21 December 2012

St. Eustace

Townsend and I travelled to New York City one Advent / Christmas season. He wanted to see “my” N.Y.C. so one visit was to The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Manhattan is full of terrific gothic church architecture. The cavernous nave and it piers were decorated with 6’ diameter evergreen wreaths, facing into the nave, each with pinecone, burford holly berry, red bow, and a set of white stag antler, which was placed atop the wreath. The wreaths were large, festive, restrained for their scale and setting, and lovely. I’d never seen the stag antler / wreath decorative fusion before; I liked it and I was intrigued.
I’ve researched my intrigue and I’ve come on an explanation I enjoy; it hearkens to Celtic & pagan celebratory solstice decorative images and traditions. I’m ever intrigued with pagan and Celtic spiritual traditions. Here is a brief cobbled mythology of what little clarity I discerned.
Cernunnos is born as the stag at the winter solstice. “The Horned One” is a Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth/gold, and the underworld in the fused Gallo-Roman traditional 1st century religious practices. He was worshipped all over Gaul and his cult spread into Britain. He is born, marries the goddess (an unnamed Celtic Diana-esque huntress?) at Beltane and dies at the summer solstice. The Horned One is depicted with stag antlers; his depiction was popular and pervasive.
Our St. Eustace, nee, a pagan known as Placidus, was a Roman general serving Emperor Trajan. While hunting Placidus’ conversion began upon seeing a vision of a glowing Christ between a stag’s antlers, while a voice prophesied Placidus would suffer for Christ. Placidus, along with wife Theopistas, and their two sons, was instantly converted and baptized.
St. Eustace and his families’ troubles had only just begun, which included loss of social, political, and military standing, financial and material destitution, familial separation, religious persecution, and public sacrifice. Eustace, later reunited with family, refused to bow to pagan gods. He and family were placed inside a brass bull and roasted to death.
Suffering and sacrifice are depicted in Roman, Eastern Orthodox, and Episcopal catholic traditions as behavioral models and some are now cast aside. In our era Eustace is saintly no longer. Real human sacrifice is no longer an orthodox western religious model. Yet, at least for one Episcopal Advent and Christmas liturgical season, in the nave of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City, which is, arguably, a center of multiple pagan spiritual traditions, the celtic White Stag antler mythology was symbolized.
Pagan fertility and rejuvenation, Christian conversion and baptism, and our human suffering and sacrifice for our families and others, were simply and quietly lifted up and referenced to us all during the transformational season of diminishing light and increasing light, by stag antlers atop evergreen holiday wreaths inside the heart of one great Christian cathedral.

13 December 2012

Magpies Bakery

It 's unusual in K-town, well, really, I should say anywhere in the southern states where I've had home baked or commercial pecan pies, to find any sample other than nearing to the blah crust, overwhelming numbers of tasteless pecans, often crushed into bits, and cloyingly sweet, the corn syrup slathered into something that just gloms together in the pie and stays glommed together in my mouth.
 So I was thrilled to sample Magpies Bakery's thanksgiving pecan pie. I posted on their fb page and here is what transpired:
"Your T-giving pecan pie is 5 star!
- yummy crust: I'd expect nothing less; duh!

- just right amount of pecans: not overwhelming & yum yum!

- not too sweet: huzzah!
Thank you Bill ~ We really appreciate the feedback.
This is my mother's recipe. No corn syrup...all butter, sugar, eggs and rum. I used to help her break the pecans by hand to use for her pecan tassies she'd make every Christmas. (She didn't like chopping her nuts for some reason:)) It's one of my faves.
You’re most welcome. It’s as delicious & savory as it is understated. I’d never guessed the rum; hmm."

I felt Peggy or Holly's response lovely and I pass it along; these bakers have mojo goin' on now; long may it be so!

11 December 2012


I first heard the term in conversation about early Christian spiritual formation. It came from a medievalist scholar & historian of 1st Century western social, political, economic and cultural life and a man fluent in Latin, Spanish, Arabic and English languages. Despite his scholar’s boilerplate Tom is down to earth and easy with a voice like honey over a fresh biscuit from a wood stove. Campus-dei is his Latin phrase for the level place often the literal level field for gathering to hear of God. It's the field for spiritual formation and practice. It’s literally God’s field where one gathers and practices religious and/or spiritual acts and living in fellowship and community. The campus-dei is the sacred center for cultivating spiritual vitality and renewal.
The campus-dei is the venue, the practice field for all who seek to live into their baptismal covenant. And it could be any sacred covenant; the practice being the journey of small and large acts and observances at such times as people of modest or immodest means choose to offer. A campus-dei welcomes these acts; every act is thankfully received. Your acts shape your spiritual transformation. You make no greater investment and devotion of your interior spiritual vitality than by offering and practicing your acts in the campus-dei. The campus-dei, the sacred place, is tangible and visible proof of your communal religious life as you givers are those who create it. The campus-dei exists solely as testimony to your spiritual transformation.
The campus-dei’s influence is pervasive throughout the camp and in the community beyond; in aggregate the campus-dei’s practices touch and reflect the best qualities of spiritual, religious and sacred orthodox traditions and spiritual acts. The campus-dei is not just a level place, a field, a venue, a building, or an institution. It’s your spiritual body and life in your thoughts, your prayers, your words and yours deeds in the material world.

17 November 2012

WESTERN Boulder Colo.

It’s been awhile and I’d kept it a long time and it still feels like it used to; the steel holds its edge and it’s still easy in my hand; it always was; thanks for restoring it, Scott.
It's the smaller of two sheaf knives. Tom got the bigger. I was younger and smaller, number two son, as my father used to say, and I got the smaller later on and I felt it unfair. I’ve got Tom's knife and I've never really used it and it’ll never be mine, and he’s dead, so….
I was given mine when I was twelve. I was thrilled and I felt worthy and maybe I felt grown up. I used to try to throw it into a tree and that didn't work out to well. I used it to teach myself outdoor cooking and later on indoor kitchen cooking. I've done fifty years, off and on, of that. Tom married and never learned to cook or hunt outdoors. I feel a part of me is restored and I like that and I’m reminded I felt worthy for a first time and it’s been awhile and nothing else is as satisfying. Thanks for restoring it to me.