Wednesday, May 27, 2009

CLASSICAL ADVICE!


As May draws to a close, most of the vegetable, fruit and herb planting has been done, except for those seedlings destined for the raised bed which has yet to be built. More about that shortly. Yesterday was a day to take stock, and to think about “what else” needed to be bought for the summer. I decided to go in search of purple basil.

A chance to visit Liberty Farm in Sagaponack, where Jeff White has created a successful nursery over many years, and ask Melanie about the basil. Now Melanie is a remarkable woman of indeterminate age, and a leading authority on herbs and tomatoes. Sadly she had no purple basil, but the conversation turned to other things. The exasperating weather, for one, and then my planned building project, which has proved equally frustrating. I told her the story of how, last week, I ordered the lumber for delivery, and waited patiently for it to arrive. Very patiently, for it was a holiday weekend. No sight or sound of it. Yesterday morning I picked up the phone and gently complained, and the apologies the other end were profuse. The wood had been delivered to the wrong address, and would be brought round immediately. The truck did arrive, but on it was the completely wrong order. Back to square one!

Melanie’s reaction was hilariously astonishing. She looked me in the eye, and with a poker face said, “Tim, nil carborundum illegitimi!” (*)

(* Don’t let the bastards grind you down!)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

THOUGHTS PREACHED ON THE SUNDAY AFTER THE ASCENSION, MAY 24th, 2009

Spring, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

NOTHING is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.


Well, it seems, judging by the traffic of the last few days, that true spring is upon us, and the racing lambs have indeed arrived. Some of them already, in this part of Eden, shouting at the top of their voices:

Have, get, before it cloy, before it cloud!

Memorial Day Weekend is with us once again, after what was surely the longest of winters and the most frustrating of springs. And a new season is upon us.

A new season in many ways. According to Dan's Papers (and there is surely no higher authority!) it is now permissible to wear white. Although I did see someone so dressed last weekend. Shocking, don't you think? No respect for tradition! As if these things actually mattered!

And we look forward to this new season with hopes and expectations.

It is also a time of remembrance, and I hope that, on Monday, all of us, either publically or privately, find the moment to pray, and remember those who have given their lives in the military service of the United States. The ultimate sacrifice. We look back, and remember them with honor.

And now this weekend of both forward and backward looking is placed within the biblical stories, and the experiences and traditions of the Church.

Last Thursday evening we gathered in church to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and to enjoy each other's company and conversation - and to hear again the story of the Ascension of Jesus. A story that appears to have less significance for us now than in previous generations. Yet it remains as an integral part of our creeds, many hymns and our Eucharistic Prayers. But do we actually believe it? Deem it important?

Surely not, because we no longer believe in a three-level universe. When the scriptures were written, and for many centuries after that, all of creation was easy to depict and understand. Hell was down; earth was in the middle; and heaven was up. To talk of Jesus "ascending into heaven" was therefore simplicity itself, and made total sense within the belief of those days. But now? Well, don't write it off!

Our problem as 21st century Christians is that we spend too much time and energy analyzing the details, and not enough reading and hearing the story.

The story of the Ascension is a narrative written through the eyes of faith. It is a powerful statement about Jesus, and what the church had come to believe. That just as Jesus had been sent by God, so now he must return to God. This isn't historical event - this is faith and theology, and graphically described.

It is also a story that looks backwards and forward, and so is perfectly placed at this time of our modern calendar. Backwards, in that as a piece of story-telling it marks the end of the physical presence of Jesus which had to end sometime; and forwards, because it launches the believer into a new season and era of faith, where the presence of Christ would be spiritual - but no less real. And a different relationship with Christ would be called for.

We are in that season, that relationship today, and as we once more immerse ourselves in the bible stories and traditions, we continue to have hope and expectations. Like those early believers we also wait for the next story to begin - the next action of God.

The story of Pentecost, next Sunday, when we are called not to wear white - but red!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

MORNING COFFEE

A pleasant twenty minutes in Leo's barbers chair has, again, put the world to rights. And as we watched the people coming and going from Starbucks next door, Leo gave his piece of daily wisdom.

"Look. Everybody smiling. Why? Because they drink coffee. Coffee is a happy drink!"

Say that with a thick Russian accent and you won't be able to get it out of your head all day...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

FLOTATION DEVICES ALSO MAKE GOOD PILLOWS!



I did something today that I had not done in a very long time, and fell asleep on a beach! A remote beach only accessible from the water. I'd better explain. As it was a day off I wanted to take a kayak out for a paddle before the late afternoon breezes picked up, so launched into flat calm water at Conscience Point into North Sea Harbor. It was actually a paddle in two parts. I spent the first half hour exploring the winding creeks that extend into the woods on the northern edge of the harbor, and then I headed out to the harbor entrance via the boat channel. Once there I pulled up on the shingle beach for snacks and water, rested my head on the PFD, found my mind filling with pleasant and peaceful thoughts and ...

It was a squawking gull that woke me about twenty minutes later, giving me very strange looks indeed!



Monday, May 18, 2009

LAUGHED OUT LOUD!

I have tried to avoid posting YouTube clips on this blog, but this one is simply too good to pass up!

Friday, May 15, 2009

CYRIL DAVID, 1920-2009


Cyril was not a parishioner. In fact I have no idea if he had any formal religious leanings. But he was a part of St. Ann's by virtue of the fact that he actually lived here. Physically. On the church property. For Cyril, had rented the apartment above what was the old rectory for many years. He was the perfect tenant as far as paying his rent was concerned, and even if, from time to time he would complain that the dishwasher/oven/washer-drier/microwave wasn't working properly, and closer inspection proved him wrong, he was never too grumpy about the whole thing. In fact he was always shy, cordial, impeccably polite, and (given that he was born in London) never wanted to "make a fuss." But I write about him, in tired, fumbled words, as his landlord. And how pathetic my estimation of Cyril is, compared with his international reputation.

As a renowned artist Cyril was quite unique in the images he was able to create using paper and special graphite pencils. I have seen dozens of his works, and if I had not been previously told, each one resembles a monochrome photograph; such is the perfection of the detail. By pencil. By concentrating on painstaking detail. And by emotion, in that (by his own words and those who now come after him, his daughter Chris and his long-term partner Joan) Cyril always felt that each work, each scene, each individual depicted (often female, subtly composed, see above) was a projection of his own desire. Who knows? How wonderful!

On hearing of Cyril's sudden death today, I got there as quick as I could. Yet even though he was dead, he was, through his works displayed everywhere in that apartment, still living, still breathing, still shyly telling me that the gutters dripped too noisily, and could I do something about light bulbs? It was a very moving moment, as I held the hands of those closest to him, and we all breathed memories in and out. No prayers. No fake religion. Just people drawn together in a peaceful death. As it should be.

Requiem in pace, Cyril.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

CHEER FROM SARDINIA!

After a rather lackluster twenty-four hours, an odd period of time which produced more questions than answers, a good and rustic Italian meal was needed to lift the spirits. Well actually Sardinian, for I have learned that the people of the island of Sardinia are a proud, stubborn and independent race who do not really consider themselves as Italian. Now I have to confess that I have never visited Sardinia, but learned the vital importance of such cultural and political opinions while enjoying a private "run ashore" in Catania, Sicily, with the commanding officer of HMS AVENGER. The friendly and vocal Sardinian at the next table was far from sober (as his wife kept scolding him!) but I recall that Nigel and I were also on our second bottle of wine, so who were we to criticize? At the end of the evening, after several brandies, we all stood up unsteadily, toasted the Queen, the Pope, and the great island of Sardinia, and made our separate ways home, safely to house and ship.

I did not know this until recently, but saffron was not only a major part of the Sardinian economy for the last 4000 years, but continues to produce nearly half of Italy's crop. That's what makes this sauce special - if a little expensive! The recipe is not mine, but culled and adapted from La Cucina Italiania. (Compulsive reading and cooking.) It will serve four hungry people easily.

Take a pound of the best sweet Italian sausage available. I drove to Villa, East Hampton for mine. With a sharp knife cut open the casing and remove all the meat.

Get Big Pan! Saute a finely chopped onion in extra virgin olive oil until soft, with a couple of bay leaves thrown in.

Add the sausage meat, mashing and breaking up with a spoon. Cook, stirring often, for about ten minutes. Then splosh in 3/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup dry white wine. Next, crush between the fingers about half a teaspoon of saffron. (That's the expensive bit. If it's good saffron it will cost more than the excellent sausage! But the taste and aroma! Oh my!) Reduce. Then pour in a large (28oz) can of whole tomatoes. Break them up with a spoon and simmer the whole thing for about an hour.

Serve with whatever pasta shape you choose. With red wine. And more...

After the meal (and there were no leftovers) I'm feeling a little more content, and reminiscing about those days in HMS AVENGER. More stories to tell!

WHY IS THERE SO MUCH PAPERWORK?

When I was ordained a priest twenty two years ago I felt I had had a clear vision of what life and ministry would be like for many years to come. Then I was young, idealistic, and confident that I knew the answers to absolutely everything. Which, of course, I did not, but no one could have told me that at the time! Everything, what I would say and what I would do, was perfectly laid out in front of me. All I had to do was follow the right path and all would be well. All manner of things would be well. (Sorry, Mother Juliana!) It was to be all spiritual and enlightening study, pastoral care and walking with people along the paths of life.

So far today I have spent nearly two hours in email and phone conversations with parishes all over Suffolk county regarding an organ maintenance survey which I sent out ten days ago. I have spoken to priests, secretaries and assistants, and have been completely overwhelmed by their inability to listen to the simple questions being asked of them; I have scheduled a series of administrative and finance meetings with the churchwardens; I have discussed at length, and then authorized the cutting back of a twenty foot hedge behind the church property; I have sat patiently as the pending need for new gutters to be installed on the parish house was painstakingly explained to me, detail after laborious detail; I have studied the latest report on the sale of a small piece of parish property, and then wondered why we pay lawyers far too much money to interpret things which are blindingly obvious; and I am about to try and call a diocesan officer for, I think, the seventh time in the hope that I may actually find him at his desk. (Resume typing. He was not.)

Against the backdrop of all this incredibly dull and distracting corporate activity is my need to sit still, and think about the man who now knows and admits that he is dying, the ones who are sick and weak, the people who are sad and confused, and numerous other dark pastoral clouds that are scudding across my line of sight.

Perhaps it's simply one of those days. The excitement of desk work. Yet I remain quietly hopeful. Whatever tomorrow brings I still, somehow, believe that, "All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

BLOG SORTED OUT!

The main page layout of this column has been figured out. It was all my fault in not paying attention to the formatting settings!

Friday, May 8, 2009

A QUICK PADDLE ON MECOX

And you can't really get more local than that! Mecox Bay is a big water to the south of Bridgehampton and Water Mill, a mile by a mile and a half in size, and my favorite access is under the road bridge where a channel joins Mecox to Sam's Creek.

Time: 2.30 pm
Weather: Started off dull and misty, but cleared up beautifully
Wind: SSW 10 mph
Air Temperature: 60F
Water Temperature: Bay was above 50F. The ocean was cold, very cold! Yes, I did dive in. Didn't stay in long...
Distance: 2.5 miles

The pictures tell a better story really:

Sam's Creek Bridge...



After a mile, turn south towards the "cut."



This is a narrow stretch of beach that divides Mecox from The Atlantic Ocean. In winter many storms scour away the sand and flood the bay; in more temperate seasons huge earth-movers are brought in to drain the bay from time to time.

The sand dunes to the east of the channel:



And over the beach to the ocean. Rough and cold, but I simply had to dive in, because... well, because I had to! I was wearing a shortie wetsuit, but that didn't help much because it has more holes than a swiss cheese, some of which are ... well, the least said the better.



All in all though, what a stunning spot!



A mile return paddle, with a lot of drifting with a perfect wind at my back, under the bridge again, and home!



Oh, and did I mention that the sermon is finished?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

WORLDS APART

There is a feral cat who, at the same time every evening, sits under the trees and calls out for food. S/he probably is part of the colony that prowls between Debra's Way and the railroad track. I say s/he because, as always, there is no means of finding out, short of deploying a large net and thick body armor. Sandi and Kate believe this cat to be female, and have given the name Molly. I am not so sure, for strong ginger markings are predominantly male, and so I call this creature Moliere.



Whatever the sex, or right and wrong of it all, this cat is fed. We will never know its story, and this cat will never know domesticity, and cosy winter evenings curled up in a chair. This is the closest our worlds come to each other. At feeding time, a paper bowl, separated from the camera by twelve feet of asphalt.

OF SCALLOPS, JELLYFISH AND MISSING MEN

Date: May 6th, 2009
Launch Point: End of Scallop Pond Road (dirt track)
Weather: Bright. Gentle W breeze changing to strong SW wind later
Air Temp: 63F
Water Temp: Around 50F
Total Distance: Five miles, including two narrow creeks and 500 yards of portage!



This particular launch point is one of the simplest and most scenic, even if Scallop Pond is an unremarkable body of water. Although bordering Peconic Bay it doesn’t exit directly into open water but drains and floods along two major creeks: West Neck Creek and Little Sebonac Creek. And boy, does it drain! I hit the water on a strong ebbing tide and used the current to make fast time of the first stage of the journey. A few photos of the general scenery:





What did surprise me were the jellyfish so early in the season. Some four to six inches across, I must have passed (or hit!) over twenty of them in a particularly shallow stretch of water. Signs of a warm season to come? Who actually knows?!




After West Neck Creek I paddled into Little Sebonac, and was amazed at how much longer and wider it was compared to its shape on the chart.



On two occasions I explored some of the narrow creeks that are everywhere on the eastern side of this water. Although shallow they are often navigable for quite a distance, and full of small, freshly-hatched fish, bird life and, yes, jellyfish! And the waters are gin clear.







I had been paddling for well over an hour and was snooping around a shallow, sheltered bay when the wind suddenly changed direction and picked up. Rather than paddle the long way round through some seriously developing chop I climbed out onto the mud flat and pulled the boat behind me all the way back to the main channel – to return to Scallop Pond. Once back in the water the wind was behind me to push me along.

As said, Scallop Pond isn’t that exciting, but there was one thing I wanted to see. Back in the 1920s a wealthy businessman built the fa├žade of a galleon’s stern on his waterfront property. Named “The Port of Missing Men” (now there’s a title used by many writers!) it survives to this day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

BLOG OUT OF CONTROL!

Apologies, but this blog sweems to have developed a mind of its own, with all the sidebar stuff drifting to the bottom of the page. I'm trying to figure out why ...

Monday, May 4, 2009

METAL FATIGUE?

Over the past couple of weeks I have been acting out of character. I have handled more wrenches, nuts, bolts and screws that I thought myself capable. It is not a natural gift but rather a learned necessity, because when new pieces of equipment are delivered (basketball hoops, lawn mowers, etc) varying degrees of self-assembly lead to huge cost savings.(Yes, I know that in a previous post I said.... but...)


It is also a fascinating learning curve. I have practiced the art of staring at assembly instructions for long periods of time, during which they slowly morph from classic hieroglyphics into something approaching guidelines; I have also learned that a socket set with ratchet wrench is a tool that every modern family must possess, and above all else I have discovered just how fragile and delicate human fingers really are – mere flesh and bone compared to the sharp and aggressive pieces of metal that seem hell-bent on inflicting painful damage. And yesterday was the day to keep all these lessons in mind, and build a new gas barbeque grill.


The old grill has seen seven long and busy years, standing out in all weathers, and in the warmer times often in use five times a week. Only its frame is original, the various parts and plates having been replaced as needed over time. But this year not only is it impossible to get some new parts – the grill is in such a bad way as to warrant replacement. Sad, but a fact.





So to work on a rainy Sunday afternoon. (Unpacking the box I was amazed that there seemed to be more cardboard than grill!) The secret was then to stay as calm and organized as possible, laying the parts out on the garage floor, glancing at the huge instruction sheet that had twenty-three diagrammatic sections but very few words, and trying to project the air of someone who knew exactly what he was doing. (Cough.) I was also aware that my daughter’s math tutor was in the nearby room, using impressive-sounding words like ‘congruent’ and ‘obtuse,’ and in the event of a painful incident with all that metal I did not want to enlarge her vocabulary.





To give the Weber company full credit, the whole assembly process took exactly one hour and twenty five minutes, two cold sodas, and no bad words. I even enjoyed it! The new grill stood proud, and was finished just in time to celebrate one of the most important days of spring – the start of the local asparagus season!