Monday, April 30, 2007

It Seems . . .

that perhaps Spring has arrived?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Colors and The Music Are Returning

~ Mary Oliver

It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves -
then I saw him clutching the limb in an island of shade
with his red-brown feather
sall trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness -
and that’s when it happened, when I seemed to float, to be,
myself, a wing or a tree -
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying, and the sands in the glass
stoppedfor a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward like rain, rising, and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing -
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed not a single thrush,
but himself,
and all his brothers, and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfectly blue sky -
all, all of them were singing.
And, of course, yes, so it seemed, so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last
for more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,
is that, once you’ve been there, you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning? Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then - open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Five

You can play here.

1. Wearing?

The ubiquitous black skirt. White tank top. Long gray and white cardigan sweater. My Virginia Woolf look.

2. Pondering?

I managed to forget all about that fish on Gray's last night, but a friend emailed a post today that says it's for real. So now I am pondering that. Yeeecccchhh.

3. Reading?

On the floor next to the bed: Paula Huston's By Way of Grace. Diana Butler Bass's Christianity for the Rest of Us. Ivan Doig's The Whistling Season. The new issue of The New York Review of Books. A stack of printouts on Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Karl Rahner.

4. Dreaming?

Of summer afternoons in Chartres.

5. Eating?

I'm about to have some pasta and cheese for lunch. And then go for a walk on yet another dreary gray day.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ten Best Things

Best thing you’ve seen in the past week:
A kinglet, though it was too far away and I didn't have binocs with me, so I can't tell you which kind. The spring kind.

Best thing you’ve heard in the past week:
My next door neighbor's story about the birth of twins to her daughter in Germany last month, the daughter who was five when we moved in 23 years ago and I was the one pregnant with twins. Her twins were much more cooperative about their arrival than mine were.

Best thing you’ve eaten (or not, for dieters) in the past week:
Chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips.

Best thing you’ve learned in the past week:
That there are some thought patterns I can change.

Best place you’ve been in the past week:
All the places (and there aren't many of them) where the daffodils and tulips surived the Easter blizzard.

Best thing you’ve accomplished in the past week:
The interview for a program in spiritual direction.

Best thing you’ve said (or not) in the past week:
"Yes, you may have until next week to turn that paper in."

Best thing you’ve read in the past week:
Encounters with Silence by Karl Rahner. I read it in bits and pieces all the time.

Most touching moment in the past week:
Hearing tonight that a friend's four-month old granddaughter, born with massive damage to many body systems that has precluded most normal physical functioning, slurped down her first bottle last night.

Biggest dragon you’ve slain in the past week:
The third draft of my paper on the Muslim hajj, emailed in this afternoon ON TIME.

Thanks to Lisa! for the template.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Another women's week-end is coming up. A group of us went away together last fall as we do most years but, no sooner had all the plans been made than (1) the instigator, she-who-had-had-the-nerve-to-Move-Away, backed out and (2) another woman suddenly could no longer come. The latter has been trying hard for months to pull together a second week-end and it looks like this one's a go. I'm probably the only one who either can't go or can only go for one night.

But I find myself feeling reluctant to make the effort, because I feel like I was burned last time, and here's why:

My favorite things to do with friends are walking and talking, and I had looked forward to a couple of days of doing exactly that last fall. With one friend in particular. And on that particular week-end, that friend forgot to bring any shoes that would make long walks possible.

How could that be? I asked. What else, besides, contacts, and she doesn't wear contacts, could possibly have been more important to pack?

Well, what she did bring was food. Lots and lots of food. While I had been dreaming of long walks along the lake, she had been imagining long and cozy breakfasts of bacon and eggs and sausage and waffles and bagels and whatever. I would have been happy with a glass of juice on the way out the door.

So I was disappointed to find myself walking alone, and she was disappointed that no one else thought that a three-hour, three-course breakfast was the way to spend Saturday morning.

And so I have been thinking about how differently we all nurture others.

I don't cook. I'm a terrible cook, for a couple of reasons having to do with (1) no sense of smell and, therefore, little capacity for the appreciation of flavor and (2) Wicked Stepmother No. 1, and we won't go there. I'm a terrible cook and I have a terrible history related to meals and so I do not nurture with food.

Last week as I was preparing to preach and concluding that my sermon was pretty much a disaster, one of the things I wondered in some desperation to myself was, "Is there anything at all in here to nurture anyone?"

As it turned out there apparently was. Based on the response I got, there was plenty of nurturing going on.

In a similar context, that is to say, the context of church, I used to wonder why the sacrament of communion just did not move me. At all. Until last year, when it did, but that is another story entirely.

What has finally occurred to me is the obvious. I nurture with words, not food. When my children were little, the main events of the day revolved around reading stories. Hour upon hour of them. The most dazzling dinner specialty, on the other hand, was grilled cheese and tomato soup.

In church, the same thing. Words, not food, are my specialty. It's a good thing that Someone Else got the meal thing down, because it never would have occurred to me.

So maybe I will go on that week-end after all. I will offer my words and accept someone else's food. Just like in church.

Weird Blog Stuff

This has been going on for weeks.

When I check my stat counter, which I do with some obsessive frequency, now that I have discovered how many people read without commenting and have, indeed, turned into such a person myself, I find an increasingly number of hits originating from the urls of photographs I have used -- particularly photos from various landmarks in France and, oddly, of a Six Feet Under photo I used one day. It feels really weird, and I am tempted to delete all such images.

Anyone know what gives? Is this a consequence of the google purchase of blogger ~ are we now subject to innumerable searches by folks who aren't actually looking for blogs? Or is there just one person out there clicking on every St. Chappelle and Six Feet Under reference in the stratosphere of the internet? Should we care?

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Responses from Orthodox Jewish high school students who have learned that their teacher is off to a Presbyterian seminary:

What do we call you?

How are you going to learn Hebrew when you haven't managed it in six years with us? (Good question.)

(Yelling down hall) Hey, Rabbi Reverend C!

You're going to be like Lucy in Seventh Heaven?

You're going to be a prime minister?

Ms. C is getting smicha?

Can we visit your church?

This is so cool.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


As we all learned from Miss Austen, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

It is also a truth universally acknowledged, in the estimation of one Gannet Girl, that a middle-aged woman in possession of a husband, adult children, mortgages, a gutter system on the verge of collapse, two broken toilets, a red Corolla, and A Call, must be in want of a sense of humor.

It's more or less settled. This particular such woman is going to drive that Corolla off to seminary next fall.

Luckily for all involved, she is also in possession of a stellar sense of humor.


I told my employers on Monday, and then started telling my work friends. (Only a couple know, and they have kept my secret all year.) I teach in an Orthodox Jewish school. In the Orthodox community, women are not ordained and men do not touch women to whom they are not married (except when they shake hands with women like me, who are wont to forget that shaking hands is not is a sign of basic courtesy in all situations). Most excellent moments since I have begun to tell people:

A colleague, whose three sons have all been my students, says, "No, no, no. Do NOT tell me you are leaving." ~ And then, when she learns the reason, throws her arms around me and says, "How wonderful!"

A male colleague, the kindest and gentlest of men, he whose birthday was just celebrated by the entire student body producing a cake and a rendition of When I'm 64, whose face breaks into a smile as he reaches to grasp my hand before he gives in to a hug and says, "How wonderful!"

I am also in possession of a good fortune, in the form of friendships and generosity.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I shared some good news of my own earlier, news that I written about some time ago and then had waited days to post due to some long delays at work. But I've put it aside; it can wait some more.

Pretty much every one of the families to whom we are close has at least one child in college. Nearly all of us have been through rocky times and we know that nothing is ever guaranteed. We worry about their grades and their activities and their social lives and their summers and their travel and their boyfriends and girlfriends and their plans and their futures, and we are full of hope for them and for much more for their lives than we ever hoped for ourselves.

To lose those children and to lose that hope . . .

No words.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Death and Life

Unitarian Universalist minister Forrest Church says that religion is our response to the reality that we live and then we die.

I have wondered recently whether perhaps I have been so drawn to religious exploration in part because of that reality. In one eighteen-month period of my childhood, my mother, brother, grandmother's mother, and grandfather's father all died. By the time I was in my early twenties, my first stepmother and an aunt had died, both of them before the age of fifty. I was very much acquainted with death long before I saw a baby born.

This morning as part of my school's Yom Hashoah observance, a student's father helped his mother describe her experiences in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. One of her jobs was to remove the bodies of those who died in their bunks or by intentionally electrocuting themselves on the barbed-wire fence. This is the second year in a row that I have listened to a student's grandparent describe her (last year, his) experience of watching Joseph Menegle standing at the train and pointing, "Right, Left, Right, Left." Life, Death, Life, Death.

And this afternoon we all stayed glued to our computers as the news from Virginia Tech trickled out, and thought about the terrible loss of life there, and about our own beloved students, whose families perished in Europe, and about our own beloved children off at school and college.

Sometimes, even just days after Easter, it seems that death takes over.

But this morning I listened and watched as a lady of great dignity showed us a photograph of her name and the date 1943 carved into a bunk at Auschwitz, and a photograph of the room in the bunkhouse where a Seder was clandestinely celebrated with stolen food and wine.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Saturday Morning

Sitting in bed, surrounded by books on the Muslim hajj, trying to make sense out of a paper that has to come together too soon.

At the computer, still in my pjs, editing the school yearbook online. The kids have done an incredible job. If only they had pulled all of this creativity out of a hat BEFORE the deadline instead of two weeks after.

Standing in the pulpit in jeans and an oversized and very long Ohio State sweatshirt, practicing my be-brave-in-the-face-of-doubt sermon for tomorrow. A couple of the guys who are at church for a spring (winter) workday saw me in the hall and threatened to come in and laugh and snicker, but fortunately they are completely absorbed by gutters or plumbing or something. Another guy friend is upstairs hanging an art exhibit. When I go up to visit with him later, he starts talking about the need to prepare something and then prepare to put all your preparation aside. I think he is talking about oil paintings but it turns out he is talking about sermons. I think he is trying to be supportive.

I have been looking for the foxes in the cemetery for weeks and I am about to go out again. It is cold and gray out there, and So Not Spring. The image is from the National Cathedral, where it WAS spring ten days ago. If you enlarge it, the reflection of the stained glass on the floor looks very cool.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

So. . . this class I'm taking? We have to write a paper, which I figured would be due, as always, at the end of the exam period. Say about May 11.

Nope. A few weeks ago, the prof announced it would be due the last day of class, May 2. Now I did make A Life Plan when I signed up for the class and saw the syllabus, way back in January but, OK, I can pull off May 2.

Tonight he says he wants a draft a week earlier. That's in two weeks.

WT. . . ?

The yearbook for which I am the advisor is due next Monday. AP Exams are at the beginning of May and all the preparation has to be completed by the end of April. I'm preaching a sermon Sunday, preceded by one of those 8:15 meetings that so startled QG a few weeks ago. And my school is a Sunday ACT test site this week. Thankfully I don't have to proctor that one, but I do have to get everything set up Friday afternoon.

I don't have much of anything to do in May. But it seems I won't have to write this paper then either.

I don't think I'm even going to be reading blogs for the next two weeks, much less writing one.


Good thing I got that Assateague sunrise in.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Passover Vacation

I was invited to preach next Sunday and so I have spent a lot of time over the last two weeks with my friend Thomas, who was my favorite disciple until last year, when Mary Magdalene squeezed in ahead of him. I tried to write about them both, but I do not have the skill to incorporate all the ideas that bubbled up into one 17 or 18 minute piece. So Thomas it is.

I am working on a major paper for the graduate class I am taking, so I have also spent a lot of time with Muslims making the hajj. It turns out that there is a lot more to it than hopping a place to Mecca.

Yesterday I had two separate, but each of them very long, conversations with Christian colleagues, one of them deeply religious and one of them not at all, about the challenges of teaching in a Jewish day school.

And the best time of all has been the four days that I spent with Windy City son, in DC and on the eastern shore of Maryland. He is transforming himself from a student with a couple of pairs of jeans and a sublet room to a young man with an apartment, a car, and a wardrobe of "casual business" clothes. The best part of all is watching the quiet enthusiasm and balance with which he approaches the next adventure in life. No ~ the best part is watching him live out the promise of fourth grade, when his class was asked to discern from a lengthy list the most important of human qualities, and his choice was "kindness."

When I remember to think about it, I am so grateful for this life so overflowing with such a variety of people and ideas.

And also with birds. What kind of world would it be without snowy and great egrets decked out for spring?

Monday, April 09, 2007

We Have Another One!

Due to a certain malaise on the part of the young man in question and the bureaucratic overload endemic to gigantic state universities (don't ask), it took awhile, but yes! -- we have another college graduate. This one didn't want to attend his graduation and hasn't gotten around to picking up his diploma, but he has, in fact, put college behind him. So . . . go Buckeyes! and congratulations to our member of the Class of 2007.

May he and his twin brother now attain on their own the lifestyle to which they were at one time accustomed:

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter II !

Christmas . . . oops! Easter Morning: The Cemetery, The House, The Church

Fortunately, as a product of both the Celts AND the Scientific Revolution, I know that the sun did rise, in a manner of speaking, behind that cross this morning. Here it was last year.

Happy Easter I !

This morning in the midwest doesn't look anything at all like Washington National Cathedral did a week ago, with the trees about to burst into bloom and the sunlight through the stained glass casting color upon stone. My daffodils and tulips are completely ~ and I do mean completely ~ covered by snow which, when I let the dog out a few minutes ago, I discovered to be still falling in some strange form. I am off to the Sunrise Service, which I wouldn't miss on a day like this for anything, although I admit that since the cemetery is only a couple of blocks away, I am spared the dilemma of whether to clean off a car and risk getting stuck in the driveway to get there. I can just walk over, and hope that others find a way to make it, too. I'll post an image or two later. Thick socks, snow boots, and fleece everywhere ~ Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Saturday

Space Window, Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (Washington National Cathedral)

"Is the Christ of the Gospels, imagined and loved within the dimensions of a Mediterranean world, capable of still embracing and still forming the centre of our prodigiously expanded universe?"

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Trip Summary

Sun's Up Willet, Assateague National Seashore, April 2007

DC, Chincoteague and Assateague with Windy City Son. Quick trip before he vanishes into the corporate workforce.

Washington National Cathedral on an overpoweringly spring-like day. Organ concert around which we had planned arrival cancelled with no explanation. Lunched in the garden. Splurged in the bookstore.

Full moon rose a fiery red over western coast of eastern shore.

While we drove across the Delmarva Peninsula from Blackwater NWR to Assateague, the skies darkened and the temperature dropped thirty degrees. As we rode our bikes across the Chincoteague NWR the next morning, the skies opened up and within seconds we were drenched to the core. But by late that day, we were getting sunburned on the beach.

Birding count:

Great Egrets
Snowy Egrets
Great Blue Herons

Cattle Egret
Marbled Godwit
Red-breasted Mergansers

Tri-Colored Heron


Sunlit Sika, Chincoteague NWR, April 2007

Thursday, April 05, 2007

As The Sun Rises

Willet, Assateague National Seashore, April 2007

Early Morning Observance

I started my Maundy Thursday by driving across the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge toward sunrise on the beach at Assateague, with Bach echoing in the car and birds beginning to awaken on the darkened marsh.

As the sun bubbled over the Atlantic, flocks of willet and sanderlings sparkled out along the edge of the foam, and the just-past-full moon hung above the inlet.

My drive back was marked by scores of shorebirds wheeling over the marsh, a posse of Sika deer stopping to stare, and a loon floating serenely in the early morning sunshine.

An awesome day on the calendar beginning with such fragile beauty on the coast.