One farewell One application to a new job One engagement Three deaths (one funeral) Three birthdays All in one week
No wonder I feel a bit like I'm reeling.
It's been a liminal week (look it up... it's one of my favorite words).
Sunday I stood by the bed of a saint (Mary) who was actively dying. (I have a wise friend who worked at a hospice for a while and noted that the reality of "actively dying" made her consider what it means to "actively live". I found that to be true for me this week.) Mary's daughter and son-in-law (two foundational and incredibly faithful members of my church), three women from my church (including our pastor), and I encircled her, sang to her, prayed with her, massaged her feet, wrapped her in love. It was one of the most humbling and sacred experiences of my life.
Also on Sunday I heard about the engagement of two lovely people. Tizzy and Joel, in a story that is funny in its foiled attempts at romantic-ness, got engaged in Cape Cod on Saturday. We all knew it was going to happen -- we were simply wondering when. We don't have to wonder anymore. They are a great couple!
Monday morning Mary died. She had been an incredibly wise and admired woman -- a pastor's wife, a co-director of Gould Farm, a matriarch of the town and the church -- for a total of more than ninety years. She was ready to go, and her death was dignified and a blessed release. It will be hard for her daughter and son-in-law, who have devoted the last many years to caring for her. Prayers for Sally and Steve would be much appreciated.
Tuesday I found out that Monster Librarian's (a former farmer) father died suddenly and tragically. I don't know her father, and I am only beginning to know Monster Librarian, but I can only imagine a piece of what it must feel like to lose a father as a young adult. Prayers for her would be much appreciated.
Wednesday I said farewell to a good friend at the farm -- TSOldtimer is headed off to magnificent adventures. Kudos to him for having the courage to journey onward and the faith that it'll turn out alright (heck, maybe even splendidly!). And fooey on him for leaving. (And his birthday is coming -- one of the birthdays I mentioned because I picked out his present this week.)
Today, after I got home from sending two birthday presents (one to my dad, one to a dear friend (part of my college brown box sisterhood) in Chicago), I applied for a different job on the farm that would put me assisting our nurse, essentially working second shift (perfect for me right now), working a more sustainable job and schedule, and joining the clinical team while still working side-by-side with my beloved resis. It's a good change, but it's also been a lot of domino-effect-type-stuff to think about -- this will affect several people (not least of which being myself) in several ways, and I feel like I don't even know the half of it yet.
Also today, I got an e-mail that said that one of the influential people of my childhood died at the age of 91. Brother John, another saint in my book, was a minister by personality who never stopped ministering (it simply wasn't in his constitution not to minister). He was one of the people who knew of my sense of call to ministry early on. He was a respected leader in the district, known for speaking the truth in love. He will be missed.
Saturday is the funeral for Mary. I'll play for it, and I find it an honor to be able to serve her and her loved ones in that way.
And I pray that next week will be a little more normal... I love the word "liminal" because I love liminal spaces... but, boy, do they take a lot of energy sometimes!
I'm officially finished with my first paper of my grad school career. And I'd forgotten how gratifying it is to say "yes, that's good" and hand over your very own creation. I love writing... why don't I do it more often?
I love fall around here. It's not necessarily that the colors are better (though they might be... I'm not sure). But we certainly have more trees.
My favorite is the vine that, after six months or so of living quietly and camouflaged on whatever trees and posts it can find, bursts into the brightest red I've ever seen in leaves. Suddenly, as if it's tired of being anonymous and wants a new identity, it pops out everywhere -- it quickly becomes the most prominent (and, in my opinion, beautiful) thing along the road.
Tee-hee. The red barn has essentially been condemned. So it's a good thing that it's stacked to the rafters on the second floor with rotting furniture. It's the Walmart of junk (and every once in a while, a few treasures), so come to the Columbus day tag sale where we hope that some suckers will come and give us some money to take away our stuff. It should be a cultural experience. Now Candy doesn't have to threaten to burn it down anymore. ;)
I just realized that I've made a couple references to my class but I haven't "set the stage" for them yet...
I'm dipping my toes in the balmy (if a little labor-intensive) waters of seminary by taking an online class through Andover Newton Theological Seminary in Boston. It's a UCC seminary that I'm looking at as a possibility for the future.
The class is called "Shame, Guilt, and Forgiveness," it combines theology and psychology, and its four major papers are all literary analysis with emphasis on the topic of the course. The books / stories for our papers are "Revelation" (Flannery O'Connor), "The Death of Ivan Ilych", A Touch of the Poet (Eugene O'Neill), and The Scarlett Letter.
In short, it's a perfect class for me right now! I'm loving it so far, and I'm teaching anyone who is interested all about the things I'm coming across.
For example -- some defenses against shame are the following: rage, assertion of power, righteousness, perfectionism, envy, withdrawal, defeatism, and transfer of blame. One author says that shame, when confronted without resorting to these defenses, can actually be very redemptive -- so, though it's an inevitable part of being human (a result of having an infinite spirit and a finite body), it doesn't always have to be destructive, and, in fact, most religious conversion experiences have an element of resolution / redemption of shame.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling): A very worthy (if a tad bit cheesy) ending. I was having a hard time imagining an ending that would be true to the themes / points she was developing -- but she did it well (in my opinion). Worth reading, lots of action (sometimes too much).
"Revelation" (Flannery O'Connor): I'm hooked -- I'd been told to read stuff by her before, told that I'd like her. I just got around to it, and I loved this story! She draws great characters that end up looking ridiculous but not so ridiculous that the reader can let herself off the hook. Great, fun, hard-hitting social commentary.
Wild at Heart (John Eldredge): A book about Christian masculinity with good themes and ultimate points. I had a hard time with the battle imagery, though. That language softened as the book went on.
Shame and Guilt (Tangney and Dearing): Book one for my class. Excellent book. It ends up saying that shame (blanket judgement of the whole self) is much harder on a person than guilt (judgement of the action)... among many other interesting studies and topics.
The Death of Ivan Ilych (Leo Tolstoy): Very dark, very good. My first paper for my class is on this book. When you read it, notice the dynamics of shame -- it's quite fascinating. Don't ever read this book in January or February.
Books on Tape: A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson): Started out great, but I have limited tolerance for history / science books, and he ended up getting wordy and dry by the end. He does have lots of ideas of ways the world's going to end, though... And he's pretty amusing, on the whole.
Message in a Bottle (Nicholas Sparks): sappy romance, sad, not terrible writing, though nothing earth shattering.
Ethan Frome (Edith Wharton): Excellent, sad, dark, lots of stuff about shame in there... Set in a town about 20 minutes away from me. Another book not to read in January or February.
House of Mirth (Edith Wharton): I'm glad I listened to it rather than read it -- some of the descriptions got long. But on the whole, I really like her books. I'm becoming more and more of an Edith Wharton fan (I've also read Custom of the Country and Age of Innocence). More about shame and guilt in this book, too... I tell you, it's everywhere!
Shame: I suck. Guilt: I made 17 mistakes in 15 minutes. Response to shame: I am never doing this again. In fact, I'm never going to show my face here again. Response to guilt: I will practice more next time and apologize to Fr. Anthony.
So which do I choose? In reality, most of the time, both. Today, mostly the former.
My class (theology, psychology, literature all rolled into one) is fascinating. I'm learning lots and procrastinating lots and reading lots and generally loving it. And it's incredible how many times shame / guilt / forgiveness comes up in my day-to-day life.
More later. For now, I'm off to get over my shame before work time by watching a movie or doing something else equally mindless.
"Speaking of the harmony of music, I should like to say that the true harmony of music comes from the harmony of the soul. That music alone can be called real which comes from the harmony of the soul, its true source, and when it comes from there it must appeal to all souls.
"It would be no exaggeration if I were to say that music alone can be the means by which the souls of races, nations and families, which today are so far apart, may one day be united. The musician's lesson in life is therefore a great one. Music is not expressed through language, but through beauty of rhythm and tone which reach far beyond language. The more the musician is conscious of his mission in life, the greater service he can render to humanity."
~Hazrat Inayat Khan, "The Mysticism of Sound and Music"
The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Anne Brashares -- a good romantic novel with a nice plot, written by the author of the Traveling Pants books. This one is much more mature than those, but all of her books are good, I think.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (#6) by JK Rowlings -- good read, book candy, I didn't find it as good as some of the first ones, but still very worth reading.
The TurnAround Mom: How and Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for her Family by Carey Sipp -- fairly good, helped me continue to understand my job and the guests better, much of the advice is "common sense" that can be hard to follow. It helps to make some sense of some of the cycles and reasons for their perpetuation.
Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life by Michael Dirda -- written by a former Washington Post book reviewer, almost a journal of his favorite books and quotes along with a few expositions on the importance and meaning of reading.
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier -- very good, another romantic novel with a good plot and historical pieces to it. Good movie, too.
Lying Awake by Mark Salzman -- elegant portrayal of a Carmelite Convent and of the dilemma faced by many who have religious experiences that are tied to illnesses -- how does one decide whether or not to treat the illness, and how does one understand the nature of the religious experiences? Beautifully written, best book I've read in a while.
Books on tape: The Amber Spyglass and the Subtle Knife (two different books of His Dark Materials Trilogy) by Philip Pullman -- very good books, though the final point of them was different than I thought it would be. Interesting treatment of spirituality and religion. Very much worth reading (or listening to).
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom -- cheesy, as I thought it would be, but still and okay book. Essentially good lessons that I'm sure were better learned from Morrie himself than from the book -- the book simply encapsulates what is too big and mysterious to be simplified, and it all ends up feeling cliched.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe -- I understand why it's a classic of sorts. Well written and a good story. All the same, I didn't really like it all that much (though I can't put my finger on why not).
Mummy dearest and BigBro, two of my neigbors (LilSis and Hubby, being the other two). See MummyDearest's blog for more and better pictures. It's so fun when BigBro comes to "Lolie's home". Then, Gabby -- my cuddle-butt with a permanent grumpy face (don't be fooled!). She's three and a half now. Then, Elsa -- too curious for her own good, sometimes... Two and a half years old now.
A long time ago, I promised pictures (of what, now I can't remember). So here I am finally fulfilling my intention... And you are going to get quite a few pictures with very little relation to one another, I'm afraid. But, better than nothing, eh? Aww... aren't I cute? This was in the winter. You should see my freckles now! "downtown" Monterey Broomball (see earlier GF dictionary post for explanation) Gould Farm summer and fall prettiness Come back! (wirgin, clemmy, tizzy, bearded vet, and kt with Patron -- all former GFers) Cute cow-lets Patron, farm parrot -- Cigarette, anyone?
Is it not the business of the conductor to convey to the public in its dramatic form the central idea of a composition; and how can he convey that idea successfully if he does not enter heart and soul into the life of the music and the tale it unfolds? ~John Philip Sousa
The act of conducting in itself, of waving my arms in the air and being in charge, I didn't miss. I missed the sensual pleasure of being in contact with music. ~Esa-Pekka Salonen
I have it on good authority that Monterey, the town in which I live (towns out here are more like counties out in IN), has 75% of its houses belonging to second home owners who come in from New York on holidays and in the summer. And that's the pattern all over the Berkshires. I think I've written a bit about this before and about the conundrum in which it puts the service workers and "natives".
And every year so far (all two of them) I've forgotten about the hundreds and hundreds of people who come in the summer until I drive through Great Barrington in mid June or (in this case) mid July, at which point it's simply impossible to forget. Many of them have very different attitudes -- many of them are the upper crust and are used to things the way they want them and pronto; many of them are used to being assertive, bordering on (and sometimes crossing the border into) agressive; many of them can get kinda annoying.
The ironic thing is, though, that I sometimes find myself mimicking the exact things I complain of. I was standing in line at a store and someone, who didn't know where the line was supposed to wait, cut in front of me because of the confusion. I was less than polite with the man and the cashier, even though I was in no hurry -- I had a full hour left to get the errand finished.
Now, there are summer folk who do cut lines, though perhaps not maliciously, at least with full knowledge and intent. There are summer folk who like to complain ad nauseum and who teach their children that they "NEED" two flavors of ice cream in a danish cone immediately. And it is also true that I am terribly annoyed by those kinds of behaviors. But I had no evidence of any ill will in this man who cut me. And, more to the point, even if I did have any evidence of that, I did not act charitably.
So, I sat down after the moment had passed and thought about sucking it up and going to the man and apologizing. Unfortunately, I didn't get up the courage until he was already gone. But, man out there, if you read this, know that I'm sorry.
And the point of my musings on this topic -- I was reminded of a few things I know to be true (and thus I pass along the reminder): 1) I get to choose how I respond to things. No one forces me to do anything (New Yorkers do not force me to be annoyed or to respond snippily, no matter what they do). 2) I should always apologize if I think to myself, "If I had that moment to relive, I would have done that differently." And I should do it, even if it means saying, "I really had no excuse." 3) Generalizations can be dangerous. 4) Bad attitudes can be catching -- I need to surround myself with the kind of people I want to be like, and, when I can't, I need to find different ways to encounter people so that I don't catch the bug. 5) Dishing out tit for tat doesn't teach anyone anything -- least of all, me.
More later, but for now -- signing off with that sappiness...
So my cats are pretty wimpy sometimes -- they don't really hunt so much as bat things around; they go outside if the door's left open, but they refuse to step a paw off the porch and into the wet / dirty grass (thank goodness for me... it means no trying to coax cats out of the bushes and back into the house). They are indoor cats, through and through.
But this morning... I came in from being at work all night to find my two precious kitties rubbing against my legs.
"aww... you guys are so cute... alright, sweethearts, let's get you some food, you precious--- eww! ick! bleck! *shudder* iegh! *lemon face*" That was my morning conversation with my two lovelies, as I almost barefoot stepped on a dead frog with its arm missing in the middle of my living room. Gabby was mighty proud of herself and stood right by the frog for a while to make sure I saw it and complimented her properly. "yes, darling, what a nice gift! But I'm pretty sure I don't like dead frogs as much as you evidently do... so next time, maybe a box of chocolates or something?"
I'm torn -- on the one hand, I'm touched by their generosity... and, for these indoorest-of-all-indoor cats (Elsa once was nose to nose with a mouse, sniffed it for a good 30 seconds, and then walked away as it sauntered back down its hole), it is actually a rite of passage -- their first successful kill of a non-insect. So, I'm sorta proud of them.
On the other hand, I'm not looking forward to any more of these gifts, and I hope they don't get much better at hunting... How do you tell your kitties that you don't really like froglegs for breakfast, while not undermining their offering?
And it makes me wonder if parents have this dilemma... If so, froglegs or no?
Two former *sniff*tear* Gould Farmers have great blogs -- it's becoming a phenomenon, eh? So I put on the right sidebar a couple new links. Itizzy was a kitchen manager and left not too long ago, despite our protests. Monster Library Student was also a kitchen manager and a RSS manager and probably other things that I'm forgetting. She left a while ago, but it sounds like she might get sucked back in. Bwaa-haa-haa... GF has a tendency to do that to people. And I'm not complaining, since I keep losing my friends right and left to adventures in the world beyond GF... wait... there's a world out there? I sometimes forget.
I currently have three students in various stages of learning piano (and more asking for lessons... but, on a wise friend's advice I've set my limit at three for now). They are all working pretty hard and eager to learn whatever I can teach them as quickly as I can teach them.
But one of the interesting things about teaching is that it requires a certain amount of listening to yourself... I feel much more obligated to practice piano now... and, when I do practice, to do the kind of tedious practicing of one or two measures at a time that I keep harping on for my students. And the "it's better to do some practicing every day than to do a lot of practicing all at once" thing...
Yeah. So I'm finding it can be annoying and hard (and yet very rewarding) to be forced to listen to your own wisdom (and the inner piano-teacher-of-the-past voice... thanks, mom, for the great foundation!). It is certainly improving my piano skills!
Speaking of which, I think it's time to practice...
Kt, a really good friend who was at the farm during my first year here, has a blog for her random thoughts and musings (which, by the way, are often more profound and funny than random). She is an excellent writer, also, so her posts are definitely worth checking out. Fifteen feet, incidentally, is a scuba diver's level of decompression -- see her explanation of it for more. Kt, you're awesome!
So I'm pretty unabashedly, undeniably type A. I like things in nice neat piles, I like to organize and delegate ad nauseum, I know where everything goes (even though it's not always put there, it all has a place), I stay busy and get things done quickly and well, I keep track of every last detail.
And then there's half of my team, who are type B... I find that when I encounter them, especially when I am planning some event with them, I become super-A (a personality sometimes verging on my evil twin).
My team decided (a week before the 4th of July) that there should be a full day of activities. And they further decided that M and I should plan them. No sooner had the meeting adjourned than M and I sat down and met. Twenty minutes later, I had a flier prototype and a to-do checklist ready to go -- I'm headed into my weekend and the last thing I want to do in the middle of my weekend is to have to plan farm activities.
I was proud of myself.
Then I encountered my teammates -- I said "there's a checklist" and M said "why do we need a checklist? we can just communicate". I thought (but didn't say, though I should have) "that's precisely what I have done -- communicate."
I said "can you announce this tomorrow?" K said "why tomorrow? there's a whole week left." I thought "but why not tomorrow? There's only a week to drum up enthusiasm. Besides, how hard is it to announce something?" I said "aaarrrggghhh. I'm going to take a walk."
I said "here's the schedule." J said "I can help." I said "okay. what do you want to do?" J said "I dunno. I'll let you know eventually." I left. "no worries" they all say. "it'll just happen." in the mean time it's me that's making it "just happen."
I give up. I've done my part for now. I'm letting go and I'm going to be bitter about it (oh, wait... does bitterness mean that I've let go? ;)) and I'm going to pretend that it will, in fact, just happen.
Whine, complain, gripe, moan...
Did you know that type A people have higher incidence of heart disease? I'm convinced it's because there are so darn many type B people in the world! ;)
Today I was driving through Great Barrington, a cute New England large-ish town, waiting for someone to finish a doctor's appointment. I got myself an icecream cone that was dribbling down my fingers by the time I got to the car because of the heat. I climbed back in the car and turned on the radio, which happened to be playing ragtime music. I sat and watched a bumper-stickered Vermont car drive by and two labs stick their heads way out the window to stare at me. I watched a man in a lime green shirt walk by with his two young daughters skipping beside him. I watched an older couple saunter down the street arm in arm. I watched many other people move a little slower than they might have normally because of the heat -- linger a little longer and perhaps notice a little more. And all of this was to my own personal soundtrack of Scott Joplin. Ah... Now that's living.
I usually am very wary of fad books. In my experience, they almost never are all that they're cracked up to be. Thus, I didn't touch the Harry Potter series until about a year and a half ago, and in fact I tended to poo-poo them. But then I finally caved and read the first one, mostly to prove to the world that I really wouldn't like it.
But I did. I couldn't put it down, just like everyone said. It was book-candy: a great story without too much density but fun all the same. It doesn't use my academic brain but does engage my imagination.
So, six books and how many hundreds of pages? later... I'm actually waiting excitedly for number seven to come out and the fifth movie to come out and feeling slightly silly about it all.
I am impressed with how the books grow as the characters in them grow -- these are truly books you could grow with as an adolescent, reading each book when you are Harry's age and encountering a lot of age-appropriate and socially important themes.
Besides that, though I never imagined saying it, they are just quality books for anyone looking for something fun to read.
And I chose... shut up. Thus, I will tell you all about it.
I was training for a marathon (26.2 miles) and was really excited about the training schedule I had and about the duration of my motivation -- I was on schedule for almost 6 months.
Then I tried to cure my aching arches with Dr. Scholls inserts... and everything went downhill from there (except not the pleasant, "whee" kind of downhill that gives energy on long runs...). I ran 1 mile in the insoles and had to take them off and lay them by the side of the road because of the blisters they were giving me. (not necessarily the Dr. Scholls inserts' fault... maybe just my persnickity feet's fault...)
Then I went to visit mom and dad. I was so excited that I was actually able to, more or less, keep up with dad on his 5 mile run that I neglected to notice my blister, which was open and not doing well. We got back to the house and I looked down to find a full half of my right shoe had turned red with blood soaked all the way through to the outside.
So I stopped running for two weeks to allow it to heal. Then, because my momentum was gone, I didn't get back the motivation to run for another week. And, as my track coach used to say, it takes two weeks to gain back what you lose in one week of not running...
So the last two weeks, my vacation weeks, were my self-dubbed "put up or shut up" weeks. I gave it a good effort, I think... And I had the heat of Iowa as a bit of an all-too-easy excuse not to run, but I also had the extra time of vacation as a good reason to run my little heart out. But in the end, I just couldn't do it. I'm still able to run fairly impressive distances, but there's no way for me to get back on schedule for any marathons this year.
But never fear... I haven't given up that easily. I'm hoping to find a mini to run (or, failing that, create my own mini-mini just for me), commit to running over the winter, register for smaller races along the way, and try again next year. Perhaps there will be a marathon in my grad school town that I can enter...
I have learned much from my attempt. One -- my personality makes it much easier for me to run (or do other things like that) when I have a specific goal in mind (like a race or performance or deadline). Two -- I love being a runner and need exercise in my life to keep me sane. Three -- going from no running to marathon in 10 months is possible but darn hard. Four -- it's really hot in Iowa. Five -- carrying your own water in a pack is convenient but pretty heavy. Six -- always buy shoes that fit and have removable insoles. Seven -- running, for me, increases my pain tolerance to the point that I sometimes don't notice pains I really should notice... always pay attention to what your body is saying through your pain. And there's more, but you get the idea.
It's been good. And I'm sorry I have had to revise my original goal, but I'm not sorry I tried. Next year I'll try again. And perhaps next year will be my marathon year.
Here is a wikipedia article on contradancing... I'm excited that I might actually get to my first contradance in months tonight -- I'm experiencing contra-withdrawal, I think, typically indicated by feet that won't stop moving and a desire to put on a flowy skirt and do a gypsy. =)
So I'm preparing for the GRE and finding that my vocabulary isn't as large as I would like to to be... or as large as ETS would like it to be, perhaps is more accurate. Who ever uses words like "multifarious" and "stygian" and "meretricious" and "opprobriate"? I suppose I've heard them somewhere along the line, but... It is now officially my goal to correctly label as many things "stygian" as humanly possible. But I guess I'm not doing too badly on the vocabulary thing -- Mr. ETS says that I'm still decent compared to most of the population of GRE test-takers...
But I'm also finding that I love math and dearly miss it. I lept out of bed this morning, my Sunday, to take the math section of the practice test, which I'd been too sleepy last night to attempt. I spent a whole hour taking the test and then more time correcting my answers. And I had fun! Most of my mistakes were, as they often are, careless. I'm thoroughly amazed that I remember so much. Am I a nerd?
I've decided to stop practicing or studying because the scores I got on the practice exams are scores with which I'm satisfied. But that means that the actual test-taking date is closer than I had originally thought (since I should take them as soon as I can). Which means that I'm starting to feel the adrenaline / anxiety rush of being an academician again... I like it. And, I wonder, am I ready to go back?
What five things in my life do I take for granted?
1) Having full use of my hands -- I have always found hands fascinating and recently I've noticed how many things I wouldn't be able to do without them. Piano / organ / guitar, crocheting, typing, writing, back rubs,....
2) Farm fresh food -- I always remember this when I travel, but when I'm here at the farm, I forget that it's not usual to have spinach salad from greens just picked from our gardens the day before or honey from our own bees or milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, bagles, danishes, applesauce, etc. all processed on the farm and made with our own products as much as possible
3) A car that works well and money for travel -- I was noticing that this week in thinking about guests at the farm who don't have access to cars. I love the feeling of freedom and options that I have when I have my own mode of transportation (though I try to use it as little as possible). I suspect I would feel trapped if I had no access to easy travel.
4) my Christian upbringing -- I grew up having Bible stories as bedtime stories and going to church and being surrounded by people who were ever trying to live more morally and virtuously. My faith, more than anything else, has given me hope and ability to love, and I was blessed to have such a great jumpstart in the life of faith as a child.
5) Literacy -- I can read, and I love it. I, in fact, have no idea what I'd do if I couldn't read...
And there are many other things, too... but that's five... and laundry is still waiting for me. ;)
So, same folk -- mom, sarahesperanza (sojournersboots.blogspot.com), and monica (link on sidebar)
1) Friends and family asked me to keep in touch, and I am notoriously bad at writing letters and returning phone calls and e-mails.
2) I don't often massage my ego in such a direct way -- but I find blogging to be, in some ways, refreshingly narcissistic.
3) I fancy myself a decent writer and this gives me an opportunity (as most of you other bloggers have already said) to dip my toes in the waters of writing for public consumption.
4) It is a good way to do some journaling-type-stuff -- processing aloud, as it were, of the many things that happen day to day. It also keeps me thinking about what parts of my life are noteworthy or funny or abnormal or interesting or... Sometimes, otherwise, I'm tempted to take my life for granted.
5) I feel slightly guilty when I don't... And besides, it can be a splendid way to procrastinate on things like... oh... like doing laundry, for example... not that I was supposed to do laundry today and am avoiding it or anything...nope... that's definitely not why I'm blogging right now...ahem...
So I'm supposed to tag someone, but I don't know that I know many bloggers that haven't already been tagged. So mom, you're it (if you catch this); sarahesperanza, you too; and Monica.
I've lost from my mind some of the things I was going to say about this, but perhaps that simply means that what I've got left in my gray matter is what's really important to say.
From where I'm sitting, it looks like my denomination is dying. I love the Church of the Brethren dearly, and I think it will be tremendously sad for the world when it is no longer. (If you don't know about the Church of the Brethren, check out my link to it on the sidebar or wikipedia it -- surprisingly, there's a pretty impressive entry on us there.) It seems to me that simplicity, service, peace, and community (the four main values indicated in our tagline), not to mention Jesus are precisely what the world needs at the present moment. So... I will stop sermonizing here, but I think you get my point -- I am very sad, for me and for the world, that the Church of the Brethren is not thriving.
However, I am looking for a resurrection, and it became abundantly clear to me at the CoB Young Adult Conference that, if a resurrection happens, it will likely be much because of God's working in the young adults of the denomination.
So YAC was amazingly fun. I wouldn't have gone had I not been asked to coordinate opening worship, but I can't imagine now not wanting to go. The people are amazing, the worships were very meaningful, the values and questions and lives of the young adults there are inspiring. Eighty young adults gathered in a worship space singing clear, spontaneous, unaccompanied, four-part harmony... need I say more?
As for my part in the weekend, it went quite well. Worship planning is one of the things I count among my gifts. I often will have somewhat of an idea about what the worship will look like, but I never know how God is going to flow through it until I actually experience it -- and often it happens that I am filled with awe, not at what I have come up with, but at how God has used the stick hut I constructed as a glorious temple. It was that way again for this worship, giving me no choice but to breathe a prayer of thanks.
So, if you are the praying type, pray for God's will for the Church of the Brethren (though I have to admit that I'm trying to convice God that it is in fact his will for the church to give it the strength to come back...).
And, for all you young adults out there who are Church of the Brethren or all you people who know CoB young adults or all you young adults who wish you were CoB... Next year's gathering of young adults (age 18-35) is in Estes Park, CO. The planning committee is aiming for 250-500 of us next summer. Check out the YYA section of the CoB website for more information. (Or talk to me if you need any convincing!)
I also have a link on the sidebar to A Place Apart's blog (from there you can get on their website, too) -- in my mind this also holds hope for the Church of the Brethren, though this resurrection (as perhaps any resurrection) will likely look much different than a simple recast of the old or even current CoB.
I love the Catholic Church. I have spent the last year plus going regularly to mass and soaking up everything I could about the Church and its beliefs and practices. And, overall, I appreciate it very much and am in awe of most of what it teaches, professes, and lives.
And I have learned that most of what I learned about the Catholic Church before this year was based on common but incorrect assumptions. Catholics are seemingly more often than not misrepresented by mainstream Protestants.
And this is not something that many of you will understand -- but I invite you to talk to me about it if you want.
And, at the same time, there are some things that sadden me about the Church (like the lavishness of some of the worship spaces) and some things about which I poke a little fun at the Church (like the over-generality that Catholics don't sing very well). Just as there are things that sadden me about the Church of the Brethren and about which I poke fun at the Church of the Brethren. I feel those things, along with the joy and hope in both the CoB and Catholicism, because I deeply love both.
Please understand that this is not the whole story -- for me or for the Church. There are myriad expressions of Catholicism, including the very simple to the very ornate and everywhere in between, including emphasis on music to emphasis on silence and everywhere in between -- indeed, it seems, there are as many expressions of the faith as there are believers who express their faith.
A friend pointed out that I had perhaps misrepresented the Catholic Church in my last post, even as I am frustrated by the many people around me who do so. If so, I apologize. And I invite all you readers to learn more and not just to lean on your already formed ideas of the Catholic Church. You might just like what you learn.
So here are the results of my glorious (though short) vacation:
I went to NYC first off -- leaving at 4 am for an hour car ride and a two-hour train ride to Grand Central Station. I get the "city that never sleeps" thing -- I was surprised, small-town girl that I am, at how many people were up and fully awake at 5am, 6am, 7am. I actually forgot a few times that it wasn't the middle of the day.
I arrived at GCS, and a subway ride, blackberry donut, bathroom stop, and walk later I arrived at St. John the Divine -- Episcopal Cathedral. I'm sure it is a very impressive structure with very beautiful worship normally. However, at the moment a full 2/3 of it is boarded off completely -- floor to ceiling boards with no opportunity to peek anywhere. The rest of it has the stained glass windows boarded up. And there were two people (other than me) and one priest present for the morning Eucharist... pretty disappointing, but I liked the Episcopal liturgy and it still was a good way to start my day, even if not how I expected it to be.
I then went to the wrong hotel (not my fault) and walked a mile to find the right hotel -- the one that was housing my college's choir for the week before their Carnegie Hall concert. When I found them, I walked through, seeing lots of people I didn't know and a few people I remembered from college. It was fun to get the double-takes, as no one but the director knew that I was going to come.
My director, the accompanist, and a senior from the choir and I went out to a French restaurant for lunch and had lots of fun conversation and way-over-priced food. I enjoyed watching midwesterners ordering posh foods that they couldn't pronounce and "pop" (rather than "soda") and being more disappointed with the tiny portion sizes and somewhat misleading descriptions than with the lack of garnishes or the non-organic-ness... I miss the Midwest and its wholesomeness -- the simplicity and raw honesty of Midwesterners is too rare out here in the East.
I then found my way to St. Patrick's (a Catholic Cathedral) for a quick look around, took a leisurely walk back to the hotel, and watched my choir do another rehearsal. They are incredible!! I have always admired my director -- she has spoiled me into not being able to find a conductor that I'm really excited to sing under (no one else is as good as she is...). I'm pretty sure the choir is even better than when I was in it. And they were singing some really meaningful and really challenging songs, like Peaceable Kingdom, Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, and a couple of pieces composed by college professors. It all made me really miss singing in a good choir and, even more, conducting a good choir.
After rehearsal, I said goodbye to some folk and headed back to St. Patrick's for Mass at 5:30. On the way, I found myself a street vendor hot dog and peanuts (a must, it seems to me, for any good trip to NYC). Mass was very meaninful. The organ was huge (it probably had more pipes in the choir than in the entire Monterey UCC organ) and was played very well. We sang some of my favorite Catholic songs and the sound resonated incredibly. (I love Catholics. And in many cases they don't really know how to sing very well -- three people actually turned around to look at this girl who was singing on the hymns...I felt like I had a third eye or something, but I kept singing anyway.) The priest gave a good homily and was easy to understand, despite the echo. The Church of the Brethren in me was noticing the lavishness as money that could have been spent on the poor, but the parts of me that are really appreciating the Catholic faith were awed by the mystery and grandeur invoked by the space alone.
And then, alas, my tour in NYC was over. I had more time before the sun set and I had to go to the train, so I ambled (purposefully, though... so as not to look clueless... try ambling purposely sometime -- it's an interesting experience) past homeless people and vendors and tourists and families and street musicians (even singing harmony with a couple of them), past bookstores and theaters and department stores and McDonalds, and I was amazed at the diversity and individuality and stimulation and lack of connection or community. I missed the farm and its simplicity. I stopped by a bookstore to get a drink and browse, found a book on training cats (my, aren't I adventurous ;) ), and finally made it back to GCS to get on a train and relax back into the thought of going home. This small-town girl likes the city and the confident persona she gets to put on when she goes there -- likes the stimulation just as much as the next person. But she is also very relieved to get back to a more familiar pace of life, a more connective way of being.
More later, as I'm getting tired. Time for some Harry Potter reading. But stay tuned for NYAC and how much difference a little "A" can make.
I'm headed to New York tomorrow morning (at 4 am) to brave the city as a midwestern "suburban" girl - turned Berkshire boondocks girl... Thank goodness I lived in Chicago for a bit and am quite adept at not looking clueless...
I was looking at various others' blogs and came away from the experience with a mix of awe, guilt, and inspiration... So I'm going to include links to some of them on the sidebar now for you all to read -- Life in Avalon is the blog of the mother of the family in whose house my apartment is. (did that make any sense? just goes to show that correct grammar is not always the best way to get a point across...). Traveling Shoes is a blog of a friend here at the farm (who I'm trying to convince not to leave, but who is determined to see the world and to do it well). I figure this will perhaps inspire me to blog more often. Or, if it doesn't, it'll give you all (millions of fans that you are) something interesting to read in the mean time. I want to go to bed -- I just finished working second shift and have a meeting in the morning... So no more tonight... but perhaps more soon.
Hump day / Dump day -- Wednesday... it's the day the farm takes its recycling and trash to the dump on "dump run". Say the word again if you didn't get it the first time. Nao (the guest who came up with that idea), we'll miss you terribly.
Container -- the thing we are supposed to try to put "the elephant" in after we "process" it, but alas the container is usually way too small... Just try keeping a discussion about which stairs to use to less than 15 minutes... And that's only a piece of kale (not even a sixth the size or wiggly-ness of "the elephant").
Piggyback -- if you hear someone say "kale" in a meeting and you are thinking of something like "lettuce", you must do this -- jump in and speak about lettuce because it reminds you of kale or has something to do with kale or could possibly have something to do with kale. And then, if someone hears you say "lettuce" and they are thinking of "Christmas trees", they will in turn piggyback. This is essential to get the full effect of "processing".
Kale -- what is that steamed green stuff on the buffet line, anyway? And haven't we had it every day for the last seven months? Ah, yes, our gardeners grow lots of things, but their forte this year was the ever beloved kale. Thank you, Bastian and Flavio, our chefs with really cute accents, for the harvest report involving the kale cooking competition... It was impressive.
Harvest reports -- the time at Thanksgiving when maintenence men put drills in holsters and cowboy hats on heads and sing opera; when residential people collect adjectives for mad libs involving "Snotty House" and searching for people "in the lagoons"; when farmers recite poetry (but, wait... at GF, that happens year round...); when kitchen folk stage a kale cookoff... You get the point. Join us for Thanksgiving sometime -- it's worth it just for the kale and the harvest reports.
Enough for now... I'm sure I'll think of more as time goes on.
Broomball -- people on skates, boots, shoes, carrying shovels, brooms, hockey sticks, batting a deflated soccer ball around the pond behind Main House. As you can imagine, lots of flailing to catch balance, lots of confusion as people figure out (or try to) who's on which team, lots and lots of fun.
Sula -- a really good book by Toni Morrison -- get it on tape with her reading it, and it's even better.
Eight -- the number of new guests in the last couple of months; it's a lot at once for us, but we're glad to be almost up to capacity for the first time in quite a while.
Kate Winslet -- the most recent celebrity sighting in Great Barrington. Evidently one of our guests ran into her (quite literally)... she's the newest addition to our critter report.
Critter report -- the blank paper on which people record interesting critters they see. For a while, our Roadside Bear was one of the most popular entries.
Roadside Bear -- this is actually a double entendre... whooda thunk?... Bear was the name of a crazy rock climber / tree sitter guy who was dating one of our volunteers for a while -- he had broken something like 53 bones and fallen out of 3 40-foot trees or something. He was a regular at Roadside until he headed off to climb more mountains and break more bones. He was replaced by an actual bear who visited Roadside every once in a while, almost putting the Roadside Bear in the running for farm mascot.
Process -- to talk about something until you are sure it's dead or you are sure that no one knows what we are talking about anymore
"The Elephant" -- either an animal we are supposed to "get our hands around" or an animal that's evidently in the room, though none of us can see it. He is vying with the Roadside Bear for farm mascot.
Hot Chocolate -- evidently a very effective alarm clock for certain people... Thank goodness it works on two of my toughest wake-ups. Whooda thunk?
Sponges -- one of my pet peeves. I crocheted four dishcloths for East House... thanks, grandma for the yarn and the pattern.
Issues -- the part of any meeting where anything (up to and including which set of stairs we should use to get to the third floor of main house) can be "processed" (see above)
Space heaters -- things they evidently don't sell in the middle of February at K-mart.
Tank tops -- things in abundance in the middle of February at K-mart.
Cleaning and laundry -- things I hate to do but that can "distract" me from running nearly every time... That and blogging (though there's not the "hate factor" with blogging)...
Robert Louis Stevenson -- the writer (I think) who said, in effect, that he hated the act of writing but loved having written.
Running -- a word that I replace with "writing" in the above statement.
The zone -- the thing I'm trying to get to (and do every once in a while) when doing the thing I hate to do but love having done...
Music -- my saving grace (in the case of choir and paino) and the bane of my existence (in the case of organ and guitar)... but I'm determined. Hooray for power trips.
Four months -- hopefully not the amount of time before I blog next... But, regardless, until I blog again... blessings to you all!
I strive to be
a shaper of stars,
a farmer of hope,
a fisher of people,
a student of paradox,
a shepherd of dreams,
a daughter of love,
and a co-creator of life,
because these are the things to which I am called.
I am very often not those things, but I can certainly say that I try with all I have.
Some people dream of catching stars, /
to glean from them some light. /
But I would like to shape a star, /
send whirling into flight /
The product of my passion's fire; /
to mold with naked hands /
and feel the searing pain of flesh /
as star grows bold and grand. /
If then I offer it to God, /
I fling with all my might /
and gasp as it, a piece of me, /
assumes its place in night. ~L. Stone