zirconium: photo of ranunculus bloom on my laptop (ranunculus on keyboard)
["Under the oak leaves" - a line from "Au clair de la fontaine" (By the clear fountain)]

The senior minister at my church is on sabbatical, and Rabbi Rami Shapiro is visiting monthly as a guest preacher. On September 11, he brought with him a shruti, which he played as the congregation learned a new round:

I am a fountain

Longtime readers/friends may recall that I do have a thing about fountains... though this past month my scant spare time has been more on lake and river. My Labor Day getaway plans having fallen through twice, I decided to get on a paddleboard four out of my five days off, and last Friday I watched the full moon from my lantern-lit plank on the Cumberland.

Elsewhere and elsewhen: Paying work. Housework. Homework. Paperwork. Footwork. Speaking of--
Dancing: hip-hop, flamenco, Afro-Cuban (orishas), English country.
Friends: Visiting from France and elsewhere. Running for office.. Organizing campferences. Selling taco + lesbian farmer buttons (coupon code here, btw). Preparing for High Holy Days. Coding. Cajoling. Caretaking. I could go on ... in short, inspiring me.
Harvesting: peppers.
Deadheading: zinnias.

Recently published:

  • At unFold: "Spacing for Sky," with typography by J. S. Graustein

  • At Folded Word: "O Margaret, Here We Are Again"

  • At 7x20, a weekful of polished micro-poems: 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5

  • There is more to say and write, much of it off-blog, but a guest arrives tomorrow, so for now it's back to cleaning. Onward!
    zirconium: my hands, sewing a chemo cap liner (care caps hands)
    There's a feature on Dr. Ysaye Barnwell in the current issue of UU World. It includes this:

    She turns solemn and angry talking about how "Kumbaya," which means "Come by Here" in the Gullah language, has become snarky shorthand for feel-good or weak-minded groupthink. A soulful cry sung by the Georgia Sea Island slaves, the song was carried on by Southern blacks in the time of Jim Crow and lynch mobs, and later by the Freedom Riders when they learned three of their workers had been murdered by Klansmen. "When people say, 'It was a Kumbaya moment,' it clearly was not a Kumbaya moment," Barnwell admonished. "It's actually an invocation for God to come by here now because things are needed. If you hear people use it mistakenly, gently correct them."

    Barnwell elaborated on this at the end of today's workshop at First UU Nashville, whose members will be singing a half-dozen-plus songs/arrangements by Barnwell tomorrow morning (9 a.m. and 11 a.m.). The Freedom Riders sang "Kumbaya" in their camp at a point where calling to God felt like the only option. Barnwell demonstrated how she sometimes opens concerts with a furious, fast, rough-edged rendition of "Kumbaya" that is nothing like the Girl Scout version -- to get the audience toward hearing it as the bone-deep cry for help the words are to convey.

    A recurring theme in the workshop: take time to think about the words of spirituals from the perspective of the enslaved, often after being preached to by so-called Christian masters. What is being taught or signaled?

    A book to read: Rising from the Rails -- how the Pullman porters led the creation of the black middle class, all the while navigating social tightropes. Barnwell described how the porters closely observed the lives of affluent white passengers , to then subsequently teach about investing and other skills new to most postbellum communities. How the porters would gather up discarded newspapers in the cars, bundle them up, and toss them into towns where newspapers weren't available.

    There was much more. I sat, stood, and danced among and between several different people during the course of the day. The afternoon session included a quolidbet that combined "Honor, Honor," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "I’m a Rollin’," "Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray," "My Good Lawd Done Been Here," and "Please, Lordy," with "Honor, Honor" in harmony.

    Something for me to work toward and look forward to: taming my schedule enough to sing more marching songs and quolidbets. Someday.
    zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
    More often than not, it cheers me up when a Vaughan Williams setting is included among the opening hymns. This morning started with the Down Ampney tune, with verses by Bianco da Siena (died c. 1434), translated by Richard Frederick Littledale (1833-1890) with further alterations by the hymnal editors:

    Come down, O Love divine,
    seek thou this soul of mine,
    and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
    O Comforter, draw near,
    within my heart appear,
    and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

    O let it freely burn,
    till earthly passions turn
    to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
    and let its glorious light
    shine ever on my sight,
    and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

    And so the glory strong,
    for which the soul will long,
    shall far outpass the power of human telling;

    for none can guess its grace,
    till we become the place
    wherein the holy Spirit makes a dwelling.

    First UU Nashville sanctuary, September 2015

    The Story for All Ages featured Moses arguing with God about returning to Egypt, and the pastor spoke at length about astronaut Edgar Mitchell during her sermon. Between those two points, the worship associate read Neruda's Keeping Quiet and the chamber choir sang Malcolm Daglish's setting of Wendell Berry's "To the Holy Spirit":

    O Thou, far off and here, whole and broken,
    Who in necessity and in bounty wait,
    Whose truth is light and dark, mute though spoken,
    By Thy wide grace show me Thy narrow gate.

    Cheekwood, December 2015


    Sep. 13th, 2015 08:52 pm
    zirconium: my hands, sewing a chemo cap liner (care caps hands)
    At my church today: Spanky, a therapy dog in the Pet Partners program.

    Spanky the Shih Tzu

    My church observes a custom called "sharing the plate," where half of the "loose cash" (i.e., not designated for pledges) collected during the offertory goes to a local charity. This month the money will go to Crossroads Campus, whose goals include "OFFER[ING] PAID JOB-TRAINING internships to young adults who lack the connections and experience needed to break into the workforce" and
    "PROVID[ING] AFFORDABLE HOUSING for young adults on the brink of homelessness; offering stability, safety and community to those who need it most" -- two social issues that many people in the congregation have put in many hours toward addressing.

    Petting Spanky

    The literature on the social justice table today included coupons for the Crossroads store and self-serve dog wash, and save-the date cards for Hike for the Homeless (November 7), which will benefit Safe Haven Family Shelter.

    Victoria, Spanky, and a friend
    zirconium: Unitarian Universalist chalice with pink triangle as base (rainbow chalice)
    A June tradition at my church is Music Sunday, and this coming Sunday, at 9 a.m. and at 11 a.m., the choir will be performing a new setting of Darrell Grant's Ruby Bridges Suite.

    It is going to be outstanding. Darrell Grant is on piano and keyboard; man can play. Brian Foti on drums -- ditto. Same for the guy on string bass (whose name I didn't catch, apologies!). Connye Florance is one of the soloists (I haven't heard Lari White yet, who's another). Majic Jackson narrating, with words by MLK and Maya Angelou and others. The gifted and dedicated Seth Adler working sound. Yes, I'm name-dropping, because some of you locals need that to get you out of the house on a summer morning (and I include myself in that group).

    Some of the songs have had me tearing up as I study them. The text alone won't convey why -- it's the rise and fall of melody and harmony that hits me in the gut -- but here are some of the lines anyway. In "Hold My Hand," Ruby's mother sings to her:

    Hold my hand, child, hold my hand
    Someday you will understand
    Straight ahead, child, never fear
    God is watching, love is near

    For the world, child, is not fair
    Danger follows everywhere
    Lift your eyes, child
    You will see
    God is watching
    You are free

    And in "Come in," a teacher sings to her student:

    Ruby, you're a special one.
    Pray that I can see you through.
    There's so much meanness in the world
    but you should know they don't see what I see.
    In here you're just a little girl
    who has a right to learn who she can be.

    With faith, and time,
    you'll see that I believe in you.
    We've much to learn, we two.

    Darrell says he spent twenty years writing the finale, "We Rise," originally composing it for a sophomore album that fell through, and then revising it periodically (with a four-bar stretch that kept defying his attempts to perfect the piece), and then realizing that all the great creators resort to "shims" at times, and later recognizing that the suite was where the piece belonged...

    Rise up, brand new day
    You know that love will find a way
    Together we cannot be broken
    Up from the bitter past we rise
    To build a world where peace is spoken
    The time is now
    At last we rise
    This time the circle can't be broken
    This time the ghosts of hate must die
    We'll throw the gates of Freedom open
    The time is now
    At last we rise

    Again, the music is essential -- left to my own devices, I don't know that love will find a way, I see circles broken every damn day, and on, and on, but when I'm singing those words, my unbelief doesn't matter. Rise up, brand new day.

    Like many other commuters, I've been cranky about the congestion amplified by CMA Fest (a friend retweeted Gretchen Peters's quip about meanderthals, and I admit I laughed out loud) ... but I've also been entertained by the skin and plumage on display, and I managed to miss the fish parts on the interstate snarl-up, and I give thanks yet again for the pleasure of living in a city with session players on virtually every block. When I got home tonight, the rock cellist and/or guitarist (not always sure what the instrument is, but the playing is consistently good) who lives a couple of houses away was practicing licks.

    Music in the air, fireflies in the yard, doggie at the door, piano waiting ... praise.
    zirconium: French word for "light" (on wall of Cheekwood Mansion) (lumière)
    I have been humming "I Am That Great and Fiery Force" to myself since Sunday, when it was sung as one of the morning songs at church. Words by Hildegarde von Bingen, set to "Ave Vera Virginitas" by Josquin Desprez -- you can hear a bit of it sung by Missing Rachel, and longer versions of the tune on YouTube, inluding one by a Slovak choir, the Hilliard Ensemble, et al. The verses:

    I am that great and fiery force
    sparkling in everything that lives;
    in shining of the river's course,
    in greening grass that glory gives.

    I shine in glitter on the seas,
    in burning sun, in moon and stars.
    In unseen wind, in verdant trees
    I breathe within, both near and far.

    And where I breathe there is no death,
    and meadows glow with beauties rife.
    I am in all, the spirit's breath,
    the thundered word, for I am Life.

    The chamber choir sang two pieces, including the Real Group's "Words," which was applauded at both services.

    Present reading: Erica E. Hirshler's Sargent's Daughters: The Biography of a Painting

    Recent cooking: Chicken with mushroom-wine sauce (and parsley from an early birthday present); Mexican-ish brownies for a Cinco de Mayo potluck (using salted caramel cocoa mix, throwing in a cupful of chocolate chips, cutting the sugar in half, and ancho chile powder -- they turned out fine. The intern who shares my office gushed about them without knowing I was the one who made them. \o/); fufu (to go with the leftover chicken)

    Today's workout: a long swim. I had lane 2 to myself, which meant I could indulge in backstroke as well as freestyle.

    Today's remaining goal: some ironing. Chores toward comfort: story of my life. ;)


    Feb. 8th, 2015 01:24 pm
    zirconium: of blue bicycle in front of Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston (blue bicycle rear)
    This afternoon's main project is getting ready for this evening's Heartbreak Happy Hour at the Stone Fox -- I'm one of the performers.

    The years I've spent drafting sermons (and numerous other speeches for church) mean that I now have a pretty good sense of how many words = ten minutes of material. Which I found myself grateful for this past week, what with trying to bounce back from the flu while going back to work and staying on schedule on a commission and so on. It was nice to know that ten minutes of material isn't actually that many words and that I could knock it out in a day if I couldn't carve out the time any earlier. (But what actually happened was that I started writing it in my head two minutes after receiving the invitation, and sketched it various lines and points in my Workflowy during the rest of the week before slicing and knotting it all together the past two days.)

    Coincidentally, two of the hymns in this morning's church service were ones I selected for a service I led a decade or so ago. One was "When Shall We Learn," which is Carl Flentge Schalk's setting of a poem by Auden:

    When shall we learn, what should be clear as day,
    we cannot choose what we are free to love?
    We are created with and from the world
    to suffer with and by it day by day.

    For through our lively traffic all the day,
    in my own person I am forced to know
    how much must be forgotten out of love,
    how much must be forgiven, even love.

    Or else we make a scarecrow of the day,
    loose ends and jumble of our common world;
    or else our changing flesh can never know
    there must be sorrow if there can be love.

    The other is "Creative Love, Our Thanks We Give," a William DeWitt Hyde poem adapted by Beth Ide, and set to "Truth from Above" with harmony by Vaughan Williams:

    Creative love, our thanks we give
    that this, our world is incomplete . . .

    Since what we choose is what we are,
    and what we love we yet shall be,
    the goal may ever shine afar--
    the will to reach it makes us free.

    Also at church: an adorable mop of a service dog, who snuggled into its owner's shoulder for a while during the sermon:

    service dog

    After church, I ran an errand and picked up Chinese carryout. There was an invisible fortune cookie in the bag...

    invisible fortune cookie

    ... and this advice in one of the corporeal cookies:

    Business is a lot like playing tennis; if you don't serve well, you lose.

    From the speculative writing/publishing realm:

  • Sue Burke and several other very experienced translators want to bring castles in Spain to you -- specifically Castles in Spain, a bilingual anthology they're raising funds for via Indiegogo.

  • If you're a Science Fiction Poetry Association member, you have one week left to nominate your favorite 2014 poems for Rhysling Awards. I have both long and short poems eligible this year [downloadable at http://sfpoetry.com/ra/eligible/PegDuthie2014.rtf] . . .

  • How to Live on Other Planets is available for pre-order. The list of contributors is fierce, y'all.
  • zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
    I attended a memorial service for the extraordinary Elizabeth Papousek this morning. At the end of the service, Rev. Seavey said that opening the hymnal at random (a habit of Elizabeth's at worship committee meetings) had led her to these words of Maria Mitchell (a Unitarian as well as an astronomer):

    Small as is our whole system compared with the infinitude of

    Brief as is our life compared with the cycles of time,

    We are so tethered to all by the beautiful dependencies of law,

    That not only the sparrow’s fall is felt to the uttermost bound but the vibrations set in motion by the words that we utter reach through all space and the tremor is felt through all time.

    After the reception, I stopped at the Green Hills library, where some Advent calendars from the collection of the Steele Family were on display, including one featuring planets and stars:

    Advent calendar

    Advent calendar

    (I also saw three other church members at the library while I was there. My tribe indeed.)
    zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
    From Sophie Appleby, via Kat McNally:

    In the busyness of the everyday, taking time to nourish the soul doesn't reach the top of the 'to do' list as often as it should.

    What nourishes your soul? How would you like to incorporate more of this into your life in 2015?

    Night 2

    This year, there were a handful of Fridays where I was able to stay offline from sundown on Friday to sunrise on Saturday, and sometimes even until sundown on Saturday as well.

    I'm a happier woman when I can manage it. It can be time for reading. Time at the piano. Time with crayons and pencils and markers. Time with my plants and seeds and my plans for them. Time ironing -- which is, yes, a chore, but also a pleasure, in wearing clothes and using linens that look and feel better when cared for in that fashion. Time with the dog. Time sifting through old papers and keepsakes.

    It sharpens the saw, to borrow Franklin Covey terminology. It brings a bounce back into my brain. It forces me to wait for answers instead of racing toward them, and insists on my enjoying slices of the "someday" ("someday I'll read that book..." "someday I'll get the hang of sight-reading pieces with umpteen sharps in the key signature..." "someday I'll expand those eleven words into a full sestina...") that I would otherwise not get around to anytime soon.

    my hanukkiah at work

    Tuesday night, I was so dead on my feet that lighting candles was out of the question. Tonight was nice, though. It was a long day at the office and there was yet more work-related stuff to deal with when I got home, but once that was out of the way, it was time for light and for some writing and wrapping.

    I sketched this hanukkiah a couple of weeks ago during a visit to Martin ArtQuest Gallery at the Frist Center (where, full disclosure, I'm currently working as their interim editor). Earlier this week, I spent the end of my lunch break at another crafting station stocked with metallic crayon-pencils and translucent bookmark, the better to add a chalice to my bulletin board:

    my bulletin board (detail)

    (Yes, Michigan tweeps, that's a Zingerman's postcard. I dig the moose and waterfowl.)

    On a related note, here's what's happening at the Center the rest of the year, narrated by the newbie: http://fristcenter.org/calendar-exhibitions/detail/at-the-frist52
    zirconium: Unitarian Universalist chalice with pink triangle as base (rainbow chalice)
    Last summer, when I went to the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival in North Carolina, I was captivated by the beautiful woman turning pages for William Ransom. She had silver hair and wide eyes and she was so engaged with the music -- not histrionically or showtastically or in any way in the way of the performance, yet vibrantly, fully present.

    I was introduced to her at a reception after the concert, but with our first names only, so several minutes went by before the clues added up and I realized I was talking to a woman whose hymns I'd sung many times. At which point I fear I went into stammering fangirl mode, but she handled that graciously, of course.

    Last night -- at the end of chamber choir rehearsal -- I learned that Shelley's husband had passed away in May, and that she died on Sunday of a heart attack.

    I have Singing the Living Tradition open at the moment to #86:

    Spirit of great mystery,
    hear the still, small voice in me.
    Help me live my wordless creed
    as I comfort those in need.
    Fill me with compassion,
    be the source of my intuition.
    Then, when life is done for me,
    let love be my legacy.

    --Shelley Jackson Denham, 1987


    Jun. 14th, 2013 10:03 am
    zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
    Two days ago, I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. I had copyediting and lettering targets I'd planned to meet, but I also had a headache, and I haven't gotten past the "eek!" part of the current calligraphy thing, so scrubbing the tub and sanitizing pots and making a new batch of basil toner seemed way, way easier than putting pencil to paper.

    Yesterday, I started copyediting after breakfast and worked flat through lunchtime (which almost never happens, because I loooooooove food and get very, very cranky when I'm running on fumes) and didn't stop until 2:45 pm, when I yelped, "Eek!" and rushed out the door to meet my hiking partner. (There are times when I curse pre-scheduled exercise because it disrupts my grooves, but we saw two fawns at the lake, and the ridge that always kicks my ass does seem to be getting slightly easier to climb.)

    I worry about losing touch with people. I worry about people dying before I make time to bake the pie and find my crocheting to take over for a long catch-up chat. I worry about not getting around to planting the seeds I bought this year, or the ones I've put in the "plant later" tray because it's already too hot. I worry about the energy evaporating from the sketches of poems I don't have time to amplify or revise right now. I worry that when I finally throw out the bags of tomato seeds my mother tried to preserve -- I tested a few this spring, and nothing came up -- I'll wish I had them on hand a week later when the poem about Rorschach seed patterns on scraps of Bounty finally gels (I could take pictures -- I will take pictures -- but they aren't going to retain the layers or up-closeness of the actual thing. I could keep just one. I could work on the dang poem after all if I'm gonna think aloud about it this much).

    I fret about how everything, but everything, expands into a million marigold petals when I touch it. I want to scrape at the scale on my bathroom faucet with a toothpick, and to paint my living room myself, and to redo every inch of my yard. I plan to find the pillow for the cover that's been made out of my wedding dress, and the upholsterer I'd hoped to ask about recovering my dining room chairs has gone out of business. I resent work for taking time away from studying. I am breathless whenever I spend an hour studying, awed at how much more there will always be to learn. I get deep into a manuscript and it reminds me of how much I actually already know, just from the years I've put in and how they've developed that editorial "sixth sense" that tells me when a name is probably misspelled or that something on page 38 isn't in sync with what the author says on page 83, as well as being hyper-conscious of all the little cues and nuances that separate a professionally designed book from a document assembled by an amateur. (Nothing against amateur efforts, mind--as long as the professionals are getting their due.) I miss learning new music, but not enough to rejoin my old ensembles or start the trio I sometimes dream about pulling together.

    I am delighted by Cathy Yardley's review of my book. I'm singing along with madrigals in the car to de-rust my voice (I'm leading hymns at the early service this Sunday). I found a Spanish-language copy of Isabel Allende's Zorro at a used bookstore, and gave it to a GA delegate in my congregation to take to Louisville for the library to be established there. I saw that the bookstore had copies of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in both the Reading List and Agriculture sections, and that some of the copies in the Ag section were slightly cheaper, which was intel my hiking partner (and mom of a schoolkid) found useful when she went shopping there a few days later. My E player in fantasy tennis (the delightfully sassy Donna Vekic) has made a surprising run to the semifinals in Birmingham (UK), and I'm still alive in Survival at the Shore (horseracing predictions) -- ranked 1118th, true (my second-best day got negated by a cyberglitch, woe), but I haven't let myself dive deep into researching the ponies, so I'm fine with merely swimming along. Go Chocolate Drops! Go Zealous on the Run! Go Toute Allure! I'm amused by this interview of Charleston chef Robert Stehling, happy to hear reports that Husk Nashville is living up to the hype, and, in the bath, reading a 1996 Baedeker guide to Canada that used to live on the shelves of the Charlotte public library.

    (And now it's been more than fifteen minutes since I applied sunscreen, and I've been asked to deliver a shirt and a gallon of water to my favorite motorcycle repair shop. Time to move from inventory to service! :-) )
    zirconium: photo of flask with feathers in and around it (flask with feathers)
    A couple of days ago, I went looking for photos of some of the Bikram postures, and came across a nifty guide (illustrated with colorful stick figures) produced by a NY studio.

    (When I manage standing bow, it feels pretty cool. Then there's me getting water up my nose when I tried to sneak in a sip during savasana...)

    I am taking a break from it today, though, because my body and brain both need a timeout -- a couple of old injuries have flared up, and I need a day where I don't have to be anywhere by x o'clock. (It's not really a day off -- I'm planning to divide 8-10 hours between lettering and copyediting -- but not having to stop to get myself ready to go somewhere else will make a difference. I'm such a housecat.)

    Yesterday afternoon, I went to Rita Frizzell's memorial service. It included humor and drama and tears and quite a bit of music, including Sarah Dan Jones's "Meditation on Breathing" ("When I breathe in, I'll breathe in peace. When I breathe out, I'll breathe out love"). The humor included Dawn Thornton referring to herself as "Buddish" (referring to her sort-of practice of meditation); the drama included a theatre director reading aloud passages from Hamlet and coming up with a new collective noun ("an incandescence of Ritas") to encompass the different facets of she-who-was-called-Rita. There was chanting from the Tibetan Book of the Dead; there was a colorful portrait of an eight-limbed goddess hanging behind the pulpit. There was a reference to "Tibetan Buddhism's glass ceiling for women" (one of the situations leading Rita to Unitarian Universalism) but also glowing descriptions of the Friday night sangha she led, which will be continued by another member of FUUN.

    The closing song was a group rendition of "You Are My Sunshine," a song Rita's mother had sung many times to her. We sang through it three times, twice with the words ("Please don't take my sunshine away...") and once simply humming. Afterward, at least two people said to me, "The humming, that's what got me." Music is such a physical act.

    After the reception, I hopped into a friend's car and she steered it downtown toward sushi. Sarge talked about her plans to make blackberry wine; B. and I chatted about our connections to Texas. There was a lot of laughing with and at each other, including me at S. when she declared "I'm too old to be butch" (when B. declined her offer to pump gas) and both S. and B. at me when I waxed enthusiastic about fantasy tennis and horse handicapping. ("Look, I'm a nerd. Therefore I have nerd hobbies." "We're glad you know that.")

    Speaking of which: Thanks to an $7K bet on Oxbow and a $10K bet on Mylute, I am currently leading the Smarty Jones Stakes (a Triple Crown predictions contest) over at TalkAboutTennis.com. My penchant for humoring my hunches seldom pays out two races in a row, however; moreover, I've noticed that it's always a longshot I don't pick that ends up second. Still, for the moment, peppermints all around! ;-)
    zirconium: Unitarian Universalist chalice with pink triangle as base (rainbow chalice)
    At the start of the service, the choir sang Ysaye Barnwell's arrangement of Kahlil Gibran's "On Children":

    Your children are not your children
    They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself
    They come through you but they are not from you
    And though they are with you they belong not to you

    You can give them your love but not your thoughts
    For they have their own thoughts
    You may house their bodies but not their souls
    For the souls dwell in a place of tomorrow
    Which you cannot visit
    Not even in your dreams

    You can strive to be like them
    But you cannot make them just like you

    Rev. Gail preached about family and community, and how individuals possess both the desire to belong and the desire for freedom -- the challenge being as a family member (by blood or by choice) to nurture the people we love in such a way that they also feel free to be themselves.

    Midway through the sermon, she stated that the largest category of households in the United States consists of people who live alone, which was true of our congregation -- and that the majority of that group at FUUN live alone by choice. She quoted a member of the congregation who had said to her, "I'm looking for someone to date -- but there's NO WAY I'm looking for someone to marry!" This was greeted with a wave of laughter -- and a heartfelt "Amen!" bellowed from the middle of the sanctuary, which triggered a second wave of laughter.

    Maybe ten years ago, a group at church performed another Sweet Honey in the Rock piece, "No Mirrors in My Nana's House." This animated version of it (Chris Raschka illustrations) is a joy:

    zirconium: Unitarian Universalist chalice with pink triangle as base (rainbow chalice)
    Last night's bathtub reading was some of the Spring 2013 issue of UU World. I was pleased to see a feature on UU military chaplains, in part because my church ordained one of them (Azande Sosa) a year or two ago. Two excerpts:

    [Rev. Sarah Lammert, on a shift in UU attitudes toward the military:] People began to understand that you could be for or against a war without being against the people who serve the country.

    [Rev. Chris] Antal [a National Guard chaplain in Afghanistan] emphasizes the importance of having religiously liberal chaplains in the military. Partly it's about those soldiers who might be unchurched or hold beliefs that are out of the mainstream, including those who are pagan. "Soldiers have told me, 'You are the first chaplain who would ever pray with me,'" Antal said.

    He added, "I've been able to do all kinds of meaningful ministry in the past year, especially after 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was repealed last year. Not only does the Army need chaplains, it needs liberal chaplains to balance the overwhelming number of evangelicals within chaplaincy. When we, as a denomination, walked away from the military after Vietnam, the vacuum was filled by others."

    Antal said that many soldiers are open to different approaches to religion. "When people face the actuality of war and combat and the possibility of death, they start to search their souls. They want to be prepared."

    Congregations have a role too, he said. "Soldiers need to be welcomed when they come to church. Suicide rates of veterans are off the charts. Our congregations and our country as a whole share a moral responsibility to be open to the military. They are working on our behalf."
    zirconium: Unitarian Universalist chalice with pink triangle as base (rainbow chalice)
    [Subject line from Gary Kowalski's "An Alphabet of Gratitude," one of the readings at church today]

    As this morning's lay leader, I lit the memorial candle for Shirley Ryberg, whose memorial service will be held on what would've been her 95th birthday. Shirley, Jan Robinson, and I put together a sermon back in 2009. Well into her 80s, she wrote biographies of the church's new members for the newsletter. Even when she could no longer read the hymnal, she still happily sang along, wordlessly caroling along and swaying to the music.
    zirconium: photo of pumpkin on wire chair (pumpkin on chair)
    I'd completely forgotten about the apple tree that ate Roger Williams, until I looked up one of my old entries about an All Saints' Day service.

    (Posting on May Sarton and her All Souls poems over at [community profile] poetree tomorrow.)

    Today has been the warmest day of the week, but now the sun is down, and my feet are on the verge of clammy. I'll go dig out some socks in a sec.

    My church's Room in the Inn program starts tonight -- in fact, the men should be having supper right around now. I have the 4 a.m. shift tomorrow morning, and I'm speaking about it at this Sunday's services. If that's not enough to lure you locals to the pews (jk), perhaps the topic will?

    The Reverent Citizen and Leader

    For our traditional election sermon, we will examine the virtue of reverence, which does not depend upon any one faith stance or religious belief, but keeps us from trying to act like gods. We will reflect on political philosophy that suggests that reverent citizens and leaders have a crucial role to play in a healthy democracy.

    Plus, the opening hymn is "Here We Have Gathered," which is a lovely way to start a Sunday. I especially like the third verse:

    Life has its battles, sorrows and regret:
    But in the shadows, let us not forget:
    We who now gather know each other's pain;
    Kindness can heal us; as we give, we gain.
    Sing now in friendship, this our hearts' own song.

    [Something else that's nifty: an ASL script for the hymn]

    (As always, the annotator in me hastens to add, of course we don't necessarily really know each other, let alone the dark stuff. Even the people who love me most and know me best can't always suss out when or how much I'm hurting, especially when I'm making a point of being stoic or even merely functional; nonetheless, singing this hymn among people I do consider my friends is indeed a pleasure. It's being greeted with hot coffee on a cold morning; it's hiking around Radnor Lake this morning with one of those friends, who just got back from Parents' Day at Williams; it's elegant hand-me-downs from an eighty-three-year-old yoga devotee and in turn taking salads and snacks to housebound friends.)

    [I didn't sit down to write that. I guess community and connections are on my mind.]

    Speaking of older folks, a retirement community in town sponsored one of the scarecrows at Cheekwood Gardens. They called it "Will's Scare Quotes":

    Will's Scare Quotes Will Rogers quote Will Rogers quote
    zirconium: photo of bell tower seen on a walk to the Acropolis (athens bell tower)

    * the pleasure of wearing a favorite dress on an ordinary Sunday
    * a violist with the Nashville Symphony/Alias played a Bach courante (from suite #6) after the call to worship, as well as harmony on the hymns and a Faure pavane during the offertory. Lovely stuff.
    * the Story for All Ages was about Henry Bergh, a Unitarian who founded the ASPCA.
    * the meditation was "Avalokiteshvara Dharani," a Buddhist chant.
    * our church placed first in this year's AIDS walk, raising $18,200. Wow!

    My original plan was to spend the afternoon at my easel, but tiredness took over, so I ended up sacking out on the sofa. For dinner, I made a variation of Melissa Clark's crispy tofu recipe:

    crispy tofu with long beans

    (I didn't have peanut oil, so I used sesame. The shiitake mushrooms weren't soft enough by the time I started cooking, so I skipped them. Instead of pork, I cooked half of the long beans I picked up at Shreeji's yesterday. Instead of chicken broth, I used water. Instead of saving the green parts of the scallions for garnish, I mixed them in with the soy and mirin and dumped them into the pan at the same time. And I tossed in a spoonful of minced garlic because I felt like it.)

    [Clark won't mind. One of the themes of In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite is how she and her mother seldom follow recipes as written. :-) ]

    I also broiled two chicken breasts and made a quick sauce for it by combining orange juice and mustard. Some of it blended with the soy-mirin-garlic glaze on my plate, and that tasted really good, so I might try that combo on purpose later this week. (The Turnip Truck had some aging tofu on sale today...)
    zirconium: Unitarian Universalist chalice with pink triangle as base (rainbow chalice)
    The annual national convention of the Unitarian Universalist Association was this past weekend.

    The business included choosing the denomination's Study/Action issue for 2012-2016. To give you some context, the one for 2008-2012 was Ethical Eating, the one in progress is Immigration as a Moral Issue. These are not the only issues UUs are studying or acting on, of course, but the issues selected for Study/Action receive additional attention and resources -- ministers are encouraged to preach about them, educators are encouraged to offer classes and lead discussions, study guides are created, and so on.

    The news from Phoenix is that Reproductive Justice will be the next Study/Action issue. The proposal submitted by the sponsoring congregations is here.

    ...I happened to spend a sizable chunk of yesterday evening copyediting a study of so-called pro-life judicial activism. And my state legislature continues to embarrass the saner people in Tennessee with its relentless cultivation of ignorance. And the reports from Michigan and elsewhere have me feeling more angry and more weary. So I'm taking comfort in this news of my denomination renewing and expanding its efforts to support "the right of all women to have children, not to have children, and to raise their children in safe and healthy environments."

    http://www.uua.org/reproductive/action/index.shtml (includes click-to-send-letters links)
    https://www.uua.org/reproductive/action/200096.shtml (congregational resources, multiple levels + ages)
    zirconium: photo of bell tower seen on a walk to the Acropolis (athens bell tower)
    From the May Mid-South District (of the Unitarian Universalist Association) newsletter (should've posted this last week, but note that it takes place every Saturday, in Atlanta):

    Atlanta Area Mobile Library Project Update

    Join us Saturday, May 19 at Plaza Fiesta to celebrate the official launch of the Mobile Library - Fiesta de Libros! The library project had its soft opening April 14 and has been received with great enthusiasm and appreciation by the children and their parents. We are very proud of this UU project and we want to celebrate the launch with our UU community. The celebration will be from 1:00pm to 2:00pm in front of the playground by the food court. We will have musical entertainment, community speakers, including Rev. David, and a Ribbon Cutting ceremony. Bring the family and friends, celebrate with us and enjoy all that Plaza Fiesta has to offer!

    The goal of the mobile library project "Fiesta de Libros" is to expose children to age-appropriate bilingual literature at Plaza Fiesta (a Latino mall off of Buford Highway). The idea of the program is to create a library-type setting where the children will be encouraged to browse the book selection, sit down and read, take a book home or exchange one of their own books for a new book. Fiesta de Libros will be set up every Saturday from 1pm to 5pm at Plaza Fiesta.

    If you are interested in supporting this project, there are three ways in which you can help:

    1) Donate books - Bring books for children up to the age of 12 written in Spanish, English or both languages.

    2) Sign up to be a Saturday volunteer - You, your family, friends, or organization can sign up for one of the Saturday shifts to staff the library. The shifts will be from 12:30pm to 3:00pm and 3:00pm to 5:30pm.

    3) Join a committee - Join one of the five committees to help administer the program.

    Please contact Laura Murvartian at Laura_Murvartian@Bellsouth.net or 770-841-9672 for further information or to sign up as a volunteer.

    My tribe: we set up libraries and "smuggle" books. Onward!
    zirconium: photo of bell tower seen on a walk to the Acropolis (athens bell tower)
    Delegate badge and ribbon

    Spirit of Compassion
    Isn't it amazing
    how we crave to know an outcome
    before its time
    even as we accept
    that we cannot know
    how anything will go?...

    sanctuary, Weatherly Heights Baptist Church

    Let there be light,
    Let there be understanding,
    Let all the nations gather,
    Let them be face to face...

    Let there be light,
    open our hearts to wonder,
    perish the way of terror,
    hallow the world God made.

      - Frances W. Davis

    Hymn geek note: "Let There Be Light" was first published in 1968; the author was a Canadian teacher. It has appeared in Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, UCC, Unitarian Universalist hymnals. (Source re other denominations: Routley and Cutts, An English-Speaking Hymnal Guide [Chicago: GIA Publications, 2005].)


    zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)

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