Wednesday, July 23, 2014

BIG LIFE



Here's the beginning of this week's Aleteia piece:

"What is it with these people who go around saying, “My life is FABulous. I have a BIG LIFE.” As my friend Josh says: "What are you, a foreign dignitary? Are you a sheik?"

My friend Lisa has a slightly different take on such folks: "You have a BIG LIFE? Well, get away from me, then, cause you’re in the way of my teeny, cramped life of struggle, loneliness, and pain!"

Read THE PIECE HERE.




I PAID MY CAR INSURANCE AND RAN THE CARPET SWEEPER AROUND MY ROOM TODAY.
DOES THAT QUALIFY AS BIG?

Monday, July 21, 2014

AT THE BOATYARD

KEELHAUL 'IM!
Here I am playing make-believe on my brother Geordie's 48-foot commercial fishing vessel, the Brittany Lynn--which just happens to be docked in Gloucester, MA, the very town in which I've been staying.

My dear friend Ellen treated me to breakfast the day before my birthday, and she, too, took a turn at the wheel.





BASICALLY, A BOAT IS NO PLACE FOR GIRLS
MY HEARTY SEA-GOING NEPHEW JERROD
I've had a bit of a bout of Lyme Disease as you may know, and this morning, Monday, is the first morning in almost three weeks where I at last feel "good." The whole time I've been pondering the unbelievable grace, mercy, and gift of the sound health I usually enjoy. I never exactly take it for granted but maybe you have to feel bad once in a while to ponder the mystery of the zillions of people on earth who NEVER wake up feeling good. Who never feel "100%." And who never complain...In heaven, they will be at the very front of the pack, dragging their crutches and feeding tubes, lending a helping hand to the others, trying to hold their wobbly heads up straight so their crowns don't slip off...

On "Week Three" of the Spiritual Exercises. The Passion...I'm a little bit homesick.

OUR BELOVED CAPTAIN GEORDIE

Saturday, July 19, 2014

ON MY 62nd BIRTHDAY

MY FATHER AND ME,
RYE BEACH, NH, SEPTEMBER 1952.
 A MOMENT THAT STILL EXISTS, OUT ON SOME COSMIC TWIG....

“One of the more delightful mysteries of sound came when the astronauts on one of our early spaceships heard a program of nostalgic music over their sound system and radioed NASA to thank whoever it was who had sent them the program. From NASA came the rather baffled reply that they had sent the astronauts no such program and knew nothing about it.

This phenomenon triggered a good deal of interest and research: who had beamed the music to the astronauts? What was its source? All the radio and TV programs all over the country that day and hour were checked out, and none of them was responsible for the music the astronauts had so enjoyed. Further research. Could they all have imagined hearing a nonexistent program of old popular songs? Was it a kind of mass hallucination? It seemed highly unlikely. Research finally revealed that that particular program had been broadcast in the 1930s.

How do you explain it? You don’t…

Time is to be treasured, worked with, never ignored. As the astrophysicists understand time now, it is not like a river, flowing in one direction, but more like a tree, with great branches and smaller limbs and twigs which may make it possible for us to move from one branch to another, as did Jesus and Moses and Elijah, as did St. Andrew and St. Francis when they talked with each other in that light of love which transcends all restrictions of time.”


--Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water


Thursday, July 17, 2014

WHAT IS YOUR STORY? TELL ME YOUR PAIN




Welp, it's official: I do indeed have Lyme Disease! I'm pretty sure I know just when that varmint deer tick latched onto me, too: one late afternoon when I was out walking and, afraid I'd be late for Mass, made a shortcut through an overgrown thicket of sumac, beach roses, and New England coastal scrub that was no doubt lousy with insects. These ticks are the size of a POPPY SEED, which, come on, who's going to notice one of those draining the blood out of, in this case, my pore stomach? Anyway, the eventually foot-wide circular rash that developed, plus debilitating flu-like symptoms, I did notice.

So the other morn I hied myself to the local ER, where the doctor took one look and cheerfully announced, "Yup, you've got it." I'm proud to say my rash was so classically formed that he called in his (one) colleague to show it off. Anyway, the folks at Addison Gilbert Hospital (thank you, Dr. Pasquarello) could not have been more helpful and kind, I'm on antibiotics for three weeks, and I am NOT going to re-read that New Yorker article of a few months ago. It's not a big deal. I very much appreciate all your thoughts and prayers. The chief thing that's come out of it is renewed and bottomless gratitude for my usual good health. And to be reflecting for many hours a day on how to better know, love and serve Christ--again, just right.

The title of this week's Aleteia post--I swear I didn't plan it this way--is What Is Your Story? Tell Me Your Pain.

beach rose

Monday, July 14, 2014

VOLES AND TICKS



I spend a lot of time sitting in a lawn chair and gazing out to sea here at Eastern Point. And though we retreatants are in silence, I have managed to make a friend. The best I can figure, he's a vole, and below is the opening to his burrow. Small, with dark brown glossy fur and beady eyes the size of a large pinhead, the creature is preternaturally fast. Apparently voles have many predators but I don't know what would be quick enough to catch the little critter as the slightest movement sends him scuttling at the speed of light back to his den. He seems nervous, easily startled. Needless to say, we get along well and I'm convinced he views me as a trusted and loyal friend.

Meanwhile I fear a rude and ill-mannered tick has given me a good nip and with it, Lyme Disease. I'm not even kidding! I have the bull's eye rash and flu symptoms and am headed to the ER tomorrow.  I am one of those obnoxious people who considers myself impervious to germs, viruses, and rapacious predators of all kinds so I don't want to say it serves me right, as that would be mean. But I don't think I've been to the ER since I lived in Boston 30 years ago.

Everyone has to take their turn.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

O HOLY RITUAL OF EVERYDAYNESS

WOMAN PEELING APPLE
GERARD ter BORCH, 1650

"I ask myself: why precisely in this country are a great-grandmother’s bonnets, a cradle, a great-grandfather’s frock coat made from Scottish wool, and a spinning wheel preserved with special care, an almost religious attention? The attachment to things was so great that pictures and portraits of objects were commissioned as if to confirm their existence and prolong their lives."

"The good reputation of Dutch painters secured invitations to foreign courts, so Godfried Schalcken, Adriaen van der Werff, and Eglon van der Neer, for example, spent years in the service of the Prince Elector in Düsseldorf. But the great ones—Vermeer, Hals, Rembrandt—never traveled to the other side of the Alps, or even neighboring countries. They remained faithful to the trees, walls, clouds of their homeland, and to their native towns. What is stranger still, this provincialism by choice constituted their strength, and decided their posthumous triumph."

"[W]hat is nine o’clock if it does not mean sitting at the desk in an office, the noon hour without the stock exchange, four o’clock from which dinner is taken away, six o’clock without coffee and a pipe, eight o’clock deprived of all meaning because they have removed the table, supper, family, and friends. O holy ritual of everydayness, without you time is empty like a falsified inventory that corresponds to no real objects."

--From Still Life with a Bridle, in which "poet and essayist Zbigniew Herbert takes an intriguing look at the cultural, artistic, and aesthetic legacy of 17th-century Holland."

STILL LIFE WITH OLD BOOKS
JAN LIEVENS, c. 1627

Friday, July 11, 2014

THE ALOUD LECTURE SERIES AT THE L.A. PUBLIC LIBRARY

SUNSET, EASTERN POINT ROAD,
DOWNY BY THE LIGHTHOUSE
This week's arts and culture offering is on the ALOUD lecture series, headed up by the inimitable Louise Steinman, at the downtown L.A. Public Library.

READ IT HERE.

Then join the Library Foundation of Los Angeles (or not)--and go.



NILES POND.
I SAW A COYOTE LAST NIGHT.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

CHARITY IS NEVER SCANDALIZED

SUNRISE FROM MY WINDOW
at the eastern point retreat house

This week's Aleteia post is called "Charity Is Never Scandalized" and consists, in 90% part, of an email from an astute and sensitive reader (who prefers to remain anonymous) about a morbidly obese dachshund. Generally, I'm not crazy about animal stories, but this is no piece of sentimental fluff about dog as man's best friend.

It's not so much a dog story, in fact, as a story about how quick we are to judge, and how easily we give up on ourselves and each other. And about being grateful for the slightest bit of progress/hope.

We are a third of the way through our Ignatian Exercises and had a "Day of Repose" yesterday. Lots of folks broke out for restaurants, shopping, the movies. I was content to stay put, and commune with the sea shells.


UNFURLING MORNING GLORY.
THESE LAST BUT A DAY


Monday, July 7, 2014

THE SPECIAL CROSS OF THE ARTIST




 
SCENES NEAR DUSK IN GLOUCESTER, MASS.

I'm on Week Two of the Ignatian Exercises. The beauty, on every level, is indescribable. CONSTANTLY out walking. Pondering, gazing, praying, praising, wondering if I'm gaining weight, and last night, doing a jigsaw puzzle.

Will not even attempt to share the epiphanies, insights,deep consolations--as well as the constant sense of unworthiness--that flood in upon every moment. Every day is a book's worth.

Here's this week's piece from the Tidings an interview with Hollywood screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi called "The Special Cross of the Artist."

I JUST LOVE HAVING A SPECIAL CROSS--DON'T YOU?
HAPPY TRAILS!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

THE BANQUET TABLE


slow roasted pork (8 to 10 HOURS at 250) with fennel seeds and garlic
"There is great satisfaction in remaining faithful; perhaps it is the greatest satisfaction of all. Even if not one knows about your faithfulness, even if no one values it."
-- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Cancer Ward

A few months I was at morning Mass when Father said, “You know what we need more of in the Church?”...Fervent laypeople? I thought eagerly. Single people who faithfully, with burning hearts, trudge to Mass? Contemplative hermits in the city? Sober alcoholics to spread the word to all the drunks in church?

...“We need more good Catholic families!” Father exclaimed.

I stifled a snicker: my hopes for being special, singled out, recognized, dashed again. Plus, we do need more good—by which I took to mean he meant ardent, excited, questing—Catholic families.

No accident that the Gospels begin with the star rising over the Holy Family: father, mother, child.

I have always seen the teachings of the Church on sex as an invitation to sit at the table with the rest of the human family. Otherwise, as a single, husbandless, childless woman past child-bearing age, I would have no place at the table. There is no status lower in our society--unless it’s an aging, single, gay man. Trust me, if that is your status, you feel it. You wash your face and comb your hair and put on a clean shirt, because Christ said don’t make a big deal of your fasting, but you feel it. You feel it in the unbelievable lack of gallantry, of courtesy, from some—not all by any means, but some—men. You feel it from the cruelty and utter lack of fellow feeling from some—not all by any means, but some—other women.

I feel it and boo-hoo: we all have some huge cross we feel all the time. And the longer I am in the Church, the more I see that without her teachings on sex, and everything else, I would have no place at the table and my life would have no meaning. Because to be in the Church is to be part of the Mystical Body. It's to be in solidarity with everyone, including all those who for whatever reason could not have sex; could not attract, or be, a spouse; could not or were not moved to raise a family; the old, the unattractive, disabled, and poor; the misfits and malcontents and die-hard solitaries, the temperamentally unsuited and vocationally unavailable; the sexually, emotionally and physically damaged, wounded, and disordered. Because we are all disordered, in our ways, and we are all responsible for what we do as adults, and we all fail in our duty to the children of the world.

It’s not the Church that has no place for me; it’s the world. So I didn’t take the least offense at Father’s remark. I didn’t think he was discriminating me, or belittling me, or minimizing my contribution. I thought he was saying Isn't it grand, no matter our station in life, no matter if we're on our deathbeds, we get to offer ourselves up for all of creation. I thought of my three unborn children and of how we share the same guardian angel. I thought of my six godchildren, each of whom I also pray for daily. I thought about all the young people in my life: the seminarians, the teachers, the writers, the sober drunks and addicts, the whole crazy pageant of people—young and old—with whom I’ve been blessed, that keep me alive and vital and juiced.

I thought of the new way I’ve found to pray: as I pray, I visualize holding the baby Jesus to my breast. In Him are all the other children in my life, who’ve been entrusted, in some small way to my care. In Him is myself as a child, receiving both the love I did and maybe did not get. In Him is my mother, and her mother, and all the women in my bloodline, and all their sorrows and joys, and also all those women, and of course men, in my life now, and who are to come. In Him are all the wounded, glorious people in my life. Because when you’re an addict a lot of the people in your life are also addicts, given to strange silences, unexplained disappearances, moodiness, depression, trauma they carry in their bones and blood and they try to be kind and to participate anyway, like me, with mixed results. Your feet get bloody when you go on pilgrimage, said Catherine Doherty, because you go with bare feet, into people’s hearts, and people’s hearts are jagged and rocky. I know mine is. So to learn to love people who are so much like me, to not strike back and also not to run but just to stand still, to stand by, silently with love…this is a great gift, the pearl of great price.

And really, the more I pray this way, the more I see that is what my own mother did for me, my whole childhood and adolescence and adulthood, while her own heart must have been breaking, and while she was also hemorrhaging from her own childhood wounds with no-one to comfort her.

Do you see? As my love gets ever more channeled, my love ever more enlarges. So I hold the baby Jesus to my breast, and he totally gets it. Without that, I would be nothing: aging, unwanted, dried up. I’d be desperately trolling "match" or calling the plastic surgeon.

To hell with that! I cooked all day Saturday for my friends! Donald and Alan; Benny McCabe, visiting from Dublin; Tensie and Dennis and their two kids Rozella and Thomas down from the Guadalupe Catholic Worker.

"Suffer the children to come unto me," Christ said. and "Unless you become like this child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven."

these went into the quinoa salad with grilled leeks and charred dates....
quince--that was a trip to the farmer's market on foot
(an essential part of the meal)
roasted potatoes, apples and quince with thyme and
a whole ton of olive oil and butter.
not pictured: salsa verde with Italian parsley, mint, and basil,,
home-made rosemary flatbread,
 tzatziki,
pear and sour cherry crisp with walnut streusel and whipped cream.
unable to be pictured: the conversation. communion and love.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR TENSIE!!