Saturday, March 29, 2008

WICKED ~ The Addiction Continues

Last night I was supposed to be writing a paper. On theology.

So I spent an hour investigating WICKED on youtube. (Hint: Search "Because I knew you + Wicked." Here's a good one.)

I found some great Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth stuff. I found an insipid interview Katie Couric did with them when the musical first opened on Broadway; she seemed to be under the impression that it is for children.

The impetus for yet another WICKED-obsessed evening: I had been listening to it in the car again this week. The intricacy and irony with which the theme of good and evil is interwoven from the very first song to the very last, and through even moments which appear utterly trivial is really, really wonderful.

The photo above? The house has fallen on Elphaba's sister and she's stomping around in fury because Glinda has given her sister's shoes to the perpetrator.

The Quiet Husband (who has not seen the musical) and I had a lengthy argument about whether the Wicked Witch of the West is, in fact, wicked. Needless to say, my definition of wickedness has undergone something of a transformation, at least as it is characterized by Elphaba. And Glinda as well, whose own compromises argue for a more nuanced defintion of evil.

I need to see it again!

It's a much better way of doing theology.

But I did get up early this morning and write the paper.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Happy Blogiversary to Moi !

It seems that as of Sunday, I will have been blogging, here and elsewhere, for four years!

Four years ago, I was all about losing weight.

Three years ago, the Lovely Daughter was hearing from colleges.

Two years ago, my grandmother was celebrating her 100th birthday.

A year ago it was all about seminary: will she or won't she?

I lost a little weight, the Lovely Daughter went to NOLA and Oregon and North Carolina and Prague, my grandmother moved into the next life and ~ here I am. In seminary.

Now if you had predicted THAT four years ago ~ well, all I can say is: the laughter would still be reverberating through the universe.

I'm celebrating at the virtual beach!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

Easter Vigil with the Catholics.
Sunrise Service with the Methodists.
A rousing morning service with the Presbies.
He is risen, indeed!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

European Interlude

OK, I admit it. I am not sure that I had ever heard of Bratislava until last week. Pathetic American, I know. (On the off-chance that anyone else reading this is as ignorant as I am: it's the capital of Slovakia, situated on the Danube.) The Lovely Daughter, on the other hand, has been there and has managed to find other Ohioans and Oregonians there as well. I think the young men pictured here might all be Georgetown students (but from Ohio and Oregon) studying in Madrid and traveling for spring break. Although I'm not sure studying is really the operative word.

I'm not complaining. They have all learned and absorbed way more than I had at twenty.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise.
In my end is my beginning.

T.S. Eliot
The Four Quartets

Thursday, March 20, 2008


It's Maundy Thursday.
It's the first day of spring.
I saw a fox streak through the sparkling cemetery snow this morning.

That Blend That Is My Life

I had kind of a wonderful thing happen tonight.

A former student of mine called, a young lady who must now be in the 11th grade in the Orthodox Jewish school in which I taught. I haven't seen her in months. Her question: She had agreed to babysit for a Christian family on Easter Sunday and to help prepare their Easter dinner, and then had begun to wonder whether her participation in a Christian meal could be construed as supporting or promoting the Christian faith and, therefore, a violation of halacha (Jewish law). She had already consulted a rabbi, who had told her to find out whether Easter dinner constitutes a religious celebration.

We talked for quite awhile. I explained that for most people, an Easter dinner is merely a family-and-friends event, with no religious overtones and certainly no ritualistic aspects. On the other hand, if the family were religious, there might be a prayer, and the prayer would likely be an expression of gratitude for the risen Christ, and that would likely be a problem for her. I suggested that she ask them about their practice.

Then, as we continued to discuss various scenarios, I began to reformulate the problem. "You know," I said to her, "this is THE celebration of the Christian year. This is what it's all about for us, and this is also the day on which the distinction between Christianity and Judaism is grounded. This is the day most like Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur in its centrality to our religion, and this is the day on which we claim the belief with which you completely disagree."

"So," I continued, "even if the family in question is not what you would term 'observant'; even if there is no ritual, no prayer, and no other acknowledgment of the religious significance of the day; even if it appears on the surface to be an entirely secular occasion ~ the belief underlying it constitutes the foundation of the Christian faith. The question then becomes whether, recognizing the significance of the day, even if the family does not, is it acceptable for you to participate in any way? That's what you need to ask Rabbi B."

"I feel so bad," she said. Hmm, backing out of a holiday babysitting job with only four days notice is not good. That's what I thought, as a once-mother of small children who knows how hard it is to come by a reliable babysitter. "I think you need to honor your religion," is what I said out loud.

I was honored to be brought into the discussion, and I asked her to call and let me know how she and the rabbi resolve it. I have to say: it's pretty cool to be trusted by a Jewish teenager to provide the discussion and straight answers (and more questions) that she needs to resolve a religious dilemma that is no doubt difficult for her to pose.

Not a bad prelude to the holiest days of our year.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Not So Long After Sunrise

I just reworked my entire sermon for the Sunday after Easter. It's about light. The light of the Resurrection. I'm thinking this image would do just as well as the words I've been wrestling with. Maybe I should forget about preaching and just pass a copy of the photograph around.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


As the sun sets each evening in Florida, I am completely torn. Do I stay on the beach, waiting for the light to change above the horizon and melt into a dozen colors in the surf? Or do I hop in the car and dash over to the river, so that I can watch the sun itself sink behind the marshy waters? Every night a critical analysis: Where are the clouds the best? Where is the color likely to be most dramatic? How high is the tide? How strong is the wind? Am I too early? Am I too late?

If only each day involved such a crisis in decision-making!

Monday, March 17, 2008


This one is going to make another appearance in another form on Good Friday. For now it's a reasonably accurate rendition of evening clouds above the Matanzas River.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday Photoshop Therapy

I'm not sure that I will ever write about the highs and lows of the past week. Suffice it to say that the days have been very long ones, but so infused by grace that I stayed up until 2:00 this morning finishing a sermon for the Sunday after Easter.

Now my thoughts are slowing turning toward the reality that I pretty much missed the first week of this new quarter at seminary. I decided to begin my reorientation to what lies ahead by playing with my St. Augustine images (rather than with, you know, anything approximating actual work). This one has turned out to look something like the Florida postcards I remember from my childhood.

And you can check out the Lovely Daughter's blog for a post on the experience of grief from 4,000 miles away. She doesn't know it, but her words ands her flowers have touched many people.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Learning Curve

I have learned so much from my friend over the past week. The grace with which she has opened her heart and her home, the openness with which she has made it possible for her children, her family, and her friends, to share the fog of grief that has enveloped us all, has been an extraordinary thing to witness.

My own family tends to go for the austere, the stiff upper lip. My father, a deeply good and generous man, is without an intuitive sense for sharing the burden of loss; I am afraid that my beloved grandmother, who suffered much sorrow herself in her early life, passed on to him an almost unrivaled, in my experience, affinity for stoicism. He tends, although less so now, to go his solitary way. It did not, for instance, occur to him when my first stepmother died and his children and hers were the ages of the children I am observing this week, to ask any of us to participate in the planning or execution of the memorial events. I finally learned, when my last stepmother died a few years ago, that people have to simply barge their way in with him ~ not an easy thing to do under any circumstances.

Late last night I lay curled up on the couch against another friend as four of us, women who have been friends for twenty years, one of whom is now without the man whom she has adored for nearly twice that long, talked quietly in the family room. Memories, finances, funeral arrangements, future plans, the events of the past week, minor family hassles, food ~ I noted that there is enough food in her kitchen and garage for her to open a catering business Monday morning. Her daughter sat in the kitchen talking with two of her high school friends; her college son was outside with a high school hockey friend ~ one of an enormous crowd of young men who had dropped everything and come home to be with their buddy; her oldest son wandered through the house fielding phone calls for his mother and complaining occasionally that neither of his siblings was helping him with the pictures for the display at the funeral home. Every once in awhile the back door to the kitchen would open and more food would appear.

The next two days promise to be long and sad, but there is an unmistakable light around this family. It is the light of a love long shared and always rippling outward, a love that offers and invites generosity as though that were the easiest thing in the world to practice.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Death in the Family

I made the 2.5 hour drive back to my third quarter of the seminary school year knowing that a good friend was in grave condition in the hospital, and I got a call between Greek and New Testament this morning that he had died a few hours earlier. He had just gotten the all-clear from his oncologist on Friday after months of treatment, and found himself in intensive care a few hours later with what seems to have been a viral infection of the heart.

We have been graced by a close circle of friends for 20 years, most of us having met in a Methodist Church when we were young (-er, anyway) parents of very young children. In fact, at that time the arrival of this man's youngest child and only daughter was still four years in the future.

As I said to another of the women today, we knew that those wonderful years of Easter egg hunts (the annual event hosted by this family) and picnics at the lake and little kids running all around were over, but now one of us is gone and we have really, completely, moved to a new place in life, one in which one of the people carrying the memories and burdens and joys is no longer with us.

I am completely devastated.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Last Day at the Beach

The gannets were out in full force this morning. So close! to shore ~ for gannets, anyway. So sleek and white, so pristine and powerful as they soared high above the swells of water beyond the breakers, pulled up, and dived straight down with utter precision.

I racked up a few more birds today. A snowy egret dancing in the surf. A kestrel nearly blown off a telephone wire. A pair of loons in a quiet inlet. A
stork far overhead.

We talked to the Lovely Daughter in Prague. They've been to Dublin and she promises pictures soon. Next stop: Budapest. Apparently, having been in classes for all of about three weeks, they are due for spring break.

There are three students from Tulane in her program. Longtime readers may rememeber that the Lovely Daughter was Katrina'd out of freshman orientation at Tulane, spent her first college semester at Willamette, returned to Tulane, and ended up transferrring to Willamette. My advice to her had been to go (or stay) where she felt caring toward and cared for by others. Today she expressed regret that she had not met her new Tulane friends when she was there -- things might have turned out differently had she found a group there with whom the bonds of friendship she has had at Willamette had developed. You just never know. I suppose I should just be grateful for my own trips to both NOLA and Oregon as a consequence of her experiences.

I have not -- surprise, surprise -- accomplished anything like the work I had planned to this week. The sky has been too blue and the air too languid. My basic plan: don't ruin it wth regret. There will be plenty of time for work under the damp gray skies to which I am destined to return.

This has been a much needed week of recovery and re-balancing. Florida is the place in which my best memories of my mother are grounded; Florida is the place in which I connected with my grandparents every spring for decades; Florida is the place in which our own family renewed itself every spring for 20 years. It feels warm and bright and expansive and safe here.

Photo here:

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Good Kind of Day

The sunrise over the Atlantic this morning was pretty nice. Pale pink fingers streamed from the horizon and transformed themselves into a boiling orange ball of fire. All by 6:45!

We went into St. Augustine to hear an organ concert at the Presby church with the ceiling I love because it is some kind of ocean blue-green, to check out the Catholic basilica which counts its parish beginnings from 1565 and which for some reason we had never been inside, to eat gazpacho at the Spanish restaurant we love, and to wander the narow streets of the Old City.

The sunset over the intracoastal was a good one, too.

And now it's dark and I feel a need to go out to the beach.

I love life when I am aware of sunrise and sunset and high and low tide times.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

This 'n That

I've been listening to election returns and redecorating my blog for a couple of hours.

Can you tell that I'm at the beach (new colors) and not too satisfied with the primary results (not quite right colors)? I guess it will all take time, both the new color scheme and the election.

Polar Bear
highlights something new (maybe not new? I'm usually behind) going around: can you fit your life story into a six-word memoir? I've been thinking about it. Maybe:

She sought connections across our differences.

Thinking about it.

Hot Tub Entertainment

Six young ladies and Gannet sharing a hot tub. The girls are lovely and youthful in their bikinis and they quickly forget the middle-aged woman in their midst.

The first conversation is all about illegal immigrants, generally referred to as "they." The girls, two of whom are from California, seem to be most troubled by the reality, as they see it, that if "they" aren't allowed in, who will do the jobs that "they" do, the jobs that have become "Mexican jobs?" And further, "what about when "they" get into law school and med school and "we" don't?

The conversation is increasingly peppered with refereneces to Catholic school -- elementary, high school, and the university that the young women, from all over the country, attend. I start to wonder if anything about their Catholic education ever "took." I wonder even more when they start talking about how little they care about college.

Then more inconsistencies of youth take over. They hate lecture classes, using them mostly to do other homework. (I'm with you there, ladies.) They learn by far the most in their discussion sections. But they can't imagine the education that one of their classmates had, one of those "weird" schools where there are no lectures, no textbooks, no worksheets, where discussion is the order of the day. (The kind of school my children attended through eighth grade.)

They all send their papers home to their parents to proofread. (Now I am really laughing -- internally -- as I recall a certain mom in my teaching career who was livid when her child got a B- on a rewrite paper in my class -- a paper that, as the conversation developed, it became clear the mom had written. )

I am always after my daughter to get semi-colon and comma rules straight. But at least I seldom see her papers and then long after they've been graded. And I'm kind of glad her articulate and passionate self wasn't there for the family holiday dinner last year when an uncle and cousin went off on the immigrant issue.

I'm pretty happy about her weird education.

I am following the primaries on my trips inside from the beach and hot tub. CNN just reported record-breaking numbers of college voters in the Texas primary. Now I'm REALLY wondering how this will all turn out. I think it's incredibly exciting, regardless of your politics.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Gannet Life

Gannet is content.

The sky is blue, the ocean is navy turquoise purple green gray, and there are willet all over the place, and pelicans and dunlin and sanderlings and osprey and terns of all kinds and laughing gulls and gannets. And that's just at the beach. Gannet went kayaking in the marsh this morning and there are yellowlegs and dowitchers and white pelicans there. And such lovely and fragile tri-colored herons! Maybe there is a photograph somewhere to lift. Borrow. Gannet and the Quiet Husband sat and watched them for so long that the tide went out and Gannet had to almost completely abandon a Teva sucked six inches under the mud when she had to get out to give the kayak a shove.

Gannet unfortunately set herself back a bit on the sprained foot front by walking four miles on the beach yesterday. So now, sadly, she needs to recover by sitting in the hot tub under the palm trees and then sitting out on the deck to read in the sunshine and look at the waves.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Saturday 4:00 pm: Fabulous Spiritual Direction Workshop on Discernment winds down.

5:00 Car is loaded and absentee ballot for Democratic Candidate is in the mail. Quiet husband says he would have voted for The Other One so I should be glad he didn't. Discernment at work?

9:00 pm: Ohio River Border Town Bob Evans is hoppin'. Do you suppose they are hoping the Democratic contenders will show up at this one, too?

Sunday 3:00 am: Charlotte NC traffic unbelievable! Only open gas station crowded with inebriatedyoung people dressed for clubbing but in desperate need of the one and only set of facilities for, apparently, miles.

4:00 am: Huge crescent moon lingers over the eastern horizon of South Carolina.

7:00 am: Just over the Florida State Line. Gas station nondescript but birds are singing everywhere.

10:30 am: Looking out from third floor deck over the Great Atlantic Ocean. Gopher tortoise digging in the dunes below.

We are off to WALK ON THE BEACH!!!!!!!!

Later PS: There are gannets here.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Defying Gravity - One Last Wicked Post

The music is fun, the sets and special effects are terrific, and the costuming is nothing short of spectacular.

But what I love most of all about WICKED is the thematic progression represented by Elphaba, known to us as the Wicked Witch of the West, with whom I feel such an uncanny sense of identification:



limitless possibility


the embrace of limitation

It really is an incredible musical.

And while The Lovely Daughter showed me the mystery of youtube embedding when she was here over Christmas, I have completely forgotten how to do it, and I can't figure it out. But if you go here, you can see a performance of Defying Gravity with Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, who are themselves nothing short of spectacular.