Sunday, October 22, 2017


Even though our recent temps are higher than average for mid-October, autumn is coming anyway! The trees are turning, albeit later than most years. The grapes have just been harvested and their smells still linger along Routes 5 and 20 for all the traffic going by. And, here's this summer's growth on one of my little evergreens, planted maybe 4 years ago now. Its growth is rather slow now but I know that it will go faster in years to come. Meanwhile it's pretty well protected by the larger trees nearby and, as you can see, the leaves and the ground coverage.

The fact that we are having a lot of (somewhat unwelcome) Canada geese who are spending their days grazing on our lawn, made me want to share Mary Oliver's lovely autumn-time poem, "Wild Geese."

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

They're everywhere

Visiting St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota is "a wonder around every corner," as it is the home of the late iconographer and artist Sister Mary Charles McGough (d.2007). The "wonder" is seeing her work everywhere--be it in chapel or in every hall--residence, dining hall or even the ground floor. And, to see the originals of the prints that we all have in our rooms and offices, that we use as cards and bookmarks. It is just wonderful. I find myself on the lookout wherever I go. Here is just a sampling:

THE most popular contemporary Benedict and Scholastica of the past few decades. This original is about 4-5 feet tall, on wood and in a specially lit alcove of their chapel.

The original of her the Holy Rule of Benedict of which we have a print copy in our gathering space. These pages are of special paper.

One of her etchings or metal works. I'm not sure which. It's just in an everyday hallway as so many of her works are here. 

Perhaps her second most popular icon. Again on a round piece of wood, maybe 2" deep and 3' in diameter, in the main corridor of the monastery. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Tale of Two Trips

This week I'm in Minnesota, very north, Duluth right on Lake Superior in fact. Their autumn peak was last week but it still looked like we were landing in fields of gold as we flew in... tops of golden trees everywhere. And Lake Superior can be seen right from my window (we are four stories up).

But I forgot to relate one memorable moment from our other trip out of town 10 days ago to Canada---at the other end of the Great Lakes. As we crossed the Peace Bridge on our way home we were told that our car had been chosen at random for a customs check. What that ended up being was a one hour delay in a large crowded room of 50-60 people waiting to cross into the USA. Mostly families, all Middle Eastern or Indian or African I'd guess. We were in the minority in race and gender--- it wasn't even close. It was quite the experience---not unpleasant but very "official." Everyone was just sitting or standing quietly until their party was called. All I could think about was what it must be like at more militarized checkpoints around the world. In a word: terrible.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Eight in eight

I'm dubbing the eight weeks of September and October this year as the Eight in Eight experience....meaning that we had/are having eight major events in these eight weeks. Wheee...they are all wonderful, but a little bit exhausting. It's no wonder I find myself gravitating to the woods more often, just to catch a breather from Mother Nature and see what's going on in the natural world. Here are two happenings that I came upon this week. I wonder what stories they would tell if they could!

Here is a telephone pole like arrangement of beautiful fungi on a tree in the little park area of Benetwood Apartments, just south of us. It's really stunning, but rather hidden away. Maybe others will come take a look when they see it here!

Now here's a real-life mystery. A real baseball right along the path we walk regularly at Glinodo--but it wasn't there last weekend, I assure you! It is covered with cuts and gouges....and 100 yards ahead of it we came upon a fat ground hog scurrying away. Ah, ha!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Wonder of the world

So here we were: myself, my sister and our cousin. One summer my parents decided to take us on a "road trip" across the country to California and back. We were all teenagers at the time, so we experienced this with mixed "drama"! Although I do remember parts of it a bit, one of my strongest memories was meeting a family at the Grand Canyon who were also on a road trip--from California to Niagara Falls! We couldn't imagine traveling 1,000s of miles to see something that was in our own backyard and to which we had traveled numerous times!

Well, it's been about 15 years since I've seen this backyard beauty so when I had the chance to go there this week, I was thrilled--and it was to the Canadian side to boot! We had what they call a "Falls view" room in the hotel and a couple of these pictures were taken right through the window. (We were attending the CWR, Communicators of Women Religious conference---the great people who run the communications depts. of communities of sisters throughout the US and Canada).

What a beautiful, stunning and amazing wonder it is. Haven't seen it in person? Time for a road trip!

The Falls from the Canadian side. Rainbows are very common.

Horseshoe Falls--named because they have a horseshoe shape.

The famous Maid of the Mist boat ride in the Niagara River. It gets very near to the Falls and all the "flamingo" passengers get quite wet!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Make me a channel of your peace

The feast of St. Francis was celebrated fully this year: an icon graced our chapel entrance way, our hymns at both Morning and Evening Prayer told of the beauties and glories of creation--in all its forms and the Prayer of St. Francis was recited at the end of the day as a final Franciscan  send off.
Here's a choir singing "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace."

Yesterday, as our afternoons have returned to the 70s, I took the opportunity to clean up our five trellises, each of which had featured a beautiful clematis this summer. The largest trellis held the largest plant. It was so thick that no one could see what was hidden deep within, until I uncovered it. Nature is full of surprises, isn't it?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

October=early signs of autumn

The calendar pages turned to October this weekend and I realized that we are beginning to see the first signs of autumn around the monastery and around the rest of our world, too. Here are some that seem to come out right away:

* After the hummingbirds have flown through our area on their way to Mexico, our shepherd's hook converts from a holder for hummingbird nectar to one for suet bars and it moves from the inner courtyard to the east lawn right under my window (easier to keep filled and bird watch). Ditto for apples for the deer population, thanks to the helpful sorters among our kitchen staff who save the uneatable ones for us to set out for the deer. They are not really needed now so much, but come January and February....

* The cosmos flowers are still in bloom and we had a beautiful arrangement in chapel this weekend for the environment. So nice to see their wispy, delicate appearance this late in the season;

* The air-conditioning hasn't been automatically coming on for a few days, but neither is the heat. We're caught in that in between time. Thank goodness for sweaters and windows that open and close as needed;

* We have baskets and baskets of freshly picked Concord grapes out every day--delicious;

* Sisters are getting in their last bike rides, golf rounds, vacation days and ice cream cones at Sara's. We won't see them again until April;

* The many feast days that fill the liturgical year in October, November and December have started--Guardian angels, Theresa, Francis, All Saints, Souls, Nicholas, Guadalupe and many, many more--they bring days of rich prayers and beautiful song.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Venues change, sadness does not

This week, at the beginning of the latest and quite unusual Take Back the Site vigil, one of my former students who now helps organize them, said to me, "I think with this one we are finally 'caught up,' it's been a long time." It took me a second to get what she was saying--finally we have held TBTS prayer for all the victims of a homicide in Erie; there are none still to be held. Unfortunately through most of 2017 we haven't been able to keep up with them in a timely fashion--there was always one waiting to be held. But now they are all in.

This one may be the most unusual we've held in terms of venue. These photos will show you that it was held on a pier, right on the bay in downtown Erie. The woman we prayed for was killed on their family fishing boat and put into Lake Erie. The date was in June; her body appeared about 30 miles east of Erie a month later.

More photos from one of our local media groups are here. Scroll down for a short video.

It was so moving to be praying for such a reason on a beautiful, warm late summer day, next to the bay/lake that we all love. When I went into work the next day I browsed through the listing of all TBTS prayers and noticed quite a number of unusual venues, ones I never would have expected when this all started.

Sure the most common ones are outside bars or corner eating places, fights or disagreements on the street. Ditto for a few drive-bys. The ones that I couldn't have predicted and were therefore, memorable included one at a Dairy Queen, a couple in upper middle-class suburban neighborhoods, at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse that had been converted into HUD apartments, inside a high rise apartment complex, at a corner convenience store, along the fence of a neighborhood baseball field, in the green space surrounding a huge mall complex, and on the corner 1/2 block from our workplace.

Eternal rest grant unto them O God.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Walking for Peace

Our Benedictines for Peace committee has initiated monthly Silent Walks for Peace at designated sites in Erie. We had our second one this week and it was an eye-opener for me, a native Erieite who had never been to the pier at the foot of East Avenue near the Erie Coke plant. This plant, a longtime environmental concern, is one of many along the lakeshore that environmentalists and health experts have challenged for decades over the effects on the air and water quality of their productions.

Despite the smokestacks, remnants of the now-closed paper plant, and the nearby still-in-operation coke plant, children were frolicking in the lake as we gathered. No, I won't--not for $1,000.

A beautiful sky as the sun set over Presque Isle, just a short distance across the water.

And this took my breath away--alongside the sidewalks and black-topped roads we walked, this beautiful flowering bit of nature---amidst a not-so-friendly natural area. Just stunning.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

9-22 this year's fall equinox

Sister Anne, prioress, returned safely from her two-week trip to South Korea. The three Benedictine communities of women they visited have a total of 1,000 sisters! All of them have schools and they visited numerous kindergartens and were sung to by the children. Here she is "surrounded." Note the subtleties: peace sign, water bottle, European St. Benedict in the background. Can you find any others?! They also visited some men's communities and were amazed by the "industries" they had built up as their income sources.

Back on the home front, signs of the fading summer and early autumn are showing full force. Here are some great fungi on an old stump by Hermitage #1. Beautiful in their own right. Our temperatures are cheating summer a bit and giving us sunny, warm days in the high 70s, with even two 80s last week. We continue to eat meals on the back least until the snow flies!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

September golf

Golfing in the early fall is totally different from summer golf. This weekend I experienced two of the many reasons--both delightful.

I was looking for my ball that I thought flew past some evergreen trees and as I approached the little grove, look what I found--an autumn group of mushrooms--which are all over the place in our world right now. This shot is via my phone as I put my club down. BTW, my ball was not here, luckily nearby out in the open!

I don't play on country club courses as a rule, but rather on these real country courses which in many cases have been built in between the grape fields. By mid-September the grapes are just about ready and their smell travels even into your car as you go by them-- Miles and miles of Concord grapes. This year has been a very, very good one, as I can personally attest now, as we taste-tested them on both the second and eighth holes! Sweet and warm and delicious. WOW!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hidden stars

I was utterly "gobsmacked" the other morning as I cut through the inner courtyard on the way to the dining room for breakfast. "Hidden" up against the west wall, so that you have to be out in the garden to see it, is this I've-been-green-all-summer trellised plant. WOW, look at it now! They look like little falling white star bursts.

Gobsmacked: adjective, chiefly British informal.
utterly astounded; astonished.

Contemporary definitions for gobsmacked:
flabbergasted, shocked.

And just in time for our 100+ guests this weekend for William Meninger's retreat!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Break in (late) summer

After a week of cool, damp days we caught a break in the weather for the weekend. It was particularly nice for a weekend retreat we had--a dozen or so women for Mid-Life, Long-Life sessions. They had a wonderful time, helped in at least a small part by milder temps and sunny days.

Meanwhile, yours truly was squeezing out all of summer that I could with a trip to Presque Isle. This time I found these sights--one in a pond, one along a roadside. Truly, heavenly.

A half a world away, in South Korea, our prioress was engaged in an international meeting of Benedictine women from around the world. Here she is (You can always tell the Americans!). She's having a great time and enjoying seeing some of the Korean sisters who had spent time with us here in Erie, in their native land and home monastery.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


My morning companion is looking at me (which is one of her major occupations whenever there is a person in the room) and chirping away softly.

Not a bad way to spend a rainy morning working at a desk....having another part of creation nearby. Ditto the flowering shamrock plant on the window sill.

(Don't miss the 1/2 crunched file cabinet label that she reached one in: Bring your pet to work day and be ready for anything!)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

On being and becoming


Everyone now and again wonders about
those questions that have no ready
answers: first cause, God's existence,
what happens when the curtain goes
down and nothing stops it, not kissing,
not going to the mall, not the Super

"Wild roses," I said to them one morning.
"Do you have the answers? And if you do,
would you tell me?"

The roses laughed softly, "Forgive us,"
they said. "But as you can see, we are
just now entirely busy being roses."

Don't Worry

Things take the time they take.
Don't worry.

How many roads did St. Augustine follow
before he became St. Augustine?

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Our beloved creek-pt 4

How is our creek restoration project doing, you ask? It is "settling in"--things are growing, I would say. Here is a long shot of the bank at the almost 90 degree turn that the creek makes and a close up of the grass which is growing very nicely, through the macrame-like carpet support that is, I suspect, part of the anti-erosion, new bank material. I don't know if the planting of bushes and trees will be taking place this fall or early next spring. We shall see. If you missed any of the first three reports, with photos, see blog entries on July 26, August 6 and August 13.

On another note, we received the nicest, supportive and complementary editorial in our local newspaper, the Erie Times News, Wednesday morning: "Benedictines lead quest for peace." The result was that over 200 people showed up that evening for the first of monthly silent walks for peace. WOW! Thank you Benedictines for Peace committee for your idea and efforts to get this latest venture started off and for making it one that welcomes participation by the whole city of Erie.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Our family tree

This week a new addition to our administrative hall is a framed poster that shows five "generations" of Benedictine communities of women of American federations all of which originated from a community in Eichstatt, Bavaria, Germany and a small group of sisters that came here in 1852.

There are nine communities in along the trunk of the tree (first generation), many more than that in the second and third generations and even one in what is listed as the fifth generation. All total there are about 50: most are still active communities today, but a number have closed--some had rather short lives, others longer.

It's called A Heritage Tree and is a lovely project by the heritage committee that has been working on the archives et al of the first community of the tree: St. Joseph Monastery in St. Marys, PA 1852-2014.

The latest is a community in Puerto Rico, begun in 2000. And where do we fit in this "family"? We are number 2: 1856-

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Our bay

This week, fifteen of us were able to take advantage of an invitation for a sailboat ride on Presque Isle Bay one evening. Oh my! the water was like glass, the temperature was warm, the breeze just enough for the sails to be up, and an hour and a half trip became a soothing and beautiful balm for a late summer day.

One of our sister's friends took this photo from the shoreline, not knowing it was we and our boat. Yes, it is this glorious. Thank you, Bill and family.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

All around us

Within the continual, almost daily upsetting and disturbing news reports about our upside down political situations, beginning with Washington, DC and spreading out from there, the beauties all around us help me keep hope alive....especially in the belief of the basic goodness of people of good will and, as seen here, in the awesome beauty of the natural world.....frankly, the world that is made up of other life than human beings!

Our weekend joys:

Right under my bedroom window Saturday morning

On a dock at the Presque Isle marina

Courtesy of the man fishing.

The monarchs are passing through.

The purple martin will be right behind in a few weeks.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Music Man

A surprise bloom here in the final weeks of summer and it is a real beauty: tall, seemingly delicate, yet they are staying vertical by some magical power, I'd say!  Google images seems to support that they may be amaryllis--which, of course, reminded me of Professor Harold Hill of Music Man fame and the little girl who played Marian, madame librarian's piano student: Amaryllis.

Meanwhile we are also experiencing a late summer surge in guests--though that in itself is not unusual. Our Sunday liturgies have been larger than usual for the past few weeks and I believe the "culprit" is family reunions. Happy, laughing multi-generational groups seem to be with us every week, many we certainly know, of course, and we look forward to seeing these out-of-towners every year.

One of the blessings many of our sisters give us when they pass onto eternal life is a continuing relationship with their family members. It keeps our memories of them warm and alive. We are indeed blessed.

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.