Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Being blown away--twice

My friend who has a camera with a super-duper lens happened to look outside this week and saw our blue birds still flitting around their blue bird house and the nearby bushes, trees and benches--all empty and unused now--except for the birds, of course.

I saw them myself the next day..Pepsi blue is what I call their color. In the late afternoon sun they just glowed. We are blessed.

Photos by Jo Clarke

In the new book, Devotions, I've moved into the '70s now, and was blown away by this entry. I have been to Walden Pond, BTW, though it was a number of years ago. The "trick of living and finding it where you are," I'm still visiting.

Going to Walden

It isn't very far as highways lie.
I might be back by nightfall, having seen
The rough pines, and the stones, and the clear water.

Friends argue that I might be wiser for it.
They do not hear that far-off Yankee whisper:
How dull we grow from hurrying here and there!
Many have gone, and think me half a fool
To miss a day away in the cool country.

Maybe. But in a book I read and cherish,
Going to Walden is not so easy a thing
As a green visit. It is the slow and difficult
Trick of living, and finding it where you are.

Mary Oliver

Sunday, November 26, 2017

End of the year

Whenever I write about the "end of the church year" I always feel like the reader is reacting something like most of us do when we read about the coming of the latest Chinese New Year or the beginning of the next Jewish year--meaning that most Chinese, Jews and Christians aren't really fluent in the nuances of the changeover to their "new" year.

Regardless, we are indeed entering the last week of the Christian Church's year--liturgical year. Another, much more understandable way to say it might be this: Advent starts next Sunday. That might help--or not!

This has all been an introduction to these new photos:

Every (calendar) year at the end of November and early December, the sun in our part of the globe takes on a characteristic angle that mixes with the southern wall of our stained glass windows to produce reflections and refractions that appear only at this time.The two window photos in the right hand column were also taken in early December--in two different years.

What makes these two rather special to me are that 1) the sun was so bright that it made the colors inside the chapel as bright as I've ever seen them and 2) this is best I've seen the colors on the back of our wooden chairs--bright, bright. And beautiful. It is really tempting to want to do one of those National Geographic-type experiments where you could spend 4 hours just sitting in chapel, taking photos every 5 minutes or so, to catch the whole progression of this phenomenon and various iterations that would occur with such a vigil.

BTW, as a New Year's gift, I'd gladly send the original electronic copy of either of these photos to any of you who would like one. Just email me and tell me which one (or both) that you'd like, I'll attach them and off they'll go to you. Only ask that if you post them or share them you would credit the place Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, PA and me as the photographer.

Happy New Year!

PS. Joan's book, The Liturgical Year, is both a readable, educational and enjoyable look at the Christian "Church year"...available through amazon for less than $5.00

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Devotions is the title of a newly published book of Mary Oliver's poetry.

The book is large, 455 pages, and has poems chosen by the author, from 27 of her books beginning in 1963 up to and including Felicity in 2015.

Here's one of those 1960s poems, written before she was 30 years old, before she won the Pulitzer Prize, before she became "Mary Oliver"---undoubtedly the most popular and most quoted poet in the US today:

Morning in a New Day

In trees still dripping night, some nameless birds
woke, shook out their arrowy wings and sang,
slowly, like finches shifting through a dream.
The pink sun fell, like glass, into the fields.
Two chestnuts, and a dapple gray,
their shoulders wet with light, their dark hair streaming, climbed the hill. The last mist fell away.

And under the trees, beyond time's brittle drift
I stood like Adam in his lonely garden
on that first morning, shaken out of sleep,
rubbing his eyes, listening, parting the leaves,
like tissue on some vast incredible gift.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thing 1,thing 2, thing 3

What's going on in our little part of the world this week? Not too much, gratefully. On the other hand lots of little interesting and important things! Here are three of them:

Thing 1: Another potential Benedicta Riepp seeker has come to see if she would like to live our life for a short period of time. The first month of residence is to answer that question--from both sides. And then the next 6-12 months is spent among us. She must be #18-19 that we've had since the first woman came in 1999. We are blessed.

Thing 2: Snow has finally come, albeit wet and short-lived. I was up by our interstate this weekend (about 4 miles south of the Mount) and it was really coming down. By the time we got home there wasn't any at all, but it's all around us. I lived with an earth science teacher once and she never ceased to share her delight in living in what she called a unique part of the planet with unique weather and unique land. She was, of course, referring to the huge body of water on our northern border and the lake effect snow and beautiful, moderate summers we have--that co-exist in the same place! Her primary lesson: if you live near a large "thing" on the earth (ocean, mountain, desert, canyons, rivers, plains, etc) everything that happens to you, in the earth science sense, is because of it.

Thing 3: We have just finished watching another season of one of those BBC mystery series we love. This one was "Endeavor" a prequel of the popular "Inspector Morse" series. The newer stories take place in the first years of Detective Endeavor Morse's work in the Oxford, England police force. The acting is superb and the stories are great, too. Our cozy, cold winter nights' entertainment is beginning.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Final look

I believe that this is the "final look" at our Seven-Mile Creek restoration project: the addition of trees and bushes.

I was standing in the grass, just before the big turn in the creek and took the first photo while pivoting to my right and then the second photo, pivoting left. The environmental engineers have made a very nice and quite wide patch of foliage right at the end of the drive into Glinodo, before you get to the cabins and lakefront.

I was told that these young trees and bushes come from the "tree nursery" that one of our sisters had a hand in procuring at one of our city housing developments a year or so ago. The idea, if I recall correctly, was to get young teens involved in the idea of planting such things around their homes and open areas.

We hope they survive the winter in their new "home" ground!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

In the news

This weekend we were certainly in the news. Here is the local announcement of our newest finally professed member. The actual photo on the page was this size, too!

And in the local newspaper as well as in the bi-weekly newspaper of the Catholic diocese, this "pictorial announcement" of our first centenarian was published (October 29 issue, page 2).

In the summer we feed the birds for our sake, in the winter for theirs. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

On the Road Again

I'm taking a last couple days of vacation by "hitting the road"and visiting a Benedictine monastery that I have never visited but have wanted to visit for a long time: Our Lady of Grace Monastery-- which is tucked in a residential neighborhood in a suburb of a very large city: Indianapolis, IN.

Although I had never been to this suburb, Beech Grove, I do remember with fondness this part of the country as I spent 3 summers here just south of Indianapolis in the college town of West Lafayette, home of Purdue University, getting my masters. So my fondness for Indiana is real.

True to their patron, the community has this lovely devotional alcove right outside their chapel.

Their chapel has been "right sized" from the original huge one to this more intimate setting for very nice prayer and liturgies.

I gasped right out loud when I saw this huge glass jar packed with pop can tabs! We save them at home, too, but our "piggy bank" is a 20 oz old peanut butter jar.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Japanese dwarf

This weekend was a little sparse around our place. It was the first "free" weekend in quite awhile and a number of sisters took the opportunity to visit, shop, go out to a movie or show--all things that have been on the proverbial back burner lately. Our four sisters in formation, one postulant and three first professed, traveled south to a retreat center about 1/2 way to Pittsburgh, for a gathering of 30+ men and women--all in formation--from the tri-state area. They reported that the presentations were excellent, in addition to giving them all a chance to hob-nob with others in a similar "seeking" mode. Along with the Benedictine T4 program (an online opportunity for chat and exchange among US Benedictine women in the same stages of formation) these inter-community programs are the way to go nowadays.

Back home we benefited from yet another fine reflection at liturgy Sunday. Among his reflections our presider referenced our dwarf Japanese maple that is in its autumn splendor right now. I'm ashamed to admit that I have passed right by it lately and not noticed. So, I ran right out (at a break in our all day rain) and caught this photo. He is right, it is beautiful now. I found this very impressive name online "Scarlet Princess Dwarf Japanese Maple." I'm not sure it really is one of these, but we can pretend.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Grand openings

The first of November brought the first holiday cactus in bloom. More honestly, it bloomed in relative "solitary confinement" in the library on the long east window shelves and I just came upon it on my weekly Monday afternoon watering task. It's one of the smaller ones, but very pretty with strongly pink tipped flowers. I'm sure the other ones aren't far behind. I am especially fond of the old ones...some have to be 20-25 years old....and, of course, the yellow one. Monday was the death anniversary of Sr. Benedict from whose cactus I got one leaf which turned into the full yellow cactus plant of today. "Watch this spot" for all their grand openings over the next few weeks!