Saturday, May 31, 2014

This Too

Noticing his misery, his father gave him an instruction that Charlie always remembered when he needed to. "You think it's awful. And it is. But I'll tell you something. You can't believe it now, but times will come when this won't be on your mind. You won't think of it."
Wendell Berry, A Place in Time, Drouth

I first noticed this phenomenon after having a few operations. When you come home from the hospital, the cause and results of your operation, whatever it my have been, occupy your consciousness almost completely. You probably hurt, and every move you make reminds you that you hurt. You're always thinking about how to move just so, so that you won't make the pain worse. You think there might be something wrong. Your incision doesn't look right. You're not sure you are following the doctor's instruction correctly. Your medication doesn't seem to be working right. 

In a week, or a month, or maybe two, you're feeling better, but there's still an ache here and a twinge there, and you're exhausted. Your incision begins to itch. You're ready to get back to your normal life but you're soooo tired. You feel almost well, but you have a little relapse. 

But then a day comes when you realize you haven't thought about your operation for a couple of weeks. You feel really good. You can do everything you used to do. Pretty soon the whole experience, which was so all-consuming has disappeared beneath the waters of your everyday life and you only remember it when operations or sickness come up in casual conversation.

Then as I got older, some serious things began to happen in our family. I'm not going to go into details here, but we had some hard times--times when it seemed that everything we hoped for was lost--times when it seemed that it would be impossible to be really happy ever again. Even in the midst of those times, though, there were days that weren't so bad, when life pretty much went on in a normal way, and moments when we were happy. Berry speaks to this paradox further on in this story about the effects of a drought on a young boy.
For me, it was a summer of need--of more need, probably, than I was capable of recognizing or feeling. That one may be grieved and in need and all the while living one's life, often enough with interest and even pleasure, was an ordinary oddity far beyond my years and understanding. Grief, great as it might be, did not consume all the world, but now, for me, it had taken its place among the world's other things.
"Grieved and in need" we were indeed, but time passed, and grief did not consume all the world, or even our small part of it. Eventually, things got better--much better--although as Sam Gamgee hoped, everything sad has not yet come untrue. Now, we don't think about those times often, and when we do, much of the pain has been relieved.

Lately, things have been kind of hard, both physically and emotionally, but I know that down the road a bit, I won't think about them much. In the meantime, things are looking up. Thursday, we moved Mother into her new apartment. It's really a lovely place. It's on the 10th floor of the building and it's a corner room with fairly large windows, and it's next to a park, so the view is wonderful. I wish I had pictures, but I was too tired to get my phone out of my pocket. Hard as it was to prepare for and make this move, it was great to see my family working together to get this done. I think that Mother is happy to be there. I'm sure it will be an adjustment, but everyone there has been very, very nice, and soon, I think, she will feel at home there.

We found out that Mother was going to have to sell her house, and many of her possessions, and find a new place to live during the first week of April, and all this was done by May 29. That is truly amazing. We had a contract withing 3 weeks of putting the house on the market, and there wasn't the slightest hitch along the way. The people we found to buy her things were absolutely wonderful to her, and I think they were truly fond of her by the time our business was finished. We seem to have found the perfect place for Mother to live. I believe that this is an answer to prayer and the gift of a loving Father, but it really puzzles and humbles me when I think about it. Why are we so blessed when I see others struggling so much? It seems almost an act of presumption to say that I think it's God's work, but on the other hand, it would be an act of ingratitude to say that it wasn't. I guess that all I can do is just be truly grateful, and try to live in a way that shows that gratitude.

I guess this precludes complaining about my little miseries, but I'm going to have to try to do it anyway.


Monday, May 19, 2014

The Horror in the Back Yard


But let me back up a bit.

This was taken on July 4 last year. All my children and my mother and 6 grandchildren here to celebrate the day.

We had a great time and this little one was especially happy as she had spent most of the day floating around in that little inflatable car that her uncle has commandeered in this picture. Most of you have read in previous posts that the next day, July 5, a huge tree fell on my house. As I sat in my room, feeling quite secure, I heard the winds rising and thought, "Darn, we left the pool toys in the pool and they're all going to blow away."

Well, after the big fall, we ended up spending the rest of the summer and part of the fall elsewhere and by the time we got back home, the pool was in pretty bad shape. This was going to happen anyway. We had been patching little tears in the liner for a couple of years, and the tears and patches had been getting bigger all summer. The neglect probably helped things along, and in the end we had to decide whether to fix the liner for several thousand dollars or fill the pool for several thousand dollars. It was a really hard decision, but for a variety of reasons--future expense--the enormous amount of time my husband spent on the pool every summer--the fact that the pool just doesn't get that much use--the fact that I never wanted a pool to begin with--we decided the pool had to go.

So, the big day came and this monster arrived to start hammering holes in the concrete. I just noticed how small the pool looks next to the beast.

When it was finished all the concrete was in the pool. I missed this first part because I was at work. I came home to find all the concrete in the pool. I figured at this point our decision was pretty irrevocable.

Then, the next morning, a Saturday, Junior showed up

and started hauling sand and dirt from the big truck in the drive to dump it in the pool. The truck couldn't get close to the pool because it was too heavy to drive over the line to the septic tank--we weren't going to ask for any more trouble.

Now I want to make sure you notice that the one thing I worried about the day of the storm did not come to pass. C. S. Lewis said that the hundred different things we worry about never happen, it's something new that surprises us. I guess that in this case, he was right.

Ten months later, and here's a little inflatable pink boat. I think the car actually DID blow out of the pool.

But there were plenty of other toys left, and maybe 100 years from now, somebody will find them here.

It was kind of hair-raising to me to watch this guy dump stuff in the pool and then drive out to the very edge of the dirt pile.

And there he sits victorious on the no-longer-a-pool.

And there it isn't. I love it that the angle of the picture makes the well-head cover look like a tombstone.

Unfortunately, we also have a sort of driveway through the yard now. We want to plant grass, but it was too early a couple of weeks ago when this happened and also, as soon as the trucks left, it started raining torrentially and has been doing so frequently ever since. As far as I can tell, Mother Nature is trying to recreate the pool. I think if you stepped on it, you would go to spend eternity with the pool toys.

I have had some sad moments since we filled the pool, but I haven't really had much time to think about it as we have moved on to the next big thing. I'm really glad that we had that nice family gathering on the last day, though. Sadly, most of the kids won't remember the day, and some of them won't remember the pool, but I'm thinking about printing a little book about it so they can see the day pool disappeared.


BTW, my granddaughter Tessa, The Great Photographer, took that picture. I think she took it the night before the tree fell, but maybe not.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


No time to write, but I just found some nice pictures on Bill's camera and I thought I'd share them.

Wish I could see the birds more clearly, but I like the picture anyway.

I have tried to get this picture many times with a phone, but it's really nice to use a real camera once in a while.

Same with this picture. I love the highest one.

This little guy lived with us for a couple of weeks. You are looking up at the sloping underside of the porch roof. He was not much bigger than you see him here--about the size of a pecan. It was a while before we figure out that it was something living. I've always been a bit afraid of bats flying around, but I really became quite fond of him before he left.

Pretty sure this is fleabane.

I never knew before I saw this that our crepe myrtle has these red blossoms.

I love it when the morning or evening sun hits the treetops at this angle.

Remember you can see all the pictures enlarged if you click once on a picture.

Well, that's all for tonight. Please keep us in your prayers.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Well, my mother has a place to live and there is a contract on the house, and now we are trying to figure out the best way to dispose of her stuff. It is very, very nice stuff, and we would like to get some money for it, but since we have to sell things in a big hurry, I doubt that we will get very much. We are suppose to close on the house on the 28th, and she has to be out by the 30th. It makes me tired to think of it, very tired. I am very, very tired. 

Please pray for us for strength, and patience, and peace--mostly peace. Having all these people in the house doing various things is hard on my mother. I wish I could just move her, but we can't do that until we close.

In the meantime, I hope to find some time to write, but I'm having to spend a lot of time at my mothers, and a lot of time at work making up for the work I missed going to Mother's and that doesn't leave a lot of time to write. Still, I have half a post written, and another one ready to go if we can just figure out how to get one last picture off our camera.

Again, please pray for us.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Be Born In Us

The Nativity

Be born in us,
Incarnate Love.
Take our flesh and blood,
and Give us Your humanity;
take our eyes, and give us Your vision;
take our minds,
and give us Your pure thoughts;
take our feet and set them in Your path;
take our hands
and fold them in Your prayer;
take our hearts
and give them Your will to love.

Maisie Ward describes the picture:
The Child is lying on the ground on a handful of straw. Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. Peter Martyr and a crowned woman saint are worshipping Him--especially characteristic of Fra Angelico is the annihilation of the centuries which brings these together at the crib.
If you have looked at very many paintings by Fra Angelico, you know that he frequently includes these saints, usually Dominican saints in his pictures. I wish I knew who that queen is, and how Ms. Ward knows that that is St. Peter Martyr. I love the animals in this picture, especially the donkey.

I wrote yesterday of how I sometimes think of myself as a little child accompanying Mary when I meditate on the Mysteries. (I say this like I do it frequently, and I don't.) This is especially true about the Nativity. I picture Mary cuddling the baby Jesus, and myself all curled up and sleepy, leaning on her side. If I'm saying the Rosary in bed, it's hard to stay awake for the whole decade.

In a more serious vein, this Mystery brings back a time when I was struggling with depression. Sometimes I felt like I was going to lose my mind. I thought of it as being in a pit. At some point, I remember saying to the Lord, "Well, I may have to be in this pit, but it's okay if you are here with me," or I might have said, "You better be here with me." I don't remember if it was before or after I said this, it's so long ago that it's all confused, that I read a passage in A Scent of Water that really helped me with this.

Mary Lindsay, a young woman who struggles with intermittent mental illness, has been having a bad time. And one night she has a dream of being pressed to death by rock walls, but she accepts the trial, and then finds a small crack in the stone that she follows to a glimmer of light, which eventually leads to a space in the rock.
The stone walls were still there but the light had hollowed them out into a cave and they no longer frightened me. There was a lantern in the cave and people were moving about, a man and woman caring for a girl who lay on a pile of hay. And for a newborn child. As I watched, the woman stooped and put Him into His mother's arms. 
There's more, but this will give you the main idea of the passage. So many times over the years, I have thought about this when I was having a hard time, and it has comforted me.

I'll end with a quote from St. Ephraem of Syria that closes this chapter of the book.
Joseph caressed the son as a babe, he ministered to Him as God . . . and he was awe-struck at Him as the Just One, greatly bewildered. "Who hath given to me the Son of the Most High to be a son to me? I was jealous of Thy Mother, and I thought to put her away, and I knew not that in her womb was hidden a mighty treasure, that should suddenly enrich my poor estate."
In so many way, the world, and even parts of the Church have put Mary away, but she, like any good mother, waits patiently to reveal her hidden treasure.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Who Am I That the Mother of My Lord Should Come to Me?

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

This picture is actually one of a series of smaller panels at the base of this altarpiece

The Visitation

Breath of Heaven
carry us on the impulse
of Christ's love,
as easily as thistledown
is carried on the wind;
that in the Advent season of our souls,
while He is formed in us,
in secret and in silence--
the Creator
in the hands of his creatures,
as the Host 
in the hands of the priest--
we may carry Him forth
to wherever He wishes to be,
as Mary carried Him over the hills
on His errand of love,
to the house of Elizabeth.
                                                                                      Caryll Houselander

When I first looked at this picture, my first reaction was to wonder who those two women on the right and left are. It appears to me that woman on the right, who is directing our attention to Mary and Elizabeth is a servant. Maisie Ward describes the one on the left as a travel companion who is, perhaps, mulling over the conversation she has been having with Mary. This is likely, but there is another version of this scene in which the woman on the left is carrying something and she appears more like a servant to me.

In any case, when I meditate on this mystery, I usually think of myself as a travelling companion to Mary. I'm trying to remember how this started because there was some definite occasion for it. Oh, now I remember. I used to talk with a young woman online, and one Lent, I gave up talking to everyone else but her. I'm not sure why, but I somehow thought travelling through Lent with this her as a companion was something like travelling with Mary, who, of course, was very young. So, sometimes I have tried to imagine what it would be like to walk all that distance with Mary, and the blessing that it would be to make a difficult journey with someone who was completely unselfish. I imagine that she would always be helping and encouraging the rest of us who would be having a hard time of it. And sometimes, I imagine what it would be like to be a young child travelling with her, because I frequently picture myself this way while meditating on the Mysteries.

Maisie Ward says:
Our Lord in this Mystery has not only taken a human nature from Mary but has left Himself helpless, powerless in the darkness of her womb to be taken where she wills. It is the beginning of a divine economy of grace whereby God saves mankind by giving Himself into the power of men. The Curé d'Ars, marvelling over the Blessed Sacrament, said: "I bear Him to the right and He stays to the right; I bear Him to the left, and He stays to the left."
And so it is with us. We receive Him in Communion and take Him out into the world, frequently forgetting His presence before we leave the church. It's amazing to me how much He trusts us with. He puts His work in our hands; he puts his reputation in our hands; he puts his beloved in our hands.

The scripture from which this Mystery comes is Luke 1:39-56. This passage contains the Magnificat which the Church prays every evening in Evening Prayer. Because of this, Ms. Ward included this poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins in this chapter.

The May Magnificat 

May is Mary's month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
  Her feasts follow reason,
  Dated due to season—

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
  Why fasten that upon her,
  With a feasting in her honour?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
  Is it opportunest
  And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother: 
Her reply puts this other 
  Question: What is Spring?— 
  Growth in every thing— 

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather, 
Grass and greenworld all together;
  Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
  Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
  And bird and blossom swell
  In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
  With that world of good,
  Nature's motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
  How she did in her stored
  Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring's universal bliss
  Much, had much to say
  To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
  And thicket and thorp are merry
  With silver-surfèd cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
  And magic cuckoocall
  Caps, clears, and clinches all—

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ's birth
  To remember and exultation
  In God who was her salvation.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Am I Not Here, Who Am Your Mother?

I know that that quote is from Our Lady of Guadalupe and this post doesn't have anything to do with the apparition at Tepeyac, but I was trying to think of my favorite phrase that has anything to do with Mary, and that is probably it.

When I was searching the catalog of the library at CBU where Bill works for books about Fra Angelico, I found The Splendour of the Rosary.  I saw the name Caryll Houselander, and that the illustrations were by Fra Angelico (Fra Giovanni da Fiesole--note, another of my Sts. John), and I thought, "Yes, indeed. That book is for me." So, I asked Bill to bring it home. I didn't realize until I started reading it that it was written by Maisie Ward, but it has prayers for each mystery by Caryll Houselander. Unfortunately, this book having been published in 1945, and during the war, the illustrations are black and white, and not very detailed, but that's okay, because we can find them in color whenever we like, and that is what I'm going to do during Mary's month.

The Annunciation

Holy spirit of Life!
Come down into our hearts,
that we may live.
Descend into emptiness,
that emptiness
may be filled.
Descend into the dust,
that the dust may flower.
Descend into the dark,
that the light may shine in darkness.
                                                                                      Caryll Houselander

Maisie Ward tells us that John Ruskin wrote that the tiny words across the bottom of this picture are, Virginis intactae cum veneri ante figuram, which translates, When you come before the face of the Virgin Inviolate, be sure to utter an Ave as you pass. (Click on the picture to see the words better.) I can't find any image that show the words above the picture, but Ms. Ward says they are:
Salve Mater Pietatis/Et totius Trinitatis/Nobile Triclinium.
Hail Mother of Compassion and noble resting-place of the whole Trinity.

Ruskin also says:
The face is of no strange far-sought loveliness; the features might even be thought hard, and they are worn with watching, and severe, though innocent. She stoops forward with her arms folded on her bosom: no casting down of eye nor shrinking of the frame in fear; she is too earnest, too self-forgetful for either: wonder and enquiry are there, but chastened and free from doubt; meekness, yet mingled with a patient majesty; peace, yet sorrowfully sealed, as if the promise of the angel were already underwritten by the prophecy of Simeon.
 This quotes makes me wonder what I've never wondered before, and that is if Mary was waiting for something, if she had a sense that something was coming. Sometimes the Lord prepares us for impending events, and if this can happen to us, then surely it might have been the case with Mary, especially since her sinlessness would have made her unusually receptive to God's presence. 

When I was praying the Rosary after reading all this, I was thinking how much I would like for an angel to come and tell me some things very clearly. I don't mean portentous things. I did have sense last year that there were going to be several changes in our lives, but, goodness, I am glad that no angel came and spelled them all out for me beforehand. But what I would like to know is, "Am I doing the right thing about A, and what should I be doing about B, and am I just supposed to sit here and wait, and how can I grow patient enough to just be still? That line of the poem asking the Holy Spirit to "Descend into the dust/that the dust may flower," really resonates with me at the moment.

Of course, if an angel really showed up, I might not be as thrilled as I think I would be. I might find out that perfect goodness, as C. S. Lewis says, is not all that comfortable to be around. I'm pretty sure that he would not find me self-forgetful, and free from doubt as Ruskin describes Mary. But I know she would be there with me, holding me in "the hollow of [her] mantle" and "the crossing of [her] arms."


Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Saints John

St. John Fisher
Since the name Janet is a diminutive of the feminine form of John, I have long laid claimed to all the Sts. John (Juan, Ian, Jane, & Jean, etc)  as my very own. Therefore, I thought it was really nice of Holy Mother Church to give me not one, but two new saints.

St. Jean de Brebeuf
When Pope St. John Paul II was still alive, I used to worry all the time because I knew odds were that I would outlive him, and I knew I could never love another Pope as much as I did him. But then I was wrong, because I love Pope Benedict that much too.

I am old enough to remember a bit about Pope St. John XXIII. I was 13 when he died. I remember, of course, that he convened Vatican II. Other than that I remember him as being very personable and jovial. It seems to me that the media and the world in general regarded him in much the same way as they do Pope Francis, without all the
St. John the Baptist
conservative/liberal garbage--but maybe I was just young and naive. I don't think, though that the news media was quite so obnoxious.

I have, of course, not been completely able to escape the knowledge that there has been a lot of negative talk surrounding these ordinations for one reason or another, but I have studiously avoided reading any of it. I have pretty much realized that it's the Church's business to decide about stuff like this, and my business to get rid of the plank in my own eye. 

I did notice an exchange on Facebook the other day which took place after a friend said that he was happy about the ordinations, and someone responded by telling him why he was unhappy about them. I immediately thought that the Pope
St. Jane Frances de Chantal
St. John the Apostle
Sts. John were probably laughing and shaking their heads about all the hoopla and being excessively grateful that they were in heaven and no longer had to shepherd such a contentious flock. I imagine that Pope St. John Paul II, was saying to Pope St. John XXIII, "At least you didn't have to contend with bloggers."

I, along with my friend, am just grateful that the Church has given us the gift of two more examples to follow, along with so many others. They might not all get to be Johns, but I'm pretty fond of some of them, too. 
St. John of the Cross

Perhaps this bestowal of two new Sts. John upon me is an effort to make up for the enormous disappoint I underwent when the
calendar of Saints was changed after Vatican II and someone decided to spirit away my St. John of the Cross from my birthday and move him elsewhere. Well, I suppose I will have to get over that some day, and maybe now would be the time.

I like this picture of St. John Newman

because it reminds me of my old profile picture.

and if you do a Google image search for St. John Newman, you will see that he sat in this position all the time, as do I. In fact, I usually have my hand in the position that his is in in the above picture. I might not be able to behave in a saintly manner, but I can at least sit in this obviously holy position.

San Juan Diego