Friday, July 23, 2021

A Visit Home with Mom and Dad

Well, I actually traveled home to help celebrate the first birthday of my nephew, but you know how when you travel home as an adult you see things that are central to your parents' lives in new ways.

It was no different this time.

When my mom and dad purchased their first and only home in 1983, the biggest criterion (for Dad, at least) was the size of the basement. You see, to put it lightly, my dad is a train/model railroad aficionado. From the time he was just a kid he has been in love with railroads, trains, chasing them to take photos and videos, and all that jazz. This means that our entire basement is one big model railroad. You cannot really appreciate the scope until you see it for yourself, and indeed, he has done open houses, but I saw it in a new way on this visit home.

I spent hours upon hours playing downstairs with my sister when we were kids and my dad was only on his first attempt at the layout. (He has since taken it down and started over twice.) We crawled under all the wood pretending it was Jurassic Park; we set up school classrooms with imaginary teachers and students, we scribbled all over the wooden stairs. (Our youthful cursive still lingers.) With my father playing docent, I got a tour this time as he ran trains for my nephew for the first time.

Turns out that Dad himself built a computer to run the system, all designed in his head and on graph paper, a rather intricate wiring/sensor/switchboard system that signals to a dispatcher in another room (the garage) where the trains are passing on the track. The dispatcher then uses a two-way radio to talk to the people running the trains in the basement. Yes, indeed, you do need to see it for yourself, but here are some sneak peaks until you find yourself in Emmaus.

A view down one of the aisles...

One of the switchboard systems and its wiring...all the wiring connects to the major switchboard in the garage, being run through a hole he drilled in the wall.

The inside of one of two helices that move the trains from level to level...

Another view and the control tower that he built and designed based on the real tower in West Virginia (the entire layout is modeled on the railroad system in the state)...

A video of the trains running...

As for my mom? Well, she has been handcrafting as long as I've been alive (and longer). Knitting, crocheting, embroidery, many fiber crafts. We took a trip to the local yarn shop because she is working on a sweater (or two) for me. I delighted in the colors.

Grateful for their creativity and the gifts that they share with others.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Summer, Summer, Summer

I cannot think of a better season. Really. Really.

Delighting to see the tomatoes on their way. New ones blossoming each day...especially with all this recent rain!

Watching the trees we planted at the monastery as part of the Re-Leaf program growing, while also helping a friend remove Japanese beetles to keep them safe!

Spending time cooking especially extravagant meals with the best company...a really wonderful friend and homemade guacamole.

Getting some perspective watching the sunset.

Hosting an outdoor giveaway at the food pantry with items donated by the Benedictine community.

Finding joy in the plants soaking up the sunshine.

Learning about the fun patches of wildflowers called "fairy rings" because the whimsical creatures dance and play there.

Having fresh, simple flowers from our yard to create beautiful and elegant chapel environments.

Being with community for perfect summer sunsets... plus...SPARKLERS!

Really, does it get any better?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Friday, June 18, 2021

A Time To Be

Well, what can I say? It's summer. I am just the one admiring the beauty, savoring the opportunity to relax/be, and basking in the gratitude of being able to be with friends again. I am going to keep soaking it up!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

There is a Place Beyond Ambition
Mary Oliver

When the flute players
couldn’t think of what to say next

they laid down their pipes,
then they lay down themselves
beside the river

and just listened.
Some of them, after a while,
jumped up
and disappeared back inside the busy town.
But the rest—
so quiet, not even thoughtful—
are still there,

still listening.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Pentecost Blessings

A Psalm of Spirit
Miriam Therese Winter

Come, Holy Spirit,
rattle the rooms
in which we are hiding.
Shake the tired foundations
until the institution crumbles,
break the rules
that keep You out of all our
sacred spaces,
then lift from the dust and rubble
a completely new creation.

Come, Holy Spirit,
enter our lives,
whisper our names
and scatter Your gifts of grace
with wild abandon,
give Your silent strength to all imprisoned
by the structures,
and let Your raging fire be our sign
of liberty.

Come, Holy Spirit,
help us find ourselves
in vital places,
bringing Your word of freedom
to the poor and the oppressed.
We will remember
women were there
when You burst upon a waiting world
creating and recreating
opportunities for everyone
to feel and fear
Your face.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

P.S. The tomatoes have been planted...along with some basil, cilantro, parsley, and hot peppers! Thanks to Wild Field Urban Farm for the beautiful plants! Thanks to all our sisters for contributing to create our beautiful monastery compost!

And, if you're ever in Pittsburgh, consider Tocayo. We ate some DELICIOUS tacos yesterday! Plus, we savored a perfect sunset on the drive home, while listening to a song with the words "Ego Loss" in the title. Thank goodness that summer will be here soon!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way

When I stepped outside with my coffee this morning, the birds, too, were singing their Benedictus in harmony. So many voices chanting their morning canticle.

For me, there's nothing like this time of year. It's like the joy—that's much harder for me to come by in winter—returns in direct proportion with the blossoming of nature.

The other week I was driving one of my sisters to an appointment. I had been in a car with her last year around this time, too. But, I forgot. Passing each full magnolia tree, vibrant red bud, or flowering cherry, we exclaimed our joy at the beauty, pointing each one out to the other as we spotted them. There's nothing like it. She also pointed out to me the way that the trees lining Franklin Avenue blossom on one side before the other. What a time of year to live with eyes wide open.

And we haven't even mentioned our favorite tree at the monastery. Well, it's the favorite of many. (I think all of us have a tree on the property that lives a little deeper in our hearts for one reason or another.) This particular one, though, is much-loved because for about 2 weeks, it is on full display in the wide library windows. Jackie caught a few great photos from the other side of the glass. That sister that I mentioned in the last paragraph doesn't walk through the hallway during those two weeks. She re-routes through the library so that she can catch glimpse of the beauty as often as possible.

Who could blame her?

Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way
Mary Oliver

If you're John Muir you want trees to
live among. If you're Emily, a garden
will do.
Try to find the right place for yourself.
If you can't find it, at least dream of it. 
When one is alone and lonely, the body
gladly lingers in the wind or the rain,
or splashes into the cold river, or
pushes through the ice-crusted snow.

Anything that touches.
God, or the gods, are invisible, quite
understandable. But holiness is visible,
Some words will never leave God's mouth,
no matter how hard you listen.
In all the works of Beethoven, you will
not find a single lie.
All important ideas must include the trees,
the mountains, and the rivers.
To understand many things you must reach out
of your own condition.
For how many years did I wander slowly
through the forest. What wonder and
glory I would have missed had I ever been
in a hurry!
Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still
it explains nothing.
The point is, you're you, and that's for keeps.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Friday, April 16, 2021

National Poetry Month

From Mary Oliver

Maker of All Things, Even Healings

All night under the pines the fox
moves through the darkness
with a mouthful of teeth
and a reputation for death which it deserves.
In the spicy villages of the mice he is famous,
his nose in the grass
is like an earthquake,
his feet on the path
is a message so absolute
that the mouse, hearing it, makes himself
as small as he can as he sits silent
or, trembling, goes on
hunting among the grasses for the ripe seeds.

Maker of All Things,
including appetite, including stealth,
including the fear that makes
all of us sometime or other,
flee for the sake
of our small and precious lives,
let me abide in your shadow

let me hold on
to the edge of your robe
as you determine what you must let be lost
and what will be saved.

Let us walk in the holy presence.



Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Night the Lights Went Out: Easter Vigil at the Monastery

Well, no one could say it didn't have a thrilling ending.

Of course, the Easter narrative holds our greatest finale, and we lived into that pretty fully last night.

Easter Vigil was set to begin at 8pm. Around 6:15pm, as I put loads of dishes through the dishwasher, the machine stopped, the lights faded in an instant, and we all started to laugh.

The power was out.

This is the night the light broke the chains of death, oh holy night. We always sing as the Vigil begins and the Paschal fire blazes.

Out of nowhere appeared a rechargeable sound system, flashlights, lanterns, headlights, systems rigged to hold them all in place. Everyone began to give the could hear the music traditionally played on the computer-powered organ being practiced on the piano.

The show must go on. By 8pm, we were off, on the journey toward Alleluia.

The flexibility and adaptability on display were the essence of what I've come to know in my 5+ years at the monastery. As the eight traditional readings unfolded leading us to that first "Alleluia" in ages, there was a beautiful simplicity as we adjusted to the unexpected.

The power company told us to expect electric again around 11pm. In line to share communion at 9:45, Let there be light, and there was. And it was good.

Just in time to enjoy our closing hymn, All Shall Be Well and our Easter postlude on the organ.

"Jesus alive! Rejoice and sing again. All shall be well forever more, Amen."

Let us walk in the holy Easter presence.

A Visit Home with Mom and Dad

Well, I actually traveled home to help celebrate the first birthday of my nephew, but you know how when you travel home as an adult you see ...