Posted by: Peadar Ban | April 16, 2015

Today: April 16, 2015

The little yellow crocuses, the first to bloom each year, even as mounds of age old snow still loomed over the yard, are shrinking back into their nest behind the bit of granite around which I planted them years and years ago.  They are free of any care about the weather, I always think when I see them each spring, and brave.  I noticed their final few as I came down the stairs a while ago.

The cat, our neighbor’s cat a few houses in some direction from us: the cat of smoky gold color and imperial hauteur (I think it kind of funny that a guy like me uses a phrase like that) strolled across the backyard just now at 7ish in the morning, the first time I’d seen it in months.  At the top of our little hill back there he paused in leonine majesty looking back along his track, around at his rule.  He made a feint in the direction of a small bird, a titmouse or chickadee on the neighbor’s fence.  It scooted quickly into a nearby tree.  Then he stood as if waiting for a sculptor while thinking about a clever spot to put his monument.  He’s been at this for about ten years now, and I begin to wonder who will see the end of Spring’s coming first; him or me.

I left my post at the door to our little deck outside, now free of snow for the last few days, the first time since October, and went looking for a camera; the living portrait on the hill to memorialize.  He was gone when I returned a few seconds later.  He’ll be back as soon as tomorrow.  I’ll be waiting, then.

Cat gone, the young flowers just blooming on the hill caught my eye.  We saw our first daffodil yesterday away over in the corner near the flat topped umbrella shaped sassafras tree and our volunteer crab apple.  It’s still there piping a high clear golden note among the dull gray drone of unraked leaves.  And the hyacinths that I planted last spring are little blue fountains on the slope.  They were a gift from the sacristan at St. John XXIII. “Take them,” she said, “no one will miss them.  It makes me sad to see them dumped in some bin somewhere.”   I was happy for the offer, and happier still that they’ve taken to their new home.  We are becoming friends. Their cousins, the little Grape Hyacinths have started many settlements over the years, and will soon appear.  Our forsythia are on the way, and the lilacs have plans, too.

We’ve invited some friends from The Families of Nazareth over this Sunday to spend a little time with Cindy and Don as their First Anniversary rolls around.  While I was looking at the forsythia at the corner of our deck I realized it would, no doubt, just be bursting into bloom when they walk through the door.  If that is the case, I’ll march them right outside and let them be welcomed with the fanfare of flowers.

While I stood at the door thinking these thoughts in the fresh sunshine, I thought of how lately gone this time of day would have been buried in in deep shadow; or thick gray clouds would have shivered by.  For a little more than half my life, now, I’ve watched through the door the year’s progress through the seasons.  It’s become clear to me that time has been sped up, or been compressed somehow.  Shorter is the length of each season, more quickly comes the next.  It seems only a little while ago I shoveled a path through snow nearly to my waist from the back door to the bird feeders on the hill.

It will be a minute or two, I sometimes think, when I’ll be wiping the sweat from my eyes while I mow the lawn.  Before then, though, we’ll have our annual visits from the Orioles…the birds, not the team.  We’ll sit out front in the evening and chat with the neighbors walking by, pet their dogs, listen to the children playing, riding bikes or scooters; chasing balls or each other and sipping something cool; perhaps, even, an adult beverage in the blush of the setting sun.

April is not the cruelest month.  Perhaps, instead, it is the most promising.


It’s an Interesting time of year, you know.  There’s quite a lot going on.  Here are some poems I wrote a while back about it:

IN MY GARDEN

The hardy crocus and brave daffodil
Push up their leaves and blossom
While all the other flowers still
Sleep deep in earth’s protective bosom.

They serve the waking world
With gentle colors and hues,
And, as the morning songs of birds
Sounds honey to my ears, they my eyes

Bathe in sweet reflected light.
I include them in my prayers
Smiling, since I know dear heaven’s
height
Is reached on just such petal covered
stairs.

peg, 1996

A REPLY TO MR. ELIOT

What does April breed
But hope born of Winter’s need;
Not violence assembled on the western edge
of comparison with November,
That gray and dreary month of
Tomb lids and tumbling night,
Of memory and desire.

April opens like a diamond
Scattering light, fanfares of color
At the retreating night,
Fills with swelling song choirs
of returning life to fight
Against the hostility of snow
Cold distance of constellations,
Banishes arrogance and death.

This month of better days plays
Silver showers and silky winds on my face,
Delights in testing trees, trains
Hills and plains for the rough rumble
Of summer thunder, the muscular
Beauty of being alive.

April, womb’s gate of the year,
Cruel only if life is cruel,
Witness of hope, generosity,
Dearly yearned for sufficiency,
Chrysalidal nugget, seed of joy,
You evidence heaven here and yet to be.

peg
April 5, 2002

April Enters Softly

In no time at all the ground is cleared of snow
And long dead fallen leaves exposed, blown
Down the hill into deeper woods to grow
Silence in slim light where young deer nervous roam.

Softly April enters at hilltop, alone
Of all months in labor (at least here).
Gentle settling life on misty dawn
While infant blossoms waken shy and near.

One springs eternal now who died
Pregnant with salvation’s fruitful light
Sweet liquor streaming from his side
Fragrant grace incarnadine

03-29-09

This will quicken your pulse, and put a little Spring in your step!  Turn up the sound:

Posted by: Peadar Ban | March 25, 2015

A Poem: Where None Should Be

Where None Should Be

There are stones beneath the snow.  Beneath the snow
Are fallen brown leaves I suppose last Autumn’s oaks
Had shed in the golden days before the hateful cold,
That is all I’ll have from this fading winter, would,
Hurtling down on us from the bitter north pole,
Heap mountain high heaps of smothering snow
Spitefully freezing life everywhere.

Now the stones, buried these many months,
With the sun’s help, push through, push through
Patient as only stones can be, seem to grow
Out at the edges by less than inches.  A bunch
Of birds inside a bush wait for feeders
To be filled while a chill of rain falls
And, snow or no, feeder filling’s a job only I can do.

I fill the old plastic jug from the bag of seed
In the shed behind the house, the shadow of the eave’s
unnecessary shade making for a colder job
Than I would have, and just that much chill of heart
And hand adding to my cold work of charity
For the birds, and squirrels who’ll hoover the ground beneath
Of every errant seed when I have done my part
In the universal plan ordained from eternity
By a loving God for a lame from biting cold man.

So, jug full, frozen through, I force my way back,
The small stone heads emerging from snow’s womb’s edge,
And climb to the top snow piled peak; beating a track
All the way with numbing feet to what just may have been
The thankful prayers, or cheers, of birds from bush and hedge
On both flanks, and squirrel chatter in the rhododendron.

Wherefrom I look down on the empty feeder atop
Its six foot metal post, the first three feet deep
Embed in snow turned silver gray ice. A steep slope
Of the same stuff leads to it, whose geography
Threatens me, and dares me too, on what’s become
A fool’s errand by now.  Dare I try?  Or turn around?

In the end soft heart over hard head wins
And, one arm held straight out for balance sake
Most carefully, I, oh so slightly, bend
My one good fully operating leg;
The jug of seed clutched safely to my chest.
My first mistake.  The bad one, the right, not left,
Leg; though you’d think the sinister would be,
Wouldn’t you?  Not me though whose fate’s soon sealed
When what’s left of my Caput Femoris there
Decides to slide across its companion where
Once a soft cartilage would cushion it.

Alas! A threnody I sing for that
Lost ability gracefully to fall
And no longer dance. Just fall flat..
Accompanied by scattered seeds and melodies
Of patient waiting birds, and squirrel
Choirs within the rhododendron bush
I slide in the direction of my pain
Down the slick and icy snow hill;
Tipping as I go towards my weak right side,
Give flight to jug and all the seed inside
And land, full circle come, at least looking up.

The birds in the bush nearby are silenced.
The squirrels in the rhododendron quiet
Too.  The last seeds bounce and clatter
About.  Rain still falls cold and wet on me
Who can’t see a thing through my fogged glasses.
But I can hear the hiss of rain, and soon
The flutter of little wings, beaks tapping
On the ice, and one brave titmouse on me
Foraging for safflower seeds where none should be…

peg
03/25/2015

Posted by: Peadar Ban | March 21, 2015

IDA: A Film for People Who Hope, Who Believe, Who Think

Last week, to mark a Big Birthday, we sneaked away for a few days to a quiet place on the shore of the sea. One night, while outside the wind roared in from the North for one last big blow and waves ran right up to the sea wall just across the street from us, we nestled down in front of the fireplace in our room. It was St. Patrick’s Day, and somewhere drums were being drummed, pipers were piping and songs were sung. It being too cold to march in the Parade, we sat instead in our room by the wind-blown sea and watched this year’s Best Foreign Film, the Polish movie called “Ida.” It was already on our list, but we bumped it up after reading an article about it last week. The author complained that Catholics are not talking about it despite the fact that it is very much a Catholic work and all the more worth seeing for that, in addition to its prize winning status. And, she continued: “If you’re a Catholic, you’d best be consuming good art.” Not only that, ” the Catholic Church used to be THE greatest creator and patron of the arts in the WORLD. We need to step it up once again.”

Thus challenged and primed, we settled back

Most immediately I was reminded of those bleak works that came out of Scandinavia in the 1960’s when I was a young fellow, about Man’s search for meaning or something; all of them dealing in one way or another with death, illness, faith, betrayal, bleakness, insanity — or dealing with all of those things at once. I was reminded, too, of parts of Zorba the Greek, the ones without the dancing and drinking, though there’s some of that in this film too. The Scandinavian films most often were shown in what came to be called “art” houses where black was the required dress,and the required mood. Zorba made it to Times Square when human beings still went there.

We watched “Ida” on my wife’s Mac Book, which, well, neither means nor proves a thing. And other than helping you guess my age, neither do my references and memories above mean much!

Bleak it was, and all of those other things. Postwar Poland may have been a more hospitable place than the Gobi Desert in January, but not by much I’ll bet. And that’s where we find ourselves as the film begins in bareness: in a convent among three young postulants preparing for their final vows. It’s bleak, yes, but there’s much more going on there that the bleakness hides, if you let it. And as I think, now, about what I watched not yet a week ago, I begin to see behind the bleak curtain and make out the, to me anyway, simply incredible richness of the thing.

I’ll give you a very small example. There is a glance exchanged between two characters at the beginning of the film, the briefest of things that takes place during a very silent meal . That glance might have been expanded to a scene or two in any other film with all the action and dialogue “thereunto appertaining.” In another scene about midway through the film, during another meal where these two characters are present only one of them looks at the other. The “unreturned” glance could be the film’s pivot, because very soon Anna, the young novice whose past the film uncovers (including her real name, Ida) is outside the convent in the world, the clunky, falling apart place that was Poland, the postwar Communist worker’s paradise.

We meet her one surviving relative, an aunt, who tells her, with all of a serpent’s tenderness, that she is a Jew. Classical music plays in the background during this scene in her aunt’s apartment, a modern, liberated woman, a state prosecutor, and one begins to understand … because one has to since not a word is said … that the aunt “believes” in nothing.

And while we, the audience, observe, Ida, too, observes. Later, she prays. Simply, silently. For what does she pray I found myself wondering. The camera lingers often on her open, and innocent, face, and on her eyes, unblinking, watching what she had been sent out by her prioress to see, to learn about, after that glance.

As the film progresses, she sees her past and learns about her family, the ones she never knew, and how they spent the war. She sees her Aunt, and learns from her how people spend their lives these days. And we see, too; though are rarely told. Dialogue is an accent, almost an incidental, in this film, whose tale could be told as well I guess, altogether silently, in still photos laid upon a table one by one, and glances exchanged or, alternately, not returned.

So, to watch, and, yes, to hope. That’s what I found myself doing as the story went along, hoping for Ida, for her Aunt, for the people she meets along her way. Hope that, in the end, folks will make the “right” choices. I’m trying to avoid another word that begins with “r”, here, because the film doesn’t end that way, in so obvious a manner. Ida’s choices aren’t always the best one might think, as the choices others make, or made, are not, either.

In the end, we are left with Hope, and, well, Love, too.

Someone asked me if I would recommend the film, and, if so, in what frame of mind a person ought to approach it. I definitely think the film is worth watching. I would suggest that the viewer do so in hope of receiving a gift small on the outside and unprepossessing to look at, but oh, so large within.

The trailer follows. Do yourself a favor and ignore the silliness in the comments section.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | March 8, 2015

Who Am I?

Well, the short answer is I am nobody, just another guy.

But I have a brain, and I can think…after a fashion…which activity produces in me conclusions about the things I see going on around me.  Many of my conclusions are unpleasant ones, but what can I do?

Not much, it seems, except, from time to time, to give them a voice, barely above a whisper, in a venue like this one.  It’s about the equivalent of griping in a bar, except there’s no haze of cigarette smoke,  no roar and rumble of subways outside and no unpleasant odors of stale beer and sweat inside.  Wait a second!  Did I just call them “unpleasant odors”?  Forgive me,  they were the very perfumed air of my youth.

I got upset again a day or so ago after reading something in an online journal called The Catholic Thing.  A professor, a philosophy professor, a guy who thinks for a living, wrote an article about islam that appeared there.

An aside  before I continue, please.  I’ve decided not to use an upper case letter when I write anything that has to do with islam.  I do not think it, or they, proper in any sense of the word, for any part of speech.

Anyway he writes his article about the thing, reaching the conclusion that whatever it is, islam’s not a religion.

Well, “Duh!”, as the kids say.  Now, this little piece is not exactly a battle cry, a cri de couer, a peal of bells from the watchtower as the savage hordes swarm over the hills.  But, and this is important; muted and scholarly murmur that it is, it is another in a slow but steadily increasing number of reflective and reasoned exposures of the not merely ugly but the horrible, the probably hellish, truth about the thing in our midst referred to by many as “the religion of peace”.

Fellows like Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer have for years been publishing books and articles detailing islamic atrocities across the world.  For the most part they are ignored, treated like madmen, haters, liars and worse;  the people who know, know they haven’t the brains to get in out of the rain.  Those people include our president, his administration and the editors of just about every news organization in the country.

Now this piece appears in my in-box, another in the trickle of truth against the torrent of ignorance and lies about islam, and I tell you that I’m upset.  It’s simple.  Damn it!  This has been going on for more than 1400 bleeping years! And the most we seem to think can be done, or should be done, is to let them get over their latest tantrum. Oh, we’re dropping bombs here and there.  It reminds me of the ancient and honorable practice of stabbing ones lice with an ice pick.

I am upset about the article’s appearance because I just finished a conversation with a Catholic priest.  This fellow is chaplain at a secular college.  There are a sizable number of foreign exchange students at this institution.  I got the impression from the good priest that most of them are muslims.  They are very nice he told me.  I asked if he had any idea how nice were the muslims in East Timor who massacred tens of thousands of Christians.  That’s when he said that Christians massacred many more during the Crusades.

What is the use of saying, of writing, anything.  Anyway, you may read the article http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2015/03/07religion-and-violence/

Do read it.  It will be bad for your digestion.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 13, 2015

The Man, The Boy and The Story

I cannot now remember the time for the beginning of the first leg of our journey home from Barcelona on February 8 last.  All I remember is that it was Sunday, and Sunday quiet when we awoke.  And that may have been the reason we were almost an hour late; that and the fact that we’d forgotten to set the alarm correctly.  Nevertheless we dressed, breakfasted and were in the lobby several minutes – time enough – before our limo driver arrived.  I do remember that it was a bright and beautiful day.

Through deserted streets we moved unobstructed and unaccompanied.  In place of the floods of buses, cars and people that had been the normal accompaniment to our comings and goings during the week just ended, silence on this last short, bright and quiet ride.  It was lovely and we both, I think, were thankful for the soft, sweet farewell from the city and the day.  As far as I could tell from internet weather reports we were beginning a long day’s journey into a Dantesque scene of snow, wind, cold, ice and misery in what is shaping up to be Boston’s worst winter since; well since there has been a Boston, Massachusetts.

There was good chance, we both thought, that the London to Boston leg of our journey home would be delayed while the expected storm over there did its worst.  As I thought about that I prayed it wouldn’t happen; wanting my own bed come, no matter, what may.

With those kinds of thoughts on our minds we gathered our bags and bravely pushed through the doors into the departure terminal at Barcelona’s nearly brand new, nifty, bright and shiny airport.  The mystery of all of the people missing from the streets of Barcelona was solved immediately.  They were here!  In front of us a hive swarmed, everyone a worker bee.  And all we needed to do was drop our own pollen load of luggage with the appropriate receiving bee perched between counter and conveyor belt, and find a place to sit and wait.

Easier said, don’t you know.

As we stood looking about us the thought occurred to me that such a thing as identifying one particular drop of water in all the ocean from every other one might be an easier, maybe even a more sane and useful, exercise.  We wandered left.  We wandered right.  And then we repeated our maneuvers, breasting in every direction the flood of folks all of whom, unlike us, moved with purpose, intent and direction.  They knew where to go; knew what to do.  One could see it in their eyes, their posture, their pace.  The lost are always timid.

There is nothing so dismaying, I think, as being lost in a strange place far from home; lost amid strangers to whom such an anxiety is utterly foreign.  It should have a name, this feeling; something akin I guess to Hansel’s and Gretel’s in that dark forest.  I was about to be overcome by H&G Syndrome and drop to my knees in search of bread crumbs when I looked behind me and my eyes met those of a nice woman at one of the six or seven hundred auto rental counters.  She smiled and I walked over to ask her an Important Question.  Where the hell were we, and how did we find and get to where we wanted and needed to go?!

It took her about ten seconds to solve our problem.  Why not?  She practically lived in the hive.  Within a few minutes, solution given and received and satisfaction obtained we found ourselves in the slowly moving line, Al-Qaeda’s and Islam’s great cultural legacy: the pre-boarding security check.

That done, all that remained was to find a place to sit and wait.  That place was the two chairs at the end of a short row one level deeper into the hive and a dozen or so yards in front of the Duty Free shop, one of dozens of glitzy, glamorous, shiny, polished and expensive pocket picking devices for people like us; people simply waiting, waiting, waiting.  The other attraction, perhaps the more beneficial for mental and spiritual health in a place like that is People Watching, which may have been the original spectator sport.  Being a native New Yorker, and that city being a place which affords no shortage of opportunity and material, I was born to the sport of sitting and watching the world go by – almost literally.

As we took our seats to observe as much of the “game” as we might I noticed the other seats in our row were filled with odd bits of clothing and belongings; a jacket or two, a bag or three and one old fellow , a sturdy man, thickly framed, with a full head of salt and pepper hair; moderately well dressed.  My memory of him sitting, simply watching, waiting, guarding?, reminds me now of some old lion.  There was indeed a sort of quiet nobility to his still watchfulness.  We exchanged a brief look at each other, a glance and the slightest nod.  Then he returned to his business and I to mine; between us the arm rest and history.  Good fences…

An hour passed at least during which I shared an orange with Mariellen next to me quietly reading one of her Kindle books, and walked once or twice to the large non-portable electronic device announcing where our boarding gate for the flight to London would be.  My lion-like seat mate did not stir, except for once when he rose to make room among the belongings scattered along three of the remaining six chairs in our row to accommodate a woman of a certain age I took to be his wife.  She, like him, was generously proportioned and neatly dressed.  They spoke for a while, their conversation sounding to me as if they were from eastern Europe, perhaps from the Balkans; Slavs of one kind or another, whose ancestors may have marched across this very spot thousands of years ago behind some Greek or Roman general.

She left him after a while, plunging back into the ocean of glittering shops in front of us, and he returned to his stoic and silent guarding.  But, it wasn’t too long before I saw his wife coming back with what could only be the rest of the family; herself, a son and daughter-in-law (or the other way round) and the grandson, a young boy with a young boy’s excited face and eager voice.  He was especially excited to show his grandfather some small thing he carried; a game, a souvenir, an important object.

And here an amazing thing began to happen.  The three others stood around taking, poking through the luggage and the packages, moving, re-arranging, being very busy, being very grown-up and, well, responsible.  Not so these two; so close to me I could hear every word, could almost feel their breath.

He looked at what the boy held out to him and reached for it.  The young fellow put it into his big hand and stood still, eyes fixed on the old man, eyes for no one else.  While looking toward the Duty Free shop I could see both of them next to me clearly; and so, I watched.  And listened.  I listened for, you will understand, I knew every word they were speaking as if it was my native tongue.

“I had one of those when I was your age,” he said to the boy; who answered, a bit amazed, “You did?!”  “Yes,” he answered quietly, slowly.  “Yes, I had one long ago when I was young and everything was different.”

Then the child, who held again in his hand what his grandfather had had so long ago; the child was quiet, looking from his object to his grandfather.  No one else was present in the whole huge space.  I wasn’t there, nor his family, nor the crowds flowing by, nor the shiny stores full of shoppers.  No one else but this boy and that man.

He moved closer to his grandfather who lifted him up out of the world to his lap and wrapped him in his left arm; his right kept free to hold the Object the boy had now given back to him.  The boy looked at him and said, “Tell me, Grandfather.”

For the next ten or fifteen or however many minutes, there next to me yet far away, in a language I had never heard yet perfectly understood, the man, the old lion, told his story of the Object he once had to the little boy, the cub.  I couldn’t help but listen and hear the story told.  It was a story I had heard myself when I was a child. The same one I had told to my children, to my grandchildren when they were little boys and girls; little boys and girls who had climbed into my lap and sat within my arms and close to my heart.  And my story used the same, the very same, words he used.

Just as my own children and grandchildren did, so did the little boy, who from time to time could not help interrupting to ask a question; not so much to clarify a point, but rather to redirect the story where he hoped it would go.  And sometimes, so I could tell from Grandfather’s tone, and the young fellow’s smile and gleeful wiggle, why, the story went exactly where he wanted it to go.  But there were times, and the same times occurred in the same stories I told, that what the hearer wanted to hear could not be told.

Then would come the questions always asked during the telling of the Story, “Why?”, or “Why not?”.  I heard this several times as the story was unfolding, and heard eager young explanations for why the Story should move one way or another.

But this Grandfather knew, as Grandfathers have ever known, the how and the why of a story, no matter the Object, and its proper ending.  And he told it well as for nearly all of twenty minutes, while those in the other place worked on packages and luggages, the Old Man and the Young Boy sat away and spoke, listened and lived a Story.

It ended of course.  Every story will.  And they made ready to leave.  The three people had packed away what needed to be packed away.  And the boy got down from the Old Man’s lap.  He stood in front of him with his Object once more in his hand.

The others had gone ahead, already passing the last of the little archipelago of phone booths just beyond our own resting and waiting place, as Grandfather stood up, slowly as grandfathers do, and straightened up, slowly as grandfathers do.  While the Boy waited, the Old Woman stopped, turned and urged the two, still returning from where they had been, to hurry.  The Old Man put on his jacket, and, now quite erect, put out his hand to the little boy.

Who, turning, took it.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 28, 2014

Today, December 28, 2014: The Feast of The Holy Family

One of the things I really like about being lucky enough to have been born a Catholic, one of the most comfortable things for me about my faith, is what we call the Liturgical Year; the observation of the passage of time in quite a different way that the rest of the world does it.  Of course, as a subset of the Liturgical Year, with its Feast Days and Seasons quite different from civil holidays and the four seasons (and in the case of the former, quite a bit more) there is the division of each and every day of the year into the Hours, times of prayer at set periods throughout the day which call the mind and heart and body away from tasks and troubles to the another space, another place, to live and work in.  This I like.


We left early this morning, a bit before 6:00am, to cross the river to the church where we provide the music for Mass every Sunday.  It was warm for late December, the jacket I was wearing just a little more than I’d thought I needed only a few seconds ago getting ready to leave.  It was still quite dark.  A light rain fell, softly, gently, its droplets falling from the bare branches of the weeping cherry just outside the door.  One or two early rising birds were just beginning their first soft songs in the dark stillness under the clouds.

As we walked to the car I noticed how thick the night seemed outside the ring of light from the lamp, timed to stay until dawn, shining on our little Nativity out front. No other house but one at the top of our little hill was lit any longer.  We had come home on Christmas Eve after Mass to a blaze of light, so many kinds and colors of light, strung on trees and hedges, across doors, around bushes, outlining garages and mailboxes; steady lights, spot lights, blinking lights, red, green and blue lights, white lights all over on figures, animals, great glowing balloons and tiny little Santas; even the occasional lit Nativity at the front lawn or near the front door.

But, now, they were gone as if they had never been, and windows once more were dark and blind, shrubs stripped of winding cascading lights, Christmas trees invisible if, in fact, they were still there.  No delighted children scampered about from gift to gift in the early morning while bleary eyed Moms and Dads held coffee cups or cameras and watched.  Christmas unfold.  The secular variety which begins just a little before Thanksgiving day now, was over, and had been since sundown on Christmas day.

As we drove down the hill toward Manchester Street on the way to St. John’s I saw the faint blush low in the east, just under a break in the cloud blanket covering the rest of the sky; day’s first light.  A dull sort of pink, yet hopeful as are all daybreak moments I thought.  And yes, I saw there were still some homes where light brightened, braved, night’s deep loneliness.  On a hill two blocks away another nativity, perhaps the last but ours, lit the dark front of a little house.  And down the street we turned before going out on Manchester there were two more houses  holding the Christmas line.

We passed others on the way.  The trip is about ten minutes long, and there may have been twice that many homes still “keeping Christmas” if the lights about them were any sign.  Twenty homes out of how many?  I’d say easily two hundred.  Five percent.

Well, attendance at Mass this morning was quite in keeping with the experience of Christmas lights on homes and grounds along the way there.  I was happy though for the company kept.  Most of the people who were there I see every week,  The others?  They’ll be back at Easter, God willing.

They live in a different time than I do.  Is trua mor!


Pope Francis began his Christmas homily like this: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:1). “An angel of the Lord appeared to (the shepherds) and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Saviour: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness.”

One of the other things I like about being a Catholic is the Church’s emphasis on the metaphor of light for oh, so many things, including heaven, our destination.  It’s occurred to me quite a bit during the past few days as I’ve watched the lights go out…all over the world?…this light “meme”.  And, here, right in front of me, all around me, so many folks seem to be choosing to “dwell in darkness”.

It’s not a happy thought to think on the Feast of the Holy Family.

“Lighten up!” I can hear some guys I know saying, as they switch to the ball game.


No matter.  Light has come.


The Holy Family!  This is light!

Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 26, 2014

A Letter to My Doctor

I will soon see my doctor.  It will be time for my annual visit with the nice lady, and wanting her to be prepared, I thought writing her a little note describing what was going on with me since we last met would be a good thing to do.  She is good company, and I think of her as less my doctor and more a hostess.  She has lovely eyes.  On our first meeting I called attention to that fact.  She smiled (a lovely smile) and said, “That is what my name means.”  How good of her parents to notice, I thought, and God to provide.

December 26, 2014
Dear Dr. G.
   I thought I would write down a few things which have occurred, are occurring now, and may continue to occur right up until we meet again sometime in a few weeks; an encounter which I trust will be as interesting to you as it is to me. As a help, then, to your work, and a help, also, to me on the morning after Christmas when things are so quiet I must do something, anything I’ll begin. May it amuse you and be as pleasant a pastime reading, as it amuses me and passes my time pleasantly in the writing.
   I visited my dermatologist’s office a couple of weeks ago. The P.A. who has been looking at my warts, carbuncles, and pre-cancerous keratoses for these several years (A direct result of my “Cheap Irish Skin”, a condition no doubt dealt with extensively in the literature, a separate diagnosis in itself, a chapter ending in the term “hopelessly untreatable” .) took great interest in that red thing which I have chosen to think of as my own “Great Red Spot”, a rival to Jupiter’s of the same name, and wondered what I was doing for it…aside from regular feedings. I told him of your prescription, and he said he could burn it off with his cold gas canister which more resembles a plumber’s soldering torch than anything I’ve ever seen in a Doctor’s Office. That leads me to wonder how closely the two “arts” are related. “Fine!” I said. He applied his suggested treatment. Today, as I stepped from the shower and dried off my right leg, I swear it winked at me. I shall return to the “roids” this evening. It had diminished in size, and I wonder, now, if it hadn’t simply reached a more healthy weight.
   Moving a little lower on my right leg, I noticed that my Great Toe (Not yet a tourist attraction along the lines of the Great Barrier Reef, but I have hopes.) began on its own initiative, and without the normal “stubbing” against a wall, a chair leg, or a naughty child’s backside, to hurt like hell. I cannot remember ever having mistreated it in such a fashion that it would seek a prolonged and painful revenge lasting quite long enough for me to consider its amputation on at least one occasion; I was that angry at its behavior. For a while, each evening as I tried sweet reason, it would glare up at me, red with anger on its upper right side, and I feared it would begin to affect the other toes behaviors. No such thing has yet occurred, but, though it has not continued to scream each time I pull a stocking on, it does let me know that its anger lurks not too far from the surface; its occasional growls and continuing sour disposition reminding me of our falling out; whose reason puzzles though as yet does not worry me too much. I have given up, though, all thought of attempting a career in my retirement as a “kicker” of field goals and such.
   We jump now to my elbows, carefully please, they are fragile things; both of which were the occasion for our last brief visit. And, both of which you expertly diagnosed as being guilty of tendonitis. My left elbow is still the worst offender, though it affords me the grudging liquidity of enough movement to allow the tying of a bow tie without too much pain. The right elbow, while not as angry with me as its sibling, is reluctant to help in such tasks as hand shaking without stabbing (but entirely bearable) pain during such things as closing my hand tightly on an object, or even on nothing. Funnily enough, there is nothing of the sort taking place when I do this with my left hand…in either elbow. Neither is there pain in my left elbow, when I grasp something with my right hand. I have managed to understand how the latter of these conditions is the case, but, I do not understand why my left elbow is so sanguine about my left hand grasping something when my right elbow forbids such a thing.
   You may have to read the preceding paragraph more than once. I wrote it, and I cannot understand it even now without two readings. That says something, I suppose, about my mind; a matter which may frighten or intrigue you. I will say I have never taken mind altering drugs, though I did work in Washington, D.C., for three years when a much younger person. Therein may lie a reason and a diagnosis.
   In any event, my right elbow hurts when I shake hands. Oddly enough it seems to hurt me more when I shake the hand of a person I do not particularly wish to shake hands with. ( I apologize for the prepositional ending. I did try.) Try as I might to prevent it, I sometimes will find my right arm extending itself autonomously in such situations; the resulting pain causes a slight grimace which is at least not good manners. The excuse of tendonitis, while effective and facile, is wearing thin among the suspicious; some of whom are relatives. I suppose I could start using my left hand, but I know there are many who would accuse me of effete affectation. Maybe I will just stop shaking hands altogether. I have learned. almost, the art of drinking a pint of ale with my left hand.
   I’m coming to the end, Doctor, and both of us must be happy for that. I know I am. When I started this, I hoped it wouldn’t be too long. I still hold out hope. To that end I’ve not talked about anything between my shoulders and my hips. There may be children around, you know.
   Both of my hips hurt, the tin one and the one that doesn’t exist anymore; the right side one. But, though I cannot run, either as far or as fast as once long ago, I am more careful crossing a street as a result, and have grown used to the difference in the length of my legs.  It also helps that no one is chasing me.  My feet are another problem. They both hurt all the time such that if my elbows were in better shape I’d give serious thought to learning to walk with my hands. (Now, there’s a solution to my hand shaking problem!)
   I spoke with my daughter, and one or two old guys who have experience in the matter. “Sit down more!” one said. My daughter suggested I talk to you about it. She’s a nurse and doesn’t want me to sue her for bad medical advice I guess. But she did suggest I pay more attention to my shoes. I have started polishing them more regularly, but I suspect this may not be enough.
   Finally, standing for more than ten or so minutes begins to hurt my lower back, too, leading me to think that my lumbar spine is taking on the properties of what the northerners call “corn snow”, though I cannot think how that would occur. I’ve never frozen my spine, though I have on occasion nearly frozen my butt off.
   I shall end, now, and hope that your New Year is a pleasant and happy one. Mine certainly will be.  Approaching the clubhouse turn in this race as I am, I look forward with some eagerness to the home stretch and the finish and the trip to the Winner’s Circle before a nice cool down and the green pastures.
Healthy regards,
Peter
PS: You may always call me Peter. The only people who call me Mr. Gallaher are police officers and librarians.  I’ll continue to call you Doctor, of course.  It’s my thought it should be the case unless one’s on the golf course with a doctor.  Then, unless one beats one’s doctor like a rented mule, first names are just fine.  Should he lose, of course, one owes him the shred of dignity attending on all those years of medical school, etc.; not to mention all that money and time spent with the Pro.  I did show this little note to my long suffering wife.  She smiled, and probably said a prayer for you.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 1, 2014

A Child’s Poem

A CHILD’S POEM
(About A Book, a Word)

Long ago in the great before
Nothing was.  Not any more
As is is now. So shall it be
Seen, and felt as wood and tree
For home and hearth, for leaf and limb,
And wing of bird, and song to sing.

The Great Before remains, unchanged,
Beyond, behind, throughout; arranged
Unseen within each living thing;
Un-living too, and in, between,
The smallest bit, each galaxy,
Your eyes, sky blue, and even me!

We will see when all will end
And seeing we will cry, “Amen!”
A soundless cry just once we’ll give
And having cried and loved we’ll live
Inside Amen, inside Before
Forever and forever more.

peg
Dec. 1, 2014

“(T)he Book of Nature reflects the Book of Scripture and in both (one) reads only a single word, the divine Logos.”
Stratford Caldecott, in “NOT As The World Gives”

Posted by: Peadar Ban | November 28, 2014

Make A Broom Beautiful

Make A Broom Beautiful
(A Poem About Life)

Make a broom beautiful
The sewer to sweep clean.
Polish the stones beneath your feet.
Kindly kill the Ox you’ll eat
And with shining blade carve neat
Its cared for flesh, and you will
Have God served, done His will
To love what He has made;
His Word, good child, obeyed.

peg
11/28/2014

Posted by: Peadar Ban | November 28, 2014

Ha Ha!

HA HA!
A Very Serious Poem

Atoms themselves are beautiful things
Electrons’ clouds and protons’ haze
Moving rhythmically … ’til vision stays,
Pins them in the tiniest space.
“A system,” say scientists!
“A jewel dangling from God’s wrist,”
I say who see things they overlook:
A quark’s bright smile, while who took
The pattern of its brief flight,
A bright line in the chamber’s night,
See just numbers; ranged at end
For conferences, symposia
And miss Mu Meson’s hearty laugh
Descending to its particle bath.

God’s bright charge is throughout all.
It’s truth about the world.
Bulk and marvel of the machine
It’s dials that twirl, it’s silv’ry screens
Block beauty to be seen. Unheard
Too, laughter, God’s ever smiling Word.

peg
November 28, 2014

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