Webinar for Paraclete Press with Abbot Primate Gregory Polan on the Divine Office

I had the distinct privilege yesterday of having a conversation with Abbot Primate Gregory J. Polan, OSB and Rachel McKendree of Paraclete Press about the practice and virtues of the Divine Office (also known as the Liturgy of the Hours) and my new book, The Saint Benedict Prayer Book.

We discussed a bit of the history but more so the vision of reality that is conveyed by the performance of the Hours, why it matters as a form of prayer in the world today and how it shapes who we are. It was a fabulous discussion with much wisdom from Abbot Primate Gregory.

If you have an interest, you can watch the full conversation here, and you can pick a copy of the book here.

Pax et Bonum!

state natural area poems #25: sapa spruce bog a & b

a.

downed logs saturated

cobbles for white-tail hooves

spring thru grass and water

b.

sumac flair

prevents entry—

bog country

sapa spruce bog is a black spruce-tamarack bog (southernmost instance in wi) located in a kettle hole left by the receding glacier at last ice age’s end. it’s very acidic and has what is called “houghton muck” for soil–wow. we stopped by the northern edge (access is restricted to research) to see and smell the hardwood swamp habitat and met a buck wandering along the road. he quickly disappeared into the bog with lots more knowledge of such things than us.

thanks to the university of wisconsin-milwaukee field station for tending this pristine bog.

state natural area poems #24: cedarburg bog a, b, & c

a.

glacial lake

water dream

mud fossil

b.

tumbled rock above

glistening eyes below

twilit bog life

c.

geese call at sunset. white cedar,

tamarack—tall family. feathery

splays in moss, grass, sedge, peeping

over duckweed. basswood sleeps unstirring.

cedarburg bog was once a glacial lake. the bog contains six lakes, shrub-carr, and a string bog (typical of much farther north in n. america). birches and basswood live here, along with white cedar and tamarack swamp forest. on my way thru, i met a very talkative black-capped chickadee.

thanks to the university of wisconsin-milwaukee field station, wi dnr and friends of cedarburg bog for tending this land.

New essay on “Monastic Tradition and the Problems of Big Tech” in _The Windhover_

An essay of mine bringing together my interest in the Benedictine monastic tradition with my concerns about the pervasive (and pernicious) influence of Big Tech has just been published in The Windhover.

In the essay, I bring to bear on our screen-saturated consciousnesses two key, foundational insights of the western monastic tradition: the daily practice of calling to mind one’s own death (Rule of St. Benedict 4.47) and the call to treat all things like “the vessels of the altar” (Rule of St. Benedict 31:10).

In light of these and other teachings of the monastic tradition, I suggest that “If we were to tend to our own attention with care and concern, we might individually and collectively find ourselves again, find the stable parts of who we are, and begin to build something new with the technological advances that we have surrounded ourselves with . . .” Doing so would bring us into accord with Benedict’s prescription to “let peace be your quest and aim” (Rule of St. Benedict Prologue.17).

The Windhover doesn’t make its contents fully available online, so if you have an interest, please do help support a literary journal open to a variety of Christian perspectives and that publishes solid poems, fiction, and essays by buying a copy here.

Pax!

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, 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

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…

 

amid troubles, a happy st. petroc’s day…

In the midst of all our troubles in the States and around the world at the moment, this may seem frivolous, but the liturgical year presses on with the vicissitudes of history. Today is the feast of St. Petroc, a relatively obscure sixth-century saint of Cornwall. (Not on the universal calendar, but his feast is still in the current Martyrologium Romanum.)

I did work on St. Petroc at UW-Madison under the wonderful medievalist Dr. Sherry Reames and ended up writing my first long poem on his life. It’s basically a verse adaptation of his Latin prose life, and you can see it here if you’re in need of a momentary retreat/diversion.

St. Petroc, pray for justice and peace!

 

state natural area poems, supplementum #4: durward’s glen

we spook a blue heron

treading up prentice creek

stone streaming to pebble

durward's glen 3

Durward’s Glen is a gorge of sandstone and conglomerate in Caledonia, Columbia County, Wisconsin, thru which runs Prentice Creek. Bernard Isaac Durward, a Milwaukee painter and poet, purchased the Glen in the mid-nineteenth century, and it has been a center for retreat and natural beauty since.

The day I visited, there was a steady rain all day long and Prentice Creek was swollen. It is one of my favorite places on earth.

durwards glen 1

durward's glen 4