April 24, 2005
And the World Still Turns
The dogwood outside my window is covered in white blossoms, waiting for a downpour to paint the land verdant apple-green. Delicate lacework patterns appear and disappear on my desk, as the sun flickers through heavy clouds and my curtains.
It’s Sunday afternoon, and I sit in a worn swivel chair with arms chipped by time and wear, wondering what I used to do before I learned the art of blogging. A stack of brand-new Maddalena books sits behind my back, next to the mugs filled with brushes and quill pens.
I know. Children. Swimming. Skating. Walks to the park. Sewing. Baking cupcakes for Brownies. Visiting friends. Ironing bed linen. Listening to opera.
Anything, but staring at a computer screen.
What has happened to our lives in this wonderful era of innovation and technology? We wake and go to sleep talking on cell phones, checking email, and blogging. Sharing our lives with millions of others who may or may not care about us.
The birds are smarter, listening to the call of spring. My red-feathered friends Alex and Maddie must be well-settled in their haven of soft twigs and fluff. His Grace’s bright coat shines in the sun as he flies back-and-forth, loaded with safflower seeds in his beak, too busy preparing for his new family to worry about the rest. But he did stop by the other day, on my window sill, to ask how I feel about our new pope. I told him that Benedict XVI reminds me so much of my grandfather who, after having survived two world wars and the communists, turned so completely to God that he didn’t notice that the world has long moved on.
“So, we cardinals can’t marry yet?” Alex demanded.
“Umm,” I nodded sadly and replied, “Notchet.”
And so we both go on, my red-feathered friend seeking happiness at a feeder loaded with seeds and I at the computer, looking for new friends across the web.
Will one of you write back? If you do, I’ll tell you that Maddalena, my new paper child, is the loveliest thing I’ve seen in a long time: jacket, text, illustrations, et al.
Oh, yes. The world still turns, but more rapidly each day, sometimes leaving me behind quite breathless.
April 10, 2005
Good Morning, Alex and Maddie
With arms covered in angry scratches and cuts from pruning roses, I stood in the shower this morning, thinking about my garden, but not feeling the sharp sting of soap. The cicadas won’t be back this year and, somehow, I’ll have to keep the deer away.
The spring is here, and I feel the miracle of rebirth. Two days ago, just before the heavy rains returned to New Jersey and my garden, I patiently distributed one-hundred pounds of fertilizer. With the bucket in my arms, refilled every so often from heavy bags, I threw generous handfuls across the budding earth, wanting to call out, nah, chick, chick, chick, chick, the way my grand-aunt did, to her feathered army, in rural Slovakia years ago.
“Good morning, Lady Magnolia. Spring greetings, Lady Plum. Oh, how do you do, Lord Francis. Ciao, Giuseppe.” I greeted my friends on my daily walk. “Be good and grow strong,” I called to the day lilies, bleeding heart, primulas, and forget-me-nots growing vigorously by the fence. “How beautiful you are,” I thought of the golden miniature and tall daffodils in the center flower bed around my Boy. “And you, too, bright pansies and primroses!”
On a late evening walk, long after the skies colored with bright orange streaks, several pairs of bunnies froze in the lawns until I passed by, their dark eyes like shiny buttons in the falling light. This year, I’ve no burrows tucked safely against the window wells, with perhaps fewer cute little bunnies fattening up on my daisies. But the speckled fawns will soon be around, with their white tails flashing in mid-air as they hop away on their spindly long legs. The Canadian geese walk purposefully in pairs by Lake Carnegie. Soon the Tow Path will be covered with fuzzy yellow waddling balls.
My lawn this morning was covered with a carpet of glistening diamonds. Moisture hung from every branch, every stalk. A pair of cardinals hopped excitedly on my wisteria arbor, doing a dance of love around the heavy post that supports the vine. “Good morning, Excellency,” I said. “With your permission, I’ll call Your Lordship Alex,” I said to the fluffy ball of bright red plumage. “And you’ll be Maddie,” I named his shy tawny mate. The pair will stay with me through the year, until their young ones will start their own life. It’ll be fun to watch them.
I hope they don’t fly into my window, wanting to perch on my weeping ficus tree, so huge that its leaves and branches are pasted against the window pane. One cardinal did, a beautiful red bird, and I buried him in soft white flannel cloth, deep into the cold earth, thinking that he may never have had the pleasure of feeding his young ones. A gray stone marks the spot, reminding me of the shortcomings of a church that forbids the joy of conjugal love to its clergy.
April 09, 2005
Of Popes, Fathers, and Men
Yesterday would have been my dad’s birthday. Like Pope John Paul II, tata would have been eighty-four. I thought of them both, on this sad day of our pope’s funeral. For years the two men, born in neighboring Czech Republic and Poland, shared the same cultural roots, lived in fascist and communist Europe, and shared the same conservative mind until their last hour.
I miss them both, not because they were perfect, but because they were good, and tried to live up to their goals in a world that is changing even as I type these words.
Who’d ever heard of blogging, just a few years ago? I said I wouldn’t do this, and yet here I am, sharing my thoughts with everyone. After coming to America, it was not easy for tata to adjust his ways. It would have been even more difficult for any pontiff to amend century-long practices of the Roman Catholic church in less than three decades.
Witness the ways of the Roman Curia in the 1560s when the plot of Maddalena begins! For some twenty years prior, its members discussed, argued, and tried to polish the image of the Catholic Church. And the results? A few rich cardinals resigned themselves to take their holy vows in order to keep their lucrative holdings, and moved their mistresses away from public life.
Oh, yeh. Some, like Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, did great things. Alessandro decided to build a unique church for the new soldiers of Christ. A bit of stardust for him and the Jesuits. That’s also when the grandson of Michelangelo’s patron Paul III—you know the pope who commissioned the Sistine Chapel where the papal conclave is soon to be held—became one of the hopeful papabiles.
He was very wealthy. Rich enough to buy the electors? Well, I’d be giving away the plot as Alessandro’s and Maddalena's tale becomes engulfed by the sixteenth-century Vatican politics.
Read their story, and you might begin to understand why a humble shepherd who truly loves his flock, couldn’t see women ordained and priests married in our complex modern world.
Do send me your thoughts, even before reading my book!