Monday, June 25, 2007

Ordinary cruelties

Yesterday I had the unexpected job of telling a friend's sibling that their mother had died. My friend is caught in the middle of her family's warring factions; one side didn't want to tell the other that their mother had died. This to me was a few steps beyond the pale of ordinary cruelties; it is positively Shakespearean in the depths of its painful hostility. Well, good thing we all get along, I remarked to my daughter. Then she reminded me about the family member we don't speak to. Let him without sin cast the first stone.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The hawk and the vulture: a correction

Last week on vacation I learned a lot. I learned that Arkansas is beautiful. In spots, anyway. I learned the difference between a great spangled fritillary and Diana fritillary butterfly. I learned the correct pronunciation of fritillary. And I learned the difference between a turkey vulture and a hawk. (All those big ole birds look alike on the wing to the untutored eye.) We saw a hawk come careering by us and watched it land in a tree. It was close enough for us to see that predatory head and beak shape. It looked at me. Its head swiveled as I walked. Good thing I was bigger than it, since it was dinner time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Who knew

that the Garden of Eden is in Arkansas? I can see a hawk -- two, actually -- in my back yard circling on the thermals atop the Petit Jean River valley. On top of Arkansas at Mt. Magazine State Park, I can see for miles across, and half a mile down, since the elevation is 2,700 feet. I don't believe I have ever seen this many butterflies in my life. The Diana fritillary is the state butterfly, but it looks a lot like the great spangled fritillary, at least when the novice butterfly watcher sees the orange and black mid-sized butterflies on the wing rather than feeding on, what else, butterfly weed. Or coreopsis. Or coneflowers. Butterflies in paradise. Or maybe it's the hot tub that clinches it. I haven't died and gone to heaven -- just Arkansas. We walked for miles.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Cloud of witnesses

Last week I went to a book show (Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit) and I remembered why I wrote a poem in 7th grade called Books Are Our Friends, for which I won, of course, a book, called Clare Goes to Holland. There's something reassuring and inviting about a large area filled with books. Experience or knowledge take on a certain orderliness when compressed into book form. As I grew and read and learned I knew for certain that books enlarged my experience. How strange that people don't read. What a loss for them. It's such a cheap vacation getaway. People in religion sometimes use the phrase "cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1), a lovely Pauline figure of speech that describes a sense of blessed company. Saint Dostoevsky, pray for us. Saint Tolstoy, pray for us.