August 20, 2013

Seven (Times Seven) Quick Takes

The sun was high (and high-producing) and I rested my eyes for a few minutes under it, reading a bit of the Peart travelogue. Sat a minute in the sublime chairs under the tree-line canopy. Then checked out the garden. The grapes are producing! They've turned purple and we tried a few and the flavor is astounding. I'm amazed at how they taste so much sweeter and “grapier” than store-bought grapes. Picked a grape-load of them today and plan on taking them into work tomorrow - wonder if co-worker Ben will confirm my only take on them, on their astounding flavor. Then too the peaches are bearing and I plucked and ate one of those. Surreal that you can eat something that good for free and with no toil. Fruits versus grains in Genesis:
 
Before the Fall:
"The Lord God planted an orchard in the east, in Eden; and there he placed the man he had formed..the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

After the Fall, no easy fruit pickings but instead hard-won grain:

"...and you shall eat the grain of the field."

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Our grandkids' daycare lady said the boys have been “clingy” today and yesterday, which she says is typical after a vacation since kids get used to all that personal attention.

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Oh the sun feels so faux-y up here in the northlands! And yet I cling, like Sam does to the daycare worker. I cling to its evanescent self, moving chair and Kindle out to the nether-regions of our yard where the 7pm sun still doth shine.

Today was the first day I felt wistful for the time on the deck at Hilton Head. The good thing: I didn't get bored on the trip. The bad thing: I didn't get bored on the trip. Boredom is perhaps a sign of having filled the tank, of having refreshed such that no more refreshment is needed. Which generally happens at Hilton Head. And I certainly never got to that point this time, ha. It seems I spent too little time on that meditative, monkish natural space just before the dunes.

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Co-worker Philip never eats cafeteria lunches because “something's got to give when you have five kids.” Too expensive even at $4 an entree, so he brings peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. It's funny how some in the workplace think the cafe is too déclassé, while here's Philip thinking the cafeteria is a five-star restaurant.

Philip noted that both his kids are debt-free are college which is pretty amazing except for the fact that at BYU if you're Mormon you get your tuition paid for by the church. So there's that. Rich church. Think what Jesus could've done with that kind of cash (I say tongue-in-cheek).

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  Catechism lesson with a quote from Newman:

The sense of the sacred is part of the virtue of religion:
Are these feelings of fear and awe Christian feelings or not?… I say this, then, which I think no one can reasonably dispute. They are the class of feelings we should have—yes, have to an intense degree—if we literally had the sight of Almighty God; therefore they are the class of feelings which we shall have, if we realize His presence. In proportion as we believe that He is present, we shall have them; and not to have them, is not to realize, not to believe that He is present.
Also liked the generous assertion that “The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession.”

Read for the first time about the man St. Maximilian Kolbe saved, a guy who managed to live for four years in Auschwitz and then another concentration camp. It would really not be providential if St. Maximilian died in his place only to have this guy die a few weeks later. But he lived till 1995 and reunited with his wife after the war though, unfortunately, his sons were killed in the war.

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Lino Rulli mentioned the last two nights he's gotten very little sleep. Woke up at 3 or 4am both nights and couldn't get back to sleep – my old problem. He said he started saying mindless Hail Marys in order to get to sleep and felt very guilty the next morning, since it was using prayer as a sleep-aid, like Sominex. I guess so, but I think God wants to help us. I mean you shouldn't use prayer as a means to an end I guess but at the same time it seems almost as if God would say “it's okay” simply out of love for us. Interesting.


Nice thought from a Catholic radio show on the reading of Revelation chapter 12: “The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.” A teacher at Franciscan U. suggested this desert might be the desert of our human hearts and how enthralling that simple suggestion of God's and Mary's largesse towards the spiritually arid. 

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Got sidetracked while reading a book on Pope Francis about the story of Argentina's dramatic economic fall. It's sort of like Detroit, only it happened to a nation five times the size of France. One hundred years ago Argentina was among the richest of countries and now 40% are below the poverty line. A riches-to-rags story, rare in developed countries, so rare that the author of one book has difficulty in what to call it. He settled on 'impoverishment'. You tend to think that once a nation gets developed it stays so.  I requested a couple via the library, one with the title, “Argentina: What Went Wrong”. 

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Pope Francis urges us to see the creative force behind work:

“The good thing about work, going back to what I was saying before, is that one sees the result and feels “divine,” like God, able to create. In a certain sense, one feels the way a man and a woman do when they are holding their firstborn in their arms.”
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Our cafe now allows local restaurants to cater food in on Fridays. I snapped up a delicious  Mediterranean sampler today with chicken shwarma and rice and pita and a whole heaping of delicious hummus. Googled and found out they come from Israel, but I guess to advertise as such would turn off too many of the liberal Palestinian-lovers.

Ten years ago or more I was much less likely to want to try foreign foods. Chinese was a huge step, taken only by the prompting of  a co-worker since there was a Chinese restaurant at the food court across the street. He said I'd like something strangely called “wor sui gai” and don't you know I did. Later I discovered General TSO chicken as well.

Took me until 2000-ish till my next food adventure, Indian food via Aaron and Julie (which I grew to love it as well). And now, wow, Middle-Eastern food. Wonders never cease. I, who wrote a paean to the McDonald's quarter-pounder sandwich at university (received my lowest grade ever for a composition, a C-, but then I was writing for a prof who had sushi catered in because he was so enamored by the foreign, and so I was swimming upstream on that one). I, who took “meat and potatoes man” as a phrase of praise.

The same evolution happened with beer. I was plenty content with Busch Lite until the magical discovery of Guinness sometime around the mid-90s. My first was a “black and tan” - or “Guinness on training wheels” as a co-worker called it. How daring it felt to drink black beer, ha! Eventually as my palate developed I discovered a heretofore unexplored world of craft beer treasures. I couldn't believe the variety of taste – and intensity of taste – that a simple product like beer could provide, a beverage that I thought was more or less uniform.

I started drinking coffee for wakefulness purposes at work in the late '80s. Purely for utilitarian reasons. But something happened on the way to utilitarianism: I found out there were coffees beyond the instant coffee machine at the workplace where you put a quarter in and a Dixie cup fell down and filled with brownish water. I discovered the deep, richer taste of Starbucks and now have opted for a less bold flavor when I found my “dream coffee”, Nantucket's Blend made by Green Mountain.

And chocolate.. Did anything other than milk chocolate ever exist prior to 2000 for me? And yet - wow - once I acquired a taste for dark chocolate (I'm at 70% cocoa, finding the 80%'s a bit too much) well, it's just a whole new ballgame.

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Much moved by a Dispatch article Sunday on a priest, Fr. H., who met and gave the last sacraments to a death row inmate just before his execution. Fr. H. asked him to take care of his aching shoulder as a sign that all was well with the prisoner after his death:
[The priest] didn’t witness the execution but waited at the prison while it was carried out. About 10:45 a.m., Hummer noticed that his shoulder had stopped hurting.
“The ones who had been witnesses said the time of death was 10:42,” he said. “I just smiled and realized what had happened.”
Hummer, 66, said he had built an “incredible spiritual bond” with the 49-year-old Wiles. The experience, he said, was “probably the most grace-filled” of his long life in the priesthood and something he hadn’t expected.

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 Very fall-ish morning, but maybe part of it is I'm ever more keenly aware of seasonal shifts. I like noting the subtle boundaries between seasons, the nuances, even though the weather bounces around so much, with one day feeling like two months' prior and the next two months' ahead. They say in Alaska winter comes in like a lion, very definitively. One day it's summer and the next winter, with a blanket of snow covering the ground. And it's not calendar-dependent; winter may start there in late September or early November.

When I was a kid it was almost like there were two seasons: winter and summer, cold or warm. But now, much like my beer palate has gotten a bit more sensitive, my “weather palate” has become sophisticated as well. The first feeling of fall or summer will vary with the year and it's sort of interesting to me to chart those days.

Foggy morning and a bit cloudy, accompanied by the hum of insects and tweets of birds. It does feel like a back-to-school morning, those days of yore when the mornings were cool and all the indicators said that summer was o'er.

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My latest book obsession is indulging in the freebies from Project Gutenberg. Found an app that categorizes them and thus makes an ocean a bit more manageable. Something like 40,000 books are available, all from the public domain (prior to 1920). There are some good ones even if the style is different (more verbose). There are lots of books on book-collecting, as well as Literary New York (about just what the title indicates). Also William Gladstone, prime minister of England back in the 19th century, on how to arrange your books. Needless to say he didn't anticipate the Kindle, or that someday an American would read his words via it.

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Ah, the actor Richard Burton is like me in more ways than a fondness for alcohol. He wanted to be buried not underground given his penchant for light. Quote:

“She [Isabel] was desperately anxious to accede to the [burial] wishes Richard had expressed during their walk a few months earlier; 'he hated darkness so much that he would never have the blind down lest he might lose a glimpse of light from twilight to dawn.'”

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