Monday, November 30, 2015

Grey Friday

Our local paper carried a story proclaiming that Black Friday retail sales were so much lower than the past, they were dubbing it Grey Friday.

Well, if you love nature, spirituality and inspirational poetry you should give Mary Oliver's new book, Felicity, consideration as a gift for those special friends. She is her usual extraordinary self. Here's an excerpt for you:

I Wake Close to Morning

Why do people keep asking to see
God's identity papers
when the darkness opening into morning
is more than enough?

Certainly any god might turn away in disgust.
Think of Sheba approaching
the kingdom of Solomon.
Do you think she had to ask,
"Is this the place?"

Here's the story of the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon. (1 Kings 10:1-13)

One of the "gifts" that our warm and snowless November has brought us: beautiful clouds in the skies.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Something for everyone

The next four days have something for everyone.

If you get high on Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing and pie, this is your day! Have a great time.

Or, if you love to cheer at the TV with football games, you're in for a treat as there are loads of both college and professional games coming up.

Or, if shopping is your "all-American thing" the deals both in stores and online will be calling to you this weekend.

Here are the identical twins that spend their days at our Child Development Center in downtown Erie. Yes, they always are dressed identically and this day--voila, I guess you'd say they came as football fields. Darling, darling!!! For Halloween they were pumpkins...rather fitting as they are just walking and still have all that baby fat!

Finally, in the midst of all this secular hoopla, doesn't the liturgical season of Advent begin its four weeks Saturday night at the vigil and Sunday as the First Sunday of the Church Year. Every one's favorite here...with new beautiful hymns and lots of old favorites. If it could only be a little longer so we'd have a chance to get all the special prayers and songs in! At least this year it's nearly four full weeks and next year---WOW, four complete weeks.

Monday, November 23, 2015

End of the church year

The church year ends this week with the beginning of another Advent season Saturday night.

For the last Sunday of the liturgical year (Christ the King) we had a very nice liturgy, fine reflection from our presider, Jim P. and these views of the for all to see and the other two only for those who happened to be looking down at the exactly right time.

Come join us for the Advent vigils if you're nearby.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A space to create

This week we attended an event at a brand new place: The Studio at St. Mary's: a place for artists to create, teach and engage in their art form. This new "artist's colony" you might say, is located in the former St. Mary's School in the 300 block of E. 10th St. in Erie. My Dad attended St. Mary's in the 1920s and 30s and told us many a story of his days in this still very, very beautiful building. With its early 20th century architecture, I would think artists of any medium would find it a more than fitting setting for their own "studio" and creativity therein.

I'm sure you'll hear and see much more about it as it catches hold and expands in its artists and events.

The first event held there was a book signing and reading by Sister Joan of her new book, Two Dogs and a Parrot with the parrot itself in attendance.

I was struck by the other words, what artists and interior decorators (even amateurs who have the eye) can do with open space.

Isn't this little arrangement placed around a window, lovely?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Methodist manners

This past weekend another group of a dozen or so Methodists, some clergy and some parish leaders, came for their mandatory annual retreat/workshop. We've hosted about 6-7 of these over the last couple of years. They have been very nice events for us and, seemingly, for them, also. They have their activities and gatherings in our Garden Room on the ground floor and join us for meals. Every group has been as friendly as the first and very grateful for our hospitality.

Though not all are male, we do notice a special fondness by the men in the group for our food service offerings. This weekend one of the guys gave us what he probably thought was the highest compliment. At one meal he said to those of us around him in the cafeteria line, "Your salad bar is the best, it's even better than Hoss's!" I guess in his experience, the local steak house had the best (until now).

One of the first groups had a peanut butter aficionado who kindly told us that our peanut butter wasn't very good and promised to send us a case of a better kind. He was right. At the time we had this no-name, not too tasty stuff that didn't come close to my memories of Jiff, Peter Pan or Skippy from my childhood sandwiches. I don't know if we ever got the promised gift but when our new food service director arrived soon after, I talked with her about the peanut butter "situation." She agreed but said that our vendor didn't carry anything else. However, a few months later I noticed jars of Peter Pan started to appear and the generic ones disappear. Somehow she worked it out and I see many sisters using it on their toast in the mornings...protein, I guess.

I wonder if our peanut butter man was in this latest group and, if so, I hope he enjoyed our improved fare.

Come to think of it, maybe J. M. Barrie was Methodist!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

This is the week

This is the week. What week? you ask. The only week in the year when all four of my cactus plants are in bloom at the same time!

Normally they spend their "lives" on the wide east window ledge in our library, up against a huge bank of windows. Obviously they love it there as the flowering tells.

Here is the oldest (about 25 years old now), the fullest and the
first to bloom. I moved it to the dining room to let it 
"show off " for a few days. Both it and the light pink
 one will bloom at least once more  and probably 
twice before next spring.

This is the yellow one, a direct descendant of  Sr. Benedict
Grotzinger's from which I took a leaf and started this. I had never
seen a yellow holiday cactus before and it never fails to 
amaze me with its beauty. It is a much stronger 
yellow than appears in this photo.

Here are the three that are still in the library. The light pink one
is in the middle and the white one is at the far left. It is 
the one that usually blooms only once, though its solid 
whiteness (no colored edges or centers like some other 
white flowers have), makes it quite stunning. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Meeting a prophet

Yesterday's first reading was that beautiful story from First Kings of the prophet Elijah meeting the poor widow and asking her for some water and then some bread. She responds that she has very little of either and is, in fact, preparing the little that is left before she and her son will die. The prophet assures her that her jar of flour will not be empty nor her jug of oil go dry from that day forth.

Our presider gave a lovely reflection on hospitality, as the woman was ready to give her last food to the stranger. Personally I thought it was a deep story of how, when we are living in the world as God would see the world, our "jars and jugs" are never really empty, as they are constantly being filled up by the word of God, the graces we receive each day, the example of those around us on the journey and the presence of the spirit in us and with us always.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Do you like Olives?

I want to plug an HBO series from 2014 that my friends and I just finished watching on DVDs from our local library: Olive Kitteridge. A very, very good story of a woman and her family in a small coastal town in Massachusetts. Four hour-long episodes that cover about 25 years in their lives. Fine acting and a fascinating story. Strong women and men. I believe it was made from a novel, so if you prefer that medium, you might try the book.

You can read more about it here and even watch a trailer.

This week has been filled with what I call "days stolen from winter." The temps have been in the 60s and even 70s as autumn gives us its last warm breath! For those of you who aren't fanatic weather people, we live on the Great Lakes Plain with an average of about 100" of snow a season. Last year it was 110" but it wasn't the snow that did us in--it was the cold. We had a week in February that not only closed our schools but affected our early spring bushes and, for some, their whole summer growth.

The wisdom, I guess, is to wait a second year and see which ones come back on their own and which ones don't. So we hope against hope to see forsythia next spring!

Scenes from one of our gardens. The hummingbirds are long gone, but just in case.

Are those a couple of November?

Nature is not picky where it grows.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Journey

This weekend two women, who have lived with us for a year as postulants, officially entered the novitiate--which is a "really big deal" in one's spiritual journey, so to speak.

I think it's an appropriate moment to reflect on one of the many wonderful poems Mary Oliver has written about life and the journey we all make through it.

"The Journey"

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,

determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver