Wednesday, November 28, 2007
But it's 1:00 am and I've been more or less doing Greek since 3:00 this afternoon. With a break to copy some other material I should have also read, and a shorter break to finish my application for CPE this summer. Otherwise: Greek. I ran into my professor as the library was closing and she spent half an hour trying to help me sort out the muddle I've made, but it's pretty hopeless. And people keep saying: Are you doing participles yet? The ominous dark hour before dawn still lies ahead.
So here's what I would say if I were going to blog for the next four weeks, which apparently I'm not:
Life is good.
Greek, not so much.
Oh, and one more thing. After six years of teaching in a Jewish school, I tend to avoid using Jewish texts to anticipate the events related in Christian texts. But I do make an exception, and the time for making it is just about here:
Carry on, and immerse yourselves in Advent.
Monday, November 26, 2007
One of the things I resolved when I came to seminary was that I would keep up with my reading of non-required material. I knew that that would be a difficult goal to achieve, so I aimed for poetry as my daily sustenance -- short, contained, manageable.
Even that minimalistic objective proved impossible to meet as I sank into the mire of Greek. But here I am, it's the first day of a new quarter, and I am optimistic again.
I've been reading Mary Oliver for a long time. It helped that several years ago both my daugher's English teacher and the professor who was to become my spiritual director were enamoured of her work; she kept popping up, all over my life.
I don't know of anyone who better captures the sights and thoughts that accompany me on my late autumn walks around the Little Lakes, where I spent a considerable amount of time over the past vacation week. Add to them Lake Chautauqua, along which I also walked at both midnight and early in the morning, and the resevoir that is my usual destination here, and you get a very Mary Oliver time of year.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Redheads Lifting in Fog
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
1. Did you go elsewhere for the day, or did you have visitors at your place instead? How was it?
We took our two sons and one's girlfriend and went over the fields and through the woods to grandmother's house. A quiet extended family day -- the youngest cousin is about to get her license, so the daughters-in-law gazed at our children and wondered how they all grew up so fast. No little kids, no pets. Kind of wierd.
2. Main course: If it was the turkey, the whole turkey, and nothing but the turkey, was it prepared in an unusual way? Or did you throw tradition to the winds and do something different?
Just the usual turkey. And too many pies.
3. Other than the meal, do you have any Thanksgiving customs that you observe every year?
Thanksgiving isn't a big one for us. In childhood I was plagued by too many grandmothers (all those stepmothers!) and then distance became a factor, in both my family of origin and my own family, so it has always been a holiday of unsatisfactory juggling. The Lovely Daughter is with her roommate in Oregon for the third year in a row -- I suppose her tradition is more consistent than those of any of the rest of us.
4. The day after Thanksgiving is considered a major Christmas shopping day by most US retailers. Do you go out bargain hunting and shop ‘till you drop, or do you stay indoors with the blinds closed? Or something in between?
I cannot imagine going shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.
5. Let the HOLIDAY SEASON commence! When will your Christmas decorations go up?
In a few weeks. We would go ahead and do the outside lights, but we still have this fantasy that the gutter-and-soffit guys will show up one day to tear the outside of the house apart. We've been waiting for three months now. I suppose the only way to ensure their appearance would be to string Christmas lights all over the place.
We did get to spend last night at Chautauqua -- grandmas's house is too small for company -- so pictures tomorrow. For now we're home and dad and kids are about to go out for what IS becoming a tradition -- pool and pizza with other dads and kids.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Lord, thou knowest better than I know myself, that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and ever occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs.
Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it sems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips from aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience.
I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a sureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonably sweet. I know that I am not a saint ~ some of them are so hard to live with ~ but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.
(from Finding God in Our Later Years by Peter van Breemen, S.J.)
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I am out the front door, abandoning Soccer Dad who is spending the day alternating between hallway painting and televised football.
"I'm going to Borders," I call.
"I thought you were giving up buying books," he responds.
I look at him. Silently. Dumbfounded.
And I go to Borders.
The world is full of novels and poetry. Not to mention the new James Taylor CD/DVD.
Ah, Greek is but a faint memory . . . .
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
And I was sitting there in My Place, which is a nice-sized desk in the far corner of the reference room, next to a long and tall window, a Place I have staked out which provides me with a sense of coziness and solitude and a view of the outside world, not to mention also a view of the entire reference room and everyone who comes in just in case I need to socialize, and I was thinking, This is pretty nice.
And then I was wondering, Am I doing the right thing? Because I do love the studying part of my life, and I miss the teaching part, and I wondered, don't I want just to read and study and teach and spend a lot of my time in library corners?
And then I remembered a conversation with my spiritual director awhile back when he looked at me and said in some exasperation, Well, what do you want? And I sent him an email later and said, Well, I want everything. Sacraments teaching preaching spiritual direction interfaith dialogue caring for people planning hanging out organizing sharing I want everything.
So tonight I sat there in the library and thought Yes, I really like what I am doing right now. But I like everything else, too.
I like the library corner part of my life and I like the parts that may take me far, far from that corner. If life only weren't quite so . . . sequential.
When my children were little, I used to wish that they could be all ages at once so I could enjoy everything with them simultaneously. I guess I haven't changed much.
And so I have just addressed my sense of limitation by painting my fingernails bright red. I have to study some more, but my nails are red and I'm feeling good.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
1. I have a group (well, two groups since we split years ago) of wonderful mom friends whom I met years and years ago online, and one of the moms whom I have never met irl just took her own Lovely Daughter on a college trip and had dinner with mine!
2. My boarding school roommate and I used to skip Sunday chapel in the spring and hike up the mountain to the school resevoir for a swim instead. None of which was considered acceptable behavior.
3. I think that the farthest north I have ever travelled would be somewhere in Norway. I know the word "travel" in Greek and I will never ever forget it, because I did on a quiz a few weeks ago.
4. The farthest south would be the Everglades.
5. I used to do programs for the Museum of Natural History that involved feeding a mouse to a great horned owl. To demonstrate life at the top of the food chain. Kids loved it. The mouse (who had already departed life at the bottom), probably not so much.
6. I have hitch-hiked pretty much the entire breadth of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I hope my son is not reading this.
7. I think that my most miserable college experience ever was probably a certain Dartmouth Winter Carnival week-end. I hope he's not reading this, either.
8. I have seen at least five babies being born (not counting my own).
9. I am wearing, as I do about 50% of the time, the gold earrings my grandmother gave me for my thirteenth birthday.
10. When I was about ten, I amost drowned taking my first deep-water test required for canoeing class, but I am an ok canoeist now.
That's totally random, huh?
Monday, November 12, 2007
1. Sort out Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.
2. Make a least five more drawings of the map of ancient Biblical lands with their 55 or so features and places, and put Ramoth-Gilead in the correct spot just once.
3. Explain the early debates about Christology, sin, grace, and the sacraments. Remember everything taught to high school students about writing change-over-time history essays.
4. Rememorize (for about the twentieth time) Greek second aorist verb forms. No, you do not want to know what those are. Rememorize (for the tenth time) Greek prepositions and try to remember that "on behalf of" is not the same as "from." (Frankly, I think my professor is thrilled just to see me recognize that a word is a preposition; which one is not so critical.) Memorize (for the first time) the changes in the perfect verb stems. Do not waste time wondering why they change.
5. Try to remember that when Greek sentences are missing words, those words are usually either nouns or some variant of the verb "to be." Yes, something of a problem, to have either the noun or the verb or both missing.
6. Take a long walk. Really long.
7. Go here. Maybe several times.
8. Ay-yep. Finals week.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
One of the very best things about my life is how many people of different traditions, faiths, and experiences have wandered through it and become my friends. Talk about gratitude (for which, see previous post)! -- I'm not sure how I have stumbled into such grace, but I do count it as one of the great privileges of my life that it is packed with such a diverse crew.
And so I'm not sure which gave me more delight today:
Was it introducing our speakers, both of whom I know from numerous previous encounters? One is an Orthodox Jewish woman -- Ph. D. scholar of Bible and philosophy, and mother of two of my former high school and middle school students. The other is a Muslim imam -- professor of Islam and Arabic at various institutions, and former professor of mine in a Catholic university.
Was it offering the opening prayer, knowing that we were embarking upon a challenging class and that probably numerous people in the room were experiencing some degree of discomfort ~ not least among them our speakers, who had never met each other and were surely wondering what to expect?
Or was it watching our two guests walk down the hall together after class, engrossed in conversation about Egyptian and Turkish soap operas?
Some days my life is completely terrific.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
6. The friend of twenty years who gave me a stunningly beautiful fish pendant to see me through seminary (we hope!).
7. The fact that some of the best Italian restaurants in the world are a short walk down the hill.
8. This very cool photograph of myself that I found online this morning when theoretically I was studying Greek contract verbs.
9. The existence of Chartres Cathedral.
10. Same for the Atlantic Ocean.
Friday, November 09, 2007
True enough, Protestants don't officially celebrate Catholic feast days. But that's no reason not to take advantage of them to explore some history, and the many-centuries history of the Lateran is fascinating. Probably all (if anything) that most of us know about it has to do with the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, when the doctrine of transubstantian was affirmed. Here's some more.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Things don't always go perfectly. There was the flight to Paris scheduled for 9/12/01. There was the flight from Barcelona through London the week-end that all hand luggage including cell phones were banned and the ATM machine somewhere in Spain consumed the card. There have apparently been some misadventures which have not been fully elaborated upon to me. There is the current visa snafu that may prevent the Lovely Daughter from getting to Prague in January, at least on the day she is planning to get there.
But mostly: good stuff. The Lovely Daughter's west coast university incorporates an international Japanese university, and this semester she has a job as a program planner and co-ordinator for special events for the Japanese students. Among other things, her not-quite-five-feet-tall self drives a 14-passenger van for field trips -- which apparently include quintessential American destinations such as pumpkin patches.
I'm guessing that size-wise she blends right in , but her blond hair and blue eyes mark her as the odd one out!
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Some of the more difficult aspects of going off to seminary in my 50s are things I had not even considered, but in the wake of my previous rant, I've been thinking about them.
I have lived in the same house for 24 years, had the same group of close-knit friends for 20. We can say what we want to one another. We have been known to irritate, exasperate, infuriate, and hurt one another -- but we can be who we are and know that we are the people who stand together when a child is in trouble, when a parent dies, when disaster of any kind strikes.
At seminary, everyone and everything is new. I am building relationships from the ground up, and I am SO out of practice. And during the week it's 24 hours a day. When you start a new job, with the attendant requirement for adapting to a new culture, you still return at night to your own house, your own family, your own friends. Not so for me this year. My opportunites for self-expression are considerably more limited than what I am accustomed to. Excellent practice, no doubt, but terribly difficult.
I have had a certain amount of control over my daily life for years and years. Last night I mentioned that to a friend, herself the mother of three young children, and she said, "Are you crazy? Have you forgotten these years?" I laughed and pointed out that she pretty much sets her own schedule, and if things spiral out of control, she can reel them back in. (Of course, I am talking about normal, everyday life here, and not about the days when you have to race to the ER, or cope with a squad car in the driveway, or listen to the "I'm pregnant" announcement.) Even as a teacher -- a rigidly-scheduled life if ever there was one -- I could take a personal or sick day if I needed or really wanted to be somewhere else. Now I'm the student, and I can't do that. School continues onward whether I am there or not.
And -- and I admit it, this might be the real kicker -- at seminary, I am at the bottom of the heap. In my regular life -- oh! wait! seminary is my regular life right now -- my friends and I have become the people in charge of things. Not necessarily by design -- we're just OLD. I can get you divorced or run your classroom or plan your program or make your presentation. I have been involved in all kinds of school and community and church enterprises. At seminary: who cares?
Oh -- one other thing: the education, at least in the first year of seminary, is clearly designed for a younger mindset. Lectures and memorization. The professor is the expert. We are the sponges. Period. Except that the middle-aged (or older!) brain no longer functions much like a sponge. More like a sieve, one might say. I'm sure there is a more flattering analogy, but of course I can't think of one at the moment, because the sieve function is in full swing!)
(My spiritual direction program is quite different. Most people are in their 50s, a couple of them younger, several older, and we draw naturally on our previous education, undergraduate and professional, and life experiences in our seminar discussion and bi-weekly papers. A very different way of learning a tradition and a set of skills.)
When I was in law school, the first year class was divided into seminar groups for our writing and advocacy program. In my group of about fifteen, one of the gentlemen was a physician in his late 30s. The rest of us gave him no particular thought, never wondered what he thought of us -- and he did not voice his opinion. (Let's just say that I often chuckle when one of my classmates mentions something that he's been thinking about for a really long time, ever since he was 15, and I realize that he was 15 all of seven years ago.) Last night I suddenly wondered: who was that doctor, exactly, back when we were all first year law students and thought we were sharing an experience in common? So I looked him up, and discovered that when he entered law school, he had been a physician for thirteen years and was the director of a department in a prestigious university hospital. In law school he was just a lowly first year student, having to make a moot court argument as though he had never made presentations before hundreds of MDS, and having to master the ins and outs of civil procedure as though he did not already know the human body inside and out. He must have wondered, too, at times, whether law school was really a younger man's game.
I draw no conclusions here. I am tremendously grateful for this opportunity, and I am thrilled by all that I am learning (even though Greek will probably leave me dead by the roadside). There isn't a day that goes by that I am not filled to the brim with material and ideas and models for sharing in some way in the unknown future.
But it's still a shock to the system. The OLD system.
Friday, November 02, 2007
All that aside: I could not begin to count the number of people who have said to me, "You're doing too much," or "You're really burning the candle at both ends" or something to that effect.
Those statements are not helpful.
I am sick because some obstinate virus (probably NOT mono and NOT whooping cough and NOT pneumonia, but just your run-of-the-mill vicious virus) to which I am apparently not the least bit immune invaded my body and, finding no resistance whatever, settled in for the long haul. That's all.
Yes, I do believe firmly in mind/body connections, and that our bodies often reflect the stresses of our minds and hearts and souls. Yes, I have been under considerable stress for the past two months. It is hard to get started in a new environment and culture when your own have been pretty stable for years and years. It is hard to start at the bottom of the heap when you are used to being the one in charge. It is hard to have to work at developing new relationships when your outer extrovert is grounded in a pervasive inner introvert. It is hard to lose control of your time and your objectives to the claims of other people and institutions. And yes, it is very very very hard to learn an ancient language for which you have no aptitude.
But you know what? I am the person to whom other people say, "How do you fit that in?" when I say that I walk three or four miles a day and have for years. I probably spend another hour (not necessarily or even usually a consecutive sixty minutes) most days in some form of prayer. I spend time on the internet and I work on my photography and I have long lunches with friends and I generally enjoy myself tremendously. I work hard, but I also play with gusto. In other words, on most days I spend a considerable amount of time attending to things that counterbalance the degree of stress with which I choose to live right now.
So please. I did not do this to myself.
And if I had, believe me, I would have chosen the place where I got mono at 17 -- Cape Cod -- as the locale!
So. OK. My temper tantrum for the day.
(Found the photos online -- they're pretty close!)
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Blood tests for mono and whooping cough and other things I'm sure I haven't considered yet.
The pharmacy is probably wondering when I'm going to just go ahead and move in.
My academic ventures are going SO well. I am making friends and finding ways to be involved and settling in just fine.
Imagine how wonderful it would be if I could be healthy, too.
I'm going to post an autumn photo because it's still my favorite season, even if I've missed most of it.