Sunday, September 30, 2012


I'd like to share with you a powerful poem written by Magalie Boyer following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  It comes to us thanks to Ruth at Ruth has posted a blog entry with this poem which also includes links to more about this poet in those early days of 2010.

For those of you who don't live here, it may now seem that the earthquake is far removed, an event long past.  Here, we see it every day not just in ruined buildings and in tents, but in such mundane things as driving around new piles of rubble in the street from a little more demolition done, perhaps with a hammer. It appears on faces and is a permanent fixture in the back of our minds. And there are still so many whose most basic needs are not met. Isaac finally blew down the tent that was still in our front yard, but the temporary buildings which are so much better than nothing at all are already beginning to wear.  New construction appears regularly - I must remember to post some photos! - and the palace is finally coming down, but there's just so very much to do.  It's moving along, it really is. You can see the progress.  But the people... You can replace a building, but you can't replace people. 

in memory of a friend no longer with us
construction project: monument in memory of the victims of the earthquake of January 12, 2010

Life was hard before; it is harder now.  My life is easy; I have all I need.  So many don't, and there is no easy solution.  Tomorrow, however, is the first day of school here and another beginning, a new chance.  The chalkboards may have been stolen.  Students and teachers may not have the books they need, never mind the computers and science laboratories they should have if they plan on college - but learning can't be stopped.  And it's learning that gives hope as another generation, bit by bit, is able to step up to the plate to meet the challenges before us. 

So, yes, a poem on the earthquake is still relevant.  And then some.  Maybe it's a prayer.

by Magalie Boyer

Some things we lost in the earthquake:

The Ministry of Planification and of External Cooperation and the Ministry of Public Health

The Ministry of Finance and of the Economy and the Palais de Justice

The Primature and the DGI

The National Palace


Sainte Trinite and Sacre Coeur

The Wesleyan Church of Carrefour-feuilles

Maxo’s records, complete with his new-born picture, from Chancerelle

And Mario, who was 17 and albino

Marie-Lucie, a nursing student, Marie-Lucie and her 98 classmates

The habit of hearing harmony in the city’s cacophony

(As if the ensemble of tap-taps and 4x4s could be a choir!)

Our casual relationship with rank misery

The ability to match our tears to our grief

Jacmel’s invincibility

The mask of sufficiency

The fig leaf of society

Thank you, Ruth and Magalie, for sharing this with us. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

birds and buds or maybe berries

We have this wonderful tree in our yard that I think of as an umbrella tree because its circles of leaves have spokes.  When I came back this fall, lo and behold, it had sprouted berries on the top.  Or perhaps they are tiny flowers that just look rather like raspberries; I can't tell.  Now the tree looks even more like something out of Dr. Seuss. 

Our "umbrella tree" has sprouted a crown!
The most wonderful thing about this tree now is that in the afternoon, the bees are buzzing all over it while little birds sit on the berry/flower branches and enjoy a fine meal.  Most often it is little yellow-bellied birds I see up there, but there are tiny hummingbirds that swoop in and out as well.  These little birds are the tiniest I've ever seen - I actually thought they were very large insects from a distance last year, but these are close enough that I can now get a good look. 

hummingbird and yellow-bellied bird enjoying the tree together

I have a bird book coming in a box which is no doubt sitting in customs, but meanwhile I'm still wondering what these little yellow ones are. Anyone know?  Next on the search list: the name of the umbrella tree.

yellow-bellied bird in the umbrella tree - wonder what it is?

These little birds bring me such joy, and watching them play tag is delightful. It really adds to my afternoon prayer time as I give thanks and marvel at the little creatures God has made. It makes me think of Psalm 104. Perhaps I will write my own version giving thanks for all of creation, which praises God in its own way.

tiny hummingbird enjoying berries - or flowers or something...

I'm headed out to the porch for more prayer time now. I doubt I'll see the birds this afternoon, because the near-daily afternoon/evening thunderstorm has arrived a bit earlier than usual. I'll give thanks nevertheless.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thomas Traherne: Priest and Poet, 1674

Thomas Traherne window
one of four at Hereford Cathedral

O let me so long eye Thee, till I be turned into Thee, and look upon me till Thou art formed in me, that I may be a mirror of Thy brightness, an habitation of thy Love, and a temple of Thy glory. That all Thy Saints might live in me, and I in them: enjoying all their felicities, joys and treasures.”
Centuries of Meditation, 63

Creator of wonder and majesty, you inspired your poet Thomas Traherne with mystical insight to see your glory in the natural world and in the faces of men and women around us: Help us to know you in your creation and in our neighbors, and to understand our obligations to both, that we may ever grow into the people you have created us to be; through our Savior Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in everlasting light. Amen.

Read more:

choose your own Archbishop of Canterbury

Not sure whether to laugh or to sigh, so I'm doing both. Here, for your amusement:

I'm thinking maybe we need to find a sword in a stone.

Anyone else have any other suggestions? 

Kyrie eleison.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Update: Thanks to Grandmère Mimi at, I now have the source for the funny picture above.  It's from Madpriest, who, as it turns out, has just posted another funny picture about the ABC's election at  Thank you both!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I got up early enough this morning to take my coffee outside before Morning Prayer.  Something landed in my hair and I got it out and looked up to see if I'd just walked into a spiderweb (and were there any more spiders?).   I didn't see any.  What I did see was this most curious nest or hive or whatever the proper name is for it.  Wasps? I thought.  No, they're too tiny to be wasps.  Not bees. Termites? I don't think so. Hmmm...  So of course I had to take a picture.  It didn't come out well, but it was time to go in, and I thought maybe I'd take a clearer one later. 

nest of something...

As I was wondering about it, I started thinking about the craft involved in making such a nest. How do they make it so perfectly round?  It really is a thing of beauty in its own way.  Why is it horizontal when most wasp nests and the like are vertical, such as the one in the tree in our yard? That one isn't perfectly symmetrical.  And the bees, ever practical, have built theirs in the hollow of a tree in another corner of the yard.  Why choose this location?  What is it about this place which makes it attractive to these insects?  I'd rather be in a tree, myself.  But then, I'm not a six-legged critter, so I can't expect to understand with human common sense.    I think I'll have to look it up at some point.

wasp nest in our tree

Isn't it amazing the way God creates us all with a different set of skills, with different needs for living, with a different eye for beauty?  He gives those insects the skill to build something more beautiful and more perfectly round than most of us could do without a potter's wheel (and some of us aren't much good with those, either! Just ask my former student Emily, who once tried to teach some of us.) And we have the brains? But there are things we can do with exactly what we are given, and God knows what they are. 

trying to smoke out the bees to get their honey
 One of the sisters tells me that these little insects, though tiny, really are wasps, and they have a pretty mean sting, so I guess I won't be going outside to investigate further.  They won't be there much longer - the man who was trying to smoke out the bees in the photo above will be dispatched to remove the nest from above the door.  I trust we have wasp spray and I guess he knows how to do so without being stung in the process. 

They'll find a new place to call home, and they'll rebuild.

Lots to learn from these tiny creatures.  Worth a meditation in and of itself.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

fan of fans

Port-au-Prince area weather forecast for this week via

I just came to Blogger to share this weather report (look, it'll cool down to 95 Friday!), and I nearly laughed out loud when I saw that another blogger in my general area ( had written quite a description of last night's heat.  I'm fortunate that last night, at least, was better than the night before for sleeping - at least on my street - and we had power, so we had a fan.  And tonight the power came on again, so if all goes well maybe I'll have one all night.  My current one is a desk fan, but it makes a big difference despite its size.  An impressive little fan, rather like the Energizer bunny - I brought it to the convent from Virginia in 2000, and who knows how long I had it before that.  And for that and many other things I give thanks.

So tonight I have a prayer assignment for you.  Power.  Yes, that's hardly earth-shaking.  Um.  That's rather an unfortunate metaphor that just came out the end of my fingers onto the keyboard - but it is rather unintentionally appropriate.  I should listen to it myself again. And again. There are many more serious things to pray about, and I see them daily.  Still, feel free to pray that there be enough power provided this week for people who need some fans and need some ice - not only us - and that those who don't even have good drinking water get both that AND fans and ice. I can ask, can't I? Nothing is impossible. 

And then, with power on, maybe even during the day when it is hottest, there will be refrigeration.  And I can have some cheese with my whine.

Read someone's much more descriptive blog entry on a sweltering night in Haiti without power and with much neighborhood activity:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

just dreaming

leafy fronds against a blue sky west of Port-au-Prince

We drove along the coast this morning west of Port-au-Prince to Leogane for a parish patronal festival.  I was reminded of the time the Dames de L'Eglise (ECW) took me to the beach as a good-bye present.  (It costs money to go to the beach here, but at least it includes a pavilion with picnic tables and a restroom; I think there was also a snack bar, but we brought our own food.)

a beach hotel near Gressier, on the coast west of Port-au-Prince

 I was looking at all the beauty, mostly hidden behind walls or markets or bushes. 

 right by the road, the intense blues of the ocean play hide-and-seek behind walls and bushes

Just imagine what it could be like someday when there is more infrastructure and people can build really nice places to welcome tourists. It would be such a great industry here again.  I know there are already nice places elsewhere, but this particular stretch of coast is just calling for development.  Just a little TLC, and imagine what could be...  The water is so beautiful, and the area near Gressier where I swam, which we passed again today, has a gorgeous view of mountains on the other side of the water.

imagine a park or resort or public beach here where we could all stop and enjoy the view and the water

There are some lovely parts in the more rural area a little further west where you can see the water at a bit greater distance, but more clearly.  Take a deep breath and sigh at the beauty of it.

Can we build our new convent here?  Or maybe a retreat center?  Just past this tree a bit, a little closer to the water.

Someday I hope this place can be cared for properly and shared with more people.  Someday maybe you will all come here on vacation.  Let's dream.  It might become reality.

I see iron sticking up here - someone was or is building here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

your daily color

...courtesy of Haiti!

Tap-taps have slogans in English, too.

Hey!  There is a lot more color left to come.  Port-au-Prince is a big city.

looking out over Port-au-Prince from one of its many hills

Friday, September 14, 2012

Holy Cross Day

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
--BCP p. 244

crucifix, St Andre, Hinche, Haiti

Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
--Philippians 2. 6-11

Thursday, September 13, 2012

warm greetings

Back home again in Haiti!  Uneventful travel on 9/11, thanks be to God.   Would that everywhere else in the world had also been so peaceful.

a warm (weather) greeting in Port-au-Prince

It's been good to see people and begin to catch up on their news.  Employees and elderly ladies of the Foyer Notre Dame; friends to be seen, plans being made.  Warm greetings all around.  

I've been laughing because of one greeting in particular:  quite a number of people have happily said, "You've gained weight!"  I know I've been here for a while because this now elicits a smile from me, a real one. It's not a slam - rather, it's an approving comment, closer to a compliment than anything else.  This is not to say I'd be averse to losing it again this year!  But I can now *feel* the smile instead of just knowing in my head that this is not a bad thing.  Who'd have thought...

I was also greeted by an interesting floral (?) flare of sorts from the top of what I think of as an umbrella tree. There was nothing of the sort or even resembling it on that tree from November to July, so this must be a brief seasonal appearance.  I'm going to have to look this up!

Look at this red flower or sorts on top of the umbrella tree! Love it.  I'll be interested to see how it grows.  I've not seen this before.

All this and electricity, too, this morning.  Life is good.

I'm looking forward to this coming year, working on my permis de sejour and jumping into our altar linen project again.  My prayer is that good things will be in store for Haiti this year, and for all of us.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nun on the Bus at the DNC

I can't believe they got one of the Nuns on the Bus to speak at the DNC!  Standing ovation. Woot!  Go Sisters!  So thoroughly unexpected.

I appreciated that she said, "Listen to each other rather than yell AT each other."  I wish we could all take that to heart.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Obama in Haiti

The beginning of the Democratic National Convention reminds me of a couple of sights from Haiti I've been meaning to share.  President Obama apparently has a following.

Barack Obama tap-tap - Haiti
Obama Beach Hotel
along the coast north of Port-au-Prince
I wonder what he'd think of this.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Tonight, having finished my sermon for tomorrow, I've been searching for more news following the storm. I've caught up with some friends and am relieved to know that they are all right. I'll find out more when I get home.  Others have not been so fortunate.  In Haiti, the death toll is up to 24 plus a number of people missing, and I don't like to think about how many people lost all they had.

Everywhere you look tonight, there seem to be pictures of people cleaning up - and getting slammed again. Post-Katrina, post-Isaac, there's a river lock near New Orleans that might break ( One evening news article is entitled "Patience runs thin in Louisiana."  Hardly a surprise.  Given that the clean-up from Katrina has not yet been completed, I think it may be equally a sign that it had already been worn down.   And in Haiti, post-quake, post-Isaac, people are wading through mud, too, wondering how they will manage when even their post-quake tarp home is now gone along with its contents. But street vendors are back in business, as are others.  Everywhere there are people trying to get back to normal.  But what is normal now for anyone? 

Normal is getting on with your life anyway.  Picking up.  Letting God pick you up.  Friends and strangers alike helping each other.  It's not what anyone wants, but sitting in the mud, literally or figuratively, isn't going to help. And so you keep going.  This is what I see happening.  We're stronger than we think we are.

We will, with God's help.

the market in Port-au-Prince is open (photo via NBC News)

After Isaac slams tent camps, Haitians try to return to normal
By Erika Angulo, NBC News

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti -- Since Isaac stormed through this island country, streams of dirty water run through many of the tent camps earthquake refugees call home.

Floods represent the main threat, aid workers say. They not only destroy the fragile tents, but also bring with them a range of diseases, from stomach illnesses, to skin infections, to parasites, doctors here fear.

At the Marassa tent city in Port au Prince, residents feared what the storm would do to La Riviere Grise, or the gray river, named for its dirty color. After more than more than 24 hours of rain Saturday, La Rivere Grise became a fierce current that flooded part of the camp. Refugees who had been able to accumulate key survival belongings since the earth shook on Jan. 12, 2010 -- a tarp, a cooking pan, some clothes -- lost all again, in a few minutes.

...But at Port au Prince's main open market, it was clear the city's resilient residents are trying to go on as normal, or normal for this city that has seen so many disasters.

Vendors peddled their wares on Sunday, from fruits and vegetables, to smoked fish, to clothes and small household appliances. Maquelie Octavius has had a vegetable stand there for years. She said Isaac was not going to keep her from working today. "I have no fear," she said, "I have to eat."

I also read about a teacher living under a tarp, an article entitled  Isaac tests the resolve of a Haitian family man.  Benjamin has a job teaching. It pays $38 a month. He has a home made of tarps and tree branches, but the bank wants him to pay rent since it's their land. He cares for his wife and child and volunteers for a non-profit, but he grows more skeptical of aid organizations as time goes on. Not an easy life, but he keeps on going.

As the story concludes, "It's easy for Benjamin to feel trapped. He borrows money each month to purchase groceries and medicine for his children. So when he receives his check he pays off the debt. Still, Benjamin holds out hope, figuring that even Haitian misery must have its limitations.

"The only way for the misery to subside is to do things for yourself," Benjamin said. "If you keep waiting for forces to help, you won't get anywhere."

Read more: