Friday, November 28, 2008

Advent I, 2008

Advent I 2008


Now is the time
of star-crisp invitation
to draw in, center down,
toward the gathering fire
and watch the becoming of silence.

This until,
when sparks singe the lowing
of winter’s wind,
there comes
the nascent crackling of joy.

poem- ©MperiodPress


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ginger Naps

I just took a pie out of the oven. A pie and two custards, actually, as I had too much pumpkin filling for the crust. The pie turned out wonderfully--the custards a winning experiment. Best of all, though, was what happened while they were baking.

The house was quiet and I was alone in the kitchen.

After stirring up the pie filling, I tucked into the corner chair/step-stool, a treasured perch of several in the house, leaned back against the wall, and napped gently to the smell of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger while next to a warm oven with a window open to the cool behind me.

It was a most welcome and needed embrace. School is out until next week but the freedom is filled with a significant writing project that I need to begin these days. I wonder if the naps are my body and mind's way of helping me make the transition to writing mode-- a way to put the kids and the chaos of school aside and turn my face again toward the muse, toward the spirit, adopting anew the feeling of being loved like no other, the feeling of being a delight and beholding a delight. The feeling of living inside the Word and trying to write an opening for others as well as marking my own journey for myself.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Notes from a stairwell

From my notebook writing before liturgy...

"9:51 AM. Tucked into the stairwell above the entrance to the main church level, waiting for the 9:00 Mass to let out but not in any hurry. I am quite comfortable, actually...warm, pleasantly secure, and in a position to hear and see much. Listening to the cantor sing during communion-- "Soon and Very Soon" which blended into the Taize "Jesus Remember Me." So lovely and so smooth the pieces fitting into one another. It occurs to me as I sit here, listenign to bits of the Family Faith program going on in the Mary Chapel, watching people begin to gather in the foyer, and hearing the movement that indicates the close of Mass, that a stairwell might not be where most would choose to perch while picking up a pen and paper. What is it about this place that speaks to me of being at home? Hmm.

I think some is that it is a bit worn and rubbed down at the edges from years of use and prayer. The whole building. The steps are scooped out in the middle from a hundred plus years of ascent and descent, the pews are darkened and worn to a shine. Yes, I find God in the broken-in-ness. That, actually, is where I most readily find God. There is a depth, a longevity, a history, to what is broken-in. A comfort in one's own being. Perhaps it is me who is becoming broken-in and more comfortable...

Funny, this makes me think of one of my favorite words...glory. There is a depth there for me too. A history, a richness that comes with living, with seeing, tasting, knowing, feeling. The glory of God made known in me? Deeper and deeper it reaches to draw out the story, the richness, the full-being-ness. Instead of dust to dust, perhaps instead glory unto glory--from the creative, story-filled, loving, depths of God to broken-in and flexible, stretchable, open humanity and then back again to the heart of all that is most wondrous, most just, most compassionate, most glorious..."

Mixing it Up

Friday five from the Rev Gal Pals!

1) Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it?

Have access to one--but prefer chopping by hand. There is something satisfying about wielding a knife and watching the pile of ingredients mound.... there's also the sensory experience--the feel of the knife slicing, the sound, the juices, scents, and textures all immediately at hand.

2) And if so, do you use the fancy things on it? (Mine came with a mini-blender (used a lot and long ago broken) and these scary disks you used to julienne things (used once).)


3) Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties?

Hand mixer when necessary--stiff arm and a good spoon otherwise. I do admit to coveting my Grandmother's vintage KitchenAide, though.

4) How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much?

Now we're talking! Love the blender--especially when it comes to soup. Nothing better for mixing-ing/smoothing into creamy goodness. The first time I used our new one, though, whoa! Everything and every one within a block's radius (give or take) was baptized. Tomato soup every which way. Let's just say a new motor is far, far more potent than one, say, twenty years old.

5) Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most?

We have a fabulous wooden... implement. I think it must have been a spoon at one point, but the round edges have flattened some and it is now more of a gentle triangle on a handle. Terribly practical for picking things up and flipping, scooping and scraping. And, nothing, nothing, nothing, beats a good sharp chef knife, a heavy bottom dutch oven, and a cast iron skillet.

Monday, November 17, 2008

11/18 The Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne

A homily for the Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, Religious of the Sacred Heart who brought the Society to the United States in 1818.

Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10 ; Psalm 63; Lk 12:22-34

"Do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear…can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?"

A good question.

Go ahead, Philippine Duchesne! Get on the ship! Sail across a tempestuous ocean, to an unknown land, to uncertain work, in an unnerving language, with unfamiliar people…

And by the way, don't you worry about a thing… Ummm Hmmm…. How much easier for us to hear this in our time—because we know it all came out! Philippine became a saint, the network of Sacred Heart schools exists, and there are over 300 Religious of the Sacred Heart in the United States.

We know how it all came out… or, do we? I wonder if this story might have sounded familiar to some of you…perhaps if I put it this way—

Go ahead, new fifth graders! Climb those stairs! Go to the new land known as the Middle School! Don't worry about your uniform, where you are supposed to be going, or when lunch will be. Sixth graders—learning the names of new students, new teachers, all that new English vocabulary?? No problem. Seventh graders, that new language of Upper School—peer group, life skills, X-period, Advisory, Visual Foundations… I'm sure it will work out just fine. And teachers, go ahead, teach the subject you've never taught! Be a homeroom teacher for the first time! And, by the way, don't worry. Yep. Right.

What was Philippine's response to the multitude of unknowns? She prayed…always, according to her beloved Potawatomie. She turned to her God who she believed would not abandon her to her worries, she turned to her God that would not cast her hope back into the sea but rather would lead her feet through the prairie grass…all the way until today when with the eyes of faith, we look to the mountain of those who have made a difference in our world and are able to say "How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of the one announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation."

But, today, in this time and place, I'd like us to think bigger than feet. How beautiful upon the mountain are the heart, the hands, the mind, the feet…of those who work to bring about a world where we help one another, where we treat everyone with dignity, and where all are loved…that is God's vision… this is what Philippine now sees from that mountain. This is what we will see when we join her and walk our own journey with our heart and hands and mind and feet… without worry about the small matters, but by prayer and trust in God and the multitude around us. Our hands, mine, yours, yours., yours… our hearts, minds, …these are the hands and hearts and minds of God. The only ones God has. God's people, God's beloved children who are called to put aside concerns for ourselves and prepare the way for the coming of Love.

As you now know, lunch is at 11:45, the uniform guidelines are in the handbook, and most specialized vocabulary is explained in orientation. What's left is only for us to seek God, bring forth the vision in own time and space and way. May Philippine's pioneer spirit be with us all. God already is. Always is. No worries. But not easy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A box, a box...

Taken from my notebook where I was writing before liturgy today...

"Sitting in a pew, watching the choir arrange themselves in the section where I usually tuck listening to them practice the Gloria and finding it a much more pleasant alternative to the woman who is speaking even louder now to be heard by the tour group members moving through the main part of the church. The choir has moved on now to the psalm and the aleluia...and just as I began to float on the acoustics, someone carried by a a box labeled "angel wings." For some reason, I find that rather endearing...and comforting on some level...spare wings...that there would be angel wings available to use when the proof was needed. And, all the better that it was a simple cardboard box, written on in marker. A simple container that lets glory be glory. I can't help but think that the angels would be perfectly okay with that. I can't help imagining the conversation--"Okay, folks, they're not buying it. Got to break out the wings." "Aw geez, the wings??" "Yep, no choice on this one. Formal occassion and all..." Someone gets sent to the closet to sift and sort through boxes until finding the one wrapped with a bit of twine and labeled in permanent marker, "Angel Wings." Then there's the trying on...sort of like choir robes, I imagine. Somewhat cumbersome, perhaps, but tradition. Big wings, small wings, fluttery wings and flappy wings... and you know when you found the right pair because your cheeks get warm and you find yourself wondering about the stars."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Honor of Listening

I am planning a Mass with 45 kids and two other teachers. To get the maximum input, several different groups were created and pieces assigned. One homeroom, write the petitions and pick the kids to read; one homeroom, the offertory-pick the symbol to be carried forward in addition to the candles, flowers, bread and wine and who would carry each. My religion class, a mix of the homerooms, would pick the music and fill out the rest of the roles.

In religion, the kids split into two groups--one starting with song selection--taking into consideration the readings which we read outloud together, the other with assigning roles. When done, the group switched to the other topic. The only input I had was that the selections for both had to give evidence of reasonable thought and ultimately, I was the one who ratified their selelctions.

They chose fantastic music! Perfectly suited to the celebration and the readings and indicative of the preferred liturgical style of the kids-- songs with zip, songs with harmonies, songs with life and connection for the students. I took their papers, went to the music teacher, suggested a plan using a mix of the suggestions from the two groups, and she easily agreed.

I told the kids the next day which songs we were doing and they were SO thrilled. We suggested those!! We can do these?? Really?? Awesome!! You listened!!

Well, yes... you made wonderful suggestions, clearly connected to the reason for the celebration and the readings...why wouldn't I listen to you-- you are planning the Mass!

They had such smiles on their faces.

Makes me glad to be an adult at moments like that... an adult who has the chance to help a kid see their own worth, their own value, that what they have to say is important, that reasonable thought and passion behind something helps it to fly.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Playing with Pasta

Well, not so much playing as using it as an analogy.

I was having tea while visting a friend this afternoon when conversation turned to music and whether someone who knows music parses sound into notes instinctively the same way my friend, an artist, can parse shades and colors into component pieces that add up to the whole. She sees the whole and can see inside enough to see the pieces that come together to create it. We mulled this for a while, the similarities between music and visual art--for the one who knows how, the vision is through the whole to the inside structure that created it.

This got me thinking about writing and reading poetry and other forms of written expression. I realized that for me, the process with this format is reversed. I hear the pieces, I hear the structure, and a whole is created. By the rubbing of syllables, by the procession of patterns, images juxtaposed, and rhythmic rituals, something Other is created--a larger whole. I start, though, with the pieces...the words themselves. How they encounter one another in my mouth or ears when read aloud by me or someone esle, or how they interact when read silently in my mind, builds the larger picture.

This moved our conversation into the role voice plays in helping the words find one another and welcome each other's company...or not. I was struggling to explain my meaning and ended up referencing pasta.

Sometimes, when I hear things read aloud, the words are cut off from one another, not in relationship yet, simply occupying space next to each other. Crunchy raw pasta in the box.

Sometimes, the voice overpowers the words, running them into one another, coming on too strong. The mushy, sticky with gluten, uni-pasta of overboiling.

Then you have al dente when each piece is still itself, each word its own syllables, but flexible, chewy almost. It can bump into other pieces of pasta and you can feel the give and take, it neither falls to pieces nor adheres inextricably. It is filling and substantive... its best pasta-ness being drawn forth.

I think the voice/outside the mind delivery of Word or poetry can achieve the same thing...Expression that satisfies by honoring the fullness of language's capacities...

I'm making home-made mac and cheese for dinner, by the way. Tomatoes and sauteed onions are mixed in for a kick. A limerick, I think, would be the equivilent. Predictable...but often with a twist.