Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Rugged fingertips
parting the mound of flour
coaxing in eggs and salt
calloused hands
kneading, rolling
filling round morsels
each one unique
as I watched
already satiated
long before eating
grandmom’s holiday ravioli

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Morning prayer

  the noise
  of things created
  by clever creatures

   the din
   the incessant hum
  masquerading as conversation

    electron-mediated images
    prancing about
    on a screen
    that never sleeps


Be still

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A week of being 60

It's been a week since the major milestone. I have say that the worst changes I've noticed in my body are a tendency to gain weight --which I fight off with three Zumba classes per week-- and a somewhat lower tolerance for caffeine. Can't complain. And since I don't spend a lot of time looking at my face in the mirror, the wrinkles around and the circles under my eyes don't make me fret.

But I'm learning something else...something that I've always known but am just beginning finally to internalize.  My body may be 60 years old, but my spirit is the age it has always been. My body and mind are just growing into my spirit's maturity and wisdom.

My spirit is woven into the fabric
of the Divine Spirit
never to be torn away

My mortal, changing body
will obstruct the nectar-like
wisdom imparted by spirit
less and less

My body will deteriorate
but the threads uniting
my spirit to the Divine 
will grow firmer
transmitting the understanding
and peace
that impart contentment
and tranquility

I've only to let its energy
its pulse
overtake mine 

Monday, August 20, 2012

A summer of opera

  Although I had been in Grandmom’s basement hundreds of times, it took a sticky-hot, lonely summer to attract my attention to the old-fashioned phonograph in the corner and to the records stored below.

My friends all had grandparents with homes at the shore. They disappeared a week or so after school ended and were gone the entire summer, leaving this only child quite bored.  No air conditioning either.  But my grandmother's basement was my sole haven, a place of blessed relief from the 90-plus-degree weather beating down on the Philadelphia suburbs.  

 Black, heavy, and rigid --I would soon learn how easily those records could break-- some were recorded on one side only. “Your grandfather bought those,” my grandmother said.  I picked one up. The name Victor was all I could read. The rest of the label information was in Italian. 

  I put one on the turntable. The voices seemed to emanate from another galaxy, but their purity instantly captivated me.  “That’s an opera, Cavalleria Rusticana, “ my grandmother said. “We used to have the complete set.”  

   I had lots of records, from Captain Kangaroo to Disney, but this melody was much more complex and compelling. Though the soprano and tenor were singing together, each one was singing different words. I couldn’t understand Italian, yet I could tell that the piece was fraught powerful emotion. And like the undertow at the seashore, it pulled me in. I was listening to the duet “No, no, Turiddu, rimani ancora,” and a bit of research on the Internet leads me to believe that these records were the remnants of the 1929 recording of Cavalleria Rusticana interpreted by the orchestra and soloists of La Scala, Milan  (http://www.mascagni.org/recordings/506161).    

   My grandfather had also left recordings of Enrico Caruso (I remember specifically the song “Addio, mia bella Napoli!”), Tito Schipa, and the great American soprano Geraldine Farrar.  I got a real kick out of her very audible gasp just before belting out the last verse of “Vissi d’arte.”  Soon I was listening to the Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, and a few years later I begged my mom to take me to the old Philadelphia Civic Center to hear La Traviata, starring Anna Moffo (to whom I used to send heartfelt fan letters), Barry Morell, and a very young Sherrill Milnes.    

  So that’s how, in the sticky-hot summer of 1964, at the height of the British Invasion, the Italian grandfather I never knew introduced me to opera.  

Fiorenza Cassotto and Gianfrano Cecchele sing Cavalleria Rusticana

Monday, August 6, 2012

Brazen faith

 “Put your sword back in its place...for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." 

“ Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.   Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Why do we Christians say we put our trust in God yet cling to our guns and weapons? I'm practicing brazen faith in our divine Parent and stubborn commitment to the words of Jesus.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


  As though in response to what I've been mulling over the last week or so, an article from Yes! Magazine has come to my notice:

What Can Change When We Learn to See Each Other, by Akaya Windwood

Here’s my invitation to you: let’s take a month and intentionally notice those we would normally not see. Let’s interrupt old patterns of not looking into the eyes of “those people” (whoever they are to you). Let’s greet and acknowledge the folks we generally walk by or around and watch what happens.

So let’s say “Hey” to someone new tomorrow. I’ll bet we have conversations that surprise us. I’ll bet we learn something new.
   I just might try it!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A half-hour in the real world

Just returned from renewing my driver's license at a Dept. of Motor Vehicles location. The scant half-hour I spent in the waiting room made me realize how most of my days are spent in a bubble of exclusivity.

There were moms endeavoring to keep fidgety kids occupied, wailing toddlers, a set of twins in a double stroller,  a dad feeding a little one in a front pack....people of all colors, ethnic backgrounds and occupations, senior citizens chatting about this and that, a well-dressed lady editing a manuscript, a guy in scrubs, lots of people in shorts....All of us waiting for the oh so soothing, synthetic female voice to call our number as it drifted by on the LED display.

Most days I drive to work in my car. Alone. Listening to my favorite music on my iPod.  At work I'm surrounded by properly scrubbed and attired colleagues, all of us providing service college-age young folk and faculty. If the air-conditioning in our well-kept campus building is turned up too high --or not high enough-- I join in the collective grumbling. If, on my homeward commute, a long queue of cars causes congestion at the next intersection, I complain...because I'll be just a bit later getting home and will not be able to prepare dinner in as leisurely a fashion as I'm accustomed.

Ah, but it's all OK somehow, because I help make the real world a better place by posting activist messages on Facebook and Twitter, signing Internet petitions, and commiserating with other like-minded, isolated individuals....

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Far from the madding heat

Sunshine is overrated. Sunlight discretely filtered through pale, grisaille clouds is definitely superior.

Now I know why they named it the Pacific Ocean.  It doesn't batter and demolish the houses along its coast. It exhales a soft layer of lichen that settles everywhere, like bits of delicately crocheted lace.

The air is cool, moist, and breathable, not hot, humid, and stifling. I'm cold, shivering, and it feels great.  I've layered on everything I brought with me that has long sleeves.

I sit by the window watching boats and cruise ships pass by and can't get enough of the birds chirping and the waves lapping up on the sand.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

When my faith in a compassionate God falters

It's a story of stunning brevity, a scant 23 verses long and featuring only the barest of details, yet it evokes a storm of emotion.

The parable of the Prodigal Son.

You  heard it first as a child, and you've no doubt read it many, many times since.

I'm fascinated by this simple story told by Jesus to illustrate the compassion and unconditional love of our heavenly Father.  Talk about a stirring climax!

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 

 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 
   The father in the parable sees his son coming from afar.  Why? Did he just happen to be facing in that direction on that particular day? Of course not. Ever since the day his airhead kid gathered his portion of the family inheritance, packed up his stuff, and set out for parts unknown, his father has pined for him and watched for him at the window located on the uppermost floor of the house, hoping and praying for him to appear on the horizon.

 As the former Mr.Hardhead falls into his father's arms he utters his well-rehearsed line, but his father brushes it aside-- if, indeed, he even heard it at all. He calls for his son to be given a ring and sandals, signs of his status as son of the family, and tells his servants to prepare a party.

     Evidently, Jesus didn't have the macho hangups that we have today. The prodigal's father radiates unconditional love, something that we, in our stereotypical way of thinking, commonly associate with mothers.  When parents correctly perform their respective roles, mothers provide unconditional acceptance and love, while fathers provide authority and uphold the rules.  Hence, the dreaded maternal threat, "Just wait till your father gets home!" But there is no mother in the parable, perhaps because Jesus wants to challenge us to stretch our imaginations beyond society's traditional gender roles. Nothing else matters to this father except that he has his son back safe and sound. And none of this talk about demotion to the rank of hired hand.  Once a son, always a son. Sonship can never be lost or forfeited.

   I'm sure the extended family and neighbors had some choice commentary on this little episode. No doubt some of it reached the ears of this tenderhearted father.  And I'm sure he could have cared less.

   Not just today, Father's Day, but whenever selfish, heartless, ruthless persons dominate the news with their brutal actions that harm and even destroy others, I remember Jesus' story the father who loved his son unconditionally. And my belief is renewed in the existence of a good God, a Parent so much more compassionate than we selfish humans will ever be. And my resolve to go and do likewise is strengthened.
Thanks to Visual Bible Alive for the image of the Prodigal Son 

Saturday, April 21, 2012


standing with your back turned
my lifeless fingers
hooked into your shoulder
Listen to me

Let the cry
from this silent throat
let this stiffened arm
thrust you toward new purpose

Love not
death’s debris
seek not
the thrill of living
among mangled corpses

Go back
tell your people:
call home
the cohorts
ground the flying murder

For what do they know
of our timeworn hills
where goats
long have grazed
on blood-fed grasses?

Do they think to make
fresh shoots sprout
in valleys
where women
and children
were shot down?

standing with your back turned
start marching straight ahead
and do not stop
for a photo op
until you've done
all I just said

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Une belle histoire d'amour


 Il était une fois une ado timide et solitaire qui a découvert la langue française...et qui s'est lancée dans une belle histoire d'amour destinée à durer toute sa vie. A force d'étudier (mais vraiment, il ne fallait jamais la forcer) elle continuait à élargir ses connaissances de la langue de Molière, et ses efforts étaient couronnés de temps en temps de prix:

en 1969:

et encore en 1970:

  Et enfin, vendredi passé  --46 ans après son tout premier cours de français-- la voilà élue membre honoraire de Pi Delta Phi, la société d`honneur française:

       Ah, la pédagogie linguistique d'autrefois...un livre de texte, parfois une bande à écouter (c'était la nuit des temps, n'est-ce pas)...et la prof qui nous fait apprendre par coeur et réciter à voix haute comment mettre le couvert. Vachement pratique ! Pourtant, on nous a proposé des correspondants, et dès ma 1ère année de français je m'épanchais en écrivant à deux jeunes Françaises, des ados comme moi, maintenant et perdues de vue, malheureusement ... pour être remplacées par des cyber copains et copines, grâce à l'internet. Entendre par hasard une chanson d'Aznavour ou de Mireille Mathieu, c'était comme un cadeau inespéré ... jusqu'à l'université, où j'ai fait connaissance avec une fille qui me prêtait ses disques --  bonheur suprême !

     Pourtant, lire, écrire, et rêver en français, cela signifiait surtout échapper à une maison et à un monde où je vivais au bord de la déprime...échapper à un monde où les règles et l'obéissance comptaient plus que l'amour ... enfin, échapper à un monde sans coeur. En ouvrant les oeuvres des écrivains et poètes français, il me semblait ouvrir grandes les portes de mon âme et donner libre cours à tous mes sentiments. Je trouvais des interlocuteurs et des interlocutrices qui m'entretenaient de choses sublimes... Pascal et Molière (qui me faisait rire), et les Lumières ...Simone de Beauvoir, qui osait désobéir, et les autres auteurs du XXe, qui osaient proclamer l'absurdité d'un monde abandonné par son Créateur...

  Adulte, mariée, et proprement gelée, j'ai eu la chance de rencontrer Anne Hébert et Annie Ernaux, qui m'ont appuyée dans ma révolte,  Andrée Chedid, dont le lyrisme me laisse encore éblouie,  et Michel Tremblay, qui sait si bien dépeindre le coeur des gays, tout à fait pareil à celui des straights.

   Même avant de visiter la France en 2002 et 2n 2010, l'étude du français était un voyage de libération intellectuelle et spirituelle. Que d'années, que de livres, que de rêves ...que de plaisir... 

   Vive le français !

Sunday, April 8, 2012


To my wonder
the years have gone by
bad times
become good
and hell
becomes heaven

bad advice
useless rules
and the wounds
I find my own
and live my own

      and looking around
      at finding
      God's presence
      in the root
      and the stem
      in the leaf
      and the petal
      even in the nettle 

      in the soil
      and in the cement
      in the sun's glare
      and in the night
      in the motor's hum
      and the silence


                                                 and I love life now
                                                 who once saw
                                                 so darkly

Lilies from

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cum ramis palmarum

Jesus Enters Jerusalem, by Giotto
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  Long, long ago, in a religious tradition now (for me) far, far away, I sang in the children's choir.  The mass was still in Latin (yep, I'm that old!), and Christ's entry into Jerusalem was celebrated with an almost rowdy festiveness. It was the last time the organ or any instrument would be played in church until the Gloria at the Easter Vigil mass. So the music on Palm Sunday was fortissimo, rendering the silence that would follow all the more dramatic.

We practiced at lunchtime and after school for months to master the Palm Sunday music, and I took the responsibility very seriously. Getting dressed that morning I felt especially proud as I again donned the white veil that I had worn at my first Communion. Spring was more fickle back then, and I recall also having to don boots for my walk to church through the freshly fallen snow.

I took a divine pleasure in singing Latin. To this day I still remember one of the first antiphonal pieces we sang as the celebrant blessed the palm, enveloping it in a cloud of incense and sprinkling it with holy water:

Ingrediente Domino in sanctam civitatem,
Hebraeorum pueri resurrectionem vitae pronuntiantes,
Cum ramis palmarum: «Hosanna, clamabant, in excelsis.»

As the Lord entered the holy city,
The children of the Hebrews proclaimed the resurrection of life. 
Waving their branches of palm, they cried: "Hosanna in the highest."

Earlier this week I searched the Internet for that bit of nostalgia. To my surprise I found it, and to my even greater surprise I discovered that the setting we used to sing was composed by Franz Schubert!

So here it is:


We sang it a bit more andante but with the same sforzando. 
My spiritual journey has guided me to a worship space of exterior and interior calm and simplicity, far from music and other elaborate liturgical trappings. Yet those early experiences are a part of me still.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blogger seeks apartment in ostrichland

Decided that I've had my fill of the accusations and counter-accusations, sound bites and counter-sound bites.  These do not constitute conversation or debate but only serve to inflame.  And, of course, everyone speaks in the name of the Almighty.  Funny how the Almighty is out to destroy or at least definitively confound so many of his/her children...and how those shouting most loudly at any particular time do not, of course, expect to number among the confounded.  And that goes for liberals as well as conservatives. Liberals need to stop trying to out-shout the neo-cons. What do you do when kids are making a racket and you want them to listen to you?  You lower your voice so that they'll quiet down to be able hear you.

  Ah...if we could only go back to the good old days, when everyone knew their place. When America was beautiful. Blacks --uh--Negroes-- had their own separate but equal (invisible) accommodations, women were in the nursery or kitchen, not competing in the workplace or occupying the majority of desks in college classrooms. Children all obeyed their parents and teachers, and they participated in air raid drills like good little Americans. Employees respected their bosses who paid their workers a living wage, and no one's medical bills were beyond their means. Men were men and girls were pure. No one had sex out of wedlock, and unwed pregnancies (however that managed to happen) were properly hidden away. Taxes were minimal, there was no welfare state, no bums except the occasional derelict on the occasional corner.  No one expected a handout...except maybe our foreign allies, but since they helped us fight the communist empire that was OK. There was no elite, no America-hating liberal left. Everyone worshiped at the Judeo-Christian institution of his/her choice. There were no atheists and who even knew about Muslims or Buddhists. Whether democrat or republican, we loved our President, a war hero who firmly upheld the divinely ordained system of capitalism, and we were all united against our one and only archenemy,  the USSR.....Why would anyone in their right mind not want to re-establish such a paradise on earth?

        Flip everything in the above paragraph to create the "bad old days," and you have the liberal take on the past.
        Where's the nearest ostrich community, and do they like Italian cooking?  I can make a mean eggplant parmigiana.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Life changes

Once upon a time
when I was but a paper doll
in a two-dimensional world

colors were but
splashes of ink

and roses
just splats of magenta

just brush strokes
like actors
pretending to sway
in a make-believe breeze

just tears that fell
bleaching a dark canvas

Now that I am
a woman in 3-D
with all necessary
fascia and ganglia

my eyes
squint in the sun’s

the rose’s perfume
makes me dreamy
and her falling petals
make me sad

plants submit
to my kitchen cutting board
for my nourishment

and the stars
the stars
are still
those far-away things
that I understand no better
than before

Inspired by an image posted on Facebook by Every Day Poems