Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On the Other Hand

A lot of unexpected bodily mortification, involuntary penance, has visited upon my quarter, more specifically, upon my left hand, courtesy of sputtering-hot cooking oil.

That entire sentence brought to you by the entire team of fingers from my right hand. I learned to type properly with both hands from day one. I must say, this one-hand business is an all-new sensation.

In case you were wondering what I was doing with that hot oil, the answer is I was craving me some very spicy, lip-smacking chili sauce on whatever I was going to have for lunch. After heating the oil, I proceeded to pour it into a jar with prepared red pepper flakes, sesame seeds and minced garlic through a funnel. As some of the oil got trapped above the lower passage of the funnel, it sputtered upward, right over my left hand which was holding the funnel. Let's just say KDM heard the horrific scream and jumped from whatever he was doing and rushed to my side. The guy is always resourceful and helpful in crisis like this, the problem for me, is that he can hardly do so without scolding.

This time, I probably deserved his scolding. Let me explain.

Before Lent began, when I was thinking of something to give up, spicy food was a candidate. Now you must understand that I'm not condemning spicy food, I'm just telling you that my appetite for all foods spicy borders on inordinate, ravenous, gluttonous. In the past Lents I gave up sweets like so many did, playing the good girl. All the while I doused my meals with Sriracha sauce.

Nonetheless,  I muffled the glimmering voice of reason in me, and once again elected to "give up" sweets and snack between meals. I just love me all my spicy food too much.

Ironically, the sputtering oil episode, and for perhaps next several weeks, my ridiculously bandaged-up left hand, will be an annoying reminder of my intemperate love for chili sauce.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Subject is Light

Seven days before the Lunar New Year at my mom's house: my niece Mimi helping Grandma use the webcam. Since they didn't have a good light, Mimi ingeniously whipped out her cellphone to light the screen. This is the screen-shot I took during our video visit.

This wall in our living room has looked like this around 8AM everyday for the past several weeks. The peacock feathers are in honor of Flannery O'Connor.

Fr. Rutler on B16

Fr. George Rutler, pastor of the Church of Our Savior, New York City, whose weekly column at his parish's website I subscribe via email, has the following words from his meditations on Pope Benedict XVI's resignation:
When a pope retires, I have to change the proposed topic of my column. Now I know how a pastor must have felt in 1415 when Pope Gregory XII resigned, and in 1294 when Celestine V did the same. While papal resignations cannot therefore be said to have become a habit, they do remind one that Holy Orders are indelible, but the papacy itself is not.

   We also are reminded, as we need to be in an age of diminishing attention spans, that there have been 265 popes. I recently read of a Protestant lady who converted to Catholicism upon being shown that list. God gave the Keys of the Kingdom to Peter, knowing that the Galilean fisherman had a limited life span. Since there is no re-incarnation, there is a succession, and that will go on until the end of time. Even calling Rome the Eternal City is extravagant rhetoric, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). No one knows this more clearly than Pope Benedict XVI, whose intellectual brilliance and eloquent teaching have enabled him to explain this to the world in remarkable ways, but never more so than by his own example.

   Pope John Paul II died in the days of Easter, having taught a confused world, as Christ said when He rose from the dead, “Do not be afraid.” Pope Benedict XVI is relinquishing the Keys in Lent, and another will hold them in Easter. This gives a special import to the Forty Days on which we have now embarked. Pope Benedict enters a new phase of his life, when he will be devoted to praying for all of God’s holy Church. All of us can more closely identify now with the first apostles, who were called by Christ to change their lives. The fishermen became fishers of men, and that is why we are here now, worshiping the same Lord that they learned to worship after many signs and revelations.

   As Lent is a time of abstinence, it would be good to abstain from the vain speculations of the media and self-appointed “experts” inside the Church and out, who see these things with merely human eyes and may use a papal resignation as a suggestion that the papacy is just another human office like a presidency or prime ministership. We should also remember that the world has been around a lot longer than we have, and if an asteroid changed the whole ecology of terrestrial life some 66 million years ago when it struck Mexico, as scientists have now determined, the Good News of Christ really is recent news. What is required at this crucial moment in history is that we follow the example of the first apostles: “So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:11).   
Note: see some mementos from my visit to Our Savior a few years ago.

Note also: Ignatius Press is offering two of the Pope's books for the price of one, for a limited time, just $19.95! I've ordered mine already. My ambition is to finish reading both by the end of Lent - no pressure. None. At. All.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

B16: witness of trust

Could Maureen Mullarkey's blog post today, and the article by David Warren it links to, shed some light on the abrupt (or so it seems) resignation of Pope Benedict XVI?

Like most everyone else, my initial reaction to the news was one of shock, but not disbelief. The shock didn't last long either. What follows was a profound admiration for the man I had come to love and trust. Whatever the reasons beside what he cited for the dramatic departure, the decision itself is positive proof that this is not a conventional pope: he does not hesitate, he does not dither, he takes matters into his own hands and intellect. The silence he jolts us into is not a void, but rather a witness of the utter trust in the power higher than he. I guess this is why so many are calling it an act of humility. It is as if he is showing us how to cast our cares, even one tremendous as steering a massive church, into the hand of the Holy Spirit, then humbly but confidently recede into the background vapors of Providential movement.

That Pope Benedict XVI is the first in four hundred plus years to do so, puts in proper perspective just how unconventional the act is. For that, I love you so much more, Papa.

To be sure, a gift to be unwrapped for the rest of the lenten season.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Tired Papa

Okay, Papa, we hear you, we understand you, we bless you - 

Magnificat, the publication I use as a prayer aid, features a daily meditation written by various spiritual men and women. While reading it, I often play a game with myself which I secretly call "guess who is the author." I try not to peek at the name at the end of the piece, but to guess who wrote it by the author's style, tone and voice. I can always tell when it is the work of the holy father. Why? Clarity, logic, gentleness, firmness, just to name a top few qualities. No superfluousness, no platitude, no arrogance, no preachiness. My reaction is always "Wow, I must think what he is drawing me to think, and I must think it through, and I must not delay the thinking."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Bad Day

I wrote the following on Thursday evening, but didn't publish on the same day - 

During the morning class I (or did I?) made a student cry - about a value (grayscale) study and said she just "doesn't get it." She later apologized and assured me it wasn't me, it was just her frustrations, and that she felt like the only one in class who wasn't "getting it."

Just a another poundage to the melancholy I'd been feeling with regard to teaching. I was happy when the workday was over.

When I got home from work, I was greeted by a down-cast and teary-eyed KDM, who told me that it had not been a good day -a calf died of respiratory illness today and he just finished burying it. Of late we had been dealing with a flurry of sick calves. I remember having premonitions as I looked out the bedroom window while getting dressed for work this morning. I could see several calves laying in the pasture instead of grazing like the rest of the herd. I whispered up a quick prayer for protection, and went on to work.

The news had a sobering effect on my dusty feelings about teaching, it has made me see how ridiculously trivial and self-indulgent my complaints were. For all we who make a living in agribusiness know, another year of severe drought may be in store for the coming seasons. What follows would be another round of high prices in feed, fuel, and pretty much all other operational expenses.

Yesterday's evening prayer from Magnifcat was stirring ( I know I keep going backward in time):

Put now your trust in God,
In duty's path go on;
Walk in his strength with faith and hope,
So shall your work be done.

Commit your ways to him,
Your works into his hands,
And rest on his unchanging word,
Who heaven and earth commands.

Give to the winds your fears;
Hope, and be undismayed:
God hears your sighs and counts your tears;
God shall lift up your head.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Show Up

Resumed my humble exercise routine starting today. My students will never hear me admit this: commitment to routine is not my strength. Well, that may be the understatement of the month. In fact, I am very sloppy at stick-to-it-ed-nesses.

But that's just what I tell my students to aspire. Keep up the efforts and keep the faith. There's no shortcut to the mastery of color and painting. Inspiration is overrated, the important thing is to show up to work everyday.

Attendance is slipping in the fourth week of school. It always does. Absences annoy me greatly. So outwent a nasty email to the entire class from me yesterday, with threats to drop anyone who misses more than four classes.

It's one of the upsides of teaching: motivation by the shame factor to practice what you preach.

Off to the studio to paint.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Catholic School Week Art

Here's what we did last year -

It's hung in the hall of the school. There are total of twenty-four 8"x8" canvases in the icon, painted by 24 students in acrylic. 

Here's what we did this year - 

I was given the small digital print on the left by the school. On the right is the copy I painted in gouache from the print, on broken pieces of paper of 4"x4", tacked to a hard board by double-stickies made of masking tape. It took me about 22 hours to finish. I even worked on it under the flu (it's okay, I don't need roses for that).

A closer view of the copy. A square was assigned to each
of the 24 students, who collected paper from magazines
based on colors seen in their own square. They then cut
and pasted the one-inch squares on an 8"x8" canvas assigned
them. Each student had 64 squares to fill in with cut paper.
After three days intense cutting and pasting and searching for the perfect color to match, we put all 24 canvases together in order today. This was how it looked. After placing the canvases on the floor, I took the photo standing on a table. That explains the converging seams - the camera wasn't quit "square" with the assemblage. The finished size is 32"x48", same as the icon from last year.