Sunday, September 3, 2017

Labor Day Weekend

September Sky - Photo from Cape May   by Linda McLintock


How I yearn to be at Cape May as the Fall Migration swings into gear!

It's not the end of summer for 18 more days, but as the evenings lengthen, and school is back in session, I feel it.

My garden in the courtyard is even more beautiful in its late summer glory.

On the national scene, we are all worrying over and praying for the people of Houston Texas and surroundings, who are just emerging from the historic flooding rains of Hurricane Harvey.

And we're getting warnings of another big hurricane looming over the East Coast - don't know how that will unfold.

And North Korea has just detonated what appears to be a Hydrogen Bomb in its underground test site. 

Between those two spoiled and reckless leaders - North Korea's and our own -  I keep waiting for this game of chicken to result in the end of the world.   I'm serious.   I am enjoying every "normal" day of this end of the summer.  Enjoying every glass of water.  Enjoying every normal meal. Enjoying the regular air. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Praying with Poetry


The Chapel at DePaul House, Menands New York



I am presently leading a guided retreat with some of our sisters here.


Here's one of the poems we are praying with:


Radical Hospitality

 

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning is a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

[S]he may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

 

-Rumi

 
 
 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

One of those California songs...


A place I have never been:   the Ventura Highway in Southern California.


I'm reading an old Jonathan Kellerman murder mystery: When the Bough Breaks.These Alex Delaware mysteries are all set in Los Angeles or its environs.

Besides the Kellerman novels, I have read all of the Michael Connelly mysteries whose detective is Harry Bosch. These also are set in LA. 

I finally got to visit LA in February of 2015, when I went to a conference at USC.  Even though I only travelled from the airport to USC, and walked around down there,  I saw so many familiar street names.   These novels are filled with details about the roads of LA city and county.

Anyway, today the name of the Ventura Highway came up, and my mind played the tape of the song by the Eagles,  "Ventura Highway."  It's always been a song through which I have visualized summer in California:


Ventura Highway


 

Chewing on a piece of grass
Walking down the road
Tell me, how long you gonna stay here Joe?
Some people say this town don't look
Good in snow
You don't care, I know

 

Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger
Than moonshine
You're gonna go I know

'Cause the free wind is blowin' through
Your hair
And the days surround your daylight
There
Seasons crying no despair
Alligator lizards in the air

 

Wishin' on a falling star
Watchin' for the early train
Sorry boy, but I've been hit by
Purple rain
Aw, come on Joe, you can always
Change your name
Thanks a…

Did di di di dit ...



Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer
The nights are stronger than moonshine
You're gonna go I know

'Cause the free wind is blowin' through your hair
And the days surround your daylight there
Seasons crying no despair
Alligator lizards in the air, in the air

Did di di di dit ...

 



So different from the East Coast, from my familiar landscapes, but so alluring.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Who makes much of a miracle?



photo: sunrise, Cape May Harbor, by Joe Evangelista


Here's a poem by Walt Whitman:

Miracles

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the
        water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
        with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
        forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
        quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the
        same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
        ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?


 

Monday, July 3, 2017

What has borne up so long





Here's a poem by my poet friend  Maryann Corbett:

Magnification
 
 
Colors come as a shock.
Pink garnet, hematite, green epidote.
Agate, the jewels’ blood.
What’s underfoot
is gemstone, not dumb rock,
 
and what we took for dun-
dusted utility—construction grade,
anonymous as mud—
is scaled-down jade.
Like reliquary stone,
 
it venerates remains:
foraminifera in starch-stiff curls,
puff-bodied, spiculed rays,
whorled shells.
Silly to call them grains
 
as if a summer acre
busheled them, cut and dried, the season’s yield.
These need the ocean’s pace—
decades laid down like nacre,
time pearled.
 
Drawn to this intimate view,
we’re pressed to think in eons: glacial crush
that ground scree and moraine,
and river rush
boiling the stone stew
 
down to a settled thing.
So brokenness, shivered from what it was,
reduced again, again,
till it seemed to us
not worth our focusing,
 
falls into focus, strong,
million-powered beneath the microscope.
A child with a paper cup
builds on the sand. What has borne up so long
will bear her up.
 
 
 
 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Zinnias

painting by Shirley Nachtrieb


I don't have any zinnias in the garden; they are annuals and I concentrated on perennials. But I love them and vow to plant them next summer.

Here's another poem by Mary Szybist:


In the Glare of the Garden

 

Yes, the open mouth

 of your watering can, it

 reminds me of you, of

 rushing toward

 smallness, toward

 a bright and yellowish

 color. Its mouth is smaller

 than any part of it,

 smaller than any of those red

 or yellow petals. It

 reminds me of me, of

 smallness that seems

 closable, but isn’t. Go ahead

 and tilt it, keep it

 up over the zinnias—it

 isn’t empty. The zinnias

 have their tongues out now almost

 completely, let's have it

 go to them. I don't think it has

 ever seen them before,

 let's have it

 hold in the air a little

 longer—it doesn't know

 the smell yet, yes,

 I think you want emptiness

 also, let's have it. And the zinnias

 open and spark and unregarding it goes

 out to them.

 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

At What Point is Something Gone Completely?




In my search for poems for the upcoming poetry retreat, I came across the poetry of Mary Szybist.

I didn't use any of her poems for the retreat- thought they might be too complicated for that occasion.

However, I was really struck by many of them.

Here is one:



The Troubadours Etc.

Just for this evening, let’s not mock them.

Not their curtsies or cross-garters

or ever-recurring pepper trees in their gardens

promising, promising.

 

At least they had ideas about love.

 

All day we’ve driven past cornfields, past cows poking their heads

through metal contraptions to eat.

We’ve followed West 84, and what else?

Irrigation sprinklers fly past us, huge wooden spools in the fields,

lounging sheep, telephone wires,

yellowing flowering shrubs.

 

Before us, above us, the clouds swell, layers of them,

the violet underneath of clouds.

Every idea I have is nostalgia. Look up:

there is the sky that passenger pigeons darkened and filled—

darkened for days, eclipsing sun, eclipsing all other sound

with the thunder of their wings.

After a while, it must have seemed that they followed

not instinct or pattern but only

one another.

 

When they stopped, Audubon observed,

they broke the limbs of stout trees by the weight of the numbers.

 

And when we stop we’ll follow—what?

Our hearts?

 

The Puritans thought that we are granted the ability to love

only through miracle,

but the troubadours knew how to burn themselves through,

how to make themselves shrines to their own longing.

The spectacular was never behind them.

 

Think of days of those scarlet-breasted, blue-winged birds above you.

Think of me in the garden, humming

quietly to myself in my blue dress,

a blue darker than the sky above us, a blue dark enough for storms,

though cloudless.

 

At what point is something gone completely?

The last of the sunlight is disappearing

even as it swells—

 

Just for this evening, won’t you put me before you

until I’m far enough away you can

believe in me?

 

Then try, try to come closer—

my wonderful and less than.

 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Summer Projects



How is it that seven weeks of my summer holidays have gone by?  Well, I was out of town for two of them and sick for a third, but what of the other four?

In addition to naps and grocery shopping and listening to Ruth Rendell murder mysteries on tape,
I tended that courtyard garden, which is a source of joy for me every day.

And I worked on three summer projects.

1. Jessica Powers    I finished and presented the paper on Jessica before the summer actually began - at Fordham in late April.  Have talked about that in a previous post.





2. Stevie Smith      Finished my work on her poem and presented it at the West Chester Poetry Conference   June 8-11.

3. The Poetry Retreat      I finished this project today!  The poems are chosen and typed and all the materials duplicated.   I am giving this retreat to some of my sisters from July 10-18 in Albany New York.


Now I have ten days to work/play in the garden, act as driver for any of my sisters who need rides to the doctor, etc.,  and , hopefully, break through this long dry spell, and write.



In the meantime, here is a poem I am using in this  "Praying with Poetry" retreat:



Dag Hammarskjƶld
Translated from the Swedish by Lennart and Gillian Nilsson

Is this a new land,
in a different reality
from today’s?
Or have I lived there.
before this day?

Woke up,
an ordinary day with grey light
reflected from the street,
woke up –
from a sombre blue night
above the tree line
moonlight on the moor
the mountain ridge in shadow.
Remembered
different dreams,
remembered
the same mountain landscape:
twice did I climb the ridges,
I lived by the inmost lake
and followed the river
towards its source.
The seasons have passed
and the light
and the weather
and the hour.
But it is the same land.
And I am beginning to know the map
and the points of the compass.

 


 



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Midsummer Eve


Longest day of the year comes to a close at 8:45PM.

Perfect summer day.

Can't say more right now, for I'm recovering from another bout of small bowel disease - enough said.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cape May 2017



I'm here by myself this year. Although the two weeks allotted to us to have this house start a week later than last year, the other sisters can't come until next week.  And the numbers are dwindling; more and more of them can't  do the steps.

Only child that I am, I have never minded a few days alone.  I am immersed in several disparate things:   preparing my panel talk on Stevie Smith's poem "Pretty,"  binge-watching the Netflix video "The Keepers,"  walking all over town, sleeping, and , of course, birding.

Yesterday I saw a female Canada Warbler foraging in the hedges at the State Park's Nature Trail.
I couldn't even begin to photograph her, but here is a photo by someone else:


I'm not sure if I've ever seen one in real life before. If I have, it has not been for a very long time.


The rain and fog have finally left, and here is the view yesterday:

 
 
I took the photo below of the bare tree that I call my "Merlin Tree"  Last October while I was just standing still on the trail below, a Merlin flew in, landed on one of those bare branches, and lingered.
It felt like a visitation. 
 
 
Stevie Smith's poems have also reminded me of a modernist Emily Dickinson, which then reminded me of one of Dickinson's poem that I set to music back when I was a sophomore in college. I can still hear it in my mind:
 
 
I DIED for beauty, but was scarce 
Adjusted in the tomb, 
When one who died for truth was lain 
In an adjoining room. 
  
He questioned softly why I failed?         5
“For beauty,” I replied. 
“And I for truth,—the two are one; 
We brethren are,” he said. 
  
And so, as kinsmen met a night, 
We talked between the rooms,         10
Until the moss had reached our lips, 
And covered up our names.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Poem by Wallace Stevens

We had a big rain shower and now, just as twilight falls, it's over and the grounds here are so green and serene.

This is a much more calm post than my previous one.  I am praying for that whole situation.

Have I ever said how much I love the poetry of Wallace Stevens?

I keep coming across poems of his that fill me with admiration and wonder.

The other day I was looking for a poem that contained the word  interior, and this one appeared:








Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour

 

Wallace Stevens, 1879 - 1955

 

Light the first light of evening, as in a room

In which we rest and, for small reason, think

The world imagined is the ultimate good.

 

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.

It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,

Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

 

Within a single thing, a single shawl

Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,

A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

 

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.

We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,

A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

 

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.

We say God and the imagination are one...

How high that highest candle lights the dark.

 

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,

We make a dwelling in the evening air,

In which being there together is enough.
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Agonizing over "The Keepers"


This is a tv documentary seven part series about a horror that occurred at a high school in Baltimore in the late sixties and early seventies.

I didn't teach there then. Then, it was Archbishop Keough High School.  In 1988, it merged with Seton High, and was renamed  The Seton Keough High School.  I taught there from 1988-1996.

I didn't know about this terrible atrocity until 1994, when the victims filed a lawsuit against the offending priest, the school, and the archdiocese.  Even then, I didn't know the details or extent of it.

I didn't know that until now, when I began to watch "The Keepers"  I've only seen the first two episodes, but they are enough to give me nightmares.

The Sister in the photo is Sister Cathy Cesnik, a School Sister of Notre Dame, who taught there in those days and who was murdered, ostensibly to shut her up.

The priest, Maskell, was truly a man who hated women and who degraded and abused the young women who came to him for counselling.  A true predator, he focused on the girls who had already been victims of abuse before they came into his clutches.   He's dead now, so he has faced the judgment of God.

Here is how the school looked in the late 60's:



In the meantime, this series has had a terrible impact on many women who went to the school, even decades after the whole thing.   Here are some of their posts from Facebook:


Comments on the Facebook page:

*I just watched episode 5. Woah. That was a big can of worms opened. I think there was money involved and a major "cover up" happened

*For the last two nights after watching This documentary I woke up sick to my stomach and wondering how could something like this be ignored for so long? How could good people (and I DO believe the Catholic Church is FULL of good people) let this happen? How could no one stand up? But mostly, Sharon May, the woman that just made it SO much harder for abuse survivors to come forth, either from past abuse or current abuse, who had more than enough to open a case, 30-100 women come forward of grueling incidents that they were frightened to even think about, and she just dismissed it? Like it was nothing, like it was legitimately laughing and rolling her eyes about the accusations. This woman is what's wrong with this world and I truly believe could've helped solve this case. Sad excuse for a woman


*Just finished binge watching The Keepers on Netflix. I'm guessing the archdiocese will bulldoze Seton Keough to the ground any day now.

 
*Just watched this series and I can't express my sadness for the victims of the monster Mascall. These individuals' suffering is exactly why statutes of limitations for these crimes should be extended substantially. Let there be no rest for the wicked perpetrators who prey on the fear of those they abuse.

 

*Archdiocese spokesman Sean Caine said the church of 2017 is "a very different place" from when Joseph Maskell was a priest. "We work very hard every single day to make sure that the church is a safe place...and we will do everything we can in our power to ensure something like that never again happens."

 
*in the second episode, when jean described confessing and feeling guilty about being abused by her uncle and then the things that father maskell, magnus and others did to her and the other poor girls disgusted me and broke my heart. i'm not religious so i don't fully understand. did they twist religious teachings to fit and justify their evil doings? it seems the girls were so brainwashed by the religion and the godlike status that the priests held that they did whatever they... said to be "forgiven by god".

and then when the the allegations made by charlie about maskells abuse was completely denied.. that also struck me to the core.
so many unanswered questions and missing documents. how can this be?? does a church really have this much power? sharon may also seemed shady and i felt she portrayed an indifferent attitude.. as if she didn't care if justice was served or not.. as the head of the sex crime division. sicken
*I attended Keough and was there when it merged with Seton. Also a former student of St. Clement's. I have to say this documentary shed an eerie light on the history of two schools I attended. Oddly St. Clement' closed and Seton Keough will be closing at end of this school year. I will be glad as perhaps this is full circle for a school that had a horrible history. The women who endured the abuse were incredibly brave. Shame on the church for not protecting them. Sad to know this happened at places that shaped my childhood. What it shaped in others is terrible and unfair. May the women and Sister Cathy find peace in knowing their story mattered and people do care.

 

 

Vikki Boateng Kristen Lynn in a way the closing ( of Seton Keough) to me is so overdue after all that happened there. I can't tell you how terrible it is to know everything that took place in that building. Sadly I had a good experience there as the teachers were great all I had. Can't say enough what those girls went through should have stopped and been taken care of from beginning. Burning down wouldn't be enough.


Kristen Lynn Ironic that it's happening now though. That's karma!


Vikki Boateng I know. I wouldn't be at all surprised if decision to close was due to documentary coming out. Easy to brush it all under carpet and let people forget.



Karen McKenny Olson I graduated in 1992. Never knew a thing about what happened there until recently.


Vikki Boateng Same here. Although some of us were talking about how there was a bad vibe down hallway by Library. Never knew why. This explained it all.


Sandra Winkles I attended Seton before it merged with Keough. We didn't have a priest on staff, but if we had I can certainly see that abuse such as what took place at Keough could have occurred at Seton. T The atmosphere at Seton was repressive, cold, stifling, ignorant and unenlightened to say the least. Priests and nuns were held up as Godlike and infallible, never to be questioned for any reason. I am appalled at the extent and depth of the cover up of this entire situation by the Baltimore archdiocese - they are responsible for all that happened since they knew of Maskell's behavior in 1967 and elected to move him to another school rather than see that he was removed from the priesthood and charged with crimes. This is yet another example of what happens when men and a church hierarchy think they are infallible and can do no wrong. If priests were allowed to be married, normal men, I don't think the priesthood would have become such a haven for all these monsters. I now attend a church which is Anglican/catholic and a parish of the personal ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (a former Episcopalian church which joined the Catholic Church but the former Episcopalian priests are married and the church retained much of the traditional mass and music. Our priests are so different - normal, none of that infallible superior attitude that has prevailed in the Catholic Church for years. This documentary makes me sad, angry, disgusted, etc. I pray that light is finally shed on this appalling tragedy and that the truth is finally discovered for the sake of all concerned. Glad this school is closing - it should have been closed and burned down years ago - what went on there for so many years was horrific and nothing can make up for the torture experienced by these poor girls!


Lynn Kuennen Absolute power leads to evil with no consequences. The government should have stepped in and charged those breaking the law.

 

Jenny Divver I'm up to #3. Do you guys remember what his office was used as when we were there? I don't remember ever going anywhere between the library and convent. I don't remember what it was and am curious.


Stephanie Lippman They show it in a sketch on the show. It was on the first floor, the room next to that green carpeted chapel that av club used to film in. If memory serves, I don't remember that door ever being unlocked.


Kelly Davis Morton I just finished tonight. So incredibly heartbreaking https://static.xx.fbcdn.net/images/emoji.php/v8/fcb/1/16/1f641.png:( I know Jane Doe and her family very well. They are some of the nicest people you'd ever meet. I hate that horrible things happen to good people https://static.xx.fbcdn.net/images/emoji.php/v8/fe/1/16/1f622.pngšŸ˜¢


Stephanie Lippman I drove by SK the other day while I was heading out on tour because I figured it'd probably be the last time I'd see it. Sad to see it go out like this but it should definitely be killed with fire, so to speak. Too much hypocrisy, injustice, scandal and shame. https://static.xx.fbcdn.net/images/emoji.php/v8/f50/1/16/1f525.png

 
Holly Basta He was protected by them and others in power. I was told as a student what those rooms were. We filmed our morning reports in the office next to the library. Always felt extremely uncomfortable there and in the chapel. Sr. Joyce told me what her office used to be was also where much of the abuse took place because it is kind of secluded. She was well aware and probably knew much more


Holly Basta I do believe the sale of the property may be part of the settlements. It's worth a great deal of money, the archdiocese probably needs to pay the victims. It is quite coincidental that the three places tied to the abuse are all being closed -- NOT.

 

Jenny Divver I visited a few weeks ago, so my old memories are getting mixed up. They moved the chapel to his office, I believe, or right next to it. The office at the end near the door is now the heritage room with old uniforms, etc.


Rachael Swann Thomas Many catholic grade schools in my area have closed. Not many have been bulldozed yet. I think SK was slated to go regardless of the Keepers.

 
Yearbook photo of the Keough administration in the late 60's:
 


 
I keep wondering about the faculty members of that time: didn't they suspect something ?

Some of them were still teaching at the school after the merger, when I was there. I never heard a thing about it from any of them.

Seton Keough when I taught there, was a good school where most of us, teachers and students, didn't know about that dark shadow from the past.


 

Not only the damage to the abused women, but the
 rage at the larger Catholic Church that this whole thing has generated just breaks my heart.
 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Maze poem





I came across this one yesterday and decided to post it:


Reflections on Walking in the Maze at Hampton Court

Published in British Magazine, 1747, author unknown

 

“What is this mighty Labyrinth – the earth,

But a wild maze the moment of our birth?

Still as we life pursue the maze extends,

Nor find we where each winding purlieu ends;

Crooked and vague each step of life we tread, —

Unseen the danger, we escape the dread!

But with delight we through the labyrinth range,

Confused we turn, and view each artful change –

Bewildered, through each wild meander bend

Our wandering steps, anxious to gain the end;

Unknown and intricate, we still pursue

A certain path, uncertain of the clue;

Like hoodwinked fools, perplex’d we grope our way

And during life’s short course we blindly stray,

Puzzled in mazes and perplex’d with fears;

Unknown alike both heaven and earth appears.

Till at the last, to banish our surprise,

Grim Death unbinds the napkin from our eyes.

Then shall Gay’s truth and wisdom stand confest,

And Death will shew us Life was but a jest.”




 

Friday, May 12, 2017

from wood to field to sky



Here is a very puzzling and enigmatic poem by the great British poet Stevie Smith:



Pretty

 

Why is the word pretty so underrated?

In November the leaf is pretty when it falls   

The stream grows deep in the woods after rain   

And in the pretty pool the pike stalks

 

He stalks his prey, and this is pretty too,   

The prey escapes with an underwater flash   

But not for long, the great fish has him now   

The pike is a fish who always has his prey

 

And this is pretty. The water rat is pretty

His paws are not webbed, he cannot shut his nostrils   

As the otter can and the beaver, he is torn between   

The land and water. Not ‘torn’, he does not mind.

 

The owl hunts in the evening and it is pretty

The lake water below him rustles with ice

There is frost coming from the ground, in the air mist   

All this is pretty, it could not be prettier.

 

Yes, it could always be prettier, the eye abashes   

It is becoming an eye that cannot see enough,   

Out of the wood the eye climbs. This is prettier   

A field in the evening, tilting up.

 

The field tilts to the sky. Though it is late   

The sky is lighter than the hill field

All this looks easy but really it is extraordinary   

Well, it is extraordinary to be so pretty.

 

And it is careless, and that is always pretty

This field, this owl, this pike, this pool are careless,   

As Nature is always careless and indifferent

Who sees, who steps, means nothing, and this is pretty.

 

So a person can come along like a thief—pretty!—

Stealing a look, pinching the sound and feel,   

Lick the icicle broken from the bank

And still say nothing at all, only cry pretty.

 

Cry pretty, pretty, pretty and you’ll be able   

Very soon not even to cry pretty

And so be delivered entirely from humanity   

This is prettiest of all, it is very pretty.                                                          Stevie Smith
 



I am writing about this poem for a presentation at a critical seminar on Stevie Smith at the West Chester Poetry Conference in early June.