12.29.2009

three dreams

Dream No. 1:
My sister has just started dating Barak Obama, who, in Dreamland, is younger and unmarried. I get to meet him, and he is nervous about meeting the family. I warn him about my dad, and he asks for tips on how to make a good impression. I shrug and then let Obama buy the first round of drinks, and feel like a sponge. "Well, he is the leader of the free world," I say, to console myself.
Dream No. 2:
I am walking with my sister in law, K, down a steep San Francisco street towards an outdoor event. There are alot of people milling about. Suddenly, K darts into an open doorway. Barak Obama sits in the darkness with his staff and advisors, shaking hands and making statements. K calmly introduces herself and I tumble in on her heels, feeling foolish and tongue-tied. Suddenly, over a loudspeaker, we hear that the L.A. marathon is about to begin (even though we are definitely in San Francisco). I leave with K and am horrified to discover that she has entered the marathon, and I must as well.
Dream No. 3: I am nursing H. It is bedtime but because of some floods we have been made homeless. We are with a group of other people, (maybe at a shelter). There are no beds so we have to all sleep together in a clump, sitting upright in chairs. We try to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, sitting in a circle and putting our feet up on each other's laps. Barak Obama and Joe Biden appear, wearing yamulkes and suits without the jackets, only the shirtsleeves and vests. They begin to fuss around us, tucking blankets around our legs. I am sycophantically eager, making stupid jokes about how the leaders of the free world are tucking us in bed; guffawing loudly at my own wit.  Obama turns to me. "Do you still have my book by your bed? Get it out, and I'll read you all a bedtime chapter called, The American Family." I scurry to grab my copy of The Audacity of Hope and give it to him, saying, "You know, I've never cared very much about politics, but hoo wee that was a great book!"
Analysis, anyone?

12.27.2009

Sorry, Santa!::A Brief Addendum

Man, I really sounded like a grumpy old church lady in that last post, didn't I? Sorry, mainline denomination! Maybe the reverent singing of Frosty the Snowman was a blessing to someone, sort of a low church liturgy? Let's hope so. I'm trying to be up with people, even (and especially) the people that irritate me. Because I sure hope someone is doing the same for me.

12.26.2009

In Which I Grit My Teeth at a 'Seeker-Friendly'- Christmas Eve Service

We went to B's parent's church on Christmas Eve. A big, main-line denomination. I didn't have huge expectations; I assumed it would be a standard service- 'Silent Night', a show-boaty rendering of  'O, Holy
Night', maybe a bell choir.We were going out of deference to B's family; as I said, not a lot of expectations. I figured an hour of lite carols and candles, and then we'd be home.
  Well, it took me quite a while to climb out of my irritation. I'm not sure why but the church felt the need to start off the night with 4 or 5 of the most insipid secular Christmas songs ever to spew out of a Muzak mall speaker. 'Let it Snow!', 'Rudolph', 'White Christmas',and my personal enemy of Christmas carols, 'Silver Bells', sung slowly and reverently. ("As the shoppers....... rush home with........ their treasures!') Probably the apex of the horrible sing-along was when we were all bidden to follow along with the singers on 'Frosty the Snowman'-"Thumpety thump thump! Thumpety thump thump! Look at Frosty go!" Eventually, they thought they could spring the subject of Jesus on us, now that we had sung a sufficient number of 'fun' songs. I think this was a 'seeker-friendly' thing, like we'll get them nice and comfy with our holly jolly Christmas and then whammo! Hit them with Jesus!
I kept thinking, Hello! We're in the church! Expecting to talk about Jesus! It's Christmas Eve, for goodness sake! It took me a while to calm down. Not only do we not have to hide the fact that we're celebrating the birth of Jesus, we have an awful lot of history and culture down through the ages from which to draw! Like this:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.


King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.


Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.


At His feet the six wing├Ęd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!


I love the imagery of Christ descending to earth from the realms of endless day, blessing in His hand. 
'Let All Mortal Flesh' was originally derived from the 'Prayer of the Cherubic Hymn', taken from the Litany of James which was written sometime in the 4th century. It is quite old and still packs a lyrical punch.
Now, I'm not surprised this church didn't include 'Let All Mortal Flesh' in their choral line-up, most churches don't. But I am saying that there is a deep and varied history of hymnody within the Christian church, 2,000 years of music, passed down through the ages. Would it be so hard to draw from some of these, and leave 'Winter Wonderland' and 'Frosty the Snowman' to the mall carolers? I'm just saying.

(Thumpety thump thump! 
Thumpety thump thump! 
Look at Jesus go!)

But sometimes you just gotta get silly:

12.22.2009

Rosa's Video Archives::The Saw Lady, Silent Night, & a NYC Subway Station

I can't tell if I really like this, or really don't. It's either ethereal & quirky or whiney & cringey.


See what I mean?

In the spirit of the season, I'll go with the former. I mean, who am I to sniff at the Saw Lady? All I can get from a saw blade is a rhythmic to-ing and fro-ing. It's true that this back and forth manner removes dead branches, increases air circulation, and brings sunlight into the center of a fruit tree. But it's hard to do that in a crowded subway station.
We don't get too much in the way of musical saw busking in Santa Cruz, at least not anymore-now that Tom Scribner, local Wobblie, has died. And B fondly recalls the chapel hour at his lil Christian elementary School-Mr. Copehanger playing 'Amazing Grace' on the saw. But for the most part our days are pretty musical saw-free. Which might not be a bad thing? I still can't decide.

(And many thanks to mike kobal for the Youtube link, and musicmuse_ca  for the Tom Scribner pic. Beautiful!)

12.19.2009

Christmas Shopping, Wings of Desire and the Brotherhood of Man

I was downtown this afternoon, having shopped, coffeed and taken my library books for a walk. I was on my way back to my car, when at the corner of Pacific & Locust I heard the strains of street musician fare, pretty typical stuff, sort of pseudo-theremin thrown in with someone's Chinese water torture bongos. I had been musing on the idea of prayer, about how it often felt like a one-sided conversation, and while it was good to tell things to God, I wanted to talk to someone who would talk back to me. I used to pray and get some sense of the Divine discourse; lately it's been more like Anne Lammott's Outbox Prayer. She had a request, and would write it on a slip and put it in her 'outbox'.
As the music came more sharply into focus, I found myself thinking: what if it were true that each of these people walking by were loved, dear, and very important? I don't quite know how I got there, mentally. One minute it was plaintive inner bleating about unanswered prayer and the next I was hyper- aware of the people walking past. I peered at them from behind my scarf; the couple in front of the movie theatre, the shambly guy in front of the bagel place. The hipster girls by Urban Outfitters. The homeless guy curled up on the bench in front of the library; his cat gnawing on a chicken bone. I had wandered into Wings of Desire-I wanted to hug people and murmur encouragingly to them in German. And if all these people are so important and beloved, I must be too; we are all related, all children of the Father. I remembered that great Chesterton quote about the 'streets full of splendid strangers.' Click on the link for the full quote and an old post from the archives.
I don't often walk down the street thinking things like this, especially not in the midst of a crowded shopping afternoon, with irritating bongo drums that just. won't. stop. But there I was. I don't know if it was a Divine poke or just a really good cup of Peet's, but I don't need to know. I've lately come to the idea that I needn't question the way truth and grace come to me.
Here's the Innocence Mission to finish things up:

12.15.2009

Rosa's Poetry Archives:Gerard Manley Hopkins-Advent Reading Week 3


God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed.Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is smeared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And, for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights from the black West went
Oh, morning at the brown brink eastward springs-
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast, and ah! bright wings.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

Why didn't anyone tell me about Gerard Manley Hopkins? I know I've heard his name before but 'God's Grandeur' is the first of his poems that I've stumbled across. This poem leapt off the page from an Advent devotional reader (from Holy Bible: Mosaic,) and carried me through the day. I found myself repeating, "There lives the dearest freshness deep down things" to myself as I planted daffodil bulbs and 'the Holy Ghost broods with warm breast, and ah! bright wings' as I cared for kith and kin. 

I was reminded somehow of Robert Southwell, although that could also have to do with the fact that they were both Jesuit priests. Last Advent I dusted off a Southwell poem from the Poetry Archives, and here it is. It's just about my favorite Nativity poem. Except Chesterton's. And Lucy Shaw's. Oh, and Lewis'. Maybe a series of Advent poetry posts is in order? I'll add that to the pile of good intentions.
And thank you Fr.William Hart McNichols, for the iconic portrait of Hopkins. Lovely.

12.10.2009

Sorry it's been so silent around here. Actually some silence would be nice-it feels like the circus is in town to stay. I don't even know how to catalogue it all, and if I were any less bleary-eyed I could be more eloquent in the descriptions of my days. Suffice to say, I am knee-high in children. I suppose I could say chest-deep, with a nursing infant.
The Littles

Both G & H are sick, of the gummy, runny cough-cough variety. Red droopy eyes and short little tempers. It's like living with tiny old people, hacking and kavetching about their ailments. "Oy vey! Mommy! ((cough cough))  I want to watch 'Dora Saves the Mermaids', if I should live so long!" 

Today's Theological Interchange: 
G: "Do you know how high Jesus could throw a sandwich?" 
Me, slightly distracted: "Ummm...what was that? Uh, no. How high could Jesus throw a sandwich?"
G, jubilant, arms aloft: "All the way to heaven!"

 Assessment: Tired, But Hopeful

I've decided that this time in my life I get to be the person to whom my family comes home; there's something nice about that. It's not a role that I've ever sought out-I've never aspired to being a domestic-y sort of person, except for the fact that I like to garden, cook, read and stay close to home. I suppose it's funny to think that when I told God I would do what He wanted me to do, and go where I was needed, I would be sent here, to this home-life, filled with the joys and struggles of child-rearing, the most difficult job I've ever undertaken. I've decided to start saying that I work from home, that I'm working on a little start-up project. G & H- my little start-ups.
School House Rock

Growing up in a single parent family, my mom was usually the last one in the door; my brother and I home from school for several hours, already having squandered untold millions of brain cells on after-school TV. My life now is a complete reversal from how I was raised, and I find myself floundering around quite a bit. It's weird to still be getting the hang of things that should be simple, like cooking, cleaning & communicating. But when you begin to add the different overlays of our life, the waters are a little harder to navigate. I welcome these challenges-I feel more tired these days, as well as a bit more hopeful.
If you could pray for me, I'd be grateful.

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.