Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday's Bird is Going for a Swim

A female black scoter heads out into the ocean.

I love sea ducks. They seem to be more adventuresome than pond ducks. According to my Peterson Field Guide, female black scoters vocalize by growling. That sounds pretty fierce. Black scoters are declining in numbers, so it was special to see one the other week at the beach.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Early Christian Symbolism

These two birds drinking from a chalice are on display outside the Basilica of Sant'Appolinare  in Classe, outside Ravenna. I believe they were taken from some other church in the area.

In the very early days of Christianity, this symbol was understood by Christians to represent the Eucharist and its power to keep "you"[those who participated] in everlasting life. Those who were not Christians would not necessarily understand the symbolism.

The motif is found in the Roman catacombs as well as on the sides of (much later) baptismal fonts.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday Macabre-y: This guy

As seen from the Grand Canal in Venice, this architectural reminder of someone who died in Rome. Or something. 

Here's a close up. Anybody's Italian good enough to explain what this is about?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Poem: Hell

“THROUGH me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric moved:
To rear me was the task of Power divine,       
Supremest Wisdom, and primeval Love. 
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”

Dante Alighieri Canto III 1-9

This is a sculpture by Russian artist Georgy Frangulyan
called Dante and Virgil. It's in the middle of the lagoon between
the Fondamento Nuovo ferry stop and the Isola San Michelle (the cemetery island)
where several famous Russians, including Igor Stravinsky and Joseph Brodsky, are buried.

Monday, August 15, 2016

St Mary the Virgin

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday Tabernacle: Orsanmichele

This is the tabernacle in Orsanmichele, in Florence.

The church building itself was built in 1336 as a grain store and market on the site of an oratory and within the garden area of a monastery. About fifty years later, became more used as a church but still as a granary store house. (The market was moved elsewhere.)

The gothic tabernacle was designed by Andrea di Cione di Arcangelo (aka Orcagna) and houses a beautiful madonna and child by Bernardo Daddi (1347, a pupil of Giotto).

If you look closely, you will see that the tabernacle fits perfectly inside the church. The halo on the figure on the very top of the tabernacle touches the frescoed ceiling.

Unlike some of the other huge churches in Florence, this one does not take a long time to visit and see all there is to see inside. It you can go on a Monday, you can go upstairs to see the originals of the statues that adorn the exterior of the building, but either way, it's well worth the visit.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Monday Poem: Argyle on Knocknagaroon

Argyle on Knocknagaroon

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Because he barely heard the voice of God
above the hum of other choristers—
batwing and bird-whistle, gathering thunder,
the hiss of tides retreating, children, cattle;
because he could not readily discern
the plan Whoever Is In Charge Here has,
he wondered about those who claimed to have
blessed assurances or certainty:
a One and Only Way and Truth and Life,
as if Whatever Breathes in Everything  
mightn’t speak in every wondrous tongue;
as if, of all creations, only one
made any sense. It made no sense to him.  
Hunger he understood, touch, desire.  
He knew the tenderness humans could do,
no less brutalities.  He knew the cold
morning, the broad meadow, the gold sunset.
One evening on the hill of Knocknagaroon,
the Atlantic on one side, the Shannon 
on the other, the narrowing headlands
of the peninsula out behind him,
the broad green palm of Moveen before him,
it seemed he occupied the hand of God:
open, upturned, outstretched, uplifting him.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


We went to the beach for the day on Friday. There were some guys fishing. A large black backed gull went over to one of the guys' tubs and picked out a fish head and walked off with it.

The gull carried the fish head to the water.

And washed it off.

And carried it back. Then the bird took off and flew to its picnic place away from the people and the other birds. The fisherman never saw a thing.

"“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (Matthew 6:25-27, New International Version.)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Feast of the Transfiguration: Squiggles and Haloes

Fra Angelico's Transfiguration fresco in a monk's cell, San Marco, Florence
which I saw when I visited in June
August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration, a commemoration of that mysterious scene in which Jesus and his inner circle climb a mountain and suddenly Jesus’ face shines and his clothes dazzle and a voice comes from out of the cloud surrounding them: “This is my beloved, listen to him!” 

I was ordained on this feast, so it is special to me. Over the years, I’ve encountered a many artistic renderings of Transfiguration, from Bellini to Fra Angelico to Titian and Raphael, to Byzantine icons, to Salvadore Dali. Jesus is of course is always at the center, serene and confident, with a commanding, upright presence.

What I confess to loving about these pictures, though, is the disciples. (Or in the case of Dali, the squiggles at the bottom that represent them.)  Nobody quite knows what to do. Almost always the disciples look dazed and confused. Fra Angelico gives them haloes, yet their hand positions make it look as if they are having to hold them in place at the sight of this wonder. Titian’s disciples are all flailing and fearful so ready for flight they are almost out of the painting already. Raphael includes not only the disciples near Jesus but also a large group gathered at the bottom of the hill, and yet few are looking at Jesus. Some are looking anywhere but at Jesus, with hands over their eyes even. And in nearly every representation of the Transfiguration there's always someone flailing an arm or two as he falls to the ground in fear/amazement/reverence. Such are the varieties of response to being in the presence of God.

Is the transfiguration a moment for adoration, a time out in the otherwise busy life and ministry of the faithful person? Or is the transfiguration the backdrop for all of our work, there all the time but only noticed when the curtain is lifted by the unseen hand of God upon some rocky terrain onto which we have wandered or blundered or been led? Yes, and yes, I think. Lord, give me the eyes to see.

This is a mysterious story, open to interpretation, but this I know: The central figure is always Jesus, and I am a squiggle boldly drawn, created to affirm his vocation and invited to listen to him call me into mine.

Dali's Transfiguration (cribbed from the Internet)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Friday Music: What I like about you

I love this song. I love this video.

The original song is by The Romantics; it was released in 1980. This version by the teen band 5 Seconds of Summer was released a couple of years ago.

This video not only features a song I've loved since 1980 but also captures the fun of live music, of the band getting psyched for the show. In a way, this is the way I feel, or want to feel, when I'm getting ready to process into the church on Sunday morning, ready for the liturgy, for the connection, for the music, for being taken over by the Spirit.

Enjoy. And happy weekend.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Thursday's bird is flying inVenice

This is your basic seagull. But it's a seagull who lives in Venice. So it's a little more special than basic, if you think being a "citizen" of Venice is extraordinary.

On the other hand, I guess you could say that our Virginia seagulls seem to look a lot like the Venetian seagulls.

Interestingly, while many people consider the seagull to be somewhat of a nuisance bird (swooping in to eat your potato chips from your beach picnic, for example), the Venetians love the seagulls because they feed on the pigeons that threaten to overwhelm the entire Piazza San Marco.

Since Venice passed an ordinance (or something) forbidding people to feed the pigeons, the population is definitely dwindling. But the guidebooks still give advice about how to deal with pigeon poop (let it dry in your hair, and flick it off, but get it off your clothing ASAP).

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Laundry Day!

This is vintage Venice (off the tourist path). Square, shop, house, flowers in window, laundry, directions to San Marco, graffiti, decay, beauty, old, new.

A wonderful city. We hope to visit again before long.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tuesday's bird is (fill in the blank)

This pigeon was hanging out in our 'hood (Cannaregio) in Venice, busy picking up things. I guess she (?) was either 1) picking up sticks; 2) building a nest; 3) engaged in physical therapy or exercise class.

Either way, she was as interested in checking me out as I was interested in checking her out.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Monday Night Snails Plan their Escape

Starting to work on my Venice photos.

Here's one from the square around the corner from our B&B, where there was a wonderful, small fish market. The lovingly laid out table (complete with red awning) featured squid, octopus, all kinds of fish (filleted) and an assortment of shellfish, too. In front of the table was this snail tank. As you may know, snails and salt don't mix, so I guess the salt on the top of this tank keeps them from escaping. But they were definitely thinking about it, you can tell.

Except for the ones on the bottom. They've just given up all hope, I guess. Or else they are the smart snails.


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