Saturday, October 31, 2015


We made it home from Baltimore in under 5 hours with three stops. And I'm driving 80 on the New Jersey Turnpike and people are passing me!

We had a great short visit. Two nights. We always buy the granddaughter's Halloween costumes--Emma was a evil princess in black with hoop skirts, Morgan was a wood's man (woman), looking for all the world like one of Robin Hood's compatriots, and Tegan was a girl from Bali, looking for all the world like a girl from Bali in wondrous colors.

We went down on Thursday and went to Red Robin for dinner. The girls love Red Robin but it is really an awful chain. I'd recommend the onion rings and little else. But you go where the granddaughters want to go! Just the way it is.

They wore their costumes to The Calvert School on Friday (the tip off on this school is the insistence on being The Calvert School (as if there are others' claiming to be Calvert Schools...) But it is a great school if you like private and expensive and privileged, which it is. Sorry, I'm a public school snob. I did get a Master's Degree from Harvard but on someone else's dime, thank you. Friday was a half-day, so we had lots of time with the girls while their lawyer parents worked pretty late and go to spoil and cook for them.

When Josh came home, we hadn't been able to turn on the TV all day. Josh thinks Bern and I are 'cursed' about major machinery (and it is true that most times we go, something breaks) but this TV, expensive on the front end, was 10 years old and on it's way out--dim for sometime now. Josh tried to replace the bulb, which impressed me since I am the most 'un-handy' person ever. He got Bern's 'handy' DNA, obviously. (Secretly, I think, he was pleased since he'd wanted a new TV for his 40th birthday in August but didn't get one because they're considering moving and why replace a TV before you move, or something like that.) The other thing was about not being able to watch TV is that Morgan and Emma and Tegan didn't mind at all. They read and played until dinner. Just since Easter they've gotten so much more able to not be entertained. Tegan is 6 and can read about anything. She found Cathy's parenting guide and read a lot of it! Bern and I and our two kids are devoted readers. So proud to see it passed on to another generation. Reading makes life so rich.

 So, on Saturday morning, Josh and Cathy went to Costco and bought a 60 inch TV that weighed about a quarter of what the 10 year old 56 inch one did--technology marches on. Josh and I (mostly Josh, I just cleaned up packing material and such while he set it up and lifted when he told me too) installed the TV while Bern and Cathy and the girls went to a Halloween Party at the home of another Calvert kid. It was a great party with a kid costumed as Harry Potter, who was Harry's spitting image. 20 kids or so. What blew me away was that when Josh and I got their, the girls came and embraced me and insisted that I meet every kid! Joy beyond measure! Josh and I were there for the kids to play a game or two, then Cathy and Josh and I went to see a house they might be interested in out near the Episcopal Cathedral, Johns Hopkins and THE Calvert School.

It was an incredible house. 5000 square feet. finished basement and attic on 2 acres. Stone outside, hardwood inside, subtle paint, a kitchen to die for (with a prep sink across the room from the sink sink!) Amazing. It would sell for $1.3 million or so in Cheshire and $2.5 million or more in Greenwich , but in Baltimore is listed for $599,000 and will probably go for less.

Then we went to an Italian deli that is better than any I've ever been in and I've been in a few in Boston and New Haven and NYC. We brought lots of stuff home.

Bern suddenly felt sick (from not sleeping and not eating much and the speed of the drive--my thoughts only) just before the CT state line. So she went to bed with dry toast and I fed the bird, cleaned the litter boxes (3 when we're away) and drank some wine.

I have an extra hour of sleep tonight, thank goodness, but driving gives me a rush so I'm still here typing at 11:15 (actually, 10:15 thanks to Standard Time), but I'm going soon.

Glad to be home. Missing them already.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The girls...

Tomorrow morning we're taking the dog to the kennel and driving to Baltimore to be with the girls--our three granddaughters until late Saturday afternoon.

We've got the drive down cold. Once we made it home--288 miles--in 4 hours and 12 minutes!

But being with Emma, Morgan and Tegan...that you can never predict.

They are so smart and so good and so funny--well, just what I'd expect my offspring's offspring to be.

I have no way to blog until we get home on Halloween.

Maybe you'll hear from me on All Saints' Day....

Shalom, jim

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The moon, the moon....

The moon, in the sky beyond the half dozen hemlocks beside our back porch, is as full as it can be in the eastern sky.

OK, I know the moon doesn't really shrink and then swell, it's all about the earth blocking the sun that reflects off the moon. I know that. But I like to think the moon does really shrink into darkness and then swell into wholeness. It seems right.

"Lunatic" comes from the Latin for 'moon'--luna. And I truly believe the moon has an effect on the way we are.

At St. John's, all the years I was there, we dreaded the full moon. Crazy people got crazier and people who didn't seem crazy got a little bit crazy.

Folks in the Soup Kitchen acted out a bit more. Street People became more aggressive. And a Vestry meeting on the night of a full moon would devolve into nonsense.

No kidding.

I actually knew today that the moon would be full tonight. I had this energy unlike my normal energy--just a little off the grid. I said things to people I probably wouldn't say at a quarter moon or half-moon and never in the dark of the moon.

I like believing the cosmos has some power in our lives. Like the moon drives us a bit. And the seasons make us different. The Spring 'me' is different than the late Autumn 'me'.

We are looked over and driven by the stars. Don't tell me astrological signs are meaningless. I am Aries on the cusp of Torus and that rules my extroversion and my irony. I really know that.

If you get a chance, go out and look at the moon tonight or tomorrow night. A full moon is a lot of energy. Really.


Frank was a member of St. Andrew's in Northford. He died Saturday at CT Hospice in Branford, overlooking the Long Island Sound. He was 80.

When I first spoke to Cheryl, his only child, we talked mostly about being only children watching parents die, how lonely that is. Her mother died several years ago. I went through the same thing though my mother died 13 years or so before my father. It is an odd thing to be the only person who knows them the way you know them and watch them slip away. No one is there to share in the memories--they are only yours. That conversation was on a visit to Hospice when Frank was asleep the whole time--unable to be awakened. Two only children, we were, sharing one of the dark things about having no siblings.

After he died, I told  her I was supposed to be in Baltimore on Saturday, when the funeral was, but that I would come home early and let Bern ride the train home and she told me she didn't want me to do that. She said visiting Frank, as I did at Yale New Haven Hospital and Hospice was more important. Plus Ted, a priest Frank knew much longer than he knew me, was doing the funeral and could do the whole service perfectly well.

Today I met with Cheryl and her cousin, Clair, who is shepherding Cheryl through all this, I offered once more to come home early. She didn't know why I was to be in Baltimore and when I told her I would be visiting my grand-daughters for the first time since Easter, she did some very expressive movements and said, "My father would never forgive me if I asked you to shorten your time with your granddaughters. My father was all about family...."

Frank spent his life working against prostitution and human trafficking. Way ahead of his time. His daughter told me people thought he was crazy, worrying about such things. But Frank told me he'd gotten over 200 women off the street who stayed off the street and built new lives. Few people I know can say they saved that many people!

He was a remarkable man. I would have left Baltimore early--at 6 a.m. to get to the noon service--for Frank. But I wouldn't want him never to forgive his daughter for making me....

And Ted will do a wonderful job.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Why email is a bad idea

So, I noticed on the Clergy News from the Episcopal Church in CT that Nathan Ives, our new Deacon in the Cluster was listed as being 'missioner' of the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry, I emailed him to poke fun at that (since I'm the 'interim" 'missioner', not him.)

But he got concerned and emailed Linda at the Commons (the diocesan headquarters) to get it right.

It was perfectly 'right' from the beginning. I take nothing personal, nothing, I just thought it was humorous. But now it becomes an issue.

NEVER, EVER use email to truly communicate anything besides dates and times.

I've often had email be the Evil One on many occasions because email cannot convey skepticism or irony and most everything I say is either skeptical or ironic.

Perhaps, you might say, I should be more concrete and factual in email. And I should. But I am prone to skepticism and irony and don't know how to convey that from a keyboard.

Anything that isn't factual and concrete should never be conveyed by email. That's what I believe and am convinced of, by the way.

I've know so many email wars--my own and others--that ensued because email can't convey subtlety and nuance in any way.

Email me about when and where we are to meet. That will work. Or what time to call you. That will work. But don't try to go beyond place and time and fact in an email.

It will always end in horror. Seriously.

And never, ever try to be funny or ironic in an email. I can guarantee you that won't work. Never. Ever.

Email is a bad idea, truly.

Maybe me should revert to phones and since you can't see anyone on a phone, revert to doing anything of import face to face.

That I could agree to and applaud.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The worst news ever....

I read an article on-line by a climate scientist who said that if climate change continues at it's present pace, New England will lose Autumn 'in our lifetime'.

In the southern states, there is no 'Autumn' like we know it here in Connecticut. Most trees stay green year round. And we too will lose the wondrous color of leaves 'in our lifetime'.

I hope not mine.

I drove to Higganum today and then to Killingworth and back to Higganum and then to Middletown and back home. The landscape is awash in gold and yellow and red. It is remarkable. No wonder people drive hundreds of miles to see Autumn in New England. Glorious!

And to think most Republicans and nearly 50% of all Americans don't yet believe humans are causing climate change. Astonishing.

I've believed from the first hint of 'global warning' a decade or two ago. And I've noticed the weird weather, even here and more so in California and the southwest and midwest, all that time. But the thought of losing Autumn is the worst news ever.

Not in my life-time, please.

My heart breaks to imagine it.

A lot like work

I love my little job with the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry and the three churches in that Cluster--gems all. I really do. It's great fun.

But the last few days--and tomorrow--it has felt a lot more like 'work' than 'fun'.

Friday night: wedding rehearsal in Higganum.

Saturday night: Harvest Dinner in Northford.

Sunday: 9 am service in Higganum; 11 a.m. talk to wedding couple in Killingworth; 2:30 wedding in Higganum and glass of wine at reception; 4 p.m. Wake in Middletown.,

Tomorrow: 10:30 am and 1:30 pm graveside services.

I'm not complaining and I'm honored and humbled to do all these things. But the last few days haven't felt like a 12 hour a week job in my retirement!

Just me talkin'. I'm not used to some much activity. I haven't read a single book since Friday. Puts me behind....

But I do love the Cluster and the people there....

I'm not complaining.

Just, please, not every week.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The 'collar' and 'cross' thing

Since I brought it up in my post about Aunt Elise, I might as well deal with it tonight.

I'm lost in linear time, so I can't tell you accurately when I stopped wearing clerical collars and crosses. But it's been a decade or more.

I wore a cross for decades, under my clothes. I didn't want it to be a public thing--it was between me and God. And for a good while, I wore a cross on Sundays with my 'priest' outfit.

I stopped wearing a collar first. Still a cross under my shirt, out of sight. I never liked collars because I have a short neck and the wrap-around Anglican collars were uncomfortable. Much of the time I would wear a black shirt without a collar. People pointed that out to me. "You don't have on a collar," they would say. And I would point out I had on a black shirt.

It was most likely around 2000 that I stopped wearing even a black shirt.

One thing about a clerical collar--in public places, it causes unnatural silence. Walk into a bar with a clerical collar on and all life pauses, ceases and falls into silence.

It's a conversation stopper in most places outside of church.

I stopped because I didn't like a collar and I was tired of wearing black shirts.

Nothing more, nothing less.

And several years after I stopped wearing a collar, I met a parishioner in a grocery store and she said, "I've never seen you without a collar." Then I knew that people who needed to see one would see one whether I had one on or not. Amen.

The cross thing is more theological. At some point, after I stopped wearing a collar, I asked myself why I still had a cross under my clothes.

And I had no answer. I didn't need a 'secrete cross' to be connected to God and I didn't want a 'public cross' to proclaim the un-proclaimable.

So the cross came off and I stopped wearing one over my robe on Sundays.

I simply didn't need it. I've always been against 'uniforms'. So, I took mine off.

I'm a Priest without a collar. I'm a Christian without a cross.

Extraneous is the word I'd use. I'm just shedding the extraneous stuff of my faith. And I've shed a lot of the nonsense the church 'made up' in the form of doctrine and dogma as well. I've got this 'following Jesus" down to a handful of beliefs. It hurts my heart to say the Nicene Creed these days because so much of the is a collar and a cross. Two of the three churches have picked up on this and we say a canticle or psalm instead of the Creed most of the time.

The older I get, the less I need to 'believe'.

I believe God loves me.

I believe I am created in the image and likeness of God.

I believe we must welcome the stranger.

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

I believe we must serve those in need.

Beyond that, I have nothing else I need to believe. Just as I don't need a collar or a cross to be a  priest of God.

Just that. Nothing else. I have no argument with those who wear collars or crosses. God bless them.

I just stand where I stand. Nothing more.

My Aunt Elsie

My Aunt Elsie turned 90 this month. Ann, one of my cousins, gave her a party at Ann's house in Virginia. It would have been a nine hour drive and was on a Saturday, so I couldn't go down and back and be in church on Sunday.

Elsie is my only living Aunt or Uncle and I had quite a few. My mother was one of seven (though 2 died in childhood) and my father one of five--so I had 8 sets of Aunts and Uncles at some point. All are dead except Elsie. Family was vital in my childhood, so I spent a lot of time with Aunts and Uncles and my 20 older first cousins. I was the youngest until Aunt Elsie and Uncle Harvey adopted Denise who was 8 or so when I was 14. Being the youngest for 14 years in a dual family of 16 Aunts and Uncles and 20 first cousins (all of whom lived within 20 miles of each other--except for Elsie and Harvey) was quite an experience, let me tell you. Spoiled? You don't know the meaning of the word unless you are me...which you aren't!

For years, I would go and spend a week in the summer with Aunt Elsie and Uncle Harvey. Harvey was a Nazarene minister, so that week was full of church and prayers on our knees in the living room before bed. But I loved the visits in spite of that. They lived in Dunbar, WV, a suburb of the Capitol, Charleston. Considering I grew up in a town of 500, spending a week in a metropolitan area of about 100,000 was a serious 'trip'.

When Uncle Harvey found out I was going to Harvard Divinity School, he sat me down and said, "It's bad enough you're an Episcopalian, don't let those folks at Harvard make you a Unitarian!" Sage advice....

To illustrate the 'family-ness' of our family, I was the one of only 3 Jones cousins (my mother's maiden name) who didn't get there for the party--and there are 17 of us! I migrated to New England and get left out of most 'cousin' stuff since they're all in Virginia or NC.

I did send Aunt Elsie (who has a Ph.d. in Education, by the way) a cross I often wore over my years as a priest. (I don't wear crosses or collars any more--but that's the subject of another blog.) I told her to hang it somewhere and think of me when she saw it.

A couple of days after the party, Aunt Elsie called me. She told me "Jimmie" (yes, that's what they always called me and with an 'ie' instead of an "y") "you couldn't  have given me anything that meant more to me than that."

I got a little misty in the conversation. She is so well educated and well spoken and a tad reserved that I was deeply moved by her emotion.

Elsie is all that stands between me and being the "terminal generation". Long may she live. She is dear to me in many ways.

(Elsie and Harvey once had a dog that wouldn't eat well. She hand fed him twice a day. That tells you more about her than all my words could....)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Mary died

Mary Suchanek died this week. She was 93 and ready to go, but I wasn't ready to let her go.

The last time I visited her she was bedridden in her home and asked me if I would pray for her to die. I told her I couldn't do that, just couldn't but did pray with her that God take her into God's heart.

I visited her several times over my years at the Middelsex Cluster Ministry. She was so delightful and full of joy though her life had not been easy. Now she has what she prayed for--she is at rest in the Heart of God.

Nancy Thompson, a journalist, who is also a member of St. James in Higganum, wrote a story about Mary and her husband, Joe, 20 years ago. She sent it to me and gave me permission to put it here.

This is the story. Listen....

The majestic beech rises straight and true in the dense Durham woods. Nearby, deer tracks run close to a crystal-clear brook. There are no sounds except those of the forest.
For Joseph and Mary Suchanek of the Higganum section of Haddam, the century-old beech is more than a pretty spot in the woods -- it is a living family tree.
Its bark tells the story of two generations of Suchaneks, from the early years of this century to a 55th anniversary celebration today.
Joe Suchanek's grandparents ran a boarding house at their Foothills Road farm in Durham, catering mostly to fellow Czechs from New York City, and it was there that his parents, Mary Hanus and Joseph Suchanek, met in the first decade of this century.
One day in 1911 the young lovers carved their initials and the date in a beech tree on the farm. They married soon after, and young Joe was born in 1915 after the couple returned to New York City, where his father was a policeman.
The couple, with their young son, soon returned to the 400-acre farm to raise turkeys, cows, tobacco and wheat. It wasn't easy to go from police work to farming, but Joseph Suchanek Sr. was willing to try.
"He really was no farmer, but he got to it," his son recalled.
The younger Joe first noticed the tree with his parents' initials when he was a child. He loved to fish in nearby Miller's Pond Brook and often passed the tree as he roamed his family's woods.
As a young man, he courted Mary Cernan, a young woman who had lived in Higganum nearly all her life. "She was kind of the girl next door," Joe said.
They soon fell in love.
Because he had visited the tree often, it seemed natural -- a family tradition, almost -- to take his girlfriend into the woods and add their initials to the smooth bark.
Using his pen knife -- Joe says he has never left home without it -- he carved their initials in a heart and added the date: 9-25-38.
They were married Aug. 12, 1939, and moved to a house on Main Street in Durham, where they lived for 40 years.
The year after their wedding, Joe's family sold the property to a family from New York who wanted it for a summer place.
For more than 50 years, through wars and storms and ordinary, everyday events, the tree grew and its bark stretched, expanding and distorting the initials. Nobody gave much thought to the carvings, and if hunters or hikers noticed the marks, they probably didn't know who the lovers were.
Earlier this year Higganum resident Art Wiknik noticed the tree and its initials while walking through the property that his brother, Jerry, had bought. His family and the Suchaneks had been friends for many years, and when he saw the tree he realized the initials were those of Mary and Joe, and Joe's parents.
Wiknik took photographs of the tree and sent them to the Suchaneks, who were surprised that anyone would be interested in the carvings.
PHOTO 1: COLOR, Corey Lowenstein / Special to The Courant PHOTO 2: COLOR, Paula Bronstein / The Hartford Courant; Caption: PHOTO 1: * Mary Suchanek, 71, and Joseph Suchanek, 79, of Higganum, carved their initials in a beech tree in Durham in 1938 before they were married. It was the same tree where Joseph Suchanek's parents had carved their initials in 1911. PHOTO 2: * Earlier this year Art Wiknik noticed the tree and its initials while walking through the property his brother had bought, and got in touch with the Suchaneks.
Word count: 613

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bye, Joe...We knew you well....

So, the vice-President isn't running. Sorry about that. My top three choices were this:

1. Bernie Sanders against Donald Trump--socialism at last!

2. Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren against anyone.

3. Hillary and whoever against anyone but Jeb.

Too bad for me that my third choice is the logical one. And I will vote for her multiple times if I could.

I'd rather the Democratic/Socialist or Elizabeth Warren as VP.

But I'll support Hillary since that seems to be the default truth. First woman president--I'd prefer Elizabeth Warren, but that's not happening.

Third choice is better than any of the other options from the clown car that is the Republicans.

And, can they even elect a speaker of the house???

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What I don't understand

Well, there's lot of stuff I don't understand, if I'm truthful. But the most viewed post in the last few days has been a post from September 2012 about redoing our kitchen.

Why are people looking at that? It is good to know about when we redid our kitchen since I have this issue with linear time. Had you asked me when we 'redid' I kitchen I would have looked at you with a blank stare and wondered.

So, sometime after September 2012. I've got it narrowed down now.

My whole thing with linear time is a problem, I know. Today, Bill, one of the guys who comes to our Tuesday morning group, talked about when he was in Turkey in 19-something. I don't remember when he said, but he was sure it was true. And he talked about a rug he bought and having lunch with the guy who sold it to him.

Amazing to me that he knew exactly what year that happened.

Here's what I know: whether it happened before or after Bern and I got married or before or after Josh was born (1970 and 1975) or before or after Mimi was born (1979) or before or after our twin granddaughters were born (2006) or before or after Tegan was born (2009). That's the best I can do with linear time--before or after when something wondrous happened.

Did you ever read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut? A character in the book, Billy Pilgrim, is 'unstuck in time'. That means he goes back and forth to things in the past.

I don't do that, but I am 'unstuck in time'. I went to Israel after my children were born and before my granddaughters (any of them) were born. Beyond that I can't tell you when. Or the first time I went to Ireland. Or how many years since I've gone. Or when I had prostate surgery. (I know when my appendix was removed only because it was the millennium and it made me miss a huge party at St. John's in Waterbury.)

I know when I graduated from high school and college and Harvard Divinity School and Virginia Seminary and when I was ordained. But of course I can remember those dates. But beyond that, not much. Odd it is, to be so disassociated with time.

Not bad...I don't mind it...just odd.

And I don't understand why that's the way I am.

Monday, October 19, 2015


OK, I grew up eating tons of Kale because it grew so well in my grandmother's garden and my father's garden. It grew like crazy and we had to eat it.

Boiled to within an inch of it's existence and covered with oil and vinegar, it was barely consumable.

Now, Kale is the big thing.

We had kale tonight, boiled within an inch of it's life and barely etible.

Folks are eating raw kale in salads.

What's next, we start eating dirt and not worrying about the grit in our teeth.

As someone who has eaten kale since his youth, don't pretend it's the 'new thing'. Don't eat kale. Under no circumstance should you eat kale.


Personal politics

Yesterday, after church at Emmanuel in Killingworth, I talked with; Jon Bush and then his wife, Jody. Jon is the brother of President Bush I and uncle of President Bush II. He and Jody are the salt of the earth, wonderful, lovely, dear people.

Talking with them is the only thing that makes me doubt my idea to outlaw the Republican Party. There are dear and gentle people who are Republicans. Jon and Jody are, of course, supporting their nephew Jeb and think The Donald and the heart surgeon and Carlie are a distraction and 'so wrong'. When I talk with them I make sure I appear as a liberal Democrat instead of the full blown Socialist that I am. I don't want to take them a bridge too far.

Politics becomes confusing when it becomes personal. My friend, Bill, is a conservative Republican and a conservative Episcopalian. And I like him a lot. Like the Bushes, who are so dear and clear and together.

My father, for goodness sake, was a life-long Republican. And I was as a teen. I wrote on a wall with spray paint "AU H2O" when I was a Senior in high school. Gold-water is what that meant.

As time went on, I came to realize I belonged on the far left of the Democratic Party. But it is cool to know wonderful people who are on the other end of the spectrum. It keeps me from being an angry, vengeful socialist.

The Bushes and Bill give me hope that we can eventually figure this stuff out and govern the nation and move forward together.

That's what I pray is possible, at any rate.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

How time flies

I've been looking at a whole bunch of photos from my Installation as Rector of St. John's Church in Waterbury. Dozens of them. That would have been 1989--26 years ago. A lot of people in the pictures are dead, that I know, having officiated at many of their funerals.

And my hair is dark brown, though my beard is graying. I've had white hair since I don't know when, so it is odd to me to see me with brown hair. That and being with dead people is a tad awkward and not a little disturbing.

I have a son who is 40 and a daughter who is 37. Bern and I have been married since September 5, 1970. 1970, for goodness sake! 45 years, oh my God!!!

How time flies. I can barely recognize the me that was 'me' in our wedding album. Who is that guy with a brown Fu Man Chu Moustache and dark brown hair in a tux? The problem is, Bern looks a lot like that woman in the wedding gown. Time hasn't flown for her. Somewhere there is a photo growing older of her. Really.

Stunning, how time flies.

Getting older is much better than the alternative.

But it is disconcerting how time flies.

At least, I've been having a lot of fun....

Saturday, October 17, 2015

a bridge too far...

My dentist, Dean, made me a five tooth bridge for my upper left back teeth.

It's the biggest bridge Dean's ever made. It's lasted a long time though I don't know how long (linear time and all...) On Wednesday I chipped it. I don't know how or with what. My tongue noticed a really rough part of the bridge. So, I have to call Dean and go see what he can do about it. I think he can just drill it down and smooth it out. It's artificial, after all, and none of the 5 teeth in the bridge are visible, no matter how wide I smile....

I just regret having to tell Dean I messed up his masterpiece. Every time I go in for a cleaning and Dean comes in at the end, he points out his handiwork to the dental hygienist. I know he's pointed it out to the same one several times. Hope he's not upset about the chip.

The other thing I have in my body are two titanium rods in my left arm. I shattered both the bones below the elbow in a auto accident. It was raining on I-91 but the George Street exit ramp was frozen and I slid down it into the guard rail. The air bag broke my ulna in four places and my radius in 5 places. The surgeon put in the longest rod he ever had in a lower arm. I never had a cast since it was broken so badly I had surgery the next day.

And last year, I started having pain in my lower left arm. I didn't think my body was rejecting the rods, it's been too long, after all. But I went to see Alex about it. As he looked at the x-ray, he remembered this was a one of a kind operation and I thought he had a look of disappointment about his master work. But the pain went away and he was glad.

I just don't want to see Dean's disappointment when he looks in my mouth. Of course, I won't since I keep my eyes closed in the dentist chair.

And, if I pondered such things, I'd ponder why two parts of me (that really aren't 'parts of me') are some kind of one of a kind additions to me.

But I'm not only not going to ponder that, I'm going to forget I wrote it.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Washington Retreat Center

The workshop this week was at the Washington Retreat Center which is smack dab in the middle of the campus of Catholic University and is run by the Franciscan  Sisters of the Atonement. God knows how many different Franciscan orders there are in the Roman Catholic Church--well, surely 'God knows', but not many humans can figure it out. They were all worthy of cheek pinching and one of them, an Irish nun with a pronounced limp, was an absolute sweetheart.

In my work with the Mastery Foundation I've met more nuns than you can imagine or I can remember. Nuns, in my book, are top of the line. If I had to go somewhere dangerous, I'd take a couple of nuns--those bad people they couldn't charm they'd beat up. Nuns are tough. I remember talking to a nun in Ireland who told me how she stood in front of her girl's school in Nigeria and stared down some rebels who came to kidnap the girls as if she was telling me what she had for breakfast after mass.

You can sit on the front porch of the Washington Retreat Center and watch people in robes and habits walk down the street along with college students dressed like, well, college students. It is a beautiful location only half a block from the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception where Pope Francis said mass and next door to the Saint John Paul II shrine that looks for all the world like a pro basketball arena from the outside.

Several of us had dinner on Sunday and then again on Wednesday at a restaurant called "Bus Boys and Poets". It is dedicated to Langston Hughes, the Black Poet, who was a bus boy in DC at a hotel, before he was a poet. One night the poet Vachel Lindsy had dinner in the restaurant and Langston Hughes left some of his poems at Vachel's plate and was, thereby, 'discovered'.

If you're ever in DC find Bus Boys and Poets--there's more than one--and order the shrimp and grits.

I've had shrimp and grits in New Orleans, which should be the 'best', right? But it was nowhere near as good as this shrimp and grits. The grits had been fried into grit patties, crisp on the outside. The shrimp with chopped up asparagus and scallions and tomatoes and corn, was covered with a spicy, creamy Cajun  sauce to die for.

The second time I had a half-plate, since it was 'happy hour' of shrimp and grits patties with small shrimp and the same vegetables and sauce. I would lick that sauce off a plate! And since I had a 'small plate', I had room for (I do not lie) white chocolate banana bread pudding with a caramel sauce and coconut ice cream. The six of us passed it around and all went into a sort of fugue it was so good.

And we walked there from the Washington Retreat Center. How great is that?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The 'workshop'

I wish I could tell you how many Making a Difference Workshops I've been involved in since I took it in whenever I took it....I may have mentioned that I am lost, lost, lost in linear time. My memory of things is relatively good. But knowing 'when' the memory belongs is lost to me.

I used to tell people I took the workshop in 1978. Now I know that's not true. I took it when I left parish ministry for a spell and I didn't do that until 1985. Eight years off seems rather serious to me.

87 vs 78, well, another flaw in me is I invert numbers. I may have tried to call you but kept dialing 4-7 when it was 7-4. Given all that, it's a wonder that I still pass for 'very smart'--magna cum laude/Phi Beta Kappa as an undergraduate, second in my class in Seminary--just saying....last time I took a IQ test it was 150. But I have no idea what year things happened and I invert numbers on a regular basis.

So, I've been with MAD and the Mastery Foundation for nigh on 27 years, best I can remember. And 'the workshop' has been a radically important part of my life all that time.

The workshop in DC this week was beautiful, moving, transforming...but then, they all have been for me.

I started writing this to tell you about the workshop, but I know that is vain and beyond doing.

One of the distinctions we make in MAD (the workshop is a series of distinctions and Centering Prayer) is the distinction between the domain of 'presence' and the domain of 'representation' and how those domains--experience and what we say about experience--are, ultimately 'distinct'. But we don't live as if they are. We live in the collapse of the two domains.

Another way of putting that is this: Something Happens and We Talk About It.

And the story we tell about what happens ISN'T what happened. But we live as if it is.

Here's an illustration of how we think "what happened" is "what we say about it".

Back in the Middle Ages, a new Pope was elected. One of the Cardinals told him his first act should be to throw the Jews out of Rome.

"Why should I do that?" the Pope asks.

"It's what a new Pope does," replied the Cardinal. "They drift back eventually, but you need to show them this is a Christian city."

"I can't do that," said the Pope. "I need to quiz one of the leaders to see if it's necessary."

So, envoys were sent to the Jewish community. None of the Rabbi's wanted to talk to the Pope and most of the leaders of the community were busy packing, knowing what was coming. But a tailor named Jacob volunteered to meet with the Pope and the envoys took him to the Vatican.

Jacob and the Pope did not share a common language but the Pope told the Cardinals, "never mind, I can test him by sign language."

So, the Pope held up one finger and Jacob responded by holding up two fingers.

Then the Pope made an expansive arm motion as if to embrace the room. Jacob pointed to the floor.

The Pope held up an apple he took from his desk and Jacob reached into his robes and held up a piece of matzo.

The Pope turned to the Cardinals. "He's an orthodox Christian. The Jews can stay."

When pressed by the Cardinals, the Pope said this about 'what happened'.

"I held up one finger to say, 'there is but one God.' But Jacob raised two fingers to say 'but there is also the Son and Holy Spirit'. I waved my arms to say, 'God is transcendent' and Jacob responded by pointing to the floor to say 'God is imminant, present here'. Then I asked, 'is the world round as the heretics say?' and Jacob responded, 'no, the world is flat as the church teaches'.

The Cardinals were amazed.

Jacob went back to the Jews and told them to quit packing, they'd be staying in Rome.

Everyone wanted to know what happened and Jacob told them this:

"The Pope said he'd poke me in my eye and I told him, I'd poke him in both eyes. He said the Jews needed to get out of Rome and I told him we're staying right here. Then we showed each other our lunches....."

"Something Happened", but as you can see, "What We Say About It" isn't at all "What Happened".

I can't 'tell you' about the workshop. I'd love to talk with you about it and enroll you to take it. There's another in April in West Park, New York, at Holy Cross Monastery. Something always Happens at them. It's called 'transformation'.

Want to be 'transformed'? Risky and courageous business. Would love to enroll you in that.

home again

I got back from Washington, DC and a Making a Difference Workshop just before 1 a.m. today. I flew out of DC on the same plane with my friend and fellow leader, Maggie, and her daughter, Jessie, who was a participant in the workshop. I had just over an hour to make a connection to Hartford in Newark and we took off 29 minutes late. I thought I'd miss my connection and have to stay in the airport or call Maggie who lives 40 minutes away and ask her to come get me. I have a class to teach in Waterbury at UConn at 12:30 tomorrow and was thinking I'd probably miss that too.

When we landed on time in Newark, I was confused. How did the pilot do that, catch the Jet stream? Fly through another dimension? I saw Maggie and Jessie just off the plane, waiting for my bag that I checked outside the door of the plane and got back outside the door of the plane and expressed my confusion.

Maggie, who flies on lots of short flights told me that in order to cover their 'on time' stats, airlines always tell you it will take longer than it does. Amazing. Padding time to make yourself look good.

My ticket said it was 58 minutes from Newark to Hartford--after I rode a bus two terminals to make the connection--and when we were about to take off, the pilot said we'd never get above 7000 feet and be in Hartford in 25 minutes. So, that's what they do, huh?

Seems dishonest to me, but, hey, maybe that's just me.

Getting off the little bus to the parking lot and my car, I bumped against something on the door of the bus and opened a two inch gash on my right arm. So, I drove from Hartford to Cheshire using up about half a box of tissues to stop the bleeding.

When I came in the front door, the dog in our bedroom started going crazy and Bern had to wake up. When I went in the bedroom he nearly knocked me down and put on quite a 'welcome home!' show for 10 minutes or so.

By the time I'd dressed my wound and set up my C-path machine, it was 1:30 a.m. and I was so revved up by the workshop and the travel that I read about 40 pages of The Hobbit before I could sleep.

But it was so good to be home. I'm such a home-body that leaving even for something that means as much to me as the Making a Difference Workshop is a pain. And the workshop means the world to me. There is almost nothing else, that didn't involve my daughter or son or granddaughters, that I would give up 3 nights and 4 days of 'being home' for.

That's how much the workshop means to me....

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Some time away

OK, I don't have a smart phone or a tablet or a laptop. I have a dumb phone and a desk computer (way out of date--dare not download Window's 10, couldn't have enough memory to hold it.)

So, tomorrow I'm flying to DC to help lead a workshop and won't have a blog until Thursday. I'll miss doing it and hope you'll miss reading it. But I have 1700 or so posts, find one you like.

See you Thursday, sitting here where I sit and type.

Thanks for reading. I'll write more in a few days.....

Run, don't walk...or better, drive

OK, if you are a movie goer at all, you have to get to "Martian" as fast as you can.

I haven't figured which place if takes up but it one of my top five favorite movies.

Think of Tom Hanks in "Marooned" and double it and you'll get Matt Damon in "Martian".

It is a movie to make you believe in the human spirit and in human beings. At a time when things are so violent and frightening in the world, we need a movie like this. Really.

All the acting is amazing and the vistas of Mars are remarkable. But the huge cast is what makes it all work. It'll even make you love the Chinese....

Can you give 6 stars? I would.

Go see it.

Friday, October 9, 2015


I'm teaching a course at the Lifelong Learning Institute at U.Conn. in Waterbury on the Gnostic Christian writings.

It meets from 12:30-2, which means people are eating during class, but that doesn't matter. It's an awful time to teach and learn, but it works.

Whenever I teach a short (5 class) version of Mary Magdalene or a 5 or 10 session of The Gospel of John or  'reading the Gospels side by side', I know I'll have the same number of students at the last class as at the first.

When I do Gnostic Christian writing, I fully expect to loose half the class at some point. They just don't know how jarring it's going to be.

But we're half way through and haven't lost anyone.

This material is challenging. The 'so called' Gnostic Christians were ran out of the church in the 4th and 5th centuries and their writings destroyed.

But in 1947 a bunch of them were found in Egypt.

That's what I teach. Christianity was a lot more diverse than we ever knew. I tell those hardy folks that we are living in a new Pre-Nicene era--a time before things in Christianity got 'nailed down' and Christianity wasn't the cultural norm it was for so many centuries in the west.

What on earth do Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists and Southern Baptists and Greek Orthadox Christians and Methodists and Episcopalians and Roman Catholics have in common besides calling themselves "Christians"? Apparently that was true for the first 3 or 4 centuries of the common era, we now know because of the literature from the Nag Hammadi discovery.

Lordy, Lordy, I love to teach. And, in spite of my doubts, I'm good at it. And people stick around, in spite of how weird the material is....

Monday, October 5, 2015

An apology

OK, I'm getting older--which is better than 'not'--but it affects my memory.

After I posted the "I love crickets" post, it stuck me I might have written about them before.  I searched my blogs and found I wrote about tinnitus in April and August and now in October.

I shouldn't be telling you the same thing multiple times (like Bern tells me I do to her....)

I'll get off crickets, promise.

And sorry (which I always tell Bern too....)

I love crickets

Cheshire is full of the songs of crickets tonight. And I love cricket song.

One thing the crickets do is make my tinnitus, which I've had for a decade or so, go away. "Ringing in the ears" doesn't do my particular version justice. Neither does "buzzing in the ears", the other definition for 'tinnitus' the on-line dictionary gives.

In fact, my tinnitus sounds exactly like cricket song. So, all in all, I'm lucky to have a sound in my head that sounds like a sound I love.

When I was diagnosed, there was a med-student working with my primary care physician. He was the one who told me what it was, gave it a name. Then he said, "it drives some people crazy. I've heard of cases when people killed themselves to get rid of it."

When Dr. Olsen came in, I told him, "you need to give some bed side manners training for this guy."

I'm not suggestible at all much, but planting the idea of suicide in someone who is a little off kilter wouldn't be a good idea.

There is also some key on an organ that turns off my internal crickets. I used to go listen to Bob Havery practice when I was at St. John's, Waterbury and every time my crickets would be gone for a few hours. And today, in the middle of a hymn, the crickets shut up.

I should find out what key it is. That would be helpful...but only if I were around a pipe organ....

Not bad to have cricket song as a constant companion. Not bad at all....

Sunday, October 4, 2015

fried apples and grits

Dean brought apples from his orchard to church today and offered them to anyone. I got a bag full and told him I thought I'd fry them.

He looked confused.

"Have you ever had fried apples?" I asked.

"Maybe," he said, "sometime".

This is the same guy who, when he was vice-chair of the Cluster Council, would have breakfast with me and Dick, the chair, the week before the cluster council meeting.

We met at a great restaurant in Durham that is now--sadly--a Fitness Center. Better food than weights and Zumba I say.

Anyhow, I found out in the 12 pages of the restaurant's menu, that they had grits. So I'd order them every time with my eggs and bacon.

Dick and Dean were confused. Both of them are too New England to believe in grits.

They asked me what grits were and I told them it came from hominy. Which was another question about what hominy was.

Finally I told them, "listen grits are a salt and butter delivery system."

That I thought they got.

I grew up with fried apples for breakfast and couldn't imagine everyone hadn't.

Well, except for Dean, I guess.

Fried apples, grits, sausage and bacon, home-fries,  biscuits, eggs--the breakfast we'll have in heaven every day...with a little sausage gravy and some country ham on the side with blueberry jam.

Ah, that's the eternity I hope for....

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Workshop mode"

In 1987 I was a participant in the Making a Difference workshop and got my priesthood back all new and possible. I owed the Mastery Foundation and have, by now, helped lead going on 50 of the workshops.

We have one in Washington, DC, starting a week from Monday.

I made my plane reservations today. I'm officially in 'workshop mode'.

What 'workshop mode' means is that my commitment and integrity and energy is leaning that way. In a sense, I'm already in DC at the retreat center at Catholic U. I'm already in the 'distinctions' that comprise the workshop. I'm already with Shane and Maggie and Bertram, the other leaders for this WS.

Once my travel plans are made, I'm in 'workshop mode'. I'm there and engaged and ready and can't wait.

This workshop gave me back my priesthood, all new and shining and it has never stopped being that since then. I am astonished that I have the opportunity to share that kind of transformation with others. And humbled beyond belief.

And, I'm ready and willing and able and excited beyond belief. In just a week and a day I'll be up in front of the room offering 'transformation' to a whole room full of people.

Doesn't get much better than that, far as I can see.....

Friday, October 2, 2015

The 'subtle' is dead

OK, I can't not comment on Fr. Blazon's remarks from Fifth Business that I promised in my last post I wouldn't comment on.

Remember his words (or go to the last post to get the whole story) Blazon quotes Einstein, who said, "God is subtle, but he is not cruel"

The problem in America these days is subtlety is mostly non-existent. There are no subtleties in our public discourse. There is the Left and the Right. There is Liberal and Conservative. There is Yea and Nay and nothing in between.

There is 'political correctness' and what Donald Trump says. There is no nuance, no 'ironic but toward the truth', no middle ground.

We are locked in a battle that is 'my way or the highway' all around.

We need subtlety in how we talk about things with each other.

All we have is 'cruelty'.

How cruel of those congressmen who didn't go to the Pope's address because they knew he would mention climate change and immigration.

How cruel of Jeb Bush to say of the slaughter in Oregon, "Things happen."

How cruel of The Donald to say that if he's president he'll 'send back' any of the migrants from Syria who come here.

How cruel of the Congress to invent an investigation against Planned Parenthood--an agency that gives health care to mostly poor women--based on lies.

How cruel of the Speaker of the House in waiting to admit that the whole Benghazi investigation was to damage Hillary Clinton. (Oh, wait, that was 'the truth'--it was the made-up 8 committees to invent that a tragedy was a conspiracy was what was cruel.)

I could go on but since most everything would be about Republicans, I should stop lest you think I'm a Democrat.

The moral is, where is the subtlety in our public life? Where is the nuance? Where is the irony? Where is the complexity and the confusion?

Everyone is so sure of themselves and their views--me too, by the way.

I long for a public discourse full of actually grappling with issues rather than taking a side and standing by your position no matter what.

I long for subtlety and nuance and complexity.

I can't find it in the way we shout at each other.

But I need it. I do.

The Old Man's Puzzle

I want to share with you a short passage from Robertson Davies novel, Fifth Business. An elderly French Jesuit named Blazon is talking to a Canadian teacher and writer named Dunstan Ramsey. Ramsey has just asked Blazon how he can be a holy man after just having consumed a whole chicken and a whole bottle of wine at dinner. Blazon then replies. Listen:
“Listen, Ramezay, have you heard what Einstein says?—Einstein, the great scientist, not some Jesuit like old Blazon. He says: ‘God is subtle, but He is not cruel.’ There is some sound Jewish wisdom for your muddled Protestant mind. Try to understand the subtlety, and stop whimpering about the cruelty. Maybe God wants you for something special….
“….I am quite a wise old bird but I am no desert hermit who can only prophesy when his guts are knotted in hunger….I am deep in the old man’s puzzle, trying to link the wisdom of the body with the wisdom of the spirit until the two are one….you cannot divide spirit from body without anguish and destruction.”

“I am deep in the old man’s puzzle,” Father Blazon said, “trying to link the wisdom of the body with the wisdom of the spirit until the two are one.”

I'm not even going to comment on that. Just sharing it is enough.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

ok, I feel ready

I put in a lot of time today on the Gospel of Philip. I feel ready to lead it without faking it.

It's amazing how much you forget when you're not looking when you're 68. I've taught the Gospel of Philip before, a couple of years ago, and probably didn't need this much prep.

I'm 68. Just writing that, without saying it out loud, shakes me to my core, the very center of my being.

How can I be this old? How can I have a son who is 40 and a daughter who is 37? A wife 65.  And granddaughters 9 and 6 almost? How did this happen? How does so much time pass?

My mind and heart and soul feels like they're approaching 35. My body, on the other hand, knows there are several decades more to take in mind.

When I wrote "68" up above, a part or me said, "wait, that must be 58", but I'm on social security and medicare and have been for 6 years.

How did I get this old? Back in my pseuto-Hippie days, I thought I would live fast, love hard, die young and leave a beautiful memory. I didn't think I'd make it to 50, much less 60 and being 19 months from 70 is like crazy!!!

Time flies when you're having fun.

I guess that's it. Not as bad as it could be: 'time flies when you're miserable.'

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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.