Monday, December 30, 2013

Snow Angel

Here we are again beginning to celebrate the Christmas season as the radio stations stop playing Christmas songs just as we start to sing them---and the retail stores are unpacking their Valentine stuff, sure to make their appearance next week! Well, it's a short "season" with a longer than usual Ordinary Time to follow before a late Lent and Easter. 2014 seems to be setting up as an unusual (liturgical) year.

Over the past 5 days we have had three liturgies: Christmas Eve, Christmas morning and this Sunday. At all three we had a very good homily and in all three the celebrant (diocesan priests) referenced Pope Francis strongly. After the second time I thought to myself, "These guys have bought into the message that this Pope is espousing." I also had a chance to read TIME magazine's Man of the Year article on him. Very fine. He certainly is winning people over--not on doctrine necessarily, but on his views on how we are to go through life. I believe the article quoted an 88% "approval rating" among U.S. Catholics. WOW!

Here's a recent New Yorker magazine cover:

Lately around the Mount I seem to be hanging out doorways trying to get winter photos. Our best photographer gave me some tips on how to photograph outdoor lights as I wanted to share our lit up magnolia bush and bell with you. Here they are:

This one is, obviously, in the dark.

The lights came on before dark so you can still see the surroundings here. Recognize it?

The third shot is another attempt to capture the beauty of the colors that often appear in the western sky at sunset. Just gorgeous some days.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas meditation

This is taken from Mary Oliver's latest book Dog Songs. Some may even think she's writing about dogs.


In the old days dogs in our town roamed freely. But the old ways changed.

One morning a puppy arrived in our yard with a length of rope hanging from his collar. He played with our dogs; eventually he vanished. But the next morning he showed up again, with a different rope attached. This happened for a number of days---he appeared, he was playful and friendly, and always accompanied by a chewed-through rope.

Just at that time we were moving to another house, which we finished doing all in one evening. A day or so later, on a hunch, I drove back to the old house and found him lying in the grass by our door. I put him in the car and showed him where our new house was. "Do your best," I said.

He stayed around for a while, then was gone. But there he was the next morning at the new house. Rope dangling. Later that day his owner appeared---with his papers from the Bidawee home, and a leash. "His name is Sammy," she said. "And he's yours."

As Sammy grew older he began to roam around the town and, as a result, began to be caught by the dog officer. Eventually, of course, we were summoned to court, which, we learned quickly, was not a place in which to argue. We were told to build a fence. Which we did.

But it turned out that Sammy could not only chew through ropes, he could also climb fences. So his roaming continued.

But except for the dog officer, Sammy never got into trouble; he made friends. He wouldn't fight with other dogs, he just seemed to stay awhile in someone's yard and, if possible, to say hello to the owners. People began to call us to come and get him before the dog officer saw him. Some took him into their houses to hide him from the law. Once a woman on the other end of town called; when I got there she said, "Can you wait just a few minutes? I'm making him some scrambled eggs."

I could tell many more stories about Sammy, they're endless. But I'll just tell you the unexpected, joyful conclusion. The dog officer resigned! And the next officer was a different sort; he too remembered and missed the old days. So when he found Sammy he would simply call him into his truck and drive him home. In this way, he lived a long and happy life, with many friends.

This is Sammy's story. But I also think there are one or two poems in it somewhere. Maybe it's what life was like in this dear town years ago, and how a lot of us miss it.

Or maybe it's about the wonderful things that may happen if you break the ropes that are holding you.

One of our many nativity sets.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Vacation time

I'm presuming many of you have some vacation time this next week. If so, here are a couple links you may find as enjoyable as I did. The first is from Delta Airlines, which flies one of its small jets between Erie and Detroit. Many of us take it as a starting off point to larger airports. Enjoy their holiday greeting here.

And on the Google Doodles page here the 100th anniversary of the crossword puzzle is commemorated on December 21 with a crossword as part of the doodle. Fun. A more web-type game was on November 23 celebrating the movie classic Dr. Who. In this you must move one of the "guys" along paths and then back to entering the famous Dr. Who phone booth--all the time avoiding running into the robot. Again, fun, in a kind of an old Pac-Man manner.

If you have a favorite game you play online, I'd enjoy knowing. Mine are Poppit on the pogo website and Civiballs which is perfect for my old physics teaching. You try to make the green balls roll or fall into the green urn and red balls roll, fall or catapult into the red urn. Extremely clever set ups of ramps, levers and even floating hot air balloons.

Our house was decorated to the hilt this weekend:

That's our novice, Pat, on the ladder!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

We're Number 1

Mary--encased in our weekend snowfall

Our newspaper, the Erie Times News, which I normally like very much, has begun to run this little weather feature that some sun bunny, who probably lives in Florida or Arizona, must have dreamed up: The Snow Bowl. It's a weekly listing of the top ten cities in the U.S. that have had the most snow so far this winter.

It was shocking enough last year to see us ahead of places like Juneau, Alaska but this week we reached #1---already. Here's the list as of Sunday, December 15.

Snowiest spots in the U.S., through Sunday:
1. Erie: 41.9 ".
2. Rochester: 28.3 "
3. Buffalo: 26.6 "
4. Syracuse: 26.3 "
5. Anchorage: 25.1 "
6. Billings: 23.6 "
7. Binghamton: 21.8 "
8. Grand Rapids: 21.3 "
9. Akron/Canton: 18.5 "
10. Pittsburgh: 17.4 "

It's turned into something akin to a sporting event and I'll bet in our bars and restaurants the locals are actually "bragging" that we've already made it to the top! We've become the Alabama or Florida State of snowfall---geeesh!

We have had 30" in December---most of it last weekend. Luckily schools were closed (and called off Monday, too) and businesses were closed--except for retailers who surely took a terrible hit (except for their online orders).

It came down and down and down. No matter how much you shoveled or cleared off your car, 12 hours later it was all there again.

Now, less you think I don't like it, I really don't mind it too much, only the driving is tough. All by itself, on trees, grass, bushes and ski slopes it is truly beautiful, just beautiful. And kids have a wonderful time on the hills at Frontier Park and behind Wilson School. I just don't want to rank #1.

A red-tailed hawk on our 4th floor fire escape.
Correctly identified by my friend, Sr. Mary Audubon.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A foot or more

The Winter Wood Arrives

I think
I could have
built a house
to live in

with the single cord--
half seasoned, half not--
trucked into the
driveway and

tumbled down. But, instead,
friends came
and together we stacked it
for the long, cold days

that are--
maybe the only sure thing in the world--
coming soon.
How to keep warm

is always a problem,
isn't it?
Of course, there's love.
And there's prayer.

I don't belittle them,
and they have warmed me,
but differently,
from the heart outwards.

Imagine what swirls of frost will cling
to the windows, what white lawns
I will look out on

as I rise from morning prayers,
as I remember love, that leaves yet never leaves,
as I go out into the yard
and bring the wood in

with struggling steps,
with struggling thoughts,
bundle by bundle,
to be burned.

Mary Oliver

Our memory garden--St. Scholastica and the gazebo

The little umbrella-like tree under the bell tower

Beautiful all year round.

How much snow have we had since Friday here in Harborcreek, PA right along the Lake Erie shore? My guess would be 12-15".

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nooks and Crannies #12

Just a slit, a slit in the wood of our sideboards gives a hint that there may be something else there--in that thin little cranny. They "appear" to have long, deep drawers--and indeed they do. But they also have a hidden compartment, hard to see--cleverly covered by garland flourishes.

Another one of those great hiding places for special things. In this case, scissors, masking tape, signs and booklets that you'd want easy access to in a family room! Check the crannies--they are probably there.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent Week 2, Hunger Games 2

Sunday began the second week of Advent and again we were treated with a great reflection at the homily of Sunday's liturgy. As if on cue, our cacti are blooming all over the house again; here are two samples from the many along the eastern window ledge in our library---and my fullest African violet, too.

Sunday afternoon was "free" so we took in the second movie from the three Hunger Games books. If you like fantasy literature these are great, both the books and the movies. Number three will probably be out at this time next year. Good always triumphs over horrendous evil, the heroes grow through suffering, sacrifice and trials and the audience gets treated to something more inspiring than many usually trivial Hollywood comedies or macho adventure films.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nooks and Crannies #11

Where does St. Nicholas hide the gifts that will go outside every sister's door tonight? Ha ha, in a little area in the basement in the back of a room that few often frequent....but I found it! (In reality I asked someone "who knows these things" and was told where it was!) Nonetheless, no one will find them and the surprise is still on---sort of.

This year our annual calendar is included with a cute little Santa on top--filled with surprises.

Just announced: Good Reads best books of 2013 here.

And, if you haven't read anything on Pope Francis' new encyclical, at least try this --- from NCR's John Allen. If you want more, NCR has loads.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Weekend shorts

Thanksgiving, snow, Advent, snow and snow

We had a very nice crowd for Thanksgiving dinner, about 80 I'd say. The dinner was delicious: salad and rolls, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, cranberry sauce and pumpkin, apple crumb or mince meat pie. Yummy!

We had snow and snow and more snow: according to our newspaper 12 inches in these last days of November which brought the month's total to 15". Of course not having school helped, but not many flights from Erie were delayed and the shopper's were not at all deterred for the weekend!

My shopping so far has been online, with free shipping. For the last 4-5 years I've helped with the huge Children's Christmas Gift project of Emmaus Ministries. This year I have 100 children. Each child gets one gift, as designated by their parent. Most asked for jeans or sneakers, but the little 3T and 4T outfits are my favorite, though the glow in the dark and multi-colored sneakers are great fun to pick out, too. After I ordered all the clothes I had money left over for a "family" gift. The families with older children got a game (Yahtzee, Uno, Count Four). The ones with younger kids got these: children-sized throws with a stuffed animal--just darling. I wish I could have bought 50.

And as happens most Thanksgiving weekends, Advent began, too. See our community site for some special Advent pieces. The first Saturday night vigil and first Sunday liturgy were just great. Everyone's favorite liturgical season--Advent.