Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Abba Anthony 4

Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, "This is the great work of a man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath." This is a classic word from the Desert; no compromises, no illusions, no excuses. It is a very different word than we get from our culture. We have legions of experts ready to tell us that our faults are not in ourselves. We are victims of circumstance, bad genetics, poor parenting, bad government. It is not really that the experts are wrong. It is just that the work of the Christian is different. Let us take it for granted that we walked in in the middle of the story, that we stand, in the words of A. E. Houseman, "a stranger and afraid/In a world I never made." Recognizing all this, the Christian nonetheless insists that he is free, which is another way of saying that he is responsible. To place the blame for sins outside yourself is, ultimately, a way of diminishing your freedom. To accept blame is, paradoxically, the first great step to freedom. The last part of Abba Anthony's word, to expect temptation to the last breath, is the opposite of the message of almost every self-help guru and almost every book, CD, t-shirt, poster, or piece of jewelry marketed by the members of the Christian Booksellers Association. We want to buy easy answers and an end to struggle. Abba Anthony says that struggle itself can be the great work that, as free men, God has called us to. This is not a proposition with great marketing potential. It is nonetheless, as we will see in tomorrow's saying, the heart of the Desert message.

After the Break


I've taken a few days off from the blog, but will start regular postings again this evening with the next installment of Abba Anthony. In the meantime, here is a picture from a couple of winters ago; Susan bottle feeding a newborn down at the barn.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

From the Philokalia

In a comment on the last blog post "A.F." cites a few passages from St Peter of Damaskos included in volume three of the English translation of the Philokalia. I will move the last excerpt up here both because it cites St. Anthony and it captures my best intention for the series:

“…St. Antony says that every word or act ought to be supported by divine Scripture. It is in this spirit that I begin to write… I do not do this in order to teach others - God forbid! - but in order to reprove my unhappy soul, so that, shamed by my own words, as St. John Klimakos says, I who have done nothing but speak may begin to act.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Abba Anthony 3

The first two sayings record Abba Anthony questioning his own life. With the third saying we see Abba Anthony taking the role of elder, giving a word in response to a question. Now if I were a true disciple seeking a word from an elder, I would listen, then spend a few years putting the word into practice and only after mastering the first advice would I dare come back for more. Being more of a dilettante than a real disciple, I will instead press on.

Abba Anthony is asked how one goes about pleasing God, what must one do, what rule to keep. Abba Anthony gives three precepts. The first says that whoever you are, always keep God before your eyes. Since we cannot see God, Anthony is not suggesting some kind of visualization exercise. He is commanding us to pay attention. In essence he is calling us to a kind of prayer, recollecting that no matter who we may be we are always standing before God. The second precept says that whatever you do, do it according to the testimony or witness of the scriptures. Even a "mystic" of the desert begins with the scriptures. Again, there is no secret knowledge just the same writings available to all Christians. The third precept advises that wherever you live, do not leave easily (or quickly). Abba Anthony is advising a virtue that will show up later in the monastic vow of stability. Underlying this is the view that you are where you are by the providence of God and have lessons to learn in the spot God has placed you. Of course we can put ourselves in bad places, but the principle remains the same. We cannot escape our problems by moving because we carry our problems with us. To put it in brief, live before God, live according to the scriptures, live where you are. As Abba Anthony concludes, do these things "and you will be saved."

Monday, June 09, 2008

Too Darn Hot

No update tonight. A long day at the office and an air conditioner that could not keep pace with the heat rising to my third story nook have left me with little to say and less energy to say it. With what few brain cells that were not steam cooked, I will contemplate further on Abba Anthony's third saying and report back tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a picture of the home place taken from the new winery.


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Saturday, June 07, 2008

More Abba Anthony

The second saying is relatively short, so I quote it here in its entirety from Sr. Benedicta Ward's translation:

When the same Abba Anthony thought about the depths of the judgement of God, he asked, "Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked men prosper and why are the just in need?" He heard a voice answering him, "Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgement of God, and it is not to your advantage to know anything about them."

The more formal term for questions about evil and the providence of God is "theodicy." This is a perpetually hot topic on the web. Ecclesial wanderer Huw over at Sarx has even invited folks to take part in a Summer Theodicy Meme. Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has looked at the issue several times, beginning with an essay response to the Indonesian tsunami and finishing with his book The Doors of the Sea. Abba Anthony gets a response to his question which would be profoundly unsatisfying to any philosophical student of the problem of evil. It is an answer most of us would find unsatifying. It is also perhaps the only honest answer to the question that God could give to us in this life. It is not an answer that would be acceptable from anyone other than God. We all resent it when another human stands over us and says "I know more than you, you couldn't understand, so just sit down and shut up if you know what is good for you." This rightly offends us because we know that, most likely, they don't know much more than we do, that they don't know, or care, what is good for us and are telling us to shut up to preserve their power and hide their own fear and ignorance. We probably resent this sort of answer from God as well, assuming that we are bigger than we are and He is smaller than He is and that we could understand any answer He gives. We assume an answer to the question of evil would be less complicated than, say string theory, and that we could absorb that answer without any real expansion of our hearts and minds in their present condition.

We say we want knowledge, but in our present state, "knowledge" is a polite way of saying "power." Ultimately, wanting to justify the way of the world to ourselves is a wish to play God for a moment. The trouble is that, as a general rule, playing God usually results in bad news both for ourselves and any other humans within our area of influence. It is not a habit to cultivate. It is ironic; we are called to be like God (perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect says the Gospel of Matthew). Yet, the beginning of this process is to realize our unlikeness with God. If we want his strength, we have to know our own weakness. Questions about divine providence are good questions. It is just that we are not yet the kind of persons who can hear and profit from the answers: "Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgement of God, and it is not to your advantage to know anything about them.".

Weekend Update

The second Abba Anthony post is partly written and will go up later this weekend. Friday night we went to the end of school awards ceremony at the boys' school. Today we finished shearing a little later than planned due to the same thunderstorms that delayed the first Anthony post. With temperatures in the high 90's Susan and I were about as hot as the sheep were before the wool came off. I did take a break midday to go over to Glen Manor Vinyards just south of us on the other side of the old family farm. Susan's cousin Jeff planted his first grapes back in 95 and, after growing for other local winemakers, had the grand opening of his own winery today. There was a good turnout of friends, neighbors and local notables for the ribbon cutting, with Virginia's Secretary of Agriculture in attendance to lend a hand. The photo below is next year's vintage aging in oak.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Akedia

The first saying of Abba Anthony finds him afflicted with akedia, a Greek term variously translated as despondency, listlessness, sloth or, as Kevin Edgecomb does, melancholy. Akedia is sometimes called the Noonday Demon. It is a condition similar to what we today call depression, but with an element of restlessness. The afflicted monk finds himself all but paralyzed when he tries to pray and turn his mind to God, but has great bursts of energy to pursue distraction. If you would like to see the phenomenon in action on a less spiritual level, consider the thought processes of a child with a pile of homework waiting on one side of his room and a video game console with glowing TV screen on the other. Of Abba Antony it was said that "his mind was darkened by a multitude of imagined things, (Edgecomb)" or as Sr Benedicta Ward's translation puts it, he was "attacked by many sinful thoughts." This is quite a statement to make about the prototype of monks, the first great contemplative saint of the Church. As we shall see later, it is part of Abba Anthony's teachings that it is not in spite of our struggles that we become holy, but because of them. Abba Anthony cries out to God, wanting to know how he can be saved while trapped in the futility of his own thoughts and distractions. The story goes on to tell that:
Anthony saw someone like himself, sitting and working, then rising from work and praying, and again sitting and plaiting a rope, then again rising for prayer. It was an angel of the Lord, sent for the correction and insurance against stumbling of Anthony. And he heard the angel saying, Do this, and you will be saved. And when he heard this, he had great joy and courage, and did this, and was saved.
Now, we (or at least I) do not expect a vision of Angels to snap us out of habitual listlessness. If we read carefully though, the key point is not the angel, but what the angel shows to Anthony. There is no great revelation, no secret wisdom, no instant cure. The angel shows Abba Anthony that he needs to do what is set before him, simply and without drama. Work a little, pray some, work some more, pray some more. Nothing fancy, no mysteries beyond the mystery of God working secretly in us as we approach what is set before us with prayer and perseverance. There is scandal in the Church, what should I do? I have horrible thoughts, what should I do? Those around me don't understand me, don't appreciate me, what should I do? The answer given to Anthony is simple. Do the work you have been given, pray, and let God do his work. And when he heard this, he had great joy and courage, and did this, and was saved.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Stormy Wednesday

The start of the Abba Anthony series will be delayed by a day. A line of thunderstorms came through this afternoon and cut off power until just after sundown. I brought home fried chicken for the family and evening chores were done dashing between downpours. The power is back on and I am glad of it, but it was pleasant to sit in the kitchen for a while this evening reading by the slanting light of late afternoon as it cut between the clouds.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Abba Anthony

I have been listening to Father Thomas Hopko's podcasts lately. On his May 26th episode he revisits his commencement address from St Vladimir's Seminary last year. As in many of his talks Father Thomas recommends St Ignatius Brianchianinov's work The Arena and C. S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man. I have pulled both off my library shelves for a re-read, but first I am taking another of his suggestions: I urge you, and, if I could, I would command you, to read St. Anthony's thirty-eight sayings in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Everything we need to know in order to live is there for us in its simplest and clearest form. So, for the next thirty-eight days I will be reading and meditating on each of Abba Anthony's sayings preserved in what is called the Alphabetical Collection. Blogger Kevin P. Edgecomb has posted his own translations of Abba Anthony's sayings here (Part 1) and here (Part 2) if you wish to follow along on-line.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Update

Updating the blog slipped through the cracks the last few days. I have remedied this by backdating some posts of pictures I had been intending to put up. It was a busy weekend. I took a lamb off to a local butcher Thursday for the men at my parish to use on a trial run for the Greek Festival at Church later this summer. The weekend was spent shearing. We are almost there, but still have enough woolly ones for a good day's work remaining. We had some sad news; our llama died of a sudden illness. I found him down on Friday night at feeding time. We medicated and comforted as best we could, but he was gone by Saturday morning. While not the best sheep guard we ever had, he was still an enjoyable fixture on the place and I will miss him.

Daily Bread

 
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Tonight's loaf fresh from the oven.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

 


This is a picture from back in February; an attempt to record the lunar eclipse with a rather shaky camera mount from the side deck of the house.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Slow Growth

The slow maturation of true Orthodox life, in its fullness, without “one-sidedness,” is precisely that - slow maturation of true Orthodox life. St. Vladimir, Prince of the Rus, received Baptism in 988 A.D., but the story of Orthodox life in Russia generally marks the life and ministry of St. Sergius of Radonezh in the 14th century as the point at which there came a flowering of Orthodoxy in its fullness in that land.

This quote is from a longer blog post by Fr. Stephan Freeman. I excerpt it here becomes it seems to go well with the passage from Chesterton quoted earlier.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

55 Maxims

I first read these at Paideia. You can hear Fr Hopko read and comment on them in his podcast at Ancient Faith Radio. Scroll down to the entry for March 13, 2008.

55 Maxims for Christian Living
by Fr. Thomas Hopko

1. Be always with Christ.
2. Pray as you can, not as you want.
3. Have a keepable rule of prayer that you do by discipline.
4. Say the Lord’s Prayer several times a day.
5. Have a short prayer that you constantly repeat when your mind is not occupied with other things.
6. Make some prostrations when you pray.
7. Eat good foods in moderation.
8. Keep the Church’s fasting rules.
9. Spend some time in silence every day.
10. Do acts of mercy in secret.
11. Go to liturgical services regularly
12. Go to confession and communion regularly.
13. Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings. Cut them off at the start.
14. Reveal all your thoughts and feelings regularly to a trusted person.
15. Read the scriptures regularly.
16. Read good books a little at a time.
17. Cultivate communion with the saints.
18. Be an ordinary person.
19. Be polite with everyone.
20. Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.
21. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
22. Exercise regularly.
23. Live a day, and a part of a day, at a time.
24. Be totally honest, first of all, with yourself.
25. Be faithful in little things.
26. Do your work, and then forget it.
27. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
28. Face reality.
29. Be grateful in all things.
30. Be cheefull.
31. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
32. Never bring attention to yourself.
33. Listen when people talk to you.
34. Be awake and be attentive.
35. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
36. When we speak, speak simply, clearly, firmly and directly.
37. Flee imagination, analysis, figuring things out.
38. Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance.
39. Don’t complain, mumble, murmur or whine.
40. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
41. Don’t seek or expect praise or pity from anyone.
42. We don’t judge anyone for anything.
43. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
44. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
45. Be defined and bound by God alone.
46. Accept criticism gratefully but test it critically.
47. Give advice to others only when asked or obligated to do so.
48. Do nothing for anyone that they can and should do for themselves.
49. Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice.
50. Be merciful with yourself and with others.
51. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
52. Focus exclusively on God and light, not on sin and darkness.
53. Endure the trial of yourself and your own faults and sins peacefully, serenely, because you know that God’s mercy is greater than your wretchedness.
54. When we fall, get up immediately and start over.
55. Get help when you need it, without fear and without shame.

Monday, May 26, 2008

From the Week's Reading

The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us. The heart of the tree remains the same, however many rings are added to it; and a man cannot leave his heart behind by running hard with his legs.

From "The Romance of Rhyme" by G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Caught in the act!


The woodpecker I talked about yesterday was back this afternoon. Here he is caught in the act courtesy of a telephoto lens looking down from the deck.
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Evidence

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We have a woodpecker who makes a regular breakfast stop on the wooden rail fence around the yard. While in general I would rather a bug be in the bird than in our wood, his cure is doing more damage to the fence than the odd insect. We have tried chasing him away with loud shouts and dramatic waving of arms, but the next day he is still there hammering away with his beak, wood chips flying and the hills echoing with the sound of a bird at work. The picture above is evidence of the crime, with a calling card left by the vandal himself.

Ram on the Shearing Stand

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Looking Towards Home

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Orthodox Agrarian

I periodically get hits on the blog from Google searches that match the title. I am always a little embarrassed because I am not a stellar exemplar for either Orthodoxy or Agrarianism. So, I am always happy to find other Orthodox making the move to a rural lifestyle. It lets me say, see- don't look at me; go look at them. James, the longtime blogger at Paradosis has taken the plunge and now includes regular farm reports in his blog. His wife has gone further and has set up a St. Brigid Farm blog with great pictures of their little plot of ground in the Pacific Northwest. If you stop by before Friday night there is still time to get in on the "Name the Goats" contest.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Authors On-line

An increasing number of authors not only have web sites but also write blogs, giving the devoted reader the ultimate fan experience. At some point I intend to add a few of my favorites to the list of links over on the right. As a start, here is a link to a writer John C. Wright's livejournal. Wright, besides being an alumnus of my law school, is a practitioner of space opera on the grandest scale as well as being a first rate writer of contemporary fantasy. A web page with links to his work is here. He is opinionated, articulate and willing to get into the trenches with fan and foe alike. While the livejournal writing is interesting, it doesn't begin to give an idea of what his fiction is like. For that, pick up one of the books.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday afternoon at the movies

Sunday afternoon Susan, youngest son and I went to the movies. Our hometown theatre is Royal Cinemas, a vintage small town movie house. The balcony has been converted into a second screening room and there is a tiny third screen on the left side of the old building, but the main theatre is still large enough to capture a bit of the old movie palace magic. When I go to the movies I want a screen big enough to lose myself in. Royal Cinemas has still got it.

We saw the new Narnia film, Prince Caspian, which gets a thumbs up from all three of us. There are two interesting reviews on the National Review web site. The first, by Thomas Hibbs, is here. The second, by Frederica Mathewes-Green is here. The contrast between the two would make for some good discussion, particularly Frederica's assertion that "The movie is just plain better than the book."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Shearing

There was a break in the rain Friday night with early morning winds on Saturday to dry out a week's worth of wet wool. Taking advantage, we set up the shearing stand and got to work. The first few sheep went quickly. They were older ewes, used to being handled and gave us no trouble, seemingly relieved to be out from under all that wool. Later in the afternoon the luck of the draw brought us a group of yearlings, sheep born last season who had never been sheared before. Imagine a 150 pound toddler getting his first haircut. Imagine that toddler with muscles, hard hooves, horns in one case, and absolutely no sense of decorum. We finished the talley for the day a little tired but with less drama and bloodletting than I expected. I have to say though, the hair sheep idea is looking better and better.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You mean I actually won something?

I am never the guy holding the winning ticket. The lottery has ignored me. The peel-off games at fast food joints have never brought me anything more than a free bag of fries, and a small bag at that. I've come to view a raffle ticket as just a receipt for a charitable contribution. So you can imagine my surprise when Susan told me that we had won a sheep. I had kicked in a buck at the Sheep and Wool festival for a chance on a Katahdin ram and thought nothing more of it until Susan picked up the phone and was told I had the winning ticket. Katahdins sheep are a little different from anything we have on the farm. For one thing their coat is different from normal wool. They are considered "hair" sheep. They shed. No shearing involved, it just drops off in the spring. Our prize sheep is down in Waynesboro, Virginia due south of us on Triple L Farms. Check out their web page if you are interested. For some great pictures of hair sheep go here.

I am not sure when we will go and pick up our prize. We have been too busy shearing for a road trip, which, I suppose, makes the case for the Katahdin all by itself.

Kitchen Companions

Not being naturally gifted in the kitchen and having an inordinate trust in books, I naturally turned to cook books when I first started fending for myself. The first one I ever bought was From A Monastery Kitchen. I know, a copy of The Joy of Cooking would have been a lot more practical, but the simple recipes accompanied by prayers, apt quotations and drawings made preparing meals beyond scrambled eggs seem not only possible but actually enjoyable. The edition I linked to is now out of print, but a revised and expanded version is still available.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Listening to Verse

In our time we have forgotten by and large how poetry sounds. I don't mean that no one reads poetry out loud anymore, just that we have lost the knack of properly reading verse in rhyme and meter. Go to a contemporary poetry reading and you hear the poet take on a grave, nasal tone, ending each line with a little up or down inflection of the voice, trying to inject a little music into what is basically prose with interesting line breaks. Or as Robert Frost put it in his poem "How Hard It Is To Keep From Being King":

Free verse leaves out the metre and makes up
For the deficiency by church intoning.
Free verse so called is really cherished prose,
Prose made much of, given an air by church intoning.
It has its beauty, only I don't write it.


If you would like a daily dose of verse read well, you cannot do better than Classic Poetry Aloud.
The link takes you to a very long web page where you can both read and hear each poem. There is a searchable index here. The most recent 100 readings are available as a podcast from iTunes. I carry a dozen or so with me in the car as an alternative to the radio wasteland.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What is outside the window

Spring
by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889)

Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More Food Blogging

In keeping with the recent food theme, here is a recommendation. If you are ever in Columbia South Carolina on a weekend, go to Little Pigs Barbecue for their buffet. No frills, just good cheap food and lots of it. It is also the perfect place if you have a dog in the mustard vs. tomato vs. vinegar base barbecue sauce fight. (I love them all, but I realize that mine might be a minority opinion.) They serve all three, plus whole slow cooked pork shoulders so you can pull and sauce the meat to suit yourself. The side dishes are all top notch and if you want to bypass the soft drinks there is all the sweet tea (house wine of the South) you can drink. You can find better barbecue if you look hard enough or travel far enough, but Little Pigs would still be worth a stop even if it weren't the best lunch or dinner deal around.

(This post is backdated: I'm catching up after some traveling last weekend.)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Getting Ready To Fly

Tomorrow morning I will be flying down to Columbia, South Carolina to meet with old friends and celebrate my goddaughter's confirmation in the Lutheran Church. I am looking forward to the trip, but not necessarily to the flying part. It is not because I am afraid of airplanes. It is just that air travel now combines the class and comfort of a long bus ride with the romance of a trip to the DMV. It didn't use to be this way. I've told myself it was a trade off I could and should live with in exchange for cheap fares. Now with fuel prices through the roof, it looks like we are in for the worst of both worlds, high prices and abysmal service. Don't get me started on security unless you are in the mood for a minimum twenty minute rant. I will spare you that and simply refer you to Peggy Noonan's column from a few weeks ago; The View From Gate 14.

(This post is backdated: I'm catching up after some traveling last weekend.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Still in the Kitchen

While at the Sheep and Wool Festival I stopped by C.A.D. Cutlery's booth to replace a lost steak knife. They are a small family owned business in Maryland that carries a full line of Forschner kitchen knives. Forschner is a cutlery division of Victorinox, of Swiss Army Knife fame. The knives are great. Make no mistake, these are inexpensive no frills basic tools but they do the job better than anything else any where near their price range. The eight inch chef's knife with the fibrox handle has been my basic kitchen tool for almost a decade now. It's overdue for a professional sharpening, but is still getting the job done. If, however, you need to have your knives be works of art as well as tools, try browsing this site. I've never ordered anything and probably never will, but the knives are beautiful and the occasional drift into japanglish in the descriptions has its own charm.

(This post is backdated: I'm catching up after some traveling last weekend.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Loafing at home

The bread in the previous posting's picture came out of our own home oven. Years back as a poor and hungry bachelor I learned to cook a little and branched out eventually into home bread making. These days it is hard to work the needed time for mixing, rising and kneading, to say nothing of baking into the office and farm schedule. No one wants to wait around until 11:00 pm to hear me say "Come on, the bread's ready!" So, when I ran across this book, I thought I would give it a try. Now, I knew going in that you really can't make "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" so I wasn't surprised to find that rising times still need accounting for, as well as a certain amount of time spent actually shaping loaves before baking. A book titled "You can make pretty decent bread at home without actually having to stick your hands in dough for more than five minutes at a time" probably would have been a harder sell, if a little more accurate. Nonetheless, following the instructions gives me better bread than I can buy at the grocery store and I am now in the habit of keeping a few pounds of pre-risen dough ready in the refrigerator. The authors have a useful web site, which includes a few important corrections to the book.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Autoharp Hero

The gentleman holding the autoharp in the last picture from the Sheep and Wool festival is Bryan Bowers. I was, as we used to say, "blown away" the first time I saw him play back in 1972. A friend and I had gone to a show at the Lisner Auditorium to catch The Seldom Scene, a bluegrass band we held in the same awe we would normally reserve for the Dead, Cream or Dylan. Bryan Bowers was also on the bill, following The Seldom Scene. Our guys put on a tremendous show, with their trademark mix of newgrass instrumental virtuosity, tight vocals and traditional stylings put into overdrive by the stage presence of the irrepressible John Duffy. Happy with what we had just heard, we were ready to leave but decided to see what one guy with an autoharp could do. We figured at least it would be good for a laugh. What followed was an hour of music still fresh in my mind over thirty-five years later. The energy pouring off that stage and the sounds he got from that string-covered board were nothing short of amazing. It was good to see him on Saturday. The energy level exhibited Saturday was more fitting for an elder statesman than a young turk, but he can still play. He doesn't look much like he used to:



But then, neither do I. It was good to hear him again.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sheep and Wool Festival

On Saturday Susan and I drove up to Howard County Maryland to spend the afternoon at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Besides, being a nice day trip, we had the blades to our sheep shears sharpened, bought a second shearing machine to replace one that went dead last year, ate junk food, listened to music, daydreamed about expensive farm equipment and admired the prize winning sheep on display. Here are a few photos from the day: