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Blog 3/9/2014


The robins are back…..and with them some much needed spring music!
I saw my first robin today!  For me, that is the first sign of spring, and this year, we are all looking for anything spring-like.  This unending winter we are experiencing in the Northeast and throughout much of the country will just not give up, and has all of us a little down at this stage, even those of us who like winter.  Enough is enough.  
american robin
It is the first week of March already and the 10-day extended forecast still has snow coming and a nor’easter coming and snow showers coming and cold coming. Yesterday was a tease, when the temps moved closer to the 50s and all of a sudden all one needed was a light sweater to go outside instead of the winter coats and long scarves that lately wrapped our heads and throats.  One of our granddaughters, aged 3, was over for a visit yesterday with her mom and dad and aunt and friend, and she was a pure bundle of energy, skipping and hopping all around, looking at the goats and playing with the dogs, and trying to figure out where the ducks had gone, and even checking the chickens for eggs. Oh, if we could but bottle that energy! Children are sometimes oblivious to weather.  They are too busy exploring!  As soon as we get a few more of those 50 degree days, it will be “outdoor spring cleaning” in earnest.  The goat sheds are almost crying to be aired out and scrubbed out before the spring kidding season.
Along with the robins has also come spring music.  Even when it was so cold, every morning, one could go outdoors and hear the birds singing. You couldn’t always see them, for most of the time they were hiding, trying to keep warm, too, but their music was in the air.  The huge rhododendron in the front of our home and the towering cypress near the potting shed building in the back of the house are chock full of chirping and chattering as our feathered friends return from all points south from wherever they have been to return to stake out some space for laying those spring eggs and welcoming new baby birds into our midst.
Another sure sign of spring, Bill would tell me is that the Red Sox are now playing their exhibition games, and last night we turned our clocks ahead. Daylight savings time has arrived!  And while we may have been a little groggier than usual this morning, having lost an hour of sleep, the extended daylight hours tonight, I’m sure, will have us all dreaming of cook-outs and warmer weather to come.  Daylight savings time is usually a sign for all things sports related to get going, too, so it won’t be long now before the softball and soccer ball schedules start including outdoor games.
On our parish front, this is also our Lenten season, which is late this year.  Easter will not be here until April 20th.  The word, Lent, itself, simply means “spring” and it, too is a time for spring cleaning.   It is one of my favorite liturgical seasons of the year, for it gives us all an excuse to “dig a little deeper” to explore our relationship with our divine Creator.  What do we need to clean up on our lives?  Do we need to set more time aside to pray?  Have we been to confession lately?  What does the state of our soul look like?  How are we treating each other? especially our family members?  What are we doing for the poor in our midst?  We have a great pope right now, who is a living example of how to blend love of God with love of the poor.   
In our particular parish, we are venturing into some uncharted musical waters this spring.  We will be beginning some prayer services that grew out of a monastic tradition in Taize’, France.  Blending chant, music, Scripture, periods of silent prayer, a play on lights and emphasis on the Holy Spirit, Taize’ has become in the last 60 years or so a world-wide ecumenical movement of contemplative prayer that appeals especially to the young, and to those with a spring heart.  In addition to the Taize’, our choir is also venturing into new territory: we are cutting a CD of our own music to be marketed solely for the purpose of helping seniors and those in need on our community pay for their medical co-pays if they cannot afford them.
Healthcare Doctor with senior patient
It is a way to blend our prayer life with our care for the poor and our love of music.  I have a feeling we are going to have a wonderful Easter!!   Happy spring, everyone!!


Blog 2/15/2014


Hearts, flowers, yet ANOTHER snowstorm, 45 years and counting…..
This has been one crazy winter in the Northeast and perhaps for most of the country.  In New England, sometimes we can see almost a whole winter with no snow at all, while other winters we have snowstorms every 2-3 days.  This year is the latter.  Everyone is ready to yell “uncle” and asking God to please make it stop.  We’re due to chalk up another foot between tonight and tomorrow and if the snow gets much higher in spots, the goats can simply walk over their fences.  
chickens in snow
Every snowstorm means shovel out those fences and make sure one can open the gates to get the feed, hay and water to the animals.   On the other hand, Sophie and Jeremiah, our two Great While Pyrenees, think this stuff is great!  They roll around in it, slide down the hill, jump on top of each other and are just like two little kids (or should I say two huge kids) playing outdoors on a free school day or snow day.   Our indoor dogs are split on their opinion.  Joey, our English setter, thinks it’s great and takes a running leap right over Watson so he can go bounding around the yard.  Watson, on the other hand, takes one cautious step onto the outdoor step, looks around, puts his front two feet down, then backtracks to the step, piddles on the step and wants back in the house.  He’s a bit of a wimp.
This is also Valentine’s Day (weekend).  Funny, how when those holidays get anywhere near a weekend, the whole weekend takes on a celebratory tone.
 The poor florists nationwide, it seems, are having a terrible time delivering those pretty bouquets as they climb snow bank after snow bank and go slipping and sliding down sidewalks to get to their delivery destinations.  Dinner plans are being cancelled left and right, and I’m sure the restaurants are not too happy either.  It’s a funny kind of holiday.  No one commemorates the life of St. Valentine, though I have heard mention of the St. Valentine’s massacre as somehow connected (bizarre!).  St. Valentine was actually a Christian martyr, and at work in the copy room yesterday, there was actually a picture of him, holding his severed head and greeting a couple of Valentine sweethearts as they ate their special dinner in some fancy restaurant.  
st. valentineHe was known to have helped the poor in many ways, including giving dowries to young maidens so they could marry, so that is probably the romantic connection, but the holiday has certainly morphed into something quite different than being concerned about the poor.   It’s kind of a frivolous, fun holiday for spending time with your special Valentine and enjoying beautiful flowers and chocolates and a little decadence, often before the season of Lent settles in.  Bill and I never really celebrated February 14th; we waited until everything was on sale the next day, February 15th when you could buy those chocolates for 50% off, for February 15th was special to us.  We met on a blind date on February 15th, 45 years ago today!  I was working for an insurance company in Chicago in their computer department and one of our programmers (we had those back then) had just ordered a new rug for his apartment.  He and his wife knew this friend of theirs from their Army days who was currently a poor struggling dental student, who going to help them lay the rug, and I had just found this great bottle of wine, so of course we needed to be introduced.  The rug never showed, but we had the party anyway.  For me, it was sort of love at first sight….we talked the night away, started dating, and boom, we were engaged four months later!  We saved our rubles, for we were poor back then, and wanted a nice wedding, so we were engaged for another year, but Bill and I have had a wonderful life together thus far and are looking forward to what God has yet in store for us!   We just heard the restaurant we were going to go to this evening has just cancelled our reservations though and is closing up shop, because of the storm, so we will have to celebrate other ways this evening.  
                                                               Do I hear a wine cork popping?
valentines two.wishes
If spring ever gets here, I have a feeling it is going to be a muddy one, with all the snow we’ve had this winter, but snow is that “poor man’s fertilizer,” so that said, maybe we are in for a wonderful growing season this year.  We certainly hope so!  Happy Valentine’s Day, one and all! 


Blog 2/4/2014


Question of the week:
What does the ancient Christian feast of Candlemas have to do with Groundhog Day?  
Other than they both land on February 2nd, nothing much jumps to mind…..that is, unless one starts to think about that.  Candlemas is a Christmas feast of sorts, celebrating the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple of the Christ child forty days after this birth.  It is also a festival of light, especially the light of Christ having come into the world.  In ancient times there were three Christmas feasts: Christmas Day, which celebrates the light of Christ’s coming to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the other Jews; Epiphany, which is a celebration of Christ as a light coming to all the nations; and Candlemas, the second of February, when the light of Christ is passed to each individual to take out from under the proverbial bushel basket and let it shine throughout the world.   All three feasts are about light in the middle of winter.  In many Churches around the world, candles for the year are also blessed this day.  Punxsutawney Phil is also about light…..if he sees enough of it, the shadows tell whether or not we will have an early spring.  Since our early February here at MV is beginning to look a lot like January, with snow falling every few days, guess what that pudgy little character told us the other day?  You’re right!  Six more weeks of winter!  Other than dates and a play with lights, however the two days don’t seem to have much in common.  But that is OK.  They do intersect and they can talk to each other in a way.  It is a religious marking of time up against a seasonal nature marking of time.  They are different ways of looking at time.
ground hog wolf
I was recently asked to participate in a panel on Pluralism for an Arts festival of sorts in a near-by city.  It is to be a kick-off panel for a series of evenings on pluralism and diversity in today’s society.  Not only religious pluralism or ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, but other dialogues as well will be explored: racial, gender, political, religious, science and religion, science and science (since often the physicists don’t have a clue how to talk with the psychologists, etc.), among others.   I have participated in interfaith dialogues for several years, and one of the things we learned early on in those dialogues was that there was a tendency to try to see similarities between the groups, and almost cover up the differences.  After all, we’re all human, right?   and we are looking for common ground, right?  But we are each unique.  The more the different groups hold to their own identities, the better and the easier it is to see the actual differences, and the more we can begin to appreciate the “other”.  Trying to force differences to blend doesn’t help any dialogue or conversation, and pluralism is about conversation.  To get to know the other, we need to talk with one another.  It is only then that we will be able to learn from the other and appreciate the other.   
In a way, this website, Mystical Ventures, is an exploration of that type of pluralism and dialogue.  It is a mix of living off the land in a sustainable ecological way alongside Catholic religious beliefs.  Eco-theology is an emerging branch of theology today.  How does one’s faith life call one to take care of the planet?  What does religious stewardship really mean? How is one’s morality fashioned in such a way that care of animals and care of nature are included alongside love of neighbor and love of God?  We share a planet.  We live alongside not only other peoples, but other creatures and other life-sustaining systems.  It is time the conversation begin or it is time those conversations continue to discover our diversities and our pluralities.  By learning of those things that we can see, hopefully one day, we will come to see and understand more clearly the Holy One whom we do not see.  Praise God!  


Blog 1/8/2014


Happy New Year to all!  And a frigid one at that!  While most of the country has been held captive by the “arctic vortex,” a term I had not heard before, Old Man Winter has made his presence acutely felt.  We don’t usually see major snow storms or blizzards right on top of New Year’s Day, and if they are this early, they are usually not followed by below zero temperatures and high winds, and then thawing and temps in the 50s, and then freezing again and temps back down to below zero!  Yesterday, it was so cold, after I had gone out to feed the goats in the morning, wearing my winter barn coat with the hood pulled on and mittens on, I came back five minutes later and took off my coat and put on a heavier sweater underneath and a hat on my head under the hood.  The wind was howling so fiercely it was going right through those normal winter clothes.  Much of the country is gripped by these extreme conditions and there has been loss of lives as well.  Yesterday, three duck hunters went out on the water and only one survived and he has been hospitalized with severe hypothermia.   May God welcome to paradise all those who have succumbed to these harsh elements, especially those who were homeless at the time.   When I recently read a reflection which crossed my desk about the quiet stillness of winter in upstate New York (clearly written in another year), I wondered what happened to such stillness this year?!.
 January thaw
When we saw the extreme weather approaching, we knew the goats needed to be separated and consolidated so we were not using our outer third shed. There are four sets of fences between us and them in that third shed and digging out four sets of fences from a foot of snow and before it hard freezes did not sound like a good option.  So, for better or worse, the breeding season is over and our bucks, Malachi and Micah, are back together with the dogs in the middle shed and the does are in the larger shed.  I pulled out the toboggan so we could haul the water, feed and hay down to the yards, since wheel barrels do not work too well in a foot of snow.  Jeremiah and Sophie, our two Great White Pyrenees who are supposed to be guarding the goats, on the other hand, think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread! They tout enormous fur coats and love to roll around in the snow and slide down the hill often chasing each other, kicking up piles of the fluffy white stuff as they go along.  The goats seem to think they’re nuts and are perfectly content staying in their sheds…thank you very much…rather than playing in the white stuff.  I usually love the snow and enjoy walking in that “quiet stillness” my friend described, but when the temp registers at 8.6 degrees and the wind is at 30-40 miles, I’m afraid I’m a wimp.  Give me a good book and the woodstove, if you please.  When it gets back up to 25 degrees or so, I’ll think about peaceful walks once again. 
january morning 
Schools are back in session after the holiday break for most of the younger ones and the colleges start going back next week, so our former routines are resurfacing once again.  The holidays, however, have given us much for which we can be thankful.  Christmas and Santa brought gifts, to be sure, but pausing to reflect on the feast of the Nativity also gave us new fresh insights into God’s love for each of us.  Winter is usually a slower period of the year, when outdoor growing has halted for a time, but indoor growing goes a little deeper.  Babies are learning how to walk; toddlers are putting sentences together from just single words; children and all kinds of students and teachers are still learning.  The dormant period in the earth is being nourished by that wonderful “poor man’s fertilizer – snow” and the animals are settling into their quieter times, especially those who may be nurturing next spring’s young.  Bill is not a winter person, but he relishes the inside quieter months, too, as a chance to pour over all those seed catalogs, and dream and plan next year’s gardens.  He’s already ordering seeds.
IMG 0490-300px
Epiphany has come and while this week we are still in the final days of the Christmas season, the decorations are coming down.  Stockings are being packed away for one more year and garlands and lights are relocating to their plastic tubs and boxes.  Wrapping paper and ribbons are being stored once more, and special “Christmas dishes” are going back to their shelves.  Soon it will be a whole new year, and the house will look somewhat barren with all the red and greenery removed.  I often let the snowmen stay up to sort of transition us for the next few months.  But it is clearly a time to begin anew. New Year’s resolutions have been made, and I’m sure some already broken, but every year, we seem to want to try harder to improve something in our lives.  We really need to turn to God for that one though, for only by his grace and loving care can we begin to be what God has designed us each to be and become.  As we venture down the road of 2014, may it be one of growth and deepening love for all of you!


Blog 12/27/2013


In the welcoming rite of Christian baptism, there is a period following baptism called mystagogia, or a period of more or less letting it all sink in.  It is a time for savoring the mysteries of baptism.  On December 27th, there is a similar movement going on…..only we are all savoring and tasting the profound mysteries of the Nativity.  I often have thought that the week right after Christmas is the best time of the season.  Everything is done.  There is no more racing around, or wrapping one more gift, or cooking one more dish.  The house is as clean as it’s going to get; people who are traveling have arrived or in some cases have already gone back.  The gifts have been opened and put back under the tree.  In the goat yard, Jeremiah and Sophie are back together and have enjoyed a huge rawhide bone as a Christmas treat.  The bucks and does are still mixed up and will remain so until the New Year, and hopefully, we will have more than a few baby kids come spring with lots of goat’s milk.   The chickens are fine and while we have had a few snow storms, they have been light and have only dropped an inch or two in our area of the world.  Of course, the annual Christmas letter is still to be written, but writing it in a relaxed atmosphere of letting the holiday “sink in” is far easier that it would have been to try to fit it into the other craziness of preparing for the feast.  Classes ran late this year, too, so I was still submitting student’s final grades two days before Christmas.  But the perogi has been made and enjoyed, we’ve had our Christmas morning mimosas with brunch, we’ve watched and listened to some of the little squeals of delight as grandchildren opened their gifts,
christmas tree.400
and we have been surprised and overwhelmed in some cases by the generosity of others.  Church overflowed with families stopping to acknowledge the reason for the season, and it was a gift to be able to share with them our common faith in a loving God.  Practical gifts, like a new food processor and a new leaf blower lie under the tree, but alongside a set of wind chimes from Martinique, a crazy puzzle collage of  Bill’s retirement pictures from last year, and one new nativity set with a Nubian goat in it!  
 Some of the grandchildren were here Christmas Eve; some we saw on Christmas Day and some yesterday, but others were not able to be with us.  Our almost-three year old Ellie is now talking up a storm.  Little Abby is a pint sized fashion plate, just as cute as can be, and she kept running around asking about the ducks, the dogs and the goats.  We were hoping she wouldn’t notice that the ducks were not actually running around any longer.  
abby christmas
I got to hold and rock the newest grandbaby, Lily, who was born last month, and simply wonder at how fast some of the other girls are growing up now, playing Pictionary and wearing real jewelry and putting on make-up.  We received the annual calendar from our D.C. grandchildren with pics of many of their exploits from this past year, and two new 8 x 10s of our other two D.C. grandchildren tomboys, who are almost 3 years old, and 18 months old, but were in Savannah this year for the holidays.   The mysteries of the Incarnation have overpowered us, and as we let them sink in this year, there is a wonderful calming peace that comes with them.  There is much work ahead, but for this moment, it is good to simply stand in awe before the crèche and thank God for his goodness. 
christmas table.400
In a few more days, 2013 will be but a memory, but 2014 brings the quiet winter and the often overcast month of January and SEED CATALOGS!  One of Bill’s favorite past-times in the slower winter months is to pour over those seed catalogs to dream and to plan next year’s gardens.  We both hope that the holidays have been wonderful family filled celebrations for you and yours, but even if you were apart from loved ones this year, know that our God is an awesome God and He watches over all those he loves with amazing care.   
Merry Christmas!
christmas altar.550


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