Monday, February 25, 2008

No One Mourns the WICKED ~ Oh, But Someone Does

I think I can get through WICKED in two posts.

Good and Evil. I have discovered in seminary that not everyone questions Evil's existence and meanderings, but most other people do.

Glinda: Are some people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?

When you encounter evil, don't you wonder from whence it originated? In WICKED, the one authentically good character, the one character of unwavering intergrity, has wickedness thrust upon her. But others come to it via alternate routes: carelessness, expedience, desire, confusion, adulation.

Other themes: Integrity. Longing. Choices. Second Chances. Glinda sings,

But I couldn't be happier
Simply couldn't be happier
Well - not "simply:
'Cause getting your dreams
It's strange, but it seems
A little - well - complicated
There's a kind of a sort of : cost
There's a couple of things get: lost
There are bridges you cross
You didn't know you crossed
Until you've crossed . . .

And the audience goes wild when she reaches out for her lost self at the very end of the show, connecting past heartache to future power.

Connections across the decades. I will never forget how terrified I was by those flying monkeys when I first saw The Wizard of Oz at the age of five. Now I know why they are so loyal to Elphaba. And who in the western world does not associate striped stockings and sparkling ruby slippers with her sister? When Nessa gets the ruby slippers, we know exactly where she and they are going to end up and, when the house falls and Glinda shows up, don't those of us who are now grown women remember wanting the sparkly dress, the wand, the crown, and the bubble method of transportation? And now, perhaps, we know that we don't want them at all because, like Glinda, we have learned something about cost.

The friendship of women. From one girls' boarding school to another to a women's college to the practice of law to at-home mothering back to work and now back to fulltime school, I have experienced the friendships of women as mainstays of my life. From the clever verbal comedy when Elphaba and Glinda first encounter one another ~

What is this feeling?
Fervid as a flame,
Does it have a name?
Yes! Loathing
Unadulterated loathing
Let's just say - I loathe it all
Ev'ry little trait, however small
Makes my very flesh begin to crawl
With simple utter loathing
There's a strange exhilaration
In such total detestation
It's so pure, so strong!

to the hilarious physical comedy that marks Glinda's irrepressible enthusiasm in undertaking an impossible makeover ~

And when someone needs a makeover
I simply have to take over
I know, I know exactly what they need
And even in your case
Though it's the toughest case I've yet to face
Don't worry, I'm determined to succeed

to the love expressed by friends choosing different paths ~

I really hope you get it,
And you don't live to regret it!
I hope you're happy in the end!
I hope you're happy, my friend!

to the final acknowledgment of that love ~ the show lifts up friendship as the great gift that it is.

Friendship across the board. There are a number of combinations of characters who could sing Elphaba's and Glinda's final duet, as there are no doubt a few friends in your own life of whom you would sing it:

Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you ~
I have been changed for good

You need the music to do the lyrics justice -- go out and get a CD!

The Ecumenical Life

Two small but wonderful things happened today that confirmed my sense that I am headed in the right direction by pursuing a calling in ministry in the context of a deep appreciation for other faith experiences.

Background Material: I taught for six years in an Orthodox Jewish school. Orthodox men do not touch women other than the ones to whom they are married. Orthodox Jews do not as a rule set foot in Christian places of worship or participate, even as observers, in Christian services of worship. Orthodox Jews do not ordain women. (That all sounds awfully negative, doesn't it? Let me hasten to add that there is great joy and energy in Orthodox Jewish life and religious observance. At the moment, I'm just supplying the backstory for the rest of the post.)

Today I went by my old school to have lunch with my former department chair; she had less than an hour's break in the middle of the day so I took lunch over and we talked and ate in an empty classroom. And of course I visited with lots of other people and had a great time talking with the students.

First Small But Wonderful Thing:

I knocked gently and opened the door to the office of one of the administrators, the father of one of my former students, whose wife died a few weeks ago after a lengthy battle with cancer. He got up immediately and came around his desk to wrap me in a huge bear hug, telling me how much he had appreciated my notes to him and his son, and the knowledge that my congregation had been praying for his family. We talked for a few moments about Jewish mourning practices, and the challenges faced by a teenaged boy who must go to special prayers three times a day but is precluded from movies and parties, both for a year's duration. I left reminded once again of how much we have to learn from one another, and how much we share despite our differences of belief and approach.

Second Small But Wonderful Thing:

I stopped in to chat with the high school principal for a bit. We have enjoyed talking out our religious lives over the past few years, and he has expressed great interest in my seminary experience and in comparing and contrasting it to his education as a rabbi. As I left, there was some laughter among those of us in the outer office about invitations to my hoped-for ordination some day in the distant future. His secretary said something about them not being able to come, and I heard him say, "She'll find a way." I don't know which was nicer; to think that someone in that role and tradition would be appreciative of my capacity for inventiveness in the name of inclusivity, or to think that it might mean something to him to be invited.

There are parts of my old life that I really really do miss.

G is for Green

I got tagged by Katherine E at Meaning and Authenticity. Here's the deal:

1. You have to post the rules before you give your answers.
2. You must list one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name. (If you don't have a middle name, use your maiden name or your mother's maiden name).
3. At the end of your blog post, you need to tag one person for each letter of your middle name. (Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged.)

Modifying, per usual. Gannet's middle name is the name she actually uses, and her last name is her maiden name (since she wasn't inclined to change it when she got married), either of which might thereby reveal the woman behind the curtain.. Therefore, she will stick to her authentic and essential Gannet identity for this one.

Wanna play? Go for it!

G is for Green, a la Elpheba, which is my way of getting a WICKED Post in. I think that one reason for WICKED's working on so many levels is that we all can see something of ourselves in both Elpheba and Glinda. Haven't we all felt green -- isolated and insignificent at times -- at times? And then, perhaps, someone tells us that the very parts of us that seem destined for the rubbish heap are, in fact, the gifts we most need to cherish and hone?

Did that really just happen?
Have I actually understood?
This weird quirk I've tried
To suppress or hide
Is a talent that could
Help me meet the Wizard
If I make good
So I'll make good...
(The Wizard and I, sung by Elphaba)

A is for Adventurous. Not the sky-diving kind of adventurous, but the hand-me-my-passport-and-a-plane-ticket and I am outta here kind. Or the go-to-seminary-in-your-50s kind.

N is for narrator. I love a good story, so much so that focus often eludes me. I started working on a sermon yesterday and, 2500 words into it (I always start by writing what turns out to be two or three of them and then figuring out which one it really is) it occurred to me to wonder, Is there a point here?

N is also for nevertheless. Because I am a both-and kind of girl.

E is for Energetic. I am in reality astonishingly lazy, which explains my presence at the computer when I have a thousand things to do, but I am also going to accomplish a great many of them. (Not the ones I don't care about, but the ones I do -- yeah, I will.)

T is for Transformed. Oh, I feel another WICKED post coming on. I'll try to contain it for a few days.

P.S. Would someone please comment???!!!! Here I am, ON VACATION, time to spare, and I am getting hardly any comments, hardly any mail -- HEY!!!! (That's the Glinda in me speaking!)

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Just got back from WICKED.


(Which I guess you could sing to the tune of "Unlimited" or "I'm Limited" -- choose your version.

Went with a friend who said to me, "There are a lot of sermons in here."

Oh, yeah. There are. I'll be deconstructing this one for weeks. When I stop crying and laughing over it simultaneously.

Iona Music

Columba's Beach, Iona (July 2006)

Yesterday I went to the memorial service for a young man in our congregation who died at the age of 22 last week. I did not know him, barely know who his parents and sister are ~ but three of his cousins were long-ago Montessori preschool classmates and friends of my own children, and I wanted to let those girls and their parents know how much they had been in my thoughts all week. We ended up in the balcony, and I looked down on the pew in which they were sitting and was filled with memories of very small children racing around the playground and building the pink tower and sharing picnic lunches in my backyard ~ how can it be that more than 15 years have passed, and have led to this terrible sorrow, the one that all parents fear more than any other?

We sing a lot of John Bell/Iona music at our church, and I want to share a piece from yesterday's service. I can't find it online, but it was obviously a perfect selection to honor the memory of a young man who was just emerging into adulthood:

Here Am I
(John Bell)

In the warmth of the womb I met you,
And I called you to life through the love of man and wife;
In the warmth of the womb I met you, saying, "Here am I."

As a baby in arms I met you,
Wrapped in linen and care, watched and weclomed everywhere;
As a baby in arms I met you, saying, "Here am I."

In the tensions of youth I met you,
Whether shy or uncouth, always searching for the truth;
In the tensions of youth I met you, saying, "Here am I."

In the quiet of your home I met you,
When the door opened wide, strangers came and out went pride;
In the quiet of your home I met you, saying, "Here am I."

And wherever you go I will meet you,
Till you draw your last breath in the birthplace known as death;
Yes, wherever you go I will meet you, saying, "Here am I."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fourteen Hours To Go

Exams are like labor. All you know for sure is that eventually there will be an end.

Just back from Church History, for which I spent three solid hours this evening filling a 22-page bluebook with little tiny handwriting from first line to last. I did the same thing for Prophets yesterday morning. Thankfully New Testament yesterday was multiple choice -- not, to my way of thinking, an acceptable method of assessment but, since my hand was about to fall off, as it is now, I was grateful.

Greek. Tomorrow morning. As of noon, no matter what, I will be off for two weeks.

During which: an evening and an all day Saturday and a paper for spiritual direction, an interview for field ed for next year, an interview for CPE this summer, a two-day psych evaluation, a very long drive, and then:

There will be sunrises, and egrets, and laughing gulls and pelicans and the sound of the ocean shifting tides outside our window all night long. And maybe . . . just maybe . . . there will be gannets!

Postscript: When we walked into our final today, we learned that someone who took it yesterday finished in one and one-half hours. That was a nice little fantasy. THREE AND ONE-HALF HOURS OF GREEK LATER, the last of us straggled out. No checking work, no extra credit, no re-thinking a single word; just a marathon of endurance.

I wonder how many hours straight I can sleep tonight.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Birds and Exams

Stratoz wrote a post about birds for me the other day and I promised to reciprocate, but I didn't quite get that far that day. Today, though, with two exams down and two to go over the next two days, I thought I'd take a very quick break, startng with his reflections on eleven years ago. I have no idea why he chose that number, but I guess I will, too.

Eleven years ago I would have most likely begun the day by driving my children, then ages 12, 12, and 9, to their Montessori school, where the boys were having one of the Best Sixth Grade Years ever experienced on the face of this planet with one of the Best Humanities Teachers who has ever taught, and the Lovely Daughter was spending most of fourth grade writing cat stories with her best friend. I would have spent the rest of the workday on my family law practice, about which I had some fond thoughts as I contemplated this entry earlier today. The last thing in the world I would have imagined eleven years ago was that I would spend this morning eleven years later writing three hours worth of essays on Old Testament prophets instead of in, say, a temporary support hearing with an angry woman, a hostile man, a combative opposing counsel, and a bored judge. How times do change.

But the birds ~ the supposed point of this little piece: in the summer of 1997 we took the kids and went off to the Tetons and Yellowstone with another family for one of the Best Vacation Trips Ever. I don't think there was a Best Bird on that trip, but there was a
Best Birding interaction: that moment in which Chicago Son's Best Friend asked me, "What's that book?" about my field guide and embarked upon the decade that would lead to his graduation from Cornell last spring with a degree in ornithology. He's somewhere in South America now on some kind of bird project because we stood together in a field and watched birds and a coyote eleven years ago.

I see that when I wrote about that day in celebration of his graduation last spring, I used the word "Best" rather frequently! I'm thinking that 1987 was a very good year, filled with hope and promise. Both of our families have seen some tough times since then, but there was a day with a blue sky and a light breeze and trumpeter swans, a coyote, and a Clark's nutcracker.

Friday, February 15, 2008

You Might Need to Be a First Year Seminary Student for This to Make You Laugh

I think I wrote last fall about my nightmare in which the giant chess pieces in the first Harry Potter were transformed into Greek verb endings that went smashing and crashing off the board.

I am studying for next week's finals, and in the dream I am expecting any night now, Sennacherib rolls up to my front door and yells, "You have to join the Essenes and debate Luther and Calvin on substance and accidents ~ in Greek."

You can probably figure out what my four courses are.

Here he comes, King of the mighty Assyrian Empire:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Praha 2

Daughter and Mom Joint Effort
Photographer Learning Czech in Prague
Editor Learning Greek in The U.S.
Everything is Connected

Sunday, February 10, 2008


"The only journey is the one within."
(Rainer Maria Rilke)

I have finals next week. I have a lot of work to do this week. So I think I'll be taking a break. I leave you with images of Prague as posted by The Lovely Daughter (whose interior journey is at the moment encompassed within a great exterior adventure abroad), along with my new discovery that Rilke was born and went to university in Prague.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Tromping Where Queens Once Held Sway

In the background: Versailles.

In the foreground: college students. Mine is the little one.

Yesterday a young woman in my Greek class brought her month-old daughter with her. Such an exquisite baby nestled in my arms for a few moments! And I said, "In twenty years, she will get on a plane and fly across the ocean . . . ".

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

A year ago, I experienced a bit of Jewish-Christian tension over my desire to observe Ash Wednesday, and wrote the following:

< I wanted to go to an Ash Wednesday service today. My own church's service is at night (which I don't much like ~ it seems that we're saying, "OK, we'll do this, but late enough that no one will see us") and I have a class on Wednesday nights.Then I discovered that my old Methodist church has a service at noon, so I thought I'd go over there.

And then I spent some time agonizing over whether I wanted to spend the afternoon teaching my Jewish students with ashes smudged on my forehead. Most of them would be merely curious, and supportive rather than offended. Many of the teachers, perhaps the opposite. I finally decided against it.

If I worked in a secular environment, my solution would be different. During Advent, I wrote about going to a church meeting one night where one of the gentlemen had come directly from work wearing a Christmas tie. That would not have happened in my workplace. My workplace is a community and a home for people whose beliefs, and contextualization of their their beliefs, differ from mine.

I don't know whether or not I was right. One of my colleagues, headed for her UCC service tonight, agreed with me. Another, a rabbi, said he was genuinely sorry that we felt our observance might be offensive to others.>>

Today, some improvement. I am using both Pray As You Go and the Creighton University Lenten Site for my prayer, so the morning got off to a good start. Then as I moved through my classes, I asked three people whether there would be an imposition of ashes at the seminary chapel service today. The answers? "Gee, I don't know," from a professor; "I doubt it," from a puzzled student; and "No," from the professor preaching this morning.

I was prepared for the possibility that the observance here might not be what I was hoping for, and so I had already scouted out the local church scene. As a result, a friend and I took off at lunch for a spectacular church only a few blocks from our seminary.The service was perfectly beautiful and with its Taize-like chapel set up ~ candles, icons, stained glass windows ~ satisfied my longing for image and ritual that so often suffers in the utter starkness of our seminary architecture and practice.

Best of all, I have found, I think, a local church home. I haven't spent a week-end here yet, so I am unlikely to worship in the magnificent Gothic sanctuary, but there are Taize services in the chapel on Wednesday nights - and a labyrinth !

Last year someone left me a comment to the effect that God tells her (and not necessarily others) to wash her face after an Ash Wednesday service. I left mine untouched today. I understand the issue of ostentation in obervance and prayer, but sometimes it feels right that my ordinary self in my ordinary jeans doing my ordinary things might be a witness to the reality of the interjection of the extraordinary into our lives. If nothing else, I am probably the last person whom anyone would suspect of harboring a call to inner silence and prayer, so there's something to be said for letting that be known, however subtly.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

When Your Family Has Been Blended (Smashed, Patched, Rent, Overhauled, Shredded, Renewed, Sacked) And Still Rises Like a Phoenix

Still in my intermittent procrastination mode -- because it takes me approximately an hour to translate one gospel verse from Greek into English and, as has already been noted, a gannet can only stand so much ~

I spent a little time today working on the "autobiographical questionnaire" that I have to complete for my psych eval for ministry.

Like so many things in my life these days, the questionnaire is designed for people just a bit younger than I am. For instance, it asks multi-part questions about childhood, high school, and college, and then says: Summarize the rest of your life.


But what really stumped me was the first page, on which I was supposed to list the members of my family of origin. I've been debating for awhile just what the term "family of origin" means in my case. But then, as I worked back and forth through the many questions that followed, I realized that, if my own children can't figure it out, no one reading the questionnaire would have a fighting chance. I should just list EVERYONE and note the deceased, the steps, and the half. I can't, you know, pretend to have emerged from a typical nuclear family, because my conversation is sprinkled with phrases likes "my second stepmother" or "the stepbrother I only met right before his mother died."

Father, Mother(D), Me, Brother, Brother (D), Stepmother (D), Stepsister, Stepbrother, Stepbrother, Stepbrother, Stepmother (Div), Stepsister, Stepsister, Half-brother, Stepmother (D), Stepbrother.

I definitely have phoenix stories to tell.

The Adventure Moves to Paris

In case you can't tell, I have a tremendous amount of studying to do, which is why I am sitting here looking at The Lovely Daughter's photos.

I don't know whether the girls were talking about The DaVinci Code while they took pictures in front of The Louvre, but it seems from her album that they have been to Shakespeare's house, to the Harry Potter Steps at Oxford, and to the home of both TDC and the Mona Lisa. I am struck, as I always am, by how the narratives of our lives and those we adopt as our own all tend to merge -- and I'm really pleased that these young women are enjoying the sources of much of their art and literature and history as much as they are the cafes and pubs and nightclubs of three countries.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Adventure

The Lovely Daughter has finally put some pictures online.

I guess I didn't have to worry about her being well protected in England!

(Well, except that I don't know who these guys are. One of them, I think, is a former camp counselor buddy. One of the most wonderful things about this whole adventure is that she (Ohio) and her roommate (Oregon) spent time (in England) with people she knows from camp (North Carolina). I love the ability they all seem to have to make friends across the country and around the world!)

You Know Who You Are

I was going to post a poem this morning. (And maybe I will later.)

But first, I visited some blogs and . . . ok, I can contain myself no longer.

I have a couple of favorites to which I returned this morning and which, per usual, I was unable to finish reading.

I l-o-n-g-e-d to read them leisurely and thoughtfully and contemplatively. I probably have a comment or two in me.

But the font is like this.

They are, literally, physically painful to read.

I realize that you don't know about this part of life. You are not yet holding books at arm's length, trying out graduated lenses that cause you to run into walls, explaining desperately to your eye doctor that she has to Do Something because you're planning on at least 40 more good years of reading ahead.

And I know that that little teeny tiny font looks good. It bespeaks intellect and artistry and creativity and organization. I know all this because of the beginnings of your blog entries, which I love, but not because of the endings, which I seldom reach.

You know who you are.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Quotidian Grace tagged me for the Book Meme. It's a hard one, so I am cheating and only answering the easy questions. My excuse is that I am reading Jeremiah, and a gannet can only handle so much pondering and cogitating before she is overcome by the desire to swoop from her cliff out over the sea.

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

Well, QG already took Eat.Pray.Love. So I'll skip the rant. Except to say that I still love that PeaceBang retitled it Gripe.Brag.Screw.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

Mary Lennox, Nancy Drew, Scout Finch, and Anne Shirley, for a long afternoon on an empty beach to discuss how everything has turned out. Some time ago I started a sermon on the importance of narrative, and realized that all of my favorite fictional characters are girls without mothers -- creative and determined and insightful girls without mothers. How surprising (not) . And my idea of the perfect social event is pretty simple: people + beach + conversation.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can't die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it's past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

You know, I stop reading as soon as I get bored. I'm sure there are lots of such books, but I have forgotten them all. (We are not counting Baugh's A New Testament Greek Primer, are we?)

Come on, we've all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you've read, when in fact you've been nowhere near it?

I'm thinking that has to be War and Peace.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to 'reread' it that you haven't? Which book?

I'm afraid that the opposite is usually the case for me: I'll see what looks to be an interesting and as yet unread book on my shelves, and take it down to discover turned down pages and my own handwriting in the margins. No recollection whatever.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Francais! I want to read Camus and les philosophes -- and Le Monde, every morning in a little cafe in Chartres.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she's granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favorite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

I love this question!

It's the entire second floor of my house above the dunes, with huge windows open to the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Matanzas River on the west. Pelicans and egrets abound; sometimes they land on the railing of the deck that surrunds the room.

The walls are white and the floor to ceiling shelves are a golden oak. The wall-to-wall carpet is a soft teal, the lamps are brass, and there are two loveseat-sized sofas for sinking into. There are a couple of wide tables, because I am a piler and not a filer, and some of the bookshelves have doors so that I can pile journals and odd-sized books inside and be spared the sight of the chaos that ensues.

The books are of every possible kind, size, shape, and condition and are organized by topic -- someone comes in and does that for me every few days since I am incapable of it on my own -- so that when I want one I can actually find it and don't need to go out and purchase a new copy, which in my current situation usually takes less time than than the search would. Some of the shelves are clear of books and display pottery and small paintings and photographs.

And I just made a quick estimate of the number of books in our library at home, from whence I am typing at this very moment: I am guessing well over 1,000. And that doesn't count the books piled in the dining room, kitchen, sunroom, living room, basement, attic, and every bedroom. This dream library of mine needs to be pretty big.

Oh, and there are three cats. Two stretched out on windowsills and one across the middle of the floor, each of whom occasionally deigns to join me and purr on my tummy when I am reading.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Protestant Girl and Her Saints

Today's Friday Five asks:

There is so much going on this weekend that I thought I'd provide an options Friday 5!!!!
First Superbowl ( someone explain to this Brit the significance)- love it or hate it?
5 reasons please!!!!!
Second Candlemas/ Imbloc/ Groundhog day/ St Brigid's day- all of these fall on either the 1st or 2nd February.
1. Do you celebrate one or more of these?
2. How?
3. Is this a bit of fun or deeply significant?
4. Are festivals/ Saints days important to you?
5.Name your favourite Saints day/ celebration.


I know nada about the Super Bowl. Is the Super Bowl this week-end?

But Brigid: oh, I like Brigid. It just so happens that I have a photo of her window in the Abbey on Iona, along with some photos of oystercatchers, the birds associated with her, also from Iona. I love to imagine Brigid, wise and strong-willed church leader, standing on the beaches of Iona looking for oystercatchers 1500 years before I did.

My favorite saint is, of course, Ignatius of Loyola, that 16th century genius of The Spiritual Exercises, which transformed my life. His feast day comes around a couple of days after my birthday, so I can actually remember it. I've been reading, off and on, James Martin's My Life With The Saints. I can't recall his exact words, but he says, as a Jesuit, that Ignatius seems somewhat distant, austere, and demanding to him. Not my experience ~ I think of him as an affectionate older brother, writing to me from Rome and saying, "This will help you out."

And, by the way,
My Life With The Saints is an engaging read: a blend of autobiograohical Wharton-corporate-executive-becomes-a-Jesuit and narrative introductions to a smattering of saints, some officially canonized and some not, some whom anyone would recognize and some far more obscure. You don't have to be a Catholic to find plenty of interest and inspiration in their lives.