Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FAREWELL (PERHAPS TEMPORARILY) TO ALETEIA



As you may or may not have noticed, I failed to post an Aleteia column the last couple of weeks.

I started writing for Aleteia, an online journal, on March 18 of this year. I'm made to write on the interior life and loved the challenge of a weekly post. Unfortunately, however, they've been unable to pay me as agreed. Thus, I've stepped down, or rather aside, until such time as they can.

Just when I'd finally learned to spell "Aleteia!"

That's all I'll say for the moment except that I find goodbyes of all sorts emotionally draining. Let's wish them well and stay tuned.

On other fronts, I'm looking forward to two fall trips to "The Heartland": one to Omaha, Nebraska for an October 25 Women's Day of Recollection, and another to Conception Abbey in Missouri to give a Day of Recollection for the seminarians (for more details, check out my Events Page).

I've also been noticing the days get shorter and look forward to my nocturnal winter forays through the streets of L.A. Have been somewhat obsessed as of late with telephone poles and wires which, tome, evoke The Crucifixion.

September 25 was the second anniversary of my mother's death. That and other things have left me feeling kind of sad and at loose ends and bereft. Also, major sleep disruption.

Well, join the human race!
And thank God for coffee.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

A DESPERATE CLINGING TO FLOWERS


From a podcast about the 1889 Van Gogh self-portrait that was on loan to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from December 07, 2012 to March 04, 2013.

Dr. Mary Morton, curator of 19th c. collections at the National Gallery, describes the painting as "incredibly powerful" and continues:

"The colors that van Gogh is using are kind of screamingly complimentary: orange against blue and bluish-violet. He is using a nervous, almost electric touch--you can see it vibrating around his head, almost like a halo. And out of a hole in this vibrating background looms his head, his face, his fiery hair, his beard. It's an image you stand in front of and walk from and continue to be haunted by.

It's the only self-portrait [out of 36] in which he specifically includes an artist's palette, a group of brushes and a painter's smock, so it's the only one in which he specifically conveys his position as a painter.

He's at Saint-Rémy [a mental institution] where's he's voluntarily committed himself, and we know from letters to his brother has come out of a particularly severe psychotic attack.

He writes to his brother that he's feeling better and is ready to return to work almost as a kind of healing. This is the painting he produces, and I think you can see it's on the heels of something that was very violent and intense for him. He's still deeply troubled.

But he's also during this period painting pictures of roses. He's still having these terrible attacks and going out into the garden and the countryside and reveling in nature and in flowers, as a kind of desperate way to cling to life, and to heal."





PLUMERIA, N. BENTON AVE., LOS ANGELES, CA
DESPERATELY CLUNG TO--FOR LIFE, FOR MENTAL HEALTH--
AFTER A LONG DAY OF COPING


IN PASSIONATE PURSUIT







We may know that God will not allow himself to be apprehended easily, but sometimes we forget the complimentary truth. Once he is known to some degree, he will not permit us to keep at a distance on limited terms, maintaining a prudential respect. He is a hidden God, but when he deigns to show himself, he demands afterward our passionate pursuit.

--Fr. Donald Haggerty, Contemplative Provocations


FROM THE NORTHWEST CORNER OF
BENTON AND BERKELEY IN SILVER LAKE L.A.
AT SUNDOWN
ON AN ORDINARY DAY OF THE WEEK.
.

Friday, September 26, 2014

LOST FOR LIFE: DOCUMENTARIAN JOSHUA ROFÉ ON JUVENILE LIFERS



For those who don't know, I have an arts and culture column in The Tidings, the newspaper of the archdiocese of L.A.

This week I got to talk to local documentarian Josh Rofé about Lost for Life, the gripping 2013 film he directed and produced about juveniles who are sentenced to life without parole.

Here's how the piece begins:

"Jacob Ind underwent horrific sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of his mother and stepfather. At the age of 15, he murdered them both.

Brian Draper and Torey Adamcik were small-town Idaho teens. In 2006 they donned masks, drove to the residence where classmate Cassie Jo Stoddart was housesitting, and brutally stabbed her to death.

These are just three of the more than 2,500 prisoners who have been sentenced as juveniles, some as young as 13, and are serving life without parole in American prisons.

They are also three of the men profiled by local documentarian Joshua Rofé in his riveting 2013 documentary “Lost for Life.”

“Could You Forgive?” reads the tagline for the film and to his credit, producer and director Rofé leaves us to decide. He shows the minds, hearts and, in some cases, the transformation of the prisoners"...

READ THE PIECE HERE.


BRIAN DRAPER, 16 AT THE TIME OF HIS ARREST FOR MURDER,
WAS 21 AT THE TIME HE APPEARED IN LOST FOR LIFE

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

GRAPEVINES AT THE GETTY



Last week I took a little field trip to the Getty Villa in Malibu. I especially wanted to see an exhibit called Molten Color: Glassmaking in Antiquity.

That was lovely--I'd take a core-formed two-inch "White Perfume Flask with Purple Zigzags, Greek, 600-300 B.C." over over a two-ton Dale Chihuly installation any day.

But I was equally mesmerized by this grape arbor tucked into one side of the reflecting pool (which was devoid not only of reflection properties but of water due to Southern Cal's dire drought). Shades of ancient Rome, Bacchus, molten light, and the bittersweet changing of the seasons.

Afterward I meandered over a south-facing balcony to catch a glimpse of the Pacific through hillsides of eucalyptus and sycamore. Suddenly I felt a fluttering at my elbow--a flock of uniformed schoolkids wanting a peek at the view as well. "Come," I said, and ceded my place, and looked back for a minute to watch them--joyful, pointing, taking pictures--like a row of little birds in their identical blood-red polo shirts.

In the bookstore I bought a postcard of St. Michael the Archangel (Constantinople, first half of the 14th century), whose prayer I have memorized and use frequently to good advantage.

On the way back, I stopped in Santa Monica at a yarn store--because even in L.A., winters are chilly and come late September, a girl's thoughts turn to scarves.

From there, I walked over to Staples and bought a 2015 At-A-Glance Tabbed Weekly Calendar.

Then I wandered down to the Huckleberry Cafe and Bakery, braved the disdainful 'tude of the countergal and twenty-something patrons, and purchased a ham and gruyere croissant to go (fair).

Pacific Coast Highway was all ripped up, with orange cones and jackhammers; and traffic on the 10-E proceeded at a horrific crawl the whole ten miles to my exit. I listened to Horowitz playing Scarlatti and thought about how instructive life in LA can be, if only you let it. Pain built into the joy,  hardship built into the hoped-for easeful field trip, squalor built into the beauty, and inexhaustible life tinged, always, with death.

That's the way of the world. Which is why God gave us wine.









Sunday, September 21, 2014

ONE REALLY INTERIOR SOUL: A STORY AND PAINTING FROM MATTHEW KIRBY

PAINTING: MATTHEW KIRBY
photo: George Goss

It is a terrible misfortune when there is not to be found one really interior soul among all those at the head of important Catholic projects. Then it seems as though the supernatural had undergone an eclipse, and the power of God were in chains. And the saints teach us that, when this happens, a whole nation may fall into a decline, and Providence will seem to have given men a free hand to do all the harm they desire.
-- Jean-Baptiste Chautard, The Soul of the Apostolate

You may remember Matthew Kirby, the wonderful painter from Brooklyn whose work I featured a while back.

Matthew's a walker (an activity of which I thoroughly approve). Recently he sent me this email, and a painting inspired by the story he told in it. They were both so good I asked if I could share them with you all.

So here you are, from Matthew Kirby.

"Quick story: I spend a lot of time walking around my Brooklyn neighborhood running errands and I noticed another walker, a small, gaunt man dressed in slightly rumpled clothes with an Irish-style cap that buttons in the front and thick, obscuring lenses in his glasses. By my calculations, his walks - one around 8:00 in the morning and a return trip around 3 or 4:00 in the afternoon - take him over two miles each.

But what's remarkable about him is that he pulls down, rips up and throws in the trash just about every leaflet, business card, menu and glued or stapled-on advertisement he finds along the way. For a while he had a heated battle with some large, close-up, hi-res images of faces in states of self-conscious imitation rapture that a local sex implement shop had been gluing up on the plywood walls of a renovation site. Every other day new posters would be put up, and then scratched down with what were clearly human fingernails.

At first it took me a while to realize that he was not picking up trash - which many well-meaning homeless or jobless people in the city do unbidden and unrewarded - he was systematically cleaning his route of the inane messages and images of advertising. He does it with visible irritation, but not rage (he's a conscious pedestrian and stays out of other people's way to the point of making himself unseen), and I came to admire him for it.

So one day I was at Mass, not at my usual time, and I turned around pass the sign of peace and there he was. He let me know, in a way that wasn't at all rude, that we was absolutely not going to take my automatically extended hand (which is always more than fine with me.) But I was able to see his face more clearly this time and could tell that he was a suffering rather than just cranky person. It was not the face of a crusader or moralist, but of someone who was just trying to protect himself from all the impersonal, talky, fake-chummy, lethal messages and images in the world. And I remember that he sang quite well and said the responses firmly and un-selfconsciously.

I have seen him less and less since then and I know nothing else about the man. I have no reason to think he's any more or less mentally ill than anyone else at Mass or in the streets of Brooklyn. Maybe he could give an articulate reason for what he does; maybe not. But I can't help but think that he is really is one of the solitaries Merton describes, and that he's living his solitude creatively, publicly, on the same streets we all walk on.

Here's a painting semi-inspired by him, although it's not intended as a portrait or even an illustration."

But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
--Matthew 19:30

Thank you, Matthew, our friend from Brooklyn.
Look at more of Matt's work here

Friday, September 19, 2014

MEDITATIONS OF A BEEKEEPER


ANDORRA S. HOWARD WITH HER BEES

This week's arts and culture column is on the fascinating subject of beekeeping. In an 800-word piece, I could barely scratch the surface, but here you go. It begins:

Earlier this year, I visited Madonna House: the lay community in Combermere, Ontario, founded by the late Russian emigré and mystic Catherine Doherty.

Life at Madonna House is deeply incarnational. Members grow their own food, cut their own wood, make their own altar cloths, candles, icons. My last day there, Andorra Howard, a community member for 30 years, took me to see the bees she tends and loves. As she worked, she told me some of what she’s learned:

“I’ve been the ‘official’ Madonna House beekeeper for three years now. The job has been one of the most wonderful, fulfilling and challenging of my apostolic life.

“When I was first asked to look after our hive I spent a day with our local bee inspector to learn beekeeping. He never worked with gloves and sometimes without even a veil!"...

READ THE PIECE HERE.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

THE LAW OF THE LAND VERSUS THE LAW OF OUR HEARTS



AS THE SUN ROSE ON A BOUQUET OF DAHLIAS
THE OTHER MORNING...

This week in Aleteia I continue my pondering on the strange, to me, tendency to conflate discipleship of Christ with patriotism. To be a good neighbor is a very much higher calling than to be a good citizen...

Here's how the piece begins:

"Lately I’ve been thinking about my days in the early ’90s as a Beverly Hills lawyer. That was when I first started asking the deep questions: What was I born for? Who do I want to serve? I sincerely wanted to help alleviate the suffering of the world but working as a lawyer, making money for the first time in my life (I was close to 40 at the time), I started to realize I didn’t want to align myself with the rich and the powerful. I didn’t want to lord it over the rest of society.

I come from a blue collar family and some of my feelings arose from a congenital sympathy for the underdog. But when I began to read the Gospels, I found that this was the stance of Christ as well. "Blessed are the poor in spirit." "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." What I really started to ponder was “Say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no.” Nothing could have been further from that creed than the “law” of civil litigation.

That was when I began to see that there’s a law of the land and there’s a Higher Law.

That was when I began to see that the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court had no more idea of how the world really works than a Skid Row drunk"...

READ THE PIECE HERE!


Monday, September 15, 2014

THE EXCITEMENT OF A SIMPLE STROLL


THE MAGIC HOUR, SOUTH BENTON AVE., LA,  LOOKING NORTH
LOOK AT THAT RESPLENDENT GOLDEN STRUCTURE
IN THE DISTANCE!
"Then, some days ago, walking past the rocks in the park on my way to the subway, and suddenly aware of the intense greenness of the leaves, that same happy yet mostly vague and excited feeling came back to me."
--Alfred Kazin’s Journals, selected and edited by Richard M. Cook, p. 130

"I always had a sense of being followed, of being desired a sense of hope and expectation."
--Dorothy Day

"Religion consists of the belief that everything that happens to us is extraordinarily important. It can never disappear from the world for this reason."
--Italian poet Cesare Pavese (1908-1950)

One of the fruits of thinking that everything’s important is that you begin to live every second at an inner fever pitch, in such a way that all your powers and talents and faculties are brought to a thrilling, vitalized, height.

Either that, or like Pavese, you kill yourself.




Saturday, September 13, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: THE RISE, CREATIVITY, FAILURE AND MASTERY



AUTUMN LEAVES.
THESE WERE FROM LATE JULY, IN MASSACHUSETTS

This week's arts and culture column is a review of a book by Sarah Lewis called The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery.

Here's how it starts:

"As a free-lance creative writer, I can hardly read enough about rejection and failure. So here’s a book that recently caught my eye: “The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure and the Search for Mastery” (Simon & Schuster).

Sarah Lewis rightly points out the danger of falling into a rut of the safe and the familiar. She beautifully articulates our sense that what we long to achieve in our creative endeavors lies forever just beyond our reach.

She emphasizes that even spectacular setbacks can sharpen our resolve. Still, toiling away in my humble room, I couldn’t totally relate, career-wise, to some of the folks she profiles: Sara Blakely, the billionaire founder of “the girdle-refining line” Spanx; Andre Geim, the Nobel-winning physicist who managed the first isolation of a two-dimensional object (it’s graphene).

One of my favorite passages was about Ben Saunders, a Devon-born explorer who became only “the third person in the world to reach the North Pole solo and on foot.” After achieving this staggering feat, wanting to share his joy with someone, he warmed his satellite battery by tucking it under his arm and called his mother.

Standing in line at the grocery store, too overwhelmed to speak, she began crying and asked him to call her back. So he called his girlfriend: the message went to voicemail.

“After 72 days of trudging alone on the pack and pressure ice, at times swimming through the ‘inky black water’ of the Arctic Ocean over three miles deep,” Lewis observes, “he had no cheering squad, no flag to plant.”

Now that I could relate to. Because we are all, in our way, walking to the North Pole"...

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.