are Episcopalians, oddly enough. That's seldom true. Ann, the Executive Director of the Foundation, is an Episcopal lay person. I'm an Episcopal priest and Shane, the newest leader, is both an Episcopal priest and a member of a monastic order. Luckily, Episcopalians understand Roman Catholics better than most of them understand themselves. There was some concern that Shane--woman, a priest and a monastic--might confuse some of the RC's. I personally think the women RC's will be fascinated with her and the men will 'get her' because she's a monastic.

It should be great fun. What is the most fun is to see the 'transformation' occur for the participants. MAD uses centering prayer and 'transformational technology' in equal doses. It simply runs together at some point.

Watching people find 'transformation' in their lives in ministry is about as good as it gets because you know that, because they're in 'ministry', their transformation is going to touch hundreds of people and rub off in many ways.

How great is that?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The adventurous trip home...

The Hampton Inn in Stofford/Aquita, Virginia--some 30 miles north of Richmond--is the midway point between Connecticut and Oak Island. 361 miles from Oak Island and 363 miles from Connecticut. Can't get more 'half-way' than that.

So that's where we stop going and coming, to break up what would be a 12 hour journey straight through.

Since we left the beach early, we got to the motel around 4, though, since we are all over 60, we stop to pee quite often....

After an early dinner, the plan was to leave around 6 a.m. so there would be plenty of time for me to pick up Bela at the Kennel between four and five. And so we did and somewhere in Maryland, John's GPS was predicting we'd get to New Haven, where our car was, around one p.m. All was well and all was well and all manner of things were well.

We stopped in Maryland to get coffee and pee and then again around mile 80 of the New Jersey Turnpike to pee and get a light snack, it still being well before noon. Five miles later, adventure began!

(I could have called this post, "the trip home from hell"--which, if you look at it cynically, it certainly could have been. But cynicism is a dead end that is a hell all itself. I prefer to find 'adventure' rather than tragedy in the vicissitudes of life. You can't avoid them, after all, so why make a big fat 'drama' out of them when it's just as easily seen as something out of an action/adventure movie?)

At mile post 85.5 of the NJ Turnpike, the serpentine belt of John's Land Rover broke and failed. I remember the exact place because we were suddenly on a shoulder of the Turnpike that barely contained the Land Rover and from the front seat passenger seat I was staring at the mile marker. John called AAA and was told they couldn't service breakdowns on the Turnpike but transferred him to the Turnpike Authority that dispatched a truck that arrived within 20 minutes. The driver was delightful and packed Bern, Sherry, John and me into his cab for the two exit ride to what I believe was Perth Amboy, NJ, though I have no comprehension of NJ geography. He set John's car down in a shopping center where AAA could come and get it.

The second tow truck arrived within half-an-hour and was going to tow John's car to his mechanic in New Haven. John has super-duper AAA service and the 105 mile tow as going to cost him only $12! Someone had to ride with the driver and John suggested I go since I would get to New Haven and my car in time to go get the dog.

Andrew, another friend in New Haven, agreed to drive to Perth Amboy and pick up the other three folks from the deserted island of a Walmart shopping center. (Imagine that--Andrew agreed, without hesitation, to drive 2 hours + to pick up the stranded adventurers! That is a friend indeed, perhaps a saint for the lost castaways....)

So, Jim the tow truck driver (actually it was a flatbed truck, not a truck with and hook) and I sat off on the next stage of the adventure. We doubtless passed Andrew going the other way but never knew it ('ships in the night/adventure' and all that).

Jim and I enjoyed the ride and I got to New Haven at 3:15 where Jack, Sherrie's husband (another friend indeed) picked me up at John's mechanics and helped me move the luggage from the Land Rover to Jack's aging Volvo and take the luggage and me to Jack's, where my car waited.

I got to the dog in plenty of time and after he almost knocked me down with gratitude for his rescue we went home to wait for Andrew's rescued souls.

I got home at five and Andrew got the crew of wrecked ship "Land Rover" back to New Haven a short time after. (Bern told me he actually thanked them for 'the adventure' since he was reading some Yale graduate student papers and couldn't wait to drive to Perth Amboy and back....a saint-in-waiting, at least.)

So I drove down to New Haven and got Bern and we came home--just like those two pigeons in the last two posts...we came home.

The dog is 'home' and the cat and the bird (cared for while we were gone by our high school senior next door neighbor, were there already, waiting for Bern and me).

I have a real affinity to our two North Carolina pigeons. Home is where you feel safe, where they have to love you, where you are meant to sit down and BE. Just that...'be'.

The adventure is over. We will tell the tale to ourselves and others over and again as the years pass--embellishing greatly, all taking credit for great calmness in adversity, each of us, in our own way, sharing a bit of the limelight of hero and heroine.

What a way to 'come home'!

And how good it is to 'be here', at last, 'at home'.....

The birdies, redux

I packed my laptop on Friday afternoon so I didn't get to tell you about the return of the pigeons.

I thought I'd seen the pigeons up on the roof of the house during the day but, as it is, one pigeon looks pretty much like another.

But 4 of us were out reading in the gazebo about 5 pm and., lo and behold, they came back to their spot on the banister of the gazebo! Bern tried giving them crackers and grapes and watermelon, which they equally ignored though they let her get right beside them to off them the food. After our dinner, their mom came to feed them on the gazebo roof. They followed her around and generally annoyed her until she finished her task and flew away.

Back to their 'home' on the banister they came and spent the night huddled together even through a monsoon type rain at about 5:30 that woke most of us up.

They were gone when we left at 8:30 or so to head out--Mimi and Tim to Williamsburg and the rest of us to our midway motel in Stofford/Aquita, Virginia.

I don't worry about them as much as yesterday and the day before, but I do wonder how many days they'll come back to the gazebo banister before they move on.

And I hope they stay together, whenever they find a new 'home'. I think of them as brother and sister since one is slightly smaller than the other. But who knows about the gender of pigeons....

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Birdies...

Yesterday, in the early afternoon, two fledgling pigeons landed on the deck railing of the little gazebo near the steps down to the sand, and didn't leave. From time to time, one or the other of them would flutter up to the roof the the structure and flap around confused. They must have come from a nest hidden up there and couldn't figure out how to get into it. We'd seen older pigeons fly up there and disappear.

So the two of then sat on the railing. They were so young that they had no fear of us and one walked right up to where Mimi was sitting and seemed to be trying to communicate something. All afternoon and into the evening, they stayed there, huddled together most of the time, waiting...for what I don't know.

Bern gave them a bowl of water and they seemed as content as pigeons get what with their head bowing and all. Siblings, I'm sure, and staying close together.

The reason you never see 'baby' pigeons is that they stay in the nest longer than most any other bird. These two obviously weren't used to being out too much and hung around until it was totally dark. I went to be about 11 and they were still there, wing to wing, cooing softly.

This morning they were gone--some instinct clicked in and they must have flown away together.

Just a few minutes ago, sitting on the deck, I looked up to the roof of the house and saw several pigeons sitting there, as they are wont to do. The two to the right, I was sure, were our two birds, smaller than the others and sitting nestled against each other.

I started to point them out to everyone but I had fretted about the two birds more than anyone and thought the other humans would think I was getting soft in the head if I kept catching glimpses of those two birds.

Tomorrow we leave and drive north. By this time (3:30 or so) we'll be well into Virginia and looking for the exit for out motel. Sunday, we'll be home. Those two pigeons, if God is kind, will still be here, growing up.

I'll think of them from time to time. But even I am not sentimental enough to imagine they might think of me....

No more Mister Nice Ocean

For most of the time we've been here, the Atlantic has been rather like and endless lake with one or two foot waves. This morning it turned ugly.

Some storm far out at sea or a ten mile an hour increase in the wind from the south--which ever--there have been 3 to 5 foot whitecaps crashing one after another as the tide comes in.

The ocean giveth and the ocean taketh away....

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Congregations of Sea Birds

Tim and I were watching a couple of dozen of seabirds (different kinds of gulls, sandpipers, some smaller birds) standing on the beach, all looking in the same direction. This is not unusual here on Oak Island. Yesterday I walked a mile to the west and back and saw three such gatherings. The groupings can be 10 or 12 or upwards of 50--standing on the beach, all looking in the same direction.

I am confused and confounded by this behavior. It's like these congregations of birds say to each other, "hey, let's all stand on the beach and look in the same direction for no particular reason to confuse and confound the humans!"

And they all agree that's a wonderful idea.

And it works.

Tim and I just looked at each other and shook our heads, confused and confounded.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Three sleeps...

One of the most disconcerting things about a one week vacation is that people start thinking about it ending long before it ends.

At dinner tonight, one of our number said, 'only two more days'...alas.

The thing is, there are two reasons I don't think like that: I'm no good at linear time and have to think real hard to figure out how many days are left and,  every wonderful day here means I'm one day closer to getting home to my Puli.

It is embarrassing to admit how much I miss our dog. I haven't had a good night's sleep because when I wake up at home, I reach over and rub him and go back to sleep. (Sleep with me, sleep with my dog....) Here, he's not there to rub.

John and Bern and I have been talking about coming for two weeks next fall. The only thing that remains to work out is bringing Bela. It would involve drugging him to the gills, finding a pet friendly motel somewhere in the middle of Virginia and actually committing to what would be required to bring that awful dog we love so much.

When our children were small, we never came for less than three weeks--a couple of times for a month.

That kind of time at the ocean puts you in touch with the deep down rhythms of human beings. You start going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. You lose track of what day it is (I do that because of age now, so being at the ocean for a month would completely un-stick me in time. You eat when you are hungry instead of at 'meal times'. You begin to roll like the ocean.

One reason I'm glad I don't live on a beach by an ocean is that I fear I'd come to take it for granted and not notice anymore how healing the waters' rolling truly is.

Two more glorious days, two days of travel with  people I love. And then I'll go get Bela!

All that sounds great to me....

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pelicans and a south facing beach

Long Beach, one of the three beaches on Oak Island, NC, faces south. Yaupon Beach faces East and Fort Caswell Beach faces north-east.

A south facing beach has the sun rise on your left, as you look out toward Cuba, and crosses overhead until it sets on your right. So, the sun is never directly in your eyes as you look at the Atlantic. It does heat you on both sides during the day.

We put up the state flag of West Virginia, as we do except when I forget to bring it, and it blows north almost all day. There are no insects here because the wind blows them inland. When the breeze comes from the north, go inside because the insects from the inlets and marshes of the island will be blown down to the beach! But that seldom happens.

Pelicans breed here. I didn't see many the first day or two, but today they are back: large, solemn, stately, flying in formations of 5 to 9 up and down the beach and diving for fish out in the water with a grace such a large, odd bird shouldn't possess.

I love Pelicans...would like to be one for a few hours but wouldn't agree to that for fear my avian mind would take over and I'd forget to come back....

Liver pudding

I eat stuff at the beach that I don't eat the rest of the year.

Like liver pudding--fried up with eggs for breakfast.

Liver 'pudding' used to be called liver 'mush', according to Sherry, who the only true 'Southerner' among us, having been born in South Carolina. (John, Bern, Mimi and I were all born in West Virginia, which isn't 'southern' but Appalachia. Tim was born and bred in Massachusetts-so we don't know mush about liver pudding.)

Sherry believes that they changed the name because people were turned off by the concept of 'mush'. I don't buy that because I think people who were turned off by 'liver mush' will be equally grossed out by 'liver pudding' since it's the 'liver' they're reacting to in the first place.

There is some kind of liver in liver pudding and corn meal, for sure. Beyond that, I can't tell you what's in it, even though the package is in the refrigerator and I could go look at the ingredients. But, truth be told, I don't want to know what's in it! I only eat it at the beach and it is tasty fried crisp with an egg on top and I probably couldn't eat it if I knew all the ingredients.

Some things are better tasting shrouded in mystery.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Light Show

On Sunday night, after a great dinner and a day of being calmed by the ocean, Tim came inside where Bern and Sherry and I were--Tim, Mimi and John were down in the gazebo at the end of the walkway to the steps to the beach. "You've got to see this," is all he said.

Down above the steps we stayed for an hour, at least, watching a light show worth paying for.

A range of black clouds were above Emerald Isle, the beach to the West of Oak Island, back on the NC mainland. Lightening lit up the clouds in rapid succession and wondrous ways. Only once or twice did that power break through and throw white and jagged bolts down to the ocean. But the cloud exploded in golden light over and over and over.

It was a blessing and honor to see that, to be in the near presence of such raw power and raw beauty.

We 'ooed' and 'ahhed' for almost an hour until the show slowly came to an end.

Nature...how do you beat that?

Mimi and Tim

Mimi and Tim took 3 days to come to North Carolina. They stopped in Philadelphia on Thursday night and Richmond on Friday night. Sort of a 'pre-marriage' time together--being in a car on interstates, well, I talked about that in my last post....Good for them.

So, they got to Oak Island before us and picked up the key to the 'Andromeda Strand' (a tad to 'cute' of a name, but a great house).

In spite of that, we got to the house about 5 minutes before they did because they took the time to go to Food Lion and get us all we needed for the first day or so.

When they arrived, it was like we'd not seen them for years...decades...hugs and kisses and shrill greetings all around.

What could be better than being at a beautiful beach, in a great house with people you love dearly?

Not much....


(a little late--busy and trouble figuring out how to find my blog to write on--I found the blog over and again, just not to write on...but John found it for me...)

Friday and Saturday, we traveled--Bern and John and Sherry and I--all the way from CT to NC, stopping for the night in VA.

I've know John since 1971--he was a graduate student, working on his Ph.D. is psychology and I was a Social Service worker for the WV Dept of Welfare and Bern and I lived in Morgantown. John and I both went to St. Gabrial's mission, which met in the attic of our apartment. Bern was finishing her BFA at WVU after a year at Northeastern while I was at Harvard.

I've known Sherry since 1980, when I was Rector of St. Paul's in New Haven and she was a member there. She anGd Bern have been a member of 'Group' a women's group never larger than 6, for over 30 years. Sherry and her husband, Jack, are two of our best friends. In fact, John and Sherry and Jack are three people who are among both my and Bern's 'best friends'.

Driving for many hours on Interstate Highways are, in my opinion, one of the ways to bond deeply and to discuss things you wouldn't bring up without moving at high speed, just me talkin'.

I noticed that when Mejol and I went to West Virginia from Baltimore and back. We talked about things we would have never discussed about our lives and our childhood that we wouldn't have gotten to in several days sitting opposite each other.

Part of it, I think, is that you can't really make consistent eye-contact at 80 mph. It frees us up, in my thought, to go deeper than we would faster than we could have, or would have been willing to, looking at each other all the time.

Don't worry, I'm not going to go into those conversations. They are two personal. But they were theaputic and healing in many ways.

So, get into a car and drive fast with people you love for hours and hours. You might just find yourselves at a place you needed to get but haven't been able to....

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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.