Thursday, January 28, 2016

Living under the dome

As I was driving to the Mount at noon today I had to stop and take this picture. It perfectly shows the "dome" that we in the Great Lakes region live under for 2-3 months a year. The beautiful blue sky with fluffy white clouds appears on the horizon for an hour, forming a sort of weather border. The edge of the grey winter dome that hovers over the city is starkly apparent in this photo.

It helps when the sky and clouds are showing a bit....for when the dome extends all the way down, whoa, it can be tough to stay cheerful! But, on the flip side, you can understand how we really, really, really appreciate and enjoy spring....only 51 days...and on Palm Sunday this year. How nice!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Appalachian Mountains

According to the World Book encyclopedia, the Appalachian Mountains "are a vast system of North American mountain ranges. They lie partly in Canada, but mostly in the United States...running 1,500 miles south and westward from Newfoundland and Labrador to central Alabama, with foothills in northeastern Mississippi....The Appalachians are some of the oldest mountains on the planet, predating the formation of the North American continent."

For our purposes today they become an important part of the answer to the question, How much snow did you get this weekend in Erie from that snowstorm, Jonas? The answer is zero inches! Our roads are clear right down to the pavement. And the reason? we are on the other side (the northwest side) of the Appalachian Mountains. The storms that come from the Gulf and head right up the east coast, generally have that mountain range as a kind of border and we don't get them at all. Ours most of the time come from Canada or from across the northern plains of the US and then across the Great Lakes.

I know it's hard to believe, since we right now hold the dubious distinction of First Place in the online report of snowfall for cities of 100,000 or more, but we have been snow free for a number of days and we are happy about it, thank you! All said, that doesn't mean we didn't have great sympathy and concern for some of the horrendous situations that 20+" of snow had on those huge metropolitan areas. Hopefully, now that it is past, they can get things back to their normal very-little-snow-accumulation winter.

Meanwhile, back home, our bay has frozen and the ice fishermen/women appeared immediately. The ice dunes are slowly forming along the lake shore, also. Soon they will look like this:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

January miracles

My friend Joanne and I are almost giddy with excitement--for the same reason: our orchids are blooming!

Joanne bought hers at the end of last spring, when the orchids in a local supermarket were on their last legs. She loved the look of them and thought she'd give it a try--to get it to bloom again. Warned by local experts not to be disappointed if nothing happened (as they are famously persnickety) she almost gave up, but right before she moved to Erie in August she spied a small green growth and added the plant to her car when she joined our Benedicta Riepp program.

Mine is from Anne W's installation last July. She received it as a gift and I volunteered to house it and even try to get new blooms when the original ones fell away in September. Unlike Joanne I had already been unsuccessful with one orchid, but this one looked hardier so I was encouraged to give it another try.

Voila! Both came into bloom over these last 2-3 weeks--a welcome gift from the natural world in the midst of a snow-covered one, to be sure!



Monday, January 18, 2016

The many languages of God

Amidst the beginning of a lake effect snowstorm that is scheduled to blanket our area for the next 24 hours or so, Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders in Erie held an interfaith prayer service for an end to violence--a phenomenon that has not bypassed our city over the last year. Despite the snow there was a very fine turnout and the prayers, reflections and songs were peace-driven and sincere.

Our musicians helped provide the music and readings from the religious women's communities of the area.

Upon returning home I wondered if Mary Oliver had anything to more to say about God (one of her frequent subjects) in her new book Felicity. Here's what I found--from "Whistling Swans."

Do you bow your head when you pray or do you look up into the blue space?
Take your choice, prayers fly from all directions.
And don't worry about what language you use,
God no doubt understands them all.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Another elephant

There isn't really anything I should wax poetic about than the only thing anyone and everyone in Erie is talking about right now: SNOW.

Yes, after a November where the official weather center (at the Erie Airport) recorded 0.5" of snow AND a December where the official total jumped to a whopping 4.9" we have begun the great equalizer in the first two weeks of January.....15.8" according to officialdom. I'm sure, however, that all the backyard snow measurers, and we have hundreds of them in and around Erie County, have measurements ranging from 8" to 25" for the month. (Yes, I'm guessing, but I bet there are some huge amounts...can you spell L-a-k-e E-f-f-e-c-t?)

Anyway, there are a couple things you would hear no matter what small diner or office or text message you'd be a part of this week:

a) We're all happy for the groups that count on winter for their livelihood: the local ski places, the people who run small plowing businesses and the retailers who stock seasonal equipment for ice fishing, cross country skiing, tobogganing, etc. They have really been suffering and in this area of the country we certainly don't need any more small businesses running into down times. We have enough of those already.

b) It really IS beautiful (Yes, once you're home and don't have to navigate the streets!)

c) Is the bay starting to freeze? Maybe the lake won't freeze over much this year at all!

d) How many more weeks of this until spring? Eight? Twelve?

So in honor of the return to normalcy here are two shots I caught today: St. Francis' first year in our inner courtyard, now holding a basket of snow; and the side entrance to our place off of Troupe Road. (For those of you who don't get "How much did we get?" guessing experience, check out the height on some of the surfaces or on the right side of that tree! WOW.)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Christmas ends

Sunday marked the (liturgical) end of the Christmas season and a return to Ordinary Time Monday morning. Our celebrant for Sunday's Mass made a wonderful connection that I had never heard before. He noted that the final scene of the season, the day's gospel, was set at the Jordan River for the baptism of Jesus by John----and that the season had begun in a lowly manger. The Jordan River, he said, is a very small, quite insignificant body of water, hardly ever mentioned in stories or history. Thus, we find the Messiah, Jesus, beginning and ending the season in lowly, insignificant places--among the poor and powerless, not in castles or rich men's palaces. Make your own deductions!

Closer to home, we de-Christmased the monastery Sunday evening, with the welcome help of the seven Canisius students who arrived to spend their winter service week with us. Now we move into a very short period of Ordinary Time--only 4+ weeks.

A number of sisters have been musing in table conversation on whether or not this is the earliest Easter can fall. Answer:Both Wikipedia and the Catholic Encyclopedia agree (!): in modern times Easter falls between March 22-April 25 inclusive. So this year is surely early, but not the earliest.

The chapel poinsettia await "adoption" in offices, bedrooms or other spaces.

Our lone chapel Christmas tree remained beautiful throughout the season and now it has the spotlight all to itself.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Wintry scenes

Here are a couple wintry scenes that caught my eye recently. The first is one of the Horseshoe Pond houseboats that we saw on a ride around Presque Isle State Park, aka "the peninsula," aka "the beach." It just looked so pristine with the large Christmas "wreath" (lights on a buoy) and the quiet water that day.

The second shot was taken right out back, I perched on the patio in sub-freezing temps trying not to laugh so the camera wouldn't shake as I had been told that there were two snowmen in our backyard. O, to be a novice once again (with a helper)!

When we were in the novitiate (all 20 of us) we were taken out of Erie to one of our cottages for an afternoon in early winter. We were expressly told to be careful tobogganing, but of course, although we'd all grown up sledding the hills of Erie, doing such in full length black habits and accompanying veils and "headgear" was another trick. So, down we went over and over again on a mildly-inclined hill until one of us fell off rather awkwardly and, voila, a sprained ankle and the end of our fun day!

Maybe we should have stuck to snowman building.

Monday, January 4, 2016


January 1st finally brought us enough snow to look like winter...about 5" already this month, which equals the total of November and December together. Wild winter here!

Indoors we have been greatly blessed with some gorgeous and deeply moving prayer and liturgies over the past week: Vigil prayer and then Mass for New Years/Feast of the Mother of God, a Mass of Christian Burial for the cousin of one of our sisters (attended by over 100 people outside of ourselves who were so very complimentary about our liturgy for their friend/relative), Feast of the Epiphany with so many favorite once-a-year-songs and a special homily on the gifts that "foreigners" bring and the welcoming stance we should have toward them.

Monday morning brings us all back to the "ordinary," which at this point is greatly appreciated!