Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Really, I had the pictures right there on the card.  I clicked the telephoto lens onto the camera, stepped stealthily out on the deck and caught the red fox prowling through the field next to the house.  Seventeen pictures downloaded to the computer, then deleted from the compact flash card.  When I went to open them up, gone, every last one of them, just like the fox himself when he caught sight of me.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Seraphims on-line

There are a number of "Seraphims" in the Orthodox blogging world.  One is a retired missionary bishop, author and saintly eccentric, currently visiting Moscow for the encouragement of small group of open minded Orthodox believers involved in service and evangelism.  Another is a fellow attorney who practices and prays at the southern end of the Appalachians a few states down from me.  I read both daily, but have a special affection for the second Seraphim whose life experience overlaps with mine in interesting ways.  I read this post last Thursday after a Wednesday I would not care to live over.  I had spent the previous afternoon fighting a doomed battle in a Court-appointed case where I was representing a mother whose child had been taken away for mostly justifiable reasons.  It was a hard case, which I believed I argued well, but ultimately unsuccessfully.  My client was broken hearted, I was depressed, and when my assistant found out that Virginia's Court appointment fee wouldn't cover even an hour of my time billed at our standard rate, she got depressed too.  I do these cases because somebody needs to, but they do exact a cost, emotionally, spiritually and financially.  It did my morale good to hear that sometimes it all works out:

I walked into the courtroom and gestured to my client to meet me in the back. He and his wife came back, still holding hands. He was almost distraught from worry and fear. “They’re coming home,” I said. My guy dissolved in tears and grabbed me in a bear hug, and for several minutes we stood there, me slapping his back, him sobbing, and — to be honest - me not completely dry eyed. Finally we broke, and I told him the plan. Visitation in his home starts on Saturday, and if all goes well, they will move in full time with him when Christmas break starts. He said he understood. I shook his hand, and he grabbed me again. “God bless you, man. God bless you,” he said. I stopped him. “I want to thank you for your prayers over these years,” I told him. “But your prayers have gotten you this: God has blessed you.”

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Try to remember . . .

I had intended to link to this when I read it on Monday, but forgot in the press of business, until my assistant printed out the New York Times review of the same show for me today.  Why should I care what Terry Teachout or the Times think of a revival of The Fantasticks?  Teachout's lovely and wistful account of his connection with the play and the changes it made in his life brought to mind the very great changes it made in my own life. 

It was my first, and probably last, appearance on stage as an adult.  I have no ambitions to hit the boards again, but on some mornings, if you put your ear to the door and listen closely over the sound of the shower, you may still hear a somewhat worse for the wear baritone telling you about September, grass, grain and the innocence of youth.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The view from home; morning sun and a little mist. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

If you have any literary pretensions at all, somewhere in the back of your mind is that vision of the perfect little coffee-house; a place to come in from the cold and find books, good company and a cup of something to take the chill away.  It appears that someone in Colorado Springs has been rummaging around in the back of my mind and brought a piece of that vision to life.  Anyone interested in setting up a Shenandoah Valley franchise?

Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church held it's Annual Greek Festival this past weekend. Family obligations kept me from helping the way I would have liked, but I did stop by for some pastries, some pictures and a little roast lamb. To read a little about the hard work that goes on behind the scenes in the kitchen, go here. (Registration may be required)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Small Pleasures

This past weekend I made a stop by Central Coffee Roasters after picking up some tools and placing an order for sheep mineral supplement at the nearby Co-op store.  While I realize that no sane person needs Certified Shade Grown Panama Finca Hartman or Yeman Mocca Matari or Sumatra Swiss Water Decaf dripping through the filter paper in the morning, there is just something about the smell of a fresh ground, properly roasted coffee ending it's journey from some exotic location at my breakfast table that drives me to fork over outlandish amounts of cash at least a few times a year for the experience. 

I am not sure whether this amounts to a guilty pleasure or not.  It perhaps goes into the same category as the Avengers Emma Peel mega-set DVD collection; not necessary, but probably not dangerous to your salvation in the long run.  In any event, I will continue to enjoy the scent from the grinder and coffee-maker in the morning and accept it as a kind of earthy incense blessing the beginning of the day.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Only in America . . .

New Software and Some Audio links

I have been trying out the Beta of Windows Live Writer, a free Microsoft produced blogging tool. So far I am quite pleased with it. The only oddity I have noticed is that, in the course of downloading your blog settings, it creates a temporary blog post. It is erased from the main blog page on completion of the download, but not before it propagates via RSS and ends up preserved in the archives. If any of you out there are trying to figure out why I have blogged a "Temporary Post Used For Style Detection," blame the Beta.

Every year St. Vladimir's Seminary holds a Summer Institute dedicated to an in depth examination of one particular topic in theology, liturgy or Church life. This year the topic was death. The Seminary has made available audio files in mp3 format of ten lectures through the Seminary Press website. Downloading via their system is, shall we say, a non-intuitive process. Go to this page and click "Buy Now" for the lectures you want and then proceed through the normal checkout process. Since the price is $0.00, you will not be charged, but at the end of the procedure will be given a download link for the selected files. I was lured to the site to listen to my favorite contemporary Orthodox theologian, David Bentley Hart, but have been impressed with all of the speakers I have listened to thus far.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Signs of the times

We are still in August, but the first signs of the changing season are here. This afternoon at lunch, the sycamore by the barn was filled with birds, calling and rattling wings, preparing to move south in a swirling black cloud. I have had to brake for a wider variety of creatures on our two lane road lately. This past week it has been raccoons. A few weeks ago it was box turtles. I do not know what inspires the great box turtle migration, but they are especially challenged by asphalt and passing cars. Retreating into one's shell just shy of the double yellow line is not the best way to insure survival of the species. Box turtles are singularly inoffensive and quite attractive in a modest way. I worry about them in a way that would never occur to me to worry about some of their larger cousins. Perhaps I identify with them as they plod along in a world grown too large and confusing, pulling one's head in from time to time when it all become a little too much to bear.

One of my favorite poets, Scott Cairns, has a new collection due out shortly, with excerpts now available on the Paraclete Press website. This one concerns our slow shelled friends, some of whom may actually walk on two legs, or in my own case, wait for me each morning in the shaving mirror.

On Slow Learning

If you have ever owned
a tortoise, you already know
how terribly difficult
paper training can be
for some pets.

Even if you get so far
as to instill in your tortoise
the value of achieving the paper,
there remains one obstacle—
your tortoise’s intrinsic sloth.

Even a well-intentioned tortoise
may find himself, in his journeys,
to be painfully far from the mark.

Failing, your tortoise may shy away
for weeks within his shell, utterly
ashamed, or looking up with tiny,
wet eyes might offer an honest shrug.
Forgive him.

Scott Cairns, from Compass of Affection - New and Selected Poems

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It was hot today. The National Weather Service reports that the heat index, that measure of discomfort which stirs together heat and humidity to explain why sweat is rolling off your brow from a stroll across the parking lot, got up to 109 degrees. After work I walked down to the little run that cuts across the pasture with camera in hand, to find it reduced to a trickle. Still, sitting there by water under the shade of trees made the day's end a little more bearable. Here is a poem from Wendell Berry's volume, A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 that finds hints of redemption in "the water flowing under the shadow of the trees":

After the slavery of the body, dumbfoundment
of the living flesh in the order of spending
and wasting, then comes the enslavement
of consciousness, the incarnation of mind
in machines. Once the mind is reduced
to the brain, then it falls within the grasp
of the machine. It is the mind incarnate
in the body, in community, and in the earth
that they cannot confine. The difference
is in love; the difference is in grief and joy.
Remember the body's pleasure and its sorrow.
Remember its grief at the loss of all it knew.
Remember its redemption in suffering
and in love. Remember its resurrection
on the last day, when all made things
that have not refused this passage
will return, clarified, each fully being
in the being of all. Remember the small
secret creases of the earth - the grassy,
the wooded, and the rocky - that the water
has made, finding its way. Remember
the voices of the water flowing. Remember
the water flowing under the shadows
of the trees, of the tall grasses, of the stones.
Remember the water striders walking over
the surface of the water as it flowed.
Remember the great sphere of the small
wren's song, through which the water flowed.
and the light fell. Remember, and come to rest
in light's ordinary miracle.

"Sabbath's - 1990"