Wednesday, April 29, 2009

of notebooks, and pens, and so forth...

As my family know only too well, I am a notebook addict. That is, "notebook" as in "journal" as in "diary" but not the kind with too little space per day and a non-brother-proof lock.

In fact for much of the last 25 years I have been unable to pass a stationery store without checking out what may be on offer in the shape of a nice journal.

And I'm fussy. No coil bindings, thank you; a sewn binding if possible. Paper with a surface that will accommodate a fountain-pen without getting all smudgy. Just the right spacing of lines, not too narrow, not too elementary-embarrassing wide. A nice but not too pictorial cover; black imitation morocco is ideal. Other colours if available. Between 150 and 200 pages, all firmly attached. and ideally about 6 inches by 9 inches, so that it can fit in the outside pocket of my smaller really, and not too much larger.

IT SEEMS LITTLE ENOUGH TO ASK. There was a supplier in the former Czechoslovakia who got it exactly right ("Pragotrade" if you're interested). Seems to have disappeared. East Asian substitutes, not so satisfactory.

But in the last two weeks I have branched out,and purchased a new product from our Mega-Barn office supplies retailer. These notebooks are manufactured from sugarcane waste, apparently -- "bagasse" is the technical term.

And I am using one to write down EVERY COTTON-PICKING THING, in a DONE-DID list instead of a TO DO list. The effect on morale is...electric. I can see the top of my desk. There are no visible horrible pink phone slips. My vital signs are all happy and peaceful.

Even more gloriously, having scuttled all the horrible little bits of paper on my desk, I can find my PENS also! And ensure that they all have tops! and ink! (all the better to write in the Bagasse Notebook with)

So here I'll be, all skilled up and so forth, just in time to retire!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

we. can. do. this...

There is a funeral half an hour in the future here at MH and U.

The soloist (imported) is warming up with the organist. Soloist. Male. Amateur. Result: "vaguely tuneful roaring," as it's been described to me by other singers.

The fire inspector is lurking on the fringes of the gathering, prepared to inspect us but perhaps, tactfully, AFTER the funeral?

It was cold again this morning, frost on the cars, but at least so far today it hasn't snowed. And it didn't snow yesterday while we were at the cemetery, so we didn't get mired, or slip and fall down.

This one is hard, I knew this lady and loved her; I think from now on I'll specialize in "funerals for total strangers only."

Time to get the gear on and fire up the mic.
We CAN do this. Yes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

eternal questions

or perpetual questions, I'm not sure which.

Can we get the kneelers in the front pews made serviceable before our august visitors commit themselves to that space?

Can we get the chain-link fence along the lane behind the church replaced or repaired before the august visitors are affronted by the sight of its semi-collapsed condition?

Do our ushers/sidespeople possess raiment sufficiently posh to allow them to pass the collection plate, with confidence and aplomb, to our august visitors?

Will the city do something about the ghastly pot-holes in front of MH & U before our august visitors or their light-cavalry escorts injure their precious ankles therein?

If the Rambler continues to have kittens every 3 minutes between now and the august visit, at what point will her office be completely full of kittens?

And then what will we do with those kittens?

Would our august visitors like one each to take home for a SOUVENIR?

And, incidentally, is there a factory somewhere producing uglies for the abundant stocking of rummage sales?

Answer comes there none.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


They are once again all full of soup...and I have at last found the ideal stock-pot amongst the miscellaneous batterie de cuisine in the big drawers in the big kitchen.

You have noticed perhaps that all church pots, like all church knives and all church locks, are basically crap?

Church pots are most notable for the thinness of their bottoms (unlike church ladies, a quite different phenomenon), so that all food cooked in church pots no matter HOW carefully one adjusts the simmer and "stirs constantly"....ALL food, sticks and scorches. INVARIABLY.

Most particularly thick soups such as today's treat, split pea.

But this particular stock-pot, although conforming to type in other respects, when it COOLS DOWN, automatically releases the scorched patches, without scouring. It's just plain aluminum, not "no-stick" in any way. But oh the difference in the clean-up is just amazing.

I may have to leave a note taped to it, for whoever next fills the role of Soup Nazi in this place. "Use this pot and no other -- heed the gypsy's warning!"

Meantime domestic artefacts of great ugliness and dubious utility continue to ACCRUE on the tables of the rummage sale.

Breaking news: the display tables in the Lower Hall have been arranged in a chevron pattern this time around, in lieu of the usual rectilinear arrangement. SOULS ARE AT STAKE HERE FOLKS...stay tuned!

The weather is quite beautiful. For Friday evening and Saturday morning, during the actual sale --we are promised -- you got it -- more snow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

in a word....

RUMMAGE, all this week.

I have put together the soup for today's lunch. In five minutes of so I'll go downstairs and cut up the fresh baguettes and put out the butter, and get ready to serve up.

Beef vegetable today, split pea and ham tomorrow, chicken mushroom and rice Wednesday, and Thursday ("if you're all very very good and give me NO GRIEF WHATSOEVER") clam chowder. Then Saturday, pasta lunch for 40-50.

And on the seventh day she rested, no wait, that's Sunday. Again.

We were able to make the first announcement yesterday to the general public that Most Holy and Undivided is to have a visit, or possibly a visitation, in June...a nice young English lady. Who will begin her Sunday morning by reviewing a regiment, in the street, in front of MH & U. And then will come inside and attend Mattins.

I am hardly able to find the ground with my feet, at this point.

But we have already adopted a new Phavorite Phrase: "The Palace prefers..."

A fine way to disguise and present the Rambler's own quirks, I do think!

Time to go stir the SOOP.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday yet again.

The Master

The dreaded meeting last night was positive, cordial, and -- TBTG -- BRIEF.

Not to go into too much detail, but Most Holy and Undivided has been owed a significant amount of money, increasing over the last year. One of our "receivables" didn't get "received." And the result was confrontation with the non-paying parties.

On to the next set of crises. The snow has all but disappeared, again, and the streets are mostly dry...I've been reminded in comments on yesterday's post that we HAVE permeable paving strategies and technologies in our grasp already, and I'm glad.

Writing notes on Julian of Norwich for the conference May 1st - 3rd. Writing notes for Low Sunday sermon. Writing notes for a letter of reference in support of application to a Master's program in Theological Studies on the part of a parishioner whom I baptized not ALL that long ago. A thought to warm one's hands, and heart, at.

Yes, that's a preposition, there, at the end of the sentence. Make the most of it. One of the minor DELIGHTS of preaching on Easter Sunday morning was that the Gospel Book, from which I read in pompous-glorious formality in the midst of the congregation, has Jesus saying, "For whom are you looking?" while the version of the Gospel printed in the leaflet which the congregation was clutching to its collective bosom read, "Whom are you looking for?"

And you know what? I'll bet he didn't say either of those things. Well, OK, "whom seekest thou?" -- yes, that I can believe. But I keep thinking of Thurber's strictures on the use of "whom."

Hey there's a thought...let's rename "Thursday" and call it "Thurber" instead.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

following up, cooling down, and so forth

...volumes of snow and rain yesterday in these parts...#2 Son Unit, who bicycles to his work, spent most of the day trying to dry himself out. Much mirth amongst his acquaintances on the Social Utility Network over his announced intention to purchase himself some WATERPROOF BRITCHES...

Sun is out pleasantly today and most of the accumulated precip has shifted, uselessly, into the creeks and rivers, heading madly downhill to where there is some chance of drowning somebody, I fear.

It occurred to me to wonder, the other day, whether there wouldn't be some clever engineering way to pave at least our parking lots in a permeable way that would allow snowmelt and rain to saturate the soil instead of sliding away...

Spasms of clean-up are happening in the office today...and elsewhere around the church. Next week the whole schedule solidifies again.

I am trying to write some notes on Julian of Norwich for a conference on the first weekend of may, when I'm lead presenter, heaven help me.

Back to the drift of paper on my desk. Ugly meeting tonight...the kind that makes me -- in anticipation -- want to put my hat on and run away down the road, leaving no forwarding address!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Monday

Well. It was the best Triduum ever... and it got better and better as it went along. Good attendance at the Holy Week Eucharists. Good turn-out for the Agape supper and Pedilavium and stripping of the altar on Maundy Thursday; our new Honorary Assistant preached well and energetically and washed feet with comparable energy.

Small but focussed group for the Children's Way of the Cross on Friday morning.

To my very great joy, a couple of young parents from the congregation agreed to take responsibility for the walk next Good Friday. More about that, anon.

Then the Solemn Devotions at noon -- again, a good-sized congregation, the Reproaches were most beautifully sung. There. I've said it. That I am the mother of the soloist has nothing to do with it, I swear.

Peacefulness Friday night at home; then Saturday morning a "Benedictine Day" or half-day actually, of church cleaning with prayers on the hour, with the Sanctuary Guild. And a lovely potluck lunch to conclude.

Peacefulness Saturday afternoon, and the Vigil at 8. Brand new Paschal candle of impressive length. Honorary and I managed not to immolate ourselves in the Sacred Fire, although given the wind -- and it's always windy, at the Vigil -- it was rather too close for comfort at some moments.

Some have pointed out it's hard to light a taper, let alone the big candle, from a fire in a fire-box. What is needed is a "spill" -- a nice long sliver of wood, such as cedar, to do the lighting with.

Another year it would be good, perhaps, to hold off on the lighting-up part until after the Hebrew Scriptures are that it really IS in the dark.

But it went well...and at the Gloria there was a mighty and glorious bell-ringing: the tower-bell, handbells, dinner bells, cowbells, bicycle bells, Tibetan singing bowls...most glorious. As an innovation this Vigil, the Psalms and Canticles after each reading were canted, with lovely tuneful refrains, easy for the congregation to join in on. Honorary A preached again, an absolute barn-burner. What a joy...not to have to re-write one's own Easter sermon to avoid the appearance of plagiarism -- NOR to have to get up and say, "ON THE OTHER HAND"...

And then Easter morning, with a choir of 28 or 29 at both services, the Gospel Acclamation was the Hallelujah Chorus, we had guest trumpeters to put the lovely edge on the Handel (and on the hymns)...and it was church as church should be, I really felt...everybody was there, from genuine card-carrying opera stars beefing up the bass section of the choir, to schizophrenic outpatients in the front pews...and it was ALL. JUST. FINE.

The children put daffodils on the "old rugged" cross...and nobody much minded that this year's daffodils were a pretty scruffy display. Such is life.

And everybody appeared gratified to receive an Easter egg at the door!

So home to scrape together some dinner for the family. I set my timer for 15 minute bursts of work and 5 minute "sits," all afternoon, and that way, got through it and got the meal on the table all more or less as planned. Number One Son cleaned like a the abode looked less like a landfill than usual.

And finally to bed, wondering why I felt a bit weird and my rings were tight, and ears ringing...and then remembered I hadn't taken the BP meds at breakfast time. NOT GOOD.

Okay now, though.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

amid toil and grief and pain

...trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, and any other adversity...

from time to time I think of a couple of Young Lady Theology Students of my acquaintance...

and my heart really does leap up, and I think there may be hope for the church after all.

a breathless hush...

...before we go gurgling into the vortex of the Triduum.

It is a lovely sunny late afternoon...I ventured out for some lunch and then went to the Stupor-Store for last-minute groceries: hot cross buns and grape juice for the children tomorrow (WHITE grape juice, in consideration of the carpet) -- bought matzoth earlier in the week... also several pounds of small foil-wrapped solid chocolate Easter eggs. At the door, after the Vigil and after the two services Easter Sunday morning, I slip Easter eggs to folks as I shake hands with them. It is amusing to see how far some folks walk before it registers that they are now holding a small, solid object. (Children 'get it' instantly, of course.)

Also bought a package of knee-high stockings, our new Hon. Assistant having expressed his intention to wash the Rambler's feet tonight... there are too many funny stories in circulation already about church-ladies forgetting NOT to wear panty-hose or tights, and divesting themselves at the last minute, undercover of albs, cassocks, prayer-desks -- and, for all I know, dossal curtains too.

Our Holy Week eucharists have been well attended, within the parameters of that term...never fewer than a half-dozen since Monday...this is unusual and heartening.

There are masses of flowers ready for the decoration of the chancel on Saturday.

Two of my most reliable elderly gents in the parish decided they couldn't stand my office windows any longer (spring fever takes odd forms), and set themselves to clean them on the outside one afternoon this week (fortunately with long-handled squeegees rather than ladders etc.) -- they launched into this task complete with audible commentary on each other's performance, capacity, parentage, etc., while I was attempting to engross the attention of a drop-in couple looking for a July wedding venue.

The slip-slopping of the squeegees and the commentary were rather more than the young folks' attentiveness could cope with. Too funny.

One of these gentlemen is the artificer of our new aumbry (and much else both beautiful and useful); the other is the donor-elect of the Sanctuary Lamp. The latter helps out at the early Sunday service as acolyte and intercessor. He panicked over the prayer list on Palm Sunday and requested our prayers on behalf of "Verona-kwee"... in spite of coaching beforehand ("Vay-roe-NEEK, Vay-roe-NEEK")...ah well.

This week, by the way, we've used the Introit and Tract Psalm sections laid out in the old Book of Common Prayer rubrics for Holy Week. It was a fascinating experience; there's a real trajectory of feeling and insight and response if you lay them out all end to end, from "help help, they're going to hurt me" to "Let all the people praise thee..."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Easter Letter...

The morning drive to Most Holy and Undivided is one of the more reflective parts of my day. I observe the shoals of vehicles pouring over the bridges and through the intersections…all those individual people in pursuit of dreams not yet dashed, in flight from despairs steadily closing the gap, or just on eco-threatening autopilot, one body to a vehicle. It always seems to me like an image of “life its ownself” (Dan Jenkins)…although T. S. Eliot, a hundred years ago, picturing the commuters (walking!) across London Bridge, saw something quite different: “I had not thought, “ he writes, “death had undone so many.”

All these people move together, yet alone, through a world that they see through very different frames of reference and of meaning: frames that include and shape as much of reality, as much awareness, as they think they can bear.

And what does it mean to proclaim into this world of intent, hurrying throngs, that Christ is Risen? Indeed, how would we, should we, can we even make that proclamation? Edgewise, perhaps, in the midst of life—or death? Because these are the words that, we try to think, are the frame through which we are to see our world, know all that we can, do all that we can. Christ is Risen…and Christ will come again. And in the meantime, what?

This year, I’m thinking that perhaps the strangeness, the absurdity, the dissonance of our proclamation of Resurrection with so much of what we see and do, hope for and fear day by day, may be the most hopeful starting place. Because we proclaim a mystery, a bottomless truth, an inexhaustible source of joy and hope. All mystery, Simone Weil said, hardens into belief; and that is tragic. Perhaps the sense of strangeness is simply the mystery of the Resurrection re-asserting its mysteriousness, and its entitlement to be our frame of meaning, ever expanding, never quite in focus, never fully explained.

So we’ll stand up in good heart, and sing again, “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today,” and get caught up again on all the “Hallelujahs” we missed during Lent, and try, again, to see all our doings, our goings-out and comings-in, through the frame of the Easter proclamation: “Christ is Risen!” “He is Risen, indeed!”
Easter joy to you and yours,
With much love
The Rambler+

Monday, April 6, 2009

spring fever

Getting NOTHING done, here, folks... it is +15 in Canadian outside, which is (grind, whir, clank) basically your 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Palm Sunday was all that one could hope for...a two-hymn procession, waving palm crosses and passing them out amongst the faithful, excellent readers for the Passion Narrative, which we do in parts -- everybody "read out" in a big voice -- four snappin' good hymns, and for a communion anthem, the Allegri "Miserere." We had three guest soloists to form, with Music Director SIL, the necessary quartet. It was just SUMPTUOUS. People wept, most gratifying.

After service I had a 90 minute interview with a sprightly young woman needing the Deep Background on things Anglican for her term paper in Comparative Religion at Colourful U. Ten minutes into our chat, she looked at me narrowly and said, "You know, I think I took Latin from your son last term...!!!" We had a delightful talk and wound up doing a quick evaluation on all the clergymen we could think of in English classical literature. We agreed that Henry Tilney rocks, and that St. John Rivers is a monster, but a sacred monster.

Then today we had 6 persons present, including the Rambler and Trusty Assistant, for the noonhour Eucharist! After which Rambler and TA adjourned to a nearby eatery and ingested lunch and "reformed the constitution."

And TA showed me his birthday present -- the Gospels and Acts volume of the St. John's Bible. "We wants it, my preciousssss...."

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pausing... contemplate the 13 services between right now and bedtime on Easter Sunday.

Listening, pretty much enraptured, to the rehearsings of the musicians in the nave just next door.

Palm Sunday Sermon is written.

I do deeply wish that total strangers would NOT call me on Saturday afternoon and demand over-the-phone impromptu exorcism. Especially not on the Saturday afternoon before Holy Week.

Working on expanding pastoral responses to a less dramatic set of challenges...posed by Estranged Family at funerals, or around funerals, or lurking offstage during funerals...

I'm part of a Spiritual Direction Peer Support Group for a friend who is training in spiritual direction...and on Wednesday I had nothing to present on, to this small group, fresher or of more interest than the just-concluded phone call from The Daughter Who Had Been Entirely Shut Out Of The Planning For Mom's Funeral.

"Mom" being in fact a total stranger to me, and The Other Daughter seeking our help only because she lives next door to one of our more forceful Mothers in Zion, who said, "You'd better talk to our minister."

This is not the first time in the past year that I've been confronted with the protests of an "off stage" family member. This time, at least, it was faintly comical...I asked what the complainant would have liked included in the service.

Complainant; "Well, I'd just like to think that the 23rd Psalm would be read at some point."
Rambler: "Done, and done. We're singing it as the first hymn."
Complainant, in tones reeking of disappointment: "Oh. I see."
Rambler: "and what else?"
Complainant: "Well, I'd like to be sure there was some mention of the Resurrection."
Rambler (thinks -- "oh sweet suffering saviour"): "Excuse me? Can you tell me, have you attended an Anglican funeral any time recently? Because the first words uttered are 'I am the Resurrection and the Life...'"
Complainant: "Oh."

So eventually I recommended that she lay hands on the Book of Common Prayer, page 591 and following, and read it over to herself at the time of the funeral (which, of course, she was Not Attending...)

But I was led to think that there must be something else I could be saying/doing for people in this particular kind of pickle, other than "mmm hmmmm" in a neutral encouraging tone, and "I'm so sorry" ad infinitum. It just seemed a little lacking in prophetic authority, somehow.

With the prayerful encouragement of the Spiritual Direction folks... I challenged the daughter who WAS present, after the service (over the coffee and Timbits), and laid it on her about making peace with her sister, no matter how long it took or how futile it seemed.

She didn't reject the idea out of hand.

We shall see. Or not.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

in which the Rambler takes in a concert


On Sunday night #1 Son Unit and I were guests of generous parishioners who had 2 extra tickets to hear Joan Baez in Prairie Metropolis's super state-of-the-acoustic-art concert hall.

We snatched an early light supper at a nearby pub and met them in the lobby -- in the process, greeting about half the membership of Most Holy & Undivided...

And it was lovely. We should all have such pipes at her age, or at any age. And she sang the Good Old Stuff. And Good New Stuff (hello there, Steve Earle!). And bantered with her band. And read excellent poetry about old women in the "Low-Low Impact Aerobics Class." And impersonated Bob Dylan. And told jokes intelligible only to "people in the prime of life" -- e.g., about standing next to the big black and white dog, singing into the morning-glory horn...

Question of the evening: why is it that I can feel so much more left-wing-militant in the dark, in a crowd, with musical accompaniment, than I can by daylight, solo, "a cappella"? I asked myself, on the third chorus of "Joe Hill..."

It was exhilarating.

Give a listen to Steve Earle's "God is God," 'kay? Four stars.