Sunday, June 29, 2014

and a glimpse of Thing #2

"Grandma played with me all morning, and now I am just 'zosted."

(Grandma could use a bit of a nap also!)

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Goin' on a TRIP"

The #1 granddaughter is getting equipped for her new status as a Conscious Traveller later this summer.  You see her above, getting into the skin of the role.  I hope travel is as much fun for her as it has been for her Grandma.

Just home yesterday in the small hours from a cross-country jaunt to a major ecumenical conversation.  A new venue that I hadn't visited before, a style of hospitality I already knew very well.  And we had a very fine time altogether.

I have a suspicion that when the time finally comes for Shady Pines, I am going to have a very fine time there also.  Ecclesial gatherings often mean we are assigned rather small, spartan, sparsely-furnished rooms for our sleeping and ablutions -- and invariably I am as happy as a clam therein.  Maybe because a dorm-room was the first space I  thought of as MINE?  who knows.  But it's quite funny, I think.

This was an especially challenging jaunt in some ways because of various symptoms that appeared about 24 hours before departure...despite the lapse of 64 years since the chicken-pox, and the Zoster vaccine a couple of years ago -- SHINGLES.  So the day of departure along with a haircut and a midday church meeting I found myself speed-dating both my own physician and an optometrist (shingles being particularly bothersome around one EYE, where complications can be serious).  

And then picked up a prescription for formidable big blue pills, finished packing, hired the little boy next door as cat-feeder,and off down the highway to the airport. 

The plane was full and I had a centre-seat, between two genial types returning home to Newfoundland, so conversation was very brisk until they worked out "who they were" with reference to each other, and just exactly how crazy HE had been over HER youngest aunt, and like that.  Then they went to sleep, and I tried to, and by about 2 a.m. I was thinking if someone would just open a door maybe I would try walking home--but the cabin attendant brought me some water and I got my little air-blower turned on cool, and managed a little bit of shuteye with some comfort...

Then a limo to the conference centre, and a rendez-vous with a friend of fifty years' standing, and breakfast, and a bit of a nap, and we were into our ecumenical deliberations.  Part of the work at this session was making videos of each of us reading our essays on very basic questions.  Challenging!  I hadn't worked with a teleprompter before -- and of course this was scheduled on the day that the shingles were most conspicuously LEPROUS.  But I had a little sit-down with myself on the topic of Vanity~~and the lovely young woman directing our videos was equipped with face powder and a big brush~~so that went off all right too.

A very special group of people -- theology nerds, to start with, but there are also aspects of "book club," and "writing group" and heaps of benevolentia mutua animorum as the poet Petrarch called it.

The shingles are (is?) improving.  Feeling quite pleased with myself that I thought of taking my good old-fashioned icebag with me--our hosts showed me where the big icemaker stood in their back kitchen, and on the way home a kindly bartender filled the icebag one final time,so that I could keep everything happily numb throughout the four-hour flight.  I had a row to myself this time, so could stretch my legs and wriggle about as I pleased.

Now emptying bags and working at re-organizing the permanent "go kit" in each of them, and then it's time for the post-trip paperwork...and, in due course, back to the rhubarb fields!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

"full of sap and flourishing"

And the end of a rather pretty but not terribly accomplishing kind of a Sunday draws near -- 10:15 p.m. and the sun just setting, lots of light still in the sky, and almost a week left to run before the solstice.

Trying to put some order into my days and nights here, to not very much avail; but it's becoming clearer that certain things like medications and daily tasks will have to be assigned to specific regular times every day.

And one of those tasks will be CALENDAR DRILL.  Twice in the past week I've simply gone oblivious of events I really quite wanted to, and intended to, be present at, and enjoy.  They were written on the calendar -- but I was somehow mesmerized by the thought of a FREE DAY with NOTHING ON THE SCHEDULE, so I forgot what WAS on the schedule, and there you are.

However I did manage today to lay out the daytimer, the weekly white-board calendar, the four-month white-board calendar, and make them all talk to each other.  And then I found time and energy to extirpate a certain number of dead or dying houseplants.

And I did also manage to do a kind of cursory inventory of the pantry, and a survey of the grocery flyers, and then went out to one Wholesaler, one greengrocer, two supermarkets, and the (sh!) liquor store, so we are all well stocked for the moment.  "We" being self and cat, you understand.

Tomorrow I have to pick rhubarb some more, and deliver it to the processors. Then I have: one seminar, two meetings at different sites, and supper with #1 Grandbaby and her parents...all grand and good!

And part of the attempt to improve the shining hour is a return to Morning Prayer.  The title of this post was in this morning's Psalm, Old Style,as a Blessed and Graced Condition of the elderly.  It might have needed the Oxford comma,but as it is I like the ambiguity, being,most days, "full of flourishing," if not "sap."  (Query: is "sap" perhaps the Hebrew equivalent of the better known P and V???) (or maybe "beans and gravy," if that's your locution?)

So for today, "that's all,folks....."

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Haven't had much energy the last couple of nights to catch up on the blog...

But it's been a nice week of new experiences.  Tuesday turned out to be the Ultimate Retreat Day.  Very simple recipe: alone in a friend's elegant house full of soothing eye-space, big windows; the world's most comfortably supportive chaise longue; a sturdy carry-bag full of fat library books; and a gracious, warm, drowsy schnauzer.  And NO ELECTRONICS.  No screens.  None.  The schnauzer and I read, and slept, and slept, and read, and had one hurried 8 block walk between rain squalls.  Finished the fat library books.  The dog may have been reading while I was asleep.  We took turns.  He was certainly sleeping while I was reading.  Absolute bliss and relaxation.  

Wednesday for a complete change of pace, the Rambler became a Rhubarb Rescuer, equipped with large plastic bags and a little note of two addresses where there was rhubarb that the owners didn't want or need.  The first address there was a small patch of rather scrawny but brilliant ruby rhubarb.  That didn't take long.  The second address there was a rhubarb patch the length of the garage, and anywhere between 20 and 50 years old.  Picked more rhubarb than I could comfortably carry, and that was ONE I conferred with the owner for follow-up visits.

Second part of the day was to take all 35 pounds of rhubarb to the processors, a quartet of women at work in a community-league kitchen, making exotic amazing jelly out of rhubarb juice.  The batch of the moment included juice, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, hot sauce--and I arrived just as they were about to add the GIN.

So I had some exercise outdoors and I engaged with six total strangers, including the grandmother of triplets (because Moms'n'Tots were playing in the hall next to the Rhubarb Kitchen) -- NINE if you count the triplets -- not counting the hard-hatted workmen from Prairie City Power who came down the lane by the rhubarb patch to clear brush from around the power lines.  We exchanged pleasantries and rhubarb recipes and they looked muscular at me and made their bucket-hoist go up and down, you know, the typical exchange between the sexes.  All very amiable.  Part of the campaign Not to Become a Recluse now that I've retired.

And I have several pounds of lovely prime rhubarb to process for myself.  But I think I'll just drink the gin on the side....

Monday, June 9, 2014

A quiet Monday, again.

It has been a relaxed sort of day ... recuperating from yesterday's hefty drive (240 km), chatting with friends...then off to the noon hour seminar for a further reading and discussion of St. Augustine, De doctrina christiana; we're into Book Four, batting to and fro Augustine's theories about rhetoric, his rhetorical analyses of Scripture, his "helpful hints" to preachers.  One of the other attendees is a retired English teacher -- and a former parishioner of mine -- we consider ourselves to be members of the same union as St. Augustine and we have a great time with our "shared interests."  There is just one more meeting in this session, next Monday, and we were in no hurry to rush away at the end of the hour, so wound up just sitting in the empty classroom and trading stories and perceptions about the art of teaching...and students we are glad to remember.  And others.

The question had been raised earlier as to whether preaching is primarily paedagogical or hortatory.  Are we informing? or are we SWAYING people to take action?  (Or are we just being as entertaining as possible so that they don't start meditating on tar and/or feathers?)  I don't know.  I think when I preach it is always fact I think the paedagogical exchange is my primary model for human connection.  Teach me something, and I'll love you forever.  If you have nothing to teach, sit down and I'll teach you something.  If that isn't on the cards either -- "get off my porch."

When we finally gathered up our stuff and took off-- I had papers to pick up, background stuff for a national meeting next week, and then looked for some lunch, wound up eating half and getting half packed up for supper, and off for coffee with a friend and instructions for dog-sitting tomorrow.  And so home.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

When you come to the end of a pretty good day...

It was a happy Pentecost -- up very early with lots and lots of time to get everything ready to go -- out of the house about 9 a.m. and arrived at The Church of Two Names an hour and a half later.  An easy drive, blazing sunshine, just one stretch of highway where paving is happening: an interlude of the stink of tar, and the rattle of "loose chips".
The route is not one I've taken very often, but it is a kind of thrill to swing northward toward a whole array of sonorous destinations, with "Alaska Highway" at the foot of the list ... and the thought that I just might could run away altogether, if I took the notion.
Arrived good and early for the service; the church is next door to a large Roman Catholic church: "Cage match -- Spiritual Ecumenism vs. PARKING SPACES".  I went around and around a couple of blocks, and, true to form, the minute I parked, turned off the key, and opened the door, that was The Signal ~~ Ite, missa est ~~ they all came out and drove merrily away.  It's actually kind of a municipal tradition in this community. 
Preached on the Holy Spirit as the Inconvenient Infrequent Conflagration AND the unquenched unnoticed essential pilot light, and how that manifests itself in language, in speech.  It seemed to go down well... Fluent instantaneous Pamphylian, vs. five words in a row that make sense.  I worked off a sustainable sermon-text from about five years back...
We were  a small group, about fifteen, service went smoothly around and over the inevitable idiosyncrasies.  Pleasantries were exchanged, and off down the road for home, stopping on the way for a good, healthy, late, lunch (in a restaurant, yet, conscious of the honorarium in my pocket).
I was full of yeasty ambition to continue working in the yard, but instead had the usual nap and am about a third of the way into The Lords of Finance.
Time now for a little snack, a little tidying in the kitchen perhaps, another kick at the laundry situation, and so to bed.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Winding up, one more time...

It's very late -- it's actually Sunday -- but I slept earlier in the evening, and I have a few things to put together for tomorrow morning, a one-shot assignment to a parish 120 km from home, more or less, whose interim priest just can't make it work,tomorrow, on top of what else he is responsible for in his own parish.

So we'll have good word on what the Holy Spirit is up to -- the spectacular vs. the totally unnoticed -- and let that suffice (it generally DOES, is the message, more or less.  Suffice, that is).

Today felt very Saturday-ish...hairdo, bank, gas in the vee-hicle ("Harriet the Chariot"), dropped off a prescription for refill, and then went to the Library to pick up a heap of "holds" -- and of course found a couple of other things just crying out to be borrowed.

Then the cumulo-nimbus helpfully rolled in, preventing me from doing any more yard work -- Friday what with the yard and to and from the Library I walked 7,500 steps, and today every time I stand up I feel like an old ironing board that had been left out in the rain -- so I came home and contemplated this heap of library books and put DUE DATE sticky-notes on them all.  Picture me launching into #1: Lords of Finance, which is due on the 12th.  I'm going to know a whole lot more about the gold standard, and the IMF, and Bretton Woods, and central banks -- and, inevitably, the four Great Bankers the author says he has chosen to focus on.  I was amused but NOT surprised to see that there is as much about John Maynard Keynes in the book as about any of the four.  Now there WAS a man.

Also eying two recent arrivals from Amazon minions -- Glyn Maxwell, On Poetry; and The University: An Owner's Manual, by Henry Rosovsky.  Having a mild and entirely unrequited passion for both topics.  

And then I had to rush out before they got to the actual horse-race, and go sit upon the beautiful #1 granddaughter.  We had a fine evening with a quick trip to the park, a leisurely bath, great story-time...she went into her bed perfectly contented and then told herself stories quietly for about another half-hour, as I could hear from the monitor.

The language development is a continuing delight...not just vocabulary but SYNTAX, hot damn and hallelujah.

Good Pentecost, everybody.  She's got your back, remember.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Evening sunshine, again...

Well -- we got through a whole day, today, without rain -- the first for a while -- so it seemed like a day to be outdoors as much as possible.
I got the last of the current list of thank-you letters written just as a robo-call came in from the Public Library reminding me that there were on-hold items to be picked up.
So with pedometer strapped to ankle (I've tried the waistband, but unable to keep pedometer in place owing to lack of...a waist) -- and bookbag in hand (water bottle, Tilley hat, sunglasses, etc.) off I went on foot to the closest branch of the library.  Picked up my four books, checked FB (the library computers are faster than my old laptop) and then on the way home popped into Second Cup for coffee, grilled sandwich, muffin, and a peaceful read of Frances Fyfield's Let's Dance -- P. D. James recommends FF's fiction (they're friends as well as colleagues) -- I think this title, a suspense novel, comes into the sub-genre of "dementia fiction."  A little of which goes a long way!
Eventually, home by way of a mailbox where I dropped off eleven letters -- keeping the tradition alive, folks!  Stamps on these: an artful combination of The Queen (63 cents) and Useful Insects (10 cents and 2 cents) to come up to the current price per letter of 85 cents (robbery).
Then unlimbered the big long extension cord, and the less SCREAMY of the two weed-whackers (how did I wind up with two weed-whackers? a mystery), and cut a swathe down one side of the back yard, grass and weeds and poplar suckers there being all about a foot or 18" tall.  It's a start.  My arms got shaky, so I stopped at that point.
And now supper -- a little stuffed veal "thing" from the supermarket -- a tomato -- some carrot and pepper strips and guacamole -- and a vegetable combination, chiefly zucchini.  
Sermon is ready for my guest stint on Sunday -- so after supper -- read, and read, and read, and read.  And maybe push the laundry, just a bit.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reading as an avocation...

I am sitting in the slant rays of the evening sun -- it won't go down yet for about another two hours, at this season, so it's both very pleasant and very inconvenient for reading or--indeed--looking at screens, computer or television.

So I have given up on reading for the moment, tired of squinting but unwilling to draw the curtains against this lovely light after a cold, wet, windy, miserable day -- and am glaring instead at a solid double armload of library books.  I've just confirmed that four of my "HOLDS" are ready for pick up at the local branch; and I've put a hold on yet another volume.

It was an epoch-marking day when I learned how to manage my library book account on line.  The collaboration between GREED and TECHNOLOGY produces awesome results.  So far, alas, it hasn't produced PHYSICAL FITNESS, although the closest branch library is a feasible, if long, walk.  But there has been such a disproportionate amount of foul miserable weather that even since the snow and ice disappeared there have been few days when hiking out with a book bag has appealed.

Before I gave up, temporarily, just now, I was reading P. D. James's diary/memoir, Time to Be in Earnest, written over the year that she was 77.  It's a  bookshelf companion to May Sarton, Turning Seventy.  I'm trying not to consider either of them an instruction manual, but...  The quality of these women's prose is an antidote to Twitter -- and even to Facebook; I don't think I need any more practice in 140-character snark, as a genre, if that's what it is.  Although there was an interesting Tweeting exchange earlier with Alan Jacobs over the status of YA fiction vis-a-vis "literary fiction."
Still mulling over that question, muttering under my breath just a bit.

I know that in my lifetime the reading of "literary fiction," if that label has any meaning at all, has had a lot to do with my formation.  (I was going to say "maturation," but let us not kid each other, here.)  And in P. D. James this afternoon, I found this from Henry James--no relation, of course!--writing about Anthony Trollope: "We trust to novels to maintain us in the practice of great indignations and great generosities."  And that catches it, just about exactly, I think -- by contrast with social media, which maintain us in the practice of our Daily Snits and Hourly LOLs. I can't remember who said that we check FB in the morning to verify who it is we're supposed to despise, today.  Not enough, to keep the mind, or the heart, or the soul, alive.  Not alone, anyhow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

All you hungry campers...

"Today is Wednesday, Today is Wednesday, Wednesday SOU-OUP..."  according to the old campfire song, anyway.  No actual soup on the menu at Tether's End today.

An undecided sort of day -- brilliant sunshine very early, then heavy, racing, threatening clouds, now some of both.  Do I go out for a walk!??  Do I seize shovel and get all seriously gardinacious before my poor bedding plants die of sheer boredom??? Do I go out to the kitchen and cook and eat accordingly?  Do I burrow into this impressive heap of library books?  Do I go back to my desk and attend to the now-definitely-due thank-you letters I need to be writing?

Retirement is challenging (Platitude of the Day). On Sunday at noon I wrapped up the most recent interim appointment after three months of half-time duty in a small parish in a small town ninety kilometers from home (exactly ninety kilometers, and exactly fifty-seven minutes, every single trip).  At this point, beyond a single Sunday-supply appointment on Pentecost in another small parish, in a small town, rather more than ninety kilometers from home, there is no word of a further interim assignment.

So the cassock has gone to the dry cleaner, and the surplice is in the laundry "whites" pile downstairs, and the stoles are up on a hanger in the spare-room closet, and the prayer books and the communion kit are tucked away on a shelf, not too high. 

And I contemplate the possibility that I may now, in the fifth year after retirement from full-time parish ministry, really be, really and truly, RETIRED.  Which gives a bit of perspective on the exercise of ministry, perhaps even some of that 20/20 hindsight stuff.

I was a curate, part-time, for about four years; ten years in full-time ministry as Rector, Head of Staff, Senior Pastor~~whatever your nomenclature~~and I've been an interim parson since February 2010.  Since then I've served six parishes, part-time: three in the city, three in the hinterland.  And the difference from full-time ministry has been staggering.  I've been relaxed; I've been comfortable and unanxious; I've been -- happy! (I KNEW there had to be a word for it).

And there has also been a difference in the climate, the ethos, of the parishes I've served.  The folks have been warm, and friendly, and appreciative.  Now have I been happy because the people have been different?  Or, as I very much suspect, have the people been different because I've been giving off a very different vibe?  And if that's the case, where the heck was that vibe during the previous ten years!?!?

When I took leave of St. Thaddeus, on Sunday, we had a potluck lunch of ESCHATOLOGICAL splendour--you know, where everyone finds what s/he most enjoys--and there were PRESENTS -- a photograph of the church, and a bushel of flowers, and a beautiful hand-crafted pen -- it looks like byzantine jewelry, but it's decorated with tiny little electronic components I couldn't even name -- and a little trousseau of hand-knitted things, hot pads and dishcloths and a SCRUBBY which I can use on my saucepans or my heels, whichever needs it more. 

There were also speeches, on the general theme of "We've tried to figure out how we could JUST KEEP YOU ALWAYS" and there were very elderly retired farmers saying very quietly, "You know -- we JUST LOVE you" and the wives of elderly retired farmers telling me how much they and their husbands have enjoyed and been moved by the sermons ("You reduce him to tears, every time, Crimson").  And finally one Mother-in-Zion who leaned in close and said, "I probably shouldn't even say this, BUT -- your HAIR looks WONDERFUL."

Somehow I could not dredge up any impulse to re-assert my Personal Boundaries under those conditions.  I just sat down and mentally rolled around in the ambient goodwill and affection and praise.  Perhaps that means I really am somehow "too far gone" to exercise ordained ministry with appropriate professionalism.

But I don't really think so.  Now I will go and write some more thank-yous.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Back to the Beginning

I've been thinking for some time that I should revisit the amount of time and energy that I spend online, the groups to which I've linked, and so forth.  Dropped some groups -- and I think for the time being I'll focus on blogging rather than Facebook chat -- and try to find a register other than X-Snark, which was beginning to prevail.

I found a thing in a long-since-purchased, not-read, book -- or rather "yet another book of which I read the first nineteen pages" -- so maybe I'll start (over) with this.  Because it seems apt and helpful -- it's from Jane Redmont's When in  Doubt, Sing: Prayer in Daily Life, and it's by Dorothee Soelle, whose writing I've enjoyed.  I don't go her whole journey with her, but this piece resonated. It's about the difficulty of faith and the unpalatability of unfaith, I guess.

I don't as they put it believe in god
but to him I cannot say no hard as I try
take a look at him in the garden
when his friends ran out on him
his face wet with fear
and with the spit of his enemies
him I have to believe

Him I can't bear to abandon
to the great disregard for life
to the monotonous passing of millions of years
to the moronic rhythm of work leisure and work
to the boredom we fail to dispel
in cars in beds in stores

That's how it is they say what do you want
uncertain and not uncritically
I subscribe to the other hypothesis
which is his story
that's not how it is he said for god is
and he staked his life on this claim

Thinking about it I find
one can't let him pay alone
for his hypothesis
so I believe him about
The way one believes another's laughter
his tears
or marriage or no for an answer
that's how you'll learn
to believe him about life
promised to all.                                   --Dorothee Soelle

So there you have it.  That's enough for today, or any today when you wake up wondering whether there is any remaining shred of plausibility in what we think we were called, trained, commissioned -- and paid -- to proclaim.