Friday, October 26, 2007
10 years ago - 1997 - Divorce No. 2 was final over that summer, and my new life had just begun. Loved having my own place with the kids, finally with some sense of control over the chaos of our lives. Had graduated to full-time work practicing municipal law, for which I prosecuted traffic tickets, attended zoning board meetings, acted as stand-in city attorney when my boss could not be there, drafted ordinances galore, appellate court briefs, and once in awhile got all suited up and got to appear in court arguing on motions for various legal rulings on the briefs I had written. Fascinating stuff, some of the issues that arose concerning the powers of municipalities. Even got to do some election law. The marathon hearing on a woman police officer's protest over being fired for sexually harassing her married lover was not fun, however, if only because of the emotional damage flung far and wide in the midst of local politics.
20 years ago - 1987 - Just beginning my career as a Legal Writing instructor at a law school in Connecticut after having quit my job as a Legal Services Attorney in Wisconsin the year before and having spent six months in the best job of my life, a clerk in a Kroch's and Brentano's bookstore. During the bookstore period, I lived at home with my parents while my father was losing his battle with amyloidosis, complicated in the end by prostate cancer (which no one caught because of years focusing on other things) and brittle bones that led to one hip fracture, followed by surgery and recovery, followed several months later by fracture of the other hip, surgery, intensive care with pneumonia, and finally death in June 1987. My father was so happy and proud of my new job in academia, after having seen me, years earlier, blow the fast track career that I might have had after clerking for a federal appellate court judge, as a result of the struggles with my first husband's drinking and repeated failed attempts at rehab, inpatient and outpatient, during my critical summer internships at the end of law school, which left me empty and wanting to do something other than fighting the rat race in the big city law firms. By 1987, my ex had finally successfully dried out (we were divorced the first time in 1983) and we were dating, but my father hoped and prayed that my new teaching job a thousand miles away would solve the problem. Unfortunately, after my father's death and my move to Connecticut, we romanced our way long-distance through the remainder of 1987 and 1988 and married again the following summer.
3o years ago - 1977 - Oh dear. That was the first time of falling Madly in Love with my first husband. It was precisely Halloween of 1977 when, after only having known him for two weeks, we took off from Wisconsin to Atlanta, Georgia for a 4-day weekend to see the big, annual sports car and formula car race there. A friend and fraternity brother of my husband's -- a retiring math teacher in suburban Milwaukee who inherited the family's brewery's fortune and took it racing for many years in Formula Atlantic -- was racing. That's when we saw Paul Newman (also racing) and Joanne Woodward. I had fun, but I should have been forewarned about the kind of relationship we would have when our car (an old MGB)'s muffler started falling off at 2 a.m. as we first drove into the Atlanta area and once we parked, John took off the trailing piece, wrapped it in a blanket, and laid it on MY side of the car, while I tried to sleep scrunched up next to it, while he was able to sleep on his side unobstructed. Oh well...... The idea was to get away from bookish and/or practical people. I certainly did, but he was blue-eyed, sandy-haired, and very handsome (which seemed to go well with my raven hair and green eyes and... whatever).
40 years ago - 1967 - I was in 9th grade, deeply immersed in politics and foreign affairs, and then falling (innocently) in love with my World Civ teacher, Mr. Carpenter. He had us write essays due every Monday (which meant that eventually I missed a lot of Mondays when I couldn't finish in time). They were on topics unrelated to classwork -- just ideas to engage us and make us do some minimal research (we had to have three sources cited). I, of course, made what was supposed to be 3-5 page writing exercises into lengthy, major research projects. To make matters worse, I used to go off on tangents reading works referenced in the essays in the first two volumes of The Great Books (so I read enough for several papers). Meanwhile, I suffered through Advanced Geometry with Mr. Klaus who sent girls to the principal's office if their skirts were too short. I don't recall if I got sent down, but I did wear them pretty short (could those have been the years of fishnet stocking and mini-skirts? ouch, recalling fishnet stockings held up by garters, All I got from wearing them were nasty marks on my legs and feet by the end of the day).
50 years ago - 1957 - I was four. I don't know if if was that fall, but that was the year I remember being at the Lyric Opera House for American Ballet Theatre. I got an awful earache and ear infection but was entranced with Les Sylphides and Les Patineurs and only finally agreed to go home during Graduation Ball. My father, as always, took good care of me whenever I was in pain.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
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You scored as Catholic
You are a Catholic. You believe that the bread and wine are transformed by the priest and become the Body and Blood of Christ. Though the accidents, or appearance, of bread and wine remain, the substance has been changed. The Eucharist remains the Body and Blood of Christ after the celebration, and is reserved in the Tabernacle; Eucharistic devotions are proper. As the whole Christ is present under either species, you partake fully of the Eucharist even if you receive only one.
But ain't no way I'm posting a photo of Benny on my blog!
I think the hardest part about trying to write anything is the fact, as many have reported, that people were so much who we all are online -- nothing new or surprising other than the beauty of Mimi's lovely blue eyes (the depth and clarity of her sight and the warmness of her heart, we all knew). Now, of course, this doesn't apply to the lurkers and all of those who comment but do not blog (those wise, sane folks -- no offense intended towards bloggers, but I can see the wisdom in forbearance for myself). But, I'm just not going to tell EVERYTHING I learned or enjoyed about others. All I can say is the only small surprise (though not really had I given it more thought ahead of time), is that Tobias is the extrovert and Jake the introvert, although both are and were warm and gracious in meeting and talking with everyone.
In any event, I cannot hope to compete with the narrative the world will soon read from someone who claims, "Je suis occupée des affairs" (such wit the woman has, not to mention agility in many languages), and who will soon bring us the "chef d'oeuvre on the gathering." So, we will all have to await the definitive history of the five-day Affair (which involved ever so much more than The Kiss).
UPDATE: It's going to be a serialized account, like Dickens or maybe War and Peace. Stay tuned for Parts 1 through whatever.
P.S. I just have to add this somewhere - I don't get what all the fuss was about Evensong -- about seeing it as "fussy." I'm used to singing a Choral Evensong, which lasts longer and always has incense galore, and we're just a backwater parish practically in the north woods. My voice isn't much (and is much out of practice of late) but IF Dan and I had had a folder with the Canticles, we, too, could have participated (and he really DOES have a fine voice) (my apologies to him for fumbling with the books we had -- I "got" which ones were needed but promptly forgot in a rush -- isn't there an awfully high prevalence of ADD/ADHD in this crowd?). How do you all do church without a real, live Anglican Evensong now and then?
The irony of this trip, however, was that one of its greatest benefits for me was that it got me away from the computer for four days and into the real world and away from the constant buzz of Anglican Communion and TEC news and gossip. I love cities – just about all the big ones I’ve ever visited or lived in. I especially like to walk and see people and neighborhoods, even more than sightseeing. I enjoyed the area surrounding Union Square, near my hotel, and wherever else I ventured from there and from other subway stops, ranging from the West Village to Midtown to the Bronx.
The day I arrived, Union Square was full of its farmer’s market and the subway musicians were playing flamenco guitar (well, electric, but flamenco rhythms). Every day was the stream of people everywhere, of all ages, races, national origins, children and old people, and all sorts in between, not to mention the dogs, so many of them, trotting here and there. The air was warm and humid, but often breezy, and the sun shining throughout the day. Trees and grass, plants and flowers, were still in bloom, with people doing their best to make the most of whatever urban outdoors they could find, whether it be children taking their small bikes to the sidewalk or helmeted adults hauling their large ones down and into the subway, headed for who knows where. At night local bars were crowded with baseball fans and others just looking for a place to relax and see people.
Of course my jaunts barely scratched the surface of all that is Manhattan, let alone the entire city. But this was the first I really spent any time in residential areas, even the upscale ones (unless you count walking by places in the upper east side near the museums). All I had seen of Manhattan previously were the stores and theatres in Midtown, Lincoln Center, the museums and nearby sections of Central Park, and enough of downtown to see the site of the World Trade Center and to take the Staten Island Ferry. I still don’t have a feel for the city like I do my native Chicago (which, I’m afraid, will always be my first love, with its distinctive people, the lake, the wind, the extraordinary architecture – NYC Is such a visual bore, by comparison – the theatre and entertainment community (the Goodman, Second City, among others), the Art Institute and other museums, the ferris wheel and the water tables in the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, the lakefront parks and beaches, etc.). But the sights and sounds of the NYC I encountered were wonder enough after so much time in cyberspace.
Walking itself was a great delight. I love to walk but never manage to find enough time for it regularly beyond my dog’s daily needs. It comes as no surprise that it turns out that it’s therapeutic as well. (See Thom Hartmann’s new book, Walking the Blues Away, highly recommended by a friend). I will have to try to do much more of it, to clear my mind and the dense cloud of emotions that often overtake me.
For now, I have had to busy myself with catching up with work and the family, trying to figure out how I can be many places at once, planning around the end of high school soccer season and the beginning of club soccer, church and choir schedules, and whatever it is I can do right now long-distance for my mother. Yet I wish I could find more time to pull together some of the random thoughts I had with all the walking and talking this past weekend.
Many of them had to do with church, which seemed odd to me, even though the impetus for the trip was meeting folks I knew from Jake’s and Mad Priest’s. Although church necessarily is a big part of my life, it’s not something I spend much time thinking about on vacation. But with all the writing and talk of late about people contemplating leaving TEC, on all sides of the divide, I was much more conscious of what it means to me, at times, to be an Episcopalian. I have largely kept quiet online (hard for me to do) regarding the resolution coming from the House of Bishops’ meeting in New Orleans and all the reactions to the various reactions. And I haven’t even read, let alone followed, the latest from ++Rowan Williams (letter to +Howe, etc.). I’m beginning to grasp the depth of what is at stake regarding what is known in shorthand as “GLBT inclusion” – how different it is from other kinds of “justice” issues and why, I think, it is especially important for the spiritual lives and welfare of everyone, but most important how it impacts the lives of GLBTs and their families in ways that go far beyond the issue of who can be a priest or bishop. At the same time, I am torn by my own thoughts and feelings about religion and churchgoing, which tend more towards catholicism, which is problematic but, I think, different from what some call “unity” – the latter striking me more as a political aspiration and wild-eyed hope of mission and evangelism among Anglican churches (in various directions) in different cultural contexts, whereas the former, catholicity, is something quite different, more the notion that we are all the church and one is part because one cannot be anything but a part, so we hang together not because we endorse all that is taught by those in authority but because we all must learn and witness together and work for justice and truth wherever we may be and whomever claims to rule over us.
I guess I could say that I’m experiencing “tension” (which like “listening” and “ambiguity” has become something of a dirty, overused word) between what I think I need and want, personally, from church and what I think it should strive to be as a community and as an institution, for teaching, learning, loving, and giving, in all ways practical and im(practical). My own feelings and experience with church don’t count as diddly squat, of course, but I’m struck by what occurs when I enter an Episcopal Church and feel so much divine (and sometimes human) care and comfort in ways I would not and have not elsewhere. Recently, being in church two weeks ago in the Midwest and this past Sunday in the Bronx, brought me places in thought and prayer I can’t imagine would have happened elsewhere.
These happened to be places where at least the priests were progressive theologically (I know little about the parishioners). But even if they hadn’t been, I would have felt much the same. As Elizabeth Kaeton recently wrote describing the thoughts of Ms. Conroy, “I need a place, just one place, at the beginning of my week, where I know who God is and where God is and that there's some semblance of order and control in the universe. Please don't deny me this one hour of illusion. Some days, it's the only thing that keeps me going.” Her thoughts, as well as those of Garrison Keillor’s (the occasion for the post), are very much how I feel about the Episcopal Church, especially in its more Anglo-Catholic manifestations.
I joined the Episcopal Church not, like many others in recent years, because it “stood” for any particular theological point of view or socio-political agenda, but rather because its words, sights, smells, gestures and sounds, in truly Eucharistic-centered worship, is what brought me home to the Christian faith, or at least to the kind of knowledge and awareness of the ever-presence of God and of my need to draw near and listen and pray in humility and wonder, the kind that spurs me to turn my life into something better, however feeble and frustrated my attempts, at times. I left the Lutheran church, where I happily resided briefly (after years of being unchurched and my youth spent with the Methodists), to escape a particular situation of church conflict (that time between a progressive but autocratic bishop and his staff and a faithful congregation who finally found their backbones), not because I thought the Episcopalians were free of such conflicts, not because I thought they were in any way more enlightened theologically or otherwise, but because I just knew it was home in some deep and profound way that reached the core of my being.
From the beginning I have had difficulty with this, knowing that a good part was and is self-centered. I left a Lutheran congregation of people I dearly loved, who were most responsible for bringing me back to any kind of church, who taught me the Eucharist, and who needed all the help they could get in their struggles with the bishop. I had to struggle with whether becoming confirmed as an Episcopalian was really worthwhile and meant something more than just moving across town to a different group of people (whom I also came to love) and their lovely music and liturgy. I thought so, I believe so now, though I am far from bearing the kinds of fruit that I had hoped.
Yet, the Current Unpleasantedness has brought this all to the forefront again. I have previously understood and increasingly understand better why gays and lesbians may experience the Episcopal Church as abusive, especially in light of recent events. I wish they and anyone else who do not feel “at home” as I do to leave and go wherever they can to find their own home (or, as much as it pains me to imagine, go out and keep seeking on their own, if that’s what they need, at least for now). But I would hope that those who stay, of whatever sexual orientation, theological or political views, would understand and accept, to the extent possible, that church has always been and always will be a human institution, peopled by laypeople, pastors, priest, bishops, archbishops and primates (or whatever other kinds are found in a particular denomination or faith tradition), all of whom are fallible. From my perspective, at least, it doesn’t matter how learned the person is, what kind of sacrament or studies have been brought to bear, each and every one is as susceptible to sin and as capable of limited understanding as the next. Those who look to their priests or bishops and to anyone else in the hierarchies as leaders or gurus or even wise men and women are, I think, doing a disservice to themselves and the church.
This is not to say that one cannot or should not work hard to change people’s hearts and minds, to lobby and vote for particular actions and ideas, and to hold persons in positions in authority accountable for what they do and fail to do – indeed, one must do all those things. But to be constantly in a state of disillusion, disease, and even despair over human beings being, well, simply human, as if anything will ever change, other than glacially, even in this age if instant communications, is something I think we should all endeavor to avoid. The Day of Judgment will come, certainly, and we must not tarry or dawdle, but, we, like many of generations before us, may well live our entire lives seeing we, the human race, and the world in which we inhabit, go on much the same as it always has. The church, as a human institution, is not going to change all that much, may even take many steps backward, though one hope it will do some good. It is only church as the Body of Christ that can and will do miracles, that can be counted on.
I don’t begin to know how best anyone should participate or not in institutional churches. Personally, I don’t view even these fallible institutions as something like political parties, where one opts in and out depending on the platform or leaders of the moment. I believe in catholicism, though I do not believe that is should be an idol or warrant support of any church “right or wrong.” But I do think it sometimes requires time and patience to effectuate any kind of long-term changes. I am NOT saying that endless negotiations and waiting are always good strategies or the moral choices called for, but I am saying that, like it or not, sometimes things come slowly, no matter what kind of efforts are made, and that is foolish to place any church on some kind of pedestal, expecting it and its authorities to do any better than people in civil institutions. Certainly we should have all learned by now that the "name brand" does not in any way guarantee the good and the right, let alone the holy and sacred. At best it -- the name of God -- keeps us mindful of what our priorities should be, at worst it is exploited and abused by those who seek power and privilege over others.
Well, I said these were random thoughts, and indeed, they are. I need to let a lot seep and settle for a longer period of time. Maybe in the end I don’t really have anything useful to add to all our conversations, maybe, indeed, my ideas need changing. I read Mark, for one, as a sometimes lone and brave voice trying to call everyone to truth, out of hypocrisy, and away from battles with people who apparently can give little more than more fight. I also have been thinking of the sign I saw in an Episcopal church in downtown NYC that said something like “It costs a dollar for every minute to keep this church operating” (or was it five dollars?). It was a lovely church, no doubt with great history, as is ours and many others. But when do the building costs, the costs of the choirs, organs, and music, the smells and bells, and the priests who are knowledgeable of both liturgy and scripture, come at too high of a cost? Is the future of the true church really the Emergent one, or at least something more like St. Gregory’s as Sarah Miles writes about in Take this Bread? Do many of us want too much our places of sanctuary, can we have sanctuary and mission both, did Christ ever want any of us to “do church” or should we always have found other ways to make and keep community, to love and serve the Lord, our neighbors, and strangers everywhere?
Questions I don’t begin to have answers for....
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The Evensong Group.
Doug and me.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
But.... so much to write about from the days before. Here's just the summary of what I did. Saturday, I met Mimi at JFK and took a cab into town together. I stopped at her hotel and then began the first part of my learn-the-NYC-subway-system quest, after finding some stations closed, finally got to one that took me to Union Square and I found my way to my hotel (well, only after heading several blocks west when I needed to go east -- the way I usually go about things, I'm afraid -- I get to where I'm supposed to be sooner or later). Then Mimi and I met up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw the Rembrandt exhibit and had a nice long chat until it was just about to close (it's open late on Saturday night). Cabs were hard to come by but Mimi found a bus and then I found one that actually went all the way down to within a block or two of my hotel.
Sunday was an extraordinary day. I had no idea how long it would take for me to get to the Bronx, where Mimi and I and some others were planning on attending church at St. James where Fr. Tobias Haller is vicar. I lucked out with catching subway trains, even on the Sunday schedule, and got there an hour early, and Tobias was gracious enough to give me a tour of the Tiffany windows in the church as well as something of its history. Bloggers and friends who showed for church included Mimi, Paul(a), Doug, Terry and Gabe, and Mark [did I forget anyone? I hope not]. Tobias announced our presence from the pulpit and we all stayed for coffee. Afterwards, when Mimi finally said her goodbyes (Southern style -- something we all noted throughout the weekend), Mark was kind enough to give Terry and Gabe and I a ride back to Midtown, where we had brunch and conversation until nearly 4 p.m. I went back to my hotel, revived myself, and dashed back uptown again to see Rent.
Monday, I went to MOMA in the morning to commune with Monet's Water Lilies, the Picassos, Kandinskys. etc. and then had a delightful long lunch with my cousins, who are retired English professors from Wisconsin who have a studio apt. near Lincoln Center, where they stay in September and October every year. I hadn't seen then for something like 4-5 years, and I enjoyed their company more than I ever have.
Then it was time to go back to the subway underworld in the heat and humidity and find my way to GTC for the Big Event. Who should I happen to find myself walking along the street with but Tobias Haller, who knew where we were supposed to meet. Then... well, the pre-meeting, Evensong (sorry Toujoursdan, I can't sing), and dinner. Didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked with everyone (like Eileen, Dennis, David, Jake, and Shel) but it was great meeting so many people, especially some whom I didn't know as well as others -- like Allie and Allen and his wife, and johnnieb. I also managed not to get into too many photos, although I am in some of the large group shots.
Well, that's how I spent my October vacation, folks.
Special thanks to Dennis for thinking it all up. I had the best time I've had in a long time -- at a time when I really needed it. And, some things hit me very deeply this weekend -- the richness and diversity of urban life, Tobias' sermon, just being at church away from home, conversations with Terry and Gabe, art, music, all the wonderful people whom I am so privileged to have known and/or have just begun to know from online, subways, and the stuff of life.
Musings to follow whenever and however I can, later.