Friday, September 18, 2015

Things I Learned This Week: Greyhound Edition

  • Greyhound: viable mode of transportation if you're going a medium distance and need to get work done on the way, even if it smells like a portapotty. 
  • I did, in fact, learn stuff in year one of Ph.D. studies. I was skeptical of this in May, but somehow being back in class for year two, feel like I know all kinds of stuff.
  • Roommate babies are the best babies.

  • A side of hummus at my favorite Mediterranean place is as much in quantity as a tub from the grocery store and less in cost. Game over, snack attacks.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

First day of school!

Year two. Got this biz on lockdown.

Also, this is the part where I start writing about academia as promised in the sidebar.

Happy birthday!

Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In plain English, it's Mary's birthday.

Lots of Catholics have a soft spot for Mary, and lots of Catholic converts and reverts had a soft spot for her well before they came into the Church. I'm one of those. She has had her gentle guiding hand on my back all my life.

Photos: The Church of St. Ann in Jerusalem, purported to be the site of Mary's birth. January 2010.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Things I Learned This Week: Transparent Brained Fish Edition

Whut nature stop ur showing off
  • This thing is a real animal. It's called a barreleye fish, and it's head is in fact transparent. The green blobs are its eyes, which are turned 90 degreed upwards to watch for the silhouettes of its prey in the blackness of the deep ocean. Look upon the Lord's creation, ye mortals, and tremble. 
  • Farmer's market produce doesn't magically last forever. This should not be something I just learned this week.
  • If you're getting back on the coffee train after being off it for a while, start slow. Do not jump right back into full mugs of heavy diesel cold press. Your heart will have things to say to you. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

On the Strange Heartbreak of Joy

I tell you this to break your heart,
    by which i mean only
that it break open and never close again
    to the rest of the world.
- Mary Oliver
Once in while, I've felt my heart pressed with greater joy than I knew it could handle. It's always a quite realization. I marvel once I notice, and I gradually comprehend that it's no temporary jolt but a new abiding way of being. Whatever space in me receives joy has expanded.

Joy is a way of understanding reality. Each time my feeble little heart and brain grasp a new grain of Truth, it grows my heart, and since nature abhors a vacuum, the new space fills with wonder at that Truth, which is to say, it fills with joy. Since the Truth abides forever, so does joy.

The only way to make that new space is to break apart the old one. Each time I've felt that press of joy, it's been in the wake some realization or experience that forces me to let go of some old understanding*. This kind of letting go always feels like a death, albeit a teeny one, but in the equally teeny scheme of my life, persisting through some of those experiences feels like a hell of a trial. I feel my heart twinge in my chest - literally, physically - and I wish it weren't so even as some other part of me sees joy coming.

God breaks my heart all the time, over and over. It feels like He's wringing me out. In my better moments I understand that feeling is just me twisting away from Him, and I understand that the breaking I feel is joy clearing out things that weren't part of me to begin with. And clearing out those things is a kind of death, is a kind of heartbreak, is the only way my scaly heart can make room for joy.

Like rings on a tree trunk, each time this happens, joy grows exponentially. Each heartbreak lets more of the world, more of Christ, seep in. And each time, I am bigger, stronger, with more to give and more space to receive.

*These aren't even sad things, necessarily. A great example is my time in Brownsville. I have nothing but positive things to say about those two years and those ten people, and also it was the hardest, most uncomfortable thing I'd ever done.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Things I Learned This Week

  • NASA Mars Trek is the coolest thing to appear on the internet since those pictures of that giant canyon on Pluto's moon. You can rove over the planet and measure things in school buses or Golden Gate Bridges.
  • When renting a tent for a weekend costs 23% of a well-rated cheap tent, just buy a tent. I need to go on 3.35 more camping trips for this thing to pay for itself. Any takers?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

“You’re not a tribe. You’re fricking fruitcake people.”

This article (h/t Mark Shea) is the best thing to happen to me so far today. The headline alone is pure gold:

Lakota Warriors Vow to Crush Dirty Rainbow Hippies

The story is a great study in People Who Are Convinced They Are THE It-Getters but Actually Don't Get It at All. The assertion that prompted the "fricking fruitcake people" reaction encapsulates it:
[Member of the Sioux nation* and anti-hippie activist** James Swan] said Rainbow Family adherents tried to soften him up by saying, “We’re just like you, [but] the government doesn’t recognize us as a tribe.”
Dear Rainbow Family: you clearly have literally no idea what the words you're using mean.

Daily Beast writer Kate Briquelet nails a snarky-but-still-technically-just-the-facts tone, which is exactly what these particular hippies merit. More great writing (emphasis mine):
“They aren’t listening to anybody,” Swan told The Daily Beast of the phalanx of graying flower children and their next-generation recruits.
On Wednesday night, five of the clan fell prey to South Dakota’s harsh marijuana laws and were arrested on felony charges. After a citizen reported aggressive panhandling, the suspected beggars fled in a car.
One Rainbow, who goes by “Bajer,” [pronounced "Badger", we're told elsewhere] was defiant to the Rapid City Journal —or what Swan’s club has dubbed the ‘Racist City Urinal’ for what they call biased reporting.
For the record, executive editor Bart Pfankuch disagrees with Swan’s moniker. [Ed: Quelle surprise!]
All kidding aside, the Rainbow people are being complete jackasses. Standing in a circle chanting "We love you" to a group of people you are actively disregarding and whose sacred traditions you're hippy-ing all over is utter hypocrisy.
“We’ve gotten some [Rainbow people] saying you need to come out here and experience the hippie love,” the Lakota activist Clark told The Daily Beast. “Peace, love, we want to be your friend and respect your people. No, we don’t trust you any more than the government—possibly less.”
Which, I'll venture, is saying something. Good news for the Lakota people and me: at least some of the Rainbow people say they're headed somewhere in Michigan instead. What do we think is a safe spectating distance for observing occasionally violent hippies?

*I understand that there are complexities around how First Nations bands, tribes, and nations define themselves, but I don't understand them well. Moderate Wikipedia-ing tells me the Lakota are one of three major groups within the Sioux.
** Swan does not identify himself this way. I derived this description from his comments in the article.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Mah heels need some serious bruising!

Today's reminder from Jesus to quit with the vice grip:
“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (Jn 12:24-25)
There's a song I really love that includes the lyric:
So, God, bruise the heels we've dug in the ground
that we might move closer to love
Pull out the roots we've dug in so deep
Finish what you started; help us to believe
- Jars of Clay, Eyes Wide Open
Believe what, exactly? That the death we experience when we let go of ourselves does indeed lead to a better rebirth.

Actually, that's not quite right. The thing I'm letting go of when I let go of myself isn't even me. It's all the misunderstandings I've accumulated about myself and about others, and all the armory and reflexive panic I tinkered up for myself in response to those misunderstandings.

The paradox is that the more I let go of control, the freer I am. It is indeed a kind of dying to relinquish my idea about how the world works, about who I am, and it's an ongoing pain the in the tukhus. Yet, every time I force myself to die a little bit, I am freer and better and more myself on the other side.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Things I learned this week

Thursday, August 6, 2015

On the way down Tabor

From today's Gospel:

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Of course Peter and John didn't understand anything that happened on Tabor. How could they? Rising from the dead had to be a metaphor because it simply could not be literal.

This is one of Jesus' things he does: say things and mean them. And it's one of our things we do: hear Jesus and think he must mean something other than what he plainly said. I think we can be forgiven for our confusion - a lot of those parables are kind of opaque. Narrow gates, who understands 'em, eh? Amirite?!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Review

At one point in telling a very forgettable story to someone who's known me a little while but not that long, I said, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but wonder is my default disposition to the world.” He laughed and said something along the lines of yeah, he’d noticed.

When I solicited topics for rebooting this blog from a bunch of interesting friends who know me from different parts of my life, nearly all suggested some version of Why Things Are Awesome – why space is great, why I get so geeked up about X, where I see God (sneak preview: everywhere), why I get so excited about photography/photographers/the new Star Wars/nature/adventures/saints.

I like that un-ironic enthusiasm about Creation is something people associate with me. It’s the reason for the name I gave this blog when I started it while I was student teaching in 2007. I thought I’d (re)start there.

Imagine holding a 1mm x 1mm square out at arm’s length (probably with tweezers, because that is teeny) over a patch of sky (an itty bitty patch of sky). A bunch of scientists who paid a lot of money for their turn with the Hubble telescope decided to use their rare and precious opportunity to take a picture of one such teeny patch of sky, thought to be black and empty. They basically did a long exposure, just to see what might be out there.

This is the image they captured.

Those are stars and whole galaxies in what we once thought of as empty, black, nothing. Hundreds of entire freaking galaxies in a blank space of space.

This is my computer background (because how could it possibly not be? Why isn't it yours?). A friend asked about it and after I explained she said, “And isn’t that just like people, too? We see each other and think, ‘I get you. There’s nothing more there.’ But then this.”

Which is more or less why I get so geeked up about stuff and people.

Yours in vastness,

Thursday, July 30, 2015


New content coming soon. 

At least, that's the plan. You know how plans go.