Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Easter Season

In the Christian liturgical calendar, Easter, is not just Easter Sunday, Easter is a season of fifty days that begins on Easter Sunday and extends all the way to Pentecost. The word "Pente" means 50. Pentecost celebrates the day in the history of the church when after Jesus had gone, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and charged them with remembering and proclaiming Jesus' message .

The season of Easter has some similarities to the season of Lent which preceded it. Lent is a 40 day preparation for the new life that is proclaimed on Easter Day. During Lent Christian's contemplate the reality of the human condition, our mortality, our frailty, our dependence on help from beyond ourselves, and thus our need for what Christians regard as the gift of salvation that occurs on Easter.

It seems fitting that if it takes 40 days to contemplate our frailty, that we should have at least 50 days to celebrate our gift of life. That Easter is not just a day, or a one week spring break, but a seven week season of the church allows us room to really appreciate the joy of life. This is the season when like the natural world around us bursting into Spring, we should be bursting our old bonds, feeling our power, showing our colors, singing our new songs, making new life and more life for ourselves and those around us.

If you haven't yet emerged from your winter now is the time. And if you have come into spring see if you can claim even more life. This is the season of abundance and generosity and energy. feel it on your skin and in your bones and take a few weeks now to really live every day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

only connect

Three articles in the front section of the New York Times today connect to each other around the theme of connection.

"Line Up and Pick a Dragon: Bhutan Learns to Vote" is about the efforts of the king of this isolated Himalayan country to adopt democratic practices and open itself further to the rest of the world. "Modernity Drills through Rock Toward an Alpine Hamlet" tells a similar story of an inhabitaed but inaccessible (except by walking) Alpine valley, that will soon be reached by a road once a 2,690 foot tunnel is completed. The third story tells what happens when this natural spiritual tug of creation to come together in deeper more intimate relationships is thwarted, "Frustration Unites Sunni and Shiite in Opposition to Baghdad Wall."

Building walls to keep people apart is never a solution. Walls are not a step toward success. They are an admission of failure. At best building a wall is a temporary concession to practical concerns of safety. The irony of the Baghdad Wall is that building it proves that the American hope of a stable unified Iraqi people is a chimera, for now, anyway, while at the same time serving to unite the waring factions against a common enemy they hate more than each other.

Eventually Shiite and Sunni will learn to live together in peace. The American military cannot make them love each other, nor does either side want us to build walls to keep them apart. The situation illustrates so clearly and simply what so many of us have seen for so long. There is no purpose for our being there.

leaving the station

After our final show on Sunday afternoon, I volunteered to stay behind with 7 other guys from the chorus and take down the risers. I had also helped put them up on Wednesday. Part of taking down the risers also required taking down the set pieces that framed the risers on each side and behind the chorus.

The set was meant to evoke the urban jazz world of Billy Strayhorn, the composer with the Duke Ellington orchestra who's music we presented. There was a city skyline behind the chorus, a big art deco style train zooming in from stage left (the "A Train"). And the band was set up stage right with individual band boxes also decorated with the skyline theme, all made from painted playwood.

We pulled all of these down and carried them out to the alley behind the theater and then one of our group went to work breaking them up with a sledge hammer and a skill saw and stacking the broken pieces in the dumpster. By the time the rest of us had dismantled the risers and loaded them on our truck, all the sets were destroyed except for one small piece of the top of the skyline that one guy wanted to take home as a souvenior.

I felt a certain sadness at how quickly all the work that we had been doing since January came to an end. The final notes sung, the musicians paid and gone home. The risers packed away. The set lovingly designed, constructed and painted, vanished. It is the way of all things. I also understand the desire for one of the guys to hold on to a souvenior. The world slips away so quickly. All Aboard!

final bows

I sang four concerts with the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles this weekend. Los Angeles Times review We performed the music of Billy Strayhorn who worked with Duke Ellington and wrote many of the songs associated with the band, including "Take the A Train," "Satin Doll" "Lotus Blossom," "Day Dream" and "Lush Life," all of which we included in the show. Billy Strayhorn was a black, gay man, and part of the reason for our show was to tell his story as a gay, musician, ancestor of ours, as well as keeping alive his creative legacy and giving him the proper credit. As Duke Ellington once told a reporter, "Billy can write better than me, play better than me, and arrange better than me." When the reporter asked why then it was always Ellington in the spotlight, Ellington replied, "Well I bow better than him."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

sing out louise

We had our dress rehearsal tonight, at the Alex theater in Glendale. I parked my car a couple of blocks away on a side street. When I had walked down to the corner I checked the street name so I would know where to find my car later and noticed I had parked on Louise street.

Louise was the name of my grandmother. She was a piano teacher and she taught me to play piano and read music when I was a very young boy. It's really because of her that I developed an interest in music, or at least she got my musical talent started earlier than I would have found it on my own.

My grandmother lived well into her eighties and then died, about 20 years ago. Seeing her name as I walked to our final rehearsal I thought how great it would have been to have her come to the show. I think she would have been proud of me. And the Duke Ellington music would have been familiar to her.

Sometimes I see the sadness in the fact that we don't live forever. Think of all the wonderful things that will happen after we're gone. I wish I wouldn't miss them. I hate for my grandmother to miss the concert. The least I can do is think of her as we sing. For you, Louise.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

inside my brain

The title of this post is a line from the song, "Lush Life" that I'll be singing this weekend. It's one of those random phrases that we suddenly sing amid a whole bunch of wordless oos and ahs as back up to a soloist.

At this point, the week of the concert, I now have the whole concert memorized, with just a little hesitancy on two songs: "Day Dream," and "Satin Doll," where we sing back up, always the hardest to memorize. And I'll have no problem getting those down by the time of the dress rehearsal, Thursday.

But in taking on this memorization challenge, I've been fascinated by the idea of memory itself. How is it that I now have the words and music to an entire concert "inside my brain?" Where is it exactly? How is it that I can recall all those pitches and durations and words, not to mention movement, and reproduce it at will? I now have a whole lot of information inside my brain, literally part of me, that wasn't part of me four months ago. Was there empty memory space available? Did something else get moved out, that I now, by definition don't remember? Has my brain actually changed in some physical way? And does that physical change mean I'm not the same person I was?

Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.

lush life

Monday evening was the final regular rehearsal for the Gay Mens Chorus for our Lush Life concert, featuring the music of Billy Strayhorn. This week is production week, with a tech rehearsal Wednesday, dress rehearsal on Thursday, and the concerts Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Monday morning was also the day of the shootings at Virginia Tech, which was surely on everyone's minds as we gathered for our rehearsal that evening. And we sounded wonderful. The music Billy Strayhorn wrote is amazing. And the music we are making from his scores is also amazing. It was an occassion of beauty, in sharp contrast with the horrors of that morning.

Spiritually it is wise to remember how easy it is to focus on life's tragedies and give them more energy than they deserve. It's an instinctual reaction left over from a previous evolutionary stage when life was more dangerous, and tenuous. But it's wrong now to let our lives be characterized by fear and tragedy. Appropriate expressions of compassion for those who are suffering must not lead to a worldview that makes those horrors the norm, and that blinds us to the much more common beauty and joy of life. Violence and hate are the aberation, a perversion of the natural order, the sad state of unfortunate individuals, not a picture of human nature in general, nor the divine ideals.

guns don't kill people, people with guns kill people

A second article, also from this morning's New York Times, and obviously planned several days earlier, appearing in today's Science section but shedding further light on the front page story about the shootings at Virginia Tech. The headline is "Availability of Guns Raises Suicide Rates, Study Finds."

"People who live in communities with a lot of guns are more likely to kill themselves, a new study says."

The shootings at Virgina Tech was essentially a suicide, by a depressed and angry loner, determined to have company in his self-destruction.

"In the new report, in the current issue of The Journal of Trauma, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health said they had found evidence that 'the ready availability of firearms is likely to have the greatest effect on suicide rates in groups characterized by more impulsive behavior.'"

Although determined suicides can simply switch to a different method, guns are the most deadly, and the most immediate, meaning that folks who don't have access to guns have a better chance of delaying action until they feel better, or being unsuccessful in their attempt. And, of course, in the case of the Virginia Tech shooter, without a gun he wouldn't have been able to kill others as part of his own suicide.

no comment necessary dept.

From this morning's New York Times front page story by John M. Broder on the shootings at Virginia Tech.

"Virginia imposes few restrictions on the purchase of handguns and no requirements for any kind of licensing or training. The state does not limit handgun purchases to one per month to discourage bulk buying and resale, state officials said. Once a person had passed the required background check, state law requires that law enformcement officers issue a conceled carry permit to anyone who applies. However, no regulations and no background checks are required for purchase of weapons at a Virginia gun show.

'Virginia's gun laws are some of the weakest state laws in the country,' said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. 'And where there have been attempts to make some changes, a backdoor always opens to get around the changes, like the easy access at gun shows.' He demanded a thorough investigation into the proveance of the weapons used in monday's rampage."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

what do men want?

One reason that men might be less comfortable in churches than women may be that churches tend to overemphasize the pastoral care and social aspects of spirituality, and to not spend enough time with the journey to enlightenment aspect that involves questing, and adventure, and individual, intellectual engagement.

Quite by chance the sermon I had scheduled for today was very much in the intellectual mode. As I wrote my sermon I decided to avoid a tactic I would usually employ in addressing such a topic, which would be to find ways to balance the intellectualism with some observations that connect the topic to personal lives and usefulness in personal relationships. Instead, I just crafted a hard-edged, thoughtful, abstract lecture. I was curious to see how the sermon was recieved by men and women.

The congregation applauded afterward, which I take to indicate general interest and acceptance. But very revealing to me was that after the service, four different men sought me out to discuss my ideas. Four men and no women. I did say hello to several women, gave a hug to one, and I did talk to a few men who didn't have anything to say about the sermon. But four men were obvously inspired about the ideas and really eager to continue the conversation my sermon had provoked.

The proper approach, of course, is to balance the head and the heart. I want both. Spirituality should be about both. But my experiment does make me think that churches can do a better job of speaking to men at the intersection of spirituality and masculinity.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

manly spirituality

the current issue of Christian Century Magazine prints an article by Lillian Daniel called "Missing Men." Why don't more men go to church? Why are churches two thirds or more filled with women, while the husbands stay home or wait in the car? I preached about the theological reasons for this in a sermon for Father's Day two years ago, but there are other reasons as well.

It's not a new phenomenon. The feminization of Christianity was noticed, and lamented, back in the 19th century. Although men still predominate in positions of authority (a few male officers serving a women's club) that, too, is changing as more denominations now ordain women. The majority of ministers in my denomination, Unitarian Univesalism, are now women.

The article answers the question by saying that the central issues of religion, and the format of standard worship, speak to women and not to men. Religion in churches is about caring and concern and holding the family together in safety, while men want adventure and excitement. Men want to be individuals rushing out to defeat the enemey, not holding hands back at the church home.

But spirituality does have two sides. One is the nuturing, safe, hand-holding side. And we need that, men and women. And men would do well to open up their nurturing side. But there is also the side of the spiritual journey that is the quest. It's called a journey after all. It's about exploring, asking questions, seeking answers. Religious practice can be rigorous, even arduous. It takes strength and stamina, both physical and mental. And there's even the "protector saving his family" aspect in the sense of the spiritual leader bringing his flock to salvation by uncovering truths and keeping the followers on track.

The benefit of spirituality is not only comfort, it's also enlightenment. It saddens me that anyone, man or woman might be missing out on either of those.

Friday, April 13, 2007

out of mind, out of sight

I came across a second example of the same phenomenom of how our perspective frameworks shape our reality (and I always try to pay particular attention when the same idea comes up simultaneously from different sources. I interpret synchronocity to mean the universe is trying to tell me something).

This second instance was in an article describing a recent conference bringing together thinkers like philosophers and theologians, to talk to scientists working on questions of the origins of the universe and see how the work of each group complemented or contradicted the other.

An argument developed where the two sides debated which discipline should have priority in setting the framework for exploration. The scientists, generally, said that science should take the lead and that the philosophers should create interpretations only after being presented with the facts. The philosophers argued that the idea is fallacious that science can explore reality from a nuetral, objective position. Science begins with a pre-existing framework that limits the questions they ask, what fields they think are worth exploring, how they set up their experiements, what the experiments are capable of revealing, and what the scientists see when they examine the results.

Because science operates within a framework they don't see, the position they call nuetral and objective, is actually skewed, and the science they are able to do from the skewed framework naturally reinforces the skewed perspective. The philosophers at the conference argued that the two disciplines must explore together and each be willing to change perspective frameworks based on the findings of both fields.

you are what you see

John Colapinto has a fascinating article in the April 16, 2007 edition of the New Yorker called "The Interpreter." It's the story of a linguist's study of an Amazonian tribe called the Piraha. The Piraha culture deals entirely with the present. They don't plan for the future further out than a few days, nor remember a past longer ago than a few generations. There are no creation myths. There is no art. People who walk out of sight, disappear.

And this "be here now" culture, in Ram Dass' phrase, is reflected in the language which has no words for any abstraction or generality. The language only permits single idea, declarative sentences about what is actually observed. There are no words for colors, for instance, which would create an abstract class of "red" or "green." Nor are there any words for numbers. Imagine the difficulty of the missionaries who attempt to teach them the Bible. The tribe can understand the stories as stories but cannot hear a story as a lesson, which would require an abstraction beyond the literal. Nor can they understand how a person like Jesus who the missionaries have never met can have any reality.

The question explored in the article is the way that language creates culture, and culture creates language. The larger theological question is to notice how the Piraha's culture and language create a sense of reality that has no existence beyond the here and now. And then to wonder how our own culture and language also create our sense of reality, and quite probably blind us to reality beyond the ability of our language to describe or culture to comprehend.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


We have to memorize every song in our upcoming concert. In my performing experience in high school and college bands and orchestras we always had the music on the stand in front of us. At my church choir, too, we hold the music in our hands. So memorizing has been a challenge for me. It's not just memorizing the pitches and rhythms, but also the cut offs and dynamics and every other aspect of the music. Plus the movements that we do for some songs. And, of course, the words.

The hardest songs to memorize are actually those where I sing the least. We have several songs where the chorus accompanies a solo singer. Our back up vocals are often wordless oos, but sometimes ahs, or mms. Punctuated here and there with a seemingly random word or phrase. Just singing through my part there's no logical connection between the phrase I sing at one place, and a different phrase 8 bars later. So there's no way to use reason to help memorize why we sing what we sing when we sing.

And then at the rehearsal last Monday I figured out the simple solution: listen to the soloist.

Duh! The soloist has the full lyric. They fill in all the missing pieces that I don't have. And my part makes perfect sense in the context of the solo line.

You would think that a spiritual leader would know automatically to think of the big picture and how an individual fits into the whole, not to mention the need to listen. But I sure missed it this time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter bunny

I spent holy week in Death Valley. Not only is the name of the place appropriate for the events marked during that week but on the second day we were there, actually Maundy Thursday, I was exploring an old mine site with the two friends we went camping with and we saw a jack rabbit bouncing across the desert nearby - an Easter bunny. It was a remarkable vision of motion and vitality in the midst of the still landscape. Life in the midst of the valley of death.

Later that afternoon Peleg found a scrap of rabbit fur caught in the spines of a creosote bush. The bushes are gray and hard, but this being spring most of them had green shoots coming up out of the top of what looked like lifeless skeltons. Another Easter symbol. And the bunny fur was so soft. He put it in his pocket and would pull it out now and then to stroke it.

say (gay) uncle

The New York Times devoted their Science section today to human sexuality. One article, by Nicholas Wade, in part discussed the evolutionary anomoly of homosexuality. There is strong evidence, from twin studies, that homosexual orientation in men is genetic, it runs in families. But a gene that makes a man less likely to have children would soon be selected out of the species. So why are we here?

It may be that having a gay sibling provides advantages for the straight family members. It's the gay uncle benefit. A gay uncle has resources to share with nephews and nieces that he doesn't have to spend on his own children. That means he can become an additional quasi-parent. And not only resources of time and money, but also resources of sensibility, broadening a child's experience of the world in ways that will make them more successful adults.

Gay men are more apt to come from large families. It may be that the same gene that can cause homosexuality in men also causes higher fertility in their straight siblings. And boy babies are more likely to grow up to be gay men if they have older brothers (I have two older brothers). The odds of having a gay son increase by roughly 33% with each successive male birth.

It almost sounds like evolution is selecting that after a couple of births of children that are likely to reproduce themselves it's time to add a gay uncle.

Peleg and I have 6 nieces and nephews between us and no kids of our own.

heard rehearsal

Peleg and two friends of ours visiting from Israel attended last night's rehearsal of the Gay Men's Chorus. It was great to have them there. I noticed in my own singing how much more inspired I was, energized, and focused, because I had somebody to sing for. Singing to yourself is fun, we all do it in the shower and the car, but to have that experience augmented by a set of ears other than your own, really makes the music-making complete. I'm sure that sensation of being heard, and thus inspired to greater musicality will be even greater during the actual performances.

It's that need to scream, "Watch me mommy!" before we jump off the diving board. We want to be noticed. But not necessarily in a ego-driven way. It's an urge to be present, to be involved, to be personally recognized for bringing ourselves to the situation. It gives our lives meaning and purpose. "I did this." I contributed this piece to the ongoing creation of the world. And that's a good thing.

To notice someone else adding their piece is a holy act. Go ahead and do your dive, mommy's watching. But even if mommy isn't around, it is part of God's job description to be the universal noticer. God sees, and appreciates, and that gives all of our life, even the quiet, routine and private portions, meaning and purpose.

iPod, I exercise

I passed my time on the stationary bike at the gym yesterday listening to my iPod. This was actually the first time I had done that, (usually I read a magazine) but the reason I felt it was worth blogging about is not because I've finally done something that a lot of people do routinely, but because I noticed in that activity that I was bringing together two spiritual pursuits very different but both very important to me.

Exercise and physical health are important pathways to the spiritual for me. My most effective prayer time is when I'm taking a long run or bicycle ride. And just being in good physical shape lifts my spirits in many ways. I feel strong. I feel happy. I feel attractive, which makes me more social. I feel more mentally focused, and emotionally balanced.

The music I was listening to was the rehearsal disc for the songs the Gay Men's Chorus will be singing at our concert in two weeks. It's coming down to the wire now and I need to get everything memorized. The Chorus is spiritual for me in two ways. There is the aesthetic beauty of the music, which can be thrilling in not exactly the same way as spiritual ecstasy, but certainly inspiring. And then there's the more directly spiritual aspect of adding my voice, my talent, my particular gift, to the combined gifts of all the other chorus members to create our collective achievment.

I imagined all the Chorus members that afternoon and all during the last two months in all their various ways finding time to study their scores, and work out the parts, practicing, and memorizing, not to mention making sure our tuxes are clean, and building the sets, and selling tickets, and me there, on the bike at the gym, one of them, all arriving together at a moment of fun and beauty, the concert in a week and a half, which is itself a gift to a larger community.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Christianity and me

In writing my Easter sermon this year I realized that something has been gradually changing in my relationship to Christianity. I was raised in the Methodist church and left it after completing a confirmation class because I disagreed with the doctrines taught to me in the class. I didn't go to church at all for 15 years, and really thought I was done with organized religion, though not spirituality, until my boyfriend at the time took me to a Unitarian Universalist church.

After a few years at the Unitarian Unvieralist church I went to seminary, a Methodist seminary, interestingly, and there I was exposed to a mature, and liberal Christianity, that differed in significnat ways from the Christianity I had learned in Sunday School. I saw that Christianity could be much broader than I had thought, and although I disagreed with Christian doctrine about the nature and role of Jesus, I did deply sympathize with Jesus the man and his message.

That initial exposure began a journey back into Christianity, which is now a religion I have learned to appreciate and even love. I realized as I wrestled with my Easter sermon this week, that I could probably call myself a Christian and probably even be accepted as the minsiter of a Christian church, if it were significantly liberal.

I don't aspire to the job of Christian minister, or Christian identity. But it's nice to feel that the Christian religion, too, is available to me, along with all the other world religions that I already freely explore and mine for spiritual treasure. I have no interest in attaching any name brand religious label to my personal eclectic spirituality, but I feel a welcome throb of Christianity somewhere stirring and am happy to claim it as a spiritual resource.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

last day of Lent

Today is the last day of Lent (day 40). It's also called Holy Saturday. Today is supposed to be the darkest (spiritually) day of the Christian year. We're supposed to confront ourselves with the fact of Jesus' death and pretend that we don't know about the miracle that will happen tomorrow on Easter. That act of pretending is especially hard for a minister as I've been planning for the Easter service and my sermon is already written.

Lent is successful if it has made us take notice of our human natures, the fact that we're not the most important thing in the world, that there will be a time when we are not. But Lent isn't meant to be depressing, just revealing. Nor is this last day of Lent, though the darkest day of the liturgical year, meant to be despairing.

The point it to prepare for Easter. And getting the promise of Easter is the spiritual point of the 40 day exercise. When we see that we are not the most important creature, when we really get that we are not all-powerful and infinite, then we can move our spiritual foundation away from our own egos and put our spiritual health on a foundatioin where it will really stand: the love of God.

It's useful to go through that exercise every year because it's hard to really live out of the truth of the love of God every day. Periodically forgetting our best selves is one of the frailties of being human. But because I truly feel the love of God in my life and see it in the world around me, it's hard to even pretend to be depressed.

Here comes Easter.

a mystery

The day after I took my solo hike up the hill, Kat and Peleg came with me and we hiked up the hill again. We didn't set off necessarily so they could view my sculpture, high up the side of the hill, but as we got started we realized that they could see it if we continued and it became a goal. But we took our time and enjoyed other sights along the way as well.

At one point about halfway up Peleg wanted to sit for a minute. I noticed an outcropping of rocks that looked like a nice place to sit so we walked a little further to reach it. And as we got close I noticed an arrangement of rocks, obviously stacked deliberately by some previous hiker. I pointed it out to Kat and Peleg and said that somebody else must have been making Andy Goldsworthy's because this one wasn't mine. This was a simple stack of flat pieces of stone, resting on top of an outcroppings anchored in the ground. It looked a little like a Frank Lloyd Wright building, I remarked. I was thinking of the Falling Water home in Pennsylvania.

We sat on the ground, me nearest the stone sculpture and rested and talked. And then I looked again at the stone sculpture and noticed there was something hidden inside looking like a piece of rusted metal. I told Kat and Peleg I had found something and then gingerly reached inside, trying not to touch the rat's nest that was also hidden within the stones. I pulled out a flat can, with a hinged lid a little larger than a deck of cards. In the sunlight the finish of the can looked magical. I could make out just a few letters, not enough for me to identify, but we all thought it lws probably a can of chewing tabacco.

I passed the can to Peleg and then he to Kat, and as we continued to chat about other things suddenly Kat said, "Leave it to the girl to open Pandora's box." She had opened the can and then pulled from inside a scrap of paper about the size of a fist, mostly decayed, and discolored in places by the rust, but covered with handwriting in pencil. We all tried to read it but couldn't make out the words. Then Peleg wondered if any of us could find a date and I realized there was a postmark in the corner. The paper had been an envelope. My eyes weren't good enough to read the date so I handed it back to Peleg and he made it out: Oct. 16, 1926.

Eighty-one years ago some guy had hiked up the side of the hill, had a chew, then decided he'd have some fun with the empty can. He scribbled some note on an envelope he happened to have in his pocket and then placed the can at the bottom of a stone scupture he built both to protect the can and to mark it out to future passerbys. And there it sat for eighty-one years: winters, and summer and springs. Slowly rotting away, but slowly, because of the desert climate. Left alone in this obscure part of Death Valley away from the main section where the park gets most of its visitors, two miles from the main road, and halfway up a random hillside. And the day before we found it I walked right by and didn't even see it.

I brought the can home with the slip of paper inside. With some better light and maybe a magnifying glass I'll see if I can figure out the message.

Nature Made

Peleg and I and our friend Kat decided that each of us would create an Andy Goldsworthy style sculpture during our camping trip.

I created my sculpture the afternoon of the first day we were there. I took a hike by myself up the side of the hill that rose behind our campsite. Near the top of the crest of the hill a vein of milky quartz appeared and brilliant white rocks had broken off from it spilling down the side of the hill. I gathered several dozn white rocks and packed them into the crevice of a dark colored outcropping lining up the stones to create a well defined spear-point shape, cpaped by a perfectly formed triangle shaped rock.

The effect looked at once organic, because the only materials were the rocks resting by gravity on the ground, but also a stark contrast in their hard-edged arrangement, and the pure white against the dark background. The piece was obviously a human construction, demonstrating rationality and purpose, against the natural background.

But as I said that to myself, I also observed that I am nature myself. I am a part of nature that has developed rationality and purpose. Human beings have many qualities unique in nature, but we aren't unnatural. The small rodents and birds that had made homes in the landscape also arranged the available materials for a purpose. The natural forces of geology and gravity and erosion were also re-arranging the landscape, not purposefully, but to the same beautiful effect, to those parts of nature like myself able to perceive beauty.


Peleg and I hosted a Seder dinner at our house this year. His two brothers came and mom and dad, plus several friends and two children for a total of 15 plus one baby. We carried our dining room table outside and put it end to end with the patio table. Peleg did all the cooking. I set the table and wrote a new Haggadah based on my sermon from the previous Sunday. Peleg's mother arranged the Seder plate and explained all the symbols to us. She did a beautiful job. Peleg's father said the blessings in Hebrew. The baby screamed. The children ran around.

The food and the children needed attending to and three people came late so at any point in the reading of the Haggadah we were lucky to have half the attendees at the table. But we just kept going. As the leader of the service I tried to be a Moses, as I encouraged us all to be in the words I wrote. Of course there will be distractions and set backs in any big worthy project. Just keep going, stay flexible, and trust even when faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle that a way wil appear. Moses took 40 years to get his people to the promised land. I made it through a 40 minute Seder. And then we enjoyed a great meal.

new wedding ring

On Sunday last, Peleg and I and a friend of ours spent a couple of hours at the LA Leather Weekend Streetfair. The site is just down the hill from our house in Silverlake on the same block as the Eagle bar.

Last summer, Peleg and I bought our wedding rings at a different street fair in the neighborhood called Sunset Junction (the junction where the end of Santa Monica Boulevard runs into Sunset Boulevard). I'd been having trouble with my ring being about a half a size too big for me ever since. It can slip off whenever my hands get soapy, and once I thought I had lost it, though it turned up again.

So we were hoping the same vendor would be there, and he was. He remembered us. I told him about the problem but he wasn't sure he could help. Our ring style had been discontinued and he only had four left, in random sizes. One was the same size as the one I already had. There was no ring in the half size smaller. He had a full size smaller which barely fit over my knuckle, but once it was on it felt fine, and won't easily come off. He sold me the new ring for $15 and I'm wearing it now.

I'll find something special to do with the original ring that was blessed during the wedding and that Peleg actually slipped on my finger. Right now it's lying on my nightstand.

Death Valley

Missed blogging for a few days. I was camping with my husband and two friends of ours, for two nights, just outside of death valley.

We drove up on Wednesday and spent two nights. We stayed away from the organized campsites, instead just finding a place by ourselves on the side of a dirt road about two miles up a valley from the paved road.

This being Holy Week I found some significance in spending three days in death valley. Jesus also spent three days in death valley this time of year two thousand years ago, so the story goes.

He came back on Sunday. I came back yesterday,