Monday, November 29, 2010

Walking in the Dark

My body (and house of my spirit) has a mind of its own.
 Like clockwork, it rouses me from sleep at 5 a.m. every day.
It wants to walk in the dark.

 Somewhere between sleep and awakening, I argue the reasons for staying abed--the warmth of the blankets, soft comforts of the mattress, the scent of the sweet one sleeping next to me...wouldn't you
 rather (I say to my other self) loll around in the sheets anticipating the day and dreaming a little longer?
I rarely win.
By 5:30, my legs carry me out the door
 and into the wonders of the night.

The splendid solitude of the dark comes with quiet companions.
The moon, for one, lends mystery and magic to aerobics and the art of night strolling. Waxing or waning, occasionally disappearing behind a mist of clouds or disappearing altogether, it can be counted on for a friendly crescent smile, a full-blown circle of light, or a moonbeam kiss for keeping it company.
For another, my long black shadow, defined by streetlights, leads me down the very center of the shell-crush, traffic-free street--a death-defying feat if done by day. The cats who live on the corner of Orange Street and San Marco sit stoically on their paver driveway as I pass by--except for the black one whose padded feet always scurry across my path.

Lanterns of all sorts light the way. Lightposts, security lights, and streetlights prevent stumbling and, as Christmas draws near, more houses wear garlands of light that wink and glitter from rooftops. Single LED candles greet travelers from Amanda's windows and, although it's the first of December and she's hung a wreath on the door, two jack-o-lanterns still wickedly grin from Margaret's walkway. Year round, the elusive glow of television coming from houses of resident night owls always mark my route.

 The silent night composes a quirky nocturnal song.
It's done with the whispers of sprinklers furtively watering lawns against water-use rules, the sloshing of wet clothes in the washing machine parked in old Mr. Soderholm's carport, and the 6 o'clock chime of the hallway clock at 525 Glen Oak Road. On Larchwood, monk parakeets chatter and squabble from their nest in a Canary Island palm and, once a week, a mysterious moving vehicle creates rhythmic slaps on the concrete with rolled-up newspapers tossed from its window.

+   +   +

Walking in the dark requires no sunscreen, the gulf-coast air moisturizing my skin.
 Breathing in and breathing out, my pace slows after three miles.
  My body's feeling fine, my spirit lifted up.
 As I turn a corner near the lake district, an elusive potpourri drifts by--
is that sea salt, fireplace smoke, and jasmine blooming on the vine?
It must be the magic hour--just before the sun slips over the edge of the earth.
A new day is about to happen.

 As I turn toward home, school children, talking on cell phones and waiting for the bus,
 huddle together at the corner of Bal Harbour and Jacaranda.
 Four doors from my house, the man with three kids, a carpet-cleaning truck and
 five bicycles runs on the treadmill in his opened garage.
A dog walker, plastic bag in hand, emerges with the family hound and,
 next door, Carmen's kitchen light is on.
Everything's as it should be.

 Mr. Softie's up--
the smell of coffee greets me as I step inside my door.
6:30 and all's well with the world.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Like Water for Sharing

Village fountain high in the Swiss Alps. Murren, Switzerland.

Water is the only drink for a wise man.
-Henry David Thoreau

Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.
- Mark Twain

I never drink water. I'm afraid it will be habit-forming.
- W. C. Fields

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


A wondrous kind of quiet comes with feathery layers of new snow and goose down. Falling softly in fat, hypnotizing flakes, the season's first blanket of snow settles lightly over the landscape without interruption, covering earth's dark and dusty leaf layer with a white and airy comforter.
Concrete streets and sidewalks, still hoarding heat from the summer sun, melt the snowfall on their surfaces, leaving manicured patches of white lawn and field between them.

Photograph: Brother Stan

Deck chairs and golf carts, not yet returned to winter storage, gather layers of snowflakes on their backs and bottoms, inviting wonderland sitting with softly contoured snow pads and pillows. In a few hours, the snow muffles the sounds of the expressway nearby, and, under the snow, garden flowers and bare buds snuggle into winter's white dress.

By evening, down comforters come out of storage for winter cocoons. Little is needed for a good winter's nap--a sack of white feathers, a pillow, and a fitted sheet. If ultimate luxury is the heart's desire, a feather bed laid over the mattress lures a sleeper
 into a naturally plumped-up nest.
+   +   +
Ah, sweet night and down under.
 Count the layers of warmth in the house--the soft sounds of  late-night television in the next room,
 the giggle of children recently tucked into beds,
 the white-noise of the refrigerator humming in the kitchen.
Slipping between icy layers, you wait for body heat to warm your winter's bed.
In a minute, your limbs relax to their natural length and soon the old seducer, sleep,
comes to sail you over the long, dark landscape to the other side of the moon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

12th Century Abbey in America?

I have to hand it to William Randolph Hearst.
+  +  +
My pilgrimage to the monastery in North Miami
unearthed a surprising backstory.
+ 1133-1144 A. D. The Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels was built in Segovia, Spain.
 Upon the canonization of Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian monk,
 the monastery was renamed in his honor and
 Cistercian monks occupied the monastery for nearly 700 years.
+ 1835 A.D. Due to a social revolution in the area, the Cloisters were seized, sold,
and converted into a granary and stable.
A stable? Really?
(Originally, the cloisters had no flooring.)
+ 1925 A. D. Newspaper mogul and antiquities collector Hearst purchased the Cloisters.
 Dismantled stone by stone and bound with protective hay, the structures were packed in 11,000 crates, numbered for identification and shipped to the United States.
 About that time, hoof and mouth disease broke out in Segovia.
 The U. S. Dept. of Agriculture quarantined the shipment, broke open the crates and burned the hay, fearing it was a possible carrier of the disease.
Unfortunately, the workmen failed to replace the stones in the same numbered boxes
 before moving them to a warehouse.
 As soon as the shipment arrived, Hearst's financial problems forced
most of his collection to be sold at auction.
 The stones remained in a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York for 26 years.
+ 1953 A. D. One year after Hearst's death, Messrs. W. Edgemon and R. Moss
purchased the stones for use as a tourist attraction.
It took 19 months and $1.5 million dollars to put the monastery back together.
+ 1964 A.D. Bishop Henry Louttit purchased the property for the
Diocese of Central, Southeast and Southwest Florida.
 Shortly thereafter, the monastery was put up for sale.
 Col. Robert Pentland, Jr. a multimillionaire banker, philanthropist and benefactor of many Episcopal churches, purchased the Cloisters and presented them to the parish of
St. Bernard de Clairvaux in North Miami, Florida.
Today, the Cloisters are a popular setting for weddings, fashion photography, tourist sightseeing,
 and masses held in the chapel (once the monks' dining hall).
Here, kitty-kitty...
The cloisters make a comfortable home for six cats
who live on the grounds and in the gardens.
The cat lady comes to feed them every day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pouring Wine, Abbey Style

I love an excuse to pour a glass of wine.

When it's the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,
it's time to taste the new wine--An ancient European feast day, Martinmas  marked
 the end of field work and the beginning of winter. It was (and is) celebrated in various ways.

I like Portugal's simple celebration:
Associated with the maturation of the year's wine,
 St. Martin's is the first day for tasting it.
 Around a bonfire, chestnuts roast under the embers
while a local light alcoholic beverage called "foot water" is poured.
 A little ditty goes:

It is St. Martin's Day,
we'll eat chestnuts, we'll taste the wine.

+   +   +
In the United States of America, 11/11 is celebrated as Veterans' Day.
at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,
 I drink a toast to those who so valiantly served.

Pax vobiscum.