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Showing posts from March, 2008

Weekend Snapshot: Angels Around Us

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This the angel at the gate to the Lourdes Grotto in Litchfield, Connecticut. My husband and I stopped there for a walk while our daughter was at at Girl Scouts event at a nearby school. Though I am not Roman Catholic, I have come to appreciate the Stations of the Cross and the like as works of art, means of telling a story of faith, and a source of inspiration and comfort.

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Blog Your Blessings: Wiffle Ball

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The backyard version of baseball known in these parts as Wiffle Ball is this week's blessing. We had the chance to play nine innings with my nephews on Easter weekend, and my daughter and I have had our own version of pitchers-and-catchers during the week. She's been batting left-handed as well as right, and she has figured out how to throw the ball where she wants it to go. She is the first female in our family's history to accomplish this.

Wiffle Ball is a variation of stick ball played with a plastic bat and a perforated plastic ball designed to travel only short distances so the game can be played in small areas. It has been around since 1953 and is one of those backyard games anyone can play. You don't have to be especially good at it to enjoy it, and that's a big part of why it's so much fun. It was a staple activity of all my family's backyard picnics when I was growing up. It was the game that got young and old alike out of their lawn chairs and runn…

More Weight for Connecticut's Witches

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Reading this week's stories about the Connecticut legislature's considering a resolution that would acknowledge the horrible nature of this state's 18th century witch trials, my mind rolled back to Dublin, Ireland, in the mid-1990s when I watched a performance of Arthur Miller's 1953 play The Crucible at the Abbey Theatre.

Set during the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century, the play explores the brutal effects of mob hysteria and government by and about fear. The damning word of unreliable witnesses, the conniving ways of jealous girls, and the hunger for pleasure and joy that rips through these colonists like an invisible, silent earthquake turn the rule of law, common sense, and fair play on their head with deadly results. The Crucible has been called a play about McCarthyism. It can be that, but it is in fact about any situation in which reason and compassion surrender to blind power.

I knew the story line as I watched the drama unfold in Dublin so many years ago,…

Skywatch Friday: Blowing in the Wind

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Thursday Thirteen 26: Forwarding Wisdom

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I used to dislike receiving forwarded emails. Will I really go to hell if I don't forward to the 10 friends I don't have? If I can drum up six friends, will my wildest dreams come true in six months? Should I reply? Hmmm....

Once I unwittingly expressed this frustration with this kind of mail in front of a woman who was a prolific sender of the stuff, though I didn't realize it. She was a disabled woman with a warm word and a smile for everyone. "I don't always have something important to say, but I want the people I care about to know I'm thinking of them," she said to me. I could see I had hurt her feelings. "And I only send the ones I think are good to people I really like."

So I read these. I forward and reply as much as possible. And I make a point of learning something, of finding goodness. It's always there. Look at these pearls:

1. Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
2. Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled…

Wordless Wednesday: Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, NYC

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Faded Beauty

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The other day my daughter and I got into Waterbury too early for her choir rehearsal, so we took a walk around the corner to pick up my paycheck in the Chase Building, built in 1919 as a headquarters for the Chase family's charitable and business ventures. It's a formerly beautiful building that the city has let run down since it purchased it from the Chase family for $1 in 1963, but it's not hard to imagine how splendid it was in its time. My daughter was immediately taken by the Palladian window in the stairwell, and she was quick to find the line by Abraham Lincoln in the leading.

We stopped for a moment to read it and a moment more for me to photograph it. We talked about what Lincoln might have meant by "manly"--strong, generous, courageous, honorable--and thought we could strive for this kind of heart, too.

On the way back to the church, my daughter picked up on many other beautiful buildings, monuments, and natural works of art in the form of trees that mar…

Weekend Snapshot: Happy Easter

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First to break the earth
These hearts are broken by it
I live for such joy

Blog Your Blessings: The Chorister Academy

This week's blessing is one that has come up before: The Chorister Academy at St. John's Church in Waterbury, Connecticut. This group of young people includes students from second through tenth grade who come from all over the city. All the kids come from hard-working families, though none is well-off financially. Twice a week this diverse group of kids meet for hours at a time to learn to read music and to sing some pretty challenging hymns. The group is constantly in flux. Kids come and go, so the group is always starting over as it tries to advance.

The program is free to these kids. They have only to want to be there, to participate, and to sing in church twice a month as well as on special occasions.

Through the Academy, St. John's does what a church should do. It helps these kids find the essential beauty within themselves, to make the most of it, and to give it all away in the name of Love.

The choristers sang the very beautiful and poignant "Lenten Love Song&qu…

Skywatch Friday: Time Tells in Thomaston

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The first shot is the Thomaston Opera House. Below it is the factory that produced those Seth Thomas timepieces that put Connecticut on the map many moons ago. (The clock at Grand Central Station in New York City came from Thomaston.) No matter where you look in Thomaston, it seems there's a clock on a tower with the exact time!

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"Play Nice" Researchers Catch up with the Teacher

At last, research is catching up that great teacher whose brief but profound rabbinical career 2000 years ago could be summed up in the three words "love one another."

Today Nature magazine published the findings of researchers who studied the behavior of 100 Boston-area college students playing the game "Prisoner's Dilemma," which the researches describe as "a punishment-heavy version of the classic one-on-one brinksmanship game of prisoner's dilemma."

Common game theory has held that punishment makes two equals cooperate. But when people compete in repeated games, punishment fails to deliver, said study author Martin Nowak. He is director of the evolutionary dynamics lab at Harvard where the study was conducted.

"On the individual level, we find that those who use punishments are the losers," Nowak said his experiments found.

Those who escalate the conflict very often wound up doomed.

When faced with a nasty opponent, turning the other che…

Thursday Thirteen No 25: The Labyrinth.

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"Let the beauty you love be what you do.There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth." -Rumi

Every now and again I stop off at the labyrinth at Wisdom House in Litchfield, Connecticut. Walking it is a wonderful experience in itself, but recent reading has made it all the richer. Here are some thoughts on the labyrinth from The Great Cosmic Mother by Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor.

1.The labyrinth traces its roots to the Great Mother, the earth goddess.

2. The Great Mother was the body of all life as well as the way that must be traveled to realize life.

3. In all rites of the Great Mother throughout the ages and throughout the world, the way is always connected with a cave/womb and a spiraling entrance and exit.

4. Among ancient Cretans as well as among present-day Hopis in the American Southwest, the earth womb is depicted as a labyrinth and the mythic place of emergence of the whole people.

5. In Hindu tradition, both the convolutions of the brain and the eightfold stages …

Wordless Wednesday: Fading Memory

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This is a Coors poster behind a 9/11 memorial painted on a package store window in Thomaston, Connecticut. The window seems to me a metaphor of how we remember as well as how we forget.

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The Watercourse Way

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Reflect upon how the gentle water compares to the solid stone and marble it's capable of carving through. The soft water overrides hardness--deep valleys surrounded by mountains of granite have been carved away over the centuries by the patient, quiet, moving liquid. Imagine being able to enter where no space appears to be available, and to move slowly, speaking seldom and allowing yourself to be harmoniously intact as you see a lower, less noisy and noticeable place...a place where all others desire to come to you .This is the watercourse way. (Wayne Dyer, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life)

Eliot Spitzer--A Feint

Last week, a YouTube visitor left a startling comment on my very brief video of the Stars and Strips flying in a late February breeze. He suggested I was a my-country-right-or-wrong American. There is nothing on this video but the flag and a bit of the hymn "This is My Father's Land," itself a prayer for guidance for home sweet home.

In the spirit of that little video--a meditation on patriotism and a prayer for guidance, as I said--I offer yet another act of patriotic duty on this blog. This loyal American stands aghast in the face of what her nation's leaders do in the name of that flag.

I call your attention to poor old former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. As the world knows, he had expensive sex with a prostitute. It was a cash transaction and a no-no but it was Spitzer's cash and certainly no big deal in the context of the pork farm we call Washington, DC.

So what's the big deal? The big deal is that you name and shame anybody who threatens to come be…

One Single Impression

My One Single Impression offering is here.

Weekend Snapshot: Washi Eggs

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This weekend, we've spent time preparing for Easter. Among our decorations are these washi Easter eggs that my daughter and I made a few years ago by gluing handmade paper to blown eggs. They have lasted longer than we thought they would!

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Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: Slow March Days

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I'm not one for rushing the seasons by. I'm not wishing for spring by the middle of February; I like mid-February just the way it is. And I like March the way it is.

This strange and fickle month has no mercy on any of us. When the body aches for a snow day, we get an overcast 50-degree day that never quite produces even a drop of rain. When we'd like to wash the car, the air is 20 degrees with the wind chill.You can't plan or prepare or pretend to know the slightest thing about what to do next in March. March will let you know. The only true thing about March is that it is scheduled to deliver spring. And it does.

I like to feel spring coming in days that are little-by-little longer and warmer and brighter. It was especially nice one cold and very windy day at the very beginning of the month when it seemed the hand of March lifted the lid off the pot of winter and air and light spun round and round and the sky could not be bluer. It was a magical day, and I was happy to…

My Apologies to the Fat Pig

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For the 18 months we've had our two guinea pigs, we've felt a need to look out for the little guy, Delmo.

Tapper (right) is our Alpha Mouse, and he lords it over his little brother all the time. Tapper is the fat pig. New food in the cage? Tapper first, thank you. Is that hay? Outta the way, Delmo. Water? Age before beauty, brother.

Perhaps our table manners have no place in the cage, but we are who we are and we just can't help it. Many a time we've held Tapper back and let Delmo have first go at the fresh food in our interest of fair play and justice. We can be ridiculous. The pigs, wielding their own form of chivalry, never let on to notice. We thought we were doing a good thing.

Doing good. Like all those good eggs we know who chase the squirrels from the bird feeder because they heartily resent the big, bushy-tailed rodents crashing the party they put on for the delicate feathered friends.

Silly us to think we know better how it should be.

Yesterday after I put the br…

Earth Hour

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Man is but a part of the fabric of life--dependent on the whole fabric for his very existence. As the most highly developed tool-using animal, he must recognize that the unknown evolutionary destinies of other life forms are to be respected, and act as gentle steward of the earth's community of being. (Essential Kazukai Tanahashi, Essential Zen)

Please clickhere to find out more about Earth Hour on March 29. Please sign on to this global project.

Skywatch Friday: Anonymous

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This Civil War monument in Thomaston, Connecticut, is a standard sight in New England towns. Civil War monuments are the first in the US to celebrate the ordinary soldier. Read more about them here.

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Skywatch Friday

Buddhism Today - Brian Vaugh

If you have a minute or 10, please visit Brian's blog. His top two posts are well worth your time. God bless.

Thursday Thirteen No. 24: 'Golden, Golden'

My musical tastes move through seasonal mood swings. March always brings on an appetite for Andy Stewart and Silly Wizard. My husband and I saw Stewart perform at some remote nature center in a Connecticut village long before our daughter was born. The space was small and the music, alive. The evening felt like a seisun in a Cork pub. Stewart is all magic and romance and fun. Here are the 13 lines of lyrics to "Golden, Golden," one only he he can do well:

Slowly, slowly, walk the path, and you might never stumble or fall.
Slowly, slowly, walk the path, and you might never fall in love at all.

Golden, golden, is her hair, like the morning sun over fields of corn.
Golden, golden, is her love, so sweet and clear and warm.

Lonely, lonely, is the heart that ne'er another can call its own.
Lonely, lonely, lies the part yhat has to live all alone.

Golden, golden, is her hair, like the morning sun over fields of corn.
Golden, golden, is her love, so sweet and clear and warm.

Wildly, wil…

Wordless Wednesday: The Face of Victory

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This is the "Spirit of Victory" memorial to the Spanish-American War. (Just imagine the face of defeat....) This statue by Beatrice Longman Batchelder is in Bushnell Park, Hartford, Connecticut. I took the picture because I just love the outfit.

Wordless Wednesday

Of Crunchy Socks and Stiff Bath Towels

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Connecticut's legislature is sitting on a big one. Oh, yes.

And someday it just might hatch in the form of the right to dry your clothes in the open air anywhere you want here in the Nutmeg State. How's that for the prospect of progress?

Proponents of the "right to dry" say the clothesline reduces fossil fuel consumption, cuts household utility bills, minimizes carbon dioxide emissions and gives people an easy way to slow global warming. Various conservation websites say that household gas and electric clothes dryers account for 6 to 10 percent of electricity use.

"It makes sense," said state Rep. Steve Fontana, D- North Haven, House co-chairman of the General Assembly's energy and technology committee. "We do have the highest electricity prices in the nation. Having the freedom to dry [on a clothesline] helps save money and contributes to the safety of the planet," Fontana said in February. "I think it's the first time we've had su…

Weekend Snapshot: Spring Comes Dropping Slow

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Here in Connecticut, the first signs of spring include boxwoods opening up, dry birch leaves that will soon give way to new ones, rhododendron leaves that are no longer pinched with frostbite, and Canada geese making the long march home after a very long flight North. Spring is slow and subtle, brown and green.

Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: The Flu

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Shortly after I told my daughter the world would not end if she missed school for a few days to recover from the flu, my world ended. I caught the flu. The nasty thing stopped my in my tracks: I was hot, I was cold, ravenously hungry, nauseated, tired,delirious, tired, cold, hot, cold, longing to be unconscious.

So began the week. Armed with the doctor-certified information that my daughter very positively had the flu, we climbed into our foxhole and stayed there. Despite her own high temperature and physical weakness, she was a merciless couch warrior at all things strategic: Junior Monopoly, Blokus, Quorridor, Rummy, even Trouble. She seemed to gain strength from her victories as I declined, though: "You're letting me win, Mom," she said. "No, honey, I'm trying like heck to stay in the game."

We called a truce and departed the board game battleground to fold some doves for Easter. We didn't get too far with that project before we opted for a return to …

'Why Say the Pledge?'

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The other day a fourth-grade girl asked me why she said the Pledge of Allegiance in school every day.

I have been substitute teaching in Waterbury lately to augment the family income, and I have learned that anything that can possibly happen in a day will very likely happen in Waterbury; there are few surprises.

Still, this child caught me off my guard. Immediately, my eyebrows went up. These eyebrows descended from 13 generations of Americans who worked long and hard to make and keep home. We can count ancestors in the front lines of every war this country every fought. My ancestors, paid taxes, voted, and did their best. My parents, small children during the Second World War, can nonetheless remember food rationing, scrap metal drives, stars in windows, telegrams bearing the final word of a loved one. My father and so many of his friends did their time in the military as a matter of course as young men.

You stand by your family and friends, and you do whatever is required in the name…

Skywatch Friday: Parallel Lives

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Parallel lives:
A matter of chance
And time and space
Of course
That I stand here
And you, there
Never intersecting
Never meeting
On some distant horizon
In some distant future
I have to remind myself
To notice you.
But look at us:
I could be you
And you, me
So close, so alike
So alone
It is a matter of chance
It is all the same
I am you,
You are me

Skywatch Friday

Thursday Thirteen No. 23: Words to Live By if You Find the Time

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I subscribe to way too much online stuff. Although everything I receive is worthwhile reading, I don't always get to it. So I save all the bits and pieces in files that I seldom open. (Does that make me a virtual packrat or a real one? )

The other day I decided to spend some time with the items that I had plopped into my "Hindu Wisdom" folder. Here are 13 gems, the best of which I highlighted to make skimming easier:

1. Bearing and nurturing, creating but not owning, giving without demanding, this is harmony (Tao Te Ching).

2. Love alone will abide thee (Tamil proverb).

3. Whenever I see an erring man, I say to myself, I have also erred; when I see a lustful man I say to myself, so was I once; and in this way I feel kinship with everyone in the world and feel that I cannot be happy without the humblest of us being happy(Mahatma Gandhi).

4. Ignorance is the failure to discriminate between the permanent and the impermanent (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 2:5).

5. Life is but a pl…

Wordless Wednesday: A Blue-eyed Day

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Andrew Needs a Real Dog

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If the original Stepford Wives made your blood run cold, you better hope to stay away from any nursing home that acts on the findings of researcher Andrew Ng's study of robots as human companions.

Ng's study found that humans can warm up to plastic and wire in the shape of a canine almost as readily as they do to the flesh and fur dogs that have been our steadfast and loyal companions since we first civilized ourselves by the fire.

Ng's research involved dividing into three a group of 38 seniors in a nursing home and exposing one third to Sparky, a rescued street mutt turned pet-therapist, one third to AIBO, a Sony-made robot, and one-third, the control group, to neither. The visits lasted 30 minutes.

At the end of this 8-week experiment, the residents exposed to the real pup said Sparky was their confidant. Those exposed to AIBO said it took a bit longer to warm up to it but did. Ng says that both groups showed a decrease in loneliness and an increase in attachment to their …

Weekend Snapshot: Delightful Juxtapositions

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I've been getting ready for a photo exhibition of images from Strange Attractions: Exploring Graffiti. Here is one from New Haven, Connecticut. I love the juxtapositions of color and shape in this letter.

Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: One Single Impression

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One Single Impression is this week's blessing. It is a new poetry blog instigated and designed by Andree, whose blog Meeyauw, is always a feast for the eyes. Last week she contacted me via my poetry blog to ask me if I'd want to start it up with her. We had just learned that a blog author of One Deep Breath would be closing down.

Andree writes on her blog: "Michael has written the poetry for my photographs. Our collaboration has proven to be an inspiring journey into beauty and art that has been missing in my life. The poets that participated in One Deep Breath, and hopefully in One Single Impression, are gifted. The poetry is motivational and often life-changing. I am beginning to expand myself and write some poetry of my own. All of the participants are supportive and kind (even to someone like me). "

In blog comments, many of the writers who have participated in One Deep Breath's weekly prompts for haiku had also expressed their disappointment that that cyber me…

Seeing the Elephant

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I have been reading several versions of this story. This is a combination of three:

An elephant was put on exhibition in a dark house. Crowds of people came to see this animal for the first time. They could not see in the dark, though, so they touched the animal.

The palm of one fell on the trunk. 'This creature is like a water-spout,’ he said.

The hand of another lighted on the elephant’s ear. To him the beat was evidently like a fan.

Another rubbed against its leg.‘I found the elephant’s shape is like a pillar,’ he said.

Another laid his hand on its back.‘Certainly this elephant was like a throne,’ he said.

The people began to quarrel about the nature of the elephant, shouting, "Yes it is!" "No, it is not!" "An elephant is not that!' 'Yes, it's like that!' and so on, till they came to blows over the matter. Unseeing and ignorant, the people were by
nature quarrelsome and disputatious, each maintaining reality is thus and thus.

The eye of the Sea …