Saturday, December 25, 2010

Poverty of Compline: Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod by Mandy Moore
i hope you had a merry, warm day and a meaningful christmas, if you are a christian. 

in the course of this very busy day (for me!), something struck me hard in the chest as deeply true:

i would sleep unperturbed, and enough, were the monks to gather nightly round my bed -- say, sometime between their usual 9 pm and my normal 3 am -- and sing me off to SlumberLand with the lullaby of compline.

but let's face it, friend:  despite the cistercians just over the apple orchard wall, despite frequent visits from their runaway abbott (he jumps the wall and checks in, incognito, as a Manor Guest whenever the trials of monastery life press too close), i am in poverty of compline.

our neighboring brothers maintain a couple of websites, that we know of, mostly dedicated to the worldly business of raising money and providing for their keep.  to fit in, they also provide links to larger catholicdom, and in this way i sometimes work up a SeriousPretend, as i transport myself to dark churches in the night, the shadows pierced as much by sound as light.  the sound of a leather sandal on stone, those creaks, the sudden snap and electrical quick-sizzle click of a monk turning on the electric bulb in his choir stall. 

they enter the church from more entrances than i knew existed, though before reconvening for the next Hour, i sleuth out the newest portals, if -- that is -- i am not barred -- non-monk, woman, visitor, silent retreatant (slightly suspect, altogether forgettable).

they make loving reverence to mary, to the altar. they make a bee line right to her.

those were the only moments that risked a show of pride, if pride can exist unconsciously.

the reverence to mary.

i usually sat up in the balcony, in the back, the better to see it all, hear it, have the chance to match sandal to shadow, leather slap to sound.   there is this conceit -- that they all look alike, hooded brown, most slender, schooled even as to the angle of the head.

they might as well sport individual numbered jersies, their god names ironed-on in shiny block letters.  when they bow to the mother of god, they are ardent, yearning lovers, lost in adoration or need, and the form of their reverence is as individual as a brushstroke in burnt umber.  some of the oldest monks proffer jaunty youth, closer to their beloved than the young man just professed, young in the way they mean young: young in the life.

they bow not so much with a fluorish as with energy -- impatient energy, smooth, conserved energy, ragged i'm-gonna-burst ecstacy.  they shit on the old laws of thermodynamics and all that preservation, conservation, transfer but not creation!  when in SeriousPretend, i'm up there looking down, they're down there, looking at nothing but mary (even mary as piled up lectionaries psalms psalters liturgies...).

were i there, and huddled up there, all ready for bed except the going, my bed turned down back in my humdrum retreat house room, tans on beiges over a nightmare of neutrals, were i there, up there in the balcony, the tired happy brothers would sing and say these things (among other things) for me, tonight, and now, according to the day, the 25th of december:

Compline (Night Prayer)

O God, come to my aid.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Christ, thou who art the light and day,
Who chasest nightly shades away,
Thyself the Light of Light confessed,
And promiser of radiance blest:
O holy Lord, we pray to thee,
Throughout the night our guardian be;
In thee vouchsafe us to repose,
All peaceful till the night shall close.
O let our eyes due slumber take,
Our hearts to thee forever wake:
And let thy right hand from above
Shield us who turn to thee in love.
O strong defender, hear our prayers,
Repel our foes and break their snares,
And govern thou thy servants here,
Those ransomed with thy life-blood dear.
Almighty Father, this accord
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord,
Who with the Holy Ghost and thee
Doth reign through all eternity.

Canticle Nunc Dimittis

Keep us safe, Lord, while we are awake,
and guard us as we sleep,
so that we can keep watch with Christ and rest in peace.
Now, Master, you let your servant go in peace.
You have fulfilled your promise.
My own eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples.
A light to bring the Gentiles from darkness;
the glory of your people Israel.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.

Keep us safe, Lord, while we are awake, and guard us as we sleep, so that we can keep watch with Christ and rest in peace.

May the almighty Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.

we should all take such care before we close our eyes at the end of day!  unconscious sleep is nothing to be entered into lightly.

ah, but they aren't here, my monastery friends. there is no twinkly-eyed brother william, forever being punished for breaking silence, for laughing, then set the unenviable task of scrubbing the flagstone on his knees. no formidable old father anthony, old arsehole monk, guestmaster, rulemeister. (arsehole anthony was bone weary and when inclined toward the virgin, clearly beseeching, clearly begging to go home.)

i have tapes, i have memory, i have worship aids galore but i cannot reproduce the loving send-off, confident of my safety, of my lasting, of my waking -- intact.  dead, possibly, but awake, intact. 

the dearth of compline, my lack of monk, is making me feel hopeless and lost, and my obéissance an absolute insult.

so i had this desperate thought that made me smile. what do you think? wynken, blynken, and nod, as lay compline?  it might not fly in rome, or even over the apple orchard wall, but it has cadence, and memory, and just as many a promise.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod (Dutch Lullaby)

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe---
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!"
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea---
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish---
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam---
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
'T was all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 't was a dream they 'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea---
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one's trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
And Nod.

-- Eugene Field

say good night, prof...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Crayzee Central -- v2

She seems a tad bit *off* yet but that will take care of itself, dontcha know?  She will have her Full Force Snark on in short order.

We should probably have a moment of silence for the poor soul who is going to be the first to take her on.  Will it be Happy?  Will it be WhiteCoat?  All I know is that it won't be moi.

Of course, equally endangered are the idjits who work too hard at endearing themselves to this purveyor of:

High-quality emergency nursing care, primary care, drug-seeker support services, physician handwriting interpretation, arrangement of rapid ambulance transfers to detox, bus tokens and cab vouchers, Stage 4 malignant cynicism, and concierge service.
Nurse K and Crass-Pollination are back.

There seems to have been a notable change in venue, as she mentions a "little community Montana hospital," and does NOT mention Dr. Bloody Gloves at all.  In fact, the first reference she makes of physician staff is... respectful?  Polite?  Complimentary?  (I know! I know!  It's mind boggling!)

Drug-seekers, progressive politicos, fibromyalgeurs, migraineurs (chronic paineurs of any sort), doods and sum doods, alike -- Beware. 

If you were thinking of heading to the ER (ED, if you're WhiteCoat) for a pregnancy check at 3 am...

If you characterize your pain as being a 12 on a 10 scale...

If you are allergic to all non-narcotic pain relievers and just happen to respond best to that one drug that starts with "d"...

If you are crayzee and think you might be needing a blanket, a sammich, and another pillow...

Be forewarned, Nurse K is back! *

* Please, though, avert your eyes from her Tweets (as erNurseK), as she is being a lascivious BlogWhore on that bit of social media.  SAMPLES: 

Four posts so far on Blog 2.0. Have you added me to your RSS feeds?

It's cute...lots of people are reading 20-30 pages of my archives. 9000 pageviews today :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wooden's UCLA Streak Record Broken by the UConn Women Huskies

congratulations, uconn women!

One of the biggest streaks in sports now belongs to the UConn women's basketball team.
The No. 1-ranked Huskies topped the 88-game winning streak by John Wooden's
UCLA men's team from 1971-74, beating No. 22 Florida State 93-62 on Tuesday night.

unfortunate update HERE

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ecce homo

I don't know how to describe waking up this morning without grossing you out.  And you know how much I hate grossing you out!

Yesterday was an improvement over its recent predecessors, and as I drifted off to sleep with the aid of a double dose of tizanidine and a few stray milligrams of amitriptyline, I enjoyed toying with the idea of that trend continuing indefinitely. I had visions of sugar-free "sugar" plums dancing in my poor head.

I slept way past my usual wake-up time. 

There's been a drastic change in my sleep hygiene practices. 

Yesterday, while practicing the technique portion of the Olympic Wheelchair Vaccuuming Competition, I sustained a training injury.  A deep puncture wound to my -- and if you know me, you guessed it! -- right big toe.  I did not feel it happen and it was only after growing perturbed at the strange red rasberries that seemed to be materializing behind me that I thought of blood. 

I was home alone -- sometimes, but not often, a great notion.  Thanks to the intersection of so many holidays, Fred and I negotiated an afternoon off for the Domestic Staff -- a benefit for spouses and offspring, too.  Their gratitude knew no bounds.  At least I think that's what they were saying to us as they sped over the speed bumps and down The Country Lane on the tandem bicycles Fred provided to lend their outing a cachet of Christmas cheer.

(Not to imply Christmas as the only source of holiday glee, you understand.)

You shoulda seen them peddle when Fred pulled up behind them in Ruby the Honda CR-V, giving the horn a healthy BEEPBEEP!  Oh, I love the holiday season!  It brings out the child in all of us.

The major issue with my right big toe turned out not to be pain (I felt nothing -- something a medical professional might argue is a negative, but really, you can't always rely on those over-educated ninnies) but the fact that the bleeding would not stop.  Eight hours later, even, if you removed pressure from the site, it bled on.  Dedicated l'il puncture wound.

I must have wrapped that toe in a whole roll of paper towels, then set out to sort through our eclectic supply of cleaning products.

At which point, I confess, the rites of every New Year started to become manifest and a massively long To Do List took form in my headachy head.  First item:  clear out the eclectic supply of cleaning products.

Fred is a sucker, a cute and kind sucker, but a sucker nonetheless.  He brings home some amazing concoctions, all bought from the same man.  You know, the guy who "swears this stuff works like magic."   That guy.  His products all seem to be sold from very mobile kiosks or from under counters.  Amazingly, his inventions are not required to list active ingredients on their labels, prompting him to claim that they are all non-toxic, "as safe for humans as they are safe for pets!" When they foam and smoke upon being applied to various stains and spills, well, I guess that is just unexpected entertainment -- an additional value!

Anyway, there I was, bleeding like a stuck pig all over the Haddock clan's priceless collection of oriental rugs, along with an occasional splatter flung onto the antique fabrics that upholster the Thomas Chippendale and George Hepplewhite collection housed in the 18th century Scottish Instruments Music Room.

My only hope is that some of the splatter on the gold-and-maroon striped, five-legged Hepplewhite Settee will sort of... blend in.

Photo courtesy of Southwood Furniture
Anyway, I did as much damage control as possible, then tended to the bleeding toe, which I washed and bandaged.  Pretty quickly, a new CRPS/RSD symptom presented itself.

I don't wear shoes or socks, ever.  When I go out, I sport a pair of Old Friends:

It's the best I can do. 

Still, immediately after sustaining this training injury, I began to want socks... heavy, thick, soft socks.  It was enlightening to find that, at some point in the last eight years, I had put all my socks in a red Crabtree and Evelyn shopping bag that I then stashed on the upper shelf of the closet in my office.  Right where you'd expect to find socks!

I could see the evolution of my disease, as well as my acceptance of that disease, by the assortment of socks, all of which were brand new and unworn -- except for the three pathetic pair to which I had taken a fierce pair of scissors!  Toes were cut away and any area with elastic binding had been split.  I took the largest, most forgiving-looking pairs and tried to put them on.

I could not even get past the toes on my left foot, and not anywhere near that far on the right, despite my growing need for warmth and protection.

When I sleep, I cover myself with a single layer of well-worn, much loved cotton quilt -- but my feet and lower legs are never covered because even the weight of the thinnest sheet can set off hours of pain and burning. with lower limbs instantly becoming a boiled-lobster's red.

So when Fred found me under two quilts and a heavy blanket, he about fell over in shock.  I put on some flannel pajamas, and a hooded jacket (which he did not find so surprising!). 

My teeth began to chatter, I felt such a sensation of cold.  Determined to perpetuate its reknown for paradox, my legs were that unique and weird bright red of CRPS, and they were putting out waves of... heat.

Still, the day was elevated out of the morass of former days.

Somewhere in there, Fred found organic Fuji apples on sale for a dollar and bought what can only be called a mess of them.  Fred was a Christmas baby and this year he has requested, in lieu of a birthday cake, an apple pie.  I plan on making several despite his contention that all apples taste the same when spiced for a pie, since we have three other varieties on hand, as well.

Christmas birthday pie!

After spending so much time on Manor Decor, showing our diversity and the Haddock commitment to inclusiveness by fêting every religious or spiritual tradition known (or suspected) to human kind, we decorated our wing in a pretty traditional, straightforward Christian-y sort of way.  Angels, potted rosemary plants shaped like aromatic trees, bits of holly and pine (the cones spray-painted a naturally distressed gold), hand blown ornaments gathered in pretty glass pieces, to catch the light.  Years ago, we bought what must be the world's smallest crèche, made of soapstone by Vietnamese artisans and contained in a tiny basket that doubles as the manger when stood up.

I know I should be ashamed, and keep this to myself, but whenever confronted with the scene, no matter the grandeur of the subject or the design, I always think:  Ecce homo.

But that is almost a whole other topic!

We have made good eats, and abundantly.  We have done what good works we can, and made private accusatory lists of all we did not do.  We are cognizant of the reasons for the season we purport to celebrate.  We laugh.  We ponder.

So, yes, things are looking up, even with hospital stays and surgeries, illnesses and handicaps.  Even with relatives gone missing, and relatives denied.  Our animals are safe and happy, our cars and house insured.

We have an abundance of apples and I am a whiz with a food processor.

The President and Congress dismantled DADT, and we are glad.  A child of the American military, I know how hard a step, and how considered a change, this is.  Change does not come easy to that way of life, even when mandated, but unmandated?  We'd be not asking and not telling forever.  The demise of DADT merits a celebration, too!

I briefly considered beginning a Gratitude Journal.

Then I woke up. 

I was up and down during the night, mostly because of Crud Remnants in the lungs.  Well, okay, once because of some delicious, thick (nonfat) yogurt that was calling my name very loudly.  And once more for one of the much ballyhooed apples.  (They are big and round, firm and perfumed, these amazing apples!)

I slept, for the second day in a row, much later and longer than usual.  It was 8:30 am when the pitter::patter of feline feet woke me.  Except that the feet appeared to be on my chest (again) and not on the more acoustic floor.

It wasn't exactly feet I was hearing, or their motion, but rather mouths and paws.  One mouth, really, and its accompanying two front paws.

Someone had eaten a mess of kibble.
And lost it.
On me.  On my quilts.  On my blanket.
And Dobby was eating it.

I decided, invoking the wisdom of Solomon, to close my eyes again, and wait for the end.  Surely there would be an end to the chewing-purring concert my cats were orchestrating? (Marmy Fluffy Butt, Dobby's mother, and Uncle Kitty Big Balls, his uncle, were both looking on with parental pride.)

If that isn't gross, I don't know what is.
Except maybe the time when, as a kitten, Sammy pooped on me. 
Different blanket, different bed, same phenomenon.
Fred almost busted a gut laughing because I grabbed "it" as I was waking up, and discovered myself holding what appeared to be some version of a Tootsie Roll.

Ecce homo, indeed.

*  I am NOT going to do any research among the numerous online cat resource sites.  Somehow, they will trace my computer address, they will know -- this is that woman who has been both vomitted on and pooped on by her cats.  This is where she lives.  This is what she is wearing today.  This is her phone number.

Fiat lux

There is for sure a Christmas post in it.  Or maybe, more rightly, a Solstice... reflection.

Fred and I were discussing the lunar eclipse coming tonight, and tomorrow's Winter Solstice, a holy night.  I was in bed, wrapped in quilts, because I'm cold. 

Don't laugh, because the doings of CRPS are mysterious, but ever since sustaining a fairly deep puncture wound to my right big toe yesterday, I have been unable to get warm!  I cannot figure it out and even with fleece on, and a hoody, under two quilts topped by a thick blanket?  I am chilled to the bone.  The ultimate proof is that I upped the thermostat two degrees -- something that I am loathe to do under most any circumstances because that's a bill that always bites...

So we are talking dark, and light, and cold, and night, and I am shivering.

"Ring-a-ling-a-ling" from the delivery door -- the one just *under* the drawbridge, hardly noticeable to most visitors but a real boon to UPS and mail carriers, as it cuts their time spent dealing with Manor deliveries way down.  It's actually a smallish dutch-doored entryway into a former winesap cellar that has been converted into a mailroom that Captain Haddock insists be fully staffed (even on weekends and holidays). I guess that privilege has its reasons, or vice-versa, and no obligation to explain itself to me, but I have recently decided to divert the staff dedicated to sitting in receipt of the odd package or two, and installed a chime to notify us of arrivals.  This has freed up an extra pair of hands for use in wassail-making, fire-tending, nog-spiking, and so on.

But it also means that Fred has to set off at a fast-paced jog in answer to any broadcasted ring-a-ling-ling or risk incurring the wrath of various men and women in uniform, all in an incredible rush at this time of year.

We get very little personal mail and even fewer unexpected boxes.

So it was kind of neat to see Fred so laden down, to tell the truth!  He unceremoniously dumped the surprising armful on the bed -- ignoring the red and white FRAGILE labels.

Three huge, overstuffed manilla envelopes, two medium-sized boxes, all with return addresses like Davidson Lighting, Crystal Clear Images, Lucca...

I was perplexed, not able to match up these names and addresses, wanting to master them even in this season where the sudden and unexpected are most likely to be joys.  Fred watched my frustration with a growing version of his own and wordlessly handed me a pair of scissors, urging me to get on with it.  He hasn't had his coffee yet. 

Do you remember The Boxes that my brother TW and I agreed to send each other?  He sent me several and you can read about them here, and also here.  Oh, and here as well!  It all began a year ago:
A few weeks back, thinking it would be a way to save money and be a marvelous gift, I asked my two brother-units for used copies of the two books that had been the most formative to the person they each have become.

Grader Boob declined.

Tumbleweed, a stranger to me, took on the task with more compassion, generosity, and insight than I could ever deserve.  Three such Gifts he sent me, each box laden with small things imbued with larger meaning from his life.  Three occasions of grace.

This year, I changed the rules... I reverted.  I failed to grow.  I went backward.  Down with The Crud and using it as an excuse, I sent him a gift card.  I knew he would be disappointed in me, despite my honoring his atheism with a card celebrating the more natural, the more believable, the equally magical solstice.  I almost hoped he would forget about me this year.

Instead, he's put the light back in my eyes.

Prisms.  He sent me prisms, and prisms, and more prisms.  Small ones, medium, large ones.  Simple ones and endlessly facetted ones.  Seventeen of them.  (Seventeen as of now, anyway!)

The last time a total lunar eclipse fell on the winter solstice was in 1638 but there has never been a brother so in tune with a sister's dark nights, so confident in the power of the simple and the true.  It makes me happy to know, and I do know it, that my obsidian hours do not trouble his heart.

I am continually humbled by TW, a wonderful thing.  I have several deals ongoing with the Lord  of the Universe, all pertaining to humility.  In general, I am to be richly rewarded once I achieve Total Humility (and yes, I do find myself laughable!).  Who knew that all I needed was the return of this long lost boy and the complete submergence of my confidence that he was the one who needed finding?

TW, I love you.

fiat lux

Image from crystalinks: Pairs of Crystal Prisms of Consciousness Create Harmonic Grids