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Showing posts from May, 2008

Blog Your Blessings: Going for the Ride

Did Della ever fall off her bike? Yes. Lots of times. In fact, for a while there it was the only way she knew how to stop and get off. But she learned. Fortified recently with the basic fact that his cousin struggled to learn to ride a bike, my nephew Adam was ready to give bicycling a try. My parents showed him how to coast, and they stood by to keep him from rolling into the road and to encourage him to keep trying. The Stride-Rites faithfully took the scrapes for him as he dragged his toes to keep the speed down. For hours. For days. Then, on Wednesday, I had the good fortune of stopping by to visit with my parents and my nephew. I got to be part of Team Go, Adam, Go! and raced alongside him on foot to provide some variety to the routine. Eventually the little guy found the courage to put his feet on the pedals--and to pedal backwards as I wheeled him up the drive. What a kidder. So I told him to try it in the other direction, and he did. The Hunchbacked Aunt of Woodbury held

Skywatch Friday:

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This beautiful oak lives 50 feet from my front door. I love the way it reaches in every direction for light. This branch sometimes makes me think of lightening, sometimes of a runaway heading East, and sometimes of the letter J. I love the view of the sky through it. More Skywatch Friday at Wigger's World

Thursday Thirteen: Prayer of St. Francis

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Recently my daughter's choir sang at a benefit for an urban soup kitchen. The group was asked not to be "too Christian" because this is an interfaith soup kitchen. The point need not have been made; the group and its director are sensitive to and respectful of the faith traditions of others. Nevertheless, the conversation led to some reflection on what it means to be "too Christian" and whether or not it's ever possible or appropriate to be anything but who you are. To this group, being Christian at all means being kind and doing good in every way possible; it means loving people and being open to the changes love brings. That's all Among the songs the children sang was the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. Here are its 13 lines. Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury,pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is

Wordless Wednesday: Good Morning!

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Wild strawberries thrive in a patch of lawn overlooked by some inexperienced landscrapers. More at Wordless Wednesday

To Build Bombs or Swat Flies...

At Wisdom's Table , I read the following, and it stopped me in my tracks. Recently the UN General Assembly held a two-day debate to discuss its Millennium Development Goals that 189 U.N. member states agreed in 2000 to try to achieve by the year 2015. Those goals are: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal free primary education; promoting gender equality and empowerment of women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating H.I.V./AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global partnership for development. Progress toward these goals has been extremely slow for three key reasons: the costs of warfare, the economic downturn, and the food crisis. Consider this: The US military spends $1.9 billion every single day. In contrast, $1.5 billion spent over five years could provide mosquito net coverage to prevent malaria in all of Africa. That's according to Jeffrey D. Sachs, who directs the

Weekend Snapshot: No Place Like Home

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The warmth of late spring has been slow in coming this year, so we've had a wonderful season of slow-blooming, long-lasting flowering trees. Watching the rhododendron blossom has been like living inside a time lapse movie. A little, a little more, a little more....Soon they'll all be open and the bees will be fast at work and making the sounds that remind me summer will be here soon. It's nice to take the time to enjoy it. The ability to see beauty is the beginning of our moral sensibility. What we believe is beautiful we will not wantonly destroy. (Rev. Sean Parker Dennison) Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: 'If You Like it, Shoot it'

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"If I like it, I shoot it," said our new friend as we stood with him by the lake and discussed the osprey, heron, egrets, otter, muskrats, beavers, geese, turkey vultures, and bullfrogs that thrive in and around it. If he had said that without the camera with the huge lens hanging from his neck, my daughter and I would have high-tailed it out of there before he had a chance to like us. As it was, his camera was obvious, and ours were in our hands; we were there to shoot what we liked, too. But not before listening to his stories of venturing out on our lake and nearby ponds and setting up the camera on the tripod to wait for the birds to come. Harvey spends a lot of time doing that. "I tell my friends, you know, if the day's getting stressful, go outside, sit down for a minute, close your eyes, listen, and breathe. Then open your eyes and look around you. You'll be amazed by what you see." Harvey had all the time in the world for us, and he told us abo

I Want to Connect? Who Said?

Sometimes I think I learn everything the hard way. The other day I received an email from the mother of one of my daughter's friends saying she wanted to connect with me at Reunion.com. "No thanks," I thought when I read the message. But, then, I didn't want to snub this woman, either. After a few days of feeling like an oaf for leaving the message in my email inbox, I followed the link to Reunion.com and set up an account so I could reply. Before I realized it, the site scarfed my entire address book and sent an automatic message to everyone asking them to "connect" with me. I am more than a little burned because I had professional contacts in this address book. Nevertheless, I have heard from friends and associates I haven't heard from in a while--including professional contacts who have offered me more work. Go figure. And here I was about to die over this stupid mistake. I'm glad to know a lot of good and gracious people, though I'm sorry t

Skywatch Friday: Walk on By

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This is St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Woodbury, Connecticut. I caught a picture of it one sunny weekday when I was out for a walk. Our Main Street is dotted with white clapboard churches. Though there are four denominations within half a mile of each other, the churches look the same. Take the signs down, and an outsider wouldn't know the difference between them. Essentially, there isn't any. More Skywatchers at Wigger's World

Thursday Thirteen: 'Fern Hill'

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Last week, I presented the last 13 lines of "Desiderata," though I like the whole thing. Though the process of disembodying lines from a poem seems to me to be all wrong because it deprives them of their context as a part of a story and strips them of the creative logic of a complete poem, I like doing it. These lines really shouldn't stand alone, but focusing on them does offer a glimpse of the spirit of the whole and brings us in close on their emotional and imaginative beauty and intensity. Here are 13 lines from my favorite poem, "Fern Hill," by Dylan Thomas. May we all sing in our chains like the sea. And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs Before the children green and golden Follow him out of grace, Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand, In the moon that is always ris

Wordless Wednesday: O, Joy (Brown)!

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To view more of Joy Brown's sculptures, visit At Wisdom's Table . More Wordless Wednesday here

Hangin' with the Dummies

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Somewhere in the 1970s, my dad and a few of his friends were christened Dummies. They had been out clamming on a dark January afternoon (with the help of blackberry brandy to maintain circulation to the extremeties), and the wife of one of these guys called them Dummy No. 1, Dummy No. 2, Dummy No. 3, and Dummy No. 4 upon their return to her warm kitchen in Norwalk. The name stuck. Dad was second through the door, so he is Dummy No. 2. Dummy No. 1 was the man of the house and a character beyond compare. The adventures of the Dummies figured large in our social life at the time. I think the carefree spirit of these men and their disinterest in and disregard for anything but exactly what they were doing--boating, fishing, eating, sitting around a campfire, laughing out loud--went a long way in teaching me to go my own road in life. The Dummy camping trips rate high among my childhood memories. Part of the pleasure of the adventure was Mr. D's devil-may-care attitude--thought it would

Weekend Snapshot: Fleeting Blossoms

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More than autumn, spring reminds me that life fleets by, that beauty and youth are not eternal, that of necessity they change and become the fruit that sustains us year round. The other day, the petals of these delicate blossoms danced around me with a rising wind that brought rain. I felt like I was in a snow globe--but that is the wrong image in May. A flower globe, to be sure. This world teems with life, new and pink and fragrant and learning to fly and delightful. For a little while. I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, "No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. So I don't worry at all. (Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step ) More at Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: Buddha's Birthday

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Last Sunday afternoon we marked the birthday of the Buddha at the Dae Yen Sa International Buddhist Temple and Meditation Center in New Hartford, Connecticut, with our friend, Buddhist Priest Brian Vaugh , who shared some ideas about the significance of the birthday. It was a well-spent afternoon. Brian began by asking if there really was a baby Buddha, if it mattered that there ever was, and if it might matter if a real baby Buddha were brought into the temple there and then. The point: Why do we care and, if we do, what are we doing to show we care? Buddhists, he said, are defined by what they do, not by what they believe. Brian told the story of the young man who became the Buddha from the time of his extraordinary birth to the moment he realized he must spend his life alleviating the suffering of others in the world. Buddha forewent a life of comfort, ease, and luxury in favor of a life and of service. In fact, when he woke up to the needs of the world, he walked away from eve

Skywatch Friday: James Fort

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This is the shape of a building that once stood on this site in Jamestown, Virginia, where English settlers first set up camp in the New World. The first photo is a view through the suggestion of a roof on this suggestion of a building where, under the direction of John Smith, the colony did OK despite myriad challenges. After Smith left, sickness and bad relations with the locals led rapidly to the decimation of the colony. I liked this hint of a building very much. Looking through it, I wondered what dreams lived in the hearts of the folks who were here for the first time. I wondered what it was like to completely misunderstand the nature of the people around them and of the New World itself but continue to look up and dream. They carried their limitations with them, but their dreams continued nonetheless. More Skywatch Friday at Wiggers' World

Thursday Thirteen: As it Should

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The final thirteen lines of Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata": You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. (Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.) More at Thursday Thirteen

Wordless Wednesday: Color for Sale at the Greek Festival

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More images from the festival are here . More at Wordless Wednesday

The Extraordinary, Ordinary Lindberghs

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At a program at Wisdom House on May 10 that explored her memories of her mother, author Reeve Lindbergh recounted the extraordinary and the ordinary in her experiences of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who was an aviation pioneer and a writer as well as a mother of five children. Anne and her husband Charles, were a spirited couple with a shared passion for life. Charles and Anne imbued in their children compassion, confidence, curiosity and a spirit of adventure and fun. Reeve's contribution to the Lindbergh's story is to translate it for us, to demythologize her parents, to make them real, to take us into the Lindbergh living room on a Sunday afternoon and genuinely feel part of the family as her father makes his lists and moves with economy and precision and her mother steps out into her small writing studio to work. Reeve's stories take you home. Many of the 50 women in the room shared a personal connection with the family, with the family's story, or with the books of Ann

Weekend Snapshot: Happy Mother's Day

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The other day my daughter and I came across this mama and baby crossing the road with papa. Of course, the parents were rushing the gosling across the road because there we were in our silver goose of a Volkswagen. We were on the way to school and making up for lost time trying to get the pony tail just right, but this encounter stopped us in our tracks. Suddenly we had all the time in the world. There's nothing like the natural world to point up the foolishness of our self-important haste. And there's nothing like a mother's love to remind you that life itself is all we really have time for. Happy Mother's Day most especially to my mom and to the really fine women who have graced my life. More at Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: Walking Down 200 Years

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I joined my daughter and her class on a field trip around the historical sites of our little town of Woodbury this week. She is one of 20 lively kids who managed to hold relay races; pick flowers for sweethearts; discuss the gummy bear qualities of calamari, the trouble of planting irises sideways, and seasonal allergies; and get every trucker to honk his horn yet managed to safely walk down the road and two hundred years back in time. We visited the Glebe House, the birthplace of the Episcopal Church in America. There the first bishop was selected from among Connecticut clergy and later consecrated in Scotland in an effort to preserve the traditions of this faith without lugging around the political baggage of loyalty to the British crown. That was an important consideration and a form of health insurance for Anglicans during the Revolutionary years. We checked out the Glebe House kitchen with its rope bed up against the wall, apples drying along the fireplace, and pewter charge

Skywatch Friday: Lines of Symmetry

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Clouds rolled in and out of the afternoon sky as we played Wiffle ball last Sunday. As I performed the vital task of reffing the game (capturing errant balls before they went down the storm drain and cheering both teams simultaneously and equally as the one and only onlooker--I enjoyed the busy sky,the green glint of buds, and the ever-faithful pines. As I enjoyed this sky and its strangely equal distribution of light and shadow and shape, I thought of my daughter's geometry assignments in which she is required to find lines of symmetry in various shapes. It's an exercise that teaches balance and form. It was nice to do homework in the sky, even on a Saturday. More Skywatch Friday at Wigger's World

Thursday Thirteen No. 32: Mary Oliver's 'Red Bird'

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"Are you familiar with the poetry of Mary Oliver?" I asked a student once in the hope of beginning a conversation on the poem "Wild Geese," a gem that contains the lines You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. en route to the statement "Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,/the world offers itself to your imagination." This was the line I wanted in the hope of beginning a conversation on inspiration. "I think so," the young woman squinted, the better to scan a distant memory. "I think that's that woman who writes about, like, her dog, Percy, I think and trees. That her?" "You can start there," I said. "And you will get to Mary Oliver." Because Mary Oliver's poetry is about this moment in this world in this light in this weather, alone or with the dog or on the way

Wordless Wednesday: Morning Light in Spring

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Who Holds the Copyright?

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Our names are written in sand. In the world of literature, questions of ownership often arise. Scholars wonder if Shakespeare really is the author of Shakespeare's works. For some this is a hot debate. Same goes in biblical scholarship. Thoughts on the actual authorship of each book of the Bible precede the historical readings of each book in the Interpreters Bible, for example. Is Solomon really the author of the words of wisdom ascribed to him? Serious scholars wonder. Did the apostle Paul write all those epistles? All these centuries later, I'm content to ascribe authorship of a certain body of Elizabethan plays and poems to William Shakespeare. The name really means little more to me than a time and place in English history. As for Paul's letters, they are the Pauline texts. Whether or not someone named Paul wrote them is immaterial. The wisdom stands outside and beyond Paul, whoever Paul was. It's a hard thing in this age of memoir and oral history to detac

Weekend Snapshot: Tulips from Two Boys

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Here is one of the many tulips my delightful little nephews gave me at the reception for Strange Attractions on Friday evening. Nine-year-old Alex said to me, "Aunt Sandy, I thought graffiti was what people write in bathrooms on the walls and was ugly stuff that ruined things. I guess it can be nice, too." His young mind is bigger than the labels and assumptions that are out there. More at Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: Graffiti

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Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything. (George Lois) Part of my fascination with graffiti is its anonymous nature. A writer's tag is not his name but his pen name. Graffiti refuses all assumptions about context. You may not deconstruct the work in terms of the creator's life; you can only take it in as a part of your own. In this way, graffiti is pure gift. When you look at a piece, it's all about you--even as it challenges notions of control (some might call it stability) by being big, edgy, and bright, and unsanctioned in a social landscape that defines itself by being clean and gray and dull. It's about you and My little photo show at a cafe in Cheshire recreates that immediate, enveloping experience of being anonymous and in the art. These pieces are from Connecticut, primarily. They are gifts from the lives of some folks I have the privilege of meetings, but most are the works of s

Skywatch Friday: Meet the Welcoming Committee

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I arose early each day when we were in Virginia a few weeks ago so that I could go for a morning walk. Every day the birds awoke me before the clock went off. What a gentle way to return to the world after a night's sleep! Out and about while the others slept, I came across these lovelies in a cherry tree. The sky seems always to be a mere back drop to the beauty right before me. You must dare to disassociate yourself from those who would delay your journey... Leave, depart, if not physically, then mentally. Go your own way, quietly, undramatically, and venture toward trueness at last. (Vernon Howard) More Skywatch Friday at Wigger's World

Thursday Thirteen: 'I Will Not Be Broken'

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When he was a college student in Israel in the mid-1980s, a landmine--leftovers of the 1967 War--blew Jerry White's world apart, taking a leg but leaving him with a big choice. Would he become a victim of an accident and live in bitterness and self-pity, or would he choose life? First with the help of the do-or-die Israelis who had no time for self-pity or any other form of self-destructive self-indulgence, and then with the help of family and friends and countless wise others, White chose life and transformed his traumatic experience into his life's work. Today he is the leader of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (for which he was corecipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1997), and cofounder of Survivor Corps. He describes his journey from victim to survivor to "thriver" in his new book I Will Not Be Broken . The book outlines a program of five steps for coping with disaster. He draws on his experiences as well as those of famous persons such as Lance A