I am sitting at my writing station, looking toward the garage over a long bed full of daffodils. I look east, where the sun in rising. It’s a golden sunrise, pouring through bands of grey clouds touched with cream on their eastern edges. Overhead, the clouds are solid, but rough-bottomed, the lower ruffles variously cream and very faint pink. We are still mostly leafless; the trees are weeks behind the norm.
After the snow melted, after the air had begun to warm, I feared I had lost as many as 17 roses to the bitter winter, even the 23 year old Constance Spry at one corner of the house, an immense rose – even the unkillable Dr. Van Fleet that came as a cutting from my father-in-law. The roses had not only the bitter cold and the three months of snow cover to deal with, but also rabbitty predations, with bark stripped up to three feet above ground level. But now, life seems to be creeping back into some of those dead canes. The mortality is still considerable, but I’ll take my time uprooting the losses. Where buds start on the old canes, I’ll prune back and suppresses bloom this year – no matter what happens, it won’t be a very rosy summer.
The mortality amongst the herby perennials is harder to guess. The clematis seems gone. The peonies were reluctant to start but are moving right along now. Some of the hosta have vanished, simply vanished, and in others the center of the root mass seems to have died but left behind the orbiting daughters. Even in the depths of winter dormancy, I believe, there is a certain amount of sleepy metabolism that goes on below ground. I suspect that the icy conditions reduced the oxygen exchange down at ground level, but maybe I’m guessing through my hat. I’ve been thinking of converting the garden to daylilies, coneflower, phlox, and carefully selected hardy roses, maybe concentrating on the wonderful Griffith Buck roses that need little care beyond food. The coneflowers don’t seem to have made it, though. Gonna be a slow replanting.
Sounds like a 20s novel, Nashotah being a slightly wayward young lady of the author’s acquaintance. Which is how some conservative Anglicans are treating Nashotah House seminary. Let’s keep this simple in the event any of my two or three readers are unfamiliar with the characters in this pageant.
1. Katherine Jefferts Schori is the top bishop of The Episcopal Church (TEC). They call her, “Presiding Bishop and Primate,” but if she had a Secret Service code name it would be “Red Queen.” She likes to sue people. It’s more than a hobby, it’s a way of life.
2. Nashotah House is a seminary, not quite a property of The Episcopal Church but almost sort of but not really. It is quite willing to train priests from The Episcopal Church and from its rival, the Anglican Church in North America (yay, underdogs).
3. The Chairman of the Board of Nashotah House and it’s Dean are both members of the House of Bishops of TEC. They’re both good guys, for TEC Bishops.*
4. Red Queen has received an offer to preach at Nashotah House. Consternation arose. Attitudes were struck. I believe imprecations were tossed.
5. #4 is not surprising, given #3.
Some of those who, like me, have with various degrees of delight left TEC, now fear that orthodox students at Nashotah will contract Episcopal Bishop Contamination Sickness (EBCS) and become little Spongs (see, Spong, John, and Spong’s Ego). I doubt this is a substantial danger.
Now were I a student at The House, as it is fond of referring to itself, I would certainly have been up to the wee hours memorizing the Acta of the 23rd DemiEcumenical Council of Arles (813 AD-902 AD)** and St Macer Adhaeresus’s Commentary on the 22nd Council,*** fueled by virtuous coffee and cookies. The presence of Presiding Bishop Schori would mean nothing so much as “nap time.” The ability to sleep with eyes wide open is essential job skill, for many will be the meetings these protoclerics must attend at which nothing is said, often in a mumble, at great length. Also, for those happy folks who have never had a progressive TEC bish talk at them, falling asleep is the first and most natural choice for personal survival.
If detected, it is best to feign nausea (feigning may not be needed) or, in dire circumstances, madness. In any event, EBCS is unlikely if the teachers have done their jobs.
However, as usual, the debate began to turn to the question, “why on earth would an orthodox Anglican Christian remain within TEC,” and that’s a contentious one that tends to exhaust the kindliness of either side quickly. To many who have left, remaining within TEC is as unimaginable as volunteering to be a judge at a Vogon poetry festival. I’m quite happy to acknowledge that there are those who believe they have a vocation to remain in TEC, or whose theology of the Church prohibit them from leaving, and to let them be, but then I am tired all the time and my lifetime supply of indignation is nearly exhausted and the remaining minims should be conserved. It’s better used on those who devise such phrases as “gorgeous glowing Flutterfield Flutter Flower” for grandfathers to read. That one destroyed by ability to compose for several days.
*It is tempting to go all Jeremiah on the TEC HoB, as a group. “Strutting peacocks of damnation” comes to mind. But Lent is nigh, temptation must be avoided, and I shall restrain myself by confining invective to footnotes.
* *The 23rd Council was convoked to deal with a controversy regarding the varieties of beer suitable for consumption by clerics. It was prolonged by the frequent tastings of various brews, as well as the introduction of issues of ceremonial. The Germanic delegates are said to have found the climate pleasant. They prolonged the conference with the serial introduction of additional matters to deliberate, so much so that the final Acta ran to 1738 items.
***The Acta of the 22nd Council are lost, and are known only in Macer’s Commentary. If it is a commentary. It might be a sheep herd book. Opinions vary. St. Macer’s Latin is so ungrammatical as to be nearly incomprehensible.
Wow, I really picked a good time to start posting less infrequently, did I not? Tsar Vladi, having stolen everything worth stealing in Russia, is trying his hand at stealing a country, and our national security team is . . . short a few dwarves. Tricky would have had the covers off half the missle silos, and the B-52 fleet airborne. Ronnie, well, if charm hadn’t worked, would have said something like, “Look again. What Black Sea Fleet?” On the other hand, The Episcopal Church continues to shrink, but manages to stir controversy anyway. The politics of Illinois continues to sink into a slough of incompetence and kleptomania. And the weather. O, the weather. It’s a target rich environment, it is. Tune in tomorrow . . .
Mack to his family, he went to run with his fathers on November 27, due to kidney disease.
Mack chose us. In the breeders pen, he crawled into our daughters lap while his brothers and sisters played. Knowing him, he probably thought she needed a friend. And his always robust ego said, and that’s me.
Mack was as complex a personality as you could possibly ask for in a dog. Grave, almost contemplative most of the time, he had outbursts of playfulness until his declining health overtook him. He liked to untie shoelaces, but also liked to watch me when I had BIY projects to do. He would have braced a shelf or held a nut if he could.
He was utterly devoted to his family. When my late father-in-law visited, he was very proud to take him for walks. His tail was extra jaunty on those days, and he didn’t stop to smell quite so many trees. When our granddaughter came to live with us, he took up his warding position between wherever she was – play mat, bouncer – and the front door.
In recent years, his slowly failing kidneys limited him greatly. He never failed to delight in his people, though, never complained, but bore his afflictions gallantly and silently. In recent weeks he began to lose weight and become disoriented, and the time came to let him go.
We don’t know what becomes of animals. We guess and we hope, but we don’t know. It’s impossible to imagine the Kingdom without them; I hope that whatever is in store for Mack involves endless fields of short green grass, abundant chew toys, and never having his barking shushed.
He leaves to be thankful for his life and mourn his absence, his human family, Deb, Constance, Madison, and Jack, and his long time friend and trainee, Otto von Puppen.
For this valiant and steadfast boy, this is the finest farewell I can imagine.
A while back, I was amused at rumors that the Brothers Koch would buy the Chicago Tribune newspapers. The rumor caused delightful terror in the conscientiously pluralistic left, who love a multitude of opinions and voices so long as they agree with their own, but alas! It was not to be, cherie. The Kochs took a good look at Tribune Company finances and said, not with a ten meter cattle prod. It seems that the newspapers aren’t worth the money they are printed on. The Trib’s own reporting on the collapsed deal omits that little detail. Which is a unsurprising.
Ripped from the Headlines of Today:
Culled from the Archives of the Past:
This undertaking the largest of its type in Illinois’ history will help provide infrastructure and physical improvements for schools, roads and sewer systems, increase the housing stock in Illinois, and improve our environment and recreational facilities. And in the long term, it ensures job creation, a larger tax base for local governments and an overall improved economic climate.
Especially rich from farther down in the latter is this:
The State is preparing itself for long-term growth and short-term planning as it provides the incentives for local government involvement in both intergovernmental cooperation and business improvement.
That worked well. Tell me again why we should listen to these guys?
I’ll leave a formal review of Alister McGrath’s biography of C.S. Lewis to others . C. S. Lewis Studies has now become a Field, and not one in which I play. For those interested in the man and his work but who have not read any of the biographies before, it is very, very good. For those who have a working familiarity with his life and writing, it has the great merit of making one think afresh of the subject; can one ask more of a biography? So, in a disorganized way . . .
• To my eyes, CSL and his brother show some of the signs, the scar tissue, of a damaged, maybe dysfunctional family. Flora Lewis’s early death may be enough to account for this. Albert Lewis’s personality remains elusive. I’ve read the Green/Hooper, Sayre, Wilson, and now McGrath biographies. None quite explain the brothers alienation from their father. What happened? Family relations are unpredictable and irrational.
• Considering CSL’s career as a Christian writer, I wonder I the task of apologetics is best undertaken by new Christians, those who have worked through the obstructing clutter recently and are most acutely aware of the current cultural barriers. Just wonderng.
• CSL seems to have needed a -what? Not a muse, but an external stimulus- to write fiction. Tolkien and Lewis encouraged each other to write the sort of stories they liked-influence would be way too strong a word. Tolkien sort of midwifed Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, Charles Williams and Tolkien prompted That Hideous Strength, Roger Lancelyn Green seems to have played a similar role for the Narnia stories, and Joy Davidman Lewis for Till We Have Faces. CSL seems to have needed to discuss, try out, and just plain talk about his fiction with a friendly but briskly critical audience. Influence would be too strong a word for the roles they played: prompter, maybe.
• Is anyone ever going to get CSL and his relationship with women? McGrath, wisely, sort of pokes at it but doesn’t try to psychoanalyze the situation.
• In a discussion beginning on page 363, McGrath (echoing Chad Walsh) suggests that by 1965 CSL’s influence was waning. I’m not sure what he means by that. If, “influence among academics and professional theologians,” maybe. “Influence among general readers,” I doubt it. I first encountered CSL around 1964. By 1965 I was reading Miracles, and no doubt misunderstanding most of it. Lewis’s works were easily available in inexpensive Macmillan paperbacks through the 1960s and 1970s – I still have most of them, the one’s that haven’t fallen apart. Lewis was popular enough to keep Charles Williams’ novels in print, in a rather hideous format from Eerdmans. Dodging over to Amazon, I see that Eerdman’s still publishes these. You could even get Voyage to Arcturus, basically on Lewis’s say-so. At least in the sense that publishers kept Lewis in print because his books sold, and the books he liked sold too, his influence did not wane.
• I got a rueful laugh from McGrath’s description of the jealous American theologian, Norman Pittenger. McGrath (p. 241) :
One such broadside came from the pen of an obscure American Episcopalian theologian, Norman Pittinger (1905-1997). Irritated that Time had incomprehensibly overlooked his own vastly superior claims to be the nation’s top Christian apologist, Pittenger declared that Lewis was a theologically lightweight heretic – a total liability to the kind of intelligent Christianity that he himself so conspicuously represented.
“Obscure American Episcopalian Theologian.” Hah! An accurate description, but note his biography via Wikipedia:
Pittenger was born in Bogota, New Jersey and was raised in Princeton, New Jersey. He attended Princeton University for a short time, but left without graduating because he wanted to try a career as a newspaper reporter in New York City. Not able to find satisfaction he went to The General Theological Seminary in Manhattan. He started as a student and soon he became tutor, instructor, and finally professor of Christian Apologetics. Pittenger was one of the first process theologians without connections with the University of Chicago Divinity School and produced the first genuine process theological christology (The Word Incarnate – 1959). At General Seminary, he was priest and chaplain of the Guild of Scholars of The Episcopal Church. After his retirement in 1966 he moved to Cambridge as an Honorary Senior Member of King’s College. Next to his writing on explicitly Christian themes, he wrote on sexuality in general (Making Sexuality Human – 1970) and a Christian defense of homosexuality in particular (Time for Consent – 1970), a book that was so controversial when published that the Church Times refused to review it. He also admitted his own homosexual bias. Norman Pittenger wrote throughout his life ninety books and many articles.
The intellectual rot that has led TEC to Katie Ragsdale has been at work for a long, long time.
So read it. It offers something to any reader, and is available in lots of formats.