Sunday, July 22, 2007

Deathly Hallows

My son and I had to spend 10 hours in airports and airplanes yesterday, so I bought us two copies of the new Harry Potter book. Most of the afternoon and evening we were within about 5 pages of each other, and he finished the 750 pages about five minutes before I did, an hour out of Albuquerque. Reading speed much be genetic. We were not the only persons on the plane reading the book, which caused me to wonder. On the outgoing trip we'd been told our plane was overweight and that one of us would have to get off. I had no idea that they calculated weight so closely, and I wondered if the excess weight of so many persons with 750 page hard backs rather than 200 page paperbacks would throw off the calculations.

I thought it was a better all around book than earlier ones, which could go off on boring tangents. This one held my rapt attention until the second to last chapter.

I'll wait a few days to give my review, as I realize that not everyone has been able to free up the day of reading required to get through this book. All I can say at the moment is that the book ended without saying anything about the damage done to the survivors of being on either the good or evil side of this epic battle. Only grief was mentioned. So in the end, it was a kids book, rather than a new mythology. It sure was a great way to spend a travel day, though!

I'll be preaching on the book in a few weeks; one of my preaching traditions is to give a kid-friendly and kid-topiced sermon the week after school starts. I think we'll tell the kids they can come in HP costume that morning.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Senior Exercise

I like to get my exercise the natural way, by walking places, gardening, and such, but it's not always possible, so I've belonged to a gym for about 20 years now, 15 of them the same gym (Sports and Wellness) It's changed owners since I started, and I don't like it any more. But there are not many other gyms on my beaten trails, except for a Senior Fitness Center run by the city which couldn't be more convenient. I told my husband that I was looking forward to getting old so I could use it, and he informed me in the nicest possible way that I was old and could use it.

It took me about 3 months to "get around" to checking it out. I walked in and asked the woman at the desk how one got to use this gym? And she, bless her heart, said, "well, you do have to be at least 50 years old." "Oh, I'm all of that," I said and...double bless her heart, she carded me! Made my day.

In spite of the fact that I've apparently been eligible to use this gym for half a decade, it was clear that if I did, I'd be about two decades younger than the average user. And frankly, I'm not really sure I'll be quite comfortable there. The people using the gym the afternoon I visited were, well, practically frail, gingerly treading their treadmills. And good for them for taking care of themselves! Still, I'm worried that it would feel like showing off to go through my paces. But since it only costs $18.00 a year, (about a third of the monthly rate at my gym), I decided to sign up and try it out.

But I haven't done it yet.

Nor have I been back to the gym I don't like any more.

I'm stuck between self-image and practicality.

Stay Tunned

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Farm Wife

I mowed my alfalfa field today, I'm drying apricots, making plum jam, and I've put up two batches of pesto. I also fertilized the vegetable garden. It's only 11am, and I've also put in a contemplative hour on my knitting.

I feel like a veritable farm wife, but the fact of the matter is that I live in a very suburban home with a back yard that is about 120*40, and includes a pretty big patch of grass and two patios.

Now that I have your attention I have to admit that the alfalfa "field" is a 3*3 plot, and I "mowed" it with grass clippers. The hay and green alfalfa is the iguana's fare. Like most humans, he prefers prepared, corn-based food, in this case, commercial iguana chow, but the alfalfa is good for him, and much closer to his native diet, so we insist.

Everything else mentioned above is "life sized", although the apricots came from another family's garden. We'll be returning the favor with plum jam in a bit, along with blackberries, which are my husband's project. Our little yard contains five dwarf fruit trees which provide a bounty of fruit for us , the birds, and the neighbors who live on the other side of the wall. Also, at the moment, 15 tomato plants, 12 pepper plants, squash, cucumbers, and a bean tower. The beans are not doing too well, but everything else is thriving, along with sunflower plants which will feed the songbirds once the fruit season is over. It's all semi-organic; we use no pesticides and half doses of fertilizer; other nutrients are supplied by compost, which is my husband's major contribution to the family farm.

I know that some people consider food growing and preparation (not to mention composting) to be just the sort of torture that the industrial revolution was supposed to free us from, but I ask, "so what were you freed FOR?" And at what cost? Every plum we enjoy from our own tree saves the world the carbon cost of the 1500 miles the average grocery item travels to get to our table. And of course, the taste of a homegrown tomato is simply unavailable anywhere else.

So I don't make it to the gym much in the Summer. I get my exercise the old fashioned way, and my tan, and my sauna, too. I'm a farm wife.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Carbon Off Sets

The UU World has an article about UU's going to GA and taking other trips with a clear conscience by using carbon offset payments. The essence of this scheme is that individuals and companies can go about their activities without guilt by paying a fee according to how much carbon dioxide they have created, with that fee going to projects that are good for the earth like tree-planting.

Although I can see the utility of this scheme as a way to force our capitalist system to recognize some of the costs of their activity which currently are going un-registered and will be paid for by future generations, I have some real questions about the moral value of carbon offset payments for individuals. I prefer actual offsets to voluntary activity like flying to GA or Transylvania. If you are going to spew tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by flying, how about taking the bus to work or lowering your a/c use or planting a vegetable garden? Getting a sticker for your name tag by paying an extra $6.00 at GA is, given the magnitude of the problems facing us, is better than nothing but so lame as to be evidence of denial.

I hasten to say that I was at GA. And I'll be going next year, apparently, as I'm giving a lecture and have a book due out from Skinner House. I'm planning to combine it with some vacation to maximize the benefit of the the plane trip and I plan to just say "no!" to all enticements to go to GA in 09. If our denomination was really serious about reducing carbon emissions, it would put major effort into regional gatherings and go to biannual GA's.

How then would the work get done? Already more than 1/2 of GA attendees are not delegates. They are attending for the workshops, worship services, and networking available at GA, and GA has gotten so big that these things are less and less satisfying. Time to downsize, regionalize, and virtualize both the business and the fun of GA.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Book of the Month

One draw of Ghost Ranch this week was J. Philip Newell, the chaplain of the month, whose little daily prayer book I've used for about five years. Now after a week of listening to him read from his adaptations of scripture, the Celtic Treasure, I'm planning to switch to this book for a while. Such lovely passages; Here's a piece from Genesis, about the seventh day of creation.

On the seventh day there was silence in heaven.
The mighty wind of life was still.
The sea was calm.
The morning stars glistened.
The Earth slept.
The work was finished.
Creation had been born.
And the Mother of all things rested.

The book includes scripture passages and prayers.

There's a link to this book at in the right column.

Ghost Ranch

I spent last week at Ghost Ranch. It is one of Earth's most beautiful places, and the Presbyterians, its current stewards, share it with all who come. I've been to many an off-season ministers' event there, but the accommodations used to be so rough and the service so iffy that we quit going. Reservations lost, no heat, that sort of thing. But a couple of years ago, traveling with a friend who was serving on a Ghost Ranch Committee, we stopped there and I attended her meeting (pretty sad case, aren't I? Attending somebody elses' church meetings in my spare time?) It turned out to be a soul searching sort of meeting and my take away message was, "I like these people. I like the way they think about their faith and their lives and their responsibility to the world. I ought to try coming here on vacation." It took a couple of years, and this year was the year.

I watched the scenery. I learned to weave and turned out a couple of pretty-good- for-a-first- try pillow tops. I found it so absorbing that I hardly thought about my church at all, and that makes for a very successful ministerial vacation. Their resident theologian/spiritual director, Philip Newell offered morning services which were just lovely and open to all. Even the communion service. "These are the gifts of the Earth," he commented about the bread and the wine. "They don't belong to this tradition or any other tradition. All are welcome." It's been a long time since I took communion anywhere except at the UU Christian Fellowship's GA communion service. It felt very good. The only disappointment: it was surprisingly hard to have a good conversation. There were plenty of possibilities for "Where do you come from and is this your first time at Ghost Ranch" kind of conversations, but harder to get deeper. It seemed that most people had come with friends or had been coming for many years. This is something they need to work on.

On the other hand, they've been doing some hard work on their accommodations and have some really lovely new residences, and their phone, computer, and reservations systems seem to be working now, too. Church retreat, anybody?