Saturday, December 31, 2011


Light a candle or lantern before turning out all the lights in the house, symbolically telling the old year good by. Take the candle out doors and wait a few minutes. Then knock on the door. Welcome the light bearer with lines such as

Welcome the light of the New Year
And welcome to the one who bears it.

When the candle and its bearer have reentered the house make a circuit of your home relighting the lights one at a time. If you can use candles safely go ahead, otherwise just turn on the lights one at a time welcoming the new year. .

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Creation has blessed us with many paths to truth. Many of us express our reverence for Creation and the sacred in too many ways to count. But, there are things that all of us wish for ourselves and for our families. These we can be thankful for no matter what path we walk.

Bless us, for these, which we are about to receive from Creation’s bounty.
For food in a world where many walk the path of hunger.
For faith in a world where many walk the path of fear.
For friends in a world where many walk the path of loneliness.
We give you thanks, Amen."

Friday, December 23, 2011


Had a flicker visiting in the yard this morning while the other birds were getting their sunflower seed fixes.

This little guy spent about five minutes watching a squirrel hang from the roof of the feeder and then decided to try it himself. Hey, if the furball can do it, maybe I can too. Success.

After the trip to the wooden feeder the flicker spent a little time watching the smaller birds at the tube feeder. It was a bit of a stretch but he managed to hang on.

And then he was suddenly on the wing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


The sun shining through the entrance of the New Grange burial mound in Ireland on the winter solstice in 2006. The entrance and inner chamber are aligned so that the sun shines fully into the chamber only on the winter solstice.


Now is the solstice of the year,
winter is the glad song that you hear.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Have the lads up ready in a line.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Join together beneath the mistletoe.
By the holy oak whereon it grows.
Seven druids dance in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Praise be to the distant sister sun,
joyful as the silver planets run.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.

Ring out those bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.
Ring on, ring out.
Ring on, ring out.

Incredibly cheerful tune from the English group Jethro Tull. They had a flute player who could play rings around anybody.

Time to celebrate the return of the sun. Light a fire, mull your wine or cider. Remember your ancestors. Sing your hearts out. Time to partay!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Recycled silk poinsettia blossoms, I think it turned out very well. Even if my hands were pretty nicked by the time I was done.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I’ve been doing some reading as we run up to Christmas. It’s a time of joy, but also a time to remember that the message of the birth often gets lost or obscured. This was also on a blog site. The intro pointed out the inductees claiming conscientious objector status had to go through a psych exam, but those who were willing to kill were assumed to be “sane.”

Thomas Merton died in 1968. He had harsh words for our involvement in Viet Nam and the violence of the Civil Rights era. I can barely imagine his reaction to our support for the coups in Chili and Argentina followed by our covert and not so covert support for the death squads in Central America. Good, sane family men and women who went home to their wives and children, attended church; firmly convinced they were serving God and country.

A Devout Meditation in the Memory of Adolph Eichmann

One of the most disturbing facts that came out in the Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane. I do not doubt it all, and that is precisely why I find it disturbing.
If all the Nazis had been psychotics, as some of their leaders probably were, their appalling cruelty would have been in some sense easier to understand. It is much worse to consider this calm, "well-balanced," unperturbed official conscientiously going about his desk work, his administrative job which happened to be the supervision of mass murder. He was thoughtful, orderly, unimaginative. He had a profound respect for system, for law and order. He was obedient, loyal, a faithful officer of a great state. He served his government very well.

He was not bothered much by guilt. I have not heard that he developed any psychosomatic illnesses. Apparently he slept well. He had a good appetite, or so it seems. True, when he visited Auschwitz, the Camp Commandant, Hoess, in a spirit of sly deviltry, tried to tease the big boss and scare him with some of the sight, Eichmann was disturbed, yes. He was disturbed. Even Himmler had been disturbed, and had gone weak at the knees. Perhaps, in the same way, the general manager of a big steel mill might be disturbed if an accident took place while he happened to be somewhere in the plant. But of course what happened at Auschwitz was not an accident: just the routine unpleasantness of the daily task. One must shoulder the burden of daily monotonous work for the Fatherland. Yes, one must suffer discomfort and even nausea from unpleasant sights and sounds. It all comes under the heading of duty, self-sacrifice, and obedience.
Eichmann was devoted to duty. and proud of his job.

The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous.

It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missile, and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared What makes us so sure, after all, that the danger comes from a psychotic getting into a position to fire the first shot in a nuclear war? Psychotics will be suspect. The sane ones will keep them far from the button. No one suspects the sane, and the sane ones will have perfectly good reasons, logical, well-adjusted reasons, for firing the shot. They will be obeying sane orders that have come sanely down the chain of command. And because of their sanity they will have no qualms at all. When the missiles take off, then, it will be no mistake. We can no longer assume that because a man is "sane" he is therefore in his "right mind." The whole concept of sanity in a society where spiritual values have lost their meaning is itself meaningless. A man can be "sane" in the limited sense that he is not impeded by disordered emotions from acting in a cool, orderly tier, according to the needs and dictates of the social situation in which he finds himself. He can be perfectly "adjusted." God knows, perhaps such people can be perfectly adjusted even in hell itself.

And so I ask myself: what is the meaning of a concept of sanity that excludes love, considers it irrelevant, and destroys our capacity to love other human beings, to respond to their needs and their sufferings, to recognize them also as persons, to apprehend their pain as one's own? Evidently this is not necessary for "sanity" at all. It is a religious notion, a spiritual notion, a Christian notion What business have we to equate "sanity" with "Christianity"? None at all, obviously. The worst error is to imagine that a Christian must try to be "sane" like everybody else, that we belong in our kind of society. That we must be "realistic" about it. We must develop a sane Christianity: and there have been plenty of sane Christians in the past. Torture is nothing new, is it? We ought to be able to rationalize a little brainwashing, and genocide, and find a place for nuclear war, or at least for napalm bombs, in our moral theology. Certainly some of us are doing our best along those lines already. There are hopes! Even Christians can shake off their sentimental prejudices about charity, and become sane like Eichmann. They can even cling to a certain set of Christian formulas, and fit them into a Totalist Ideology. Let them talk about justice, charity, love, and the rest. These words have not stopped some sane men from acting very sanely and cleverly in the past.... No, Eichmann was sane. The generals and fighters on both sides, in World War II, the ones who carried out the total destruction of entire cities, these were the sane ones. Those who have invented and developed atomic bombs, thermonuclear bombs, missiles; who have planned the strategy of the next war; who have evaluated the various possibilities of using bacterial and chemical agents: these are not the crazy people, they are the sane people. The ones who coolly estimate how many millions of victims can he considered expendable in a nuclear war, I presume they do all right with the Rorschach ink blots too. On the other hand, you will probably find that the pacifists and the ban-the-bomb people are, quite seriously, just as we read in Time, a little crazy. I am beginning to realize that "sanity" is no longer a value or an end in itself. The "sanity" of modern man is about as useful to him as the huge bulk and muscles of the dinosaur. If he were a little less sane, a little more doubtful, a little more aware of his absurdities and contradictions, perhaps there might be a possibility of his survival. But if he is sane, too sane ... perhaps we must say that in a society like ours the worst insanity is to be totally without anxiety, totally "sane."
copyrighted in 1966. Published by Burns and Oates.
from Raids on the Unspeakable by Thomas Merton


Just a nice little snowman feeding the birds.

My little village in the wreath. Granted I was pretty sleepy last night when I turned off the lights but I could swear I heard singing over in that corner.


What can I say about the Republican candidates? Not much you can say about a carny sideshow in a head long rush to the bottom of the Grand Canyon…and beyond.

It's a credit to the miracle of this nation that a first generation son of immigrants like Rick Santorum can even dream of becoming president. Luckily dreaming is about as close as he’s going to get but it got me thinking.

His father's family came over in the 1920's. The last of my ancestors to arrive that I can account for stepped off the boat in New York in 1850. She was eleven, her name was Margaret Clinton and she immigrated with her family. Probably from somewhere in Ireland. They either sailed from Belfast or crossed over to England and boarded in Liverpool. Near as I can tell, everybody else was already here going back to Massachusetts in 1635 and Pennsylvania in 1682.

Heck Rick your folks had it relatively easy. Probably came steerage but they could be here in less than two weeks. I’m not sure when liners started using radios instead of telegraph but at least the ship’s officers could yell for help if they ran into trouble and your family didn’t have to worry about small pox, typhus, and the food running short. At least your folks were on a ship with engines. Your mom or grandmother didn’t risk one of the saddest notes I’ve run across, grandmother so and so died in childbirth and was buried at sea. No note about the possible aunt or uncle, but I wouldn’t give a newborn much chance unless there was another woman aboard who could nurse that baby.

Yes, your family came over just before the depression hit, but you weren’t here alone. Hell man, the heavy lifting had already been done. Our two civil wars were over. We had a government up and running (most of the time). Your family had a place to come to, it probably wasn’t much to start with but you weren’t alone, literally building a nation from the ground up. You know Rick, showing a little gratitude for what we got right would be refreshing.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Two ways of looking at our relationship with the natural world. One from a pagan, one from a Christian hermit.

A wildwood mystic is “….One who speaks for the tree roots and stone. Who speaks with the tree roots’ and stones’ voices. One who speaks as the grass and rivers. Who speaks as field and woods and hills and valleys and salt marshes and waves and tides. Yet who speaks as what is close to home. With the mouse’s voice or the seagull’s or the fox’s or the badger’s. One who speaks in cadences that go beyond the darkness and beyond stars, encompassing what is immeasurable. One whose entire being vibrates to the spirits’ words in nature, like a reed at dawn in a pool where trout swim.”

Rae Beth in The Hedge Witch’s Way

“The very nature of your solitude involves you in union with the prayers of the wind in the trees, the movement of the stars, the feeding of the birds in the fields, the building of the anthills. You witness the creator and attend to him in all his creation.”

Thomas Merton OCSO (order of Cistercians of the strict obeservance)

Two traditions, one message.

Monday, December 5, 2011


FOR AMERICA by Jackson Brown

As if I really didn't understand
That I was just another part of their plan
I went off looking for the promise
Believing in the Motherland

And from the comfort of a dreamer's bed
And the safety of my own head
I went on speaking of the future
While other people fought and bled

The kid I was when I first left home
Was looking for his freedom and a life of his own
But the freedom that he found wasn't quite as sweet
When the truth was known

I have prayed for America, I was made for America
It's in my blood and in my bones
By the dawn's early light, by all I know is right
We're going to reap what we have sown

As if freedom was a question of might
As if loyalty was black and white
You hear people say it all the time
"My country wrong or right"

I want to know what that's got to do
With what it takes to find out what's true
With everyone from the President on down
Trying to keep it from you

The thing I wonder about the dads and moms
Who send their sons to the Vietnam's
Will they really think their way of life
Has been protected as the next war comes?

I have prayed for America, I was made for America
Her shining dream plays in my mind
By the rockets red glare, a generation's blank stare
We better wake her up this time

The kid I was when I first left home
Was looking for his freedom and a life of his own
But the freedom that he found wasn't quite as sweet
When the truth was known

I have prayed for America, I was made for America
I can't let go till she comes around
Until the land of the free, is awake and can see
And until her conscience has been found.

This was released in the album Live in the Balance in the mid 80's. It apparently was Browne's first really political album. He has been active in the environmental movement. Most recently he's perfomed at the original Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

I still find myself believing that every war we've fought since the seventies was an attempt make up for losing in Nam. So far, no luck. Even if you can justify any kind of war we have to be careful or you end up with:

The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

T S Elliot in Murder in the Cathedral.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Same nephew as the loaded whipped cream beaters, just a few years older.

Mom’s youngest brother took after his dad. Kind of short and kind of round. I’m not sure how it happened, but he started doing Santa Claus every Christmas. Naturally he included his nephews in his rounds when they came west of the mountains for the holiday.

We have a picture taken when Tim might have been about five. He’s looking back over his shoulder at the jolly old elf. There had been a huge family get together the summer before and Tim had a “you sound really familiar but…” look on his face. But, my favorite memory happened a couple of years later.

The kids were here. Santa came in with his bells and a “ho, ho, ho,” From the direction of the couch came. “I’ve been good,” (of course he had)