Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bumped by Burros in Oatman, Arizona

It all started innocently enough.  Tired of the monotonous drive between Arizona and California along Interstate 40, I managed to talk my family into a detour to see the ghost town of Oatman, neatly tucked away on Old Route 66 between Kingman and Bullhead City. Indeed, it would add a few hours to the monotonous drive, but they would be entertaining hours, which would give us something interesting to think and talk about as we crossed the great Mojave. 

Just outside of Kingman, we exited I40 at Shinarump Dr.  Following the signs to Oatman Highway, we took in the sights as Old Route 66 led us away from civilization. My 9 year old son and I took turns guessing at locations from the movie "Cars". Sighting several old mine shafts, we discussed the possibilities of venturing out to do some gold prospecting of our own. Soon we were passing the Gold Road mine. (Link goes to a blog with some highlights about the mine.) The mine is officially closed, but every time we take this detour, we see at least a dozen vehicles parked there.

Oatman springs out of the landscape suddenly from this direction, so as soon as I saw the sign I slowed down. The highway goes right through the middle of town, and very likely, there will be some burros wandering the streets. Once a defunct mining town, reborn as a tourist attraction, Oatman boasts a charming Old West atmosphere with its false-front stores, board walks and daily "gun fights". Wild burros roam the streets freely, and have no hesitation about walking up to you and inspecting to see if you have any treats for them. Burro food is available in nearly all the shops. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent part of their honeymoon at the Oatman Hotel, (click link for some great reviews), their Honeymoon Suite is still a major attraction. Several ghosts are reported to haunt the town, but mostly we saw other tourists.

 Food is available at several restaurants and shops, and there are quite a few souvenir stands offering a variety of commercial and handmade items.  One vendor, Brenda, was set up in a covered wagon, offering cold drinks, kettle corn and her own self-published children's books and calendars featuring the Oatman burros. I have a soft spot for authors in general and self-published ones in particular, so I stopped to chat and ask a few questions.  As we talked, I kept getting bumped in the behind. I looked around me, but no one was close enough to be the guilty party. As I turned to scold my son, I found that the culprit was actually a jenny, looking for a handout! As our entire party burst into giggles at my expense (which I was more than happy to provide), I scratched the critter behind the ears, then shooed her away to pester someone else.

It was getting time for us to move along anyway. We cast last, longing glances at the hills, then got in the car and turned up the air conditioning. Oatman Highway to Bullhead City is a pleasant drive. From there, it's just about 20 minutes to Needles, California, where we pick up Interstate 40 again, to cross the desolate Mojave desert. Only now, we have a burro bumping adventure to relive, and a host of gold mining dreams and ghost stories to get us across to grandpa's house.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Judgement Calls

This morning's sermon was about making judgements.  The gospel passage today was from Matthew 7:1-5. "Do not judge and you will not be judged..."  The pastor of my dad's church talked about the judgments he had experienced and had made on his recent holiday.  I could totally relate.

Afterwards, another early mass goer was telling Fr. T about one of the masses this past Sunday, which had lacked a priest, so a deacon in attendance had stepped forward to lead a communion service.  I quipped about how that was commonplace where I live, that we were lucky to have a priest.  Fr. T was surprised, as he thought I lived nearby.  So much for my ego, in assuming he knew that I was the "daughter visiting from Arizona".  So, after explaining that I was just staying with dad for a few months, I went on with a brief synopsis of our mission situation in Northern Arizona.

At breakfast, I lamented the situation again.  Didn't the pastor recognize whom he saw regularly and whom he didn't?  Of course, I thought, how busy Fr. T must be, with the responsibilities of a parish of nearly 1,000 people.  How could he possibly keep track of one visitor?  Another judgement.

So, Miss Important, here, next realized how little I know about some of those in my own parish.  I want to be known to a certain extent, yet do I take the time to really know and care about others?  Am I so busy, running here and there, that I don't have time to chat now and then, for a few minutes after Mass, or when I see someone in town?  Surely, that's one of the reasons to live in a small town.

I'm also learning to translate it into some of my experiences during my soujourn here in the Big City.  After hockey practice the other day, my son and I walked through a street fair that was taking place next to the ice rink.  All kinds of wonderful antiques were on display,  but I thought that some were a bit pricey.  I took the opportunity to ask one vendor about a piece that I didn't recognize.  He went on the tell me about the wall-mount coffee grinder, with a large glass jar for the beans, "they used to buy them in big bulk bags, because they didn't have 'em all ground up in cans like we do now".  (Yes, I knew that, it's how I buy mine, but I held my tongue, wanting to hear more of his story.)  "Then they used to put up their extra produce in jars and so they'd have an empty jar that would fit right here", pointing to a bracket under the grinder, "to catch the grindings".  He went on to explain how they boiled their coffee and poured it through a cheesecloth, etc.  Really a wonderful story.  It also made me realize something else.  I asked his wife if they had gotten most of their inventory from the midwest and she confirmed that they did buy from sales on the other side of the country.  Suddenly the price seemed more reasonable, and I noticed that most of their items were also very clean and in good condition, which was also rare in my experience with antiques here in the west.

So by curbing my initial judgement to bypass their table as just another overpriced junk pile, I not only acquired valuable new information to add to my homesteading knowledge, I also had a pleasant conversation with a couple whom I would never otherwise have known to be interesting and wonderful.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Still Bucking the New Translation - Really??

Thanks to Dr. Jerry Galipeau's excellent blog, Gotta Sing, Gotta Pray, I actually have a "keep it simple" topic  for today;)  Due to all the uproar about the New Translation, and also due to my continuing efforts to be a passable music director for my parishes, I try to follow Dr. Jerry's blog.  He has been involved with publishing liturgical music for years, and his posts are usually informative and entertaining.  For several months now, he has been posting on issues with the New Translation of the Roman Missal, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I take a look every once in awhile.  The New Translation was mandated for use beginning in Advent of last year.  Six months later, people are still arguing its pros and cons.  Personally, though I like the New Translation, it would really make no difference to me if we went back to the old.

Okay, so I'm an oddball.  Part of me is traditional.  I wear the chapel veil.  I think the music for Mass should be dignified hymns or soft, inspirational melodies and chant, not "praise and worship, rock my world" stuff.  I prefer the tabernacle to be behind the altar, and the church to be dark and quiet, respectful, prayerful.  So I don't always get my way.  I like to hear Mass in my primary language, but I want to share the joy with my friends who don't speak or understand English so well, so I embrace the bi-lingual Mass, and can even muddle through a bit of Spanish.  Luckily I can play the flute and the organ in both Spanish and English. (yeah, some dumb humor;)  As a returned-fallen-away Catholic, I'm there for Mass.  Mass is the sacrifice of Jesus Body and Blood for my salvation.  Holy Communion is the common union with my fellow Mass-goers, and by extension the whole church, and hopefully one day the whole world, as the Body of Christ.

I go to Mass to hear the Word of God proclaimed and taught.  I want to learn how to be a better person.  I go to Mass to receive Holy Communion, Jesus entering into union with me to strengthen and transform me.  To remind me of my connection with that guy over there whose manners I find repulsive ( pride any better?).  And the lady whose dress is too short and too low cut (didn't I used to dress like that myself?)  And the family who only shows up on Palm Sunday (there were a few years when I didn't show up at all).  I don't go to bicker over this word here or that word there.  I'll let the pope and the cardinals and the bishops and their committees worry about all that stuff.  Life is too complicated.  For this simple-minded Catholic, I'll take Dr. Jerry's advice - gotta sing, gotta pray.  Nuff said.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Price of Truth - Review

How do solving mysteries and restoring vintage quilts go together?  Like needles and thread!  Kidding aside, when Guideposts Books puts together a series, you can bet it will be uplifting, inspirational and always interesting.  Sarah Hart is a vintage quilt restoration expert, and an avid quilter herself, who tends to get tangled up in one mystery after another.  In "The Price of Truth", Sarah's in Boston with her daughter-in-law, Maggie, an antique dealer, for an antique auction.  The Maple Hill Historical Society has asked Sarah to bid on a quilt they believe was owned by one of the town's founders.  But there's something fishy going on with the quilts at this auction.  Sarah has to find out if the desired quilt is even authentic, then discover why other quilts are selling for way above their value, before it goes up for bid.  Meanwhile, an elusive stranger keeps having secret meetings with the auction manager and Maggie's best friend is having marital problems.  Read on as Sarah uncovers the mysteries of the quilts, helps Maggie's friend rethink her divorce plans and saves an auction house's reputation.

The Price of Truth is #20 in the Patchwork Mysteries Series from Guideposts Books

Thursday, June 7, 2012

U-pick, Seattle EMP and Salty's

Before leaving Portland, OR, we went in search of chocolate covered bacon.  We had heard that it was unbelievably scrumptious, but had no luck in locating a food stand that was open, serving it.  This, however, was a common sight along Highway 97 in Washington.  Produce stands everywhere!  We finally stopped at a u-pick orchard and scored 35 pounds of the most luscious sun-ripened peaches, nectarines and plums right off the trees!  Total damage was less than 50 cents a pound.  What we didn't eat, we froze at our next stop, to be enjoyed by our friends long after we are gone;)

The EMP in Seattle, WA is a quirky museum of music, science fiction and pop culture.  Mostly pop culture.  The "gallery companion" is a must.  For $3 you can rent an ipod with earbuds which will block out most of the loud noise (um, music) inside the museum, and give you a self-guided tour, extra stories about the exhibits, and additional music playlists.  We spent much of our time in the Avatar exhibit.  Pulling up the videos we made in the interactive sections was a bit tricky, later, but with a few emails to helpful museum staff we were able to accomplish it.  We passed on the opportunity to perform live onstage; we were far more entranced with the sound labs, where we could go into a soundproof room and jam to our hearts' content on guitars, keyboards, drums and synthesizers.  There's even a rec room for the little (and not so little) ones to play with  guitars and bongos, make buttons and color.  Afterwards, it was time for cocktails at the Pop Kitchen and Bar.  A non-drinker, myself, I had a rare craving for a virgin margarita.  This seemed to baffle my friend.  I had to explain to her how they were made, and still she eyed me with incredulity.  This just made me giggle more.  You'd think I was the one drinking...

No sojourn in Washington is complete for me, without a bowl of Salty's World Famous Seafood Chowder. The hearty mix of potatoes, bacon, clams, shrimp and scallops, with a generous drizzle of sherry at the table, and a healthy sprinkle of pepper is the perfect way to end a day of sightseeing, beachcombing or shopping.  It was the perfect time of day to enjoy our patio table on the water, and linger over a shared mango sorbet.  After that it was back to our friends' house for a movie, and to rest up for our long journey home.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

First Saturday Devotions - Substance or Superstition?

Today is the first Saturday of June.  My dad's roses are blooming profusely.  After so many Marian celebrations last month, my thoughts have turned to the First Saturdays and how they got started.  It's been a few years since Catholic school, and I live out in the sticks, where we're lucky to have "daily" Mass once a week.  So I did a little research on the First Saturdays.

The "official" First Saturday Marian Devotions with their attendant "promises" originated with the apparitions of Our Blessed Mother to the children at Fatima.  But Saturday had already long been a special day of devotion to Our Lady.  According to Marian Devotions in the Domestic Church, by the ninth century, Saturday devotion to Mary had already become popular.  Marian Catechist explains that, according to several theologians of the 12th and 13th centuries,  " Mary continued to believe, demonstrating her deep faith by never doubting for a moment her Son’s promise of resurrection".  They also give several other reasons and traditions for Saturday Masses being dedicated to Mary before Fatima.  So, long tradition.  

Okay, what about post-Fatima?  My favorite take on our current practice of this devotion is at the Bearing Blog.  I can totally relate to the author's reference to superstition and selfish intentions.  I returned to wearing the brown scapular and the chapel veil a few years ago.  As I put on or remove my scapular, I dedicate myself to Mary, and ask her to help me to practice modesty, purity and holiness (I need LOTS of help!).  As I put on my chapel veil for Mass or Eucharistic Devotion, I ask for humility and to remember to try to be of service to the other members of Christ's body.  It really irritates me to hear the scapular promoted as a talisman to protect a person from harm and/or hell.  The scapular in itself is just a piece of brown scratchy cloth.  It is what it symbolizes that is sacramental and only in that is it nourishing to the spiritual life.

In the same way, to complete the Five First Saturdays, including Holy Communion, Confession, fifteen minutes meditation, and five decades of the Rosary, just to benefit from the Promises - that Our Lady will "assist at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for salvation",  seems abhorrent to me.  On the surface.  More on that in a few lines.  For one thing, there is a fifth requirement to the fulfillment of the Promise - that the devotion be performed "with the intention of making reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary".  Someone who isn't sincere, will not be able to complete all Five Saturdays without this intention.  Even if one starts without that intention, it seems to grow on you in the practice.  Secondly, look at the promise.  What are the "graces necessary for salvation"?  Ponder that.  This devotion is not just another easy ticket into heaven.

So what about the superficial motive of performing the devotion just to benefit from the Promise?  When I was a child in Catholic school I performed many of the various recommended devotions our rich and ancient tradition makes available to us.  I was sincere and devout about them at the time.  I stored up a few treasures in heaven.  Then I became a teenager and then an adult.  I finally went the way of the world, and even left the church for a few years.  What's my point?  I came back.  I returned hungry for the Eucharist.  Starved for teaching and direction for following Jesus.  I came back with a desire to amend my life and be a better person.  Was it because of all those novenas I made as a child?  Was it because of all the prayers of my parents and loved ones?  

Certainly I'm not any more special than any other child of the Father.  I can't offer any tangible proof, but I'm certainly not going to discount the power of a Promise.  I hope I have a ways to go before I have need of that final assistance.  Making another round of Five First Saturdays would undoubtedly benefit me now, as well as later.