Streets Full of Splendid Strangers

"How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny sefishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them, because they are not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is always played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers."
-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

A scribe came to Jesus and asked Him which of the commandments were most important. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself," Jesus replied.

I'd never considered before how these commandments take the focus off me. And I'd never considered before that having something else to focus on besides me and all my junk could be such a blessed relief.

My amazing sister, Jessica, this past year made a new decision: to love God with all her heart, and to try to love her neighbor as herself. I remember talking to her after she came to one of the our church worship gatherings-where we were asked to describe some of the benefits we had found while following Jesus. She said a big one for her was realizing that it's not all about her, that there's a bigger story going on than her own little life saga, and I totally agree.

I've long felt now that one of the reasons that God tells us to love Him, to focus on Him and give Him worship is so that we can have some relief from all the wretched self-absorbtion that has plagued us since Eden. Just to focus on Someone pure and just, right and good, the Person in Whom all wholeness and beauty find their source, has been such a balm. Finally, a few minutes off from the round-the-clock scrutiny of my so-called life, the 'tiny and tawdry theatre where my little plot is played out' ad nauseum. I used to think it was some sort of divine egotism for God to demand that his followers worship him, but now I see it as an act of a mercy-like water to someone lost in the desert, our worship should be tinged with, "boy-are You a sight for sore eyes!"
(and props go out to miss f. glasses for the pic. i looked up ole gilbert keith chesterton on flickr, and ta-dah! i found a real live person that i actually know. so thank you, franny! and everyone go and read her blog.)


Musings of a Tree-Hugger

The oak trees are glowing again, with that green-brown-yellow moss that spreads itself in clumps all throughout their twisted branches. I love this time of year for many reasons, mainly because of the rains that restore the moss to verdant health. These are scrub oaks (Quercus agricifolia) and are native on the central coast of California. John Muir waxes rhapsodic about them in Mountains of California (really, he gets a bit silly), and much has been done to protect them from development and disease, the recent killer being Sudden Oak Death, a form of phytopthera, of potato famine fame.
Form vs. Function
This morning B and I are doing our part on our little parcel of land, yes, I've dragged him out for a bit of dirty fun in the garden. The hillside on the side of our property boasts several trees, redwood, scrub oak, elder, Ponderosa Pine and dogwood. These tree's understory plantings are diverse, as fits each tree-rhodies, azaleas and camelia beneath the redwood, and the nascent plantings (one or two seasons old) of California native drought-tolerant shrubs (salvias) and groundcovers (ceanothus) beneath the oak. The native scrub oak needs completely dry soil in the summer, it's roots are highly susceptible to root fungus, which grows in warm wet soil. So, the plants surrounding the oak need to follow suit. Directly beneath the oak, however, is a good bit of shade, and finding plants for dry shade is the classic gardener's conundrum. We refuse to go the route of many of our neighbors, who have definitely chosen function over form by planting copious amounts of ivy & vinca beneath their trees. Yech. Instead, we have salvaged two beat-up (ahem)-rustic-wood chairs, which rest at a precarious angle beneath the oak, ready for hailing traffic and passers-by, and for giving the squirrels something to chase each other around. Hopefully someday soon we will figure out how to grade the hillside so that the chairs sit a little less precariously, and can hold more than squirrel weight without tipping forward.
"My name is the Lorax, and I speak for the trees....."
Our friend Matt was recently regaling us with tales from his own crusade to save some neighborhood scrub oaks, only his story has gotten a little more press. Read a bit about it here.
The diversity of groups that are involved in protesting the University of California, Berkeley's decision to cut down a grove (92 trees) of native scrub oaks in order to build an athletic facility is fascinating: I originally thought that it was the usual assortment of crunchy Earth-First-ers ("Level 5 vegans who don't eat anything that cast a shadow"-one of my favorite Simpsons lines), but the 3 lawsuits that have been filed against the University are backed by such unlikely bedfellows as the Panoramic Hill Association (rich Berkeley-ites who don't want their views obstructed), the City of Berkely, and a Native American group, who claim that the grove of trees is actually an Ohlone burial ground. Since a number of bodies were uncovered when the neighboring football stadium was built (Go, Cal!), it's pretty likely. So, it's the longest urban tree-sit ever, it's been going on for over a year now, and who knows how it will end.
Our friend Matt thinks it will most likely end in what he called an 'extraction'; UC Berkeley going in and (violently) removing the tree-sitters from the trees;it all sounds grisly and a very unpleasant way to have to descend from tree to earth. I will be sorry to see the UC system flex it's muscle yet again, sorrier still to lose such a stand of oaks, and the sorriest that people will get hurt trying to save them. I don't know what a good solution is, and I just feel sick about the whole thing.


Strange and Plain Things: a Christmas Play

Well, that's over.


Rosa's Poetry Archives

Well, tonight we had our last dress rehearsal of the Christmas play for church and we are feeling pretty good about it. Of course there are lots of last minute changes, and now I'm going to be in it. Which was sort goes against one of my main objectives, namely, to not have to be in the play.
I'm going to be reading a piece of poetry by one of our local poets. I'll post that one later. Also being read is a piece by a long-time favorite, who passed away this year, Madeline L'Engle. Here it is:

Advent, 1971

When will he come
and how will he come
and will there be warnings
and will there be thunders
and rumbles of armies
coming before them
and banners and trumpets
When will he come
and how will he come
and will we be ready

O woe to you people
you sleep through the thunder
you heed not the warnings
the fires and the drownings
the earthquakes and stormings
and ignorant armies
and dark closing on you
the song birds are falling
and the sea birds are dying
no fish now are leaping
the children are choking
in air not fit for breathing
the aged are gasping
with no one to tend them

a bright star has blazed forth
and no one has seen it
and no one has wakened.


Rosa's Recipes Vol. 2

Rosa's Jambotta:

(for Jessica and Ian in Australia)

This recipe was handed down from the mists of time through Eleven (aka Annie), who got it, believe it or not, from one of the mentally ill clients she used to work with. The etymology is uncertain. But the dish is fabulous! We eat it with salad and crusty rosemary garlic bread.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 jar/can Marinara sauce, (we use the 28oz. can from Trader Joe's.)
4 or so lean Italian sausages (or chicken breasts)
1 large onion, chopped
2 or more cloves garlic, minced
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 can sliced black olives
1 cup (or more!) grated cheese, many will work with this dish.
Preheat oven to 425.

This is a casserole of the old school which means you assemble everything and then bake it in the oven. So, start with the brown rice. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add rice, bring it back to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, maybe 23?
While you're doing that, cook sausages in olive oil, add onions and garlic until they are translucent. Add red peppers and olives and saute everything together until they are all happy together in the pan. (At this point, I take out the sausage-or chicken- and slice it up and then return it.) Add your marinara, and adjust seasonings, maybe some more garlic? Some red wine?
When the rice is finished, either add it to the pan you are using, if it is oven-proof, or transfer it to a casserole dish. Mix the rice in with the marinara and other sauteed ingredients.
When it is all assembled in the dish, sprinkle on the cheese, and bake at 425 for 30 minutes.


(glad you liked the chili!)


Our church is a part of something called the Advent Conspiracy this year. Check out the website with it's fabulous tag line: Restoring the Scandal of Christmas. We're working at reflecting it's values this Christmas, which are: Worship More, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. There's been a really great art show in the Brickhouse, our coffeehouse/gallery that corresponds with these themes. Anyway, today we talked about getting off the hamster wheel that the 'holiday season' becomes (definitely no longer a 'holy-day') and try to refocus. I agree with it all whole-heartedly. This year has been difficult. I think because there are so many things I want to do, all good fun, even worshipful things, like Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at Holy Cross Church (getting my yearly dose of bells, smells, and illicit Communion.)
Strange and Plain Things: A Christmas Play
And then there's that other thing that is good, fun, worshipful and creative, but is seeping into our time like water trying to find the lowest point: I'm talking about the Christmas play. We were tapped to help write the thing, which felt extremely gratifying in late August/early September. "Aah! Finally a great collaborative project! Isn't everything wonderful?" That was the feeling a few months ago. Now, it's more like "How did we get here?" Because, you see, B and I are somehow directing the play too! Now, there's plenty of other people involved, and honestly, we've been less involved than directors probably should be (nice to use G as an excuse), but still-life is a little....wacky right now.
Church Life
Let's see, we are the team leaders for the Toddler Room, I'm the church librarian, I also do consulting on landscape design/management of the gardens and grounds, I'm part of the Spoken Word team and now this. Whew! I think all my time couldn be easily eaten away in the context of church life, which is interesting, because I've never been really really sold on church anyway, and often it's been a teeth-gritting experience. But I really like Vintage Faith Church, in ways I haven't known I could like a church.
Jane? Get Me Off This Crazy Thing!...Called Christmas
And so, the dilemma: how to appropriate the tenets of the Advent Conspiracy, particularly the ways in which we slow down and get off the holiday hamster wheel, while still carrying off this production? Which will be very cool, and I hope you all can come. But still, this last week is a mite crazy. Pray for us!


Rosa's Poetry Archives: The Nativity of Christ, Robert Southwell

The Nativity of the Christ
by Robert Southwell, Jesuit poet (1561-1595)

Behold the father is his daughter's son,
The bird that built the nest is hatched therein,
The old of years an hour hath not outrun,
Eternal life to live doth now begin,
The Word is dumb,
the mirth of heaven doth weep,
Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep.
O dying souls, behold your living spring;
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace;
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring;
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs,
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.
Gift better than himself God does not know;
Gift better than his God no man can see.
This gift here the giver given bestow;
Gift to this gift let each receiver be.
God is my gift, himself he freely gave me;
God's gift am I, and none but God shall have me.
Man altered by sin from man to beast;
Beast's food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh.
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutish sinner to refresh.
O happy field wherein this fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.
(And thanks to Erin Adler for this amazing poem-it'll go in the poetry reader that accompanies the Christmas play at church.)



Tonight was a great night out: my first time at the much-lauded Monday Night Poetry group, at the home of The Molly, and until recently, Camille, of 327 Market. It was at, you guessed it, 327 Market St. We read each other some poetry, ate some coconut ice cream and dark chocolate so strong it puckered my lips. Not knowing the flavor of the poetry commonly read, I brought a diverse selection: Edna St. Vincent Millay (a stand-by), Madeline L'Engle's collection Ordering of Love, and some A.A. Milne. I ended up reading Bad Sir Brian Botany by Milne, which B has memorized with a silly British accent, and Millay's Assault. It was fun. AND, we now have our last poem for the Christmas play, by the group's own Linda Neuschwander. I am so excited (and relieved-the deadline is in two days!)
New poets I discovered include:
Naomi Sahib Nye ( more from her later)
Kay Ryan
Robert Southwell, Jesuit priest from the 16th century.
Here is my freewrite, I can't believe I'm sharing it here, but I guess it's late and I'm feeling fearless....

Draw back the curtains
That your Mother made you
Throw up the sash
Lean out into the night
Breathe deep the cool air
Let sound and scent envelop
Here, beneath branch and twig
And moonlight slanting
As the dogwood soft leaves
Give back a green glow
Into your face.
The cut grass scent
And the laughter from downstairs
Reminds you that spring,
So recently come
Is slipping so subtly
Towards June.


I lost my phone last week. I left it at church Tuesday night after one of the play rehearsals. I was sure I left it either in the sanctuary or upstairs in one of the meeting rooms. I came back on Thursday afternoon, sauntering in, planning on picking it up at the front desk. I had every faith in the church bureaucracy, and assumed it had been picked up by someone obvious, like the custodian or secretary. But, no. I wandered into the sanctuary, slightly disconcerted, and started snooping under the pews. One of the pastors, Josh, was rehearsing a song with someone else, and they stopped and called my phone, trying to see if it was in the room; no. I stayed and listened to the song and gave my opinion (they asked! And the song was beautiful). So, I bumped around the church for a good part of an hour, just sort of looking around, and talking to Sarah, looking forlorn, and unreachable without my phone. I didn't think I'd get like that without it, it's only been a year or two that I've even had a cell phone. So I prayed-a little sheepishly. Sort of, "God? I'd really like to find my phone! I know it's sort of silly, and there's plenty of things that are more important that I should ask you for, like patience, humility and peace in Iraq, but I'd really like to find my phone!"

The strangest thing: I heard inside me this sort of assurance, and it was very specific and even blythe. I don't know how else to describe it, and it sounded like this: "Oh, don't worry about your phone! You'll see it again, and in a very unexpected place!"

"Right," I thought, "that is totally something I would make up if I was pretending to be God answering my prayer." I forgot about it, and went downtown. To the rain, and the shopping, and the missed coffee date with my mom, and the oneheadlightrainywindshielddanger!danger! driving, pollo asado burritos and Dorothy Sayers at Vallarta, and unwanted smiles from B's octegenarian international eco artist boss. An odd afternoon.

Later that night, B and I were at our community group. So, I was sitting there and Richard Rammer walks in, big smile on his face, hand outstretched towards me, and what does he profer? You guessed it, my phone. I was absolutely floored. It was just so......unexpected.
Of course he was at choir rehearsal the night before, and someone found it on the couch, and recognized the picture of G on the screen. And knew it was mine. And brought it right to me.

I think this shows me that: 1) God is listening to me, and doesn't wait for prayers that I would deem pious or worthy of attention 2) I can somehow hear His voice every now and again & 3) I expected to find my phone through bureacracy, and instead it came back to me through community. What a nice thing.
Just little life lessons in the mdst of seeming chaos. More on the seeming chaos later...........


Advent Reading:: No. 1

"A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of consel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Hid delight shall be in the fear of the Lord."
Isiah 11:1-3

Last year my mother got me a great book-"Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri Nouwen." I'm reading through it during this season of Advent, eagerly, hungrily. It's been long since I eagerly and hungrily read anything devotional, anything that really fed my soul. It's a good place to be, standing on the brink of the liturgical year, I never thought that this would be important to me. I never would have expected that the joyful anticipation of Advent would sink so deeply into me, like a bulb planted deep in the topsoil, roots stretching, groping, inching down towards food and drink. The coming of the shoot out of the stump is a mighty miracle, new green growth burgeoning out of gnarled brown bark, small and unlooked-for, but there, and growing all the time.

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.