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I was so much older then …

Korrektiv on the Wayback Machine

Down & Out in Louisiana in 1991

Dispatch from the Edge of Sleep


To hurl—on wheels and board—oneself upon
A curving plane that uses gravity
To bring a blending of geometry and bone

Is one way to describe the breaking dawn
Of simple unexpected sanity
That turns the wheels and board one’s self’s upon

When dropping in and tuning out the spawn
Of shallow crowded life’s cacophony
To bring a bending of geometry and bone

Pythagorean-like when now it hits the brain
Reflecting back from later history
To hurl the wheels and boards these thoughts are on,

To wonder at one’s youth and scattered train
Of visions climbing caves of memory,
To blink at blinding light’s geometry and bone,

To light the heavens up, undone, alone,
For one sweet moment’s flagrant mystery,
To hurl—on wheels and board—oneself upon
The burning blending of geometry and bone.

Classic Godsbody

The Last Catholic Shout (including a typically incisive comment by our friend, Cubeland Mystic)

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Here Comes the Sun Again

I was just reading and enjoying JOB’s latest drank-drink piece. His reference to “Here Comes the Sun” jangled something in the memory banks, so I searched the blog and found this, which also coincidentally includes a comment from Quin regarding the time he spent in Japan.

Hey, didn’t you used to be somebody?

Once upon a a time, I made cartoons.  Apparently, I’ve gone and made another one.

Pensées by Blaise

I picked up Pascal’s Pensées for a reread in 1991 (having read them first about five years earlier) and jotted down the following notes:

Like a casual conversation over tea–casual, easygoing, pithy, humorous–and yet matters of such weight, intensity, honesty, transparency, and truth. Pascal is like Kierkegaard sans angst and misanthropy–someone you would genuinely like to meet.

My favorite: “Man is so inevitably mad that not to be mad would be to put a mad twist to madness.”

Yeah! I think I’m due for another reread. Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub, anyone?

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

I read The Metamorphosis back in 1992, and scribbled down these notes:

“How we treat the marginalized and the suffering of others. Impatience, indifference, disgust. (Auden’s poem.) That’s one thought this story prompted. An interesting story but I was a little disappointed. I expected more or a tour de force. Maybe it was the translation, but it struck me as almost amateurish. Kafka is a conundrum. I guess style and technique may not be his forte; as C.S. Lewis pointed out, myth making is.”

Now I’m wondering if my judgment was impaired; thinking I need to re-read. Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub, anyone?

Roadtripping to Christ in the Desert

In the year 2000, a year after we got married, my wife and I took a four-month roadtrip. Just the two of us, in a Subaru wagon, with a tent, a cell phone, and a laptop. About a month into our journey, we found ourselves at a monastery in the New Mexican desert. What follows is a description of day two of that visit.

Four a.m. comes and incredibly we are awake and slipping into the church just as Abbot Philip announces the page number in the yellow book. We’re the only lay folk in attendance – the only other guest present is Fr. Shields, the retired priest from Yakima. During the hour-long Vigils service, the sandstone cliffs loom darkly through the high windows of the church. The stars, which last night formed a thick silvery white blanket just above the lightless abbey, are beginning to thin out. My eyelids are heavy, my blood wants caffeine.

After vigils, Ashley goes back to bed; I grab my guest-issue rechargeable lantern and take a shower in its dim glow. I read a bit of Desert Solitaire – the chapter on “Industrial Tourism” and the good life it will deprive Abbey of. This book has some very delectable prose, but Abbey has an egotistical edge to him that puts me off at times.

The remainder of the morning follows a monastic routine. We attend Lauds at 5:45, followed immediately by Mass. A professor of religious studies from UNM shows up for Mass with about a dozen or so students, packing the small guest seating area of the abbey church. Guestmaster Andre shows them around afterwards, and continues to ignore Ashley and me for the most part. I wonder if it’s commonplace among monasteries that the most socially inept monk gets appointed as guestmaster. After Mass, we have breakfast with the monks in the refectory. Ashley catches sight of the abbot in the library and we seize the opportunity to go up and introduce ourselves. He embraces us both – which I interpret as both a genuine gesture of goodwill as well as a sly, fight-fire-with-fire approach to overly needy guests. I deliver the “Fr. Michael Sweeney from Seattle says hello” – and the abbot responds to the Seattle part but not the Fr. Michael part. Maybe he doesn’t remember who the hell Fr. Michael Sweeney is.

After breakfast we have an hour before Terce. Ashley showers and I write a postcard or two. We pack up our things so we can make a quick escape after lunch. Terce, at 8:45, turns out to be my favorite hour. The sun is beginning to warm the church and the Cliffside rocks are beginning to radiate in the glow of daylight. The psalms are calm and simple ones, as are the melodies of the chant. There is no straining to reach notes. Everything is peaceful and hopeful about the day’s enterprises.

After Terce, we meet Br. Christian who chats us up in the friendliest way we’ve yet experienced here, then takes us to the garden to pull weeds with Br. Joachin. Br. Joachin is a classic type of wizard-like monk, long gray beard and hood pulled up to shield the sun climbing higher overhead. He is friendly, but soft-spoken to point of near silence, and somewhat vague when we ask for direction in our pulling. We get good and hot and grimy and down a couple of bottles of water. My back is aching. Br. Joachin never slows down and never pauses for so much as a drink. We bail out at 11:30, retreat to the guesthouse showers. I find a lizard munching on a moth at the window next to the Men’s shower stalls.

Looking for fresh linens to re-make our beds, we meet another friendly monk, Br. Aalrud, and have a conversation about how amazing pizza delivery is and when did Kentucky Fried Chicken stop delivering and did they ever.

At one o’clock, it’s time for Sext, a brief service like Terce, which precedes lunch, which is the main and most formal meal for the monks. Outside the church door, we encounter yet another talkative and friendly monk, Br. Bernard, who used to be a priest at Blessed Sacrament.

Guestmaster Andre leads us to lunch again, hurriedly explaining the formalities of it. When we get to the napkin basket in the library, he flatly states that he “tossed out” our napkins. (We were supposed to use the same napkin for all our meals.) “I didn’t know if you would be staying for lunch,” he says. For lunch we have a tuna dish that looks like roast beef but definitely smells and tastes like tuna, a garbanzo bean dish, and white rice. We get through it and make our departure. Br. Christian and Br. Bernard wish us warm farewells and thank us for the work we did in the garden. Andre says, “Now, where are you guys from?”

We put it in four-wheel drive and get on the dirt road out of the desert, hit Hwy 84, get gas in Abiquiu, and don’t stop until we get to the KOA north of Albuquerque. We’re back in Sprint PCS coverage, and the first day of a new billing period, so Ashley starts making calls like the telecommunications maniac she is.

Dinner at a New Mexican place with outdoor seating near the Rio Grande, and back here and soon to bed in our cozy tent.

If you’d like to follow along after the fact, the trip begins here.