Sunday, September 15, 2019

A sad milestone

This week we held our 125th Take Back the Site prayer vigil, reclaiming for nonviolence a place in our city that was the site of a recent homicide.

Since November 1999 we have been sponsoring these and if you have attended a number of them, as most of us have, there are repetitions in the stories and circumstances that are all too familiar. That's why this latest one stands out--it was very unique from all the others.

Quoting from the Words of Comfort, written and read by one of our sisters, "Michael (who was 23) was from Michigan, visiting Erie briefly. No one seems to have a clear idea of why he was here or for how long. Someone somewhere is mourning his loss but for most of us, he was a stranger to our city--no obituary to read or guest book to sign in our local newspaper, no calling hours in a local funeral parlor, no family or neighbors to come forward to acknowledge his loss and be comforted by our care."

Once again a group gathered along a busy street and mourned the loss of a human life in our city. Over the years we have had multiple homicides in the same families and have lost many, many young men. Commonly the venues are disputes on the streets outside business establishments, often fueled by anger and alcohol or another drug. But Michael's case was special and although there were no family or friends present, the sadness was the same, the prayers as sincere, and the mourning deeply touching each soul. Rest in peace, Michael.



The day after a heavy rainstorm with fierce winds passing through our region,
our neighbors congregated under two oak trees and feasted on the acorns
that were all along the smaller tree limbs that feel during the windstorm. 



Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been back in the news lately and that has made me listen to the song, "Far Afghanistan," sung by James Taylor. It has a haunting melody and lyrics so I wanted to share it with you, as I did this week with a friend. The line that most affected her was, "If he makes it home alive, they teach him how to fight" and for me it was, "But nothing could prepare me for the beauty of the place." It should give you pause for thought, I'm sure. Beautiful, sad, haunting all wrapped up as one.


Many years ago the Erie Times News reported that there had been a sighting of an albino deer on our peninsula, aka Presque Isle State Park. My friend Nancy and I often took rides around the peninsula and sure enough one weekend afternoon we saw it in a field with other deer. It wasn't totally white, more of a very, very light tan, but certainly albino-ish! Flash forward decades and our kitchen/food service manager shared this photo of an albino deer that is living near them, south of the city. Amazing!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Unusual

This week's guest list showed some unusual names--three priests--from the Pittsburgh area, I think.

It's not that we don't have priests come as guests--often we have Benedictine men for meetings or hospitality if they are passing through on the way to the east coast or from the east coast on the way home. And we occasionally have one of our own diocesan priests or local ministers for a day of quiet or R&R. But we hardly ever have priests, just for no specific reason show up on the list. The story I've heard from the sisters who have chatted with them is that they were on their way to the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina and had to cancel (Dorian!). One of them had been here in the past for some retreat time and remembered our place, Presque Isle State Park, etc.

They seem to be having a good time. I saw a couple riding bikes and I heard they already made it to Presque Isle. Today all three were at our not-like-a-parish Sunday liturgy and were singing and seemed to get into the spirit of it just like everyone else!

Glad they remembered us and hope they've enjoyed our hospitality and our warm late summer weather and local attractions!

The last of our four trellised climbers,

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Self-defining

We Erieites do not define ourselves by our winters!

Our self-definition is through all four glorious seasons....and here is my first (and only) sail boat trip of the summer season...on beautiful Presque Isle Bay. Fourteen of us enjoyed the generosity of a community friend for an hour and a half sail last evening---WOW!

Lots of sailboats out for their weekly races on the bay.

The sunset shining over and through the trees on the peninsula.

The Brig Niagara in its home berth behind the library.

We had a ball !!


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Aptly named

Vacation days are over and we arrived home after an eight+ hour drive across Pennsylvania. If one ever had a doubt that Penn's Woods was an appropriate name for our state, all you'd have to do is drive right across the middle of the state from near the New Jersey border to near the Ohio border, along Rte 80 (as we did) and you'd know why it is the perfect name.

Every hill, valley, small town and countryside is a Currier & Ives/Grandma Moses vista of beauty. Every time Rte 80 makes a considerable turn, you come out of the turn into a breathtaking view. Here at the end of August the fields and grasses are lush, the trees line the highway for miles and are as thick as can be and late summer flowers, crops, farms and farmlands are everywhere and stunning to behold. One gorgeous scene follows another, mile after mile after mile. (Our neighbors New York State and Ohio have much the same, too!)

And, since the Labor Day Weekend traffic must be at its least on Sunday, we practically had the road to ourselves. The absence of trucks was very noticeable and the only time we encountered anything that could even be considered to be "mildly heavy traffic" was when we turned onto I-90, 15 miles from home!


Home sweet home--and look what was awaiting me when I got there:


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Closing days

Vacation days are quickly coming to an end. Here are a couple "things I did on my summer vacation" to share with those of you whose vacation is long over or is still to come...even for a few days away from the daily!

We took a long walk on the North Wildwood Sea Wall--a marvelous mile long sidewalk built along the shore line on top of huge rocks that have been there for decades.


And here is a view, from the beach, of the Hereford Lighthouse. If you're into lighthouses, as many shoreline people are, take a look here to read about this Wildwood, NJ lighthouse right on the Atlantic Ocean.


And, finally, we have watching some DVDs that we were able to check out at the local library. The ones we're really enjoying are movies that I believe are called "cozy mysteries" because they have no serious violence, sex, guns. They are movies made from Alexander McCall Smith's books The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Set in Botswana in southern Africa, they offer a delightful mixture of African culture within and around the mysteries that are presented (and solved).

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Photos not usually for the album

I set out to take photos of things I wouldn't normally consider, but that have their own "interest."
Enjoy!

At the Christmas Store on the boardwalk: everything is an ornament.
 If you'd like one, let me know right away.

Again at the Christmas store, the Halloween corner,
 but I have never seen a Halloween tree.

Smokey the Bear lives in New Jersey,
in case you've wondered.

Exit 0 !?!?!?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Uniquenesses

Here are two unique events from my knowledge of vacationing in New Jersey:

1) Wawa--a great conglomeration of local convenience stores. In our town they might be close to Country Fairs, but these Wawas are something...there is a CONSTANT flow of traffic in and out and, since "ours" is rather small, customers are kind of shoulder to shoulder, but they seem to be able to glide among each other, find what they need and make their way to the cashiers. All at fast, yet calm speed. Amazing establishments!

Our Wawa.

2) At the ocean yesterday we viewed a group of dolphins "passing by." As in 20 or so dolphins swimming in a long, long line parallel to the shore. Every once and a while one would rise up just a little, but we never saw a full jump or anything even close. Among other things this experience takes me back to one of my favorite books, An Exaltation of Larks. Just what is a group of dolphins called? Answer from the book: a pod of dolphins. Nowhere near as clever as a leap of leopards, a parliament of owls, an ostentation of peacocks, a smack of jellyfish or a murder of crows!



Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Heard Museum-Phoenix

While we were at the LCWR assembly in Scottsdale, Arizona, we went to this museum that is home to an outstanding collection of Native American art. It was begun by a couple that moved to the southwest from Chicago. They started showing their pieces right in their home, but as the collection expanded they moved it to a building across the street where today it is a first class collection of art and artifacts from numerous tribal traditions from the southwest.

Native American women from five nearby tribes.

A beautiful needle work quilt.

Beaded Native American woman, horse, baby, two small horses
and two (non-visible) children riding in the back.

Barry Goldwater's family donated their extensive collection of Native American dolls.

Material for fences.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Saguaro world

I'm in the southwest this week and amazed at everything that is so Arizona-like. It has been over 105 in the afternoon every day...a totally different kind of heat than ours! But the natural world here is beautiful...I'll share lots of photos Monday. The most amazing single thing is the saguaro cactus. If you have 5 minutes go here and you'll see all about them.


We also went to the Heard Museum which specializes in Native American art (again, pictures Monday)! However the special exhibit on the Indian schools of the late 1800s+ breaks your heart...thousands of children taken away to awful boarding schools to be anglo-sized.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Black-eyed Susans time


We are "recuperating" from this year's really wonderful Summer Community Days, last Wednesday through Saturday. I put the word in " " because it's not that it is like getting better from a disease, it's just the coming back to "ordinary time." Since only a minority of the 91 of us are blooming extroverts, (not I), all that time with people, people everywhere (even ones you love!) and activities each day, take their toll---and coming back to the everyday pace and interactions are welcome.

In fact, we were walking around the Benetwood and Mount grounds tonight, feeling awash in black-eyed Susans, which are around every corner and in every single garden patch, when we came upon one of our postulants. She was sitting by herself, music coming through ear buds I'd guess, and just enjoying the quiet and peace of sitting on a bench in our backyard. Forty feet later we passed the sun room and who's sitting there by herself reading, the other postulant. Both "recuperating" I'm sure, from their first Summer Community Days. Smart gals!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Alarming Grace


This week I had a chance to see live and in person one of my very favorite authors, Barbara Brown Taylor---speaking at Chautauqua. (Here's the review of her talk in the Chautauquan Daily. ) I had read her magnificent An Altar in the World and before that, Leaving Church and just this summer finished her latest, Holy Envy. They were all so great...so real, so spiritual, so witty. Please read about them on amazon or someplace and if one at all sounds "possible" for you, give it a try. She is one of the best!


Cover of TIME April 28, 2014  her book
about finding God in the dark.


Sunday, August 4, 2019

How can it be August?!

The cutest little kids were all around at this family affair event this weekend at one of our many local wineries.
 I haven't officially heard yet, but I'm betting that it's been a banner year for our grape crop and, if so, the annual
North East Grape Festival in September will be a very happy event for the many grape farmers of the region.
We have thousands and thousands of acres of grape vineyards....primarily for wine and for Welch's in
New York state about 20-25 miles east of us.

Our final concert of the season, I'm afraid. The Rooftop Project at Penn Shore Winery.
 Great music, great time.

Continuing on the weekend theme of enjoying summer events, about a dozen of us took in a game Sunday afternoon for our AA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers: the Erie Seawolves. It was my first game of the season and they won! 3-2. Reeking of Americana...I thought I saw Norman Rockwell in the stands sketching the crowd in all their baseball paraphernalia, eating hot dogs and singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Yes, we really do stand and sing it in the seventh inning!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Humdrum and ho hum

One of my favorite authors had the July 30th reflection in "Give Us This Day" the daily booklet we all have. Here's an excerpt of what Barbara Brown Taylor wrote: "Heaven is the Humdrum and the Ho-Hum"

"If the kingdom of heaven is hidden in this world, it is hidden really well, and only the most dedicated detectives among us stand a chance of finding it at all. Unless, of course, God has resorted to the oldest trick in the book and hidden it in plain view. There is always that possibility, you know--that God decided to hide the kingdom of heaven not in any of the extraordinary places that treasure hunters would be sure to check, but in the last place that any of us would think to look, namely, in the ordinary circumstances of our everyday lives: like a silver spoon in the drawer with the stainless, like a diamond necklace on the bureau with the rhinestones; the extraordinary hidden in the ordinary, the kingdom of heaven all mixed in with the humdrum and ho-hum of our days."

If she is new to you, do give her a try. I'm sure her dozen or so books are in your local library or on sale somewhere!


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Hospitality



Our Sunday presider put a spin on the Genesis reading for this weekend's Mass that I had never heard or thought of before. We had just had a reading about the city of Sodom and a dialogue between God and Abram on what it would take for God to spare the city from destruction. Would God save the city for the presence of righteous people? Our presider pointed out that the "sin" of the city of Sodom had nothing to do with the standard view that it had something to do with sex. The sin of the people of Sodom was a lack of communal hospitality.

A shiver went through me as I thought, are we (the United States) guilty of that right now, in our time? I believe we are.

In another, more successful, vein of hospitality, however, was the celebratory weekend we had for this year's 50 and 25 year jubilarians. The weather cooperated, family and friends arrived and it was a wonderful time together....prayer, food, camaraderie and just great overall. This is certainly one of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of building community--experiencing events together that bring out special memories and moments of the life that, in turn, add to the "glue" that helps and keeps the community what it is and what it hopes to be....and what it hopes to bring to the world.

We are blessed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Surprises all around us

We have a bird/nature-whisperer in town. Of course with an official bird sanctuary and migration route in Erie we have quite a few of them, I'm sure. But our friend told us that when we drive around the outskirts of Erie, especially on Presque Isle State Park, we should turn off the radio, open the windows and just listen. We'll discover a whole natural world of wonders.

Following her encouragement to just listen and look at the world around us, here are two "sights" we caught this week, one going into Erie and the other coming home.

The way into work right after a quick morning rain shower brought this
pretty rainbow over the city, right in front of everyone
driving east to west at 7:30 a.m.

This very lovely natural arrangement is in an inconspicuous place
on the edge of one of our parking lots. No one would give it a second look,
but it caught my eye as I was driving in. Thanks nature-whisperer!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Walking for Peace

This week I finally was free for a Silent Peace Walk. I'd been unable to attend the last two or three because of other commitments. This was a nice one to be at because many of the Institute attendees were able to come and it was held right on the ridge overlooking the bay. Beautiful scenery.





Unfortunately we'll be gathering again soon for similar initiatives--nonviolence. We have had three young (20-ish) men killed in Erie over the last two weeks--killed by other young men. Six lives "lost" and six families suffering.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The world

comes through our front door. It really does!

This week the second Joan Chittister Institute for Contemporary Spirituality is being held at the Mount and it has brought 27 of the greatest gals together to learn, share and experience some time with Joan's works and to live and pray with our community.

They come from 13 different states: California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont and Washington, DC. WOW! We are so blessed to have "the world come past our front door."

And it's the week the yellow day lilies bloomed all around the chapel.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Summer nights (and days)

We're continuing to work our way through the summer music scene here in Erie
and in the little towns surrounding the city. Once again we were in the vineyards
 (think the nearby Welch's grape factory) and caught our #1 favorite local band:
 Tennessee Back Porch. What an event...and such a huge crowd.
The music? Out of this world great. 

Since the nightly concerts go till 9:00 we get a glorious
setting sun in the sky just as the concert is ending.
This sunset was in between the trees.

But the hands down shot of the week is this one taken by one of our oblates
who caught one of our twin fawn in mid gallop/jump.
I have seen 100s of photographs of our deer but this is #1 by far.
We are getting treated to a daily exhibit of their running and jumping skills.
Darling, just darling.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Easter flowers

Here's a very sweet picture from our inner courtyard this week.
The blooming yellow flowers provide a pretty addition to our hummingbird 
and oriole feeders, which get emptied every few days, by the way.

The story of Easter flowers. Every Easter our liturgist is very generous in
giving away the flowers and greenery that we have in the chapel during the Easter season.
I have never had good luck planting them and getting them to "re-bloom" or come back 
the next summer. But...an exception to that rule are these white Easter lilies. 
They are great at reappearing,  note that their natural appearance comes in July!
 They aren't as tall as they were when we first got them, but they are just as pretty.


We have four climbing plants and they bloom in order,
which was an accident, but a really nice one.
This is #2, pink star-like flowers. Number 1 is really early in June and
 #3 (purple) and #4 (white stars) are in August and September.

A little aside to anyone attending church this Sunday. The first reading from Deuteronomy is just beautiful. If you catch it, it's short and will pass quickly, I think you'll agree.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Summer music


Our first outdoor concert of the season: Sam Hyman at Arundel (Air'-un-dell) Winery just outside of North East, PA. Erie's own James Taylor...wonderful music!


And a Norman Rockwell-ish Americana....freight trains going through the grape vineyards! Eight in the 2 hours we were there. Tom Luckey would have been thrilled.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Our Morning Praise

One verse of our morning hymn "How Beautiful, Our Spacious Skies":
(adapted from "America the Beautiful" by Katherine Lee Bates, 1893)

"Indigenous and immigrant, our daughters and our sons;
O may we never rest content till all are truly one.
America! America! God grant that we may be,
a nation blessed with none oppressed, true land of liberty."

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Arborist wannabe

I won't get even to first base in the world of trees, but I think I may qualify as an arborist wannabe after the last year.

Since last summer I have had a hand in the growing and/or planting of 6 trees on our grounds. The first three I started from 10" sticks, a free gift for Arbor Day. The are dogwoods and they survived the winter wrapped in plastic piping as protection against the snow and wind. This summer they are growing like wildfire, right below my window in a protected garden area. A friend told me that dogwoods are loved by deer, as in eating their bark et al....but I am undaunted by this, choosing instead to "train" our deer to eat our apples and, maybe, not the young dogwood that I think will be ready for transplant somewhere in the yard next spring.

But my real thrill is in the three young (6-8' tall) trees in the front of the house. One was planted last September: a black gum. It was planted and staked, professionally, after we picked it out up at Stan's Garden Center. It and an American Larch that we put in this spring, again by professional trees guys, are in memory of Sister Anne's mother who died one year ago this week. They are both doing great.

A larch in autumn.

The third, I decided to try and plant myself. I read all about planting trees, found a site that listed the process in 10 easy steps, and took it on about three weeks ago. It's another memorial in honor of Sr. Maureen. It's a hawthorn and is, so far, surviving well. You can't miss it as the stakes are attached to the tree with yellow strips from an old t-shirt (yes, that was one of their hints!)

The maintenance men and I have been taking turns hauling out water in big buckets to keep them well hydrated during their early weeks (on days when it didn't rain). Again, I read that this is very important as it takes their roots a "lot of energy" to grow and establish themselves in the new soil.

A hawthorn in spring.

So, here we are in a new venture with great hopes and natural beauty to remind us of the beauty of our dear friends.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Adoring or Enduring

I'm sure that some of you adore and some of you endure my endless sharing of the poems of Mary Oliver. To me so many of them are a prayer, granted hand-in-hand with nature, but they speak strongly, yet simply of things beyond our limited human ways.

So when I read "Facets of the Maker" an essay on Mary's life and works by a fellow poet, but also a college student of hers, I just knew I wanted to share it with you--the adorers and endurers. It's quite different than reading a poem. Here you are reading about the poems, the poet and how she and her work fit into the world during her time.

Hope you'll give it a try. It was in one of the spring editions of America magazine.
Click here.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Guests having guests

We are still "basking in the afterglow" of the delightful golf tournament and the interactions among the guests and community members last Monday. And what should occur four days later? A weekend with a full house of summer guests! Since the weather this weekend was truly glorious we had a continuation of enjoyable hospitality with the many relatives and friends and people on retreat that came through from Thursday through Sunday.

One the most unique situations I like is when our guests have guests! That's happening right now as we have a recent college graduate here for two months working on a writing project. She's already had two guests come to "see what this place is" and is scheduled to have more as the months go on. They think nothing of jumping into a car and driving 7 hours for a long weekend, and, equally, we think nothing of pulling them into the place for a quick visit! Fun all around. One of them mentioned at lunch that she didn't expect it to be this warm and nice. "Don't you get a lot of snow?" she asked. "Oh, yes," I answered, "about 100" on average." I thought she was going to choke!

I think there's got to be a high correlation between lots of snow and extreme appreciation of summer. Because we definitely have both!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Julie and Whoopi couldn't make it.

At the now area-wide famous golf tournament this past Monday, my favorite part was when about 30+ of us sang an Irish Blessing before the buffet meal to the dining room full of golfers. Now when is the last time you heard a choir of REAL sisters sing? In the Sound of Music? Nope, actors. Sister Act 1 or 2? Actors again. A local production of the play Nunsense? Local actors! And even if you can go back to The Trouble With Angels or The Nun's Story...no and no....professional singers/actors. Until this week!

It really was wonderful to sing in front of a group of people who, for the most part, had never heard us sing. Luckily, the acoustics in the room were great and when our director gave us the first 2-3 notes--off we went, on key, clear and steady! You could have heard a pin drop---on the carpeted floor!


Click here to hear the schola sing. Scroll down a little to the one labeled "Gift of Community."