Sunday, August 31, 2008

back to Umai with lavender brownies

I have two days left of my 13 day break from teaching, and I could list some things I had hoped to do...

But I want to talk about doing something. Friday morning as I wrote my post Obama speech post, I was baking lavender brownies to follow up on what I wrote of two weeks ago.

I hit Umai Japanese restaurant in Lansdale with a small Tupperware of brownies and sat down at the sushi bar, another exposure for the introvert.... I could have left them on the doorstep with a note ;') But then I would have missed out on getting to know those two guys who shout out the greetings as folk walk in the door.

I was remembered, which helped, as I handed over the brownies. They smiled. I was handed a menu and saw they had lunch boxes. I smiled. I ordered the shrimp teriyaki box. They ate the brownies. The waitress ate a brownie. The waitress forced my waiter to try a bite of the brownies. My Tupperware was handed back to me. Cleaned and filled with Japanese Fish Balls. I ate one, then another, before I put the lid back on.

I chatted and watched as they made sushi. Turns out his cucumber plants also performed terribly this year. common ground. I asked where he had learned his skill. Wondering about such a thing as sushi school, but was pleased to hear his answer. "That guy (pointing to his right) and that is why he is there (in front of the seafood) and I am here."

Yes, that old fashioned way of learning a trade, apprenticeship is alive and well. I have thought about how much better teacher education would be if we were assigned to master teachers for a few years instead of sitting in classrooms more than practicing teaching. I consumed the miso soup.

The box came with the teriyaki, a green salad, some California roll, two dumplings, and a salad which I would have had to asked, "what am I consuming?" to tell you now. When the meal was over I was given an unasked for piece of deep fried banana. Have I ever told you I love bananas...

I had one last question and as a shy introvert it was eventually asked. What does Umai mean? I was told, "great." Good answer.

a web translator tells me..." delicious, appetizing, skillful, clever, expert"

an hour later rain stopped my harvest of green beans at the school, so I did another thing on my list of things needed to be done. I went through some piles of papers in my classroom, as I snacked on fish balls.

Friday, August 29, 2008


I recently pointed out, on a blog I had stumbled to, that I thought it was rude to name a sewage treatment plant after a our president, even if you as I do not approve of the man's policies. Comments that flowed in after mine seemed to be of the opinion that it was rude, but justified. This is why I am sick of politics. You pick a side. Your side is right. Others deserve their name on sewage. Even if ironically the plant is a good one that cleans the waste that flows out of us.

with that in mind here are some more thoughts...

I lean towards the left but have been standing straighter as time goes by, so it was interesting to be in a room of those leaning to the left last night while watching TV. I agree with them that government has a role in society beyond defending the country. Take my money and feed the poor, house the homeless, treat the sick, raise people from poverty, protect the rights to those who are hated, clean the air and water, educate the masses ...

The folk I was with last night are working for Obama because they care about these issues and that reminded me of when I worked on a campaign.

Breaking away from the TV before the big speech, I spoke with a friend a bit about that experience, but I also spoke about my belief in remembering a long history. To those concerned about social justice issues, the last eight years have been terrible. But lets have a longer memory and we are still at a better place than we were 50, 100, 200, 400 years ago. Politics blind us. Has nothing moved in the right direction for the past 8 years, anywhere in the United States? Listening to political speeches, you would think it was all down hill.

How did change happen? For the most part it was folk on the street who pointed out the problems. These folk were and are brave. Often it has been folk who did not see how laws in Washington DC matched up with the words of Jesus or other spiritual/moral teachers. Many times it was those who "quake" in the spirit, the Society of Friends, who were on the forefront.

Political speeches can help, but it is when those who make the speeches are faced with the folk who are tired of a lack of change, tired of experiencing injustice, tired of seeing others in need, and thus respond with truth and compassion which leads to social justice.

Is that what I heard last night?

Were that last four nights a staged performance to inspire Americans to vote for one party and one party only? Will making this man president lead to changes? Does the man truly care for those in need? In eight years will a conservative city be considering naming a sewage treatment plant after Obama because of political hatred?

Who knows? My hope is in a long history that seems to be headed in the right direction, while keeping in mind that with all progress: personal, national, and global--- it is a roller coaster ride of hills and valleys.

Who we vote for has a role in that history, as does seeing the world with compassionate eyes and responding to our neighbors daily, not just voting and hoping for change.

I still think it is rude and wrong to do what some in San Francisco would have us do.

and yes, I was moved by the man's words.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

latest stained glass, ETSY, and Hearts

My break between the summer session and the up and coming school year has given me some studio time. Having finally finished the project which I avoided finishing, I went with quick and easy--- 17 pieces that fit into a 5x7 frame...

I took several photos but getting the violet was tough so I have no good photos of the entire piece to post on our ETSY site (nutmegdesigns). This photo failed to get the pale blue in the center.

I then decided to design a new mandala, which when finished was attacked by my own hand bearing an erasure to make the pieces in the design larger, but I did not like the final result and Mosaic Woman agreed and added, "I liked the smaller pieces," so I drew a new circle and went with small pieces...

I may finish this in the next day or two.

I did a search for stained glass at ETSY and 8723 items came up. If you don't keep paying to renew your items they fall down the list... right now I'm at 161 (8 pages in) but by the time you read this.... who knows. Until and maybe even after we have our own website we will stick with ETSY since many a business card has our site listed. [NB: Our website is and my stained glass is now at Stratozpheres Etsy.

Since last December I have sold 6 of my stained glass while Margaret has sold 9 mosaics on ETSY, the last was by me about 10 days ago. Now 4 of the 6 items which I sold have been hearts. This is one of those strange things about how life turns out. I would never have predicted to be an artist who makes hearts. But I have enjoyed making them and here are links to two blog posts that featured hearts by Mosaic Woman and myself.

up close photos

whole heart photos

blessings of the day...

  1. getting to spend a Wednesday with Mosaic Woman, who has them all off.. she was thrown for a loop thinking it was Saturday especially since we went to a library.
  2. seeing cormorants at Peace Valley Park while we ate cookies from Tabora bakery
  3. lunch at the Duck Deli on 202... me a chicken BBQ sandwich, Mosaic Woman a salad with smoked tuna
  4. gumption to water the sad plants in the rain deprived garden
  5. time in my studio listening to The Beatles... Abbey Road, the second side is just amazing
  6. listening to jazz-- including local trumpet dude-- John Swanna
  7. dinner which included green beans, garlic, peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes, all of which I was blessed to have grown
  8. and an oatmeal stout to savor while putting this post together.

Monday, August 25, 2008

road trip to jazz in the Poconos--- The Deer Head Inn

Yes there is a deer head, but there is also a very cool stained glass (again me without my camera) of the Delaware Water Gap, a geological wonder which we drove through to get to the Deer Head Inn. It has been a home of Jazz music for over 60 years. The current owners have spruced the place up and turned it into a Bed and Breakfast. The last time we drove up there we stayed over and we would recommend the place highly for the rooms, the food, and the jazz.

It was some what spontaneous. Mosaic Woman is on their e-mail list and when an e-mail came last weekend I opened it and went to their website. At first I noticed that living legend Phil Woods was doing a mostly Billy Strayhorn show Labor Day weekend, but then my eye caught this name... Virginia Mayhew. Women in Jazz who don't sing or play piano are growing and here was the opportunity to see an amazing sax player coming over from NYC.

So a dinner reservation was made and we drove up route 611 along the Delaware River stopping at the Canalside Cup just south of Easton, PA, which features 24 flavors of soft ice cream, including the chocolate banana which I consumed and the malted milk chosen by Mosaic Woman.

Before the show Ms Mayhew stopped by our table asking if we were Jay's parents. We aren't. She proved to be a humble person with amazing talent. We were tempted to stay for the third set, but left after the second in an attempt to get home before the Honda Fit turned into a pumpkin.

The tune of the night, hmmm How about her arrangement of Lets fall In Love, talk about evolution. Still easily recognizable, however, it had been turned into a Latin rhythm in 7/8 time. I bought the CD featuring it at the first intermission.

But here let me highlight her immersed in tradition... playing Duke Ellington's wonderful ballad, Don't You Know I Care. Take a listen.

support music ----- buy a CD, applaud for brilliance, tell a youngster they have talent, go to the Deer Head Inn.........

Sunday, August 24, 2008

what percentage are we?

It does not ask if both are possible in their own realities, but this Gallup poll shows that both things are believable.

Yet, stand in the midst of evolutionary biologists and speak of the joy of living in God's unfolding creation and see who agrees, some will.

Stand in the midst of many American Christians, and speak of the wonders of DNA and the evolution of life from bacteria and then mention primates and humans and see who agrees, some will.

There are times I sit in church and my science education knocks on some neurons and I think, "How can I believe in this hocus pocus nonsense?" There are times I try to understand the wonders of life and how exactly evolution works and my overwhelmed brain says, "It is too complicated."

The first doubt leads to atheism, the second leads to Intelligent Design theory.

Most of the time I am comfortable with both (not atheism and ID)... standing in the middle believing in the fact of evolution and the truth of Christianity. Fact and truth. This is how Joe Paprocki explains it in his book, A Well Built Faith. This I found in a book for teaching the basics of the faith to young and old Catholics. What a better world we would have if we weren't told to choose one. It is a good thing to believe. Both sides of this battle claims the other is unbelievable. Just because one is true does that make the other one impossible.

So do I believe in two unbelievable thoughts, or in two believable thoughts.

Things evolve, and not just biological. I am rather certain that the Catholic church has not always had their presses (Loyola Press in this case) putting out books saying it is OK to believe in both. Problems come when we stop believing that things have changed or try to stop the changes.... when we dig in our heels in the midst of a better reality and refuse to ride that wave of a unfolding creation. Who would I be if I had not studied evolution? Who would I be if I was not accepting of my spiritual life?

What is God's exact role in the process? Who knows? But those who are righteously certain stand on both sides of me screaming at each other as I stand in a bookstore trying to find a book on evolution. At school I am comfortable being in the realms of science and what studies about life have proven to be true. I am also comfortable walking with a God that looks down at creation and says, "It is Good." This spiritual truth does not get taught in my classroom, except if a student struggles with both, then I will say that there are those who see it both ways. I don't preach, but I refuse to say one is wrong. I tell them that there is no living human who knows exactly how life started, and be grateful that there are mysteries, then I teach them biology through the vision of one who believes in evolution.

I am not alone here in the midst of the anger and hatred that has emerged in this debate, though I imagine our demographic group would be a small percentage. Maybe next time the folk at Gallup will have another possible answer when they ask their questions.

Friday, August 22, 2008

being enthused

Roles change. In the beginning (at my present school) I taught life skills or functional academics, then in a major leap in equilibrium, I became horticulture guy. Now at the school I am introduced as the man who runs horticulture and teaches advance science.

I am well aware of my increase in enthusiasm these past days. Last year I taught physics (2nd time) and human anatomy (1st time). Physics was a breeze in high school then in college it knocked me for a loop for which I will for ever be recovering. And how exactly did I get a degree in Biology without a class on humans? I had way more BIO credits than needed but I was attracted to ecology.

One benefit of teaching where I work is I get questions like, "What science do you want to teach this year?" I wanted to teach biology. But I also added geology. Yes, make life more difficult by teaching something new.

Another benefit... text book choices. I decided to turn away from traditional texts that make eyes go foggy. So I searched on-line. Then in libraries. Then in bookstores (three this past weekend) including this survivor of the big chains in Doylestown, PA. Yesterday I covered our bed with books and went back on the computer trying to make final decisions.

I struggled with this decision more than I do with most. Maybe it was I had an idea of what I wanted to find and kept looking, but a decision had to be made and I did it.

Each class will have a book to cover the basics. But I also wanted the students to read from those who write well about science. The geology students will read John McPhee's Annals of the Former World which combines four of his books of traveling with geologists, including a look at the Delaware Water Gap which could be a long but cool field trip since we could stop at the Boulder Field at Hickory Run ... Here is a photo by Mr. Biggs called "mom goat" at his FLICKR photostream.

( "mom goat" a found photo by Mr Biggs at his FLICKR photostream)

For Biology I chose Anatomy of a Rose by Sharman Apt Russell which is a great book about the life of flowers, not just roses.

Anyway, I am being drawn into these classes. Yesterday I began reading the book sent to me by Loyola Press, A Well Built Faith. In an early chapter, Joe Paprocki compares folk who force relationships with God with those folk who are called by God. Things go better if not perfectly for the latter group. Something is happening here in my heart as I prepare with enthusiasm. I hope that it is arising from a call to teach on subjects for which I have passion and a desire that this will help me to become a better teacher. Speaking of which, I plan to introduce the biology students to birds. Flowers, birds, the land of Pennsylvania they are blessings that deserve my enthusiasm.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ending avoidance, avoiding distraction

It is finished....

after weeks and weeks of avoiding, I finished the project without a hitch on the 9th, delivered it to the purchaser on the 16th. It was nice having it about for a week. Here are two views (click to see larger).

So what are the props to get them up to window level, you ask? On the right is my New Jerusalem Bible, on the left is The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD. Not a professional photo shoot, but the only place in the house I could get shots of them side by side.

Speaking of avoiding, it looks like we are avoiding the Olympics this week so we can get back to our normal routine which does not include TV. Thus there is more sleep, more reading, more art, and even more time for silent reflection.

Last night I was taken to the parable about taking the log out of your eye before you take the speck out of your neighbors. At school, it is much easier to see the results of a student and staff power struggle, when I am not the staff and when I have admitted to doing the same. So when I see one and want to make comment, it is best to add in that I too have dug in my heels when it was just a matter of thinking I SHOULD have control over the situation.

Well, I have two weeks to relax and do some log removal from my eyes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

fortune chocolate

The inside of the wrapper that had been surrounding the Dove chocolate said... "Laugh, Laugh, then Laugh some more."

My friend at work who provides me these daily treats and who thinks its important to read the messages, I tend to forget, gets to hear about six of my friends. For as soon as I read that message, I thought of where I would be eating dinner later that evening.

But first there were veggies to roast and timing was right. I still had a handful of tiny red onions and there were now plenty of patty pans, zucchini, peppers, green beans, and there was one ripe eggplant.

There are private and public blogs, but like most things that us humans try to categorize there are many shades of grays. I don't really try to hide my identity here, but my reported introverted nature keeps me from advertising to folk I know, but I do. But let an extrovert know, and others will find out, so all who were gathered to eat last night know about this, and may read this.

One is tired of my thoughts on a certain food product, so why go there.

My not so serious business idea that got enthusiastic sarcasm from one friend, got us "what is wrong with our husband looks" from our lovely wives. But that is a common event.

What is important is that these good folk bring laughter to my heart and so I may live an extra day or two.

I met them all at my church, a place that pulled me in because of their banners caught my eye...
a sermon, inspired by Monty Python, was to be given. In my childhood house laughter did not roll forth since emotions were held at bay, but I have memories of watching those British comedians with my dad when I was rather young. I imagine seeds of laughter being planted. I don't laugh very often, but like I said, when I read my chocolate fortune, I knew it got my future correct.

To think the place where I worship had that banner makes me have many emotions. Times change, that is for sure.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

more on why we budget

Last September we saw the higher prices coming so we boosted gas and groceries and it looks like we will end the year in OK shape. Our fiscal year begins in September.

The best parts of our budget are (in no particular order) ...

  1. the donations. It keeps us giving to those doing the good deeds of housing folk, feeding folk, finding cures, saving wilderness, providing safe places for boys and girls, caring for folk in emergencies, keeping great art public, and keep my church open ...
  2. the eating out and entertainment funds -- it keeps us under control but enough to enjoy doing things we love doing
  3. the allowances--- If I want to see a movie Mosaic Woman doesn't want to see, or have a lunch out with a friend. If she wants to spend a fortune on yarn or go have Tea with a friend...
  4. the "we know the bills are coming funds." The money is there.. life insurance, car insurance, mortgage payments...
  5. the emergency funds...
  • Ok so the other week I lost a bit of a tooth, the emergency medical fund has the money for a crown.
  • Today when I got home from church Mosaic Woman said, "Did you see my car?" Now last night we were with friends who told a story about a friend who is known to cause a bit of damage to parked cars so I envisioned the whole side of the hybrid torn apart. No, just a flat tire. Take it out of the car repair fund and move on.
I am not so smug to think I have complete control over our finances. I have been laid off from a job, health emergencies much larger than a crown will arrive, and who knows what else will emerge. But it does provide stability of sorts. We can keep making donations week after week, we don't have to not pay off a credit card because the life insurance bills arrived, and there will always be some money to spend on gardening. And yes, with even 3 dollars a pay will lead to a large enough jazz CD collection.

It teaches us to be flexible.

It helps us to live below our means and be comfortable with where that places us. We are lucky to make the money our jobs pay us, but the budget allows Mosaic Woman to work part-time and have time to make more mosaics.

It influences society... well I believe that we vote more in this country with where we spend our money than our brief moment in the ballot box???

I am curious... any other budgeters out there?

OH yeah, I love math, and charts, and graphs and... so it gives me a habit for the geek side of my personality.

And finally, I am the one who resisted doing a budget in the first place when Mosaic Woman thought it would be a good idea. What good could it do?

Oh to be wrong and then to see the light.


Friday, August 15, 2008

William Henry Miller Inn-- better than a drug store

I have been writing up a storm here which means I am spending less time with my photographs over at Flickr. Today I decided to do both--- post some photos then blog about it. On our way up to Jazz in Rochester, we stayed over night at the William Henry Inn in Ithaca, which was close to the church I recently blogged about.

Sometimes things work out nicely. Drive into a town you were to once before, but not for over 10 years. Turn here, turn there. Park. Get out and see your Bed and Breakfast across the street. Head off for lunch, but lunch is another post which will feature a very cool mosaic.

I think this is about preserving what is good and right in the world. Apparently Lansdale once had a very cool historic inn, but right before we got to town it was torn down for a drug store. As a connection... in its final operation it had been a tapas bar, which is one of the reasons we went to Ithaca, not the place with the mosaic.

Anyway, it seems that drug stores have a tendency to tear down historic buildings in this part of the state. I don't have money to buy them to save them... well I did buy a home that is over 100 years old...

Anyway, we do support some who do work to preserve what is good and beautiful in the world... and we do this by having a budget whose 5th highest category is donations.
  1. The Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia
  2. The Lansdale Historical Society-- an organization that mourned the demolition

These places point out what is endangered, what can be seen, and keep stories alive from our past. There are places we can not afford to stay in, but there are also some historic places we can afford. Maybe that means a shorter vacation, less souvenirs, or whatever. But we love these historic places and so we put out limited money where our passion flows. and yes the breakfast surrounded by amazing stained glass was quite an experience. Lansdale lost their inn, Ithaca still has theirs.

below are some stained glass shots I took with the permission of the current owner.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

gray haired guy

Looking at myself on the big screen, I was amazed at how the camera had really changed my hair to being quite gray. Oh well.

It was a video highlighting the clubs at my school this past summer. For years I have run a horticulture/cooking club and there I was twice in 20 seconds telling one individual student to stay away from the lavender brownies. Then asked what my objective was, I heard myself say something about food and being adventurous. I have created a mass of people who love lavender in brownies.

Today it was blue potatoes from the garden combined with our garlic and green beans. The student who loved the brownies was hesitant but was also begging for a green pepper (to eat raw). So I told him to eat a blue potato.

Tonight sitting at Umai Japanese Restaurant (another cool thing about Lansdale, PA), I got my payback. We chose to get sushi and Mosaic Woman was not in a decision making mood, so looking away from the menu, I said "3, 7, 8, and 10." And they were all made with raw fish, which we don't do. Number 10 was axed for a veggie option but we went for it. How could the man who forced blue potatoes into the mouths of his students not eat some raw fish. I figured it was most likely safe for I had heard few stories of sushi deaths, except for that one fish.

The last time we were at Umai I actually talked to the folk after being handed Kosugai Flower's Kiss Candy. I found this rating of its texture---
Texture: Flower's Kiss is a round hard candy that's a little bit bigger than Starburst hard candies. Be careful not to cut or puncture your mouth on the shards if you bite down on the candy. Rating: 5 out of 10.
Anyway I asked about the flowers and they knew nothing, just as much as I know after a quick web search. The staff at Umai were intrigued when I told them about cooking with lavender. I do need to let them become part of the grand adventure and stop by the next time I have some brownies.

Maybe my desire to pass on my passion for food will make me immortal, I don't know what else will. Surely not my garden for I am sure one day nature (or bulldozer) will win back the land. However, the joy of eating lavender in brownies, that should last for ever. Looking at that old guy on the big screen, well he looked old anyway with all that gray hair, maybe it is time to really get serious about becoming immortal. Or maybe keep living in the moment and see where that takes me and those who happen to come along.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lansdale's Labyrinth

At church on Sunday a visitor from not too far away told me that she was spending a couple weeks in Lansdale. I wondered why she would do such a thing, and she said that Lansdale was a nice town. That it is.

Do a web search for Lansdale and many of the hits are about some guy named Joe R Lansdale, an author. I thought it was time to highlight some good things around here.

Here is a strategy that doesn't work but we keep trying it from time to time. Stay up late (this time watching Olympics), arrive home from work the next day toasty and then drink coffee after dinner. Stay up late again...

Last night Mosaic Woman and I headed south on Broad Street to get some coffee. When we arrived here 11 years ago we didn't drink coffee and the town did not have a coffee place. Saxbys is one we can walk to the easiest, thus we went south. Saxbys is a small chain that apparently allows the owners to support local businesses. Their milk products come from a local dairy and the new owner (who valiantly tried to make conversation with two introverts) is stocking their case with baked goods from the Virago Baking Company an independent place farther south on Broad Street.

We took our beverages and headed east on Hancock to Stony Creek Park which has had some work done to it lately. A new playground was filled with folk, but we were attracted to a pond that looks like it may draw some birds. While we sat drinking our coffee a red-tailed hawk was drawn to sit on a power pole and look down at the wet area.

We had heard that a labyrinth was to be placed into the park, but we had our doubts. 11 years ago I knew not what a labyrinth was, then I found out, then I looked forward to any opportunity to walk one... Here is what a labyrinth is...

I know of folk who have had great revelations walking labyrinths. I have not. I have had some good quality silent time with God. These days I tend to stop as the path makes a turn and see what that view of creation brings. Lansdale has placed a nice size boulder in the center. Mosaic Woman led the way and so I joined her on the boulder and for the first time in my life, I had a conversation in a labyrinth. We spoke first about the strange sensation of live jazz coming to us from another of Lansdale's park. Over on Whites Road a free Tuesday night concert had started just after Mosaic Woman entered the labyrinth.

Then a gaggle of punkettes showed up and two entered the sacred space. One got bored and left. The other did what most children do in labyrinths--- run to the center. I sat alone for a moment watching my wife walk, the girl run, and the sun set.

Then our big night out ended as we sat on top of a small hill with a spotting scope that will give great close ups for the birds drawn to my town. Lansdale did a nice job with a piece of land, some time we will go back and explore the nature trail.

want to find a labyrinth near you.... try here.

but they don't have ours yet, but they will soon since I see they have a place to add ones.

Monday, August 11, 2008

the introverted bird watcher leaves his comfort zone

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Originally uploaded by NatureShutterbug
a few posts back while reflecting on my 45th birthday, I said that I had made a birthday resolution. with 350 plus days to go... I accomplished it, well kind of.

I never understood why folk would bird watch in a group. I have had some birding buddies over the years, but I would hazard that 90% of my birding time has been solitary. I have known of a birding group for ten years. My resolution.... be brave... join a group.

Sunday I heard thunder for what seemed to be 8 straight hours so it was a grand thing that the group met on Saturday, which was the coolest morn we have seen in a long time. One wrong turn and a need to fuel up the car got me to the Peace Valley Nature Center over by Doylestown, just on time--- I didn't need to do small talk!

OK advantages---

1. these folk know their birds by sight and call.
2. these folk are friendly

The list of birds seen while not huge, was decent, but let me say that it was the blue-gray gnatcatcher (photo found at flickr) that made my day. My general lack of birding means it has been years since I have seen some common birds and this would be an example. They are a bit bluer, but are kind of like a miniature mockingbird.

but this is what lingers for the day...

1. a group of children showed up with their moms and the leader of the walk adapted. He lowered the legs on his spotting scope and called the children to see amazing closeups of kingbirds , herons, ducks.... The man was truly sad that the local bald eagles were missing for the day. His willingness to welcome the children come along will create love of birds. We need more of this kind of action, and I am also glad that none got between his kind actions and the children.... I am sure this is ringing bells out there.

2. I chickened out of the coffee hour after the walk... OK, so the birthday resolution may not yet be fulfilled for the goal was to meet people and who knows maybe make a friend or two. I did chat a bit as we walked, but maybe next time I will get there a moment early and stay for some conversation afterwards since birding is not really a talking event in my eyes, even if you are part of a group.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

a passion for the short story

Returning to books from your past can be an interesting journey. My opening line to Mosaic Woman back in 1986 was about a book, that when I revisited after many years, thought much lesser of and made me wonder about how life changes us, but the line caught her attention and we have been talking ever since.

It was a year or two before I met her though that a biology professor introduced me to the short stories of Raymond Carver, which amazed me at the time. And for many years I hunted down collections of short stories by a wide variety of authors. Not too long ago while sitting in a theater watching previews, I said, "I know this story." And I did, "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by a much favored writer, Alice Munro, had been put on film... Away From Her. Read her stories. See the film.

So teaching English this summer to the brightest my school has to offer, I not only taught about how Latin and Greek words have formed our language (see this post), but I also tried to introduce them to stories that are not long. Three weeks ago I came home with anthologies from the library to get some newer material than what is sitting on my bookshelves. And for three weeks I have been immersed into my old love of stories. At one point in my life I even tried my hand at being a writer of them.

But I also picked up an older book by Raymond Carver, and had my students read A Small Good Thing. To offer something small can bring peace is shown by a baker who has unknowingly caused much grief to grieving parents.

Raymond Carver's stories did not appeal as much as they used to, but I can relate to the man who turned away from destroying himself when he found the love of a good woman. Which brings us back to where I started this post.

and the book that I used to catch Mosaic Woman's attention.... Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I write that title and think of all my friends in college who recommended it to me. Did they know it would help me find a woman to share my life with?

God's creation unfolds and we are free to catch the wave and see where it takes us.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

a bad strategy

Mosaic Woman and I often speak of strategies that....

Avoidance is one of those. Avoid a problem, a conversation, a project, an issue, a desire, a difficulty, a love, a promise... and you do not get rest.

I leaped into a commissioned project and it flowed till it was one step away from being finished. But it was something new and I was filled with fear of doing something new. Thus I called on avoidance and the project sat. I avoided researching the task, I avoided talking to the woman who had commissioned the work, I avoided doing any stained glass work. Clearly it was a strategy that was working quite well.

But the kingdom unfolds and if we take advantage of situations that come our way...

in this case it was a catalog from Delphi glass and a prompt from Mosaic Woman who was looking through it.... "There are some tools here for cutting zinc came..." and the avoidance was gone. Well I could have screamed and ran from the room, but at that instant...

then two days after the package came, the one who commissioned the project in the midst of a tour walked into my room. Asked about the status and praised me for my work at the school and in my studio. Telling the person with her and my students of my talents. She heard my story and my apology and my promise to complete the project this weekend.

coming out of avoidance is not easy. But there is help out there...

all these photos were taken in Ithaca, NY on the way to Jazz in Rochester and make up part of St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church, which we came across doing one of our favored activities--- walking about.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

For the Unity of The Church...

I am learning some history these days and now the title of our worship book has a clearer meaning to me. The Book of Common Prayer is not to define every point of ones belief, but a starting point for coming together. This is what we have in common as people of faith. The bishops of the Anglican church are trying to find that common way these days, but anger over who should be allowed to be ordained among other issues is causing a rift for the media to talk about using favored words of division... liberal/conservative.

Many of the bishops, who are opposed to broadening the field of who can be ordained, come from Africa where the Anglican church is thriving. And where did this belief system come from... It is likely that it came from those who brought it as missionaries carrying The Book of Common Prayer.

"Almighty Father, whose blessed son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by one spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen" The Book of Common Prayer

Friday, August 1, 2008

before I forget

When we got home from celebrating Mosaic Woman's birthday, I saw that Gannet Girl shared the day, and that in reflecting on her birthday, she did not have clear memories of her 45th, so before I forget...

I woke up yesterday with no plans of going to work because Mosaic Woman needed help to leave me for the weekend, on my birthday no less. We hoped to find a diner along the way, but with that assumption being wrong, we stopped in Jenkintown and walked the streets till we found Jenkintown Java, where we got buzzed on coffee and pastry. We went east on Route 73 till it became Cottman Avenue in NE Philly. I dropped her off which would begin an adventure that her message last night included driving into Boston with bad directions.

I on the other hand, with map in hand went north on 232 and landed myself at a place I knew in my memory, the Pennypack Preserve. I am grateful to these folk, who are working hard to preserve old forest and create new grassland. As I walked through the latter I realized I was in bobolink territory, a bird I blogged about here. But it was when I turned downhill on the peak trail that I saw God in the green. Old trees, like the majority of plants, do not use green light, which is passed through the leaves. I was in a sea of green light under the oldest trees I had seen in a long time.

At the bottom I reach the Pennypack Creek and eventually sat skimming rocks across a zone of slow moving water, a pool. A bird catches my attention, a warbler by its nature, gets me to my feet and I try to identify it, but it moves on. So do I... just in time to see a duck fly into a tree. I am ready to identify a wood duck when I quickly see my mistake and another green of God's creation.

A green heron sits perched on a branch and lets me watch it for minutes. I decree a birthday resolution... it is time I do something I have considered for years. The photo above was taken by Tony Adcock which I found at his amazing Flickr site... check out his photos.

In the evening I drive west on 73 till I cut down to 422. I am on my way to listen to jazz, but I have time and there is a diner. I stop for coconut cream pie and coffee. Tis my birthday after all.

I get a good seat at Gerald Veasley's jazz base and talk jazz with a man who sits down next to me. I make him laugh when I say I didn't even bother to research the man playing sax after I had looked up Rachel Z. Anyone good enough to play piano for Wayne Shorter and for Peter Gabriel, must be great. And she was according to my neighbor for the evening.

Too bad she wasn't wearing a green dress it would have made the theme stronger, but the greens in my salad were cool and I am grateful for all that happened as I hit my early exact mid 40's.