Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ten Things This Week

1. Teaching Chinese philosophy to ninth graders. Talk of Daoism led to talk of ecology which led to talk of other "ologies" which led to one young lady asking, "What is gynecology, anyway?" I provided a definition and then asked, "Is there anything else we need to clear up today?"

2. I saw five deer, all together, when I was out walking the other evening. One of them was very small, obviously pretty new.

3. I really don't like living in a house where no cat lies curled up anywhere at all. Today I thought I saw her lying on the pile of papers on the dining room table. But, of course, she wasn't.

4. I'm spending Yom Kippur visiting Steel City Seminary.

5. Some people said some really wonderful things to me this past week. And one person said something really, really terrible. Win some, lose some, I guess.

6. I am struggling to upload pictures today ~ but here's one from Iona that suddenly popped right up. It's a view from what's left of the 13th century nunnery.

7. I've been listening to Vivaldi all week. Everyone should hear Les Violons de France play the Four Seasons
in Ste. Chapelle on a summer evening but, barring that, a car CD player will do. (Yes ~ three links there ~ the second one is the music.)

8. Christina Yang has always been my favorite Grey's Anatomy character, but this week Miranda Bailey grabbed that slot.

9. The eighth graders brought a cake to class to celebrate the birthday of one of their number. It was a very large cake.

10. I saw the first juncoes of the fall yesterday. Regular readers know that I do NOT consider that to be a good sign. I know that
Theresa loves winter, but I most emphatically do not.


1. Tell us about any group(s) you currently belong to. (e.g. book club, knitting circle, walking buddies, etc.)

I don't think I "belong" to any groups. Not in the sense that there is a list or a roll call. But I go to the women's spirituality group at church. This fall I'm facilitating a small church group on Richard Foster's Celebration of Disciplines. I have two internet groups of women friends, with some overlap since both originated in the same place. And I have a group of women friends with whom I hang out most Saturday mornings (not today because I am, theoretically, cleaning house, which we can all see that I am not doing in actual reality) . One of those women I have known since the first day of law school thirty years ago. Most I have known, via the first church to which I belonged, for nineteen years. (I am certain of that, because the Lovely Daughter was a newborn when we met.) Some of them I have known much more briefly.

2. Do you feel energized or drained by being in a group situation? If the answer is "it depends," on what does it depend?

It depends. If we are sitting around talking, I usually feel totally energized. If I am dragged along on a group shopping trip, no matter how worthy the cause, I am miserable before, during, and after. I do try to behave, though.

3. Is there a role you naturally find yourself playing in group situations? That is, do you naturally fall into the leader role, or the one who always makes sure the new person feels welcome, or the quiet one who sits back and lets others shine, or the host?

Any of the above. It depends.

4. Handshakes vs. hugs: discuss.

Handshakes upon meeting new people. (As I have commented elsewhere, this practice has its perils when introducing myself to Orthodox Jewish men.) Hugs with friends I haven't seen in awhile. Amazingly, I am usually the recipient of several hugs a day from the high school girls I teach.

5. Ice breakers: a playful way to build community in a lighthearted manner, or a complete and utter hell of forced fun and awkwardness?

I don't usually mind icebreakers. But I could live without them.

I think it's raining again out there. But last night it was beautiful. And I have a photo but, per usual, Blogger is resisting the upload so I'll try later. I'm getting so sick of that -- I'm thinking about a move to typepad. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Library Again

I returned five books. The gentleman at the desk was very kind, and also a total enabler. I came home with nine more. That doesn't count the two I still haven't found.

Session tomorrow night: my name is on the agenda. Those of you who are Presby elders will know what that means.

October: in my life so far, the very worst and very best of months.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Today I received a bill for $529.47 from the university library for my overdue books. So I have been looking them because it would probably be a good idea to return them and pay only the fines. So far I have found:

Five of the seven books;
The casette tape player for which I searched for a month and which I finally replaced this past week-end;
The Celtic prayer books that have been missing since before I went to Iona and put them -- how bizarre -- in a pile of Celtic reading material in the living room;
The Iona Abbey and Nunnery guidebook that I wanted to show my father when he was here a few weeks ago;
My Macolm Miller guide to the windows of Chartres Cathedral;
40 pounds British in bills, which I think is only worth $20.

I thought maybe I would find my medium-sized gold hoop earrings, but no such luck.

SInce I don't feel like grading papers about ancient river civilizations, I think I'll take a drive and return the five books that I did find.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Seriously! (Stuff, None of It Particularly Related)

I'm not doing so well with the sabbatical, am I?

I guess I might as well give up.

People have been tossing Grey's Anatomy quotes all over the place. Are you scary and damaged? Or dark and twisty? Or just, like me, addicted to the How to Save A Life music video? Seriously? Seriously!

(They could not possibly have done a more magnificent job with Izzie and her terrible grief. And what about that Miranda and hers?)

I see that this has been one of those weeks in my life. A week ago I was doing one of the readings at a Catholic Mass. Tomorrow night I start facilitating a class on Richard Foster's Celebrations of Discipline in my Presby church. And a couple of days ago I was eating apple slices dipped in honey for Rosh Hashanah.

A couple of people have asked me about Ignatian spirituality. Here's a terrific link. There's a lot of good stuff out there, but most of it presupposes some knowledge on the part of the reader. I think this one is really helpful.

I have a couple of important meetings coming up. I'm finding that I have an amazing cheering section behind me. I am so grateful.

Parts of my life are really, really good right now. Parts of it are difficult. But it does seem that, one way or another, all manner of things shall be well.

Friday, September 22, 2006

About That Last Post

I usually don't post about work. For all the obvious reasons.

But tonight, yes. As the Days of Awe begin.

I teach in an Orthodox Jewish middle and high school, and so I have some experiences that most of my Christian friends do not.

In my world, brilliant and articulate women, women passionate about their faith and their culture and the history of their people, are not ordained.

In my world, history classes on the Roman Empire and, later, the Protestant Reformation, always require a detour where the questions go something like,

Do YOU believe that, Ms. C? Do YOU believe that Jesus actually came back to life?

What is the difference between the Presbyterians and the Amish?

Paul was WHO? And then he turned into WHAT?

What do YOU think about Jews and Christians? Do you know that there are Messianic Jews who come to the mall and knock on our doors to try to convert us?

In my world, God is revealed through the law; Christmas is, at best, a troubling interruption; and Easter is incomprehensible.

In my world, there is no forgetting that our Christian story story came to us in the form of a Jewish man in a particular time and a particular place.

My world is distinctly not my world. And yet it is. It's been a very, very good place for me to learn and grow.

L'Shana Tovah indeed. May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

L'Shana Tovah ~

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Grey's Anatomy

Two hours last night.
Two hours tonight.
I am completely obsessed.


I am TOTALLY drained.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Catherine and Cecilia

Who died
January 30, 1860
AGED 2 Ys. 9 Ms.
Who died
May 31, 1861
AGED 1 Yr. 6 Ms.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am enamoured of cemeteries. Enormous park-like arboretum cemeteries here and in New Orleans and in Glasgow. Small, wind-blown cemeteries on the Outer Banks and Iona. Quiet nineteenth century cemeteries associated with rural Catholic churches in southern Ohio.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Quick Notation

Been at the reunion for the Catholic boarding school where I spent 7th, 8th and 9th grades ~ Talked late into last evening with women I knew when we were all thirteen, MANY years ago ~ My priest and nun friends are among my biggest supporters in my journey toward ministry in the Presbyterian church ~ Haven't been to Mass in maybe 20 years but there I was today, a girl who once spent hours plotting teenage raids into pre-Vatican II cloisters, doing the Old Testament reading ~ Those Ursuline nuns are the COOLEST women.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Glasgow Cathedral (1197) ~ July 2006

Raised and/or befriended by agnostics, Catholics, Protestants and Jews, it has forever been my fate to stand amid the tensions linking disparate faith communties. On Iona, I was constantly aware that I prayed in the ruins of a Catholic community destroyed by Reformation Presbyterians and then 500 years later recovered and rebuilt by a Protestant community. The Glasgow Cathedral is the only one on mainlaind Scotland left completely intact in the wake of the Reformation chaos that produced my own Presbyterian church. (The Glasgow Cathedral is Church of Scotland today.) In the cemetery above it, the words below a towering statue of John Knox, Reformation leader of the Protestant church in Scotland, attest to the torture and incineration of Protestants by Catholics during that period of unrest. Neither side, to put it mildly, emerges without blemish.

A cathedral, on its best days, is a haunting blend of light and shadow, reflecting perfectly, it seems, the community of Christ both then and now.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Apollo ** 1999 ~ 2006

They were here on Sunday, floating in triplicate on the cemetery pond. Three western grebes. I have never seen western grebes before, not anywhere. Huge, elegant, graceful.

I was up most of the night with Apollo. A little heap of bones, covered with still soft fur. Breath and purr audible only to an ear nestled against her neck. Go ahead, I told her.
The grebes have come for you.

She left us the next day, on the wings of the birds from the west.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Going for a Walk

I'm going for a walk or, rather, a month-long sabbatical from blogging.

I have a lot of things to think about and a lot of things to do. Spending time on my blog is advancing none of those things.

My children are all, more or less, back in college. Embrace your lives. That's all I would really tell them. The time is much shorter than you think. You already know that people crash their cars, fall out of windows, succumb to cancer, waste away from regret. All of those possibilties apply to you as well. Find things you love and do them. Find people you love and be with them. Clean house on occasion. (The latter is not metaphorical advice. It is literal advice.)

I am reading
Kristin Lavransdatter , and The Reluctant Parting (excellent book; not new material to me but a helpful perspective to a Christian teaching World History in a Jewish school), and The Gospel of Mark v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y (not my favorite of the four but it was, ahem, recommended)(KL was recommended by the same person at the same time. Those Jesuits.) and about a dozen other books.

In the Life's Coincidences (or not) category, I had just started KL when I was driving down to North Carolina a few weeks ago and flipped to a station playing music I recognized as something I had once known well, but could not for the life of me place. As I drove into the mountains of Tennessee and the station began to crackle away, I hoped desperately that an announcer would quickly make the piece known. It turned out, of course, to be Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suites. I probably hadn't heard that music in 25 years, but I'm listening to it all the time now as I read Kristin Lavransdatter.

My students are engaged, to varying degrees, in the Sumerians and the Native American cultures of a millenia ago and British mercantilism. I have plenty of papers to read.

I am going to Pittsburgh and Chicago and Oregon this fall. Not bad for someone who broke the bank this past summer. Destroyed it, actually.

I might post some photos once in awhile. I've been playing with these (click to enlarge) from the
Graveyard Fields trail in the Pisgah Forest. I would drive, and have driven, ten hours to stand in the exact spot in the Yellowstone Prong of the Pigeon River pictured above. And there's a spot a few minutes walk further, pictured below, that works perfectly when you need to sit on an ancient Appalachian slab where a silent pool lies before you and water sings over rocks behind you.

October 2. I might come back.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Twenty-Two Years; Advice to Follow

A couple of summers ago as I was walking from the mall parking lot into Saks, I encountered a woman who reminded me of myself in the not so distant past. She was trying to maneuver a stroller through the double doors and maintain some kind of grasp over three very small children. The only differences between us lay in the gender division of said children -- her twins were girls and her singleton was a boy -- and my probably visible relief to be the assistant rather than the engineer in the task of getting her entourage through the door.

Twenty-two years ago right this moment, 7:30 am, I was sitting in a putrid green hospital room not enjoying exactly the kind of birth experience I had so hoped to avoid: an IV drip with Pitocin, two fetal monitors, two surgeons, two nurses, and a labor that after twelve hours promised to go exactly nowhere, despite the rather impressive contractions every few minutes. If I recall correctly, we were at that point debating the positives and negatives of epidural anesthesia. It would be six more hours before we would be debating the merits of caesarean delivery.

The production of my boys, after 41 weeks of pregnancy, seemed challenging at the time. The management of three energetic but delightfully bright and imaginative preschoolers and elementary-aged schoolchildren, much less so -- but in retrospect, it was a demanding time of life. The years in which high school merged into college more closely resembled the Viking sagas I was reading last spring: mayhem and madness, distress and devastation.

( see: the ruins of my mind can still rise to the tease of alliteration.)

What I find most astonishing now is that I seem to be in the position of dispensing advice and encouragement, most of it visibly unwelcome, to the three young adults who were once those towheads in strollers. They are, none of them, nearly as energetic, imaginative, or voluble as they once were. I'm trying hard to recall my own college years, but the view from here is depressing and discouraging. (Ouch! I can't seem to help myself this morning.) My husband commented a few months ago that I should try to think about how I spent my time in college. "And aren't you satisifed with how things turned out?" he continued.

Well. In a word, No.

How much I would have done differently, had I only known.