Posted by: Peadar Ban | September 26, 2014

Today, September 26, 2014

Autumn has put his bags down on the drive out front, and paying off the limo driver, he’s turned and waved to me at the window, all bright smiles and cheer.  What a fellow he is.  He has arrived, come back at last.  Thank God he’s back.  I do love his brother Summer, himself just gone, but, good Lord, he grows tiresome some seasons; particularly strength sappingly so this year when he just wouldn’t stop with his warm embraces, soft hearted fellow that he is.  I grew to miss his sweet sister Spring as I hadn’t for a couple of years, and yearned for at least a month for him to get up, stretch, and tell me, “I think I’ll take a little trip.”

Those were the thoughts I found inside me as I put my feet on the floor just a few hours ago.  It was six-thirty and the sun had been at its work for at least a little while; rising now much further south to trace a shallower curve across the sky than its long June voyages into the north; to make a cooler ever more swift journey into evening.  I made myself a cup of tea, or it made itself for me.  And while it brewed on the counter beside the sink I went outside in the back yard to test the day and count the many reasons why it was as good as it seemed to me through the window at the kitchen sink while the kettle came to a boil.

There were a few slim clouds above, gold ribbons , saffron veils hung between the rows of trees; wrapped around the maples’ shoulders, the raised arms of the pines.  And where the sun had risen finally between two large oaks in my neighbor’s yard in June, clear sky, milky blue, the color of Mary’s mantle in almost every painting I’ve ever seen, promised me peace today.

Ten huge blossoms on the nearest Moon Flower greeted every one above with their chorus of white beauty, their sweet honey flavored perfume bathing the whole yard.  No bees yet at work over there among them I wandered over and bent to take a little taste of heaven and got my slippers and my feet dew drenched in the journey.

Back inside, the tea was ready and warm.  I sat, then, where I usually sit and began to read, to think, to pray in pure thanks for the gift of the day.

“I arise today…”

Here is  poem I wrote a long time ago after I had been atop the Hill of Slane where the fellow who wrote those word had stood early one morning long ago:

ATOP THE HILL OF SLANE

If I remember it correctly
The first day of February
Was New Year’s day, Beltane.
In another place far from here
The day once had that name.
It had something to do with kings
And hills of course, and flame.

I was in that country not long ago
At year’s other end from Beltane
Near Tara’s Hill, atop the Hill of Slane.
A tree was there, a ruin, a pasture
Spread with grass, wet manure
And old crumbled stones, crushed ruins bones.

This is what I saw
And this is what I saw.
The sky above, the earth below
And waiting all around
The light of day against the night.
The light of Christ in Patrick’s hand
Tara and the king far off, so,
Beltane a memory, wish, shadow,
The four points, once far, so near.
The light of Christ with Patrick dear.

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02-12-04


One Minute Meditations

Eternity
I advise you not to look for praise, even when you deserve it. It is better to pass unnoticed, and to let the most beautiful and noble aspects of our actions, of our lives, remain hidden. What a great thing it is to become little! Deo omnis gloria! –All the glory to God.

– St. Josemaria Escriva
Posted by: Peadar Ban | September 16, 2014

BACKYARD BESTIARY IV

Higher Still and Bold the Wren

“Why should I not be,” says the Wren, “as bold
As bright day’s bold.  The sun’s above the world
Alive with light, white clouds sail blue sky curled,
Meadow’s sheen shatters, tall trees’ leaves flash gold.

Let the black crow scold all below his eye,
His rough call’s raid so end the peace of day.
Let eagles soar cold space where stars held sway
And chill faint hearts with piercing cry.

Though lightnings flash as storms sweep, thunders crack
the sky apart and rain’s lashings turn all
Streets to angry stream in torrent’s fall
At end my bright and single song’s hurled back.

My calling’s singing.  I say song am I.
Though slight, higher still will my notes fly.”

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9/16/2014

Posted by: Peadar Ban | September 15, 2014

Italy: A Vacation Which Became a Pilgrimage (Part Four)

In Which We Close the Door Behind Us

I will not deceive you and say that I stepped out bravely down my not-so-evenly-any-longer-bricked-walk.  There were a lot of imponderables, free radicals, roaming around in my head.  This was to be the longest time I had spent away from home since I was a mere lad sailing before the stack around the world.  Then I was 18.  Now I am 72 and on my best days NFFD.

We were on our way to a place where no one I knew was waiting with open arms to welcome us; not as in Ireland where I have often felt more at home than the place I called home, or some of the other places I’ve visited down the years since I first put my foot over the rail onto a ship when I was young and had neither fear, nor the sense to have it.  Now, I had sense, or was supposed to have it.  What, I wondered as we got into our neighbor’s car for the short ride to the bus which would take us to Boston’s Logan Airport, what was I, what were we getting into?  We would be strangers in a strange land.  That song kept going through my head, “Two Lost Souls”.  Small comfort that “we got each other” I mused in the back seat while Mariellen and our friend Miriam chatted amiably and excitedly about the adventures, the lovely times ahead; all of that history, culture, good food, great weather; and I thought about being stranded thousands of miles from home, or surrounded in dark streets by cut throats, or poisoned by bad food, bad water, bad attitudes.

Well, before I knew it, really, we were on the bus, and incredibly, soon at the airport.  Maybe, I remember thinking, as we built a tower of luggage on the sidewalk to wheel inside the doors to the check in desk, maybe it was a good thing that this trip had so far come off without a hitch, and so very quickly.  God had so arranged the traffic that we slid south from Nashua in near record speed, and through the still relatively new Ted Williams Tunnel to the airport as quickly as I’d put an arm through a silk shirtsleeve; if I had a silk shirt.  All of my previous experiences of that particular artery have convinced me that it suffers, and painfully so, from cartherosclerosis.  As well do those suffer, too, who must inch through it in any direction.

With her incredibly sensitive nose for sniffing out a bargain, Mariellen had arranged for us to fly to Europe on Icelandic Air.  Those of a certain age will remember Icelandic Air, and its ads in those happy days of yesteryear when they offered the cheapest…and longest…flights to Europe of any airline in the universe.  One only had to stop off in Reykjavik, to replace the feathers on the wings, probably, and then fly on to your sunny destination.  We are of the bargain age, now, so we took the deal.  Check in was a breeze.  They spoke English and we only had to wait while a party of visiting Walrus before us haggled with the booking agent about their carry on stuff, raw fish from the No Name kitchen.

Eventually they flopped away and we were next.  The agent at the desk, dressed in typical Icelandic costume: whaleskins, a ski mask and wearing a caribou’s antlers for a hat, motioned us forward and took our checked luggage, two overnight bags into which we had both managed to get a month’s worth of clothing and assorted accoutrements for modern travel, including four or five miles of charging cords for our “hand held electronic devices” and a Bowie knife I brought along just in case we were threatened with all of the threats I dreaded we’d have to contend with where we were going; Etruscans included.  The bags themselves each had the density of a neutron star, but in a miracle of physics and folding, they were under the weight limit, two and a half pounds each, and we did not have to pay a thing for extra baggage; a real arm and a leg apiece.  I crossed off one of my paralyzing worries and felt circulation begin to work in the leg I feared I might lose.

Actually, it was a breeze, and so was the trip through the labyrinth of chutes at the stockyard-like TSA grope-a-thon.  I was surprised that we weren’t touched, wanded or scoped.  I suspect that we were profiled, though.  White haired old folks have their own categories: confused and harmless.  And so, in record shattering time we found ourselves fully dressed and “inside” the special zone of travelers freed to leave the country, that zone where everything you might need is at least three times the cost of the same article anywhere else in the universe.  And, we only had three hours to wait for our plane to take off.  Or, was it four hours?  What difference does it make, now.  We were in somewhere not anywhere else.

Now I Know Where Limbo Is

It is no longer spoken of nor speculated about, but I know all about Limbo and where it is.  It was where I spent the next few hours.  It is always there, and has always been.  Those favored with a ticket may pass through.  Thousands do each day.  I know, though, that millions uncounted, poor souls all, are there forever, like Charlie on the MTA.  Though no Virgil spends his time there, nor unbaptized infants or pagan babies, eternities pass for who find themselves inside its borders more or less uncomfortably confined in little black chairs, committed to little more than the pleasure of CNN’s interminable stroll through the world’s daily woe, perfection of the art of the thumb twiddle, or a bad meal in a noisy place at outrageous prices.  Not to mention a chocolate bar or bag of peanuts for $4.00.

We wandered up and down Limbo’s 600 yards.  We knew it well, having passed through less than a year before on our way to Ireland with Carolyn, our granddaughter.  Eventually we stopped for a meal.  I had some breaded and fried cardboard.  I can’t remember what Mariellen had, and I am pretty confident that she doesn’t want to remember it.  The beer was good, though, and when we were finished I still had enough money left for our trip.

Then we decided to exchange some of that money for the pretty stuff that passes for money these days in Europe, and wandered down to the American Express booth so to do.  We didn’t exchange a thing except hot air, and the reason why we didn’t I shall tell you.  American Express declined to accept our American Express card.  The nice lady behind the counter smiled and said, “Sorry.”  I did not think she was nearly as sorry as I was; thinking then of panhandling my way through Europe.  Mariellen and I walked back to the vicinity of our departure gate where she took out her lap top and began notifying all four hundred of our credit cards carriers that we were leaving the jurisdiction.  As she said just a moment ago the notifications may not yet have reached their destinations.  That is how slow the connections with the real world are in Limbo.  We would have had, I think, a better chance with a cote of pigeons.

Well, there not being much else to do for another hour, we did just that.  Mariellen, once finished with her notifications opened her kindle and disappeared.  I sat and watched the flow of people in and out of gateway doors, up and down from little black chairs while, caring not a whit for the fact that we would be paupers in what once was paradise, CNN’s brigade of anchors prattled above me.  At one point I took out my little camera and played with it, snapping photos of spies, terrorists and skullduggers eating away at the heart of all that is good.

The restrooms were nearby.

In Which The Crew Arrives

I didn’t hear the fanfare, but I did hear the heavy sound of heels on the floor as the crew of our plane arrived.  It sounded like an occupying army marching down the boulevard.  And soon behind the sound came they, the Icelandic crew straight out of the Edda.  All of them were at least seven feet tall, even the women.  They carried spears, and wore huge broad double edged swords or axes at their sides.  I vowed then and there that if I was allowed on board I’d not move again until the doors opened to let me out in Switzerland.  Then I remembered that we had a stop over in Reykjavik.

It was good the restrooms were nearby.  I thought about that as the flight was announced, and our rows were called for boarding.  It was only five hours to Reykjavik.  I could wait, and sleep, maybe.  They’d never notice me.

And pray, too.  Yes, that.  Pray.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | September 2, 2014

FOR SHEER JOY


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Glory to God for thunderheads whose curled
Columned cool gray ranks wind-combed ride
Wind waves at world’s edge, and folded, furled
Parade above surging sea or granite
Cliff where in cool shade bold eagles fly.

Give Him praise for the roar of waves, wild spray
White foamed at land’s edge as brave sea birds plunge
From cloud height to emerald deep, swift seals play,
Sleek dolphins leap, and sharks lean, lunge
At prey in sea lanes where wave-long whales lounge.

Glory God who holds such little wonders grand
Above mosaiced meadows in high summer’s light
As swift sleek hummingbirds in His hand,
Or bumblebees busy among flowers bright
Whose brief beauty rivals star filled sky at night.

Glory for farms and herds, their work thrum, hooves drum;
Song of bird’s trill and babe’s soft milk sweet smile;
Many berried briars, squirrel’s rest, home
Haven for birds and butterflies awhile;
Neat gardens herb scented and flower frilled.

Glory give to God for all these things,
Nor least the Wren, who for sheer joy sweetly sings.

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September 2, 2014

 

As We Rejoin Our Heroes:

It is nearly one year since the events I’ve been describing in this little chronicle took place, Pilgrims.  I have received one plaintive note, and that quite some time ago, to bring things to a close.  The fellow is old, and he may want to see things to the finish before he’s finished.  The other five of you who had been following this chronicle have either died already, given up waiting in despair of ever finding out where the pot of gold lay or never really cared. Well, I have picked up the thread and have set to work despite my own inertia of rest.  I pity you coming to this lately with all my heart.  For the rest of you, poor miserable creatures, who had nothing better to do than become interested in our little lives rounded with a trip in a car too small for one: Fear not!  Put down your TV Guide, postpone folding your wash again, and attend.

I shall continue, having become dimly aware that I hadn’t finished.  Truth, a thing I occasionally involve myself with, requires that I tell you this, intrepid reader:  My memory, under the best of circumstances an impoverished thing, seems to have become even more feeble than it has always been.  What you will begin to read below are the first few paragraphs of our trip from Abbeyleix to Killarney on a quiet Saturday morning, our first full day in Ireland.  What I do not remember, now, cannot be told.  But, I have a rather well developed talent for fantasy.  So, should I detect a gap in the story coming on, pardon me if I weave a tale into the telling.  I hope to make those transits from fact and into fantasy seamless, short and few; and, who knows, it may be all the more interesting for the lies I’ll tell you.

Ahem!  We pick op the thread in our hotel in Abbeyleix, after supper.

 

CHANTICLEER SLEEPS WELL

Carolyn, God love her, had gone down after supper to feed the cats and bring at least temporary relief to the mice, voles, the odd squirrel and careless birds who might be interested in a tasty piece of garbage out behind to hotel.  And when she returned to the room at our hotel in Abbeyleix Mariellen and I had already made ourselves as comfortable as we could.  I was on my way to dreamland, a trip I needed to take; the unfinished business of no sleep for a day or so pressing on my eyes.  So, I closed them…

And, then, blankness.

We had left the window open in the room and it was the voices of some fellows down in the parking lot at about 6:00 AM that brought me back, too soon.  My room mates were still asleep, sound asleep.  It had to be early, I thought lying there trying to remember where I was, trying to remember who I was, to orient myself.  Through a break in the thick curtains keeping out the rude daylight, muffling the fellows below, a slim bit of the world outside presented itself; the trees across the street still in shadow and the sky above them merely a ribbon of pink cloud below a thread of blue above disappearing into the dusty yellow drape.  Whether or not I liked it, I was awake as awake can get.

My first duty then, to myself and to the world, was tea.  Actually, my first duty was to get out of the bed…somehow.  Our room established a pattern to be repeated in the other hotels we’d occupy on this trip across the waters.  It was, umm, compact is a good word.  It was so compact that I was left with no more room than a few inches between me and the wall on my side of the bed; a wall as unyielding as walls can be, cold, hard, uncaring and close.  I don’t move well at any time, and especially after lying in bed all night.  All of those things that do move on me ..poorly..during the day take that time to lapse into rigidity.  I thought for a few moments about simply attempting to ooze out, feet first, from the bottom of the bed onto the floor, like some kind of me shaped glob; a white haired octopus.  And, I tried.  But the sheets down there had to have been nailed to the underside of the mattress.  I couldn’t undo the bedclothes.

So, I rolled over and slid one half of me out of the bed, until I was stopped by the wall.  I put my right hand and foot on the floor and managed, God knows how, to kneel on my right leg, then stand on it, then pivot until I was standing facing the wall.  It wasn’t too difficult then to inch out along the bed until I was free.  Once out where normal movement was possible I made for the window sill where we had put all the tea things when we arrived yesterday.  We needed the small desk and the outlets there for our phones and lap top and “gear”.  I took out some plugs and put in some plugs and soon, with a prayer of fervent thanks, was pouring coal black tea into a mug.

By then, Mariellen was awake and Carolyn who had in the universal teenage fashion, and as she would for the rest of the trip, simply wrapped herself in her blanket and, holding her friendly pink elephant, fallen asleep atop the bed covers, began to stir into consciousness.  Stirring into consciousness in no way means that she was anywhere near that state.  It is a long trip, a trek more like it; akin to a Mormon’s march to Utah, or Columbus’ voyage of discovery across the Ocean Sea, Ulysses and his companions beyond the Pillars of Hercules; hazardous, thrilling and fraught throughout with the chance of failure. You know them, the ones who never seem to wake up.  Classrooms and courtrooms are full of them.  So are legislative chambers.

Anyway, it was Saturday in Ireland and our adventure was underway in earnest.

 

IN WHICH I MAKE A DISCOVERY

The time was nearly 7:00am when I finished the tea.  Carolyn had arisen, and we spent a few quiet moments listening to, well, nothing, really.  The fellows below, to whose noises I had awakened, had gone inside the hotel, and all was quiet as we contemplated the next move.  For me it was a shower.  The outside of me felt like the inside of a slime soiled sewer main, and seemed quite as smelly.  So, tea done, I announced I would return shortly a new man and, gathering something from the suitcase which looked as if it was mine and would fit, I entered the bathroom.  It didn’t used to be a bathroom I suspected. Things looked all an afterthought.  Such is often the case I’ve found after many years of travel and many stays in places throughout Ireland.  Catering to Yanks has done amazing things for the plumbing industry in Ireland, and very possibly coined the term “en suite” for the room that replaced the little house in back and the nearby barrel of rainwater.

Anyway, I got down to business, thankful once again that this was an age when such things were done inside, and not outside where the chickens and barnyard cats could look on.  One does not want to scandalize the livestock…or the neighbors.

The preliminaries taken care of I prepared to shower away the last bits of North America I had brought with me.  There was soap.  There was a squidgen of shampoo in an eyedropper sized bottle, even.  There was a bath towel that would have covered a stallion’s back.  What there was not was a wash cloth.  There was, however, a face towel if one’s face was the size of an elephant’s.

Desperate times calling for the same measures I made the “face” towel my wash cloth and showered away, finished and rolled around inside the towel, dressed and returned to the waiting world.

I should have known, you know, that there wouldn’t be a wash cloth.  Such a refinement is not commonly provided in Irish bathrooms we have found. Mariellen was stricken with contrition when I told her what I was forced to do to get by.  She had forgotten to pack one or two of them for the trip.  I forgave her while having a second cup of tea during the time that she and Carolyn dressed. At no time did I think of telling her how difficult it is to wash one’s ears with a wet and soapy ten pounds of towel; though it is good for toning and conditioning arms and shoulders.

By the time we were ready to go to breakfast the whole incident was pretty nearly forgotten.

 

IT’S NOT THE LEAVING OF ABBEYLEIX THAT GRIEVES YOU

Breakfast, they said in the stuff we got when we booked the hotel was to be served in the dining room starting at 7:00am.  It’s quite probable now that I think of it, that they meant 7:00am somewhere else than in Abbeyleix.  We arrived at about 7:15 and were the only people there.  Of other guests or staff there wasn’t the divil of a sign as my grandmother, may she rest in peace, might have said.  The advantage of that was we had our choice of seats.  We chose three near a table set with what appeared to be utensils and serving dishes for the breakfast fixins to come.

Well, it was Saturday, and allowances could be made.  Within a few minutes and for the next ten minutes or so after a young lady came from inside someplace and began bringing out containers and bowls of things to eat: cereals, fruits, juices and milk.  Mariellen and Carolyn made their way. around the table while I ordered The Full Irish Breakfast; advertised in the menu.  And, of course, we ordered more tea.  As the ladies ate, well while Mariellen ate and Carolyn made some lovely re-arrangements of the few things she had put on her plate, I wreaked havoc on eggs, bacon, puddings, tomatoes and mushrooms and about a half of a loaf of brown bread and “lashings” of butter and jam.

We were ready, then for what may come.  It was time to get on with the journey, leave Abbeyleix and strike out for the next bit, Cashel and its Rock, on our way to Killarney.  While the ladies settled up at the desk I moved stuff outside.  We had staged our bags in the lobby before going in to breakfast.  Finding the car was a breeze.  It was one of three in a parking lot which only about 15 hours before looked as if it held most of the cars in Ireland.  Now there were three lonely vehicles, about to be two.  And, not a car went by on the road beside the hotel.

That might be a function of one of the “benefits” joining the EU brought to Ireland.  They built themselves a bunch of new and zippy roads, straight lines, up and down and across the country to bring themselves up to speed.  Towns like Abbeyleix, bypassed, wither in the windy slipstream of progress when that happens.  It once had two hotels.  The other one, just up the road toward the center of town was an eyeless crumbling hulk.  Alas.

 

EXEUNT ALL

After stuffing the car with bags, blankies and pink elephants, I returned to the hotel lobby just as Mariellen was finishing up.  Carolyn, was where I figured she would be, out back giving her breakfast to the cats.  I had a pretty good idea how to get from Abbeyleix to Cashel and from thence (I love that word.  It’s from “Thence” Christ comes to judge the living and the dead, you know.) to Killarney.  But I asked, anyway, since it had been a while would it be best to take the old road or the new EU one which bypassed everything, like a wormhole between galaxies.  The blank stares of the young are the same everywhere, I guess.  The young lady was trying, I knew, but she was using all of her band width just to make her eyes move; and not doing well at all.  She smiled.  We smiled, and waited.

We were about to go looking for Carolyn, and leave, when a fellow walked through the front door.  He had a few miles on him, so I tried my question out again.  “It’s straight on from here,” he said with a wave of his hand out the window at the old road.  “There’s no need of that thing over.  Ye’ll see the entrance though at the cross if ye need to get there before ye leave here.”  They speak just like that for the most part in every place in Ireland outside of a few big deal restaurants and fancy hotels in Dublin; and some colleges I guess.  Joining the EU changed a lot, but not that, yet.

I thanked him for his directions and advice, and the young lady, too, who had a nice smile if little else.  Since Carolyn had joined us and our bill had been payed there was only the leaving of Abbeyleix to accomplish and the ride down the old road “straightaway” to Cashel and its Rock.

 

CROMWELL’S WORK’S WELL DONE

One might argue that without the Lord Protector’s interest in the place, there might well be nothing worth visiting in Ireland.  Take the Rock of Cashel for instance.  It stands, a majestic ruin of monastery and cathedral, on a huge rock over a large plain at the edge of Cashel Town.  From any direction its ruined silhouette is a dramatic signpost of religion run amok, and a reminder of what once was lively, lovely and lost.  On any day it’s crowded; with tourists, crows, black ravens and ghosts, even when the sun shines.  Below it on one side the town lies between and around some hills, in front of it on the broad plain stretching away to mountains on either side another ruin spreads its stones and crumbling walls, an old Augustinian monastery.  Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, even Godot would go well in either place.  Perhaps they have.  Cromwell chose well for his horde’s work.

Our drive down from Abbeyleix was like an arrow shot.  Had it been today that he came the poor monks wouldn’t have had time for a Nunc Dimittis before the righteous rage swept them away.  When we arrived I was surprised at the changes wrought on the place.  There was actually a metered parking lot.  Tour buses, that sure sign of popularity and worth were beginning to pile in and disgorge their forties and more.  We found a spot and meekly wandered up the hill and through the door on a morning cool and sunny, bright and clear.  And, for the next two hours, the three of us, sans interpretive guidance wandered unguided through history and made of it what we could.

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Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 14, 2014

BACKYARD BESTIARY III

YELLOW JACKETS

 


Like Grackles, but worse, the striped insect curse
Of Yellow Jackets, hell borne winged woe, does
Nothing but attack, cause havoc and work
Panic in every place they appear.  Abuzz
With sky borne malice from blossom or bush they,
These bug world Stukas, terrorize all day.

But why?  What of worth must they protect!
Of home or hive or hole there’s none to see;
Though many chambers deep there lives a queen
Attended, protected, curried the while she
Spews out her legions in the night unseen.

Their aggression’s instinct, then, nothing more?
Like the Kahns’, perhaps, or the kid next door!
Seek no further place than that garden same
Where man first sinned.  There fix the cause and blame.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 7, 2014

Backyard Bestiary II

BACKYARD BESTIARY II

THE CAT BEYOND THE FENCE

The cat beyond the fence would deny
He has no right to parade by
The bird feeders every morning
In haughty grandeur, stately majesty,
Expecting some gold finch to fall fawning
Into his open mouth, sacrifice adoring.

What really happens though is this:
The cat just waits for the next mistake
In the bush below the feeder.  As if
It will ever happen he sphinx like sits
Or slinks along the fence skirting the defense
Of the birds who’ve already seen him.

He’s been at it every day for some years now.
I have yet to hear his first triumphant “MEOW!”

Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 5, 2014

A BACKYARD BESTIARY

A BACKYARD BESTIARY

Introduction:

We see all kinds of things in the backyard.  Here are some of them.

Grackles

 

A shadow of Grackles in the trees
In leaves above my head; a plot of them
Whose mere presence brings upset, unease.
The lean, feathered criminals in Congress meet;
Counsel crimes, plunder, ruin to descend.
No songs sing, nor trills repeat
But raw clacks and croaks.  No end
Of mutterings and growls, avian threats
Against my own and others’ peace
From them; who make of buzzards doves,
The clever fox a philosopher, the skunk a love
And timid chickadees of insolent magpies
Who pretend they own rural roads as eagles skies.

Mute among them the Mockingbird stays.
So, too, the Nightingale of sweet songed ways .

Posted by: Peadar Ban | July 31, 2014

The Shadow of Self Disclosing Love

THE SHADOW OF SELF DISCLOSING LOVE

The shadow of self disclosing love
Moves across my face  beneath.  Single light,
It.  Like water where bends a supple doe
Drinking.  Like bright leaf in light wind falling.
As geese fly once more twilight high
While velvet night nestles sleeping child
Sighing to silence, a rhapsody resolving,
It’s ended though is never done;

Ending, yet begun again from ending,
Ends springing, singing, soaring, sighing
Slowing, still. Always, in itself, still, one,
Though full it yearns, burns.  This Shadow though one
Being, fulness, thirsts; endless yearning’s
One, all knowing, still and growing
From full being idea flowing, flown
Full, final, final, never done

Turning, leaving, never gone.
Here alone I hear it singing
Silent.  Listen to light in darkness! Staying.
The Shadow of Self Disclosing Love saying
Who is self disclosing love.  Praying.

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July 31, 2014
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Posted by: Peadar Ban | July 24, 2014

Italy: A Vacation Which Became a Pilgrimage (Part Three)

Shaping Up-Shipping Out

Christmas, 2013, was a quiet time.

We decorated our “trees”, two large potted plants: an orange tree which had grown from a baby into a healthy teenager and a hibiscus tree we’d rescued from the wood chipper several years before.  Now it smiled a dozen or so blossoms in succession at us in appreciation two or three times a year, and was especially festive this Christmas season, sporting three huge crimson blooms against its green foliage.  We hung a few bulbs and strung a few lights up, down and around both of them and settled in for a long winter’s night, quietly, peacefully and contentedly.

On Christmas Day, after Mass, we sat and opened our gifts.  Mine was a great surprise.  Santa Mariellen had brought me a Kindle Fire, the big deal of all Kindles, and way beyond anything I might have asked or wished for.  I was, frankly, a little bit surprised and very delighted.  She smiled and I stuttered.  I think I asked her, while thanking her, why she’d done it.  Ever practical, she answered, telling me that now we didn’t need a cargo plane for the books I might, or she might, want to bring with us to Italy.

Now we both had Kindles.  Besides, mine also had a camera which could take videos. We had some tea and I sat looking at the thing.  Later that afternoon, when I trusted myself and it had been charged, I tried the video camera on our little Christmas corner.  It worked!  One can even hear the Christmas music playing softly in the background.

Oh, no!  I won’t show it to you.  There are, really, better things to see in the kitchen sink after supper’s finished and the dishes cleared away to to wait for the scraping and the sloshing. But, while it is only indirectly related to our adventure, I will show you a photo of the orange tree all lit up:

A Christmas Tree Is What You Call It

I cannot remember if it was on Christmas Day exactly, but soon enough anyway we began to have some Big People discussions.

You see, this thing we had started a month or two before had grown.  And, now we needed to get serious about what we’d bring, in what we’d bring it and how we’d manage to move about as easily and comfortably as possible with our “stuff” once it had been brought and we were stuck with it for a month.  We knew we’d get no help from the airlines since most of them charge by the ounce, it seemed, for anything over one checked bag, and that under forty pounds.  But, we were both allowed that one bag, and both allowed one carry on and one other thing that might be classified as a hand bag; that thing you could stow under the seat in front of you and spend the rest of the flight sitting with your knees just under your chin as a result.  As far as I knew, they could weigh three-hundred pounds each.

Looking at the trip, we determined that we both could get away with a week’s worth of clothing, give or take, before we became a hazard to the community.  I wanted to do what Sheila and I had done during one of our trips to Ireland many years ago; take things we could leave behind us as we went.  She had suggested that we simply buy enough cheap underwear to last us the trip, discard what we wore and return home wearing the last set.  This was not something Mariellen thought a good thing and quite possibly an environmental hazard.  There are some differences between them, after all.  Not insurmountable differences, mind you.  And, in eternity, I suspect, there’ll be no need for underwear.

One day, as our planning and figuring continued, I went to the basement and brought up two small suitcases.  We had taken them with us for the trip to Ireland with our granddaughter Carolyn, and then our own excursion to Germany and France after she had gone home.  That had been only two weeks, though.  Would they do for a trip more than twice as long?  Yes they would, I thought, and reasoned that we had packed things, then, that we never even used.  Keeping that in mind we both decided to take only what we’d need, and even that we might trim down after we’d packed, and before we closed the lid and nailed it shut.

Over the next few weeks while as a combination quartermaster and load-master I experimented with my suitcase, filling and emptying it with bits and pieces of clothes and stuff until I began dreaming of doing just that in Purgatory for a million years, Mariellen continued to fill in the blanks on accommodations and transportation.  One of the highlights during this time was her telling me she had succeeded in getting us booked on the Bernina Express between Switzerland and Italy.  Though I’d never heard of it, that doesn’t mean a darn thing.  It’s a rather famous scenic train trip from Chur, a little town about an hour by train from Zurich, that climbs through the Alps to the Bernina Pass and then wanders back down to Tirano, Italy.  That filled several evenings of happy conversations about mountains and valleys, swift rivers and steep cliffs.

Luggage?  We didn’t talk about it. But what we did talk about as the days grew longer, and morning came earlier, was this.  We were quite settled on not doing any driving at all in Italy.  Shanks mare would be our primary way of getting about.  Trains between cities would handle long distances and when we needed it, we’d take a bus or metro where we could.

Now, about the only places on me that ain’t yet arthritic are my ear lobes and nose end; and God help me if they start to go.  So, I knew, and she knew who had begun having her own “old people” pains, we needed to get into shape, and stay that way if we were going to do what we intended.  And, that meant THE GYM! I was already a member of a nearby Gold’s Gym, but had rarely visited its spartan environs.  All that clanging metal, those mirrors, those girls with more muscles than me and guys with more muscles than Everest I found a disincentive to health and fitness.

But, we needed to do something like this or we’d be spending the last three weeks in some orthopedic hospital in Tuscany.  Great, views, I guess, but not the trip of a lifetime.

So, twice a week, and sometimes more, from February to a couple of days before D-Day(for depart) she and I, the oddest couple in the place, pumped iron, bounced balls, stretched things to the breaking point and ellipticated our way half way to the moon it seemed.  I even developed two pack abs.

Other preparations were underway, too.  Like England in 1943, the house became a staging area; each room and its available surfaces were commandeered for the various puttings in and takings out of what we might never need but couldn’t think of living without.  Along the way I got pretty good at folding things tightly and keeping them that way.  Why, I got so good at it that I could fold my jeans so tightly I could probably have carried an extra pair in the back pocket of the jeans I was wearing.  We finished up packing the night before we would leave and rested without ever having to sit on a suitcase to get it closed.

I was well pleased.  Both of the bags we would check were under the weight limit.  Why, we even had room for more, if more were needed in the things we’d chosen to carry on. Our flight would leave sometime in the early evening the next day, May 26, and our neighbor, Miriam, would drive us to the bus station for the first leg of our trip at 3:00PM.

We were ready. I didn’t sleep a wink.

Just before Miriam came, I opened my suitcase and removed two shirts and one pair of slacks.  Never liked ‘em anyway.

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