Thursday, 25 February 2010

Ticket For My Destination...

From Simon and Garfunkel, one of the most brilliant duos in the last century.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A New Twist In My Path

Well, I figured it's about time to announce it on here. I am leaving HC Monday morning, likely forever. I know for certain that I won't be coming back next fall. And the way things have gone, I won't be back, unless I come one day to visit friends. Which isn't really all that likely, due to money and such like.

But the odd thing is that I'm at peace about this decision. God's been with me through a really rough time here. I've learned a lot, from my mistakes, and also a lot about humans and our ability to mess up others' lives. (That being how a few mistakes on my part were blown into gigantic problems by others...)

However, I'm glad I came to HC. I love the place, and for the most part, I love the people here. I've had a terrific semester and a half. I've learned a lot, grown a lot, and just had a great time. But it's time for me to go back to Alaska.

And there is no denying that I'm wildly excited about that. I love Alaska. I've missed it very much. Especially the mountains. I don't think I would have ever chosen this way to leave New York, but it's all working out. I've made friends, and I'll keep them even when I'm four and a half thousand miles away from them.

Tonight I go on February break, and I'm heading home with a friend of mine. I will return to HC on Sunday evening, then am leaving it again on Monday morning. I will spend a few days with my dear grandparents, then am flying home.

Home. Exactly what I'm longing for. I'm so happy. And the peace that I feel about this makes me sure that things are falling into place. After quite a while of praying and thinking, at last, I'm going home, and will find where I'm to go after that. My path isn't exactly easy to see, or to understand, but I am just happy that I'm following the One who made the path. And that He's leading me home.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Appreciating Peace

Well, it's been a pretty busy week here at HC. I've had very little spare time, and a lot on my mind.

Last night we had a Philharmonia concert, where we played all "northern" music. That meaning Sibelius, Grieg, Tviett, and a few lesser known Nordic (or American) composers. It was a blast, and the audience was quite receptive to us. There was something about it that excited me and cheered me up vastly. Perhaps it was the very "northern-ness" of the music, as Lewis might say, which appealed to me. It was like journeying home through the sounds which we played.

It reminded me of high, snow-capped mountains. Of chill, frosty winds blowing over the stark pines and whipping through my hair on a long February walk. It made me think back to last year, on my walks along the frozen beach while Redoubt threatened to blow. Of hot cups of tea, cardamom cookies and Reading Lolita in Tehran.

I can make myself some tea here, and eat cardamom cookies while reading similar books. But it's not the same as when I did so at home. There are no frozen beaches, no rumbling volcanoes. Not too many pines, and my hair is rarely teased by the wind here. And I may have mentioned before that New York doesn't have mountains.

But there is a peculiar beauty here. Sometimes I see it in the sunrises, when the sun decides to grace us with his presence. Sometimes, I see it in the shadows in the trees, as they slumber in the biting cold of winter. Usually, I see it at Mount Irenaeus, with the birds, the trees, the pond, the snows, the gardens, the buildings. I want to just stay there and meditate on the Scriptures and the chants and the homilies. But it's rather like I was once told in a teaching on spiritual highs, or mountain-top experiences. We can't live there, or we'll do nothing with our faith. We have to come down from the mountain and live and bring others to those experiences. Otherwise, we burn out. I'm pretty sure that if I lived at Mount Irenaeus and just spent all my days enjoying the peace, I'd soon lose the ability to appreciate that peace. I need the peace because of all that goes on in my week, and at present, staying there and deciding to do nothing else but sit and wallow in that peace would mean that I would stop living.

So right now, I'm just trying to take each day as it comes, living purposefully. I want to enjoy the time I have here in New York, see the beauty, and remember that which I love and left behind me. And even realising that gives me more peace.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

To A Sister

I took this photo last Saturday, but forgot to post it here.

I love you, Angel

For one of my sisters. <3

Sunday, 14 February 2010

And I'm Singing, Amen, I, I'm Alive

If everyone cared and nobody cried, if everyone loved and nobody died, if everyone shared and
swallowed their pride, we'd see the day when nobody died.

I originally heard this song almost three years ago, then a year ago, my brother reintroduced me to it.
When I worked as a nanny last year, my boss owned the CD which had this on it. I cleaned to it for hours on end. (It was the best she had for music selection until I started bringing my own music.)
Since then, I'd mostly forgotten about it. For some reason, I woke up this morning, and just knew I had to listen to it. I'm so glad I did. I think more people need to realize that hate is what kills. Love comes from caring. When you love, you learn to swallow your pride because you care more about others than yourself. I wish people would learn to give more love to others.
Edit: Interestingly, this was the same sort of thing which the Father at the Mountain talked about during his homily today. When my heart is breaking, I only pray that it will take a lesson in how to love more in its brokeness. I want to be remembered as a person who loved others.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Gifts of Love

Today I had a surprise waiting for me in my post office box. I wasn't expecting anything, because I know that my parents aren't the sort that send things for days like Saint Valentines. In fact, I'm rather surprised about the hype the day gets here. I mean, I know about giving cards, flowers, etc. But huge packages? It's almost like a mini-Christmas in February.

When I opened my package, there was this cute mug, full of hard candies, from my lovely Houghton host family.

Cup of Love

Then, when I returned to my room, I found a few cards upon my desk. And this little mini-cake.

A Mini-Cake of Celebration

I knew that a girl from my floor had made mini-cakes the night before, and sure enough, there was a little note from her.

Love's Greetings

Greetings to everyone everywhere this Saint Valentine's Day!!!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Oro, Se Do Bheatha Bhaile

As I was watching The Wind that Shakes the Barley tonight, I heard a song that I recognized faintly from somewhere. I may have played some variant of it before, I'm not certain. But the tune was beautiful and the words (all in Gaelic) were quite haunting. So I looked it up.

This song was very popular with the rebellion groups in Ireland in the early twentieth century. I found translations of the lyrics, and found that the song is all about getting the foreign British out of the country and leaving Ireland at last in the hands of the Irish, and this being done by the Irish themselves. Not the French. Not the Spaniards. For those would only be changing the foreign controllers.

It's interesting to hear real Gaelic music, and I think I may have discovered the topic for my next speech.

Spring Yet?

The last few weeks at HC have been pretty overcast. It makes me kind of blue. And it's been pretty much about twenty degrees warmer at home than here.

But today, the sun is shining and it's nearly as warm here as in Alaska. So I began dancing around my room this morning and shouting "spring!" and gesturing at the window. I'm pretty sure my roomie thinks I'm a nutter. It helped relieve school stress and I felt so much better after I finished. Then I went out and skipped three times around the quad and listened to the wind blowing the snow off the branches of the trees.

I know it's only mid-February. But can't it be spring yet? I vote for spring. I want to see the sun, to see green grass, to see flowers. I never felt this much of the S.A.D. when I lived in Alaska. This is probably the worst case I've ever had of winter madness. And it's not even March yet. That's when people go crazy back home. But I'm stir crazy now. I think it's about time to break out the sandals and sundresses and get ready to do homework on a blanket out on the quad.

Anyone have a massive hair-dryer for me to use for melting the snow here?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

To Live Deep

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience...

-- Walden
H.D. Thoreau

This bit seems to whisper inspiration to me for living deliberately. For living simply. For just living. I have read it several times on Rhonda's blog. I've heard it quoted in movies like Dead Poet's Society, and seen it referenced in various books.

I've been reading Walden the last few days, and found it to be very interesting and inspiring to live exactly how I've wanted to. Our library has some lovely old copies, which I shall photograph at some point. (I'm always in the library these days, it seems. More than normal, I mean.)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Decorating, Linden Style

So, at home, my walls are festooned with copies of poems I liked and wrote out. I missed that here at HC.

Over the weekend, I've watched Dead Poet's Society several times, and was inspired to look at some poetry online, since the dear old library is closed most of the weekend.

This morning, I woke up early and headed to the print-centre at the library (at least they are open now!). I set up a few pages and fit poems onto them somehow.

Then I printed off nine poems. This evening, I cut them all so that they are alone (some poems fit two or three on one sheet of paper) and tacked them to the wall. I'm enjoying seeing poetry on my wall again.

They fit well with my Middle-Earth poster from Theophilus, and my Waterhouse prints.
And my kitty Carpe Diem poster. That makes me happy.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Polka Dot Dishes

At work we occasionally get prizes for various reasons during our calling sessions. I rarely ever win, but tonight, I did, several times over.

Seven times, in fact. And for every win, I was given a gift. I ended up with photo frames, a blanket, cupcake liners, a cappuccino mix, and two dishes.

Fittingly, those dishes both have polka dots on them. As I looked at them, I remembered Belle, several years ago. I miss her terribly still, but the pain has lessened in the last year.

Once, I took her shopping with me to the fabric store. I was going to make her an apron, and wanted to know what cloth she liked best. She picked out a few and when she finally came to me with her selection, I asked her what made her choose the one she had over the others.

"Well," she said, very matter-of-fact, "the others were adorable and nice, of course, but polka dots are a MUST."

Yes, dear Belle. Polka dots are a must, and every time I use these dishes, I will think of you.

Polka Dot Dishes

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

When I Begin to Clean...

Today, I randomly decided to straighten up the papers on the end of my desk. This led me to clean out my papers drawer. I found all sorts of notes I'd kept to remind myself of things last semester. And papers that had been handed out in class which I no longer needed. So I ended up doing some nice cleaning on that. But that lead to me cleaning out another drawer. And another. And then organizing the shelves on the end of my desk, as well as everything else on my desk.
This led me to realise that my part of the closet could use a bit of organizing. And my dresser could really use it too. I need to sort out and box the clothes which are too warm to really wear right now. That means I'll have to sort out the boxes underneath my bed.
In order to do all this, I find that I shall just have to spend most of my weekend straightening, organizing and tossing. I didn't do much of it last semester, so it'll be quite a job. This means I'll have to do most of my homework tomorrow morning and Friday afternoon to clear out time on Saturday, since I'd rather not do any of this on Sunday.
As I sat at Java tonight having coffee with a friend, I began contemplating whether or not cleaning off the end of my desk was really worth it. Commenting on this to my friend, she began laughing at my cleaning (and homework coming on weekdays rather than on the weekends) blues.
Apparently, I am now volunteered to come and help her clean her room up the following weekend. Then we will proceed to rearrange her furniture. And sometime, I'm teaching two different people how to knit. And still doing all my homework and my student-job. Hmm... and all this by deciding to sort out fifteen loose sheets of paper.
Maybe I should have just left them sitting there until May. Like everyone else would have done.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Living Through Loving

Today, in Presentational Speaking, we had to give speeches. Well, a third of the class did anyways.
I spoke about becoming a foster family and how that changed our lives. Anyways, you should have seen the student's faces when I said that my family had taken in so many kids. One girl afterwards said to me, "Isn't it impossible to really love that many? I mean, you kinda run out of love after more than like.... four of them."

I find it very sad that apparently, some people have so little love in their lives. Taking those foster kids taught me to love. It opened me up, and taught me compassion. (Which was part of my speech, as a matter of fact.)
The more you love, the more love you have to give. It was through loving them that I was hurt when they were taken away, that is true. But that same hurt allows me to give more love to more people.
My life certainly would not be the same had my family never taken any foster kids. We aren't heroes. We aren't anything special. We certainly aren't saints or angels for doing it. But we are people who can love. Those kids need love. We could give it.
And for those people who cannot imagine loving and caring for so many people, I only pray that they do learn to love, to live, even if it hurts. Because without that pain, I wonder if they can really be alive.

Monday, 1 February 2010

In the Stillness

I ended up making it to Mount Irenaeus yesterday, although Angela couldn't go herself. However, there were about eight of us who did go, and it was a marvelous experience.

At ten o'clock in the morning, I wandered up to the parking area near the chapel, expecting to find Angela. Instead I found two other girls I know, Alicia and Dromio, who were also heading to Mount Irenaeus. Alicia was driving her own car, and offered to let me sit in the back until Angela arrived. A few minutes later, Josiah (who goes to Mount Irenaeus every week) came down and told us that Angela wasn't going to be able to go, and then Alicia said she'd drive me instead. A few other girls came, and so two of them, Deborah and Kristen, rode with Alicia, Dromio and I. Josiah picked up another student, Gerad, and then we headed off in a two car-caravan to the Mount.

That in itself was a wonderful thing. The two girls (D. and K.) had travelled to London two years ago, and both were homeschooled before coming to Houghton. And when they discovered that I was the girl from Alaska, we had a topic for conversation which basically didn't run out until we arrived at Mount Irenaeus.

The sun was shining brilliantly, and the sky was perfectly clear when we finally got to the Mount. For the first time in several days, we were in temperatures which didn't drive us inside immediately. (A warm up of about -16 C to about 0) So Josiah asked one of the Franciscan brothers if we might feed the birds. As he gave us small handfuls of birdseed, the chickadees came fluttering down and perched on our hands and arms, and for me, my head.

I think this was the first part that really touched me. In order to have the birds land on us, to have them eat from our hands, we had to be still. We had to be silent. And when I was silent and still, I heard the sounds of the birds, and I heard the creek out in the woods. As I thought about how very still one had to be, I suddenly realized that when God tells us to be still and listen to him, that's the sort of stillness, the sort of silence, that he needs. I spoke with God, and He spoke to me, out there on the snowy hillside with the chickadees. Because I was still, and ready to finally listen.

I don't know how long I stood out there, meditating on the lessons that the birds taught me, listening to God and speaking with him, but it can't have been nearly as long as my memory thinks it was. Josiah came and said that it was time to walk up to the chapel for Mass, and I fell in with the rest of the group.

The Holy Peace Chapel is at the top of a hill, and there is no parking lot by it, which makes all who go there take the path from the House of Peace (the sort of welcome centre they had). Along the path, there were different markers, all part of the stations of the Cross. We came up to the chapel and entered, and there were greeted by one of the friars. Josiah told us that it was very relaxed, but I think he underestimated. We took off not only our coats at the door, but our shoes as well. (Which I think surprised a few of the other girls, however, I'm happy at the chance to take my shoes off when I can!) The inside of the Chapel is very simple, and there were low benches with cushions set in a three sided, two row deep, circle about the altar. I ended up on the farther circle, by the window, with two of the girls and Josiah and Gerad. Josiah introduced me to the Father, knowing that I'm a Lutheran who has attended Catholic services before. I initially only asked if I might receive the blessing when it came time for the Eucharist, but the Father told me that so many Lutherans who attend Houghton don't go to the Lutheran churches in the area that he was fine with giving me Communion if I wished it, and he would let me decide when the time came. I was a little surprised, but very happy since I haven't had Communion in months, since I'd not partaken of the Eucharist at the parish church I've gone to for about two months, nor does my Gramma's church have communion often, and I didn't really like the flippancy of the Wesleyan churches I visited.

After a few moments, we all went around and said our names and where we were from, and the friars took the time to greet everyone who was there. The Mass began with a song about how all of nature joins with man in praising God, and how the creation reflects his wonder and his love. The readings of the Scripture were much like those I'm accustomed to in the Lutheran order, and we sang a few more hymns and prayers. Then the Father rose and gave a fifteen minute homily on the Chapter of Love (1 Corinthians 13) and when he was finished, he invited everyone to share whatever God led them to say. Several of the girls from Houghton seemed shocked at the very laid-back method of service, but one of them added in a few thoughts as the different worshippers mentioned other scriptures and thoughts. I didn't say anything, but my mind returned again to the birds and the lessons they'd shown me.

When the homily concluded and the Father had said another prayer, we came to the Eucharist. We sang the responses, and I went forward with Josiah and Gerad for the Communion. I did take it, and received a blessing as well. As I walked back, being the last Communicant, they began singing the last hymn, about how Christ is our Communion and brings all Christians together in Community to worship him in simplicity and truth.

Simplicity. I think that may be one of the things that I loved about Mount Irenaeus. Nothing was rushed. Everything was made beautiful in a reverence they held for things as creations of God. Nothing they did or had at the Mountain was elaborate or ceremonial, which in turn made the simplest greeting or statue or action or cross elaborately and ceremonially simple. Even the cup they used for the Eucharist was a simple blue ceramic cup with practically no adornments, yet it was beautiful in that same simplicity that would have made it plain in mundane settings.

After the Eucharist, the Father said another prayer and we had group prayer as well, and then he gave us the benediction and some people left almost at once. However, the friars had offered lunch to anyone who wished to stay, and by popular consensus, all of us from Houghton stayed. I sat in the window seat a while longer, praying and being still. I felt such peace at the Chapel that I nearly didn't realize that almost everyone had gone. (Well, I may well have missed it completely but Josiah remembered that I was still in there and got me out.)

Walking down the hill, I talked to Dromio, who seemed to have enjoyed her visit. We spoke of God's love, his patience, and how if we are still, he will give us his love, and his peace. So often, we push his love away, and then wonder why we have such little peace. She said that often she felt frustrated with herself when she asked God to forgive her her sins because she saw how often it was the same mistakes. But isn't that the wonder of his love? He doesn't care how many times we've fallen on the same point, he keeps lifting us up and setting us on our feet. He keeps on loving us and forgiving us. We have to learn to let go. When we let go, and ask Him to forgive us, he does. And that's the only way we'll ever learn to how to stop tripping on the same place.

We fed the chickadees again, and once more I found how much the birds know that I have yet to learn. I am still marveling at those birds. Josiah called us in and we ate lunch, which was lovely, and talked for probably over an hour.

At last it was time to go, and I didn't want to leave the Mount. Josiah said he would take me again next week, but even with that reassurance, I did not want to leave the peace I'd found there. But then I realized that God's peace was with me no matter where I was, if only I would receive that peace from him.

I do plan on going to Mount Irenaeus next week. I'm excited. And I've had peace and calm since we left. And I've been revelling in the stillness and the peace which God gave me through the birds and brothers at the Mountain.

Be Still
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