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Date: Sunday, 27 Jul 2014 22:39
Kyoto's dust is still on my bag.

I was at a lecture last week about the porous boundaries between prose and poetry.  Poet and prose writer Susan Sink spoke about the practice of haikai no renga, the communal writing of linked short linked verses (haiku).  The honored guest poet began with a single prompt verse (the hokku), and each poet in turn added a verse in response.

There were arcane rules (if there is a verse on love, a second in the same theme must follow and perhaps a third, but never a fourth), and runs of 36 and 100, versions played by mail, and collections that were edited after the fact (my favorite collection title:  Scrap Paper Coverlet, edited by Yosa Buson, an 18th century Japanese poet).  The original game favored humor, often ribald humor (think sake-fueled poetry slam), and was wildly popular but grew more staid with time.

Matsuo Bashō (furu ike ya / kawazu tobikomu / mizu no oto // The ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the sound of water) was not only the acknowledged master of the art of haiku, but a master teacher, as well. Susan shared some of Bashō's haiku including this one:
Even in Kyoto
hearing the cuckoo's cry
I long for Kyoto.
I was in Kyoto last fall, and would return in a heartbeat.  The verse made me realize that I still have Kyoto to hand, for my trusty waxed canvas bag surely has the dust of Kyoto on it, as well as a hearty dose of incense from Koya, a dash of Minnesota moss, and a flick of Philadelphia's grime.

Thirty different translations of Bashō's famous frog haiku into English, in case you don't like the one I selected from Donald Keene.

You can read more about haiku no renga here or in Earl Miner's book Japanese Linked Poetry (the fifth chapter - I found it in Bryn Mawr's library).
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Incensed   New window
Date: Sunday, 20 Jul 2014 16:46
I learned to wash myself with incense in Japan. 

How to douse the tiny fires with a firm blast of air from my hand, freeing the smoke to rise and dance.  How to pour it over my head, letting humility settle gently on my shoulders.  How to slowly breathe it in, purifying me from the inside out.  How to twirl it around my hand like a wisp of hair, that what ails it, too, might be made whole.

I went to Mass at the Abbey today.  Incense poured down the aisle like a carpet rolled out before the Gospel,  breaking over the monks processing in statio, urging them onward, onward, pushing them two by two over the edge into the depths.

We sang, we prayed, we proclaimed, we preached, we sacre-ed the gifts. I slid down the pew to join the procession to receive, stepping off the edge to find myself bathed in incense that had hovered patiently all this time in the aisle.  Pouring over my head, like baptism.  ...and my soul shall be healed.

This is grace that clings. Not like the water splashed on forehead, dashed onto to my shoulders, awkwardly left dripping from my hands, its molecules making a mad dash into the atmosphere. I am enveloped, infiltrated. I imagine it resting in pools in my lungs, swirling out each time I speak, seeping onto my pillow with each breath, surrounding me as I sleep. I am an indwelling of the Spirit.

Hours later I  can still smell it on my hands, reminded again and again that I am forgiven, I am healed, I am sacre-ed. Each time I raise my cup of tea, or set my glasses more firmly on my nose, its scent gathers my frayed prayers together, and sends them aloft.
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 18 Jul 2014 16:44
I'm staying at the apartments at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Culture Research on the grounds of St. John's Abbey this week.  The view from my back patio is gorgeous, gnarled branches, ripples fanning out over the surface of the lake.  The sound scape is equally enrapturing. Ravens caw — appropriately enough for a Benedictine abbey — leaves shiver in the wind, trees shift and groan, fat horseflies thwok against my hat.  And the abbey bells call out the hours and the Hours.

We are workshopping each other's writing each afternoon, and my piece is early in the rotation. I've never done this before, and while I didn't think I was anxious, my unconscious clearly did. The first night here I had dreams of people coming in to my apartment, which was filled with shredded white tissues.  I have no trouble reading that one, thank you.

For forty years, the apartments at the Institute have sheltered scholars and their writing.  The walls of the abbey have clearly absorbed a half-century of prayer, which begs the question, how much writing anxiety have the walls of these rooms seen?

The monks leave out a brochure to help you navigate the liturgies with "a minimum amount of anxiety."  Should there be something similar in each apartment to help with writer's block and scholarly anxieties?  Perhaps the bowl of chocolate and fruit that the incredible staff keeps stocked for us, is balm enough.
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Jul 2014 19:09
"Once theophanies are localized, pilgrimages necessarily follow." — from Pilgrimages in the Catholic Encylopedia

The Stella Maris chapel is across the lake from the Abbey of St. John, where I've was on retreat before heading to a writing workshop at the Collegeville Institute, which is also on St. John's campus.  The trail to the chapel from the abbey guesthouse runs for about 2 miles alongside the lake and along the way there is a sign inviting walkers to "make a pilgrimage" to the chapel

The materials on the chapel on the Saint John's website note that since its most recent renovation it has become less a place of pilgrimage than a destination for a walk.

I set out one afternoon of the retreat, with the chapel as a destination for a walk.  About three-quarters of a mile into the walk, a sign planted firmly in the middle of the trail warned of a closed trail ahead, and pointed toward a detour through the trees that ring the ridge around the lake.  I looked twice, three times at the path that led through a picture perfect marsh, with dragon flies dancing around the cat tails, clear water flowing through and around it, water lilies floating like buoys just offshore.  I imagined the fish and the pollywogs swimming under the surface.  Just how closed was closed, exactly?

Then I imagined walking in wet shoes for the next week and headed up the hill.

Away from the lake's cool breezes, the bugs grew fierce, and the walk more penance than recreation.  How far did you have to walk for something to be a pilgrimage? Was it the walk that made the pilgrim, or the destination?
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Listen   New window
Date: Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 00:16

I am on retreat at St. John's Abbey, before heading tomorrow to a writing workshop at the Collegeville Institute, which is just across the street from the abbey.

Listen is the first word of the rule of St. Benedict:

Obsculta, o fili, præcepta magistri, et inclina aurem cordis tui ...

Listen, my son, to your master's precepts, and incline the ear of your heart.

I'm listening, deeply. Chanting the Liturgy of the Hours is like drinking water, drawn up from a deep well.  The silences between the phrases are like Abba Moses' cell.  I sit in them, and they teach me everything.
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Saturday, 12 Jul 2014 22:40
The Boy with periodic table bow tie 
and cast members from The Circle of LIfe
The Boy is working for a local musical theater company (its alums include Tina Fey and one of the priests at my parish) which opened its 39th season today.  His paid work is for the marketing and publicity group, but he is also an unpaid assistant stage manager and has a role in the main stage production of Shrek.  Part of his job is to write about the program, and I have really enjoyed watching him chronicle his adventures.  Crash has blogged almost as long as I have (seven years), writing his way into and out of high school and college, but this is a new zone for The Boy.

The first three weeks have meant 14 hours days, but he leaves bouncing and comes home exhausted, but still grinning.  The hard work of getting a show cast and rehearsed and ready to perform in three weeks is done, but he writes that he has learned a lot.  I am touched by his sense of delight not only in performing but in running the small, but necessary errands.  If you ask him what he does, he says he solves "singular problems."  But I'm truly moved by the gratitude he expresses.  I'm incredibly proud of him.

Summer has many small delights for which I am grateful, too.  Stratoz is writing here about a long day after which he walks to hear God speaking in the flowers, while Robin is writing about rediscovering wonder, and MaryBeth is praying to be still, praying to be.
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 11 Jul 2014 09:51
There is a photo of a pew card reassuring parents that their children are welcome at Mass making the rounds on social media.  The card suggests to parents that it is OK to sit in the front, and reminds others that our future is our children.  It made me think how we welcome families with young children.  Having once been ousted from a church before Mass even began, this is an issue that matters to me.

Many years ago, about five minutes before Mass was to start, my 2 year old's movements in the pew that we alone occupied were deemed too loud by the couple a few pews ahead. I note he was not talking, he was not putting the kneelers up and down, but he was putting his books down with a loud clunk.  In a liturgical space designed to amplify noise without a microphone, any noise is noisy. They complained to an usher and we were ushered out.  As I stopped to button his coat in the entrance to the church, tears were running down my face.  I was mortified. I was distraught at being denied communion.  The sacristan stopped me, wondering what was wrong.  I explained, remarkably calmly, scooped up Crash and left. Welcome, it seemed, we were not.

(The irony of this is that Crash now has a reputation of being a stealth altar server.  He moves through the space of the liturgy, doing what needs doing, without fuss.  He almost slips between the molecules of air.)

In my parish, we baptize at Mass, and the assembly is asked to support the parents in raising their children in the faith.  We can certainly make families feel welcome by tolerating the noise they make, and the inevitable wriggling that comes with children. (I can remember telling Math Man that prayer was a full body workout when the boys were very young.) But how else do we help families bring children into the fullness of their faith?

Missals?  We have hymnals and missalettes available (on the back table, not in the pews) for adults but nothing for children of any age.  There is a basket of random books in the back of the vestibule, many of them religious, but with a definite admixture of Disney.  Why don't we have a children's missal tucked in every pew?  Or in a basket on the back table next to the missalettes?  Why isn't there a list of books on the Mass that parents could purchase in a flyer in the back, with reviews by our catechetical staff?

And why aren't there good missals for children, particularly young ones.  This is my missal from when I was very young (and yes, I could still lay hands on it fifty years later, on the shelf with the rest of my missal collection).  The Mass was still in Latin.  It's illustrated by a well known sacred artist, there are sketches to let me follow the action, the facing pages connected the Mass to scriptural sources, with a rich illustration.  It is a beautiful and dignified prayer book, something I'm hard pressed to say about this or this. Why should not children have access to missals that are, like the books used to to celebrate the liturgy, " truly worthy, dignified, and beautiful" [GIRM 349]?  And sturdy -- our faith isn't flimsy!

Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Crash, liturgical practices"
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Date: Friday, 11 Jul 2014 09:34
I went to The Boy's show tonight.  It's a Disney revue (check out the Lilo and Stich bow tie and Lion King face paint), and the audience was packed with miniature Disney princesses.  Elsa to the left of me, Elsa to my right, Elsa behind me.

When the real Elsa came on stage, the little Aurora next to me gasped, "Elsa!" Snow came dancing down from the ceiling, thunder cannons went off.  The Electric Light Parade redux was astounding (I will date myself by saying that I saw the parade when it first played at Disneyland).  It was a great show and I loved the energy of cast and audience.

The last piece had the cast in the aisles, singing The Circle of Life. As it ended, the mother next to me almost climbed over me to get out.  Politely, I must say.  When I suggested she might want to wait until the cast cleared the aisles, she thought that was a good idea.  But once the cast was out, it was every princess for herself.

The rush to get your photo with Elsa or Merida or Jasmine was intense. The lines were long, with the staff from the show keeping the line moving.  "Just one picture, please!"  I waited in Merida's line -- not because I was a hot shot archer in college -- but because her assigned handler was so handsome I had to take his picture. #ProudMother
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 07 Jul 2014 22:48
Mateusz Tokaski Still Life with Pea
It's July, which means that Ignatian Spirituality is celebrating St. Ignatius' upcoming feast with 31 days of posts old and new.  The theme this year is finding God in unexpected places, and my reflection on encountering God's gentle sense of humor appeared last week.   I loved the layers of puns in the title the editor gave it:  God surprises in peas and teas

“You know I don’t eat anything green,” insisted my youngest son, pushing his plate of mashed potatoes, meat loaf, and green peas away from him with a single finger. Arms crossed, six-year-old Chris glared at me across the dining room table. His older brother stuck a fork in the meat loaf, and startled, peered more closely at his plate and grinned. He, at least, was on to me."
You can read the rest at DotMagis.
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Barnacle Boy, Crash, DotMagis, food, Ign..."
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Date: Monday, 07 Jul 2014 17:32
Wordle made from text of this year's posts.

Ten years ago today, I wrote my first post for this blog.  In those ten years I have written 1150 posts, to which visitors have contributed 3200 comments.

There have been more than 200,000 visits to the blog over that time. The most visited day was 10 March this year, the most visited month was March of 2012 (when I was blogging through the Stations of the Cross).

Half my visitors arrive from ISPs in the US or Canada, but regular visitors arrive from France, the Phillipines, Zimbabwe and The Holy See.  The RevGalBlogPals, Ignatian Spirituality's Dot Magis,  and Robin's Beautiful and Terrible send me many visitors.

First post:  Podkayne's downfall

Most popular posts:
Verbing weirds language (why, I haven't the foggiest notion)
What happened to sugar cube replicas of the Forum?  (The tale of The Boy's Latin project, referenced on a list read by many Latin teachers)
Is it OK to plagiarize a homily? Discuss.  (No, of course it isn't...but people google it all the time)
Can you microwave duct tape?  (Lots of people want to know, but the post doesn't answer the question -- which must frustrate visitors)
Matins (about praying late at night and Hurricane Sandy's aftermath)
Column: Before all else give thanks  (with a bit of wisdom from my friend Wayne in the comments)
Tantum Quantum (Ignatian indifference meets reality on a snow day)

Thank you to all who visit, read, link, and share their own wisdom in the comments.  Thank you for helping me find my voice as a writer.  Thank you for walking the roads with me, through laundry and sleepless nights.  Through the Spiritual Exercises and back out again.  And I'm grateful for all those I have met, virtually and in real life, through the blog.  You have enriched my life in so many ways. 
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "blogging, writing"
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Date: Sunday, 06 Jul 2014 19:00

There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town; they are wasting their time. It is possible to be a solitary in one's mind while living in a crowd; and it is possible for those who are solitaries to live in the crowd of their own thoughts. — Amma Syncletica

The photo is of three rocks, set outside a tea house at a temple in Kyoto. The rocks would be set on the path when a tea ceremony was in progress, to keep passers-by from accidentally interrupting the proceedings.  

PrayTell posted my question about materials for engaging young children in the liturgy in their Non Solum feature.  It's a holiday weekend, so there hasn't been much discussion, but the little there has been is fascinating.  I asked about ways to engage children with the liturgy itself, not for strategies for keeping them amused while the rest of us participate.  But of the three comments there, two are about how to prevent children from being distractions (avoid liturgies at which they are present, don't bring loud toys for them).  

Can we distraction-proof a liturgy? Should we?  Push the children aside until they are "fully conscious" of what they are about (are any of us fully conscious of what we are about in this space?)?  What about the cell phones going off?  The man with dementia who mutters loudly during the homily?  Could we silence the hiss of the oxygen tank used by the man in the front row?  And even if we could get the distracting people out of the church, would we stop the train that rumbles by, a mere forty feet away from the ambo? I think not.

Perhaps the deeper question is how do we have Amma Syncletica's undistracted minds living in a crowded church?
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "liturgical practices, parenting, sacrame..."
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Date: Saturday, 28 Jun 2014 00:19
c. mike_tn via Flickr.  Used under Creative Commons license.
After midnight we're going to let it all hang out...J.J. Cale

Crash had some minor surgery this morning.  He's doing well, recuperating on the sofa and binge watching Game of Thrones (currently winding up Season 2).  He's working various odd jobs at Wonderful Jesuit University in DC this summer, with a stint coming up at the Navy archives, but came home for a long weekend.

He took the Megabus up, a form of transportation which is cheap and convenient, running as it does, all the day and half the night.  And it has Wi-Fi. Crash, alas, has bad Megabus karma.  Coming or going, one way or the other, he always seems to end up on a bus that is stuck in traffic in the wee hours of the morning.

Last night's construction on I-95 meant it took four hours for him to make the less than two and a half hour trip from DC to Philly and he arrived at 2:15 in the morning, well past the last train from the city to the 'burbs.  So I drove the half hour into Philly to get him, Route 30 to Route 1 to I-76 and back. I turned on news radio for company, only to hear that I-76 was shut down at the station for construction and Route 1 was closed except for one lane due to — yep, road construction,  repaving, actually.  Now I know when they do road construction -- after midnight.  Argh - was I ever going to get there?  Will I ever get Eric Clapton's cover of After Midnight out of my head?  We got home just before 3 am.  Totally toast.

On the other hand, his time karma improved this morning.  The surgeon's office called to see if they could move him earlier.  Sooner in, sooner done.  For which we were all grateful.
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 27 Jun 2014 19:06
The local elementary school, where my children went, finished for the year last week.  I happened to be heading out to pick up Chris as they let out, and I watched the children flood from the school, clutching papers, book bags on their backs.  I remember clearing out those brightly colored back packs, fishing out the summer reading lists and math packets.

My kids would always cringe when I got my hands on the summer reading lists.  On one level I appreciate the curated list of suggestions, on the other, I felt strongly that learning to find books you would enjoy is a skill that supports reading independency and fluency, too.  So I was opposed to the "you must read three" from this list and only this list directions.  Read, yes.  Tied to this (generally pretty short) list?  No.

This week, after finally clearing out the backlog of work from the academic year, and two smaller scale writing projects, I started clearing up my office.  I have stacks of books on the floor, each for one project or another. The desert fathers and mothers.  Baking books (for a chemistry writing project).  The art of seeing.  Women deacons.  Hermits and anchoresses.  Never mind being walled up inside a church, I'm about to be walled up inside my study.
"For Elizabeth, with undying affection and admiration. 
Frederick & Claske Franck. 1965"

I've been cataloging my books as I return them to the shelves, using a (free!) program that lets me type in the ISBN number and then creates a full bibliographic record for the book.  I can tag entries up, and create lists that show which books are where.  And my quantitative self knows how many books were on the floor!

One stack remains tucked in the corner, saved for last.  Summer reading.  I've been tucking books away there since the fall, waiting for a time to enjoy what my kids called SSR (sustained silent reading).  Long stretches to read books and articles that aren't attached to any project, to travel to other times and places, to listen deeply to other viewpoints.

First on the stack is Outsider in the Vatican, Frederick Franck's illustrated account of Vatican II.  I bought the book second hand for a dollar, so imagine my surprise when I opened to find I had an inscribed copy. Who, I wonder, is Elizabeth?
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Saturday, 21 Jun 2014 18:32
I am working on a homily for the 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B in the Roman Catholic Lectionary).  Even though next year we are using the Cycle B readings, there will be no 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time, nor an 7th, 8th or 10th -- because of an early Easter.  So I'm writing well into the future (if I've figured it out correctly the next time there will be a 9th Sunday Ordinary time B I will be, God willing, in my 80s).  What I wonder, will people hope to hear in so many years?

Preparing to write this, I read Patrick Willson's homiletical perspective on Psalm 81 in the incredible rich series Feasting on the Word.  At the very end, he quotes John Webster (not that Webster, this Webster):

"The church exists in the space which is made by the Word...The church exists and continues because God is communicatively present; it is brought into being and carried by the Word."

Willson goes on to reflect about homilies in general. Do we "hope for a word from the One who pleads, 'if you would but listen to me!' or are [our] hopes confined to more ordinary hopes, that the sermon will be interesting and not too long?"  And this question, which reached me where I am right now, writing for times and places I may not see.  Am I writing with  "the expectation that God set apart and sanctify [my] carefully prepared words as a means of speaking God's own Word?"

Do I go to Mass in hope? Do I write in hope?

This sharply earthy reflection on Psalm 139 by Patrick Willson reminded me of Mike Leach's recent beautifully wrenching piece in NCR.

Related posts
Fierce Prayers (27 July 2012)
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 16 Jun 2014 00:50
Photo is of light pouring down a glass staircase 
at Go'o Shrine on Naoshima Island, Japan.
A friend shared his delightful homily for Trinity Sunday, thinking I would enjoy the use of chemical bonding as a metaphor for the Trinity (which I did!).  In it the good deacon suggested meditating on Trinity, not as a noun — an object to be contemplated and theologized about — but as a verb — not the dancer, but the dancing.  Light rippling through the universe, as Robin preached so powerfully at Christmas.

I was the cantor at the vigil last night where we sang "How Wonderful the Three in One", which opens with "How wonderful the three in one, whose energies of dancing light are undivided..." and joked with the organist that it was an apt image for someone who does quantum mechanics for her day job!

About the installation at Go'o Shrine, by the artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, including a beautiful photo of the staircase from the bottom, light connecting heaven and earth.

Two more wonderful reflections for the Trinity:

Fran is reflecting about movement and the Trinity at There Will be Bread in Wheeeee! Some thoughts on the Trinity.  I love her Annie Lamott quote: "I didn’t need to understand the hypostatic unity of the Trinity; I just needed to turn my life over to whoever came up with redwood trees." and her image of the bottom dropping out of a carnival ride!

And Ennis Blue shared a poem with a title that I can relate to:  When the Holy Spirit danced with me in my kitchen
"the first thing I noticed was his arms,
thick and hairy like a bricklayer’s
with a tattoo of an anchor
as Churchill had.

‘Coming for a spin?’ he grinned,
in an accent more Geordie than Galilee,
and he whirled me
through tango, foxtrot and waltz
without missing a beat.
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 10 Jun 2014 23:44
I'm taking a class this summer on women deacons in the Catholic tradition.  I read the book "Woman Deacons: Past, Present and Future" when it came out, and am looking forward to reading the newly translated essays by Cipriano Vagaggini on the ordination of women to the diaconate in the Eastern churches.  The materials include lectures by Sara Butler, Bill Dietwig and Gary Macy, in addition to Phyllis Zagano, who has organized the course out of Hofstra.

After years of producing screen casts and other virtual materials for my students, I'm enjoying being on the other end.  There are about 200 people enrolled from all over the world, which should lead to a rich discussion.

The course is free and you can sign up here if you are interested.
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Saturday, 07 Jun 2014 01:14
My sister-in-law painting en plein air
I've been working outside today, doing the hard work of structuring a sustained piece of writing. I suspect I have made progress.  I may even be able half done.  And it's been delightful to work in this enclosed space.  There are risks as well as delight in writing "en plein air"

Chipmunks. Their delight in the cherries falling onto the patio is not dimmed by my presence or the cats.  I looked up at one point to find myself eye to eye with one.

Teenagers.  Not mine, the LAX playing young man behind me having a loud inappropriate phone conversation with his friend via speakerphone.  What happened to texting?

Bugs. There are tiny mites everywhere, including, I suspect, inside my computer.  St. Isidore, pray for me. 

More Bugs.  Asian tiger mosquitoes.  Active during the day.  

Yet more bugs.  In my thermos of iced tea.  Caffeine, now with added protein.  

Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "writing"
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Date: Saturday, 07 Jun 2014 01:13
Even now,
decades after,
I wash my face with cold water –

Not for discipline,
nor memory,
nor the icy, awakening slap,

but to practice
to make the unwanted wanted.

— Jane Hirshfield "A Cedary Fragrance" from Given Sugar, Given Salt

I spent last night as portress at the local shelter. Three little babies in residence, all of whom woke up simultaneoulsy at 10 pm, sending their mothers — gathered wearily at the table for a late dinner — scrambling back to their rooms, and thankfully not waking the overdone two year old who had finally surrendered to sleep.

The weather was unexpectedly cool and as midnight crept around, I wished for the sleeping bag I bring in the winter to spread on the cot by the door.  I pulled an extra blanket from the cupboard, and pulled the hood of my sweatshirt up.

The van came and picked up the guests at 6:25 and I did a last sweep of the common room to tidy up the coffee making gear before dashing across the parking lot to make the 6:30 am Mass, wearing what I'd slept in the night before.  My companion on the night shift, who spent the night on a bed set up in one of the offices down the hall, was standing by her car running a brush through her hair.  Having forgotten mine, I joked that at least one of us would be presentable.

The whole scene reminded me of the morning services in some of the Buddhist temples we stayed at in Japan, people coming from every direction at the sound of the bell.  My colleague, who spent time in a Buddhist monastery, recalled that one day the abbot sighed to him in a conference, "at least you could wash your face before you come!"

I had at least washed my face, even if I was wearing what I had slept in. And much of the night was spent practicing making the unwanted, wanted.

And yes, I went to Mass in sneakers wearing slept-in clothes with bed tousled hair, smelling faintly of l'eau de baby drool and I still believe in the Real Presence.  I washed my face, O Lord!

Listen to Jane Hirshfield read "A Cedary Fragrance"
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "mothers, poetry, poverty, writers"
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Date: Wednesday, 04 Jun 2014 12:22
I'm trying to put together a piece on the eremetic life - a long essay in which I see the seeds of a book.  This morning, I'm trying to dig into the introduction of the piece, I feel as if I have a thousand threads I could grab to follow into the writing, but no good way to figure out which one to choose.

John Howard Griffin, Thomas Merton's long-time friend and biographer, spent six months living in Merton's hermitage after his death, reading his diaries and notes, soaking in solitude both internally and externally, using the solitude as a lens to see more deeply into Merton's life.

I'm outside today in the hermitage that is my back yard, alone until tonight, trying to use the solitude and stillness of the day as a lens to pick through the many threads and find one compelling enough to bring someone else into the "immense silence."

"You shall not possess any beast, my dear sisters, except only a cat." — from the Ancrene Wisse, Part 8: Of Domestic Matters [228]

I've been re-reading the Ancrene Wisse - a handbook for novice anchoresses written in the late 14th century, which talks about the inner rule which must be always kept, and the outer rule, which helped foster the inner rule, but ultimately falls away.  The advice about cats (and cows) is part of the outer rule!

I have Fluffy. Who proudly brought me a garden pest, then caterwauled when I declined to write with it at my feet.  No cows.
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 03 Jun 2014 11:59
I moved my office outside yesterday.  What do I need to work?  A stack of books (A Pernicious Sort of Woman, on late medieval canon law and religious women living without an approved rule - the title is alas a quote from the 2nd Lateran Council), pen, note pads, laptop, reading glasses, and a chilled thermos of aqueous caffeine. My breviary, for yes, I'm a religious woman living without an approved rule.  And of course, the office cat.

Ignatian Spiritualiy is celebrating its fifth anniversarty this month, and have put out a beautifully designed flipboard magazine with fifty two of their favorite posts. I had missed this one, God Winks, by Andy Otto when it first appeared.  Working out here is like being at a cocktail party, with someone I share inside jokes with, winking from across the room.  Wink. I look up to see three baby squirrels emerge from the nest in my neighbors tree, out to practice their walking on wire technique, chittering loudly and harrassing each other to no end.  The race out to the end of the wires, screech to a halt and use the pear tree to turn around.  (Mostly successfully, though there have been some near misses.) Wink.  A chipmunk pops up from the fern, delighted to have found a ripe wild cherry in the garden.

I am reading Follow the Ecstasy, a biography of Thomas Merton's last years - as he moved gradually to a hermitage on the monastery grounds, exploring the boundaries between the monastic life and the eremetic life, testing his limits and his community's limits.  As I sit in this green enclosure, alone, alternating between tending to the laundry, the last bits of paperwork from the academic year, my writing and my prayer, I'm wondering if I've not undertaken a similar experiment.
Author: "Michelle (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "hermits, Ignatian, writing"
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