Thursday, November 30, 2006

Happy St. Andrew's Day!

St. Andrew's Cross

Today, November 30, is the Feast Day of St. Andrew. Before the frenzied rush of pre-Christmas activity that is so antithetical to the spirit of the Advent season reaches its full pace, why not pause and enjoy the moment?

St. Andrew, of course, is the patron saint of Scotland (as well as the namesake of a certain institution in the heart of Dixie familiar to a few denizens of the UU blogosphere). Accordingly, the traditional morsel on which to feast today is that famous, if not necessarily beloved, Scottish national delicacy, the haggis!

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut ye up wi' ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they strech an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve,
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit!' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o 'fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

--Robert Burns, Address to a Haggis

Get your tasty haggis recipes here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

We plow the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft, refreshing rain.

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.

He only is the Maker of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower, He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey Him, by Him the birds are fed;
Much more, to us His children, He gives our daily bread.

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.

We thank Thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest, our life, our health, our food;
No gifts have we to offer, for all Thy love imparts,
But that which Thou desirest: our humble, thankful hearts.

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.

You don't have to feel comfortable with an anachronistic patriarchal language of worship, or even with an anthropomorphic personification and projection of the divine principle, to be thankful for our participation in and dependence upon the Source of all existence.

But it makes the poetry a lot easier.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A serendipitous moment

Today I took off work (sorry, CC, coudn't be your virtual office pal today since I wasn't in the office) to help chaperone a field trip that Fausto Jr.'s 5th-grade class took to Plimoth Plantation, the historical museum that re-creates the daily life of the Plymouth Colony circa 1627.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm quite taken by the notion that the original Pilgrim congregation still exists as First Parish Church in Plymouth, the oldest congregation in the UUA. (They were first gathered in Scrooby, England, in 1606, 14 years before the pilgrimage, and celebrated their 400th anniversary this year.) I'm especially intrigued by the idea that certain defining characteristics of our oldest congregations have spread to and survived in our other congregations and our general denominational attitudes right down to the present time, so I'm always happy for an excuse to visit the Plantation.

Today wasn't much of a religious history outing, though -- more of a babysitting assignment, trying to keep a troupe of rambunctious pre-teens from getting lost and/or hurting themselves. We met and chatted with Plymouth settlers Edward Winslow, Fear Allerton, Francis Billington, Martha Brown, Miles Standish, Stephen Hopkins, Bridget Fuller, and others. When asked why they came, most of them said it was to be able to own their own land or to escape the threat of war between Spain and Holland, rather than for primarily religious reasons. (The students were amazed to learn that the great-to-the-umpteenth-generation-grandmother of their present-day school principal, Mr. Fuller, was perfectly happy to allow her name to be spelled four or five different ways. Upon our return, I told him that with such careless spellers in the lineage it was no wonder the Fuller family took so long to finally produce a decent teacher. He wasn't sure whether to take that as a compliment.)

The museum maintains not only the reconstructed Pilgrim settlement but also a nearby Wampanoag homesite. The "native" interpreters don't assume specific historical identities, but they do dress the part, and the kids watched dugout canoes and an indigenous rabbit stew being made, and imagined sleeping in a communal wigwam.

On the way back from the Wampanoag site to the English village, a sudden rainshower broke, and we ran to a thatched-roof barn for shelter. The sun emerged again behind us as the dark clouds rolled past and out over Plymouth Bay. As we ventured back into the main street, now lit bright with sunshine, a grand rainbow formed over the bay, perfectly framing the village. The sight was as majestic as it was unexpected, and as ephemeral as it was majestic. The shower dissipated and the rainbow faded too quickly to be able to frame and take a photo, but imagine the scene above with dark clouds over the water, a golden glow reflecting from the wet street and fields, and a perfect, unbroken radiant arc of colored light rising from the water on the left, reaching its apex directly over the axis of the street, and descending back to the water on the right.

Glory! You could almost hear the angels.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Greetings from Snowy WNY!

Worshiping at the Mother Church.

Mother of Fausto is having some medical issues, so Fausto has been visiting her in the Rochester, NY, area for the past few days, helping out. No access to home e-mail and it snowed last night. Brrr.

But it's not all dull and dutiful. F'rinstance, I've been grabbing meals from the unbelievable selection of ready-to-eat prepared foods at the flagship Wegmans supermarket in Pittsford. And I've been enjoying watching the out-for-blood political ads in this traditionally Republican area that stands a good chance to vote decisively blue this time around.

And best of all, since I had to make a side business trip to Buffalo this morning, I got to attend the First Impromptu Millard Fillmore Memorial Western New York UU Bloggers' Meetup and Soundoff, at the Higher Grounds Coffeehouse in Amherst this afternoon. In addition to myself, the packed event was attended by, um, well, only Indrax, but then again, it was only arranged last night, so it was pretty good even to be able to round up two of us on such short notice. Not that we thought to invite anyone else or anything. The coffeehouse had big couches and wireless internet, and Indrax had his laptop, so we sucked down the Java and surfed for half an hour or so. If only Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston had joined us, it would have been just like "Friends".

Among the topics debated and resolved in that half hour were: pseudonymous blogging (we support it); "outing" pseudonymous bloggers (we oppose it); bygone internal politics of a certain church in a large Francophone Canadian city (nous n'étions pas là, et ne pouvons pas juger), the wisdom of burdening new people with old complaints about matters that they were not involved in and have no ability to correct (unwise), our favorite UU blogs (ChaliceBlog, PeaceBang, Philocrites, Wild Hunt, and Jess's Journal were mentioned, but for the written record I should also add Making Chutney, A People So Bold, Unity, Never Say Never, and Ms. Kitty's Saloon, and I'm sure there are others that I should also mention); ex-Catholic baggage (it sucks); crowding Christianity and Christian seminarians out of UUism (it also sucks); and flipping the bird to the room on your way out the door (it too sucks).

My goodness, debating is so much more efficient when there are only two viewpoints and they largely agree.

P. S. There's a yeasty conversation on pseudonymous blogging gathering steam here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

It's All Saints' Day

And here are two of my personal favorites, Saint Cecilia (patron saint of music) and Saint Liberal (patron saint of Speaker Pelosi):

[Saint George or Saint Liberalis and Saint Rosalia or Saint Cecilia (after Antonello da Messina), by David Teniers]