Monday, February 23, 2015

cold afternoon

 So I planned to go birding on my sabbath (day of rest/free day) today.  Then it was very, very cold. (Wind chill advisory tonight, yet again.) And I have a cold. So maybe not.

It's c-c-cold today and more so tomorrow, but it was a little warmer this weekend and some of it melted. Look, you can see the arms on one of our benches now!

So I decided to go birding by car, bundled up, with hot coffee and binoculars. However, all my intended stay-in-the-car spots either had no parking (piles of snow!), were impassible or nearly so, or, in one case, had a front-end loader plowing out the area where I'd intended to go. I don't argue with such machinery. 

So, first real stop, the little pond just past the entrance of the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary.

Daniel Webster Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary, Marshfield

Cool, it's sort of shoveled.

OK, maybe not so much. This wooden thing at foot level is the top of the brochure box.

Nice birds at the feeder, though, including this little Tufted Titmouse; the Downy at the top was nearby. Juncos, of course, but also a bunch of Red-winged Blackbirds that flew off when I arrived.

 So I waded to the pond.

What was I thinking? Of course it was frozen over.  No ducks, but there was an interesting accidental sculpture sticking out of it. I'd admired it before, but it's rather more striking in the snow.

Waded on out. Glad part of the trail was well packed by many people with snowshoes. Maybe I could make my own. Tupperware and duct tape? (-:

 On to Marshfield, near Brant Rock. They, at least, have parking right by the water.

This Herring Gull walked toward my car instead of away from it.

Finally, some ducks! White-winged Scoters, Buffleheads, Goldeneyes, and Red-breasted Mergansers. I love Mergansers. They look so 80's punk.  

Couldn't get a decent pictures of the Mergansers, but I'm putting one in anyway just because I love them. 

Look, Ma, I caught a crab!

cold huddled-up Herring Gull looks grumpy

Moved on to the inner harbor near the Marshfield Harbormaster hut.

Happy Days

More ducks. Happy days, indeed!

The gulls thought it was too cold for fishing, too.

Time to head on home. One more try at the Duxbury Harbormaster's dock. I admired the snow mountains created by the front-end loader and wondered if we should start our own ski resort right here in town.

Ducks! Not many, but a few Eiders right by the dock; mergansers not too far away, either.

icy, icy bath, but this Eider was still delighted

Home in time to see the sun set over the Chapel.

And to all a good night.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Last Epiphany/Transfiguration/Blizzard Sunday

This morning, as I look out the window through the blowing snow to an all-white landscape featuring trees swaying in high winds, I marvel at its beauty and I give thanks that, much to our astonishment, we still have power. 

I am grateful we have the option of having our own Eucharist here at home when we can't get out to church on a Sunday morning. Of course, we do have daily Eucharist here at the convent, and there is always one of us available to celebrate, but it's hardly something even we can take for granted. Most people, of course, don't have this option at all.

I'm also grateful that parishes have had the common sense to follow the state emergency management's request that we all just stay home today.  I remember missing exactly one Sunday for snow as a child - the Blizzard of '78, of course, to which we keep referring this month.

About the Transfiguration
Fr. Tim Schenck - St. John's, Hingham
screen grab from the bulletin for the Eucharist that got blizzarded out

If you are stuck at home yourself, you could read the lessons for today:

The Lessons Appointed for Use on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany - Year B RCL

You could pray Morning and Evening Prayer, knowing that many others around the world will be doing so, and so you are still part of a much larger congregation:

The Online Book of Common Prayer
(See link to Daily Office on the left.)

Finally, here is an excellent sermon for today, the one Fr. Tim would have been preaching had there been a service today. Actually, he preached it last night, come to think of it - they always have a Saturday evening Eucharist, and he invited the rest of the congregation, the Sunday morning people, that is, to join them.

A Sermon from the Episcopal Parish of
St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts
Preached by the Rev. Timothy Schenck on February 15, 2015 (Last Epiphany, Year B)

Enough is enough. The novelty has worn off. Just make it stop. Please. The snow I mean; not this sermon. People sometimes jokingly say to clergy, “Can’t you do something about the weather? You must have some connections, right?” And I always remind them that I’m in sales, not management. So I just want to reiterate that point this morning. I am officially washing my hands of the extreme weather we’ve been having. It’s not my fault. Call the bishop.

We’ve all been staring up into the sky a lot in the last few weeks. Watching in disbelief as the snow just keeps falling. Liturgically, we started this Season after the Epiphany by gazing up at a bright light in the sky right along with those three wise men making their way to the manger. And the season concludes with us staring up at another bright light in the form of the transfigured Jesus. This morning we hear Mark’s account of the story that appears in slightly different forms in all three of the Synoptic gospels.

It’s tempting to try and deconstruct this story and search for metaphysical answers or rational explanations. But that won’t get us very far. It’s safer to speak about it as a metaphor for the divinity of Christ and the Transfiguration is a manifestation and affirmation of the divine character of Jesus. But there are times when it’s okay to just stand back and gaze in wide wonder at the astonishing nature of God. Times when it’s okay to simply revel in the wonder of the divine. Times when it’s okay to just be in the presence of something beyond all human comprehension.

Let’s face it, we’re not very good at sitting still and contemplating the presence of God. Our minds wander; we get distracted; our phones buzz; we have stuff to do; the kids are hungry; the driveway needs shoveling (again); it’s not on our to-do list; we’re not monks or nuns — well, some of us are but most of us are not; time is money; the game’s on; Downton Abbey’s on; I have a headache. There are so many reasons we don’t have the bandwidth to still our minds and revel in God’s presence.

But holy contemplation is an important spiritual discipline. It reminds us that, despite everything else going on in our lives, nothing is as important as spending some quality time with God. It anchors everything else and helps us keep our lives in perspective; it reminds us that our anxieties and stresses are all relative; it encourages us to reflect upon the great stretch of humanity that has come before us and will come after us.

Granted Peter, James, and John weren’t having such deep thoughts in the moment. They were terrified! And you can’t blame them. Blinding light, voice from on high, visions of two long-dead prophets. The other-worldly nature of the whole experience was precisely the point. It was other-worldly because the fullness of God is other-worldly.

At one level, I have to admit, and this is a little embarrassing, but I have transfiguration envy. I don’t mean I want to be transfigured, but I’m envious of the three disciples who witnessed this event. I mean talk about wiping away all the doubts you’ve ever experienced in a single moment. Seeing Jesus all lit up in the fullness of his resurrection glory and taking the time to just revel in the wonder of it all would forever change how you experienced God in your life.

The good news is that we are offered glimpses of the resurrection in our own lives. Not as often as we might like, perhaps, and not necessarily accompanied by the drama of a bright light; but we do have such moments. I talked about this a bit at longtime parishioner Bill Austin’s funeral in December. I still miss seeing Bill here on Sunday mornings and thought I’d share this story.

The day before he died, I went to South Shore Hospital to be with Bill and his family, and while he was physically weak, he was quite lucid and very much still Bill. I thought I’d say a few prayers, give Donna a hug, and let him rest. But Bill had other ideas. He wanted to talk. And he asked me a question no one else ever has in the waning moments of an earthly pilgrimage. Bill looked at me intently and asked “What are some moments where you have experienced God in your life?”

And after taking a deep breath, I talked about what I like to call “resurrection glimpses,” times when we encounter the divine in brief moments of conversation or interaction. They often happen at moments when you least expect them. Sometimes it’s a feeling that washes over you, sometimes it’s in serving someone in need, sometimes it’s in an encounter with the natural world, sometimes it’s in an interaction with a loved one or a stranger. To me these are moments when the Kingdom of Heaven breaks into the visible world and they keep us going until that time when we will revel in the fullness of Christ’s resurrection in the age to come.

I’ve found over the years that these resurrection glimpses often happen in moments that, on the surface of things, feel hopeless. Like dying in a hospital room. Until you sit up and, like Bill, recognize the depth of love and prayer that surrounds you; and you realize that your family, even in their grief, will be okay; and you become aware of a deep and abiding sense of peace that allows you to let go; and you truly know and feel that the presence of God isn’t just pie-in-the-sky fantasy but something real, tangible, and life-giving even in the face of death.

These mini-moments of transfiguration really can keep you going when things are difficult. It’s no accident, Jesus was revealed to the disciples in this way, just before heading into Jerusalem for the Last Supper, his trial, and crucifixion. Amid the despair, they had that resurrection glimpse to hold onto; to keep hope alive amid the darkness. Just as we’re given this gift of the Transfigured Jesus to cherish as we move into the wilderness of Lent.

So, keep open to the resurrection glimpses in your own life. Look for them; they’re out there waiting to be discovered. Make room for at least a bit of holy contemplation. You may not get the bright light and voice from heaven but I guarantee you’ll experience the presence of God in new and life-giving ways.

© The Rev. Tim Schenck

And pray, please, for all those who are working outside on our behalf and for those with inadequate shelter.

Stay warm, all of you out here in blizzardland, and stay inside.

Friday, February 13, 2015

another weekend, another blizzard

Preparing for another blizzard here in MA... We are all plowed out and working on getting the snow off the convent roof. And it's cold, darn it! 10 degrees & feels like -9.

I must admit, though, it is an absolutely gorgeous day. I am dying to go out and wander around with my camera and see how the birds are faring.  But I have discovered that my boots aren't as warm as I might like, and I seem to have turned into a wimp, at least compared to my much  younger self living in Michigan and blithely walking 20 minutes in single digit temps to class every day. With many, many layers on.

Here I remember the day in Haiti a couple of years ago when I woke up and said to myself, geez, it's kind of chilly this morning. Looked at the thermoment. 77. Yup, colder than usual. It's all relative.

The Sisters from Haiti returned to Port-au-Prince today. It's a little warmer there... Of course, I'm sure they're sorry to miss another blizzard.

Not only would my younger self laugh at me, but also people in other parts of the US.  An upstate NY friend recently posted that she only had a day off for cold as a child once - the wind chill was at -50.  School was on if the wind chill was only -30.  Yikes.

And then there are other places in the world.  One of the pics below has been modified - flipped and "Somewhere in Massachusetts" added. I thought they were photoshopped.  Nope. They are in Japan.

Here is what the article says:

The Japanese Alps
- World record snow depth: 465 inches at Mt. Ibuki in 1927
- Takada, Japan annual average snowfall:  262 inches

Perhaps the best combination of ingredients for epic snow occurs along the spine of Japan's Honshu Island.

In the winter, cold air from Siberia spills over the Sea of Japan, picking up moisture. These cold north to northwest winds them slam into the Japanese Alps and lower elevations on the mountains' windward slopes, wringing out heavy snow.

When this pattern locks in, feet of snow can fall for several days.

This can be best visualized by traveling the Tateyama Kurobe Route, west of Nagano, in the spring. Plows clear the road each year, leaving, in essence, giant snow walls resembling a canyon on either side of the road.

- - - - -
So here we are, hours later. I was just reminded of this blog post by a warning that Massachussetts Emergency Management sent to my phone.

...and then this article, posted by a friend: 

Snow 'hurricane' to lash New England this weekend

We've continued to get ready here, of course.

And it's still beautiful. I finally did get outside to take Penny, our dog, for a walk. She has a fur coat, so she didn't mind the cold a bit.

I'm  hoping it will stay that way for at least a little longer, as I am off to the Cape to give a workshop on Anglican Prayer Beads tomorrow.

Meanwhile, stay warm and safe, all of you, and pray for those who must travel, those who work outside, and those who have inadequate shelter. Pray, too, for minimal power outages. With these low temperatures, it will be difficult very quickly for those who don't have generators or fireplaces.

Monday, February 9, 2015


So I have figured out why we are having this endless string of snowstorms...

Lamp post...

Suspicious gift of Turkish Delight...

Should you encounter a talking faun, run for the hills!

For further explanation, please see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis .
For a to-do list, see The Long Winter - Laura Ingalls Wilder .