Archive for December, 2008

Standing still

Last night we went to the midnight Mass at Emmanuel.  When I lived in St. Louis, I went to every Christmas Eve midnight service, for…maybe ten years.  Am I that old?  Emmanuel is on the campus of my old college, too-where I did my undergrad.  So as we parked the car, I passed by the old house in which the English department is housed.  

How many times a day, for four years, did I cross the church yard on my way from the school of education to my playwriting and poetry and fiction classes?

The service is as familiar to me as any Christmas song.  For most of those years, I sang in the choir, and sat right in the front, beneath the altar, facing the sopranos and basses, at a right angle to the hundreds in the congregation behind us.  The liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer is deep set in my memory.

I teach Sunday school at a Methodist church, and at a United Church of Christ congregation.  My school’s chapel services are non-denominational, and never as “high” as the Emmanuel service.  It’s been maybe a year since I’ve been back.  And yet, as soon as the organ starts, I know when to stand.  As the crucifers pass, I bow, as naturally as if I’d been doing it every week in New York.  When the priest begins to intone the service, I remember the words, the tune, the pauses, and the feeling of those old, old words.  

Having studied the Council of Nicaea takes none of the ancient numinousness from reciting the words.  I always try to say them like I mean them, I say each word, I listen to the voices around me, and I imagine the thousands of voices for hundreds of years who have said it before me.

I have much I could say about the service last night, but right now, I’m feeling how my body  remembered everything.  I knelt, stood, sang, bowed, prayed, recited, and stood still, waiting in the dark.


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I have cabin fever pretty bad.  We went out last night, and it was so, so treacherous on the icy, snowy sidewalks.  But by bus, and with Matt supporting me, I was able to make it from the bus stop to the front door.  It was wonderful, but hasn’t helped break up the momentum of long days alone, wishing I was busy.  I just feel like I’m not _doing_ anything, accomplishing anything.  I feel grubby, lazy, and inefficient. I couldn’t go rehearse the Christmas pageant with my Sunday school kids this morning because the sidewalks had not been cleared, and it’s probably even worse in Katonah.  Tomorrow (day of the pageant), Matt is coming with me and we’re leaving an hour early. I will be exhausted when we get home… but it’s Christmas.

Matt went downtown Christmas shopping, and sweetly took digital photos of the pretty shop windows.  For some reason, though, this made me feel even more housebound.  I want to be outside, in a cute scarf, looking at windows, shopping, getting coffee, running around.

I hate to admit that I had a little pity party for myself.  I cried in frustration, wouldn’t let Matt cheer me up, and banged my bad foot against the wall several times.  Bad, bad idea, I know.  I just– it was a bit of a frustrated tantrum.

After a half hour or so, I let Matt cuddle me and tell me sweet things.  We watched _Wall-E_ while I iced my ankle, and now we’re making pizza, with made-from-scratch pizza dough and roasted garlic.

I’m not looking forward to the airports next week, but I am looking forward to being someplace new, with family, and relaxing, and games, and interesting things to see and talk about, and a baby to hold.  I’d go celebrate Christmas in a ditch–that’s how eager I am to get out of this apartment.

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“In all forms, ordinary or extraordinary,

I seek that life rhythm (pranachhanda) of the reality

whose vitality has generated the whole world and all forms,

actual and imaginary,

and pulsates within them.”

–Nandalal Bose, 1944


I think of Grace, I think of a “life force,” and I think of the way St. Catherine of Siena described God– God and God’s grace are the water in which we swim; we may not realize it, we may look for it, but we are _in_ it as it flows through our gills and as we move through it and it through us.

I’m also struck by the fact that Bose wrote those words in 1944, at a time when the West was at war, and also… his words seem so fresh and contemporary. I have access to them, for example, through yoga and uplifting items available at a nice bookstore, for example.  But he wrote them in 1944– nothing else about that year makes me think about ideas like this.

And, I love that word “pulsates.”  Yes.


(I saw an installation of his at the Philadelphia Art Museum this past summer.)

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Flinder of bone

I had my CT scan last Friday.  I have to admit–the machine was very cool.  The office was in Columbus Circle, so the moon-gate machine stood in this corner room with spectacular Christmas-in-the-City views.  Because the machine is so big, the room was actually the largest single room I’ve been in in midtown.  I was amazed at how quickly and silently the levers raised the cot I lay on, up and forward, up, up, and slightly more forward.  Barely a whir.

This morning, the orthopedist left a detailed and kindly message on my voicemail; I was asleep, apparently he works early.  A corner of my bone has chipped off; the ligament surrounding it tore it loose when I fell.  

I am surprised: first of all, I think my bones are very, very strong. I drank nothing but whole milk with all meals until college.  I’ve never had a broken bone: how does a piece chip off?  Secondly, I think of ligament as– sort of loose, muscular, stringy.  How does that have enough strength to make bone disconnect from bone?  I must no nothing about physiology.  

Luckily, the bone piece is “aligned well,” so I don’t need a pin or surgery.  I just have to keep it in the cast, and stay off of it, for six more weeks.  So much easier said than done– I already have cabin fever and am dying to get back into the office where I work, and I dearly want to walk around downtown and see all the Christmas windows.  

Maybe I can hire one of those pedicabs to drive Matt and me around, shop window to shop window.

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Long overdue

So, more than a week ago, one of my favorite writers tagged me to do the following:

“Go to the closest book to you, not necessarily the book you have just read, or your favourite, but the closest. Turn to page 56 and copy out the 5th line, followed by the next 2 to 5 lines.”

Seriously, when she asked me, I was doing a lot of Greek, so all I had were course packets and loose photocopies around me at all times.  No books.  And I don’t know how to put Greek letters into WordPress, anyway.  But today, TODAY I have books around me, because classes have ended and I’m reading for pleasure again.

Book nearest me:  _Tender at the Bone_ by Ruth Reichl.  My amazing next door neighbors brought me a stack of good reading when I first broke my ankle, so I could read for fun and distract myself.  This was one of them.  

(The others included: _A Girl of the Limberlost_ by Gene Stratton Porter, _Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany_ by Ben Schott, _The Wind in the Willows_ by Kenneth Grahame, and _The Blue Castle_ by LM Montgomery.  Good neighbors, right?)

Page 56, line five and following:

“She took me out to dinner.  She took me to see _My Fair Lady_.  But Sunday night, after pickles, potatoes, and big, bloody steaks at a famous Montreal restaurant named Moishe’s, I went back to the hawk-faced woman and my mother went back to New York.” 

PS: You should read this writer, too. Visit her blog, Paul Newman Shirt Days.  Get ready for some sweet, winsome, and powerful writing.  And check out her paintings! If anyone ever wants to buy me something extravagant (perhaps to celebrate the finishing of a PhD ;), one of these would do perfectly.

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What an amazing idea: with every hour, as the sun shines through a different series of holes, a new poem is revealed in shadow on the ground beneath.


How ephemeral.  I don’t know if I’d like it– I’d want to keep every one.  I’d be furiously scribbling, keeping track, writing them all down… and miss the slow movement passing… (miss the passing of life?)  I notice that one of the poems reads, “Life/Speeds/By/Like/A Dream.”  In this case, the poems dream by hourly.

(Via Apartment Therapy’s Re-Nest)

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From my notebook, this week:

“Pain hallowed in [Christ] the capacity for radical resurrection and life.”


“God’s power is limited by human freedom?”  


And a quote from Georgia Harkness:

“War destroys every value for which Christianity stands, and to oppose war by more war is only to deepen the morass into which  humanity has fallen.  

I believe that life is inevitably a sphere of conflict and that our choices are not often to be made between good and evil, but between alternate evils.  

I believe that in all of life’s dark areas the triumph which shines through tragedy comes not with the sword which our Lord rejected, but with the cross toward which he walked.”

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