Saturday, April 29, 2006

Packing Wars

I'm up to almost 120 boxes. PH is out of town at a conference, so I'm packing alone. (boohoo)

I'm leaving town for a conference tomorrow night, so he gets to do some by himself while I'm gone. Not 120 boxes, though. The good news is that so much stuff will be out of the house for the showing that when we are ready to move, the second round of packing will take no time.

Last night I had a movie fest - went to Blockbuster and got three movies. Watched two last night and one early this morning. One of last night's was "Ushpizin", about a childless poor Chasid couple in Jerusalem during Succoth. Wonderful, wonderful movie, though not for kids under 13 because of some violent behavior. The second movie was "Proof," about a brilliant but insane mathematician and his equally brilliant daughter, who may also be falling victim to the same mental illness. Troubling, interesting, not your usual Hollywood fare, and it got me over my belief that Gwyneth Paltrow can't act. This morning I watched "Rent" and sang along loudly (I've already got the soundtrack on DC and love some of the music) while I changed the sheets on the bed and cleaned the bathroom.

Saturday is icon-writing day. I'm in the home stretch on my "John the Baptist Baptizes Jesus in the Jordan." One or two more sessions and it should be done. Since there are so many figures (John, Jesus, four angels) plus two mountains, the river, fishes and sea snakes, much of it is painted with size 0, 00, and 000 brushes. I was doing details of the hair today and thought my eyes would just give up entirely. I think the next one will be a simple (?) head and shoulders portrait of St. Peter. Doing something large-format like that without all the detail will be a relief.

I'm going to a friend's for dinner. I'm looking forward to having someone else cook dinner, particularly since she's a great cook!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

While I'm Posting Pictures are three of StrongOpinions at the snowboarding nationals last month. Yes, she is wearing angel wings. Yes, she is a tad scraped up. It goes with the territory, along with her mother's rapidly graying hair.

Shrinemont III: Pedaler Pictures

For some reason, the pictures are in reverse sequence, so you get to see everybody looking whupped, then getting progressively fresher. Would that it were so in real life.

End of the ride - PH and me. A tad wet. The team on the porch of Virginia House - end of the ride.

Ice Cream Break. When you expend that many calories, you can have Rocky Road.


The overlook at Bears Den Lodge

Blessing of the bikes (L)

PH early on the first day's ride (R)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

From this morning's "The Writer's Almanac"

Poem: "Prayer Chain" by Tim Nolan. Reprinted at "The Writer's Almanac" with permission by the author.

Prayer Chain

My mother called to tell me
about an old classmate of mine who

was dying on the parish prayer chain—
or was very sick—or destitute-

or it had not worked out—the marriage—
or the kids were all on drugs—and

all the old mothers were praying intensely
for all the pain of their children

and for life—they were praying for life—
in their quiet rooms—sipping decaf coffee—

I bet they've been praying for me at times—
so I'll find my way—so I won't rob a bank—

I'll take them—the mystical prayers of old mothers—
it matters—all this patient and purposeful love.

Oh, yes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

So I'm Slow. Want To Make Something Of It?

And here's my very belated A to Z meme:

Accent: east coast neutral (although I can revert to my NYC one when getting in a cab in midtown Manhattan)
Booze: Wine, Vodka Gimlet, Gin & Tonic, Margarita
Chore I Hate: swapping winter and summer clothing from storage
Dog or Cat: two cats, a gecko, assorted fish in the pond outside
Essential Electronics: computer, car radio, DVD player, digital camera
Favorite Cologne(s): Origins Ginger, Clarins Elysium, Caron Bellodgia, Givenchy Amarige, Joy de Patou
Gold or Silver: BOTH
Hometown: Jersey City, NJ
Insomnia: when my brain won't quiet down
Job Title: Lobbyist, Postulant
Kids: Three of my own plus two grown steps whom I raised, and three grandkids from the stepsons
Living arrangements: spouse, pets, daughter on the way to college, dust bunnies, massive quantities of books
Most admirable trait: listening
Number of sexual partners: In the distant past, a couple. In the present, my one and only.
Overnight hospital stays: tonsillectomy, three childbirths, two stays for blood disorder.
Phobias: Heights
Quote: Mine is "My goodness!" Quotes from others are too numerous to mention.
Religion: Episcopalian. Progressive variety.
Siblings: I'm an only child.
Time I wake up: Between 5:30 and 6 a.m.
Unusual talent or skill:I write icons.
Vegetable I refuse to eat: lima beans
Worst habit: clutter
X-rays: Teeth, hip, shoulder, knee, wrist, brain (yes, I do have one), colonoscopy (a real thrill), mammosquishes,upper and lower GI series, ...gee, I've had a lot of pictures taken.
Yummy foods I make: anything Italian, anything pastry, bunches of other stuff. Cooking is my mental health activity
Zodiac sign: I'm a lioness.

Welcome, Baby Blake!

Grandbaby #3, Blake, younger brother of Cowboy and cousin of Princess Katie, was born today a little after noontime. He weighed in at eight pounds six ounces and arrived via C-section, not a surprise since his mom is a tiny gal.

There is no bliss like a grandbaby. His GrandMary is dancing the happy dance.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Shrinemont II

We all made it to Shrinemont in one piece, had a great if damp time (yes, it rained on the mountain, as usual) and got home yesterday afternoon in time to do more packing of stuff, three loads of laundry, and arrange with the mover to take three-quarters of our stuff to storage while the house is being shown, plus take the stored stuff and the rest of the stuff to the new place in July sometime. Then we took StrongOpinions out to supper and crashed.

The ride out to Shrinemont was wonderful. The redbuds are all in bloom, with sprays of lavender flowers everywhere. Spring bulbs are two weeks behind us on the mountain, so we were treated to daffodils and tulips in bloom once again this spring. BearsDen Lodge, where the pedalers and I spent Thursday night, is right at the crest of the Blue Ridge, with an overlook that gives you a great view of the whole valley. The Appalachian Trail abuts the lodge. I brought massive quantities of food (beef stew with noodles, pasta al forno for vegetarians, salad, bread, killer brownies, and Russian tea cake cookies) for dinner. I drove up with one of the pedalers who was only riding the second day. It was an odd feeling to be the only woman in a bunch of men (the only woman rider didn't get to the lodge until 11 pm). Our group consisted of 3 men who cycled 60 miles out to the lodge the first day, a woman and four men who drove out to join us for the second day's cycling of 80 miles, plus me as sag wagon driver, chief cook and water girl. Breakfast the next morning was pancakes, bacon, sausage, and fresh fruit. Our doughty pedalers ranged in age from 26 to 56. We were blessed. No one needed to ride in the sag wagon with me, despite some monster hill climbs. No major mechanical failures, no injuries, no harsh words spoken. And only a little rain on the trail the first few miles of the second day, and the last mile push into Shrinemont. A cheering group awaited with the "finish line" tape as the cyclists rode into ShrineMont in their matching polkadot "King of the Mountain" St. P's cycling jerseys.

The retreat was wonderful, with a guest speaker who gave us a workshop on life's transitions, as illustrated by key passages from scripture. We had the usual wide range of other activities, like soccer and softball, a fishing derby for the kids, the talent show, late-night socializing around the fire in many of the cabins, and a wonderful if wet Eucharist service Sunday morning at the outdoor shrine. Poor Father Samuel got halfway through his sermon with the rain began again. We stayed put while he wrapped up the sermon, then we decamped to the tiny screen-enclosed chapel behind the shrine to complete the service. 250 people in a space designed for a mere 150. damp clothing, antsy kids, no sound system. and yet, utterly wonderful.

Wonderful moments:
- no cellphone or BlackBerry service, although they had WiFi at the main hotel building for the few crazed people who brought laptops
- getting to meet some new members of our parish, who were with us at ShrineMont for the first time
- meeting the elderly parents of a few of our parishioners, who came along for the adventure
- seeing one father, who is in the last stages of cancer, spend a happy weekend with his family away from hospital or hospice or everyday cares
- seeing one of our toddlers, a beautiful little girl of three who was adopted from China, herself adopt a new "grandma", Ba, whose son died suddenly and tragically last year
- having incredible country-style cooking with no regard for the calories and carbs
- early morning walks with geese flying in pairs overhead and a skunk passing in front of me on the road and (blessedly) ignoring me
- talking about my call to ministry with friends who were genuinely interested and supportive.

All in all, a good weekend. Pictures will follow.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Most dioceses have a great big cathedral as their Bishop's seat ("cathedra"= bishop's chair). Ours has an outdoor chapel built in the last century by hand, at the heart of a retreat center on the far side of the Blue Ridge, almost into West Virginia. It's about two and a half hours away from home (assuming the traffic on Rte 66 isn't too awful) and it's pure bliss. Old-fashioned food, lots of lovely old cabins that have been renovated so there are private baths, beautiful mountain surroundings. Our church, like many parishes in the diocese, has an annual retreat weekend there. Our church, being very over-the-top Type A, makes this into a jam packed extravaganza of stuff to do (or not do, if you so choose), including the famous No-Talent Show, where parents embarrass their kids and kids show they truly are better at playing the saxophone, or the piano, or telling bad jokes, than their parents.

Also in the Type A tradition, the St. P's Pedalers (of which PH is a founding member) will once again be bicycling to Shrinemont - some 140 miles over 2 days - to raise money. They've raised money for a South African AIDS mission and orphanage, for St P's endowment fund, and this year their raising money to refurbish the church's organ, which is sounding rather strange at times these days. Parishioners have pledged from $5 to $500, either for individual riders or the whole team. Nine riders will cycle into Shrinemont tomorrow, probably at about 5:30 pm, just in time for a glass of wine or a beer and dinner.

So this morning PH and a couple of the guys who are riding both days will meet at church, get themselves and the bicycles blessed, and head west. This evening, I will drive out with another one of the guys to meet them at the BearsDen Lodge (usually used by Appalachian Trail hikers), bringing dinner and breakfast supplies, so they can eat tonight and tomorrow and so I can follow them as support vehicle for the rest of the ride tomorrow (the proverbial "sag wagon").

It's a fun event - except for the riders who haven't trained enough - that's a wonderful start to a great weekend. I'll check back in on Sunday night or Monday, hopefully with pictures of the riders et al.

For more on Shrinemont:

For more on Bears' Den:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Realtor Stress

Well, we met with the realtor today. There are a bunch of things I like about her:

- she's genuinely enthusiastic about our lovely but quirky house
- she named a selling price we think is right
- she knows the neighborhood and has been successfully selling in it for years
- she's got a reputation as an honest person
- she thinks she can sell it within 2 weeks of the first open house (I think that's optimistic, but I hope I'm wrong).

The downside, and it isn't something that's unique to her, is that she wants to virtually empty out the house except for our beds, a couple of dressers, a sofa and side table, and a couple of lamps. No bookshelves, very few books on the built-in bookshelves in PH's office. Most of my cooking stuff will go into storage, as well as the stereo and CDs.

We had to fight for a desk for PH, whose desk here IS his work office (he sees clients at a church) and a desk for me, who works from home. I'm still negotiating a TV set so I can watch the evening news and a few guilty pleasure TV shows.

StrongOpinions is highly resistant to changes to her room, so I'm going to do a major de-clutter and only do the last couple of things right when they're about to do the open house. Plus they want to move Moses the gecko to the basement.

The realtor wants us to take down our curtains in the bedrooms, for heavens' sake! I said I wasn't about to let the neighbors see me change into my jammies. So we're allowed to keep up the curtains, at least until the open house.

Change is hard. I know that. But emptying my house of all my stuff and still living in it (or trying to live in it) for 90 days seems a bit much.


The good news is that I'm "editing" our book collection, and the regional church Book Sale will benefit from it.

Please remind me again that this is a good thing.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Moments

The sunrise at our 6 a.m. service, and singing "How Great Thou Art" unaccompanied, plus a wonderful solo anthem "That Easter Morn" in our outdoor chapel, with masses of spring flowers around the stone altar. The cross behind the altar, made of driftwood, and about 6 feet high, is suspended by wires from the trees. The sun rises behind it.

Choir Easter breakfast between the 9 am and 11 am services - gotta keep our strength up!

Getting to sing "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" at the big 11 a.m. Our church has the best acoustics for musicians south of Carnegie Hall.

Father Samuel from Kenya leading us in the Nicene Creed in his deep, rich, rolling basso voice.

Easter Dinner at K & P's house, with our dear friends L & N. N is well on the way to recovery from the crippling depression that I have written about before. Sometimes our personal resurrections are almost as dramatic as the Big One.

Packing away winter clothes in the basement, knowing the next time they're unpacked, we'll be in a new home and I'll be in seminary.

Phone conversation with stepson#2, father of the birthday boy, Cowboy, with news that the revised due date for Cowboy's impending baby brother Blake is Tuesday, April 25th.

Phone conversations with StoneMason and Litigator, who are happy, well-adjusted, working, and loving life (a contrast from some times in their past).

Tulips and daffodils on the dining room table.

Hugs from StrongOpinions, who seems to be weathering the departure of Semi-Useless Boyfriend pretty well.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Last night, StrongOpinions' boyfriend, Semi-Useless Boyfriend (we have revised our opinion of him a bit and upgraded him from Useless to Semi-Useless) and his friend R joined us for dinner. SUL has been a bit intimidated by us (US????) and hasn't visited over here much since they started dating. He used to be a buddy of son#2, StoneMason, and I knew him then. StrongOpinions called me from work yesterday morning to let me know what I should cook. Pasta Al Forno for SUL, potatoes with some sort of cheese for R, and some sort of chicken, and something with green olives for SUL.

So I cooked massive quantities of carbohydrate-laden foods, the chicken with green olive topping from Epicurious, made a loaf of bread, and a big salad.

Dinner went fine. The guys were funny, StrongOpinions wasn't too freaked out by having us actually talking to her boyfriend, and we enjoyed the conversation tremendously. Watching SO and SUL interact was fascinating. She's a girl who plays her cards pretty close to her chest around us, and to see her giggling and clearly bonkers over him was cute. Scary but cute.

There was some pasta and bread and potatoes left. I packed it up into GladWare for the guys. I understand that it is already completely gone. I had forgotten how boys that age eat. I shouldn't since my own empty the refreigerator whenever they're home, but it was funny anyway.

So SUL and R will be returning to Cheesehead country tomorrow morning. The rest of the world will be celebrating Christ's Resurrection, but I think poor StrongOpinions will be pretty blue, workign the Sunday brunch shift at the restaurant where she waits tables. Say a prayer for her - she takes it pretty hard whenever the boyfriend and she part ways for awhile.

Tomorrow is grandson Cowboy's 3rd birthday. I wish we lived closer than 450 miles away. Sigh.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

Since I knew I'd be downtown for a meeting at mid-day and couldn't get to our church's Good Friday noontime service, I went to Slightly Higher Church in the neighborhood at 6:30 am for the Mass of the PreSanctified.

It's always an interesting experience to go to a church other than one's home parish. Things are the same, but maybe a little bit...different. Familiar, but not quite. Very much the experience of Good Friday, when Christ's human frailty is in the forefront rather than His Godhood. We know that both natures are in Him, but when the human so outweighs the Godly, it disconcerts us.

It was a beautiful Eucharist, though, and their chapel is quite lovely. The chapel is also the columbarium, so one feels one is communing with the saints who have gone before us.

After that, I drove over to my church for our wonderful women's bible study group. We are deep into the Apocrypha, and wrapped up Greek Esther (regular Esther plus a bunch of stuff about God). Much discussion amongst us Christians about Purim and Hamantaschen (which made me hungry for one), and the intent of King Artaxerxes' letter (is it the giving of sovereignty to the nation of Israel for one day? is it anarchy for a day?). Somehow, a plastic surgery discussion happened, but I can't remember how we got there, maybe via Esther's beauty. It's a very stream-of-consciousness group. On to the Wisdom of Solomon next week, but I'll be gone for the day.

I had a long discussion with my boss about my doing work for the bank next year on a part-time basis while I'm in seminary. They will pay me half-time (that shocked me - I was thinking more like 1/4 or 1/3) for a year to help them transition. Blessings abound.

We chose a realtor, let the other candidates know we had decided in favor of someone else, and scheduled time for a series of things that have to be done to the house - carpeting the basement bedrooms, washing the windows, removing some furniture to make it look more spacious for potential buyers. I'm only slightly freaked out by it all. I'm just grateful that things are falling into place.

May we all have time to think and to pray today, and to thank God for the gift of His Son, and His Son's sacrifice for us.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Letter

...came today from my Bishop. He is inviting me to meet with him to discuss postulancy. He enclosed a copy of my COM evaluation, which was wonderful - "we enthusiastically recommend her for postulancy". I think all will be well when I meet with him on May 4th. Ahhhhh.

Thank you, Jesus. I am blessed.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Anticipatory Joy

Just wondering today if this bliss I feel as the path to seminary slowly unwinds is inappropriate during Holy Week...or if it simply mirrors the anticipation of the Resurrection. I am feeling way happy today - no particular reason except sunshine and a moderately clean house and something of a plan to get the house ready for sale.

Thank you, Jesus.

BTW, if you want to read a book that will make you smile (and will resonate in some ways about journeys of faith), read Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" about her healing journey to Italy, India, and Indonesia. A little bit of joy, and a fast read.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Rain, The Truck, The Freight Elevator, The Desk

My employer (big bank) is letting me work from home now. I asked for a few pieces of my office furniture for my home office. It is fully amortized, so they were happy to give me what I need (a desk and chair, a couple of file cabinets, two bookshelves). The office furniture is much nicer than my cast-offs and Ikea stuff, so I was very happy.

They said, however, that I would be responsible for moving it, since they were giving it to me.

No problem. Just a few pieces of office furniture. Yes, the desk was a little big, but it would be manageable.

(The silence you hear is God shaking his head and thinking, "she really is an idiot.")

So PH and I arranged to rent a UHaul truck on Saturday, along with a dolly and some furniture pads. I arranged with my office building management to have access to the freight elevator. I organized the space in the basement office (did I tell you my home office is in our basement?) to make the move-in easier.

(God is now waving his arms and crying, "No, no!")

Let me preface this part of the story by telling you that the entire month of March we had no rain. Zip. Nada. Nothing.

So we woke up Saturday morning to.....a driving rainstorm.

Ah well, we had raincoats, right? And sturdy, waterproof hiking boots, right? and work gloves?

No problem.

(God is rolling his eyes.)

We went to pick up the truck. We were not the only fools trying to move stuff on a very rainy Saturday. The line was long. It took us an hour to get our trusty chariot, a venerable beast with almost 200K miles on it. Smelled like an ashtray, and the brakes were a little sketchy, but it was reasonably functional.

Off we went to my office to get my stuff.

To access the door which leads to the freight elevator, you have drive into an access alley that serves a number of the downtown high-rise office buildings. Then for the last fifty feet, you have to back into an extremely narrow alley to my building's back door. I'm glad PH was driving - I would have scraped the wall and the truck in a dramatic fashion. We couldn't get the back of the truck under the door overhang, so it was clear that we and the furniture would get rained on, but we could handle it. Right.

The weekend security guy, Bill, was there for us. He's a lovely elderly gentleman who wanted to be very helpful, but he really didn't know how to operate the freight elevator. I was glad I had gotten a tutorial on it from the weekday concierge, Reggie. So up we went with our furniture dolly. It took four trips up and down the freight elevator to move out the stuff, including the desk, which turned out to be much heavier and larger than we recalled. (God is snickering now.)

On the last trip down, with the freight elevator packed full of stuff and us squished into the corner, the elevator went down and refused to stop at the access level. The door wouldn't open either.

We experimented with several different button combinations. It moved up and down, but the doors wouldn't open and it wouldn't go to the access level. Fortunately Bill had given us his cell phone number.

We called him and told him what was happening. "Well, I don't know much about that thing, but let me go down to the basement and push some buttons and see what happens."

Nothing happened.

He called back. "I'm going to call Stanley, the building engineer, and see what he says."

I played with buttons again. We jerked up a few feet, jerked down a few feet. The doors still wouldn't open.

I turned to PH. "You're not claustrophobic, are you?" You'd think after this many years of marriage, I would know that, but we'd never been stuck in a confined place before.

"Are you?" he asked.

"Nah. Just warm." The fan wasn't working in the elevator either.

Bill called back. "Stanley is coming in."

"How far does he have to come?" I was fearing he lived 20 miles out in the 'burbs. "It won't take long."

I took another shot at playing with the buttons, and, mirabile dictu, it worked. The elevator obediently went to the proper level and the door opened. I ran out and told Bill to call Stanley, hoping to save him the trip.

"No," Bill said. "I want him to get in here and show me how this thing works." I knew we'd want to be out of there before Stanley got there.

Loading the truck went pretty smoothly, although we got very wet. It was clear the desk was the biggest challenge. We drove home as the rain poured down, thinking how nice it would be if the rain stopped just for a little while so we could unload the furniture and take it with the hand truck around the back of the house to the basement level, which means a circuitous trip with a dozen or so stairs down around the perimeter of the house.

It didn't stop raining.

"Well," PH said, "if we can at least get the big pieces down using the furniture hand truck, then we can get the smaller things down there later when it's dry."

We got the big bookshelf and one of the lateral files down with minimal problems, despite the slippery slate stairs. We had to wipe the pieces down with a chamois.

Time for the desk. We got it on end, covered with a blanket and secured with a strap. There was only one problem. When PH was behind it, he couldn't see to steer (yes, it's that big). We made it down four of the stairs, when I suggested that this was too unsafe for just the two of us on a very rainy day. (God nods and thinks, "She's not so idiotic after all.")

So now my desk, one small bookshelf and a lateral file are sitting in my garage, waiting for the opportunity to put them where they belong. Maybe I'll just leave them there until we move to seminary housing. Maybe we'll take the desk apart and move it in pieces. Maybe the desk will grow moss in the damp environs of the garage and become something of an art installation...

And it is blissfully sunny outside.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday Five: Arts Alive!

Five performing arts experiences that transformed me:

1) recording the complete Bach Motets as a member of the Washington Bach Consort in the Bethlehem Chapel at Washington National Cathedral. It was at night, some 25 years ago. The echoes were beautiful. How something could be soft and crisp and sensual and spiritual at the same time, I don't know. All I know is that it was sublime.

2) my baccalaureate piano recital. An hour of difficult music, memorized. A surprisingly good performance, given my limited gifts. The Holy Spirit gets us through.

3) a performance of Chopin by my teacher's teacher, pianist Ruth Slenczynska. The first time a musical performance made me weep. I was 19. I think I wept because I knew I'd never be that good. I know I wept because I had never heard anything quite that transcendent.

4) my #1 stepson playing saxophone with a jazz combo in a nightclub that he was technically too young to be in. Playing amazingly, soulfully, in the style of Charlie Parker.

5) German baritone Thomas Quasthoff singing at the Kennedy Center. "Winterreise" beyond even the incomparable Dietrich Fischer-Diskau. An encore of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" that spanned four octaves. All from a man who, as a victim of thalidomide taken by his mother when he was in utero, stands not four feet tall. And we all forgot his physical limitations in the transcendence of the music.

Two bonus picks:

- singing the Brahms "German Requiem" and the Hindemith "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" under the baton of Robert Shaw at the National Cathedral. That man got sounds out of us that no one else could, and we were pretty danged good to begin with. He was near the end of his life, and was in deep communion with his Lord. It showed every time he raised his baton.

- sitting in on a private rehearsal of "Elisir D'Amore" at the Met - fourth row seats - with Pavarotti (while the instrument was still an amazement and before he started dying his hair and eyebrows) and Judith Blegen. Even when he was marking, the sound was ....words fail me.

Yes, my picks were all musical, many personal musical experiences. Sorry. That's where my soul lives.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Frederick Buechner at the National Cathedral

The Washington National Cathedral had a wonderful program last night, built around Frederick Buechner and his latest book (a collection of sermons). PH and I went, and other friends from my church were there as well. Buechner read from the book, "Secrets in the Dark", and there was a panel discussion about Buechner and the art of preaching with Tom Long (one of PH's homiletics profs at Princeton), Barbara Brown Taylor, a noted Episcopal homilist, and Gene Sutton, canon of the Cathedral and no mean preacher and professor of homiletics himself.

I've been reading Buechner for quite a while. Reading him was one of my spiritual disciplines while in the early stages of my discernment process. Oh, but to hear him! A beautiful deep, rich voice. I suddenly hear things in what I had read in his books differently, because I can imagine him and his crisp diction, stately pace, dramatic pauses.

His last word was on the importance of silence. He told us that our gift to him (his 80th birthday is coming up) should be to sit in silence for three minutes.

So we did.

I've sung in that space for a decade, with Cathedral Choral Society. I know how to deal with sound in that difficult space, where the reverberations can last for several seconds.

Oh, but the silence! What a lovely thing, and what a superb gift from a preacher without peer!

The silence was as much a blessing as his final words of benediction.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lent Is About Waiting

As I wait for the letter from the Bishop, I'm meditating on patient waiting.

That's not my natural state of being. I much prefer to act. Thus, in preparation for putting our house on the market, I spent 90 minutes yesterday and 90 minutes today cleaning up the yard and bagging garden debris. I'm sore this morning; my back will be really sore tomorrow. It looks better though, and all the lovely daffodils, grape hyacinths, mertensia, and even a few tulips are in bloom, so the garden looks like what I hoped for: an English cottage garden. Of course, gardening, especially with perennials, is another exercise in waiting. We plant the bulbs in the fall, and they bloom in spring. Sometimes they don't bloom the first spring. Sometimes they naturalize over several years, so a small patch of yellow becomes a bigger one. I have a couple of perennial plants that were about three inches in diameter when I planted them five years ago. They're about a foot in diameter each now, and slowly spreading over the lower part of the front yard. Very pretty indeed.

Buried deep in the dirt of the yard are the seventeen year cicadas. They came up from the dirt two years ago, buzzing around like slow-moving helicopters, with their big red eyes and noisy whirrs. They wait, too, for their rebirth, every seventeen years. They come up, mate, lay their eggs in the bark of trees, and die. The nymphs fall into the dirt, to wait for seventeen years before their brief romantic interlude.

Here we sit, for forty days of waiting. We wait for the sad and horrifying tale of Christ's crucifixion. We wait for three days beyond it for His resurrection. We wait, and there is tension in the waiting, even though we know how the story ends. We wait because we need to be reminded of the glorious ending to the story, and our beginning in its ending.

So I am waiting, and trying to learn the lesson of patience. I don't have to wait seventeen years. I don't even have to wait from fall to spring, nor even forty days, most likely. Soon the letter will come, and with it the beginning of a new life, which celebrates His ending and beginning.