"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words. " ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pre - Election Reflection


I was just finishing up another post this morning, all ready for today's Fortnightly, when a note from my brother popped up: "I'm preaching on Sunday. Most of these words come from Christianity Today, Frederick Buechner, David Kuo, and Max Lucado, all of whom I will cite. Tell me what you think."

Within the first couple of paragraphs, I knew that this was one of the most insightful sermons I'd read or heard in awhile and that my brother had conveniently and coincidentally created a timely guest blog for me -- and made an excellent connection to a soul - searching article that we had been discussing only an hour earlier. Hopefully I can return the favor by widening Bruce's audience to include my readers in addition to his congregation.

Reposted with gratitude to The Rev. Bruce L. Carriker,
and his sources, Frederick Buechner, David Kuo,
Max Lucado, and Christianity Today:

We are really ready for this presidential election to be over. We’re ready for an end to the rancor and tackiness. Voters on both sides feel frustrated, even embarrassed by it all. There is great angst about the result, by supporters of both major candidates. What if the other one wins? There is a visceral fear, encouraged by the media on both sides, that if the wrong candidate wins, it means the end of the United States as we know it. And, it's that fear I want to address. Hear the words of Frederick Buechner:
“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you.”
Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Don't be afraid. I am with you.

Christians on both sides seem to have trouble hearing that message right now. Our country is bitterly divided, and more than simply reflecting that division, the Church EXEMPLIFIES that division. What we are doing is nothing less than putting the gospel at stake. The gospel is of infinitely greater importance than any political campaign, and one good summary of the gospel is, “Jesus is Lord.” And the lordship of Jesus Christ places constraints on how we involve ourselves, or entangle ourselves, with earthly rulers.

The Democratic nominee has pursued unaccountable power through secrecy. She exemplifies the path to power rooted in a rigorous control of one’s image and a calculated disregard for norms that restrain less powerful actors. Such efforts to avoid accountability puts both the leader and the community in greater danger.

Because several of the Democratic candidate’s policy positions are so incompatible with certain Christian values, and because some in her party are so openly hostile to the expressions of the traditional Christian faith, there is plenty of critique, criticism, and concern over her possible election.
But, the Republican nominee raises equally valid concerns. In many ways he personifies the “earthly nature” Paul wrote of in Colossians: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry”. That he has been, his whole adult life, an idolater of this sort, and a singularly unrepentant one, should be clear to everyone.

Supporters of either major candidate have valid reasons for concern about the other candidate. But, we ought to be equally concerned about our own preferred candidate as well. These are two extremely flawed candidates. No Christian should claim to be supporting either one based on an appeal to Christian values. Measured against Christian values, neither of them deserves our support.

That is not to say “Don't vote.” By all means, vote. It's your duty as a responsible citizen. And you can support or oppose either candidate, based on very real policy differences – differences that get lost when the candidates and their campaign representatives engage in the vile, disgusting horror show that this election has become. Say you support Hillary Clinton because you believe she's more experienced and more qualified. Say you support Donald Trump because you think he'll do better protecting us from terrorist attacks. But, don't say you support either one of them because of your Christian faith.

When we, as Christians, ally ourselves with politicians, in an attempt to manipulate the levers of power in favor of our cause we support and engage in a form of idolatry...placing our faith in earthly kings and princes, at the expense of our dependence on God. When we engage in the same bitterness and vitriol that pervades political discussion today, in support of a human leader; we give our neighbors cause to doubt that we really believe Jesus is Lord. They see us as self-interested, self-protective hypocrites who will ally ourselves with anyone – even those who violate things we consider sacred – if we believe they may help us advance our agenda.

For too long we've held this hope that the right person doing the right things would make America better; eliminate poverty, wipe out crime, and expand opportunity to all our citizens. But, it hasn't happened. Our hopes have been misplaced and unreasonable; the bar set to high; and we've squandered our energy and our treasure in the deal.

Our political leaders, regardless of party, are just that – political. No matter their faith or lack thereof, they are just plain old people doing a plain old job. They can't save America. Maybe they can change things at the margin, here and there. But, ultimately, the job of fixing America is our job..and by “our” I mean both the American people and the church in America. And our faith must be placed where it belongs...not in politicians, but in God.

This year’s presidential election presents Christian voters with an especially difficult choice...AND IT'S NOT THE CHOICE OF VOTING FOR ONE CANDIDATE OR ANOTHER. It's a choice about how we are going to behave when this election is over.

As Christians, we are instructed to pray for our rulers, even those who directly oppose our welfare. If the Apostle Paul prayed for a Roman emperor who used Christians as human torches, can we not pray for our next president, whoever that may be?

I have a prediction. I know exactly what November 9 is going to bring. No matter who wins, God will still be God; and Christians will have a choice: We can wring our hands in despair at the result. We can continue the character assassination and politics of personal destruction. Or, we can behave like Christians.

When you get home today, circle November 9 on your calendar and, in very large letters, write these words: “God is still God and I will pray for our new President.”

“Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid. I am with you.”



Or, as Dame Julian of Norwich expressed it
so many centuries ago (1342 - 1462):

"All shall be well
And all shall be well
And all manner of things shall be well."

But, as I always say: we have to do our share to make it so.

"What is so rare as a weekend in October?"

Next Fortnightly Post
Friday October 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What a Wonderful World

"I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world"

Sung so beautifully by
Louis Armstrong ~ Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't mind happiness
not always being
so very much fun
if you don't mind a touch of hell
now and then
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don't sing
all the time

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't mind some people dying
all the time
or maybe only starving
some of the time
which isn't half bad
if it isn't you

Oh the world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don't much mind
a few dead minds
in the higher places
or a bomb or two
now and then
in your upturned faces
or such other improprieties
as our Name Brand society
is prey to
with its men of distinction
and its men of extinction
and its priests
and other patrolmen

and its various segregations
and congressional investigations
and other constipations
that our fool flesh
is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as
making the fun scene
and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
and singing low songs and having inspirations
and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking
and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics
in the middle of the summer
and just generally
'living it up'
but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling


Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Earlier in the year, my esteemed eldest brother Dave suggested the following roundtable discussion for facebook friends and family:
I would like to present you all with a thought game and ask that you consider playing along. Here we go!

Dave: Today, when most people watch cartoons and comedies from the 30's - 50's, they find all manner of things offensive, i.e. portrayal of black people, smoking, how women are viewed and treated and so on. What many forget is that when these films were made, they were the societal norm. No one was particularly horrified or disgusted by the issues I presented.

We of course know when the changes took place, and we really old codgers can even identify specific events or trends that heralded them.

Now, you are surrounded by films, cartoons, comedies, etc. that are entirely normal and acceptable to modern society. That is and always has been the norm.

Last step! Imagine you are now living in your eighth decade and have seen huge changes over your past fifty years. What things will your children, grand and great grand children find repulsive, or disgusting when viewed through the lens of their young perspective. In other words, what are we doing as a society today that will be a thing of shame in the distant future; a shame that you will have to personally "own" by virtue of having lived it?

I wonder if this is a corner of our being that we care to examine?

My cousin Nick got us started:
Nick: I think by then the pendulum will have swung the other way and my great grandchildren and grandchildren will look at the early 21st century with disbelief and humor that we were so overboard with political correctness and kowtowing to the very smallest minority at the expense of the overwhelming majority. I can't imagine what's left for anyone to be offended about.

Maybe some breakthrough in transportation or power will come and that generation will look in horror and disbelief at our use of fossil fuels (which I believe do pollute).

Maybe by then the gay marriage movement will break way to polygamy, and they'll be amazed that (on paper) most people were monogamous.

Hopefully war will be looked on as the absolute final, disgusting choice to solve problems

Definitely I think they'll be disgusted at the amount of our waste, both organic (uneaten food), and inorganic (packaging particularly).

I also think they will be disgusted / amazed at our preoccupation with sex and sexuality; both individual and others, as a person's sexuality becomes as relevant as eye color. By then, not only will people be more accepting of others' sexuality, but minority sexualities, if you will, won't be flaunted and shoved in others' faces.

Bear in mind I live in Thailand and this is how we live here already so I know it's not only possible but also beneficial to society as a whole.

And then my sister Peg:
Peg: Rap music lyrics and current song lyrics in general; hopefully: our reluctance to go back to an active space program; our need for chasing the almighty dollar over spending time with family; our rising health issues with a failure to address the money spent on developing medications which are only band-aids on the problem and not solutions.

And niece - in - law Chantel:
Chantel: I think that we will have rationed food and water and such in the future. I think that the wastefulness of this era will be found obscene in the future.

Next to take the ball and run with it was my
inspiring millennial son Ben McCartney,
featured here in 1991, shortly before his first birthday,
trying to figure out how to make the world a better place!

Ben: This is a fun thought experiment. Thanks for posing it!

I'm going to lump my ideas in to one of two categories. The first are those issues which I think are going to continue to be issues for a long, long time, but will probably look and feel slightly different in 60 years. The second group is things which are going to, I’d guess, have some really stark turning point that makes them looks incredibly different.

Long time issues: gun control, race relations, privacy, and religion.

Gun control. The current policy is obviously broken. The murder rate in the US is just so much higher than literally everywhere else moderately developed that something has to give. But, as much as I’d like it, there’s not going to be a dramatic, overnight change in gun regulations in the US. I can see laws being stricter 80 years from now, maybe gun licenses will be harder to get, maybe people with convictions of violent crime won’t legally be able to buy guns. I can also imagine personal defense technology developing enough over the next century that guns in their current forms will pose less of a threat. Hopefully the 2nd amendment goes the way of legalized slavery and has its federal approval tag removed. But I’m not counting on the founders' f--k-up getting fixed any time soon.

Race relations. Clearly the biggest issue in the United States. Has been since its inception and will be for at least a while longer. The problems run so deep that I’m not even sure what change would look like. Hopefully it’s better in the future than it is now, and I imagine it will be. But change will be slow. Will people 80 years from now look back on 2016 America as a place where the problems between blacks and whites were amazingly bad? Yes, I’m sure they will, as we do now. But I’ve no idea how to go about fixing them in an overnight sort of way.

Privacy. The second biggest issue in the United States. What is the government allowed to know about us? What are they not? When can they search us? When can’t they? Can they see our internet search histories? What about our location at a given time? There will be a tug of war between personal liberty and security. No idea who’s going to have pulled farther over the next 80 years.

Religion. I’m surprised this is still a thing. I don’t really get it. But I’ve decided I’m just missing something. Too many people for too long have been so inspired by their religions that there must be something to it. I guess it’ll still be around in 80 years. But when it finally goes away, whenever that is, people are going to look back and roll their eyes.

Radically change: football, abortion, and driving.

NFL. This is going the way of gladiatorial fights. And it will happen quickly. Not exactly sure when, but the game in its current manifestation is short for this earth. “Wait, people wore what and hit each other how often and how hard? And half of them had dramatic brain injuries? And the majority rich, privileged owners traded and drafted these predominately desperately poor players to compete against each other?”

Abortion. Obviously a hugely divisive issue right now. But I think it will become a non-issue soon. Not because of any change in how readily or effectively people prescribe their moralities, but because of technology. Birth control is going to become so cheap, and so easy, that unintended pregnancy will go away. It really ought to be this way now; but, predominately conservative, obstructionism has kept birth control expensive. Technology will change, though, and birth control become less of a game-time decision (when people are notoriously poor decision makers) and less expensive.

Driving. “Wait, what? People drove these things themselves? But so many people have such bad coordination! How were they allowed to do this? 30,000 people died EVERY YEAR? What happened if people got drunk? What if people fell asleep? Wait, people agreed that they were so bad at this they all pooled money together to give to people who crashed into other things and other people and they DID IT ANYWAY?” Driverless cars are coming. And I can’t wait.

Vaccinations. The measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and polio. These diseases are devastating. But there’s tons of promising research into these things called vaccinations that make people who get them completely immune. We’re not quite there yet, but I think medical progress will be sufficient to completely eradicate these things and save more than a million lives per year soon.

And I brought up the rear:
Sorry to chime in late; I held back since I didn't think my answers would be a big hit. But everyone else's responses are so inspiring, so I'm going to at least try:

1. Gender Inequity -- is it ever going away? I've been waiting 40 years, and women older than I have been waiting even longer. As radical feminist writer Andrea Dworkin said when asked how she would like to be remembered: "In a museum, when male supremacy is dead. I'd like my work to be an anthropological artifact from an extinct, primitive society." How long is this going to take?

2. War -- is it ever going away? Again, please allow me to quote an expert; this time Ulysses S. Grant, who has been waiting well over a hundred years -- let alone 40 -- for his hoped for result: "Though I have been trained as a soldier, and participated in many battles, there never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword. I look forward to an epoch when a court, recognized by all nations, will settle international differences." How long is this going to take?

3. Smoking -- is it ever going away? As Dave points out, it is no longer portrayed in children's cartoons; and it was legally eliminated from television advertising in 1971 -- 45 years ago -- and gradually disappeared from most television programming soon after -- but certainly not from movies, where it still retains its falsely glamorized status, and certainly not from real life, despite very well known and highly visible health hazards. 40 years ago, I incorrectly assumed, that anyone older than I who was still smoking would surely quit immediately, and that anyone younger than I would never start. But time has proven me wrong. How long is this going to take?

I'll be in my 8th decade in a mere 12 years and curious to see if much changes between now and then. Maybe it will take another 40 years beyond that, or another 80. Well, there's my three cents worth.

In closing (well, until next time) many thanks --

1. to Nick, who wrote a lengthy response to all of my concerns. I've been meaning to respond properly for months now and promise that I will do so very soon . . . like in time for my next blog post!


2. to Dave, who kindly relinquished all copyrights: "Anything I write on Facebook is in the public domain. So, no, I don't mind what you do with them. Question. comment, add content? By all means go ahead." [I hope that includes writing a Blog Post!]

I trust that everyone else quoted above concurs! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hopes for the future of our wonderful world!

This Cracker / Carriker Barrel Discussion to be continued . . .

Next Fortnightly Post
Friday October 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ever the Best of Friends

Or, A Little Fortnightly in the Park With George -- and Celine!
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884 - 86)
Georges Seurat, French Post-Impressionist Painter (1859 – 91)
@ Art Institute of Chicago
Echoing Seurat's masterpiece is this related painting, which Gerry and I were lucky enough to see while we were living in Philadelphia and able to attend some Barnes exhibits:
Les Poseuses (The Models) (1888)
Seurat's Companion Painting
@ Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

In connection with last fortnightly's post on the birthday of my kindred spirit Celine Carrigan (August 29, 1942 - April 24, 1997), here are a few stories of her endearing and enduring friendship, and some fun times that we shared while in grad school and beyond. We did our best to observe all feasts and seasons and acknowledge all holidays and festivals, through the mail if not in person. The last Valentine Celine sent, in February 1997 when she knew she was very ill, was printed with the simple verse:
Heaven knows each heart, each name
Heaven sees us as the same

and Celine had added in her own elegant handwriting:

Whether we're
happy or sad
sick or well
near or far.
One happy time we loved to recall was the day we rode the South Shore Line from South Bend to Chicago to visit the Art Institute, stand before Seurat's magnificent depiction of A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte (scroll up), and then see the Sondheim musical that was all the rage at the time, Sunday in the Park with George:

". . . staring at the water
As you're posing for a picture

After sleeping on the ferry
After getting up at seven
To come over to an island
In the middle of a river
Half an hour from the city
On a Sunday
On a Sunday in the park with...
George . . .

People strolling through the trees
Of a small suburban park

On an island in the river
On an ordinary Sunday

~ Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

We weren't using the greatest camera in those days,
but I treasure this fuzzy photographic keepsake of the day:

~ Kitti & Celine ~ Labor Day Weekend 1987 ~

The following semester, Spring 1988, Celine completed her Ph.D. and returned to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. I was two years behind Celine, and didn't finish until August 1990. As scheduling conflicts would have it, we were unable to attend each other's ceremonies, despite having been through so much together. Instead, we celebrated over the phone and through the mail. Celine sent me two beautiful cloisonne bracelets from the Smithsonian and told me that they represented all the hoops that we had jumped through. You can see that -- like Emily Dickinson (whom she greatly admired) -- Celine was a master of the dash:
Dearest Kitti -

Am wanting today to have something very special to mark your graduation day, something which reminds me of the hoops one must jump through for the degree. I would lavish gifts on you, but most of all -- dear friend -- I send armloads of love. How I wish I could be there for you and with you! When I think of all this degree entails -- you deserve Congratulations Unending!

I'll be calling soon, and I look forward to seeing you, Gerry, and Ben whenever you come this way.

Peace, blessings, and always love, Celine

P.S. My Congratulations with a reminder that -- there are no more hoops -- only love that -- in the end -- lasts. Yours -- ever gratefully -- Celine
I had only rented, not purchased, my robe and doctoral tam o' shanter for the ceremony. Even so, I was allowed to keep the souvenir tassel at the end of day. But, alas, in all the excitement of traipsing around campus, picking things up and turning things in, I surrendered my tassel quite by accident and did not even think of it until late that night after a long drive home, as Gerry and I had already relocated from Notre Dame to Purdue -- and were the new parents of two - month - old Baby Benedict.

I called Celine the next day to share all the graduation details, including my disappointment about the forgotten tassel. We talked about the possibility of contacting someone in some office at Notre Dame and figuring out how to order a replacement, coming to the conclusion that, in time, this small crisis would sort itself out; though with tiny Ben to take care of, it might take me awhile to work through the red tape.

Celine, however, did not miss a beat. Although she didn't mention it to me on the phone that day, she had come up with a plan, even as we were speaking. She too cherished her graduation tassel but generously, and without dropping the slightest hint to me, slipped it in the mail the next day so that I would not have to be without. Imagine my surprise a few days later, finding a package from Celine in my mailbox, and inside such an unexpected and treasured memento!

That's just the kind of thing you do when you're "ever the best of friends" (our favorite phrase from Great Expectations) -- and when you are as kind - hearted as Celine. Somehow, in the end, we procured the duplicate, so we each ended up with our coveted tassels (for those who collect such things). In the grander scheme of an entire degree program, the tassel was only a small thing, yet the selflessness of Celine's gesture was huge. Reminiscing in 1993, she wrote to me:
Can you believe that it is 10 years since I began the Ph.D. at N.D.? How grateful I remain for you and your being there in those "good old days."
In Our Academic Regalia
Celine & Her Parents ~ Spring 1988 / Kitti ~ Summer 1990

October 1990
Taking Baby Benedict to visit Sister Celine
Benedictine College, Atchison, Kansas

The following year, we had another adventure at the Chicago Art Institute. We had seen each other every year or so in various locals since our departure from Notre Dame, but it had been four years since our South Shore Ride to Chicago to see Sunday in the Park, and we determined to meet once again in our favorite city.

This time, I was riding the train up from West Lafayette just for the day, and Celine was flying in from Kansas City with some colleagues to attend the M/MLA, held in Chicago in November 1991. Before her meetings began, we were going to enjoy the art museum. I arrived first and browsed the gift shop for awhile, then took a seat on a bench in the lobby. As I was opening my book to read, a receptionist approached and asked -- was I Kitti Carriker, waiting for Celine Carrigan? Remember, these were the days before cell phones or texting, but from a payphone at the airport, Celine had called the museum and asked them to convey a message, to someone of my description, that her plane was delayed. As often happens in these situations, one delay led to another; but Celine kept phoning in updates, all of which were delivered to me by the kindly folks at the front desk.

Not to worry. I knew Celine was safe and on her way. I had plenty of reading to do -- and some Christmas shopping:

At last Celine arrived, somewhat frazzled by a trip that should have been much simpler than it turned out, but ever her faithful and optimistic self. The ticket takers embraced us and said they were waiving our Art Institute admission that day, as a reward for being such loyal friends and so determined to enjoy our day together at the museum, despite gloomy weather and traffic jams. Whatever hours of quantity time we may have lost that morning, we made up for in quality time that afternoon, revisiting the Seurat, as well as Caillebotte, Cassatt, Chagall, Hopper, and O'Keeffe. Another unforgettable day in legendary Chicago.

After a cup of tea together, I scurried to catch my return train, and Celine hailed a cab to her conference hotel. Ever the best of friends.

1988 ~ "Ever the best of friends; ain't us, Pip?" ~ 1995

More Pics

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday September 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Monday, August 29, 2016

All Roots and Reasons

Celine ~ Summer 1994
Visiting Dove Cottage, where the poet William Wordsworth
and his sister Dorothy lived a life of "Plain living and high thinking . . . "
from December 1799 to May 1808
Grasmere, Lake District, England

Celine ~ Summer 1994
Visiting a house once lived in by Elizabeth Gaskell,
one of the major subjects of Celine's research.
Knutsford, Cheshire, England

I am posting a day late this time, on the 29th instead of the 28th in honor of my dear friend Celine Carrigan, born this day 74 years ago. Anyone who knew her, and even some who did not have the chance, can scarcely believe that the world has been turning for 19 years without her gentle, loving touch. How we miss her and always will!

Celine Carrigan, O.S.B.
August 29, 1942 - April 24, 1997
"A Room of One's Own," where Celine wrote her dissertation:
"Versions of the Governess: Narrative Patterns in
Ellen Weeton, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Charlotte Bronte."

Celine was in the PhD program with me at the University of Notre Dame (1984 - 1988). Her area of specialization was Charlotte Bronte & Elizabeth Gaskill. When I knew her, she had already been a Benedictine nun, a teacher, and a death - row advocate for many years. She was at Notre Dame on sabbatical from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where she returned upon the completion of her doctorate in 1988 and taught for 9 more years until her untimely death from ovarian cancer in April 1997. As I wrote to Celine's sweet great niece not long ago, Celine was an angel upon this earth! And not just because she was a nun -- she would have been an angel no matter what she did. When she died, our mutual friend Marv wrote: "So sorry to hear about Celine. She was such a gentle soul, and good person. There is clearly no relation between life span and beauty, tenderness, kindness, bravery, intelligence or wit."

Celine's office in the library at Notre Dame.
I like it that of all the book titles,
the one word you can clearly see is "SOUL."

The perfect story for a blog of literary coincidence is the delightful request I received from a girl I had never met; yet, through Celine, we were connected. It seems that there are always so many surprising connections just waiting to be made, so many voices nudging us "to nurture the souls of things," as I learned last year when the following note appeared in my inbox:
Hi, Kitti! My name is Mads Carrigan (as you can see), and I'm Sister Celine's great-niece. Her brother, Pat, is my grandpa. I found one of her poems online at one point, and can't find it. I looked up her name and came across your blog! She died when I was only a few months old, so I never got to know her, but I've been told that she was a wonderful person, and you seem to have thought so, too! I just wanted to thank you for writing about her at all, because I've always loved hearing about her.

Do you by any chance have her poem, "Spring"?


Dear Mads -- The particular poem you mention doesn't immediately come to mind, but I have saved every card and note that Celine ever sent me, and I will gladly start a little project of going through them all until I find anything at all similar to the one for which you are searching.

I would love to talk to you about Celine anytime! I wish you had known her! She was an angel on this earth! She often talked to me about all of her nieces and nephews and loved them all!

How thrilled I was to write back the following month with the good news that I had been able to track down what was undoubtedly the poem that Mads had come across when she googled Celine's name but then lost track of -- so easy to do and so very frustrating (as I well know from many a search and frantic re - search).

This beautiful poem was the re - discovery that Mads was hoping for and a new discovery for me. I was not acquainted with it from any writing that Celine had shared with me previously; yet suddenly, here was her voice ringing back over the years, reminding me of her attention to every sensory detail, her astute perception, her measured pace, her love of the world -- just as it is, combined with her hope for making it even better.

Thank you Celine for remaining near and for leaving behind this poem for us to find. And thank you Mads for letting me know that "Spring" was out there for the finding -- to see, to hear, to taste, to smell, to touch!

I want to live this spring
not hurry it away, or
neglect its nearness.

I want to look long at
shoots and leaves--
at all roots and reasons
for be-ing once again.

I want to hear sparrows sing,
soft rains fall, and voices
that nudge me to nurture the
souls of things

I want to taste berries,
new flavors of ice cream
and backyard cooking, and
savor long the caring of
those who came and call.

I want to smell roses,
lilacs and lilies, early morning air,
good coffee, and cake rich with
orange rind and cherries and
its giver’s goodness.

I want to touch water and wood,
other’s hands--everything alive,
so steeped in summer sunshine
and the glory of rebirth.

I want to feel pretty, at peace
with memories and surprises.
I want to pray and linger
over time in the open spaces
of my heart.

I want to hope,
and believe,
and love.
I want to live this spring.
[emphasis added above]

~ Celine Carrigan, O.S.B.
Kitti & Celine ~ Ever the Best of Friends ~ Celine & Kitti
Fall 1987 ~ Notre Dame ~ South Bend, Indiana

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday September 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Because It Is My Heart

Lionheart Lily

London Heart Lily

Lilies as hearts (tulips as lungs). Since last month's Fortnightly post, featuring my professor's advice from long ago -- "listen to your heart, figuratively and literally" -- I've been seeing hearts and hearing heartbeats at every turn. Sure enough, I saw them in the garden over the weekend and heard them a few days ago when I picked up Charley Henley's new book of short stories, The Deep Code.

So many codes structure our existence: computer codes, nuclear codes, Hammurabi's Code, the Fibonacci Sequence, the human genome, our cardiovascular system, and so on and so forth. Naturally, one of the most persistent of all these "deep codes" is the human heartbeat," as in:
"Heart throb, heart throb, wonder past knowing,
Where did you come from, where are you going?
Each of Henley's stories is governed by at least one deep code or another. In connection with my recently acquired understanding of rubato and rubatosis, here are a few passages that struck my heart:

1. In "The Golden Horde of Mississippi," Grandma Lucy and Jessica Sue are conflicted over codes of ladylike behavior and funeral etiquette. Grasping her cousin Bobby's cremation urn, Jessica longs to disperse his ashes "back into the system. . . . she wondered about the countless generations bound up in the meat of her own palm. If you sit quiet enough you can hear the flux of your own nervous system, that great collision of billions upon billions of tiny stones" (43).

2. In "Satellite Mother," the teen-aged son carefully follows his father's instructions for aiming a rifle: "So I did what Pop taught me. I closed my eyes. I fell into the rhythm of my heart and lungs. I breathed normal. I breathed easy. Your muscles need the oxygen, and your heart needs to calm down, I heard Pop say. Your heart needs quiet. You need peace to make this shot. . . . I slipped down into the rhythm between the spasms of my heart. I took hold of the jerking muscle in my chest, and I smoothed it out. I let it all go. I breathed deep and when I opened my eyes, my heart was beating at a perfect sixty beats per - minute" (64).

3. In "Cerrito Blanco," young Tessa runs from certain trouble into the calm "cool sanctuary" of [an old] church. . . . Her heartbeat thundered in her chest. It echoed through the silence, as if the whole world throbbed with it." Meanwhile, her father Leonard recalls with despair the dissolution of his marriage to Tessa's mother, Darcy: "It was like his heart had gotten clapped in the door somewhere, and it was still there, stuck and beating and distant, a heart gone to him now and lost forever" (158, 163).

Equally wrenching is the "feeling like cold steel that crept up his guts when he thought about" Darcy's domineering mother. In the story "Pleco Fez," another fractured character shares Leonard's visceral anxiety: "It gave me this cold feeling . . . Like a lump of wet metal moving back and forth in my guts" (153, 118). Both of these passages bring to mind the aching innards described in my previous post, "Longly, Longingly."

But, getting back to hearts, all of the above characters, in their imprecise cosmic pursuits, embody the words written by Stephen Crane and borrowed by Joyce Carol Oates (and me):
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter — bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”
[emphasis added]
Or how about the determined villagers in Lisel Mueller's poem, "Moon Fishing," who are advised to
". . . cut out your hearts and bait your hooks
with those dark animals;
what matter you lose your hearts to reel in your dream?

And they fished with their tight, hot hearts . . .
Reading Charley Henley's book, I can't help wishing that each story would last just a little (or a lot!) longer. You too will be drawn into the narratives of these folks, hunkering over their hearts, listening intently to the universe, and living by the deep code.


At the heart of our garden ~ thanks to Gerry!

Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday August 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Thursday, July 28, 2016



Rubato: Rhythmic flexibility within a phrase or measure of music; the temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace.

Rubatosis: The unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat.

A Great Yogi

In my travels I spent time with a great yogi.
Once he said to me:

“Become so still you hear the blood flowing
through your veins.”

One night as I sat in quiet,
I seemed on the verge of entering a world inside so vast
I know it is the source of
all of us.

Mirabai (1498 - 1550*)
16th - Century Indian Mystic

Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
*Differing dates
suggested by various editors.

These wise words from the poet - princess - saint Mira / Meera brought to my mind some excellent advice that I was given years ago by another wise woman, my undergraduate major professor Connie Holt Jones. I believe it must have been as we were discussing Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence that she advised us to listen to our hearts:
"He came to consciousness again, hearing an immense knocking outside. What could be happening, what was it, the great hammer-stroke resounding through the house? He did not know. And then it came to him that it was his own heart beating. But that seemed impossible, the noise was outside. No, it was inside himself, it was his own heart. And the beating was painful, so strained, surcharged." (from Women in Love, Chapter 20)
If it seems that time is rushing by too quickly, Connie said, find your heartbeat and it will slow you down. On the other hand, if time is dragging unbearably slowly, put your hand over your heart until you find the beat and you'll discover that, in fact, you are moving right along. Your heart will always provide a constant center in the midst of panic or gloom, over - excitement or tedium.

Countless times over the years, thanks to dear Professor Holt Jones, I have exercised this small discipline, which I have only recently learned is called "rubatosis: the unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat." Or to borrow from the world of music, rubato. In life as in music, flexibility will allow "quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace."

"Only from the heart can you touch the sky."
Rumi (1207 - 1273)
Persian Spiritual Sage

More from Rumi

Summer Moons: June (above) and July

Summer Tunes:
1965: "Baby, baby, can't you hear my heart beat?"
1973: "When you were young and your heart was an open book . . ."

Summer Runes:
Thanks to Mimi
& Mindyana: Perfect Equanimity

Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday August 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading