Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Olde Seminarian's report: I get around ... pt. 1

I get around round get around I get around,
I get around (ooh--OOH--ooh) I get around ....

I'm dating myself, of course, but nobody says this like the Beach Boys. And that's not my car in the picture, either, just one I stole from Google Images. I'm more the humble Honda type than the Mustang type.

Well, the New Seminary has kept this Olde Seminarian on the move. In addition to a lot of writing, first-year students are charged with observing, or participating in, varying types of religious services. Though I was a bit intimidated by this at first (I am Episcopalian, after all!), I've come to love worshiping with people of different faiths.

My first forays were in traditions close to my own Christian tradition, which let me put a toe into familiar waters.

My initial experience was attending a service at Union Church in the Wilderness. They aren't kidding about the wilderness -- the way there took me a long way down an unmarked, dark country road that seemed to have a ditch on either side. "Great," I thought, as my car crept along. "If I get lost out here, no one will ever find my body." But eventually I came to the pastor's house, where the service was held, a brightly lit and welcoming farmhouse at the road's end. The small congregation gathered there was truly gracious and welcoming. The focus of the service was a bit more conservative than I am used to, but the music, snacks and fellowship were excellent.

My next adventure took place in a local Friends' school, where I attended a Fourth Day (Wednesday) Meeting for Worship with several grades of schoolchildren.  As we sat in the silence, the little girls were still as statues (making me think that girls really get silence, something I didn't expect), while the boys squirmed, swung their legs, waved at me,  and heaved large sighs of boredom. But the experience, overall, was a deep, meaningful silence, with wise, spirit-filled contributions made by several of the girls at the close. I would like to go back for a Sunday service; I now see why my southern grandfather remained a devoted Friend his whole life, even when getting to a Meeting in old age became more difficult.

In the next post: putting a toe into Muslim and Jewish waters.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

In a winter landscape

It's been gray and dark here, last weekend especially. The skies hovered close above my house, while the rain poured down. It was so dark, even near the noon hour, that my electric window candles in the living room remained lit.

Then the rain ceased for a while, and the skies lightened. I ventured outside, because it was unusually warm.

The light is different in winter, I think, especially on a gray day. Trees' branches stand out sharply, black skeletons against the sky, and their every movement in the wind is visible. The lawns are bare of leaves now, and the grass dormant, yet every tuft of grass stands out in sharp relief, every undulation in the lawn is now visible. These details are not so easy to see during the riotous growing season, when all my lawn becomes a mass of seething green. Looking around, I saw squirrels' nests in a couple of trees. If the trees were in leaf, I would not have seen them.

And then I saw it, in a neighbor's tree, about three houses down. About two feet high, it looked like a large, tan plastic bag had been caught up by the wind and had attached itself to a tree limb. Luckily, the binoculars were right inside the front door, so I grabbed them.

And the "plastic bag" resolved itself into a beautiful red-tailed hawk, sitting regally on the branch, scouting the ground for possible prey.  We see hawks all the time, but we see them in flight -- I had never seen one at rest. I stood there watching it until the rain started again, when it lifted its gorgeous wings and flew off out of sight.

Another gift of winter.