Sunday, March 24, 2019

First trail walk

Sunday afternoon it seemed dry enough and warm (46!?!) enough to drive out to the park at 18-mile creek and hike the short walking trail down to the lake and beach. We saw a couple fishermen, kids kicking a soccer ball around and a young family and their dog, George, out for a walk. But what really surprised me were two things: 1) that although the shore where we live is clear of ice chunks, the shore in North East is not; ditto for large sand-ice dunes; 2) I'm missing the beautiful colors of the natural world, as in these are color photographs though they may at first appear to be black and whites! Hurry up spring....bring on the yellow daffodils and forsythia, the red tulips, purple violets and greens everywhere!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring equinox in 3 parts

Our morning trip into Erie takes us down a street that has us heading right into the sunrise and this morning the timing was perfect. There it was through the trees. No cloud cover today...warm (50s) and sunny. Happy spring!

Noon time brought a unique look through our stained glass windows. The uniqueness? No reflections on the side ceramic tiles. The angle must have been perfectly straight on--the windows appeared directly onto the floor and anything else in their way. Bright and colorful. Gorgeous.

And evening brought the annual free small cone giveaway at our local Dairy Queen that opened today! "We'll take two chocolate-vanilla twists, please," we said--"and thank you." I asked the fellow we thought might be the owner, as he served us at the drive thru window, how many they expect to give away. "Last year we served 1,300 small cones," he answered. I figure that's about 100 an hour and a whole summer of goodwill for them!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

One week of 50s-60s

One week of temperatures over 50 degrees and the inner courtyard garden jumps at the chance to begin its springtime revelations! Sure the Christmas lights are still on the magnolia tree, but now the buds are also just around the corner.

But the real celebration this weekend was the pronouncement of First Monastic Profession by Kathy McCarthy. The story and Smilebox on our community page tell the story beautifully. We are so blessed!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

My choice

Our simple environment for Lent.

My (sad) attempt at being artsy--all lights off, only candle light and flash of the camera!

I forgot to share the poem I read at the Celebration of Mary Oliver last week. It is from my favorite book of hers, Thirst. My favorite because it is so spiritual. Not spiritual in that organized religion kind of way---or with any religion in particular. Just in that way that acknowledges and treasures all the beautiful (spiritual) things about life: nature, people, events. 

Since I have spent the winter looking out of my window at the five newly planted trees from last summer and wondering and hoping that they are making it through the wilds of winter in the protective tubing we put around them, I chose this one on trees--and, of course as in all Mary Oliver poems--on more than trees.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light, and to shine."

Sunday, March 10, 2019

First five days

The first five days of Lent have been anything but quiet, secluded or retiring. Well, that's not totally true--our chapel has taken on its annual simple, yet stunning Lenten environment, our daily prayer has changed to include Lenten hymns and responses and the first weekend of the Vigil and Sunday Mass brought back the heard-once-a-year songs and the beautiful deep and mournful sounds of the oboe.

But amidst all of that we also had the seasonal Lenten reflection afternoon for 35 oblates and a very interesting weekend group of leaders of a small, rather new Presbyterian congregation from Pittsburgh, who joined us for every prayer period and Sunday Mass. Our prioress, Sister Anne was part of presentations at an event celebrating National Catholic Sisters Week held at Mercyhurst University. And, over it all, we experienced our first spring-like thaw which brought enough rain to melt all, I say all, of the snow on the grounds. What is that long flat carpet-like green stuff that covers so much of our property? Grass, you say...what's grass? (We've been snow-covered for so long it's no wonder both male and female cardinals are coming closer than usual. Our poor birds are in need of some natural food sources!)

May spring come quickly.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

We must celebrate

In the nearly twelve years of writing this blog I have posted poems by Mary Oliver 100 times. Her death January 17th brought a sadness to me and to many of my friends who are equally admirers of her extraordinary work. Tomorrow night I will be one of many, I'm sure, attendees at "Celebrating Mary Oliver" to be held at the former St. Mary's School building on E. 10th St. (aka: a local artists' colony of sorts, with a writing studio included).

I'm taking my favorite book of hers, Thirst, with two or three choices to share. We'll see which one comes out.

I should probably sponsor a private celebration and just recite all of her works from all of her books I own. My own poetry filibuster!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The annual "March madness" is beginning

We come by the annual "fever" of March Madness legitimately. After all, I live in the home of one of the strongest and longest lasting Erie high school girls rivalries: Villa vs St. Ben's! That's all I heard about growing up (my aunt was the Villa coach for years)--the annual basketball game between the two local girls basketball powerhouses...and these were the years before Title IX and the real development of powerhouse teams!

Then along came Kayla McBride in the early 2000s..first at VMA and then as a star for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish women's team and March Madness returned to my life. Ever since Kayla's stint at ND as an All-American, then onto the WNBA (currently for the Las Vegas Aces), my friends and I have been hooked on college women's basketball--and ND in particular. Last year they won the national championship with last second heroics--such fun (at least for the winners) and this season they are among the top 5-6 teams predicted to make a strong run for The Final Four and this year's championship.

Unless you live in an anti-sports cave, quite understandable truly as it does become rather feverish, this month is a sports followers dream. The regular season ended this weekend, the conference championships are next weekend and the national championships begin the next: 64 teams playing single elimination rounds culminating April 5-8 for both the men's tournament (Minneapolis) and the women's (Tampa) and on every sports channel in sight.

It is a great way to make it through the snowy weeks of winter and much fun reminiscing about our own school, recreation league and college teams of the past. Go Irish!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Are you mechanical?

When I was growing up there was a popular "test" at the time, named The Kudor Preference Test. It might still be around today-not sure. Anyway, it was made up of what seemed like 100s of questions and for each one you had to select from the three options what your favorite was and what your least favorite was. Here's a sample I'll make up!
a) Walk a dog
b) Play with a dog
c) Teach a dog to fetch
So after answering thousands of these you got results that predicted, I think, possible jobs or things you were good at, or I suppose, areas to avoid...something like that. Anyways, in those kind of things I always scored pretty high..not 99%, but high enough, in "mechanical" ability.

Flash forward decades and here I was a newly arrived substitute for our handbell choir whenever a member was absent or sick for the weekly practices. I enjoyed it very much because it greatly improved my reading of music and it was a nice transition back to music after years of being away. A couple years of being a "sub" led to an invitation to be a permanent member when a position opened up.

Flash forward another few years. One day, one of the hard rubber hinges that is in each bell, cracked and I'm not sure of the next step, but "Yes," I said, "if there is an instruction booklet, I'll give a try at replacing it." (Memories of those pins used in the Kudor Preference were flashing through my mind!) Reading the directions carefully and trying not to break anything else on it, I finally managed to take the bell apart, replace the hinge and put the bell back together. The whole process probably took 2-3 hours, over a couple days, if I recall correctly.

So here we are today, dozens of cracked hinges have been replaced and I thought I'd share this adventure with you, as so many of you have probably heard us playing at various Mount liturgies. An aside to others of you who are "a little mechanical": I'm sure you'd guess which part is the hardest--not the taking apart, not the replacing of the hinge--yes, it's the putting it back together! Best to give the most attention, however, to the taking apart....that's what helps put it back again!

Here's the bell in one piece (D4).

Here it is with the handle and the inside taken off. The offending hinge is the black piece on the right,
held by the two small silver screws.

And here it is with every single piece separated. A very scary moment.
BTW, you'll notice that this is done on my bed. Nothing falls on the floor
or rolls off of the bedspread. They just stay quietly where you put them!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

In the 8th century

Today is the feast of St. Walburga, a popular, yet little known saint of the eighth century. She began her Benedictine life in England but traveled with her uncle, St. Boniface, and her brother to Germany to spread Catholicism and Benedictine life there. She and her brother became the leaders of two communities and when her brother died she was made abbess of the double Benedictine monasteries-one for women and one for men. One hundred years after she died her remains were moved to Eichstatt in the Bavaria region of southern Germany. The group of women who tended her grave site became the nucleus of what evolved into the present community of St. Walburg in Eichstatt.

In the 1850s Sister Benedicta Riepp and two other members of the Eichstatt community came to the United States to teach the German immigrant children in western Pennsylvania. From that first foundation 50 communities were founded, 35 of which exist today. Our community here in Erie is currently the longest in existence at 163 years of age! In the 1930s during uneasy times leading up to WWII, Eichstatt sent sisters again to the US and founded two communities that remain members of the German Federation today. One is east of Pittsburgh in Greensburg, PA the other in northern Colorado in Virginia Dale.

If you have time and would like to "visit" these communities, click here:
Abbey of St. Walburg, Eichstatt, Germany
St. Emma Monastery, Greensburg, PA
Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

What longer, lighter days bring

Sorry to say, what with cold days, snowy days and short, dark days trips to our beautiful Presque Isle State Park have been all but non-existent over the last 2-3 months. However, this weekend, as our winter days are getting a bit less cold, less snowy and certainly longer and brighter, we made it out to Presque Isle and all around the entire peninsula. Here are some sights we found.

We have ice floes every year along our creeks and here at the bay,
but I don't think I've ever seen one that ended up perfectly vertical.

The ice fishing "tents" look better and better every year. See the "windows" and outside bench! Remember, they are usually heated inside , too. I've seen some with an extension cord extending along the ice for electricity or with a generator beside it.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Blessed the poor

Wonderful homily this weekend when our presider talked about the difference between the Beatitudes in Matthew and the ones in Sunday's gospel from Luke .

As he said, the ones in Matthew are the best known, the "nice" ones--the ones we sang through Sr. Mary David's song at the Gospel today. Then we have the ones in the Luke reading--less known and not even used as a gospel reading unless the pre-Lent Ordinary Time extends beyond five weeks in the cycle. They give us only four "blesseds" and follow them with four complimentary "woes." (Blessed are the poor.......Woe to those who are rich).

These scripture scholars...what depth and interesting reflections they are able to bring to the readings that can too often sail over our heads! Lucky us!

A rare window feeder visitor.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Whiling away the days

More suggestions for getting through these cold, snowy winter days: have a friend send you the New York Times annual full fold-out crossword puzzle--mount it on your bathroom door (sorry, no room for a card table), put the clues right beside it, and you're good for 2-3 months of standing and filling in clues---at least at my rate!!

Lots of fun--thanks Joanne!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Wisdom is everywhere.

Our bluebirds winter in their houses in our backyard.
Photo by Jo Clarke

We had a two-day celebratory weekend that included the feast of St. Scholastica (sister of Benedict) and the 2019 Prophet of Peace award. Lots of visitors, prayer and song, good eats and good times. However, it limited the usual weekend "down time" quite a bit. Which got me thinking about one of my favorite Zen proverbs: "After ecstasy, the laundry."

And that led me to an old Zen proverbs and koans book I are some more for your cold February Monday morning meditation!

Relax. Nothing's missing.

Rest and be kind, you don't have to prove anything.

Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.

If you are unable to find the truth right where you are,
where else do you expect it to be?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

At last

This orchid's story goes something like this: five-six years ago it was a gift to one of our sisters. After the blossoms died off I inherited it, moved it to my office, began to water it once a week (the prescribed tablespoon), talked to it, watched the large dark green leaves live on and on, and went about my life. Two or three years ago I began to see these odd white things growing out of it (roots) and after quite a bit of time, it bloomed. Miracle! The blossoms eventually died off, repeat story.

Here we are again....the long, winding roots began about two months ago, the three buds maybe a month ago. Today the third one opened and I knew it was time to share yet another miracle!

PS A couple years ago I inherited yet another orchid. Water, talk, watch. Nothing....until a month or so ago...the roots are about 1/2 as long as these, no stalk for flowers even showing---yet I continue my vigil! What a hope-filled way to get through a winter.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Sweet memories

At lunch today I was mentioning that I hadn't had a chance on Saturday morning to do my weekly watering of the six ferns that hang in our dining room because of community meetings that we had all weekend. But I was worried about them because the air is so dry this time of year and a couple of them looked especially in need of water. So I planned to water them during the half-time of the Super Bowl game!

This declaration lead to questions that brought these answers: a) for about 20 years; b) no, but they all are offshoots of the original two; c) I think they came from Sr. Mary Philip at a jubilee. Then we realized that this was the death anniversary of this lovely and quite unique gal, Sr. Mary Philip Kiehlmeier who entered the community in her 30s (unusual at that time) and lived into her 90s.

Sr. Lenore Shaw, another late bloomer, entered community twice in her 20s, (left both times) and then returned for good 30 years later! Lenore was a true "character" who we remembered this weekend, also, as our Super Bowl pool is always in her honor (she was the first organizer of this annual event).

I can't imagine we'll ever stop missing Mary Philip and Lenore....great women and very special community members.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

(Very) tough trivia

This BBC trivia is so tough I'm going to make it multiple choice for you! Good luck.

What are these?

Old fox deceived
Anodyne necklace
Dirty duck
Deer leap
Old contemptibles

A) The subtitles of Agatha Christie mysteries

B) The clues that unveiled Miss Marple cases

C) Final solutions to Christopher Foyle's dilemmas.

D) Pubs where Richard Jury solves his crimes.

It's hard to think of something to share besides an update on the weather! Yes, we are under the same winter wildness that most of the country seems to be experiencing this week. One of the housebound activities that many of us undertake is reading and that lead me to think about our website's page: "What Sisters/Oblates Read." There are 99 book reviews on it now and I've been thinking about what I'd like to put up for #100. We'll see.

If you, too, are part of the harsh January weather I hope that you and the folks in your area are safe and warm. We have these wonderful overnight centers that open only during the winter months. Primarily sponsored by churches, they offer not only sleeping areas but a variety of other things such as showers, warm clothing, TV, health screenings, etc. Very, very personal and compassionate Christ-like service from Erie's parish communities.

The last of winter berries before a huge flock of cedar waxwings stripped the trees this week.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The day the ruler "died"--enter a yardstick

In a (serious) four seasons climate such as ours you fare much easier and better if you have "hobbies" in the winter months. Whatever they may be doesn't matter. As long as you enjoy them and they pass the time indoors, especially on days of extreme cold and/or snow. The first of those days this season hit us this week: snow, and lots of it, and cold temps, with colder ones predicted later this week. One "comfort" undoubtedly is knowing that we are hardly alone as these winter storms seem to often cut a very wide swatch across the upper half of the country. But the hobbies do help!

One of mine can be seen here--my neighbor and I have taken on the task of providing seeds and overly ripe/uneatable apples to the birds and deer that frequent the pathways down the east side of the Mount, right by our windows. Out we hike faithfully and are rewarded with great sightings.

Another one of mine is measuring the new snow and the snow pack right outside one of our entrances, one fairly protected from extreme winds and drifting. This Saturday was the day that I knew would be coming soon....the ruler I use to measure disappeared into the snow pack Saturday morning! 12+" had accumulated. The ruler was replaced by the yardstick--hopefully to be reversed soon!

I caught one of our newest members taking a short video of the backyard Saturday afternoon, too. Probably to amaze (if not scare to death) her family and friends in the south! Nonetheless, we must always end this type of reflection with this final remark: It IS absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

In tribute

Today I join the hundreds who are paying some sort of tribute to Mary Oliver, who died a week ago. Here she is with Maria Shriver who was granted a rare personal interview. And the interview itself is here.

Finally, it's hard to pick just one of her poems, but the one I want to share today is this:

"What I Said at Her Service"

When we pray to love God perfectly,
surely we do not mean only.
(Lord, see how well I have done.)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Winter storm Harper

The view from inside..note the accumulation on the screen!

The six-tiered railing on our outside porch.

Sister Karen clearing the lower backyard entrance. Big job.

Again, note the drift up against the doorway
and the huge "globs" of snow on this little fir.

Poor Scholastica, snow covering her feet and lower robe,
not to mention piling up all around her!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The ways of winter

I had three different encounters with winter today. The first was at 7:30 am when I joined other sisters out in the parking lot as we faced that unique thin layer of solid ice that our overnight icy rain left on our car windshields. Windshield wipers are useless, only a strong, hopefully metal-tipped, scraper will do. (Backed up by the heat on high inside the car!). Starting at the bottom you work away upwards, finally loosening a piece of the solid covering--sort of a very thin yet strong version of those thick, heavy ice floes that come down our creeks in the early spring. You continue to break off these large, paper-like pieces of ice until the windshield gets universally warm and you can reach the top and unloosen the entire windshield. What a job!

Secondly, in late afternoon I found that nearly an inch of snow had accumulated on our grounds, but it was in dots/little spheres, not flakes ...just like those Dippin' Dots that are popular ice cream treats these days. Odd!

And third, while reading my second favorite book of Mary Oliver's works I came upon this winter tale, unique not only for its depth, but that its title is nearly as long as the poem! Enjoy:

"Watching a documentary about Polar Bears
Trying to Survive on the Melting Ice Floes"

That God had a plan, I do not doubt,
But what if His plan was, that we would do better?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

PO does not always mean post office

This past Sunday brought poinsettias and postulants to our community.

The poinsettias are courtesy of the end of the liturgical Christmas season which included dissembling the chapel's poinsettias gardens. The beautiful red and white plants were free for the taking. With the right temperatures, light and a little luck they can stay in bloom for quite a number of months.

The postulants are courtesy of two women who wish to continue their spiritual journey by spending time with us to explore whether God is calling them to community here. These months precede the more serious and intensive commitment to a year as a novice. We welcome them and offer both community life and prayer for them as they explore their continued "seeking."

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ordinary Time Approaches

Blessed "Ordinary time" is coming (Monday) and if you have been browsing on our website at all you can understand how we look forward to it--we have had a ton of activities and events over the Christmas weeks. All of them were great, but the "everydayness" of Ordinary Time, the small feasts that are scattered through it and just its regular rhythm all make for a nice backdrop to the weeks before the "special" seasons (aka Lent) begin again.

BTW, for those of you who knew my Dad, this Friday, the 11th, would have been his 100th birthday! And for those of you who did not know him...he was a great guy--a real people person, which was perfect for his career as a small business owner (jewelry store) as he dealt with customers all day long. Happy Birthday, wish you were here!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Epiphany-Three Wise Women

We had a wonderful Sunday Epiphany liturgy this weekend. The homilist was great, music came off very well, including a prelude by the 30-member schola of the Huron Carol, a beautiful Native American story of the birth of Jesus. At gift time, the hand bell choir played an old Polish folk hymn about the visit of the shepherds, which had our sisters who grew up learning a little of the language humming along!

And finally, in memory of my mother who used to claim she couldn't tell who were nuns after the habits disappeared, yet delighted in "picking them out" whenever we went out (and she was always right!), here's proof that "habits" still live: nearly identical attire from our Sisters Laura, Kath and Dianne, on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

In at full force

And the wait continues.

Eleven days. It's been eleven days since I and all the people I usually deal with, both local, national and even just down the hall, have all been "at their desks," full throttle and at the same time, so to speak. In between we had all been in occasionally, off occasionally, on Christmas break, and at any other holiday end-of-year event you can think of. Today, everyone was back...texts and emails were sent and calls were made and a response came through. But---it is a bit of an overwhelming experience after having ratcheted-down for more than a week.

All in all, I survived and I think everyone else did, too!

It helped that we began and ended the day with beautiful Christmas octave prayers and songs and that we are looking ahead to one of our very favorite feasts: Epiphany---and this year it is even on the traditional Epiphany date, January 6th.