Thursday, May 30, 2013

There are flowers and then there are flowers

We are in the midst of an explosion of flowers as every day it seems another type blossoms forth. Rhododendron are in the forefront this week for sure. Recently a friend sent me a type of "flower" I had not only never seen but had not even heard of: frost flowers. Seasonally they don't fit here at all, but I wanted to share them anyway. Mother nature is the best there is, isn't "she"?

Frost flowers form under specific conditions, often in late fall or early winter. The liquid in the plant's stem expands when temperatures approach freezing. This causes the stem to crack. Capillary action draws the water or sap through these cracks and when it hits the air, it freezes. More and more water through the stem produces thin petal-like forms. When this happens in woody branches the freezing water looks like long strings of ice. Go here for more info and photos on frost flowers.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Don't give up the ship"

"In the decade following the Revolutionary War the young American republic and the British empire remained uneasy neighbors in North America. This unrest led to a second conflict, 'a forgotten war,' the War of 1812."

So begins the brochure we picked up at Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial on the island of Put-In-Bay, Ohio. Put-In-Bay is the site of Oliver Hazard Perry's victory over the British Navy on September 10, 1813 aboard the Brig Niagara, whose replica ship is permanently docked in Erie right behind the main branch of our county library along the bay. It was in that battle that Perry issued his most memorable words, "We have met the enemy and they are ours..." and raised the flag over the Niagara, "Don't give up the ship."

We visited this memorial--a 350+ foot tower erected in Put-In-Bay in 1913 to commemorate the centennial of the battle and the 100 years of peace between the US, Britain and Canada. The 200th anniversary of Perry's victory is being celebrated throughout the summer in Put-In-Bay and in Erie. If you're coming to Erie at all this summer, you might just consider connecting with one of the events: Erie's Perry 200 celebration. The grand finale will be on Labor Day weekend.

By the way, many Erie-ites may now make the connection to our Perry School, Perry Square, Perry Street, Perry Monument, Perry Landing, Perry Plastics, Perry Plaza, and probably a few more I've forgotten!

The victory and peace memorial is part of the National Parks system and is open to visitors throughout the summer. The remains of 3 British and 3 American officers killed during the battle are buried within it.

Young, 28 years old, Oliver Hazard Perry is depicted in this statue in the visitors' center which presents wonderful information and displays about the War of 1812 that ended in January 1815 with Gen. Andrew Jackson's defeat of the British in New Orleans.

One of the displays.

In another vein, we attended Sunday liturgy in the island's Catholic Church and were part of a parish,witnessing the baptism of Xavier, son of Bobby, holding him, and his mother Pookie,
(dark hair).

Thursday, May 23, 2013



Today I'm flying low and I'm
not saying a word.
I'm letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I'm taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I'm traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

Mary Oliver

This blue heron lives right along the shoreline and is always on
the watch for water snakes.

Lilacs are in bloom everywhere and this stone house with its lilacs and irises is like a photo from a magazine. It's truly lovely.

We have many Canada geese in Erie, too, but I have never seen a family of 20 goslings. The couple in back had 3-4, but these, and I counted numerous times, had what we thought might be two hatchings (is that a word?) some looked a little smaller than others, but there were definitely 20!

Monday, May 20, 2013

On vacation

Things are always a little different during a week of vacation. Yet, not really, as we are the same just in a different geographical place. Here's a reflection by Mary Oliver which seems to fit the occasion:

I Have Decided

I have decided to find myself a home in the mountains, somewhere high up where one learns to live peacefully in the cold and the silence. It's said that in such a place certain revelations may be discovered. That what the spirit reaches for may be eventually felt, if not exactly understood. Slowly, no doubt. I'm not talking about a vacation.

Of course at the same time I mean to stay exactly where I am.

Are you following me?

Mary Oliver

More and more sisters, including yours truly, are seeing the bluebirds that have actually taken up residence in our new bluebird house in the back lawn. The males are truly stunning as their "Pepsi-blue" flies by, surely showing off! One of my friends wanted to try again with a window hummingbird feeder in the city. I told her to put it closer to a tree and some bushes as I read that an "escape route" is important to them when at a home feeder. I hope it attracts some, the children in her neighborhood would love seeing them--as we all do year after year.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My first career lives on

My geometry tutoring goes on in these waning days of the school year. To that end, a friend gave me this poem, which, although it made me laugh, is also quite serious and deep. Hope you enjoy it, too.

"A Contribution to Statistics"

Out of a hundred people:
those who always know better
-- fifty-two

doubting every step
-- nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn't take too long
-- as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can't be otherwise
-- four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy
-- eighteen,

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
-- sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
-- forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something
-- seventy-seven,

capable of happiness
-- twenty-something tops,

harmless singly, savage in crowds
-- half at least,

when forced by circumstances
-- better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
-- just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
-- thirty
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
-- eighty-three
sooner or later,

-- thirty-five, which is a lot,

and understanding
-- three,

worthy of compassion
-- ninety-nine,

-- a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

Wislawa Szymborska
(Poems: New and Selected, trans. by S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh)

Monday, May 13, 2013

The City of God

Our presider at liturgy Sunday, Mike K., gave a very fine reflection on "the city of God" and cities in general. Both the first and second reading for this Sunday had a city mentioned rather significantly, he thought, and thus his ideas.

Here are two of his best: a definition of a city by his sociology teacher--"a city is a place where you can get a Chinese meal, at 3:00 o'clock in the morning, on a Tuesday."

And his own words, "A city is a place with two things: one, a lot of people; and two, a lot of different people."

And then he went on to remind us that we are all called to build the city of God and that everyone will be in that city. Excellent reflections--thanks Mike.

Also this weekend our Dayton girls finished their week here and headed either back to Dayton or directly home to begin their summer vacation. We enjoyed them very much; they were a special group. Hopefully some will come again another year, on another service trip to Erie.

Spring continues on, except that we are in a short (hopefully) cold spell. Due to end Tuesday...yeah!

The three crab apple trees that line our front driveway.

Photographed through a screen door, the bunny that has taken up residence in one of our gardens.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Black-headed caiques

This is my morning companion, a black-headed caique, the little pet parrot of my "boss." She/he is a darling and all that you read about them (once you know one and want to read about them!) is true. They are born acrobats and great fun to watch as they "perform" all day long. There is nothing they won't try to climb, roll on or squeeze under. And they are, as many animals, extremely curious. In this picture she is holding a pen she scooped up when the owner wasn't looking, and is posing as a writer--appropriate for this office as we are all involved in "writing" in some way or other.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bridges are like catenary curves

One of the girls that's been coming for some geometry tutoring has taken to bringing me jigsaw puzzles. This latest one is unique; it's supposed to be tall and long, vertical rather than the classic rectangular. (Notice I'm using geometry terms to stay in character). Anyway, here is our Sister Rita P. sitting next to the pieces as she is helping sort them into edges, colors, etc. which, as any jigsaw puzzle doer knows, is the first step. By the way, it's a lovely spring scene, complete with all the flowers, hummingbirds, cardinals and any other birds and bees that you'd see this time of year.

Our fourth and final group of collegians arrived this week--four gals from the University of Dayton, my own sister's alma mater. The school is in central Ohio and was founded by the Marianists Priests and Brothers, who still have a couple houses of men on the campus and are active in the school. Their advisor is one of our oblates and this is the first time (since she just began a new job there) that a group from Dayton has come to us. We are very happy to have them. Here Hailey, Kara, Katie and Michele are posing with Kelly our oblate, on the bridge over Seven-Mile Creek during our see-the-grounds tour Sunday. On this sunny spring day it was a far cry from our let's-go-to-the-lake-and-see-the-ice-dunes that the tours in March brought!

Notice yet another geometry reference in the title? A little too much, I know--but you just might enjoy this: catenary curves.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The bluebird of happiness

My Birds & Blooms magazine is a source of great temptation to me. Every issue entices me to either (a)buy 3-4 birdbaths and put them all around the Mount grounds as water sources for our birds or (b) dig up big plots of our grass and put in 8-9 more flower gardens or (c) retire so that I can do a) and b) full time, 24/7. Finally this spring I knew I had to indulge these temptations and decided to do just one thing: I bought a birdhouse for bluebirds.

After reading the directions meticulously ten or eleven times, I got a maintenance request through to put the house up, on a pole, away from trees, away from houses and other structures, our backyard. I honestly admit that I thought we had about a 10% chance of getting any dwellers this summer..BUT here it is May 1st and guess what? there is nesting material in the bluebird box and just tonight--one of the sisters saw two bluebirds in the backyard! We're ecstatic... well, I'm ecstatic and everyone else is just humoring me!

Here, also is a lovely flowering tree that burst out this week. It's in the library courtyard, perfectly framed by the windows of said library.

They say that this love of nature--flora and fauna--is common when you hit 50 or so. Lots of kids and young adults love nature, too, I'm sure, but honestly, when you live in such a beautiful setting as ours---how could you not help but love everything about it whether you're 15 or 50? And then, when the morning psalms praise the beauty of God's really is quite glorious.

I hope your part of the world is equally rich.