Sunday, August 13, 2017

Our beloved creek-pt 3

This isn't along the creek, I just put it in because the Black-eyed Susans are blooming all over our place right now and since that's how I got my name (according to Mom) I like the sight of them!

Here's the new bank and top of the bend in Seven-Mile Creek. If you look back a couple days you'll see these large rolls of material and here they are all laid out along the bank. They are held in place by small metal hooks that go right into the ground, placed about every 5 ft.along the perimeter.  It appears to be a sort of firm base for the grass, plants and trees that we are told will be planted all along here.

Here's the same area, but looking the opposite way, upstream. Notice, too, the large stones that have been laid along the incline. The whole area looks quite natural, yet engineered, if that makes any sense. How about this: the best of environmental engineering working in sync with nature!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


I came upon this school-is-almost-here reminder when I stopped by "my" branch of the Erie County library--it's in Lawrence Park (3 miles from us). I did speak to the girls and they responded by saying that they were at band camp (I presumed at the high school across the street) and had a 45 minute break, so they came over to the library for some quiet. (Notice how they are deeply engrossed in their books.)

They were cute and made me nostalgic for my 25 years of teaching high school. This nostalgia is always greatest at the beginning of a new school year and that is right now.

Secondly, I am reading a quirky book and I do love anything quirky! The title is The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. It's a little book, in size and length, and is one continuous chapter about the Queen of England suddenly becoming addicted to books--and what effect that this constant reading has on her, her obligations and every other person in her life.

Here's part of Publisher's Weekly's review: "Briskly original and subversively funny, this novella sends Queen Elizabeth II into a mobile library van in pursuit of her runaway corgis and into the reflective, observant life of an avid reader. Guided by Norman, a former kitchen boy and enthusiast of gay authors, the queen gradually loses interest in her endless succession of official duties and learns the pleasure of such a common activity. Bennett has fun with the proper behavior and protocol at the palace, and the few instances of mild coarseness seem almost scandalous. It's a fun little book."

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Our beloved creek-pt. 2

The environmental engineers are hard at work on our creek, making it healthier, to put it in a nutshell.

Here are this week's efforts--primarily shoring up the bank, especially at a near 90 degree bend.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Our annual LLL days

Our annual Learning, Leisure and Legislation summer community days are this week and they already are off to a very good start. Great conversations and sharings Wednesday on issues on our past, present and future that engage and energize all of us. Tuesday night LLL opened with a lovely Evening Prayer followed by a dinner and celebration of our six jubilarians this year: three 70-year celebrants, two 60-year celebrants and one Golden jubilarian.

Leisure time gives us a chance to "be around" in a different way than ordinary days. Here are two sites that caught my eye already:

Our inner courtyard Blessed Mother is surrounded by clematis and hydrangea these days and they are truly stunning.

Out on East Lake Rd, down by the entrance to Glinodo you'll find this old, weather-worn, utilitarian fire hydrant. Never noticed, never needed (hopefully). But, at this time of year the roadside chicory circles it with a kind of beauty it certainly isn't used to!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Shuffling off

Throughout the summer, in every Sunday newspaper, we've seen large PR inserts for tourist attractions in the summertime in Buffalo, NY. Now this is the Buffalo that ended only 2" behind us in the winter snowglobe snow accumulation contest for winter 2016-17!

We have a friend that is a Buffalo native and we accompanied her to Canalside, the summer events in downtown Buffalo and I have to say, "They are wonderful." Additionally, a large part of them are free, parking is also free or reasonable (depending on what you find) and there were people galore enjoying the water activities, the gorgeous gardens, the tours, music and food. I highly recommend it if you live in the area and would like a one-day getaway.

Here's the view from our lunch table, kayaks and a bike pedaling pontoon for one! They added a floating Tiki bar this year, too.

Both a large plastic checkers and chess set can be played on the boardwalk.

The gardens are beautiful and they line 1/2 mile or so of riverside walkways.

Military monuments and older ships are in permanent dock along the river, too. They are so big!

Though many of Buffalo's factories of the 20th century are abandoned, General Mills is still there. They produce Gold Medal flour, Lucky Charms and Cherrios. The smell was evidence of their production.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Our beloved creek

Seven-Mile Creek is getting a long-awaited assistance this week as the work to improve the creek's flow, clean up the creek generally and strengthen the sides and counter the effects of erosion have begun.

Thanks to an environmental grant that will cover the great majority of the work, our beloved creek (and a favorite among fishing folk, hikers and guests) will be given a much-needed environmentally sound new look.

Here's a photo from over 3 years ago of the "island" of shale that was accumulating in the middle of it.

And here's how it looks today---along with other work-in-progress photos.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


It's a quiet week in "Lake Wobegone" east--in Erie. The Roar on the Shore annual motorcycle rally last weekend is now over and the annual Presque Isle Days, next weekend, is not here yet, so we are caught in between two major events of the area--and it's somewhat calmer. That said, we had a large "crowd" here for Mass Sunday and a marvelous sermon/homily/reflections by our presider, who gave a unique and creative twist to the well-known parables of the sower and of the mustard seed. We are so blessed with such fine priests for our Sunday liturgies.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A symphony

Our long-term guest from Australia describes our spring and summer here in the US Northeast as being like a musical symphony. "Certain flowers come out and then in their time fade away, just as the next group is blooming. They have their designated time and then pass on into the background as the next ones come forth. This has been going on ever since May!"

I think she is quite poetic and has indeed captured the spring and summer blossoms here in our area.

This week the daisies are nearing the end of their 2017 showing and the Black-eyed Susans are just coming out.

P.S. She gets the biggest kick, however, out of our Night-blooming Evening Primrose. Like so many guests, she has never seen anything like them before! Ditto, all of us, the first year.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

On the beach

Princeton archives
Original F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts
Daring heist
Charming antique bookshop and owner
Novice spy for the FBI
Camino Island, Florida
John Grisham's summer contribution
Clever story, great writing!

Nerdy scientist raising 2 daughters
Assistant needs green card
Modern day Taming of the Shrew
You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar:
"Why you want to catch flies, vinegar girl?"
Kate and Pyotr
Last chapter: 11 years later
Anne Tyler-the best dialogue writer ever!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Our Lady of Sorrows

Today we're asking for your prayers. Last week a horrendous car crash occurred in our town. It killed all three men who were in a car that crashed into a large tractor trailer on a major state highway that runs through the middle of our city. The car was traveling at 90-100 mph and investigators still aren't sure whether it was a medical emergency of the driver or a malfunction in the accelerator that caused it. First responders said the scene looked like something out of an airplane crash rather than a car accident.

Three close friends, Butchie, Willie and Scooter, two 65 and one 72, died instantly. The city is mourning these men who died in this shocking accident. Please remember their families and friends in your prayers.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Coming Home

Coming Home I
Sleeping in my bed
The pillow fits as it should
Ah, it must be home!

Coming Home II
Will I remember?
The chant welcomes the new day
I join in one sound.

Coming Home III
Can't you feel the air?
I know it now and anywhere
Home is only here.

This is the yellow day lilies' time.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Summer meditation

From Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day"

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Here's a treat: listen to Mary Oliver read this poem herself! Here.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Plants and things

A few years ago a gift store's advertisement declared that it was the place for "plants and things." For some reason that term stuck with me and I often use it whenever I'm talking about plants and any other things. Thus, today's sharing: Plants and things.

We all know that going out of town, on vacation or even overnight for 24 hours is a major decision if you have pets (especially cats or birds) and/or plants. They don't want a break in their routine and they want that routine delivered by you!

Just leaving for two weeks caused me to ask two sisters if they could water my plants. One gets the six ferns in the dining room and the ficus in the community room. The ferns, especially will make me "pay" when I get home. They will drop fronds everywhere and cry out in dryness, but I'll talk and coo to them for the first week or so and be especially careful and generous with water and plant food. They'll come around. The second sister has less persnickety ones: a dozen in the library, another dozen in two offices and the ficus in the foyer at the main entrance. They might not even know I'm away--but I do worry about the orchids, they aren't blooming right now, but they are so delicate all the time it seems.

So, I thought I had done my duty and obligation to the living things in my life, but lo and behold here on vacation we inherited indoor and outdoor plants----and two fish! The plants seem to be ok, but the fish, not so much. They aren't floating on the surface, but they look a little listless. Guilt is flowing.

Plants and things, plants and things, they are always with us!

Even at Mass Saturday night--plants---which I studied and studied---and finally knew that these eight spiders were fake. Very nice fakes, but fake. Lucky them!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Down the shore

I believe this may be an osprey, on its nest in the grassy sound between the mainland and the shore beaches.

Waiting to go to the beaches!

Lighthouse at Wildwood, NJ

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Chapel goings on

Two chapel goings on to share with you today:
1) Ten+ years ago when our chapel was renovated (drippy roof to name just one need) one of the most creative changes was to take the three tall stained glass windows that formed the east wall of the foyer and move them out about 15 feet where they are still the east wall, but this time it's for a new little adoration/private chapel that was added on. This weekend at about 8:15 am the brightness of the rising sun shone through these windows and then through the decorative opaque windows on the other side, and finally, into the chapel foyer. This is a rare, rare sight, at least for me. Can you see the blue cross from the stained glass?

2) At Sunday Mass I believe we had a first. The sister who went up to the podium to read the Prayers of the Faithful, brought out her ipad and read them from it! First time for us--usually they are read from a standard piece of paper. BTW, we know of a Benedictine community whose whole psalter has been put on ipads and it's from them that the sisters pray every day!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Return of the natives

We've left the hot and sunny shores of the Gulf Coast of Florida, their beauty and lifestyle already a memory.
Now it's the Great Lake Plains again with their lush and growing grape vineyards, a newborn fawn the size of a small dog seen in our backyard this week, and the celebration of the summer solstice with bright sun, low humidity and a 76 degree high temperature.

To top it all off I had to go to our next door neighborhood town of North East this evening and while there, parked in a metered spot.

I had quarters, but I couldn't resist--used nickels and dimes instead: Quarter =30 minutes, Dime = 12 minutes. Nickel = 6 minutes!

Ah, home sweet home!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Monastic life in Florida, 2 of 2

The altar at Holy Name Monastery.

A unique wall-hanging in the guest wing.

The backyard of the one-story monastery. Their bell tower kind of looks like a oil rig, but is very nice.

Their new bishop came for the blessing of the guest wing. He is 6'8" and towered over everyone. Then he added a mitre. WOW. Can you say James Comey?!

Another beautiful Florida flowering plant. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Monastic life in Florida, 1 of 2

Gecko are everywhere. Here's one caught in the act of "expanding"! Google says it's related to breathing, social interaction and sniffing!

We could not figure out what these cemented into the grass all over campus things were. Umbrella holders? They are for Disk Golf which is big in the south! 

It's always great to see a whole different world of flowers and foliage.

I think a hawk, in a tree covered by hanging Spanish Moss.

Birds of paradise growing naturally.

Lake Jovita, home to a number of alligators (!!!), is the jewel of the campus. Benches are everywhere.

In 1889 a group of Benedictine monks from Latrobe, PA arrived here and helped establish the first Catholic college in Florida. It was named for Pope Leo the Great (XIII) and Abbot Leo Haid, OSB, the college's first president. Also in 1889 Benedictine sisters from Pittsburgh arrived and began Holy Name Monastery. Today the 14 sisters and dozen monks still have a role in the University, which is, by enrollment, the fourth largest Catholic College in the USA--behind Notre Dame, Loyola and St. John's (NYC).Beautiful campus, too.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sand Hill Cranes

Have arrived in St. Leo, Florida, about 45 minutes northeast of Tampa and the home to two Benedictine houses: St. Leo Abbey of monks and Holy Name Monastery of sisters of our federation. We are staying at St. Leo University, an interesting situation, as it almost died away a few years ago, but was resurrected as primarily an online university! And it is flourishing! See here.

It has a very lovely campus with those long and low tan or stone buildings that seem to be what Florida is built on. Here is a statue of what I suspect is a Benedictine monk directing a young man. The arches help show you how stunning the architecture is here. Function for sure, but much more beauty.

And, to that end, St. Leo is home to some of the (famous) Florida Sand Hill Cranes.
We've seen them already, but haven't heard their unique call.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Thomas Merton

A week with Thomas Merton and his "takes" on monastic life. Very fine. Well-presented by Bonnie Thurston, a Merton scholar. Enjoyed by all. We are blessed indeed.

“Every moment and every event of every person's life on earth plants something in their soul.” Thomas Merton, OCSO

Things in the grass with which one becomes enamored when walking around on retreat!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

#100 and continuing

Late in 2016 we welcomed to Erie Tom Roberts, the National Catholic Reporter's editor-in-chief, outstanding writer-in-chief, supporter of women religious-in-chief and all around dedicated Catholic and truth seeker-in-chief.

Tom came to Erie to work on some stories, one of which was to hear about our Take Back the Site Vigils for homicide victims and to consider a story of the collaborative efforts made by the three communities of women religious in Erie who sponsor them. Soon after he left, the 100th vigil (since we held #1 in November 1999 in the parking lot of a local Dairy Queen) occurred.

Tom is one busy guy and there are lots of current news and assignments he has to cover, but last week, true to his word, the article on our TBTS--in the streets public prayer--was published online. You can read it here.

Thanks, Tom, and thanks to all the sisters and oblates of the Benedictines for Peace committee who have been so faithful in organizing and continuing these powerful, yet terribly somber and sad events. They indeed have had an impact on our city and its residents.

Oh, one note: in the very last photo in the article you'll see a tall man in a suit and tie in the back left. This was a photo from TBTS vigil # 104 a couple weeks ago--his first one to attend, though he told me that he had been hearing about them for years. Who is he? He's the favored candidate running for mayor this November for the City of Erie!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Come Holy Spirit

This weekend we experienced two wonderful liturgical events: the First Monastic Profession of two of our sisters during Evening Praise on Saturday night and the great Feast of Pentecost on Sunday morning. They were both marvelous, joyous, deeply moving and significant experiences, especially, I hope, for the large crowd that attended the Mass on Pentecost.

Our presider, Father Mike, gave fine reflections, the two sisters who planned the liturgy were creative and inclusive and at the very end, when a rousing song began for the closing, we had some spontaneous dancing break out in the center of chapel, similar to what happens at Easter.

This never fails to remind me of a note that went up on our main bulletin board a number of years ago from the planners of the Sunday liturgy. Here is what it read: "At tomorrow's Mass we'd like to have spontaneous dancing accompany the closing song. There will be no practice."

A number of very large gardens are in neighborhoods in the small townships and boroughs surrounding Erie. Many of them open their gardens to the public every year. It's a lovely gesture and these self-guided tours are very popular. We drove out to one last week and caught this beauty in one of the flowered areas. I'd say it is about 12-14" in height. Just stunning.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Two favorites

I've baptized one of my friends with the new nickname "Willow" because she reminds me of the little owl that I wrote about a month ago (see April 30). Willow is the Tamarack Center's resident hospitality queen, as she's the one they turn to whenever a new batch of orphaned, usually hurt, baby birds come into their place for care. Willow steps right up (flies right up?!) and becomes their friend, protector and guide during their stay. That's what our "Willow" does for newcomers here...she is a natural when it comes to hospitality and, as she is doing this week with our latest 20-something summer intern who has just moved in, has stepped up to become a kind of guide to the who, what, where, when, whys and how of moving into a 65-resident monastery!

This is one of my favorite photos. I first took it 3-4 years ago as I was walking the grounds of Benetwood Apartments which are located on the southern part of our property. To me the rather freely flowing, lovely white and purple irises, up against the weathered, yet practically built out building made a striking pairing. I wait for the scene every year and this is the week. I saw it yesterday. It looks exactly the same! I can't help but share it with you again. I hope that you have once-a-year spring scenes that you eagerly await each year, too.