Saturday, November 03, 2007

Holy Laika, pray for us

Laika (photo via NASA)

Laika was a street dog from Moscow, taken from a shelter and sent into orbit, the first recorded living creature to go into orbit on Sputnik 2, on 3 November 1957. Alas, she perished from stress and overheating. Through no choice of her own, Laika proved that living creatures can survive being sent into orbit and experiencing weightlessness. [Info from Wikipedia. Another retelling of her story posted on this day in 1999 is found here.]

She is symbolic of how we humans use other creatures for our purposes with little regard for their good. Their is a beautiful and moving tribute to Laika here. Rowan the Dog honors here on his blog. I like Rowan's prayer: "Hail blessed Laika, bless all us dogs and make us brave like you. WOOF!"

Saint Laika is the patron of OCICBW and I thank MadPriest for reminding me of her (I was only eleven when she soared). Those of us who love critters (perhaps especially dogs) see her as a canine martyr.

On this, her feast, let us remember our siblings the four-leggeds.

May we bless these animals
with Noah-like protection
from all that might harm them.
May we, like Adam and Eve,
speak to these creatures of yours
with kindness and affection,
reverencing their life and purpose
in our common creation.

May your abundant blessing rest upon these creatures
who are our companions in the journey of life.

[From The Blessing of Our Relatives, a service borrowing from the Roman Catholic Book of Blessings, adapted here, and other sources.]

Let us also remember the less fortunate creatures of this world.

Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals, especially for those animals that are suffering; for all that are overworked and underfed and cruelly treated; for all wistful creatures in captivity that beat against the bars; for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened; for all that are in pain or dying; for all that must be put to death. We entreat for those who deal with them a heart of compassion, gentle hands, and kind words; that they may share thus the blessing of the merciful. For you, O lord, will save both human and beast, and great is your loving-kindness. Amen.

[I believe this is a Russian prayer, which would be especially fitting. I copied it years ago from a collection of prayers edited by Massey H. Shepherd.]

UPDATE: I located the book. The prayer is identified simply as "Russian" with no further details. It is #144 on page 52 of A Companion of Prayer for Daily Living, prepared and edited by Massey H. Shepherd, Jr. (Wilton, CT: Morehouse-Barlow Co., Inc., 1978).

Holy Laika, pray for us.
--the BB

I am relieved to learn...

... that this blog is more than just a pretty face. The stats show folks come for more than Friday prince blogging. Last week's speculation is hereby withdrawn.

In fact, I confess it was more than speculation, it had an accusatory edge ("admit it"). So, in penance, I offer this Titian beauty--just in case someone as shallow as I comes by.

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)
c.1515-1520. Oil on canvas. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

I am off to help clean up a new site for the Mission of San Gabriel. Have a fabulous Saturday, y'all.
--the BB

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Lord of the dance

Nataraja: Copyrighted to Himalayan Academy Publications, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii. Licensed for Wikipedia under Creative Commons (with attribution)

I know I was quite taken by “The Lord of the dance” when it was popular in the 70s. We sang it in seminary, youth groups seemed to enjoy it, and it captured the folk-song ethos of the time. It was a happy marriage of “Simple gifts” with a vibrant image of the Christ that contrasted strongly with what we perceived to be a very stodgy, frowning, and unappealing Jesus of our parents.

That, combined with the image of the Nataraja (Ruler of the Dance), Shiva in his dance of creation and destruction, must have had a powerful influence on my mind. To this we probably need to add Aslan singing Narnia into existence (about which I once wrote a sonnet--final line: "and a world breaks forth like a note upon his lyre"). All of which is to say that cosmic imagery and poetic expressions of the doctrine of creation are really big for me.

In the mythic imagery and cosmogony of my fictional world, the pagan version of creation is that of a dance manifesting the joyous heart music of the All Transcending. In the creation hymn are found these words:

From the heart music of the One
came the dance of delight
and the Dancer was Senjir
whose footsteps patterned the worlds
If we go back a number of years to a Eucharistic prayer I composed (and we used at St Cuddy’s), the theme of the divine dance shows up again.

We and you are joined in Jesus,
offering ourselves and all creation to you,
Maker of all things, for healing and blessing
through your transforming Spirit.
In his death you embrace death and every evil
that life and goodness may prevail.
In his rising you triumph,
drawing all creation once more
into the dance of endless joy and life that cannot end.

My thinking and theologizing are done in poetry and in visual images. The Heart of God is, for me, the only true reality. We only exist because of it and within it. There is no other place. We are part of a dance and God is our music. Let us not be grudging dancers. Whether clumsy or lightfooted, we are all called to be caught up in the joy. You don’t need to know the steps ahead of time, just get up and move. The Music will take care of you and you will share in boundless delight.

[Please respect the copyright of the block quote passages above.]
--the BB

Thursday, November 01, 2007

El Príncipe de Asturias

A man unafraid to be affectionate with his daddy. In this case, daddy is His Catholic Majesty Juan Carlos of Spain.
Ladies and Gentlemen (and the rest of you), it gives me great pleasure to present this Friday's prince:

Su Alteza Real don Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y Grecia
With Todos los Santos (All Saints) in his name he is the perfect prince for this weekend. His parents are King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía (of Greece and Denmark).
On May 22, 2004, he married the Asturian journalist Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano. La Princesa Doña Letizia has given to light, as the Spanish say, two daughters: la Infanta Leonor and la Infanta Sofía de Borbón.
As heir to the Spanish throne His Royal Highness is known as el Infante and he is commonly titled Prince of Asturias as heir to the crown of Castille. As heir to the crown of Aragón he is known as Prince of Gerona, Duke of Montblanc, Count of Cervera, and Lord of Balaguer. As heir to Navarra he is titled Prince of Viana. He may also be known as Prince of Jaén. Prince Felipe was born on 30 January 1968 (the year I graduated from college).
The man is a stone fox.
It appears the Spanish throne may seat a woman. Currently la Infanta Leonor is second in line.
Can I get a woof for the Prince of Asturias?

--the BB

Thursday Constitution Blogging

Welcome back to our new feature, Thursday Constitution Blogging. Now that I've testified for Jesus I want to put in a few good words for the United States Constitution. I don't think it's perfect but it's one damn fine structure for a free People to gather as a nation and govern themselves.

I currently work as a contractor for a federal government agency. At a "family meeting" a while back the branch chief talked a bit about the oath of office. You know, the one about allegiance to the Constitution? Sort of like the one the President takes. She had been reminded about it and wished she had a judge present to administer the oath to the lot of us. I so wished someone official in black robes were present. Even though not technically a federal employee I was ready to leap to my feet and take the oath. Several times over the course of that day I got teary thinking about it.

You see, I not only love me some Jesus, I love me some United States of America. Jingoism makes me wanna puke, but I love this land and the dream and ideals that shaped it. I remember returning from my first trip abroad, three months in France as a student. I had seen the world through non-Yankee eyes, which was shocking and liberating. But when I emerged from Customs at JFK and saw the words of Emma Lazarus' "The New Colossus" inscribed there and thought of that lifted lamp I wept and wept. THIS was what made America great: that shining promise.

I reread the Constitution periodically. Bored the hell out of me in high school. Not anymore. So now you have some idea why I post about it here.

On a related topic, I urge y'all to give an ear (well, actually, an eye or two) to Dennis. He has something important to say and is calling on us to spread the word [link]. Dennis points us to A Tale of Two Decisions about FBI coerced confessions, a story of the sickness that infests our nation these days. Here's a bit of Dennis that I found moving.

Did you ever think that one day this would be America? That our government would ask a court to help cover up illegal and immoral behaviors? Sometimes I don't recognize America anymore.

It is time for a change in America. It is time for an end to the lies and the secrecy. Someone, please tell Hillary and Barack and John and Chris and Bill and the rest of the crowd running that they need to convince us that they will change these things. And tell the media that this is what matters, not the stupid horse race that politics in America has become.

Let's stand up and fight to restore America to herself, People!
Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

--the BB

Denounced in public as not a Christian

Christ Enthroned - Tympanum
Church on Spilled Blood, St Petersburg, Russia
While in the checkout line at the supermarket yesterday evening I witnessed a man in front of me haranguing the young woman who was bagging his groceries. She had on a very mild costume for Hallowe’en and he was carrying on about witches and killing babies. The young woman was studiously trying to avoid him and the checker was protesting that the bagger was just wearing a costume for Hallowe’en, she wasn’t a witch or a baby killer. The man muttered about Wiccans.

I chimed in that Wiccans did not kill babies. He said, yes, they did. And since he deemed me to be his age he asked if I didn’t remember back when they were sacrificing babies. I said no, that was an urban legend. He swore it was true and asked if I listened to some AM radio station. I simply said no, because I did not feel like going into a rant about 99.4% of religious broadcasting and its tendency to indulge in fearmongering, disinformation, propagation of stupidity and hatred, and bilking the masses for money. We just didn’t need to go there.

Since I countered his ignorance he suggested I might be one of them. I said no, I wasn’t. He said I wasn’t a Christian and I said, in a somewhat louder voice, “Oh yes, I am.”

As I was leaving the store and passed by him he said I couldn’t be a Christian and say what I said.

Well, I’ve been called a few things in my day and I consider the whole episode sad. Somewhat infuriating, but not for my sake; I think of the level of ignorance, fear, and hatred that breeds enmity and keeps us living in terror. That angers me.

But what a sad, frightened man.

If I were not eager to get home before it got dark and the trick or treaters came around, I would have liked to take a few minutes for old-fashioned witnessing.

I wanted to tell him that at age three I invited Jesus into my heart and I have never rescinded that invitation. I wanted to tell him that I was baptized at age ten because I wanted to follow Jesus. I wanted to tell him that God blessed me with a vision at age fifteen and since then I have never for a moment lacked assurance of salvation. I wanted to tell him that though I have doubted almost everything at one time or another I have not doubted that Jesus is my Lord and I am his, not even when I questioned whether I or anything even exists.

I wanted to remind him of the following passage:

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:28-30)
I wanted to tell him that though he and I may disagree about almost anything and everything, we shared one Lord and Savior and nobody takes Jesus away from me.

And that’s the bottom line.

As I typed recently: this is a pagan-friendly site.
--the BB

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We feebly struggle

They in glory shine!

For all the saints: past, present, and future
your Name be blessed, O God
For their humanity and their holiness
your Name be blessed, O God
For their humility and fortitude
your Name be blessed, O God
For their burning zeal and tender compassion
your Name be blessed, O God
For their bold witness
your Name be blessed, O God
For their diversity of gifts
your Name be blessed, O God
For their companionship and prayers
your Name be blessed, O God

In your great mercy, O loving God, grant us such a measure of faith and faithfulness that we may, in our time, embody your love and saving power, passing on the faith of your friends so that new generations may rise up to know you and praise you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who, with you and the Holy Spirit, is the glory of the saints. Amen.

Tell them, dear

... if eyes were meant for seeing.

To provide a little balance

First, Artemis of Ephesus for my friends who may be tiring of princes and male singers here.

Secondly, after my late night rant it is time for a more positive note. Today I assembled a mini-ofrenda at work for el Día de los Muertos. A hand-woven runner, several icons (Oscar Romero, Gandhi, César Chávez, the Anastasis), sixteen photos of family and friends, and flowers picked fresh from my garden, including two very small dwarf marigolds. At least they were marigolds or sempasúchil, the Aztec flower of the dead whose fragrance guides our loved ones to visit us at this thin time of the year. Also a couple of unlit votive candles. Not gonna raise hackles over fire risk, but the symbol is present at least.

One of my co-workers had a photo of her parents that she added. A gracious and touching action.

May those you love on either side of the veil be near and be well.

Blessed Samhain to all our Wiccan friends!

I have no truck with satanists and those who worship power no matter what they call themselves [none of which should ever be confused with Wicca] but this is a pagan-friendly site.

Peace be to all.
--the BB

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What sort of hellspawn are they?

Cthulhu image via pathguy

I refer to these evil creatures walking among us and pressing for war on Iran? And cheerleading the iniquitous and barbaric mess in Iraq? I am fast approaching the point where even by faith I can no longer call them human. Evil, evil, evil!

My mother used to speak of situations that made her "lose" her Christianity, which was probably no more than wanting to say "bad" words and harbor uncharitable thoughts. I am way past that point.

If Cheney, Podhoretz, Bloody Bill Krystol, and the entire Kagan family, combined with the idiot boy-king Bush don't scare the hell out of you this Hallowe'en, nothing will.

Instead of giving way to exaggerated and groundless fears, however, it might be more effective if we all acknowledge that not only does the chimperor have no clothes, the whole lot of them have no rationality, no integrity, and no credibility and we therefore collectively and heartily and publicly and repeatedly laugh them to scorn.
--the BB
UPDATE: And when the media and pundits give them any time and attention as though they had anything reasonable, intelligent, or credible to contribute, call the media and pundits on it and ask they why on earth they bother listening to and propagating such steaming piles of feces.

Ladies and gentlemen (and the rest of you lot), we have a winner

Colin Gilmore
Last night I was at an outdoor concert, perhaps two dozen folks gathered around a campfire and listening to young Colin Gilmore play his guitar and sing. Marshmallows were roasted, as is de rigeur when folks gather at campfires. I observed only as I do not really care for marshmallows, raw or cooked.
Scarlet globe mallow (courtesy this site)

A friend and I have been trading e-mails today and discussing marshmallows. I asked if she had ever eater mallows. No. Nor have I. But that led to some googling. And lo, the answer to a question I posed yonks ago and no one had answered. The flower I see around here each autumn is a scarlet globe mallow. One friend suggested that it resembled hollyhocks and, indeed, they are all in the same family. The photo above is of an example in Arizona, the state next door, so I feel comfortable in the identification.

Did you care about all this? Of course not. But I think we should celebrate when we learn new things.

If you are in California, you can catch Colin as he journeys up the coast. Click the "shows" button for the venues. He will be in Culver City, Oxnard, Felton, Berkeley, Grass Valley, and Eugene, Oregon. He also mentioned something about Nicasio Ranch last night but I don't see that listed.

--the BB

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hau, Hanwi!

Hanwi rising 24 October 2007
Viewed from the Marriott Pyramid parking lot

The moon seems so much closer to me in New Mexico than it did in California. I've remarked on this before. Here is a shot taken last week. I always greet her (in Lakota for inexplicable but satisfying reasons).
--the BB

Sunday, October 28, 2007


No, this is not a rant on how little Americans know about geography (though that could be an extensive topic in itselt). Merely a few scattered thoughts about topography, ecology, and distance.

We are shaped by our physical environment, much as we are shaped by the language(s) we learn, for these structure our thought-world. Perspectives are different for those who live close to the land and nature's cycles as opposed to those far removed from the soil and seasons. Urban v. rural, forest v. plain, coastal v. inland, sea level v. high altitude, plentiful rains v. desert, scarcity v. abundant food crops, expansive vistas v. crowded spaces--all these have much to say about our experience, our world-view, our self-understanding. They also limit how we can live.

I am a visual person. When I meet people without name tags, I over-compensate, desperately trying to match what I hear with the faces around me. Sometimes I impress folks but it is all a front. Most of the time I forget Susie's name by the time I say, "Hello, Susie, nice to meet you."

All of that is prelude to saying that I need to visualize and be oriented. Taurus is a fixed-earth sign, after all. Do not, for the love of all that is holy and the fear of all that is not, put a map down on a table in front of me without orienting the north end of the map toward the geographic north. I need to have a firm sense of direction.

So, when writing fantasy fiction, I often draw maps of an imaginary world before I tell a story. I may launch into the story first but very soon I will pause and work on maps. Topographical ones, no less. The graphic above is from my book of maps drawn in the early 70s for this world of which I write. How precise I was! I have since lowered the level of the inland sea. It's easier to put it at 500 feet than remember 614 ft. above sea level. Ah, the freedom of fantasy.

But how free is it? I want to believe in my world (or else why should my readers?). Rivers still need to flow downhill, societies need varied economies for survival. Grain must grow somewhere, sheep be raised for wool, waters flow for mill wheels, metals be mined, seas and rivers be fished, etc. Paths and roads must allow travel for commerce and communication. Cities cannot be located where there is no source of water.

If I am incorporating some kind of travelogue (and how can one have a quest or pilgrimage without one?), then I need a strong sense of the countryside through which my characters journey. If I can believe they cross a plain, thread their way through a forest, climb heights and descend them again, ford rivers, sail seas, get drenched in rains, rejoice to greet the dawn, then you, my future fans (a guy's gotta hope) may believe all this too.

So this evening, after painting the second wall of my bedroom and watering the garden, I have given thought to where the birth cities of the apostles are located. In the Sivvaron Empire (c) , of course; that is a given. But where were the siblings, the Great Martyr and the Great Apostle, born that they should conceive the idea of taking the Gospel to the lands about the Mere? And where might the primatial city of the province be located? [Tonight I decided it was the old capital of the province; there is a newer capital on the coast with easier access to the imperial capital.]

Given the expanse of the Empire, it should not surprise me, of all people, that the apostles come from some scattered territory. And that makes one wonder about other things? How did they come to the primatial city or become engaged in discussions of missionary ventures? What ordinary factors brought them together? One can well believe that the Holy Spirit brought them together, and indeed I do, but the Spirit's means are usually rather quotidian. We travel to visit friends and relatives, for commerce, for study, for pilgrimage, and for tourism, though this latter is not likely in late antiquity unless you are very wealthy and have nothing better to do. I suspect that even if you are very wealthy, you have more pressings matters than travel just to enjoy yourself.

As questions arise we can only assume there are stories behind the answers. And from that tangle of wondering come new tales.

Actually, the back story of the early lives of the apostles is not likely to be told, though it hovers in my mind. I am not sure how much of the early church history will be told in tales for publication. But I, who once thought I might get a PhD in Church history (and didn't), am busy writing the history of the early church in one region of a fantasy world. All my classwork at UCLA and years of reading now come to fruition. I feel like a second less-than-venerable Bede, piecing together the tale of a forming and emerging church. [It is no coincidence, btw, that the hero of the first novel has his grand adventure in 735 CE.]

Ah, reality breaks into fantasy. As I look at the map I worked on today, I realize that I need to change it. Already. The demands of plausibility. LOL. And it is over something that is not even part of the storyline of the Chronicles. As I said above: I have to believe it first.

Keep on believing, my friends.
--the BB

Somebody's doing some praying

Over at BlondeSense, another of my sources of information and entertainment, Walt forwards some information from the BBC about the Iraq fiasco. He notes that he has a book that asserts the State Department has a 14-volume document on post-war planning. Amazing. Some folks actually do think ahead.

Here's the catch. Post-war planning--hell, all planning--seems to have been turned over to the Department of Defense. And that would be Rummy's DOD. The same DOD that was running its own intelligence (which they have always done) which was used to the virtual exclusion of any other intelligence (and State has a better record than DOD, but hey, their staff make a living from understanding the rest of the world).

The predictable horrors seem to have played out pretty much as anyone with two functioning brain cells anticipated.

I really like Walt's conclusion:
This has turned out to be once [sic] of the worst Administrations this nation has ever had. Khrushchev said (I believe) that the United States would destroy itself from within, and it certainly looks like it from my vantage point, folks. And the worst thing is these rubes didn't fall through a portal from another dimension - they're the product of American schools, universities, business schools and were elected by people who should have known better.

I pray before Hecate and Ereshkigal that some day there will be a reckoning.

Ereshkigal (possibly)

Courtesy of

Anyone for a prayer chain?
--the BB