Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Catholic Press Awards: And the winner is...

"...for the best essay in a magazine about prayer and spirituality..."  It's not me, but the late Brian Doyle's "A Prayer for You and Yours" published last year in Give Us This Day.  Poignant — all the more so given his recent death — with a touch of torque on the language that I deeply admire and appreciate, it speaks of the lengths and depths parents will go to, and God.

Give Us This Day swept the category this year, taking first, second and third places. All three essays pulled on the authors' experiences as parents.  Listen to Mary Stommes' mother's wise words about an exasperating child in "The Wisdom of Our Elders":  love him.  We, too, are loved by God -- no matter how exasperating at times.

Third place?  That went to my essay,"We Are Never Alone," about Psalm 139 for last May's issue: We are never alone, but besieged and beloved, from the beginning of time to the ends of the earth.  I can't tell you how surprised I was at the news!

Do read Brian Doyle's and Mary Stommes' pieces and feast on the riches they lay on the table.  Mine, too, if you are so minded!


On July 13th, the Earth Science Women’s Network is hosting Science-A-Thon, in which participating scientists are chronicling a day in their life on Twitter and Instagram (follow #dayofscience and #scienceathon).

Join me for the day.  I'll be posting a photo every hour on a day when I'll be working from the Vatican Observatory, from that early morning stop at the espresso bar to Mass in the chapel at the end of the day (or at least a photo of the chapel!). The observatory might seem focused on anything-but-earth science, but the meteorites that the earth sweeps up as she moves through the heavens are clues not only to the otherworldly, but to our own planet's history.

Participants are listed by country -- so far I'm the only one under "Vatican City"!

This is a first ever fund raiser for the Earth Science Women’s Network, so if you are inclined to support them, you can donate here.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Kitchen Mitosis

The Egg in my dad's kitchen, making
eggs. Family recipe of bacon & eggs.
I reached into a kitchen cabinet tonight looking for a particular mixing bowl, then remembered it is in North Carolina, where The Egg is having a ball doing math and cooking for himself.  So bits and pieces of my kitchen have gone south for a few months: skillets (plural), sauce pan, pasta pot, spatulas large and small.  And that mixing bowl.  It’s a bit like mitosis.  There is the junk DNA — the kitchen towels, of which I have such a surfeit, I can’t tell you which ones went — and the dominant genes, only a single copy is necessary for the function — I can make do with just the one skillet.

The NY Times had an article earlier this month about preparing young people to “adult”.  The article included a list of experiences and skills to help get adolescents and young adults ready to launch.  Listed under “Daily Functioning” was “Cook three basic meals. (Eggs, cereal and pasta don’t count.)”  I told Crash and The Egg that I thought pasta counted if you made your own pomodoro sauce or mac and cheese from scratch.  (Our go-to base recipe is from the 2011 cover of Bon Appetit, and I highly recommend it, you can make it in not much longer than it takes to bring water to the boil and cook dry pasta, and freezes like a dream.)  Math Man wanted to know if quiche counted, or is that just eggs. We agreed, it counts as a real meal.

We have a shared Google drive folder with family recipes in it (my mother’s pound cake, my grandmother’s pie crust, hey, someone needs to add Aunt Vi’s gumbo recipe). Crash recommended Budget Bytes to The Egg as a source of tasty budget recipes.  I tried one of the recipes The Egg cooked last week - a sticky soy ginger sauce that tasted great on salmon over rice.  Genetic inheritance in reverse.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


The world is busy this morning, perhaps because it is not weighed down by the humidity and the hulking clouds of yesterday. The birds are twittering, a bee is battering desperately at the back screen door, a spider has spun a Snow White-worthy web in my chair on the patio. Sirens are wailing nearby, the wind is waggling in the leaves. Whoosh - a starling just swung past, the cat's ears swiveling like radar to follow its passage.

I want to be two people. One who has all day to read, write and do research and one that putters in her garden. Or maybe three people, one who has time to run errands - to pick up those books and drop off that package.  But I imagine if I cloned myself, we all might want to pick up a book and a cup of tea and sit out here on the patio in the patchy coolness under the tree, drifting between worlds, handing the breviary off one to the next.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Et tu, Brute?

The Washington Post reported today that some of the people upset by Oskar Eustis' and The Public Theater's production of Julius Caesar for Shakespeare in the Park in NYC feel moved to threaten the production with threats of death and bodily harm, as well as a deluge of angry emails.  Unfortunately many of these souls can not figure out what state the production is in (New York), the name of the theatre company (The Public Theater).  As a result lots of Shakespeare productions are getting angry emails.  Including Crash's production of Macbeth, which is put on by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks (plural Crash notes, not singular) some 2000 miles away from New York's Central Park.  Thankfully, they have gotten no death threats and I say that with no sarcasm whatsoever.  I am grateful.

I'm fascinated with the geographical disconnect, that somehow sees the park on the news as your local park, and can't see that what's playing there isn't Julius Caesar. Blind anger. I'm also fascinated that a staging of Julius C with an Obama character in the title role did not raise nearly this sort of ruckus - in fact, it raised no ruckus at all.  Et tu, Brute? 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Powered down

Why, I wonder, is the refrigerator dark when I open the door?

The power is out.  I keep reaching for electrons that aren’t there.  Flip a switch and wonder for a second, why is there no light. The electric blue of the flame under the tea kettle seems magical, a bit over the top, in my dim kitchen. The quiet is so deep I can hear the carpenter bees chewing away at the branch in the garden and the first pings of the tea coming to the boil.  How can the bees be so loud? I had no idea that the tea kettle was signaling me so long before it whistles.  I wonder if it shrieks so because I've ignored its repeated polite reminders, "I am at the boil. Boiling.  Yes, I am boiling nicely, thank you."  

The internet leaks in through my phone, a burp of news here and there.
PECO: Outage in area .... Cause = Equipment problem. Estimated Restoration Time = 06/14 12:00PM. Text STOP to stop all PECO texts.  
Early this morning the expected return of power was 8:20 am.  Now the stated restoration time has move to 12:00 PM.  I translate: "It’s more complicated than we thought, so we’ll say 'noon' because 'We have not the foggiest.' would be unwise."

Thermodynamics.  I’m thinking about rates of energy transfer and isolated systems.  I put my tea in the insulated pot, screwing the lid on tightly, forcing it to hold onto its heat.  I imagine the molecules restlessly shimmying around inside, unable to get comfortable.  Most mornings I pop the 2nd cup into the microwave to stir up the molecules again when it gets cold, prodding them awake with photons, but today there is no rest for the weary.

I switch off the wifi on my laptop, not wanting to spend electrons for what I cannot have. Toast. No. Oven. Nope. Plans for the laundry. Derailed.

I open the refrigerator door. Why, I wonder, is it dark?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Memento mori

The hyacinth is in bloom, the heads already blushing blue. I hadn’t noticed it, perhaps because I hadn’t expected it. It had hardly recovered from the ravages of the winter before last when I had thought it lost.  I mourned it anew this spring when February’s warmth gave way to icy March winds and a damp, dark, chill May.

Weeks ago I brushed my hand along the bare sticks of the hyacinth behind the church, wondering aloud if it, too, was wrecked by these winter vagaries.  Wondering silently what a friend, gone to God after a ravaging spring, would think of these wild swings.  He would say it is chance to taste loss, to know what will be asked of us in those last years, or hours of our life.  He would say there is always hope, even when we don’t notice it, or expect it.