Saturday, September 29, 2012

Changing times

UPDATE: Michael Schumacher will retire - again. Not a stellar season this year, but he's a real pro, and a great driver.

Well, Lewis Hamilton is leaving McLaren. Next year he will drive for Mercedes. Michael Schumacher will leave Mercedes and so far we don't know what he will be doing. Perez will become McLaren's second driver, to Jensen Button.

Now I'll know whether my loyalty is to Lewis, or to the McLaren mark.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday nature surprise

Wow. Nothing like watching an accipiter swoop out of nowhere into a tree in front of the church office, and emerge, about three minutes later, just as suddenly and silently with its prey dangling from its feet!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Open Doors and the Church of One's Youth

Go to this link to see a picture of the church in which I grew up.

I was raised in All Saints' Episcopal Church in Millington, New Jersey. When I was 14, we moved to Lewes, Delaware and joined St. Peter's Episcopal Church, which is the subject of the above link.

I remember St. Peter's with great fondness. When I was there, through high school, college, and my first wedding, the organ was on the opposite side - the left of the current picture. The altar was not detached as it is now, so the priest faced the altar with his back to the people.

Father Moon was rector then. St. Peter's was "low church"; Father Moon was more anglo-catholic. Every Sunday, in low church style, he wore cassock, surplice and stole, as my priest in New Jersey had worn. But on Easter and Christmas he was "allowed", as the mother of one of my friends put it, to dress up - alb and cope up until the Eucharistic prayer, when the cope came off and was replaced by a chasuble.

And we had incense. My piano teacher was the choir director. She taught us how to not have incense interfere with our singing. She said, "Breathe it in, really breathe it in, just one time, and after that it won't bother you." It worked for me!

For a couple of weeks around Easter and Christmas I was the organist, giving Mrs. Albertson a vacation. I'm not an organist. I'm a pianist. But Fr. Moon would work with me, set up my stops for me, and I was even able to put in a pedal once in awhile.

I taught Sunday school. I played the piano for the Sunday school service. My brothers were acolytes. I wanted more than anything to be an acolyte. But I was a girl, a young woman, and it was not allowed. So I had to teach Sunday school and sing in the adult choir with my mother. Meanwhile, once  in awhile, I would sneak into the priest's sacristy and read the prayers for vesting and the order of putting on the Easter and Christmas vestments. I remember, once, sitting on the floor, outside that vestry, out of sight, watching Fr. Moon pray and vest.

Now I'm a priest. Fr. Moon was still alive when I learned I was going to seminary. I was not entirely sure he approved, but he was kind.

It's a pleasure to see that photo of St. Peter's Lewes and to reflect on from where I came. The article by Fr. Mark Harris, however, makes my heart ache. St. Peter's was always open. I serve a church that is open only when there are people in it. The building is open at times all during the week, but the front doors are only open on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings and early afternoons. I want more than anything to just leave everything unlocked 24-7-365, like St. Peter's.

What would it hurt, compared to what good it could do? Vandalism? Theft? Fire? So what, compared to a sacred space, open and inviting to all comers. My church may close in the next twelve months, unless there is a miracle. Why not take a chance and throw those doors open, with a permanent sign:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Not cute anymore

It's 6 a.m. We've been up since 5, Xena and me. I go downstairs, turn the porch light, take up the flashlight, tell Xena to "Stay", and go outside. I check the perimeter of the porch - the front yard, the area between the porch and the next door fence. I go into the back yard. I check out everything, inside and outside the fence.

All clear. Xena can come out and meet her immediate needs. But no walk until full light. It's hard on Xena. It's hard on me - anxiety producing. That first time I saw the skunk waddling down the back yard, in April, I thought is was cute. It's not cute anymore.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Wow! The Great Skunk Confrontation!

So, porch light on (at just before dawn, when I can see the light on the eastern horizon), flashlight in hand, I let Xena out for her morning pee. I scan the yard to make sure the skunk isn't there. All clear.

Then, with Xena already in the yard, I scan the parking lot, just to make sure.

Yow! There it is, just on the other side of the chain link fence, next to the rectory garden! I shine the flashlight in its eyes, but Xena is already on it - thank God for the fence!

Then follows the drama of Xena running from one end of the fence to the other trying to control a skunk on the other side. The skunk clearly wants to get into the yard. It is its goal. Every time it retreats and we run to the other side of the garage, our blind spot outside the fence, to see it slink off, I return to the garden gate and there it is! Teeth bared, tail up, but backing away in the glare of the flashlight.

Finally, it runs, yes runs!, across the parking lot to Berkeley Street and disappears, but not before turning its butt toward us a couple of times as if its spraying.

Funny thing: I did not notice any skunk spray smell. Maybe it had already used it all up earlier. I don't know. But that much adrenalin first thing in the morning can't be good for a girl!

Clearly, this is a skunk that has taken up residence. Where, I don't know, but I do know that night before last I woke up at around 2:34 to the smell of skunk in my bedroom, just over the porch. That's not the first time, either. And its worse when I have the window open.

We'll take the full walk in the full light of day, thank you very much.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Letting go

I graduated from seminary in 1997. I have kept all my old class notes and handouts because I have referred to them from time to time.

Today I tossed them all.

There was a stack of old exams, papers and handouts over two feet tall. I kept two pieces of paper.

There were 8 ring binders, most of them 3". I emptied all but two - I kept Intro to Ministry and Advanced Studies in Ministry.

In the fall of my senior year, Michaelmas Term 1996, I was the exchange student to Westcott House, one of two Church of England training colleges in Cambridge, England. Westcott House was broad church and Anglo-Catholic. The other was Ridley Hall, known as low church and evangelical. (Westcott House anglo-catholic students, when we had Federation Eucharist, with all the denominational training colleges together, and the Ridley Hall clergy were the celebrants, would genuflect before the low church priest - or, I should say, before the bread being held out for consumption, before receiving the host, to get up their evangelical noses.)

I still had my notes from the lectures I sat - Pauline Epistles with Morna Hooker, Postmodernity with Graham Cray of Ridley Hall, Hesychasm, Church History, and others, which befuddled my Westcott House tutor. He expected me to just have fun for a term. Never occurred to him that academics was, and still is, my idea of fun. I also submitted three essays - evidently unusual for an exchange student. One, "For Moltmann, How Can God be Crucified?", was read in the university as well as The House and got me a "Distinction". It was also read at my seminary, Seabury-Western in Evanston, Illinois, and got me the Casserly Prize for Contemporary Theology - a nice $25.00 check!

Today I threw it all out, including the A4 folders in which I had kept all my Westcott House stuff. Gone to be recycled.

I also threw out pocket folders with materials from a multitude of continuing ed things and workshops. Outta here. I have a slight headache from all the dust and paper mites I've stirred up.

Writing this, I'm feeling a bit mournful, like I really have walked away from those wondrous seminary years and experiences. But they still live in my core. They are still a place inside me where I can go for rest and renewal.

And quite frankly, I've internalized all that stuff I learned, much of which is even now outdated but formed the core of what The Episcopal Church has become and does.

Now, all I have to do is bag it all up for putting out on the curb next Wednesday for the recycling truck. I pale at the thought - I shall need help, I think!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Living with Wildlife

Miss Xena, Lab-mix Warrior Princess of all Norwalk, and I have changed our morning routine. I check the backyard when we get up, with the flashlight, and the porch light on, to make sure the coast is clear. Then Xena uses the back yard for her immediate needs.

Two hours later, at 7:00, after it is full light and there is no chance of nocturnal visitors still out for that last grub before a good day's sleep, we go for the full walk together.

Let the skunks have their time. We will adjust ours for them.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Saga Continues

When your dog has to go, she has to go.

So at 5:45 a.m. Xena and I went out for our walk. It was only just barely getting not dark (as opposed to getting light). The walk was successful. No challenges along the trail. We returned by the parallel street to home and encountered another dog - not a big problem.

We crossed to our side of the street and continued toward the house.

We both saw it at the same time - our now-obviously-resident adult skunk. Yikes!

Thank God it was on the other side of the street, at the corner of the across-the-street neighbor's house. It had even less interest in getting to know us than we did in it. It walked along the fence to the walkway to the kitchen stairs of the neighbor's house and looked very like it was going to go up those stairs to escape!

Xena and I did not hang around to find out. We retrieved our morning paper and went into our own house. Skunk escapade over.

But our poor neighbors - I wonder where that skunk was going to go to hole up. The neighbors have small children. The skunk is really skirting the edge of nocturnalism. We shall see what the next chapter is. Clearly, the wilderness is making the city its home. Will we have enough sense and care for life other than ours to live with the wild among us?

Friday, September 7, 2012

A.M. surprise?

So, this morning, about 5:45, I was about to walk into my studio, upstairs at the back of the rectory, when the thought went through my mind that, it was on a morning when it was just this time of not dark anymore but far from light yet, in the spring, April I think, that I went into my studio and looked out the back window onto the rectory lawn and saw an adult skunk waddling along down the lawn to the back of the yard, and disappear under or over or around the chain link fence, I forget which.

So, I was thinking this as I walked again to the window, and looked out at the lawn to see if there was a skunk there again this morning. There was not. What there was, however, on the other side of the fence, that runs along the right-side end of the office wing of the church, something white moving on the lawn along the asphalt path along the back of that wing, perpendicular to the rectory back fence. As I looked harder, I realized it was, yes, an adult skunk. It was very busy in the lawn at the edge of the path. Every once in awhile it would shake itself like a dog. It slowly worked its way toward the fence, then veered to my right, and disappeared.

I went outside to see if I could tell where it had gone. So far as I could tell, it had not gone over the fence and under the tarp covering the canoe in that corner of the yard. It probably climbed the little bit of retainer wall to the yard next door, at the back of the dentists' building. Good place for it.

Then I took a look at the lawn in the back of the office wing. It had done a great job of ripping up and uprooting bits of grass and digging. My best guess: grubbing for grubs. I'd call that a public service, except it made a mess of the lawn. The good news is - add to that another recent sighting of a bobcat in addition to mine in the church parking lot two months ago, and continued sightings of deer, raccoons and possums, and we can conclude wildlife is taking over the city. That should be a message to us humans: we aren't in control of anything.