Thursday, March 29, 2012

Z is for Ω

The final letter in the Greek alphabet is omega, mentioned in the Christian scriptures three times in the Book of Revelation: "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

As we come to the end of both Lent and this abecedarin, it seemed fitting to pair Z in the Arabic alphabet with Omega in the Greek one. Especially since Christians throughout the world begin this Sunday with a week of reflection on the Life of Christ, the alpha and the omega.

Thanks go out to all of you who've followed this little winter diversion of A to Z. It was fun on my end and I hope enjoyable on yours. Next week we'll be back to "normal"---whatever that is, as they say.

See our website, if you haven't already, for the lovely prayer card and obituary of our Benedict Irish, who left us at age 98--as quietly and peacefully as she lived the last few years.

Z is for Ω
Y is for Yellow
X is for Xtreme
W is for Wild and Wonderful
V is for Violets
U is for Utterly
T is for Traypooling
S is for Soup
R is for Repetitive
Q is for Quidditch
P is for Palm
O is for Orchestra Bells
N is for None
M is for Mediate
L is for Love
K is for Kitsch
J is for Juxtaposition
I is for Interfaith
H is for Halcyon
G is for God
F is for Firefighter
E is for Egan
D is for Daily
C is for Child
B is for Bishop
A is for Autopsy

Monday, March 26, 2012

Y is for Yellow

I wasn't planning on using such an ordinary choice for Y but the last 4-5 days changed my mind. It seems as if we've found ourselves in a land of yellow here in Erie this week. Daffodils and jonquils are everywhere. Ditto for forsythia bushes. Every block seems to have one and gardens and landscaped places like ours have one on every side and at each corner of the house--surrounding the building with a yellow hue. Many of our primroses are the same and I saw a sweet array of buttercups at the base of our huge air conditioning unit. They added a little softness to that monstrosity!

So, yellow it is--not yodel or yaw or Yoda or any of the other unusual and rarely used words that begin with this 25th letter of the alphabet.


There is a heaven we enter
through institutional grace
and there are the yellow finches
bathing and singing
in the lowly puddle.

Mary Oliver

Thursday, March 22, 2012

X is for Xtreme

Whenever my "wordsmith" friends get started in conversations about words themselves it gets very interesting, very quickly. One of those conversations is always about spelling. Have you noticed that "extreme" is now often spelled "xtreme"? Drives them crazy! As I'm sure the whole texting phenomenon does to grade school spelling teachers. How in the world are they doing it these days with all the abbreviations, initials and acronyms in vogue? A tough, tough job.

On another note, did you know that X is #23 in frequency of use in the English language. What would you guess are the three less frequent? There were many words that could have been used for X today, one of my favorite being xenophobia, a special word for Benedictines as our whole hospitality charism dictates against it.

Next week Y and Z. Those ought to be interesting, too.

Our inner courtyard magnolia tree, given as a memorial to Stella Steff, bloomed out of nowhere earlier this week--right on time for spring.

The less frequent letters are Z, J, Q.

See "Prioress" on our website to read Sister Anne's reflections on the Feast of Benedict, March 21.

Monday, March 19, 2012

W is for Wild and Wonderful

It was a wild and wonderful week as nine Ohio Wesleyan students and their advisor spent seven days with us. Mid-week a gal who came with OWU five years ago, also showed up. She's in southern California pursuing a master's degree. Her parents still live in Ohio, so she's in this part of the country for a visit.

As we always experience with collegians, they were full of energy, enthusiasm and openness to everything. We were delighted to have them as always.

While here they got the chance to experience our regular holiday visitors: The Lakeside Senior Citizen Daycare chorus. Our community website has a Smilebox of their St. Patrick's Day visit.

The first day of spring is tomorrow, a day we usually greet with a couple inches of snow, if not falling at least on the ground. But this year we already have two sure signs of the season that appeared yesterday: a little spring bouquet in our own inner courtyard garden...

and a beautiful and full rainbow that accompanied a soft, warm rain at sunset.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

V is for Violets

by Mary Oliver

Down by the rumbling creek and the tall trees,
where I went truant from school three days a week
and therefore broke the record,
there were violets as easy in their lives
as anything you have ever seen
or leaned down to intake the sweet breath of.

Later, when the necessary houses were built
they were gone,
and who would give significance to their absence.
Oh, violets, you did signify,
and what shall take your place?

I'm sure Mary Oliver was writing about wild violets, but since those aren't up here in Erie yet I share this picture of three of my African violets in full bloom in my office right now. My violets have gotten a little out of control as I started with four and am now nursing a couple for some friends who can't get them to bloom--so they say. My "garden" has expanded to eight now.

And that's only the African violets. There is also a Christmas cactus, a white poinsettia that is hanging in there since Christmas, two peace lilies with beautiful tall stems that come out of nowhere and slowly unfold those special white flowers, and there's also a plant that I thought was drying out, whose name I do not know, but its leaves are long and narrow with a beautiful red color.

I work in this garden every day and it's just great!

Monday, March 12, 2012

U is for Utterly

U is for utterly as in:
Isn't that utterly beautiful?
It was utterly amazing.
It's utterly fantastic.

And, that's utterly disgusting, which hardly begins to adequately describe the latest tirade by Rush Limbaugh, the ultra-conservative radio host who insulted a young law student and all women last week on his show. There are loads of well-written and articulate comments all over the internet, on TV and in newspaper about this example of the "we-they" stance overwhelming our country--that seems to get particularly out of control during a presidential election year.

Here's our Sister Joan's commentary from her NCR blog "From Where I Stand."

This link not only takes you to her latest but to all her FWIS columns.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

T is for Traypooling

We've been slowly trying to change some of our "habits" at the Mount to include ones that are more environmentally friendly and others that are healthier for us. To those ends we now use cloth napkins instead of paper, have more raw vegetables on our salad bar including spinach, our gravies are not as thick, our cooked veggies are crunchier and sans cream sauce, we have wheat rolls, breads and pasta as an alternative and we're still composting a little and recycling plastics, glass, newspapers, cardboard, cans and paper---a lot.

In the last week we've added three new things: we're trying new hot paper cups that really hold the heat but enable you to hold them. Two of our sisters discovered them last summer on vacation and brought one home--saves doubling up. Of course, we should use mugs all the time, but....we're getting better! Automatic laundry soap dispensers will soon be a part of all of our laundry rooms---another great savings, both environmentally and economically. And finally, in order to help with what is often quite a congestion in our dining room (our dinner crowds can vary from 45 to 100+) we're beginning to combine trays of dirty dishes right at the table so that all six diners don't have to line up at the dish room, three can take in all the dishes for the table. One sister dubbed it "traypooling'!

Monday, March 5, 2012

S is for Soup

I read an article in our local paper this week that told of food pantries opening on university campuses because the need for food is so great. I believe they are directed to part time students, employees on campus and others in need. Somehow you have to qualify. It made me curious about the state of hunger in the US right now. What a google search that was!

Feeding America, the new name for Second Harvest, is helping feed 37 million Americans through its distribution of 3 billion pounds of food each year through its food bank network. And Feed the Children's mission is to address the 12 million children at risk in this country of going hungry.

One the most fascinating pages I found was a map of the food pantries in NYC. They had one of those little red pins for every food bank/pantry in any area you wished to search in the NY boroughs. They could have just painted the whole map red--they are everywhere.

We have a lot of soup during Lent. It makes a simple meal option for those who wish that. Soup and a salad. I'm not real adventurous when it comes to different kinds of soup, but I'll be thinking differently this week every time I pass ours. Click here for an update on our own Emmaus Soup Kitchen---sadly still open and "doing well."

Opening Reception for our March Art Show

Thursday, March 1, 2012

R is for Repetitive

Living in a monastery or abbey gives new meaning to repetitive. But by repetitive I don't mean monotonous, boring or tedious. Yes, there is a daily schedule: meals at these times, prayer at those times--often indicated here by the ringing of bells. But when we have too many special occasions in a row, you'll always hear, "Oh, when will we get back to the ordinary schedule?" In fact, there is something reliable and reassuring about doing things the same way or at the same time or in a similar pattern most of the time.

This week we're beginning to see some of the annual "signs of Lent" appear, whether they be little changes in the daily schedule, new hymns at prayer or something added to the environment of a room or chapel. But even in these seasonal changes there is a commonality with the way it is every year.

We have some guests this week who are making their very first visit to the Mount. I try to imagine visiting our place and seeing our way of life for the first time. I wonder if they see these things as orderly and regulated. I think they're generally meant to be that, but only for smooth functioning. I hope they can also see a harmony, serenity and depth that comes from having chosen patterns--but that still have room for variety and creativity that can be woven within them. This is the truer experience for most of us.

And here's a typical mundane pattern that turned out to not be so at all. Every year about this time as I'm looking out at my blog's "patron saint," the Marian statue outside my office window, I decide I'd better get out there and cut down last summer's dead vines that grow up on the trellis behind her. Yesterday was the day--and lo and behold look what this year uncovered!

If you're a little behind on checking out the latest news on our community website or on our sisters' blogs, I urge you to find the time. The Smilebox on last weekend's Lenten oblate retreat is especially good.