Thursday, June 29, 2006

The World Where The Birds Are

I have been asked -- Why do I bird?

I have never not watched birds. My earliest memory in life is me about age 3. My parents had taken me in wintertime to a big local park to feed the ducks and geese. I was in one of those zip-up-mummy-style snowsuits. I stretched out my hand with a piece of bread in it and this big white duck waddled over and much to everyone's surprise, took it out of my hand. I was transported with joy. For some reason it made me absurdly happy. I can almost recall the sound of my own laughter.

My parents always fed birds at home. There were always birdfeeders and binos; the green hard cover Audobon bird book could usually be found next to one of the downstairs windows. In the winter we bought giant bags of birdseed from the fed store, and hung suet up on tree limbs in empty onion bag. In the summer the birdbaths were always filled.

But that kind of passive watching was only the beginning.

Years later it took a visit from my wacky and wonderful sister-in-law to clinch the deal.

Nancy is a birder. In her teens she would sit and memorize birdcalls from 33 rpm records. She would drive for 3 hrs to Cape Cod in the dead of winter to freeze at the shore in search of a sighting of some rare wandering gull. She knew what various birds did in their spare time. She would tromp through swamps, climb rocks, and skulk through forests to see some rare reported bird.

I thought she was nuts. Charming, but nuts. I loved her dearly, but this "bird thing" seemed odd.

One summer my (now ex) husband's brother and his wife (Nancy the bird lady) came out west to visit us. She had never been that far west and was anxious to go birding. I thought this would be the most boring and stupid way possible to spend time. Birding. Tweet Tweet. Where is my martini? Can I feign illness? Can't we just watch the feeder from here? But I loved Nancy a lot, so I went. I was prepared to be bored witless.

But I loved it.

There I was, skinning my shins bloody on thorny bracken trying to creep up on some wickedly unidentifiable warbler. And loving every second.

It was quiet. It was exciting. I could hunt things and not have to kill them.

There was this whole intellectual layer to it, too -- right alongside this wonderful aesthetic thing. Right brain-left brain-right brain-left brain.

And the stress relief was astonishing.

When I bird, everything else goes away. There is the bird. And there is me. That's it. I am not a great birder. To say my skills were "good" would probably be a stretch. But I love doing it.

When I bird, every sound I hear, each scent I smell, or motion I see is geared to this instant of bird and me. The entirety of my life shrinks to the size of the aperture on my lenses. The focus removes the past, eliminates the future.

I am rarely as present, as fully in the Now as I am when birding. And it is instantaneous. The binos come out and I can feel my heart beat level out, and my breathing become even as the rest of the world falls away like so much chattel.

There is a Birding Groove that one falls into -- a state of grace where one becomes an extention of the motions of a feather. Part of the brain magically picks out the relevant field marks - leg and bill color/length, markings, tail shape, color pattern - and the rest of the brain gets to sit back in ultimate and absolute wonder.

The Birding Groove is that instant when the everyday world turns inside out and all those things I focus on usually, vanish. And snapping into sharp focus is suddenly The World Where The Birds Are.

That world is there all the time, but it only leaps up when I let my everyday focus fall away. And suddenly it comes in its full glory, The World Where The Birds Are - full of dramas and tragedies, comedians, bullies, scoundrels, rapscallions, acrobats, villians, heros, drudges, dupes and ballerinas - painted with every hue of the rainbow, flitting, flying, chirping, singing, soaring and gliding -- a world that is there and fleeting all at once. A world that commands my total focus, vanquishes all care, and yields bounties of limitless delights.

Why do I bird?

How could I not?

(Thank you, Nancy!)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

That Which Cannot Be Imagined

This weekend I was in Amherst, Massachusetts, home of the University of Massachusetts. I had not been there for many years. I was telling my friend about what it was like going to college there in the late 60's when the Woman's Movement was just getting on its feet. My friend Barb would come over for coffee and bring with her these mimeographed or printed pamphlets by "new women" - voices like Gloria Steinem, Letty Cottin-Pogrebin, Robin Morgan, Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer.

I remember one leaflet that we went over with a fine tooth comb. We, in our early 20's, were both married, far from virginal. It was titled "The Myth of Vaginal Orgasm". We talked about it in hushed whispers. Who knew?

How gigantic was this time in history? The very substance of who we were, right down to what we thought we knew about our bodies, was up for grabs. And we knew so little.

I recall a NY Times article that began with a "Brain Teaser". A father and son are in a car accident. They are rushed to the hospital. The father dies on the way, while the son is taken to the operating room. Later, the doctor comes in and says: "I can't operate on him, because he's my son." Who is the doctor?

The "surprise" answer was, of course, that the doctor was the boy's mother. But in the early 1970's, this did not come as a natural answer, and good liberals were banging their heads against the wall for not having been able to figure it out.

It was simply impossible to imagine the right answer because our learned prejudice blocked the possibility of one. We simply did not see. I was a feminist then (as now), and you know what? I couldn't guess the answer back then. Was that funny or tragic? You tell me.

Years later I read Alice Walker's "Possessing The Secret of Joy" and heard for the first time about clitorectomies, female genital mutilation -- an imposed savagery that effects literally tens of million of women worldwide. Shortly thereafter I saw a BBC special with a reporter who went to an African village where several mothers were taking their 7 and 8 year old daughters to a hut where their genitals were about to be mutilated by an old woman with a broken bottle used as a knife. The girls looked frightened. One mother was weeping quietly.

The little girls went into the shabby hut and soon there was the sound of agonized screaming as these little baby girls were sliced open. One mother, the one who had been weeping, ran off to a bench under a tree and rocked back and forth crying, holding herself.

The reporter, bless her, was kind to the woman. Here is my memory of what happened.

Reporter: Is that your little girl?

Mother: Yes, my baby, my baby....

Reporter: (places her arm around the woman, who almost collapses into that act of kindness) Did you tell her what was going to happen?

Mother; Oh no -- I didn't. I could not. I have had this myself. I know what it would be for her. I could not tell her.

Reporter: (gently) Mother, if you knew - and you are so hurt by this pain for her -- can you help me know why you brought her here today?

Mother: (looking up at the reporter helplessly through tear-streaked eyes, as though she is stunned that the reporter has to ask) Because...because...this is what it MEANS to be a woman.

Even now I have to pause to take this in. "Because - this is what it means to be a woman."

I am haunted by the African mother who believes that pain and torment, brutality to children, denial of sexuality, that all of that is what it MEANS to be a woman. It is as much a part of how she knows she is female as her breasts or her menses. I do not know how to undo that. How to unravel the torturous knot of that soul-contorting lie.

How have we come to define who we (or anyone else) can and cannot be? I speak in this post of women, but that is only because I know its effects best as a woman myself.

This cannot be what God wants for us, cannot be what he calls us to. This is exactly what the Kingdom of God is up against -- this agonizing and consuming fog that doesn't even let us imagine a future that differs from the one we have --a savagery that cuts off hope, dreams, that eats souls.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Stuff and Sensibility

It was an interesting weekend. First I went to an auction and ended up with books about guns and 2 imposing, wide, leather gun belts, complete with places for bullets. Woo hoo!

Before you fear I have lost my mind - these peculiar items came as part of a boxed lot. What I really wanted in the lot was a pair of 7x35 binoculars with a zoom focus. So for the princely sum of $25 I got them -- plus all the gun stuff. . . plus some odd looks from people wondering what the middle aged woman was going to do with two gun belts. I had a few quick Pancho Villa fantasies, my gunbelts crossing my chest as I galloped off across the mesa shouting "Viva La Revolution!" ..but then I remembered I can't ride a horse, and the fantasy evaporated.

The next two days had part of each of them devoted to sorting through my Mom's antiques. My childhood friend Sandy and I managed to assemble a pretty nifty system for doing it, and before I knew it we were busily unpacking, cataloguing and repacking everything based on whether it was "To Auction", "To Move" or "EBAY". I ran across lots of items that had an emotional componant to them -- some things that I had always loved -- and although I let myself save a few, happily I was able to say about many special items that dripped with nostalgia, "Gee, I always liked that -- it brings back some good memories. Put it in the auction box, please." I believe I am more ready to move on than I knew. It took me until to today to get the implication of the fact that I named one category "To Move" - NOT "To Keep" or "To Save", but "To Move"!!

In 4 hours on Saturday and 3 hours on Sunday we went through about 30 boxes of "stuff" - with many more left over. But, that is a very respectable dent to have all decided on, with every box of those 30 now labled and catalogued. Every item is familiar to me, and most of them have some anecdote attached. So literally each item had a decision attached to it. There are very few "To Move" boxes.

Then we made a trip to the cemetary to put some plants on the family grave, in a cemetary that is very picky about allowing plantings. Fortunately I was very clever about the design of the headstone, and it has two large planting wells built into it. Now each well is sporting fabulous yellow lilies as in the picture.

Sunday brought an afternoon with a distant cousin who is in her 80's. She has been very dear to me, and as we are both all alone in the world - family-wise, we have grown closer. She looks forward to our "adventures" whenever I am in town. I pack her up, and we take a ride off in some direction that she hasn't been for a while, doing errands on the way and stopping off for a luncheon where we always argue about who is paying. She is happy and I feel useful, so it is a good thing all around. We talk about the "good old days" and are aware that we are each other's only repository of familial knowledge. Our histories, like our families, interlocked for a long time. Getting together does us both a world of good.

Part of grief, a big part of it, is surrendering the shared-story part of loving someone.

So, parting with objects that have stories attached can be hard. God blessed me this weekend with ease in the parting. Today I am tired as I think my soul is catching up with itself a bit. But I am doing well. In a couple of weeks I will go back for the next round -- and there will be many rounds before I am done.

Dare I feel a bit excited?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Weekend Wanderings

I am about to pack up the car and scoot off to Massachusetts, to my little home town in the Berkshires. It promises to be an interesting time....and I am not sure how interesting yet.

A few years ago, six years after Mom died, my Dad sold the family house. Many of my Mother's antiques came to me, their only child. (To say this is a long and complex story is a massive understatement. It is full of familial Sturm und Drang, the details of which I will spare you.) In any case, as all this was done rather suddenly, I managed to get what I could into storage locally with the help of some dear friends. There it has sat. My legacy, or what I could salvage of it. Over time it has become the "Mata Albatross". It is too far away for me to do anything with -- I do not have room for it here -- there is no way to manage its disposal well, etc etc.

Along comes inspiration -- an old childhood friend, who collects and sells antiques, whose mother was also an antique dealer. I had lost her number; she had divorced and remarried; contact was impossible. I "accidentally" was glancing thru my Mom's old phone book and Eh Voila! there was the number. To make a long story an inch shorter, I now have the name of a reputable estate auction house that my friend used for her own mother's estate.

So this weekend I will check out one of their auctions and begin the sorting process of my mother's things - with an eye to keeping maybe 5-10% of them at most -- but to do that I have to go through all of it and make decisions. This will take a lot of weekends. And I am sure I will run into an emotional landmine or two, but I will have nearby friends who are dear and nurturing should that happen.

And so it begins - the last bits of closing of an old life in preparedness for the new. The proceeds of the auction will be my "grubstake" for a move to Arizona next spring.

Wow. There are just moments when life feels so real - so purposeful. Living life deliberately is a powerful experience. But first I have to spend some time with the ghosts of Christmases past.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Senate Says No To Increased Minimum Wage - AGAIN

ABC News reports that for the 9th time since 1999 Democrats proposed and Republicans blocked an increase in minimum wage. (excerpts below, bolding mine)

"...The 52-46 vote was eight short of the 60 needed for approval under budget rules ..."Americans believe that no one who works hard for a living should have to live in poverty. A job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. He said a worker paid $5.15 an hour would earn $10,700 a year, "almost $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three."
...Kennedy also said lawmakers' annual pay has risen by roughly $30,000 since the last increase in the minimum wage."

Minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, and we complain that people are not lining up with joy to get these jobs. If you have to pay for childcare or any kind of transportation you may as well stay home. Minimum wage in the USA should be the minimum wage that would be considered a LIVING wage. In rural environments this amount would be hard to live on. Try cities. Impossible!

Yet the Republicans are happy to vote their own salary increases and tax cuts for the wealthy. And billions for this war.

Have we lost our minds or our hearts or our souls or all three?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Scent Memory

There are moments when scent triggers such profound memory.

There are the obvious ones - where a scent of a cologne or perfume can have us recall a past love or a departed relative or a past time in our own lives. Or when we know it is Thanksgiving because we can smell the appropriate amalgem of food-related scents.

Then, there are more abstract scents. For example, there is a rich, moist scent I call "green" - which is the scent of earth and evergreens and leafy trees and wide expanses of grass just after a summer rain in heat over 80 degrees.

But there are even fuller bodied scents - more complex, almost polyphonic, yet memory-specific. Today I stood in my kitchen getting corn out of the kettle where I had boiled some fresh Gold and Silver corn on the cob. The husks and tassles that I had peeled off were in the trash can not far away. It was the middle of the day and I had yet to turn on the airconditioner, so the air in the kitchen was somewhat warm, made more humid by the boiling of the corn. It was highly scent-conductive. There, on the counter was a quart of fresh strawberries. Outside my window, someone was mowing a lawn.

And there it was, the unmistakable scent of an inland Northern summer - part corn, part humid air, a bit of husks and tassles, a hint of sweet and ripe strawberry and a breath of new mown grass. It was the scent of decades of summers, years when a cocker spaniel frolicked at my feet, years when I chased butterflies in the fields across from our house. It was decades of Sandy and me getting ready to go to the pond, or Mom planning a picnic. It was bicycles and dungarees and transistor radios. It was the scent of innocense.

It only overtook me for a moment, but in that instant I was brought back to a compressed summary of all that had been fine as a bright summer's collage of the best days of my childhood.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Oh Happy Day!

OK let's review.

30 years ago the Episcopal Church ordained its first woman priest. Some local dioceses still refuse to ordain women.

3 years ago the ECUSA approved the appointment of their first out and practicising gay man who is in a long term committed relationship to the position of bishop of a diocese (New Hampshire in this case.)

After the above, lots of controversy and animosity broke out here and abroad (see my June 12th post last week for a summary.)

The Presiding Bishop's term was up this year. The PB is the head of the national church body. The "bishop's bishop". It is the highest rank in the ecclesiatical hierarchy in the ECUSA.

So here we have a church in turmoil over conservative/liberal issues re gay people. Everyone, literally everyone viewed this convention as almost in a hopeless position -- with radical accomodations having to be made to the conservatives to preserve union, or at least a slow down of any further changes to forestall the eventual schism. I do not know anyone who expected what followed.

The ECUSA elected their new Presiding Bishop.

A woman.

They elected a woman to head up their church.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, has been elected June 18 by the House of Bishops as the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church,and the first woman to hold this position in the 400 year tradition of the entire global Anglican Communion.

This is so huge. I never thought that I would live to see this day. Oh,and she is amazing -- an intellectual (oceanographer married to a man who is a mathematician) and a reconciling presence, and oh -- did I mention -- A WOMAN!

PLEASE. Read Telling Secrets for this account by a woman priest who is at the convention for a glimpse of how stunning this is -- even within the denomination -- and how joyful.

I cry whenever I read it.

You know what this feels like to me and to many women? It is like that moment when you fall in love and suddenly realize how lonely you had been before. It is an amazing moment.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Patchwork Father's Day

My father died in December. He was a difficult man.

My earliest memories of him -- until I was about 6 or 7 are idyllic. In addition to events where the three of us - Mom, Dad and I - would all do something, Dad carved out daughter/father time in the earliest years. We used to go on long walks, trips to the playground, fishing, movies. We'd play badminton in the back yard, and he'd flood the same backyard to make a skating rink in the freezing New England winters for me.

Things fell off after that. I'll not insert the family history here. But lots of things happened.

One thing that happened is that I passed 4th grade. My father had to drop out of school in 4th grade during the Depression to support his widowed (and alcoholic) mother. He had an impossibly tough childhood. So, as these things can go, he made part of mine impossibly tough, too.

The other thing that happened is that it was amply clear that I was one of those "smart kids". So, an only child girl with a brain that felt like it could do nothing but hunger for learning had an angry, formerly abused father with no formal education and a kind of contempt for anyone who was more educated than he.

My father's most common companion was rage. It was also the place he went whenever he got frustrated or felt any criticism.

My father never said he was sorry. For anything. To anyone.

My mother became the bridge - loving me enough for two parents and fending my father's wrath off, deflecting it , as much as she could.

For many years I lived trying to find that old father of mine -- the one who used to not be scary - the one who was happy that I was around -- the one who took me fishing, the one on whose toes I would stand as he waltzed me around the kitchen as my mother clapped her hands in joy.

I looked. I tried. I damned near twisted myself into an inside-out pretzel.

But I never found him again. And it took a long time to realize I was not going to, and to learn to un-twist.

And when he died, I found that most all of my tears of grief for a father had been shed years ago.

So here is Father's Day. I read the paeans to Fathers on other people's blogs like reading a travelogue to China - a place I have never been but have dreamed about. I am glad all people did not have the same father that I did. And I am thankful that my early years were somehow magically carefree. There is much to be thankful for. After all, I have never had a problem with calling God "The Father" -- that image is a welcome title in my life - a Father with unconditional love? No problem. I will happily take that!

This is not a plea for sympathy, as I am largely content with my life and where it seems to have brought me. It is just a way to speak a truth that differs from many others' reality, and a truth that surely differs from Hallmark's take on this day.

Also, I figured if I am not tapdancing with glee about my Dad, there must be others like me. To you, those whose fathers have not been warm, or honest, or loving or dependable. To you, whose fathers have been cruel, or mean-spirited or abusive. To you, who have not spoken the truth of your fathers. To you I raise my glass -- as a sibling who understands, as a sister you may not have known you had.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Progressive Faith Blog Con

The following text is a direct lift from the website. You can find this and more by clicking on this link.

Dates: Friday, July 14 - Sunday, July 16.

Location: Montclair, NJ.

"Faith and politics have the capacity to profoundly divide, or to profoundly connect. The first annual Progressive Faith Blog Con is a chance for progressive bloggers of faith to meet one another, talk with one another, and learn from one another."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Another of my heros

In a week where the Episcopalians are meeting and discussing issues of inclusion, and in which my prayers ascend for them, I quoted Stringfellow. It is only fair that I add yet another brilliant and heart-ful Anglican to the lot : Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of South Africa, now retired.

In January 2005, ++ Desmond Tutu said :
"Jesus did not say, 'I if I be lifted up I will draw some', Jesus said, 'If I be lifted up I will draw all, all, all, all, all. Black, white, yellow, rich, poor, clever, not so clever, beautiful, not so beautiful. It's one of the most radical things. All, all, all, all, all, all, all, all. All belong. Gay, lesbian, so-called straight. All, all are meant to be held in this incredible embrace that will not let us go. All."


I have a picnic-enabled car. My car's trunk ALWAYS has the following in it:
1. One El Grande Travel Table.
2. Two Coordinating Travel Chairs.
3. A basket with : paper plates, napkins, paper cups, paper towels, handi-wipes, plastic forks/knives/spoons , a tablecloth, a can opener, a corkscrew, a paring knife, a pair of scissors, some plastic trash bags, a few ziplock bags.
4. A set of binoculars and a good birding guide.
5. At least one unread book.
6. The cooler, while not in the car, is in the garage, very near the car.

At the drop of a hat I can throw some munchies in a bag or stop off at a market and BINGO, it is instant picnic time. I do not have to prepare more than a few minutes.

The reason for this, is that if I had to prepare everything, I wouldn't do it -- or I would find myself in some lovely area and think -- "If only I had a table..." or "It only I had picnic stuff.." or "If I could just set up a chair and read."

I love the spontenaity this affords to my friends and me. In fact just yesterday a friend and I had a spontaneous picnic at Cheesequake State Park near where she lives. It was really quite splendid.

Today it has me thinking of how many ways my life may be prepared for sadness or emergency, compared to how I might additionally prepare it for joy. I have health insurance, car insurance, home insurance, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher or two. I have a list of emergency numbers and people who know how to use them. I have a will, with an executor with a list of instructions. I have a health-care proxy with a primary and an alternate proxy. I have a living will. If I travel, people know my itinerary "just in case". I have fire alarms and CO2 alarms in my home. I even have a no-slip rubber mat in my shower. OK that is a lot on the emergency/sad side.

On the joy-readiness side I have a picnic kit.

I think I need more joy-preparedness in my life. Any ideas? "

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Given my prior post about the ECUSA General Convention, I thought it suiting to quote an heroic Anglican, William Stringfellow. William Stringfellow was an attorney, a theologian, an activist, a scholar, and gay. Stringfellow lived his theology. He lived and practiced law for many years out of a small apartment in Harlem. He defended the poor and the disenfranchised, wrote about 20 books about living ones faith in seeking justice, and perhaps most notoriously, harboured Fr. Daniel Berrigan in the 60's when Berrigan went underground after acts of civil disobedience protesting the Vietnam War.

Here is a quote of his to ponder this week:

In the face of death, live humanly. In the middle of chaos, celebrate the Word. Amidst Babel, speak the truth. Confront the noise and verbiage and falsehood of death with the truth and potency and the efficacy of the Word of God. Know the Word, teach the Word, nurture the Word, preach the Word, defend the Word, incarnate the Word, do the Word, live the Word.
WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land

Monday, June 12, 2006

Episcopal Church General Convention - And a Live Blogger

I am a Lutheran. Why am I writing about the Episcopalian Church? Because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, for one reason. Because the Lutheran Church and the Episcopalian Church have formed a formal relationship together and our pastors and priests can serve at each other's churches, even though our theology has certain differences. And because they are grappling with an issue that I believe is important.

Three years ago, at their last General Convention, they approved the election as Bishop of New Hampshire the man who had been elected there -- Gene Robinson....a man who happens to be living in a stable, committed gay relationship.

Over the past three years, world wide "issues" have been raised -- with some Bishops in some countries or diocese thinking that this is wrong, others believing it is right. I support those who believe it is right. Some want to leave, some want to stay, some want to kick out the liberals. Foreign bishops from Africa want to have increased authority. There are fairly well substantiated rumors that outside, non-church, radical right funding is going into the conservative effort -- BIG money. I cannot hope to do justice to the whole scene.

The best and worst of who we are as people has come forward here -- from moments of honest dialogue to epithets of conservatives calling liberals apostate heretical revisionists who want to destroy everything of value in the world -- to liberals calling conservatives rednecked power-hungry homophobic militia who would happily throw all gays out of the church.

It has been tragic -- and a symptom of the larger polarization between "sides" happening all over America, all over the world.

The issues are so complex, that it has taken years of blogging for dedicated bloggers within the ECUSA to even begin to sort it out -- my thumbnail is to give an initial glimpse to those who may not have heard of this strife.

Well, this is the week for the General Conference that may result in Schism. Whatever happens here is sure to be of historic proportions. Sadly, it is like watching Solomon to see if he will cut the baby in twain.

I will be reading the blog of
Father Jake who will be blogging from the GC live. Please check in with him. Send him and the ECUSA your prayers. This is going to be a very tough week.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

News Kyrie - Lord Have Mercy

I have no idea how to not feel the tragedy in the contrast of these two articles. We find money for excessive contracts to Halliburton - 10 BILLION, and cannot get clotting bandages to our troops unless families send them. What insanity is this?

Again I ask ..tell someone. Say this is wrong.

Halliburton's Iraq Contracts Now Worth over $10 Billion

'The value of Halliburton's Iraq contracts has crossed the $10 billion threshold. Halliburton has now received $8.3 billion in Iraq work under its LOGCAP troop support contract and $2.5 billion under its no-bid Restore Iraqi Oil (RIO) contract, a total of $10.8 billion. . .
more here...


"Nine months after an Army order that all combat soldiers would get lifesaving clotting bandages to curb bleeding deaths, some troops in Iraq are still calling home, asking friends and family to supply them..."
more here..."

Friday, June 09, 2006


Letter from Fra Giovanni

I am your friend
and my love for you goes deep.
There is nothing I can give you
which you have not got,
but there is much, very much
that while I cannot give it,
you can take.

No heaven can come to us
unless our hearts find rest in today.
Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future
which is not hidden
in this present little instant.
Take peace!

The gloom of the world
is but a shadow.
Behind it,
yet within our reach
is joy.
There is radiance and glory
in the darkness
could we but see -
and to see we have only to look.
I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver,
but we, judging its gifts
by the covering,
cast them away as ugly,
or heavy or hard.
Remove the covering
and you will find beneath it
a living splendor,
woven of love,
by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it,
touch the angel's hand
that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial,
a sorrow, or a duty, believe me,
that angel's hand
is there,
the gift is there, and the wonder
of an overshadowing presence.
Our joys, too, be not
content with them as joys.
They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full
of meaning and purpose,
so full of beauty
- beneath its covering -
that you will find earth
but cloaks your heaven.

Courage, then, to claim it,
that is all.
But courage you have,
and the knowledge that
we are all pilgrims together,
wending through
unknown country, home.

And so, at this time,
I greet you.
Not quite as the world
sends greetings,
but with profound esteem
and with the prayer
that for you
now and forever,
the day breaks,
and the shadows flee away.

--letter written by Fra Giovanni, 1513

Found Item

From the blog of Turnpike Feminist: "You can have my civil liberties when you pry my cold dead fingers off my keyboard."


On June 9, 1918 my mother was born. Within 6 weeks both of her parents and two of her brothers had died in the 1918 flu epidemic. She passed away 11 years ago. I loved her a lot, and she loved me right back. I'm not going to go into some in-depth tribute to her. I tend to write a fair amount of maternal memories here anyway. I just couldn't let the date go without remembering. So here is a wave of the hand and a beat of the heart to Frances Diane Przekop Definski. She taught me to love adventure and beauty. I loved her well -- still do.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Gay Marriage

Occasionally I have to remind myself that my friends John and Mark are gay. I just think of them as a married couple. John and his husband, Mark. Mark and his husband, John. I was the "Best M'am" for my friend John nine years ago at a beautiful wedding ceremony in May in a very posh outdoor Manhattan venue. The celebrant was a maverick Baptist minister who performed this sacred ceremony which was not recognized by state law.

Outside of its impeccable beauty and care for detail, it wasn't any different from any other wedding in that the partners were dressed beautifully, love was in the air, people were delighted to be part of this event and there was a palpable sense of the holy. We all cried when they took their vows -- these are two men who are deeply loved by their friends, so we wept from the joy of their joining.

They have a very good marriage, one in which they take each other very seriously, are deeply devoted to eachother and respectful of the other's individuality. They are a pleasure to be with. They are among the best-matched married couples I know.

So I read the news about all this foul flapping about banning gay marriage and I think of John and Mark, who, though not state-sanctioned, have a marriage that could be a model to straight couples for fidelity and caring and mutual love and respect. THIS is what the government is afraid of? That two people of the same sex vow to love and care for each other? THIS is so scary? Yes, it is that love that the government sees as deplorable.

These guys have no "agenda" -- they are not trying to undermine anything. They are not anti-traditionalist. In fact their marriage is quite traditional in that it is founded on old-fashioned values. They are committed for life. It is not up for grabs. They will see each other through whatever needs to be seen through.

Now, will the government kindly leave them alone? It is not as though there are no more pressing items for our government to deal with.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Collapsed Litany

Psalm 94:3
How long will the wicked, O LORD,
how long will the wicked be jubilant?

I have been reading a fair bit lately about how we in the privilged west do not get the full picture when it comes to worldwide news. And while that is true, we also do not go after finding it out. We have the internet, but we are not good at seeking out news from beyond our own purview - at least I was not. Today I decided that one thing I may be able to contribute as a blogger is to find a few articles that the mainline presses may not have seen and to call them to attention out here. Those few of you who read this could then do what you chose with them -- So today I started the News Litany. And after two topics I had to stop because it was getting overwhelming. There will be more, but today just let these two sink in.

Ask yourself as you read these why you did not already know. And what you will do now that you do.(Text in bold was bolded by me)

UN Peacekeepers and Pedophilia
U.N. peacekeepers in the war-torn, refugee-rich Liberia have been accused of selling food for sex from girls as young as 8. They are the latest victims in a growing tragedy that includes girls from Burundi, Ivory Coast, East Timor, Congo, Cambodia and Bosnia, proving correct a prediction made last year by the assistant secretary-general at the United Nations for peacekeeping operations...It took U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan nearly a year of similar allegations from the mission in Congo before telling reporters that he was taking the matter seriously. When the United Nations finally did act, a handful of peacekeepers were fired. But the scandal continues to spread, suggesting that a more serious overhaul of hiring and training practices needs to be implemented.


Congo: Rape and Permanent Vaginal Mutilation of Women to Prevent the Birth of New "Enemies"
The alleged perpetrators are men in uniform, part of the Congolese army. These troops are a compilation of various militia groups that had been fighting each other for years until a truce was reached two years ago...Also in the room is 28-year-old Henriette Nyota. Her spirit is all but broken. Three years ago, she said, she was gang raped as her husband and four children were forced to watch. The men in uniform then disemboweled her husband and continued raping her and her two oldest daughters, 10 and 8. The assault went on for three days.

and more.

Dr. Denis Mukwege is speaking...a few days later, a woman was carried here on her grandmother's back after an eight-hour trek.I had never seen anything like it. She had been gang-raped and then her legs had been shot to pieces. I operated on her on a table with no equipment, no medicine...Even in this small province, South Kivu, the UN estimates that 45,000 women were raped last year alone...It destroys the morale of the men to rape their women. Crippling their women cripples their society,he explains, shaking his head gently...When the rapes begin, the husbands and fathers often just run away and never come back. The women never hear anything from them again. Other times, the men blame the women and shun them. It's very hard for us to persuade the women to leave the hospital, because where are they going to go?

Although I found the information on this from places like CNN and the Washington Post, why is it that we are not hearing about this daily on newcasts? We need to tell people. To email our concerns - to our governments, our radio and TV networks, news papers, news magazines, Oprah, Geraldo, anyone who will listen. Now you know. Now you cannot keep silent. Tell someone else. Please.

Yes, those of us who are faith-based must pray. And we must also Tell Somebody. Point to these things. Say out loud that it is wrong. Say it in the name of G-d, in the name of The Lord, in the name of Allah, in the name of Buddha, in the name of the Universal Good. Say it is wrong.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Manhattan Rhapsody

Last night I had dinner in NYC with friends. Dinner was a wonderfully elaborate series of progressively more fabulous dishes cooked by a friend who is from Morocco and Israel. As I was driving some of the guests home I did a sort of thumbnail summary of some recent events in my life, all of which seemed to be (happily) moving me one step closer to being able to move to Arizona. As I dropped off my friend, Estelle, she said "Or, you could just decide to stay here, you know." She is dear. Very dear. But I think she is wrong.

Nonetheless her comment put me in a "New York State of Mind" as I headed home. As I drove from Greenwhich Village uptown, I drove by a number of 'familiar emotional landmarks' - the theatre that I saw a certain film with with Leonard. Leonard is a former lover now dead. Then I drove by the street that my beloved old high school buddy Martin used to live on, Cornelia Street - and then later, past the hospital (St Vincents) and the funeral home (Redden's) where he was after passing away from AIDS. I went by a restaurant that has been the scene of a very romantic meal, and one that had been the site of a break-up. I drove by a place I used to go to see performance art - and another where I used to buy freshly made canolis. I drove by a dozen or more places where I used to spend time with people who are either now dead or out of my life.

I saw streets I had strolled along with friends, wearing dazzlingly red high heels. I passed my favorite sushi restaurant, my favorite Spanish restaurant and my favorite place to buy home made raviolini. I drove by the insanely expensive boutique in which my former fashionista colleague, Mark, had persuaded me to buy a sweater that no one should ever try to afford in which I felt like a goddess.

I passed lots of places where I used to live my life's details. There were no recent memories of an enduring nature.

It is time to move on.

The city used to be such a source of nourishment, of activity and motion. Now, when I go there (as I no longer live there -- I live about 30 minutes away) I feel that it is a husk of memories that surrounds me, like the shell of a seed. It has become a reminder, no longer an invitation.

I love it and the people in it no less. But its music is now a serenade from the past.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Fear and Forgiveness

Psalm 130
A song of ascents.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; 2 O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. 3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

I was just diving about amidst the Psalms, as I am occasionally wont to do and read again the De Profundis. Yet this is called a "song of ascents", and what begins in profoundly anguished pleas ends in hope. But that we knew.

This time I stalled on the section I have in blue text "But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared." Not loved, not adored, not admired, not longed for or revered. Feared. The psalmist builds a direct link between forgiveness and fear.

OK I know the phrase "to fear God" -- but I think there is a deeper hit to be obtained here - I have spent a lot of time this year on issues of forgiveness. And it strikes me that we do fear those who have the power to forgive us. We fear that they might withhold the forgiveness, or in giving it, draw close to us in a way that we find uncomfortable, a way which makes us uneasy. If someone forgives me, it is like they move one inch closer inside my personal space. They remove a barrier that I may have wanted in place.

When I open myself to the awareness that I am forgiven by God, in addition to gratitude, I am overwhelmed with an awesome sense of responsibility and an almost searing sense of intimacy where nothing of who I am is hidden from He who is still so hidden from me.

Here I am still fumbling around issues related to forgiveness. Will I ever learn? I am strangely comforted by the psalmist who found fear inside forgiveness. It is a thing that can bury its meaning in the deepest parts of who we are, and then ask us to dig through the deepest and darkest layers of ourselves to unearth it.

The Secret of Friendship Revealed

I am not even slightly tempted to comment on this wonderful quote.

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. --Henri Nouwen

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thunder and Lightening

It is thundering here, and lightening follows. I love summer storms.

When I was a foolish young thing in my early 20's, I lived in Denver - the land of huge skies and breathtaking storms. I had a friend who was an equal storm-lover. At the first sign of a major sky-show I would call him and we would meet in Cheeseman Park near his home. While there we would sit in the middle of an open grassy area and watch the summer storm swirl around us.

We were God's own idiots I am sure.

But it was a wonderful experience to immerse in Nature's terribleness and grandeur and to just let it merge with us. To smell the charge of ozone in the lightening-creased air -- to watch clouds race in the relentless gusts of wind -- to feel the pelting slash of rain on warm skin -- to hear and feel the great, deep booms of thunder coming from unexpected directions. It was sheer bliss.

They say that turkeys are stupid because they do not know when to come in out of the rain -- that they will stay outside drinking in the rain until they drown. I do not know if they are stupid or just overcome with the wonder of it all, caught up in the storm so fully that they can no longer seperate enough of themselves to feel fear.

I love that I had that passion in me. Tonight I may go watch the storm from the shelter of my screened in porch. I'm an older turkey now. I've developed a passion for staying alive. But the call of the storm is never far away...
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