Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Benign neglect

My mother was a gifted gardener, but because of my assorted obligations and distractions I have become an indifferent one, at best. There are a few plants in the yard that take care of themselves and triumph over my neglect, every season. These are some of Aunt Icy's day lilies.

The Scientist's Great-Aunt Icy was an East Texas farmer who worked alongside her farmer husband for decades, both in Texas and, for about twenty years, in the more challenging climate of South Dakota. She lived to be ninety-four, an independent woman who mowed her yard with a riding mower, well into her eighties. To her delight, my sister-in-law took her for a motorcycle ride on her ninetieth birthday. She was a priceless source of family history and genealogy, and we are thankful for the tape recording we made with her one afternoon as we wandered through several country cemeteries and learned the stories of the kinfolk who were buried there. After she died, my sister-in-law salvaged these day lilies from her yard before the house was sold. As day lilies will when they are left to their own devices, they have multiplied from five plants to about fifteen. I keep saying that "some day" I will dig them up and separate the clumps, but "some day" hasn't come. And yet, every summer, these vivid red blooms surprise me.

I know there's a moral or metaphor in here somewhere about how things that are pretty good now, could be even better if I expended just a little more effort. I know that I am easily distracted, that I dawdle around and let things more important than day lilies slide along on autopilot at times--especially my friendships. Yet somehow, when we do make contact, my friends and I always seem to pick up where we left off, for which I am thankful. Grace abounds, and may I never take that for granted.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wish you were here!

(Cue the "Hallelujah Chorus")

It has arrived.

Friday Five: Hot Town, Summer in the City

1. Favorite summer food(s) and beverage(s):
I love the wonderful summer fruits: berries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, cantelope. I could live on fruit and yogurt this time of year. Of course I usually make at least one blueberry pie--I think I'll do that this afternoon!
It stays pretty warm here most of the year, so there isn't really a beverage I only associate with summer. I probably make iced tea about 350 days out of the year.

2. Song that "says" summer to you. (Need not be about summer explicitly.)
One beautiful morning in the late '70's when I was in my master's program, I was on my way to school when Eddie Money's "Baby Hold On", which was climbing the charts, came on the radio. It was such a happy, upbeat song, I rolled down the window and let it blast. That moment, and the memory of it, have always felt like the essence of summer to me.

3. A childhood summer memory.
I used to love to put on my swimsuit and play in the sprinkler. Remember the Wham-O Water Wiggle, gyrating wildly at the end of the hose?

4. An adult summer memory.
In our summer climate, intense storms can pop up quickly with little advance notice; they rumble through, then the sun comes out again. We spent our tenth anniversary at a Galveston bed and breakfast, in a nice second-floor room with a view of the Gulf. One day we stood on our balcony and watched a powerful thunderstorm roll in over the water. I still remember the dark clouds making the water appear gray, the sound of the thunder and the way the breeze grew cooler for a while.

5. Describe a wonderful summer day you'd like to have in the near future.
I'd love to go back to Galveston soon (or better yet, South Padre Island, but that's too far to drive) and have a long weekend in a little beach house, so we could take the dog with us. I imagine just the right breeze coming off the water, and us with nothing to do but listen to the waves, read, walk, look for shells, and eat seafood.

Optional: Does your place of worship do anything differently in the summer? (Fewer services, casual dress, etc.)
This summer we aren't having Sunday school. I have to admit, it's been nice to sleep in and read the paper before heading off to church. Some Sundays the choir has the day off, which gives us even a few more minutes to dawdle in the morning.

5 Things I Dig About Jesus

PG tagged me for this one!
Only five? OK...

1. He is our example of selfless love. And I don't mean "doormat".
2. When he was physically with us, he was able to set limits and go off by himself to recharge when he needed to. (So was Jesus an introvert? I think that's been discussed elsewhere.)
3. He always did what pleased the Father, but wasn't afraid of not conforming to anyone else's expectations: not those who expected him to be a militant political leader, not those who expected him to be a "good" Jew and have nothing to do with Samaritans, Gentiles, or women (much less Samaritan or Gentile women), not even his own family and friends who wished he would stop making outrageous claims and embarrassing them in public.
4. He freely chose to go to the cross for us. He is our example of courage, as well as love.
5. He is the only one who always listens to me--and always knows what I'm talking about!

Looks like a lot of people are being tagged for this one, so I won't double-tag. I look forward to your lists.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

In Tonight's News:

Twenty-Year-Old Washing Machine Pronounced Dead, Despite Heroic Efforts; Replacement to Be Named Monday

Habitat Work Day Interrupted by Noisy Afternoon Storm; Dog Retreats to Closet

Anniversary Party Invitations Remain Unaddressed As Woman Mops Flooded Laundry Room and Assembles Moussaka

Tonight's Movie: The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941), Starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda

(Thank you, Songbird, I only steal from the best.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

La Serenissima

I thought I would show you some pictures of Venice. This is our first view of the Grand Canal, as we were approaching the city from the mainland.

Homes on the Grand Canal have been flooded so many times, it appears that many residents have abandoned the first floor and just live upstairs. Note the Moorish design of many of the windows; this Eastern influence in the architecture is seen all over Venice.
St. Mark's. No picture can do it justice. See the bronze horses above the entrance?
This is the view of St. Mark's Square one has when standing next to those horses. The little dots are pigeons, and yuck, they are everywhere. Many tourists buy bags of bird feed to attract them, and the pigeons swarm all over them. This beautiful church is Santa Maria della Salute, as viewed from the Accademia bridge, near our hotel. I hope to see it without the scaffolding some day.
Probably only tourists take long gondola rides, but local people will often use the gondolas to get across the canal quickly. Yes, Venetian passengers often stand.
The area where we stayed, Dorsoduro, is mostly residential and not frequented by tourists, although there are several well-known museums there. Wandering through Dorsoduro, we often passed lovely quiet spots like this.
The Rialto bridge by day...
...and by night! See the prow of our gondola at right?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Eight more things

I've been tagged again! This time Kievas is the culprit. Here are eight more random factoids about me:
1. I haven't worn tap shoes in over 40 years, but I can still do time steps.
2. I have the following people's autographs: Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, B.J. Thomas, Tonio K (who wrote, "When the shrinks start liking this ****, we're all in trouble"), Randy Stonehill, Jimmy Carter, Sen. John Tower, Temple Grandin, J. Keith Miller, and Horton Foote. I think that's all.
3. I admit that I am powerless over tortilla chips.
4. I would love to buy a piano and start playing again.
5. If God told me, "You can't live below the Mason-Dixon line any more, but you can live anywhere else in the USA that you choose," I would move to Oregon.
6. When I was young, our neighbor was the features photographer for the local paper, and since she occasionally needed a picture of an adorable child playing with pets or enjoying Christmas morning, I wound up on the front page a couple of times. My 15 minutes came and went early.
7. I am left-handed, as is the Scientist. We also come from towns with the same name, though in different states. Obviously this was meant to be.
8. Having grown up in a listless, inactive church (or so it seemed to me then), I thought I wanted nothing more to do with Presbyterianism. In my various sojourns away from the Presbyterian church, I've spent time in: Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, Assemblies of God, Southern Baptist, Evangelical Free Church, Congregational. No one was more surprised than I when my journey finally led me back to my first home.

By now, many of you have been tagged for this one, so I won't double tag you. But I look forward to reading your list!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Visiting the Bishop

On a quiet side street in Rome is a beautiful Byzantine basilica, Santa Prassede, to which the Scientist and I took a long walk so that I could pay my respects to an old friend. In the early '90's, one of my former professors, Karen Jo Torjesen, published her book, When Women Were Priests. On the cover is a mosaic from Santa Prassede's exquisite St. Zeno Chapel:

(That's my picture, not the one from the book.) The three women with round haloes are Sts. Prudentiana and Praxedis (Prassede), who are buried in the crypt, and Mary the mother of Jesus. Above the halo of the woman on the left (the square halo indicates she was alive when the mosaic was made) is inscribed Theodora Episcopa, "Bishop Theodora". Does this indicate that ordination of women was occurring, at least in some circles, as late as the ninth century A.D.? Torjesen certainly thinks so. Those who disagree argue that Theodora was the mother of the bishop, and that she was given the title episcopa as an honorific. Be that as it may; Torjesen makes a great case for the prominence of women in church leadership in the early centuries of the church, and how that leadership was suppressed as the church moved more from the private to the public arena. One thing I was determined to do in Rome was to go see the Bishop. Here I am (dark pink shirt) entering the St. Zeno chapel:
This is my off-kilter photo of its ceiling. You can see lots of pictures of these mosaics and the interior of St. Prassede, way better than mine, here.
It was a long, hot walk from Trastevere up through ancient Rome, past the Colosseum, through a park near the Domus Aureus (Nero's house), where men playing bocce smiled at us, and dozens of ordinary Romans were out enjoying their weekend. We got a drink and a jam tart in a little cafe where a friendly counterman was patient with my fractured Italian, then answered me in perfect English...Oh, and on the way to Santa Prassede we stopped off at San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains) to say hi to this guy: