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  Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.


Bobolink,_Mer_Bleue

  Friday, May 20th, 2016

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church—
I keep it, staying at Home—
With a Bobolink for a Chorister—
And an Orchard, for a Dome—

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice—
I, just wear my Wings—
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton—sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman—
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last—
I’m going, all along.

—Emily Dickinson

  Monday, May 16th, 2016

Flare

1.

Welcome to the silly, comforting poem.

It is not the sunrise,
which is a red rinse,
which is flaring all over the eastern sky;

it is not the rain falling out of the purse of God;

it is not the blue helmet of the sky afterward,

or the trees, or the beetle burrowing into the earth;

it is not the mockingbird who, in his own cadence,
will go on sizzling and clapping
from the branches of the catalpa that are thick with blossoms,
that are billowing and shining,
that are shaking in the wind.

2.

You still recall, sometimes, the old barn on your
great-grandfather’s farm, a place you visited once,
and went into, all alone, while the grownups sat and
talked in the house.
It was empty, or almost. Wisps of hay covered the floor,
and some wasps sang at the windows, and maybe there was
a strange fluttering bird high above, disturbed, hoo-ing
a little and staring down from a messy ledge with wild,
binocular eyes.
Mostly, though, it smelled of milk, and the patience of
animals; the give-offs of the body were still in the air,
a vague ammonia, not unpleasant.
Mostly, though, it was restful and secret, the roof high
up and arched, the boards unpainted and plain.
You could have stayed there forever, a small child in a corner,
on the last raft of hay, dazzled by so much space that seemed
empty, but wasn’t.
Then—you still remember—you felt the rap of hunger—it was
noon—and you turned from that twilight dream and hurried back
to the house, where the table was set, where an uncle patted you
on the shoulder for welcome, and there was your place at the table.

3.

Nothing lasts.
There is a graveyard where everything I am talking about is,
now.

I stood there once, on the green grass, scattering flowers.

4.

Nothing is so delicate or so finely hinged as the wings
of the green moth
against the lantern
against its heat
against the beak of the crow
in the early morning.

Yet the moth has trim, and feistiness, and not a drop
of self-pity.

Not in this world.

5.

My mother
was the blue wisteria,
my mother
was the mossy stream out behind the house,
my mother, alas, alas,
did not always love her life,
heavier than iron it was
as she carried it in her arms, from room to room,
oh, unforgettable!

I bury her
in a box
in the earth
and turn away.
My father
was a demon of frustrated dreams,
was a breaker of trust,
was a poor, thin boy with bad luck.
He followed God, there being no one else
he could talk to;
he swaggered before God, there being no one else
who would listen.
Listen,
this was his life.
I bury it in the earth.
I sweep the closets.
I leave the house.

6.

I mention them now,
I will not mention them again.

It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.

I give them—one, two, three, four—the kiss of courtesy,
of sweet thanks,
of anger, of good luck in the deep earth.
May they sleep well. May they soften.

But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.
I will not give them the responsibility for my life.

7.

Did you know that the ant has a tongue
with which to gather in all that it can
of sweetness?

Did you know that?

8.

The poem is not the world.
It isn’t even the first page of the world.

But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.

It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.

9.

The voice of the child crying out of the mouth of the
grown woman
is a misery and a disappointment.
The voice of the child howling out of the tall, bearded,
muscular man
is a misery, and a terror.

10.

Therefore, tell me:
what will engage you?
What will open the dark fields of your mind,
like a lover
at first touching?

11.

Anyway,
there was no barn.
No child in the barn.

No uncle no table no kitchen.

Only a long lovely field full of bobolinks.

12.

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

This is the dark bread of the poem.
This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.

—Mary Oliver

IMG_4694web

  Monday, May 16th, 2016

Seabeck

Two nights. Two mornings. Redemption.


  Monday, May 16th, 2016

John 17:22

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.


  Friday, May 6th, 2016

1 Kings 19

“Come out,” He called, “and stand on the mountain before the LORD.”
And lo, the LORD passed by. There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind—an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake—a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire.

And after the fire—a soft, murmuring sound (qol dmamah daqah).

When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his mantle about his face and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Then a voice (qol) addressed him: “Why are you here (ma lekha po), Elijah?”

Qol dmamah daqah, the “still, small voice.” To my mind, this translation from the King James Bible is still among the better, English versions. Modern translations, however, render qol as a physical sound rather than a metaphorical voice, such as “a tiny whispering sound,” “the sound of a light whisper” or the JPS’ profoundly unpoetic “a soft murmuring sound.” Simon and Garfunkel notwithstanding, critical scholarship does not entertain the “sound of silence.”

Nevertheless, I prefer to follow Rashi (ad loc) and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s literal rendering of qol dmamah, “a voice of silence.” Precedent for such a reading can be found in the book of Genesis, where God says to Cain, “the voice of your brother’s blood calls out to me” (Gen. 4:10). Here qol is a silent voice rather than an audible sound. And that, I believe, is precisely what Elijah hears: a voice without sound.

I propose, then, a metaphorical but grammatically strict translation. Qol dmamah daqah: the “voice of fragile silence.”

The idea of a “fragile” silence may seem strange to one sitting in an urban library, especially since daqah means “fine” or “thin.”

Try reading in the desert!

Not all silences are alike. Put in earplugs or enter a soundproof room and the silence is muggy and oppressive. Silence in a forested, mountain wilderness is rare. The wind howls, leaves rustle, birds chirp, insects buzz, creeks “sing.” True silence, perhaps on a peak when the wind stops, is actually quite rare. It hits suddenly, with dramatic impact.

In Israel’s deserts and the Sinai, where the wind is usually still for at least half the day, the silence is vastly different. If you are in the desert now, close your eyes and wait for the wind to stop. This silence is total, yet light and natural—even embracing.

And precious. The smallest movement of an insect or the slightest breeze registers audibly. You hear the ruffling of your sleeve, or the call of a raven miles away. This is desert silence. Easily disturbed. A fragile silence.

From this desert silence come words that Elijah hears with his inner ear.
The voice asks, “ma lekha po, Elijah?” Literally, the sentence reads, “What is for you here, Elijah?” But scholars translate this sentence as an expression, “Why are you here, Elijah?” or “What are you doing here, Elijah?” The reason is clear. For them, the context is “Sinai-that-is-not-Carmel.” Why did you come here Elijah when your people need you back in Israel?

But what if God has a different message for Elijah? What if the context is right here, right now, “Sinai-in-the-desert?” What is for you here, Elijah, in the desert?

No God-sent fire as on Mt. Carmel; no crowds to applaud your courage and your miracles. What is here for you in the desert where your righteous anger, so justifiable, gets you nothing? Where you would rather lie down and die than give up your pride, your belief that you really are better or more deserving than your peers and, perhaps, even your fathers. And what is here for you on Mt. Sinai, Elijah, when the wind, earthquake and fire bring no revelation? When you are left befuddled in desert silence—expecting to see God’s glory, hearing a silent voice; waiting for an affirming answer, getting a shattering question.

If I were to translate ma lekha po as an expression—in accord with the context of the desert—I would write, “Who are you, here, Elijah?”

Who are you in the desert, where your previous understanding of how God communicates with you no longer applies; where your past experience misleads you; where your great accomplishments will not help you?

Who are you Elijah, here, in the desert?

—Michael Comins


IMG_0225

  Monday, April 25th, 2016

Stokes Sweet Potato

It was discovered in the United States by Mike Sizemore, 61, who grew up on a farm in North Carolina, the nation’s largest sweet potato-producing state. One day in 2003 he won a prize for his sweet potatoes at a state fair, and an unidentified woman gave him some deep purple sweet potatoes of unknown origin.

Sizemore propagated them and found that he loved the variety, which keeps its deep color remarkably well when cooked. Stokes Purple has a rich, almost winy flavor but is denser and drier than regular sweet potatoes. The key is to bake it for longer than regular sweet potatoes, and at moderate heat, about 90 to 120 minutes at 350 degrees, at which point it becomes pleasingly moist.


2014-09-28-IMG_3037

  Monday, April 18th, 2016

Asimina triloba

Asimina triloba, the pawpaw, paw paw, paw-paw, or common pawpaw, is a species of Asimina (the pawpaw genus) in the same plant family (the Annonaceae) as the custard-apple, cherimoya, sweetsop, ylang-ylang and soursop. The pawpaw is native to the Eastern, Southern, and Midwestern United States and adjacent southernmost Ontario, Canada, from New York west to southeastern Nebraska, and south to northern Florida and eastern Texas. The pawpaw is a patch-forming (clonal) understory tree found in well-drained, deep, fertile bottom-land and hilly upland habitat, with large, simple leaves and large fruits. The paw paw is the largest edible fruit indigenous to the United States.

A strong candidate for the natural distribution of the common pawpaw (Asimina triloba) in North America, prior to the Ice Ages and lasting until roughly 10,000 years ago, was likely the then extant but now extinct megafauna of North America. (Such animals went extinct during the Quaternary extinction event.) With the arrival of humans, and the extinction of such megafauna for distributing Asimina triloba, the likely candidate for distributing these large fruit bearing plants likely became the newly arrived humans. The earliest documented mention of pawpaws is in the 1541 report of the Spanish de Soto expedition, who found Native Americans cultivating it east of the Mississippi River.

Chilled pawpaw fruit was a favorite dessert of George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson planted it at Monticello, his home in Virginia.

Ohio botanist William B. Werthner noted that:

The fruit…has a tangy wild-wood flavor peculiarly its own. It is sweet, yet rather cloying to the taste and a wee bit puckery—only a boy can eat more than one at a time.

Fresh fruits of the pawpaw are commonly eaten raw, either chilled or at room temperature. However, they can be kept only 2–3 days at room temperature, or about a week if refrigerated. The easily bruised pawpaw fruits do not ship well unless frozen. Where pawpaws grow, the fruit pulp is also often used locally in baked dessert recipes, with pawpaw often substituted with volumetric equivalency in many banana-based recipes. Pawpaws may also be blended into ice cream or included in pancakes.

In southern West Virginia, pawpaws are made into a native version of banana nut cake or fruit cake baked inside canning jars, then heat-sealed, reputedly keeping the food for at least a year; however, due to the risk of botulism, preserving cake in a canning jar is not recommended.


  Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Never beg to be loved.


  Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Never waste your time trying to explain yourself to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.

—Dream Hampton

  Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Sometimes we have to let go of what is killing us, even if it’s killing us to let go.


  Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

She realized none of it was real and set herself free.


  Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

One of the most courageous decisions you’ll ever make is to finally let go of what is hurting your heart and soul.

—Brigitte Nicole

how-small-is-small-1

  Saturday, April 9th, 2016

Teff

Eragrostis tef, teff, Williams lovegrass, annual bunch grass, taf (Amharic: ጤፍ? ṭēff; Tigrinya: ጣፍ? ṭaff), or xaafii (Oromo), is an annual grass, a species of lovegrass native to Ethiopia and Eritrea. The word “teff” is connected by folk etymology to the Ethio-Semitic root “ṭff,” which means “lost” (because of the small size of the grain).

Eragrostis tef (or Maskal Teff) borrows its name from Greek, to mean “the grass of love” from eros—love, and agrostis—grass. For its survival, teff uses a type of photosynthesis, called Carbon 4, which developed early in the ice ages and allows teff to be most efficient in temperatures as high as those of the human body, as opposed to wheat whose optimal temperature is at 60°F.

Teff has an attractive nutrition profile, being high in dietary fiber and iron and providing protein and calcium. Because of its small seeds (less than one millimeter in diameter), a handful is enough to sow a large area. This property makes teff particularly suited to a seminomadic lifestyle.

Between 8000 and 5000 BC, the people of the Ethiopian highlands were among the first humans to domesticate plants and animals for food. Teff was one of the earliest plants domesticated. Teff is believed to have originated in Ethiopia and Eritrea between 4000 BC and 1000 BC. Genetic evidence points to E. pilosa as the most likely wild ancestor.


Jasmine-Rice

  Monday, April 4th, 2016

Jasmine Rice

Jasmine rice is a long-grain variety of fragrant rice (also known as aromatic rice). Its fragrance, reminiscent of pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius) and popcorn, results from the rice plant’s natural production of aromatic compounds, of which 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline is the most salient. In typical packaging and storage, these aromatic compounds dissipate within a few months. This rapid loss of aromatic intensity leads many Southeast Asians and connoisseurs to prefer each year’s freshly harvested “New Crop” of jasmine rice.

The name “jasmine” refers to the color of the rice, which is as white as the jasmine flower.

Jasmine rice is grown primarily in Thailand (Thai hom mali or Thai fragrant rice), Cambodia (angkor kra’oup or Cambodian jasmine rice), Laos, and southern Vietnam. It is moist and soft in texture when cooked, with a slightly sweet flavor. The grains cling and are somewhat sticky when cooked, though less sticky than glutinous short-grain rice (Oryza sativa var. glutinosa), as it has less amylopectin. It is still about three times more sticky than American long-grain rice.