My first anti-racist essay, in _Dappled Things_

As anyone who is familiar with me, my writing, and my teaching knows, I am a big fan of the arcane, the obscure. And that’s in keeping with my personality and the way I live my life. And so I do not often weigh in on politics and social movements, as I prefer to be private, keep my peace, and cultivate charity and openness where I actually am.

But in recent months with all that’s been going on, I did feel a need to contribute something to the surge in attention to the racial inequalities and injustices in American society. But I did it in a bit of a round-about way, as I tend to do. In response particularly to Fr. Bryan Massingale’s interview with Commonweal that I heard several weeks ago, I wrote up an essay that Dappled Things just published on their blog, “deep down things.”

It’s certainly an “in-house” argument pitched primarily at fellow Catholics, but I hope that it would be of interest to any person of good will. While its argument is about the nature of the Church, it is exactly in its surprising structural and cultural diversity that my point could mean something of import to both Catholics and anyone else “looking in” on this internal reckoning going on right now.

Anyhow, for what it’s worth.

Dame Gertrude More’s poem for St. Benedict

Second installment for St. Benedict’s feast day!

Here is my reading (with a small cameo from my daughter) of Dame Gertrude More’s (1606-33) poem to her master in the monastic life, St. Benedict.

Dame Gertrude was a Benedictine nun in exile on the continent and a great contemplative of the early modern period when the English Catholic Church persevered thru persecution. You can pick up a copy of her poems and shorter prose here if you like.

A nice one in common meter. Enjoy!

New Swami Abhishiktananda Audio for St. Benedict’s Day

A happy St. Benedict’s day to all!

On this big feast for Benedictine and Cistercian monastics and their oblates and associates, I thought I’d post some new audio of Benedictine poetry I’ve translated or edited over the last few years.

Today’s first installment: a short poem from Swami Abhishiktananda (aka Dom Henri Le Saux, OSB; 1910-1973). “OM Wholly Burnt” is a dense little poem with lots of pathos included in a letter to Swamiji’s disciple, Swami Ajatananda (Marc Chaduc) written toward the end of his life.

Here’s the audio:

state natural area poems #11: the ridges sanctuary a & b

redwings and frogs in the rushes

call—croak—call

earthtime marshmusic

ridges 2

porcupine lumbers clumsy

a nameless karst swale

into his whitecedar root home

silence all around

ridges 1

the ridges sanctuary was the first land trust set up in wisconsin, in 1937. among other features, the main point of interest is the series of ridges and swales that resulted from the lowering of lake michigan’s shoreline. due to its ancient history, its southward facing, and its proximity to lake michigan, the ridges contain largely boreal forests similar to those found far northwest in wisconsin, while the swales mostly contain marsh and bog flora. they are a sight to behold. this unique ecosystem makes the site one with a high ratio of rare plants in the midwest. –oh, and we saw a porcupine!

special thanks to the ridges sanctuary, inc. for protecting this site for almost a century!

photo credit on amanita above and porcupine: mamie riyeff again

state natural area poems #10: toft point

bryophyte elders

thallus-thick, mossgrown

small-talk on the pineduff path

toft point 1

toft point state natural area is a 732-acre piece of land in door county, wi tucked between two bays. with boreal forest, mesic forest, and sedge meadow and swampland, it boasts one of the most diverse bryophyte communities in the state. it was a distinctly different feeling walking thru these woods.

thanks to uw-green bay and the wi nature conservancy for maintaining this patch of earth.

toft point 2

candid excitement over an amanita

I don’t usually put purely personal moments on this blog, but on my recent trip up north to Door County, my family was able to watch two amanita mushrooms go thru their life cycle over a couple days. While this was not the famed “fly agaric” (Amanita muscaria), all the amanitas I’ve found in the wild have a similar air and stateliness.

I first started learning about amanitas from R. Gordon Wasson and Terrence McKenna a loooong time ago; while I don’t agree with their theories much any longer, I think their passion for the fly agaric and related mushrooms is understandable to anyone who has come across them in a secluded forest or a mountain clearing.

I think they belonged to the American species cluster called “gemmed amanita,” but couldn’t be sure–I’m happy for anyone to enlighten me if they know better!

Here’s one of the mushrooms: note the distinguishing features of the volva (the bulbous base from which the stalk grows) and the universal veil remnants (the “worts”) on the cap.

amanita 1

amanita 2

amanita 6

amanita 5

amanita 3

 

state natural area poems, supplementum #5: heins creek nature preserve

watercress succumbs to the current

where crayfish come to die

blueflag holds even glaciers

can’t change everything

heins creek 1

heins creek 2

heins creek 3

heins creek nature preserve is located on an isthmus in bailey’s harbor, door county, wi. the creek flows from kangaroo lake (a former bay) to lake michigan, keeping the lakes connected despite centuries of land incursion.

northern blue flag was in arresting bloom when we visited, and the mosquitoes plentiful. thanks to the door county land trust for preserving this unique spot.

photo credit on amanita: mamie riyeff!

Thanks to all retreatants of New Camaldoli this weekend!

I just finished co-leading a retreat on bringing insights from the Upanishads to bear on Christian contemplation with Fr. Cyprian Consiglio “at” New Camaldoli Hermitage. Our first attempt at a Zoom retreat–a few tech snags, but such a delightful and invigorating experience.

Thanks to Fr. Cyprian, the Hermitage and its staff, and everyone who participated–I appreciate your time and sharing with all of us in ways I can’t say. Stay in touch and press on!

Pax

New Brief Essay on Media and Art at _Dappled Things_

One of my favorite activities during the school year is taking my Honors Program students to a performance at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

When we went this February, I feverishly started writing notes in the program’s margins. The resulting short essay on electronic media, art, consumerism, etc. was just published by the folks at Dappled Things–many thanks to them, Marquette Honors, the MSO, and especially my students!

state natural area poems #9 a and b: riveredge creek and ephemeral pond

sedge sings out in tussocky throbs

to lonely kettle’s close

skunk cabbage now green parasols

riveredge 2

riveredge creek slinks on

rivulets run like a web

while silent iris strains

riveredge 3

riveredge 4riveredge creek and ephemeral pond state natural area is part of the riveredge nature center, a 61-acre slice of land that includes fen-like habitat with lots of skunk cabbage and spotted cranesbill (wild geranium).

thanks to the riveredge nature center for protecting and rehabilitating this area.

a programming note for myself and anyone who might care: as the final lines of both these poems allude to, i think the timeline of this project has closed. it was originally conceived as a way to get out of the house in safety either alone or with my family when the pandemic first really hit and we were all sheltering in place hard. but with the return of the warm weather and the first serious pushes of reopening, it feels like this project has done its work. i may continue to add more here and there when i get out, but i’m retiring the series as a reason/impetus to go out in the first place. i know several folks have been reading lots of these, and i appreciate your time and care. thanks for reading.

we’ll see if more press themselves on me…