Showing posts from January 9, 2011

Tracy Kidder and small city America

On January fourth of this year I took out a book from Sarasota’s fabulous Selby Library.  It was written by Tracy Kidder.  It’s called “Strength in what remains”.  I found it to be a powerful and moving story of DeoGracias, a young man from Burundi.

DeoGracias (yes, that’s his name) survived the ghastly civil war/genocide in his homeland, and against all odds he made a new life in these United States.

Tracy Kidder is a good writer. He tells the story of DeoGracias with clarity and objective sympathy.

I enjoyed Kidder’s writing so much that I  sought out another of his titles when I was back at the library. I chose “Home Town” (published by Washington Square Press in 2000).  It’s a marvelous account of life in Northampton, MA - a town which I know well.

To quote from the dust jacket:

“ A host of real people are alive in these pages:  a tycoon with a crippling ailment; a criminal whom the place has beguiled; a genial and merciful judge; a single mother struggling to start a new life at Sm…

Sweet, sweet, sweet.

My first visit to Florida was in about 1989.  My friend Joe and I drove down from Pittsfield, MA in my Mazda 323 (one of the neatest cars I’ve ever owned - except in this case the car was on a three year lease).

My mind had imagined some gentle countryside with lovely valleys and streams, and surrounding hills which were filled with citrus groves.  It was a romantic image, and far from the truth.

In fact Florida is very flat. Very flat!  The highest point is in north Florida where Britton Hill rises to a stately 345’ above sea level. Even “Little Rhody” (Rhode Island) has a hill more than twice than height.

As for citrus groves, I saw not one on that first visit. It was a disappointment.  But having lived here now for four and a half years I can tell you that citrus groves are rather plain and geometric places, with none of the random beauty of the older New England apple or pear orchards.

But we do have citrus.  Much of it is processed just up the road from here in Bradenton where “T…


FIRST  a disclaimer.  I vowed that when I  adopted my cats and my dog via the Sarasota Humane Society that I would never refer to myself as their “daddy”.  I have broken that vow!

Simple pleasures:

1.  jmp speaks:  My simple pleasures are: 

reading a good book as I sit on the lanai. 

taking an afternoon nap as I lay prone on my new “recliner” ( which I bought as a bargain at $60 from a local second-hand store).

snacking on smoked mussels from the Duck Trap Company in Maine.

2.  Penne the dog speaks:  “When daddy sits down to read a book I know that he in fact is summoning me.  So I press my wet nose into his leg, and then turn around so that he will scratch my haunches.  I know that he’d rather do this than read".

3.From Ada the senior cat: “Daddy is not trying to nap on his recliner.  In truth he wants me to jump up onto his belly so that I can get a good sleep. But first I have to knead away with my front paws, so that I can make a nest on his tummy.  I hope that this pleases him“.

One in Fifty

Today the National Weather Service reported snow on the ground in 49 of the 50 states -- only Florida was spared.

Sewanee, TN  Monday 10th Jan 2011

 Waltham, MA Jan 12th 2011

  Pittsfield MA  (1) Today

Pittsfield Ma (2) Today

 Melrose, MA  This morning

  Sarasota, FL this afternoon

Ironing as a spritual discipline

I enjoy ironing. 

I conserve electricity by drying my clothes on a rack which is stationed in the spare bedroom. 

Would to God that I could hang them out to dry on a decent clothes line, but our prissy “Condo Association Rules” forbid such flagrant displays of laundry.

So my shirts and pants need to be ironed after they have dried out, and that’s just as well, because I enjoy ironing.

In the “olden days”  1976-80 I would even iron my undershirts/vests, and underpants/shorts.  Believe it or not (and please believe it), in those days I also ironed sheets.  Indeed I like ironing!

My enjoyment of ironing is most likely rooted in two places.

First:  as a parish Pastor I dealt with beginnings (baptisms); middles (weddings); and endings (funerals).   So I ministered with “bits” of human lives, but never with the whole.  When I iron I am able to begin, continue, and end an activity. Ironing is a “whole” activity.

Second:  I am (to my embarrassment), something of a perfectionist.   The beauty…

Everence F.C.U. - a new kind of Banking.

My mortgage, checking/current account, and  visa credit card are each held by one of the behemoths of American finance -  the Bank of America.  The local B of A staff are great and they give fine service, but I am not too comfortable with having all my eggs in this one conglomerate basket.

With this in  mind I decided to open a savings account at one or other of the local Federal Credit Unions.  Having checked credentials on line, I decided that my new account should be at the Everence F.C.U. (Federal Credit Union).

“Everence” used to be called “Mennonite Financial Services”.  The new name is meant to evoke both permanency (Ever), and piety ( Reverence).

One of the blessings of having a substantial Mennonite and Amish Community  in Sarasota is that Everence F.C.U.  has a branch here. 

I have a decent respect for Mennonites  - named after Menno Simons  -  (see - even though their emphasis on peace and justice has not yet extended to include les…

Please re in conjunction with my blog entry from earlier today

Thanks POTUS

"A time to keep silence, and a time to speak".

"A time to keep silence, and a time to speak". (Ecclesiastes 3:7b  KJV)

In 1986 a young priest, who at one time had been my assistant, took his new canoe out onto a Berkshire County, MA lake.  It was late winter/early spring and there was still ice on some of the shallower coves.  Later in the day his canoe was found, but he was missing.

Word spread like wildfire. The next day I called the community of St. Stephen’s together for prayer and Eucharist.  I chose not to preach.  I simply said “there are no words which are adequate to our fear, all we can do is to hold on to each other”.  The congregation sat in silent embraces.

His body was found later in the week.  The grief of his girl-friend, his family, and of the two congregations in which he had served knew no bounds.

I had a friend who was murdered.  He was in fact the brother of one of my very best friends.  I will never forget the Saturday morning when this friend called me in my Church office to relay the news.  Once again…