Monday, March 31, 2014

My blog has moved!

First item: This blog has moved to my new WordPress account here:  www.gretchenjoanna.com.

Second item was the birth of our 12th grandchild in March 2014 and if you want to jump there first it's mentioned in this post.

Please update my URL in your lists and feeds. Thanks!

- Gretchen Joanna

Thursday, March 27, 2014

On the value of philosophy.

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good --”

At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily.

Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the streets, no man knowing whom he strikes.

So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.

-- G.K. Chesterton in Heretics

Linking up to Weekends With Chesterton, hosted by Mary this week.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

green and blue coastal views

As I mentioned in my last post, we took a short trip down to California's Central Coast - which we were amused to hear referred to as The North Coast, by those evidently oriented not to the whole state, but to Los Angeles...?

While anticipating the getaway, which was all my dear husband's idea, I started thinking about the edges of the oceans, and how they give us a certain perspective. If you sit or stand on the shore and look seaward, you have all those millions of people behind you, and before you a vastness of water and sky to soothe the eyes and mind, and to make you think. Why don't we all constantly gravitate to the coastlands so that we can be philosophers? It must be because we have so many worthy things we are called to DO.
 
Part of me wants to philosophize in this post, about a score of ideas and realities that are connected in a fascinating way. I could even write a short book for me to read about the ramblings of my mind over the last week, stimulated as it was by books and movies and history and theology that all seemed to relate to our trip.

But I will restrain myself, because I had my time sitting by the shore and now that I'm back inland I need to get on with other things. I won't want to take the time to read that book anyway, so I'll just make this a simple chronological report.


It was at Paso Robles on Hwy 101 that we cut over toward the coast, and the hills began to be greener, with even greener fields of newly-sprouted Something scattered here and there. The farms! Of course we have lots of farms in our county, too, but south of us they grow lots of different things and it does my heart good to see it. Thank you, Lord, for sending the rain to green-up the hills that will soon be golden -- and brown -- again.





Our hotel room in Cambria had a lovely view from the balcony, not just of the ocean, but also of the lush gardens on the property, with some of those favorite plants that I only see when away from home, like proteas and our beloved Pride of Madeira.

Pride of Madeira






The latter is one that we enjoyed many times on wedding anniversary trips we've taken, because it blooms in March. This time I told Mr. Glad that we might consider it "Our Flower."

a protea
town of Cambria from the boardwalk

As soon as we brought in our bags we set off on the boardwalk along the long strand of Moonstone Beach, which appears to have a population of thousands of ground squirrels living under it. They popped up on one side or another every few feet to say hello and beg demurely.

Many benches sit along the boardwalk, too, providing places for philosophers to gaze out at the great beyond. Some had extra, very personalized signs and plaques, screwed into them.


Down below we scrambled on the rocks and found crabs and snails and seaweed in the cracks and tidepools.

All the salt water stands in stark contrast to the drought that is especially bad on the California coast. At our very nice restaurant in Cambria they charged us for water with dinner! Just 30 cents for a bottle, but enough to draw attention to the problem and prevent the waste of all those glasses of water that diners might ignore.

When we left Cambria we drove south and stopped near the town of Harmony to try out the Harmony Headlands trail that cuts through a swath of farmland to link up with coastal bluffs. We could smell the sagey-beachy scent that let us know the ocean was just over the hill, but we never seemed to be reaching a place from which to get even a distant view of it, so we eventually gave up and turned back. On the way back to the car this snake slithered off the edge of the trail. When I followed him into the field he froze and posed.


Neither of us had ever been to the town of Cayucos, which was our next stop. We liked this place a lot, with its casual and less touristy flavor. It used to be a shipping hub in the late 1800's, and it's close enough to San Luis Opbispo and the college of "Cal Poly" that there were lots of students in town, and surfers to watch as we relaxed on the sand near the old pier.

Cayucos from the pier

At one end of the beach a woman drew in the sand with her foot, to draw attention to a seal pup that was lying like a lump near the shore. I did think it was a lumpy rock, until I saw her circle.

She was also standing guard against dogs who had been bothering the animal that she said was malnourished and waiting for the marine mammal rescue people to come. When a group of school children approached, the pup lifted its head long enough for me to snap a picture.

blue ceanothus, cistus, and CA poppies



 










Later in the week on our way home I got in more close-up views of some favorite Spring-y color combinations -- at a highway rest area!

My tangible souvenirs were three, two rocks and a piece of sea glass, my material Gifts From the Sea. As to non-material and most valuable things gained....I'll be meditating a long time on that realm of Beauty.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Tide in the River

A short verse stuck in my mind over 20 years ago, and has been playing there off and on out of a proper context. I'm pretty sure it came to me in a book of poems for children, and somewhere along the way I incorrectly connected it with Longfellow; when recently I searched around online for a while I found that the author is Eleanor Farjeon.

Only once that I can remember did the meaning fit with the situation, when I was with my dear husband on a short getaway to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We were staying in the company town of Scotia in way-northern California, where the sawmill is built near the Eel River.

After dinner we walked in the dark around the village of Rio Dell close by, and on our way back to the hotel stopped on the bridge to lean over the rail; we listened to the quiet flowing noise and could barely make out the stream down below. Here was the right time and place, and the verse very nimbly popped into my mind, and I recited:
The tide in the river,
The tide in the river,
The tide in the river runs deep.
I saw a shiver
Pass over the river
As the tide turned in its sleep.
         --Eleanor Farejon
Now we're celebrating that blessed day once more, but we're driving to California's Central Coast this time for our little vacation, to the town of Cambria where we spent part of our honeymoon and which we haven't visited since. Maybe we'll go to the beach this time. Let me see, do I know any beach-y verse I could get ready?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

defeat of the bogey



Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
      ― G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles
 Linking up to Weekends With Chesterton

Friday, March 14, 2014

a breathing



The End of Sleep

The eyes are about to open.
Through fog, Sleep crosses the great water—
See how it sails in the little boat?
Slowly, such a long journey,
Bits of light
Catch colors in the mirrored hull.
Beneath the glassy surface, a glimpse
Of your dreams: the lake, the boat, with you
In it. Now a shadow
Falls over you: above the surface,
The figure of Sleep
Has leaned over its boat.
Hear Sleep's feet plop in the shallows—
It pulls the boat to shore.

      -- Elizabeth Twiddy
This morning as I neared the shore of full consciousness, what I saw through the fog was myself, getting dressed and going to church for a Presanctified Liturgy. I was full of happy anticipation. Then I pulled the blinds open and was surprised to see, not the sunny and warm skies of the last few days, but thick and cold white fog.

I've read many people who say they love the fog, and I thought of them right away, wondering why I couldn't be like them. Then I remembered the foggy days of my childhood when in the winter the damp cold would settle over California's Central Valley like a perverse blanket. Not your normal blanket that makes you cozy, but something more like a conduit of chill. My fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Wicks, who came from South Dakota, said she was never so miserable in the dry winters of her youth as she was in our "temperate" weather that froze her to the bone.

The natural and normal tule fog that emerges from the ground after the first winter rains became a dangerous foe once I learned to drive and became aware of all the car crashes on the highways that are a frequent accompaniment to the season. I became familiar with the stiff neck you get peering intently through the wall of white trying not to run into something.

But this morning in March, all of that is far behind me, and for the Valley-dwellers it is likely passed as well by this time of year. So I thought I would look for a poem by one of those fog-lovers. The fog that's outside my window is still a little too cold for my old bones to thoroughly enjoy, but I'm working on it. After all, it's another part of our earthly home that is filled with the breath of God.
The Breathing

An absolute
patience.
Trees stand
up to their knees in
fog. The fog
slowly flows
uphill.
White
cobwebs, the grass
leaning where deer
have looked for apples.
The woods
from brook to where
the top of the hill looks
over the fog send up
not one bird.
So absolute, it is
no other than
happiness itself, a breathing
too quiet to hear.

    ~ Denise Levertov

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pressing on to the wasteland.

Another good quote for Lent, thanks to s-p at Pithless Thoughts (posted a while back), from a Malcolm Muggeridge essay on life at the end of the last century. It seems to me still applicable in the 21st, as he describes how direly we need the Savior:
As the astronauts soar into the vast eternities of space, on earth the garbage piles higher, as the groves of academe extend their domain, their alumni’s arms reach lower, as the phallic cult spreads, so does impotence. In great wealth, great poverty; in health, sickness, in numbers, deception. Gorging, left hungry; sedated, left restless; telling all, hiding all; in flesh united, forever separate. So we press on through the valley of abundance that leads to the wasteland of satiety, passing through the gardens of fantasy; seeking happiness ever more ardently, and finding despair ever more surely.