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Monday, December 29, 2008

Lame Dog ~

This morning saw a little dog hobbling on three legs. I stopped and talked with the Swiss lady who had him on her leash. The little fellow laid down on the cold bricks and looked up at us the whole time, shivering.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Horror of Auschwitz ~

Today I saw a picture of an old woman, bent over, with three small children in Auschwitz. Then I saw myself having to lead my own three grandchildren to the gas chamber.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Prayer in Darkness ~

When I wanted to become an altar boy the nuns taught me the prayers I had to know, in Latin. Right now I catch myself mumbling one of those prayers on my morning walks in the December darkness at 7:30 a.m.:

Spera in Deo, quoniam adhuc, confitebor illi: salutare voltus mei, et Deus meus.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Flexible Flyer ~

It is snowing. I stand at my window and look into the neighbor's yard. Two ungainly plastic sleds ---oh my, those great sleds we had as kids! Really sleek wooden designs with steel blades.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President-Elect Barack Obama ~ View from Germany

Who is this man on our horizon who has shown us his capacity to commit himself to an impossible undertaking and fight effectively to attain it -- and win? Who were his heros, his models he looked up to for such inspiration?

President-Elect Barack Obama ~ View from Germany

Just at the moment when everything seemed bleakest along comes this man determined to change things, to start anew. And we have shown ourselves eager and willing to place our fate in his hands. He has already reinstated in us the feeling that we can hope and trust.

President-Elect Barack Obama ~ View from Germany

I can see it in their eyes when they talk to me. The impossible happens in your country, they say, with Obama in mind. They are talking now about America like they used to. Makes me proud. I walk down the street a bit more upright.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flight from New York ~

As the plane taxied on the runway I thought I should be heading west, to Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. But instead I was flying east, to a foreign country. Will that same moment of uncertainty return to me on my deathbed?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wedding on Long Island ~

Caught the train at Penn Station and headed out to Long Island. Two hours to Southampton. A Greek wedding. My niece, Alexandra, got married. This is why we flew over to New York.

Beach Party ~ Southampton

The next evening a memorable outing at the ocean. Moonlight shining on the water, the sound of the breaking waves, the white sand. Good old hot dogs, corn on the cob and lots to drink with family and friends.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge ~

Just had to walk across that bridge. Stopped to read a plaque honoring its builder, John A. Roebling. He perfected the use of twisted steel cables, which made the bridge possible. He died from injuries while constructing it, his son Washington Augustus, a Union Lieutenant Colonel in the Civil War, came home from war and finished the project. These brilliant engineers came from my neck of the woods: Saxonburg, Pennsylvania.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tiffany's ~

Walked into Tiffany's to buy a wedding present. Was treated like a millionaire but came out with a rather modest set of candlesticks.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

St. Patrick's Cathedral ~

Early mass at the cathedral. Low mass. Two candles. Very plain sermon about God's love. It is He Who makes us able to love. We cannot do it on our own. Then we received communion. It was all low key. No cardinal. No pomp.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Penn Station ~

At five o'clock in the afternoon hordes of commuters swarm into Penn Station like bees into a hive.

Language ~

I think I heard as much Spanish in New York as I did English.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Columbia University ~

While staying in New York wanted to get up the Columbia, walk the campus, see the young students. Kind of a tribute to Thomas Merton. But couldn't manage to cram it into our schedule.

Wall Street ~

We sat out in front of the New York Stock Exchange and picniced on ham sandwiches. Tourists stood looking up at the columns and and would walk away, somberly pacing. The financial crisis had just staged a Black Tuesday.

St. Paul's Church ~ Financial District

Amid the skyscrapers, just a stone's throw from the Twin Towers I found this old church [1766] on Fulton Street. Overpowered by the achievements of architects and Man the Creator I walked inside and sat there for few moments feeling of my own lowliness. I felt like an empty church. But being there was somehow very consoling.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Central Park Frisbee ~

Stood in Central Park watching adults playing a new frisbee game. One team, like in football, flinging the disc to one another and advancing toward their goal, unless the opposite team intercepts and scores their own goal. Serious game played gracefully. Girls just as deft as the boys. Clean fun in New York.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Art Deco ~ New York

I was not aware that Art Deco was so prevalent in New York. Everywhere! Of course, the Chrysler Building. But in so many other public buildings, private dwellings, in decorations. While walking down 5th Avenue I happened upon The French Building and stepped inside to find this magnificent entryway and hall.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Grasping New York ~

To hear about New York is one thing, but to be here is quite another . . . as if in hearing, it is someone else's, but in being here, it becomes mine.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Service in New York ~

Went to an historical Episcopalian Church on Fifth Avenue for a Sunday service. A woman priest. Her sermon in English: a delight for my ears and heart. Afterwards I spoke with her. Call me Elizabeth, she said, and conversed in such a friendly way. She had recently received her Doctor of Divinity and had just been assigned to this church.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New York Streets ~

What surprised and impressed me in New York was how clean the streets were.

Henry Clay Frick ~ 1849-1919

Spent a lot of time in museums:the Guggenheim, MoMa, the Metropolitan. But the one that left the indelible mark was the Frick Collection on Fifth Avenue. I asked myself where Henry Clay Frick acquired his taste for the beauty of paintings and sculpture. He was a college dropout. His masterpiece collection is exhibited here in the serene and intimate rooms of his home. Frick comes to life here. It was as if I were standing there looking at beauty through his appreciative eyes.

After seeing the Frick Collection, viewing much of the collection at the MoMa was like reading comic books— trite and trivial.

The Frick Collection ~

This must have been one of Henry C. Frick's favorite paintings. He had it hanging in the hallway leading to his library. Just what did he see when he looked up at her?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Boat Tour ~

Friday morning to the pier on 42nd Street. A three hour boat tour around the island of Manhattan. Our guide, Tom Wurl, was extraordinary. Non-stop interesting information about what we were seeing, what buildings we were looking at, who lived there, history, architecture of New York, baseball-football stories, quoted poetry and sayings of important personages.When I later moved up to the front of the boat to look out, I saw him standing in a corner with a mike in his hand talking, inconspicuous.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nine-Eleven, 2008 ~

Standing at Ground Zero before the huge empty abyss. I look up at the buildings edging the crater. They seem to be standing silent on this Nine-Eleven, still in mourning.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

With Friends ~

What a pleasure: to get an invitation to have supper with friends in New York. Poured down rain, caught a taxi to 114th Street near Columbia, had the best corn I've eaten in ages and spent the evening mainly in heated political discussion about the presidential candidates. I noticed a marked difference in my perception as to what was being said, hearing it coming from Americans. Coming from a living source, thus carrying more meaningful weight. From the distance, in Europe, all talk about America seems speculative and groping.

With New York Friends ~ Books

An interesting comment made about books: America doesn't have a national literary culture. About the only book that we have in common is the Bible and we use it as the key to all literature, art, to living. It is the book that offers us vision of the whole.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Breakfast ~ Central Park West

You went down five steps into a little shop run by an Turkish-American who had just bought the place. So polite and friendly. He would be toasting bagels and making pancakes for us for the rest of the week. Sat right by the counter and watched all types of people come in, most of whom just wanted the morning paper.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Central Park ~ The Great Hill

Just had to cross the street from our hotel and walk up the stairway entrance and I was in Central Park at the so-called Great Hill. On the flat circle at the top that Sunday morning at half past seven there were at least 50 people with their dogs and they had them chasing balls thrown in all directions.

What a spectacle: the sight of those dogs, legs extended, in flight . . . in the morning sunlight.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Central Park ~

The really forward looking men of New York were the ones who conceived of the idea to build Central Park. It is a veritable refuge, an escape into nature right there in the heart of New York.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Arrival ~ New York

It was at sunset as we winged into New York flying in from the tip of Manhattan, up along Central Park and out to La Guardia.The sky was all ablaze in fiery red, and there were the tall buildings, lit up, as if they had come out to greet us.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Home Again ~

I first saw my country from the porthole of an airplane. Down where the ocean touches the land. . . and out beyond, the great expanse.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Autumn Leaves ~

Today I saw a cherry tree, almost bare already, as if daring winter to come, and coaxing it in.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Trust ~

Does the pilot who loses control of his aircraft remain calm until it crashes?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Grandchild ~

He sits beside me when I play. Then makes his first attempts. Perhaps these little fingers will soon be substituting mine . . .

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Holy Old Monk ~

I said: I never see anything without seeing God in it.

He said: I never see anything but God.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Easing Pain ~

He was old and bent over so badly that all he could see on his walks were the flowers along the path.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Music ~ The Accidentals

As long as I am involved in the externals like tempo, rhythm, intonation, fingering etc. I am still miles away from the music itself.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Weed among the Roses ~

In the middle of our roses a weed has grown tall and exotic to become my most prized flower.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Indirect Speech ~

In I Kings 3 I read that Samuel thought he was hearing the priest's voice when the Lord was calling to him. After hearing the voice a second time the priest told Samuel, if he would hear the it again, to say: speak on Lord for Thy servant is listening. What struck me was the indirect way the Lord took when He spoke. It is not dangerous, perhaps fatal, to think that the Lord might speak to me directly? How often I wait for His direct way and overlook the indirect completely.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Search ~

Oh God, my God — I come closer to You when I search with my heart rather than with my intellect. Oh, strengthen my heart.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

My Self ~

Why was I wearing a shirt, tie and jacket in the heat last Sunday when our choir was invited to sing in the cathedral in Freiburg, Germany. The others were in sport shirts, some in shorts. . . I wonder why I did that. I think Dad would have been dressed like that, and Grandpa and some people I looked up to and respected when I was a child. Now somehow it is in me, that bit of formality, that respect for our traditions, that wanting to carry on in the old footsteps.

Friday, June 27, 2008

European Soccer Championship ~

It is different than the World's Series or the Super Bowl. Every four years a whole nation gets caught up in the European Soccer Championship and fevers through it, day after day,
for three whole weeks of spectacular, exciting sport. And in Germany where they still refrain from flying their colors, flags start to apprear everywhere. The spirit churns and overflows. It were almost as if Pentecost were happening all over again.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Paradox ~

The old monk was telling me how bright light and complete darkness can exist simultaneously . . . and somehow I understood.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Waiting ~

During the year I look at this tree every time I pass remembering how it once blossomed. But now, for this sight I have learned to wait, one full year.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mother Theresa ~ Love Affair

She carried on a love affair with Christ. Later she complained that He had forgotten her completely. But she went on loving . . .

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Before Class ~

Oftentimes when I meet former students of mine they insist on reciting the prayer for me that we used to say in the morning before class:

Father, we thank Thee for the night,
and for the blessed morning light,
for rest and food and loving care,
and all that makes the world so fair.

Help us to do the things we should,
to be to others kind and good.
In all we do, in all we say,
to grow more loving every day.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wonder ~

Why did this beautiful, single red poppy blossom right in front of my study window without my planting it there?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

To be a Carthusian Monk ~

Watched a film entitled The Great Silence about Carthusian monks. I had once wanted to be one of them. All through the film I noticed that not one of them ever smiled.

With all that happiness inside, how can one help but smile?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sounds from on High ~

This morning as I walked across the fields I heard a lark up high, trilling. . . or was it Him?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Love Affair ~

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost . . . words I prayed on the morning walk. I stopped and thought for a moment. Why, why all that formality? Aren't we on a much more intimate basis? It was like pushing Him off into the distance, losing Him in mystery.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Chance Meeting ~

A BMW sport convertible pulled up beside me and one of my old students jumped out. We chatted. He lit a cigarette. Yah, it was nice in your class, all those stories about Pennsylvania. And you really went light on us when passing out the grades. Yah, thanks. Leaving, he tossed off a wave and stepped hard on the gas.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What words ~

What words are needed— to strike the chord? To say the meaningful?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

From Whence? ~

Without even thinking I took my pen and circled a notice for my wife to read . . . and when I looked, there was this perfect ellipse. I was dumbstruck. Was that I?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Class of '82

Nikolaus Markus Mechthild

We were there when Nikolaus appeared alone onstage as cabaret artist and kept the crowd on the edge of their seats for an hour and a half.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Deus Obscurus ~

I spend so much time praying to You, telling you my innermost secrets, begging for help . . . but often times I stop and ask myself if I have any idea Who You are.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Will of God ~

How do I know what the Will of God is, other than by what is . . .

Monday, April 07, 2008

Thinking Back to Washington, D.C. ~

Lightheartedly I walked up to the Capitol from Union Station, singing, already seeing myself under the dome paying homage as I always did when there. . . but was stopped at the bottom of the stairs by two men armed with vicious looking rifles who, rudely, turned me away.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friends ~

The crows have been following me around. They sit in the trees, swoop across my path. When I stand at my window they land on the roof next door and look down at me. I am not afaid. I have come to see them as friends.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Day Clock ~

Strange, but in the afternoon after lunch just at the instant when I set the espresso pot on the radiator to dry, I am suddenly fully aware that another day of my life has passed.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Unexpected Visit ~

It was an uncanny sight. From left to right they came -- eleven ducks flying low over our snowbound village landscape, V-shaped. I opened my window to greet them, heard the beat of their wings as they flew overhead.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter 2008 ~

The old monk told me: if you have made a mistake, admit it—correct it—and get on. That is what Resurrection means.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Passion Week ~

The violets at my window are the same color as the veil that covers the cross above the altar in church.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Not Knowing ~

The old monk said: It is not what we know but what we don't know . . . that effects our life most.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rome from Afar ~

We catch ourselves saying: it was 2, 3, 4 weeks ago today that we were here/there in Rome . . . The memory lingers; we still savor the days.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Farewell, Rome ~

It was my fifth visit. I leave you now, Rome, attached to you in a new and different way. I have your geography in my mind, your streets in my feet. And beauty of your jewels, seen with older hankering eyes, sparkle in my memory.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fontana di Trevi ~

We threw the coins with the right hand over the left shoulder into the fountain hoping for something. . .

Roman Ruins ~

I am fascinated more with the thought of ruins than with the ruins themselves. I keep repeating to myself the words: See what wonders can blossom on ruins!

Roman Remains ~

We passed up going into the Colosseum, instead went to the Baths of Caracalla on a beautiful Saturday morning, sat on a bench silently looking out at the colossal ruins and the umbrella pines and our imagination ran wild in the ancient past.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Scenery in Rome ~

From the embankment near Castel Sant’Angelo I looked down and saw a man in a boat with a long pole in the middle of the Tiber, fishing.

Roman Street Café ~

It was the most expensive piece of cake I ever had, dainty and cut thin. But delicious. It was my birthday and I was ready to splurge. $8.82 apiece.

Dining in Rome ~

The savor of the food was heightened by the suave manner of male waiters who always seemed to be letting us know that we were someone special.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Via Appia ~

We saw Vespas scooting along the Via Appia, and just when I stopped to take a picture of them, an elderly couple walked past us, holding hands.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Forum Romanum ~

While looking out over the Roman Forum it was as if a tidal wave of history was looming out behind the columns and about to flood over me before I could comprehend what I saw.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Inside St. Peter's Basilica ~

Martin Luther stood here amidst the opulent grandeur mulling over that fact that to pay for it indulgences were being marketed feverishly all over Europe.

Piazza del Popolo ~

It was in a small church. Two young girls with knapsacks walked up the aisle, genuflected, entered the pew. Bowing their heads they knelt before the Sacramant in motionless prayer. Seeing them doing that made me feel closer to You there than anywhere else in all of Rome.

Inside St. Peter's Basilica ~ Pietà

Her head bent, looking at her misery she holds on her lap. She is composed. She accepts, she consents. It seems as if she has breathed out, her heartbeat diastolic. She is all inward, she is weightless. Michaelangelo has focused all her sorrow in her face. In capturing her suffering he has made a universal image of the noble beauty that only suffering can bring about.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Inside St. Peter's Basilica ~ Papal Monuments

It was a lavish sculpture, four persons depicted: Jesus Christ at the back, St. Peter and St. Paul in front of Him, then the Pope whose monument it was out in front, kneeling, facing me. I stood there for a long while pondering what that monument was trying to say.

Inside St. Peter's Basilica ~

. . . and the three old nuns wearing wimples, bent over with age, tilting their heads to the side, painfully, trying to look up.

Inside St. Peter's Basilica ~

Entering in on this space literally took my breath away. Utterly amazed at the magnitude of the proportions, the lavish extravagance of this church. It is the work of men's hands: a Michelangelo, a Raphael, a Bernini, a Bramante. The overwhelming power of their art shook me as I stood there, just another spectator, on a small square of marble.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Trip to Rome ~ The Eternal City

As we were approaching the airport I looked off the my left and saw a miniature Rome lying there in the distance, stretched out in the evening sunlight like pebbles on the beach.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Prolonging Christmas ~

And still, in my memory Christmas lingers on. The lights, the fire, the smiles, the glistening eyes, candlelight, the letter. I hold on still.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Exercise in Dying ~

Lying down at night and falling off to sleep is my exercise for my own death. . . I mean — the letting go that is involved . . . and the trust.