Tuesday, June 24, 2014

muskrat love

"Muskrat, muskrat, candlelight..." It's been running through my head all day.

Yesterday I finally went to investigate the pond where Sr. Brigid assured me there were almost always swans. There were. With cygnets (I will post those photos eventually).

However, to my astonishment and delight, while I was taking pictures of the swans, a muskrat climbed out of the water not too far from me and had supper.  He certainly loved his salad.  He didn't seem to mind me in the least.  I'd never seen a muskrat before, but I couldn't think of anything else it might be - water animal, beaver-like with a rat tail. Needless to say, I changed my focus for a while.  

I thought I'd share.

Well, look who is wandering up the hill...


Clearly saying Evening Prayer...

Yes, those are swan feathers. 

Well, hello there!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

vampire opera

I just went to a vampire opera.

No, I am not making this up.

Tammy Ryan, who plays a lead role, Della, is someone I have known for a number of years now.  I remember her staying with us when she was auditioning for things when she was in college.  I've watched and enjoyed Facebook photos.  This was the first time, however, that I've heard her sing! That is, if you don't count hymns in chapel.  And let's just say there aren't many high D's in The Hymnal 1982.

I enjoyed it very much.

The music is from the 1828 "gothic opera" by Heinrich Marschner.  It's big music, the kind of music most people think of when they think of opera. Reminded me of Wagner (and therefore Bugs Bunny and "kill the wabbit" on an epic scale, but never mind). Well done. I appreciated having real musicians playing (piano, violin, and brass, if I remember correctly).

Here's a big performance of another version in New Orleans, a much larger setting than this tiny minimalist one.  It looks nothing like what I saw, but you can hear the music:

And then there's the new libretto.  I can't tell you how many times I laughed out loud.  Not all of the lines in it are something I'd type out on a blog, but it's fun and fabulous.  Occasionally the juxtaposition of such lines with such music made it even funnier.  And I appreciated the nods to Monty Python and Buffy the Vampire-Slayer, too.  Wonder what other references I missed, not being up on my Anne Rice or current television series and movies... Of course, you can't hear all the words when you have three different characters singing different words at the same time, so there were parts I missed. I'd love to find a written copy at some point.

The basic storyline, modified from the original to the point that it's almost a different story, is that of a man who wants to join a group of London vampires. He's looking for power and immortality, though he certainly does enjoy preying on young women as a way to get it.  Apparently vampires need to seduce them first before imbibing, or it doesn't count? I was a bit at a loss here, again being somewhat ignorant as vampire traditions go.  In any case, once bitten himself, this man has to kill 29 young women over 29 days in order to be fully a member.  Think gang ritual initiation.

Meanwhile, Tammy's character, Della (SPOILER ALERT!) dumps her fiance because he and her father are deciding her future without even consulting her.

Add bar scenes, various lovers' spats, and a Buffy-style Muffy who tries unsuccessfully to kill off the vampire herself.  Fast forward to the end and add a masked costume ball.  So far, so good, certainly the stuff of opera.

What this new libretto also does, along with making people laugh, is make some very pointed statements about women not being treated as men's property and about the way people tend to blame the victim.  Well, that tart shouldn't have been out alone at night. She was asking for it. What do you expect. Too familiar to contemporary ears.

It also made the point that Della's fiance isn't as holy as he thinks he is given that he has stood by and done nothing up until the point when Della is threatened.  What, none of these other women matter? ...and so all we so-called innocent bystanders share some of the guilt for things that happen if we do nothing when we could do something.

No, it doesn't quite spell it out in such very small words, but nearly, mostly through the humor.

To summarize: 19th century London, including costumes, but a current sensibility.  (If you've read any Amelia Peabody Egyptology mysteries, it's a somewhat similar combination.)

It was well done, it was fun, and I would have been glad to be there even if I hadn't had the extra enjoyment of finally seeing and hearing Tammy on stage. I love being surrounded by music, performed live.  Time well spent.

Any of you who live in the Boston area and might be interested, go have some fun! There are four performances left: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week. Tickets are to be had online here: https://www.artful.ly/store/events/3363. They are free, with donations encouraged (which is why I could go).  It's at the Boston Center for the Arts' Plaza Theater on Tremont Street.

Finally, here is a not-very-good homemade video of it I just found on YouTube. The performance and set have improved since this taping, I must say (must have been a rehearsal), but it will give you a better idea:

For more information:
OperaHub Announces: DER VAMPYR

Saturday, June 21, 2014

purple-headed mallards and other pond waterfowl du jour

Sr. Brigid and I attended a celebration today for our bishop, Tom Shaw SSJE. He's stepping down after around twenty years as bishop, and they planned an outdoor Eucharist and a picnic in the park by Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain, Boston.  BYOP, but water/iced tea and ice cream were provided. Free Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia! Life is good. 

a preacher's kid gets put to work mowing the prairie around the tent - good grief - the grass was past my habit hem once I was seated, which was rather amusing

We were driving in from the south shore, so we got there plenty early and had more than enough time to go for a walk and enjoy the truly beautiful day. Just warm enough early on not to need a jacket; not too hot to sit in the sun later on.

While walking around Jamaica Pond, Sr. Brigid and I happened upon these ducks.  

Well, actually, I almost walked right by them because I was watching a couple of cormorants out on a little island. I didn't expect cormorants in a city pond... Thank God for SB or I might have missed them.  But what are they? I wondered. They look like mallards, but where's the green? Must be something else. But then...

So then I crept close. Several of them saw me and couldn't have cared less, but I was still careful. They were mostly sleeping, and I didn't want to scare them off.  Maybe, I thought, they are just at a funny angle in the sun. Iridescence can change color sometimes.  Nope. Still purple.

Yup, they have the mallard wing bar...

I've now sent an email to a friend who knows all about birds, so I am waiting to hear about this.

Meanwhile, I must share pictures of two other pond fowl.

First, a brand-new bird to me: what turns out to be a Muscovy duck.  This time I did see it and said, "What is THAT?"  Black and white with a red turkey ruffle on his beak.

Well, I bet his mother thinks he's beautiful.

Green iridescent feathers on his back... I couldn't see those at first.

So I started chasing him, paparazzi-style. But trying not to scare him off completely, of course. I wonder if paparazzi have to try this, too. 

Don't leave! I don't have my real camera with a telephoto!

One last set of photos, this time of birds who couldn't have cared less that I was there.  I'm not dumb enough to pick them up, but I was certainly close enough to do so.

Canada gosling! Who knew fuzzy baby birds could be so huge?!

Mom just turned her back and left, even with this person standing over her baby. Whatever. He's fine. 


Can you believe this is right in the city of Boston?  How lucky we are.

All this, Eucharist with much thanksgiving, friends with cute babies I hadn't seen yet, and Ben and Jerry's to top it all off.  Thank you, God.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Suor Cristina Scuccia canta "Livin' on a Prayer"

Let's hear it for singing sisters! Gregorian chant this is not... But I'm enjoying the idea just as much as the crowd who voted her the winner of Italy's 'The Voice' this year.

"Holy moly, a nun just won Italy's 'The Voice'"

Here's an article about it:
A short excerpt:
After winning, the nun kept her modest attitude up and asked the audience to join her in a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Thanking her fellow sisters who had come along to all of the previous rounds, she lifted the trophy into the air and thanked God. 

Leading the audience in prayer is not the usual stuff of those shows.  Go, Sister!

Wonder if she'll accept that record deal... Wonder what her community thinks of all this! My guess is that they're delighted and perplexed at the same time. I doubt their rule of life addresses "reality" television! God is full of surprises, and this is certainly one of them.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chikungunya in Haiti

Looking for a reading for Noon Office later today, I went to check some of the excellent blogs I know in case there might be a good meditation on today's office readings. I want to find something on not being anxious. "Consider the lilies" (Matt. 6:25-34) was the gospel reading for Morning Prayer, and it's always good to hear.

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
I know it, I've experienced it, and I believe it.  And lately it has also made me sad thinking about Haiti in that context.  We don't provide for each other very well sometimes.  Then I also remember that many of the people I met in Haiti could teach me infinite amounts on this particular passage. God is certainly there.

While considering this along with the lilies, I arrived at my Blogger reading list. Right near the top, I found this post title:

NPR Story - Chikungunya in Haiti - part 2

As I soon discovered, the writers of a blog I follow, Livesay [Haiti] Weblog, were interviewed by NPR for their coverage of this disease, and one of their patients, Emma, was included in the final cut for the broadcast. You can listen to it here:

NPR reports:
Transmitted by mosquitoes, the chikungunya virus causes rash, fever and excruciating joint pain. It has no cure. The good news: It's rarely fatal. Epidemiologists say the virus is headed to the U.S.

Lovely. On so many counts. As though Haiti needs this. As though anyone does! I gather from news elsewhere on the internet that they've had a few cases in Florida, but they expect the effects to be worse in Haiti.
“Longer term, some increase in the levels of joint pains and arthritis-like illness in the population can be expected, given the patterns in Africa and Asia, and given what the French islands are reporting,” said Dr. James Hospedales, the executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). “This may be the real ‘legacy’ of ChikV that we will see in time.”
And in post-earthquake Haiti, where 300,000 people suffered injuries during that country’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, people could be at higher risk, Hospedales said.
“From the literature, the persistent arthritis-joint pain following ChikV infection seems more frequent in the presence of pre-existing joint damage, fractures,” he said.  http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/16/4121756/three-florida-women-report-acquiring.html
Yes, I took a photo of a mosquito.
I really did.
We were well acquainted.
Haiti 2009

You can read about the Livesays' experience with the interviews here:  http://www.livesayhaiti.com/2014/05/maladi-chikungunya-ayiti.html. The NPR coverage is brief and factual.  The Livesays' posts make it real.

Sad to say, one of the doctors down helping them has now come down with it herself.  Here is an excerpt:

If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times.  There is no predicting tomorrow on this half of this island in this part of the Caribbean. 

One day you are stitching up wounds and placing IUDs and taking care of very sick babies and being interviewed by NPR while celebrating your birthday and the next day you are in pain, in bed, a victim to the newest mosquito borne illness.

Dokte Jen went from all of that activity to having a fever and pain in a matter of hours. Not a very nice post birthday hangover at all...

In the next day or two you can watch the NPR feed for a story on Chikungunya in Haiti, you will likely hear Emma (first photo) speaking about her case and her baby, Fritzlene.  You will also very likely hear Jen's concerns about the virus that now has her lying in bed in  a lot of pain.

I want to share one other thing with you.  Emma is a rock star Momma.  Life has dealt her an insanely unfair hand. I so want her voice on NPR and I want people to know she is an incredibly smart woman with more moxie than most of us dream of having.  This 25 year old is tougher than tough.  Right now she is pulling herself up and out of her unfair circumstances. She knew Fritzlene was sick before a single symptom showed.  She is a Mom in every sense of the word. We sometimes hear that poor folks shouldn't have babies and people make comments that are disrespectful and hurtful.  I know for many that sounds absurd. I wish I was exaggerating. There are some that think forced sterilization of the poor makes perfect sense.  There are some that believe material poverty equals stupidity or no right to a free life. We watch materially poor women provide for and love their babies well every day. Like us, they are not perfect mothers, but they are doing the very best they can with what they have and that in and of itself earns my respect and props.

It is safe to say we are all nervous about this virus. Thankfully it is not fatal. Unfortunately it cannot be treated (Malaria can be treated) and only supportive care can be done to try and make patients more comfortable. We don't have time to be sick and we hate seeing the mommas and babies that already have so much on their plate forced to add yet another thing to overcome.

There is also a follow-up post: http://www.livesayhaiti.com/2014/05/npr-story-chikungunya-in-haiti-part-2.html

Here's what they have to say about their latest experience with it at their maternity center:

For newborn babies it seems much more difficult to tolerate.  Emma's baby had it at two weeks of age, but we now have two five day old babies with it. New babies that have not established a solid nursing pattern are at a higher risk. Tonight the Maternity Center transported a baby girl (born early morning last Saturday) to three hospitals.  Thankfully, the third hospital was able to take baby Anna.  At least three of the Maternity Center staff-members have had it and there is a collective holding of our breath as those of us still doing fine all hope to be the ones that don't get it. 

It is rainy season, our area is low lying and we frequently have standing water and thicker mosquito population. We don't know what to expect long term, but in the short term we are so sad to see pregnant women and babies suffering from this disease and we feel a lot bit helpless as we watch it spread so quickly. 

I am sorry to admit that I hadn't been following this and praying about it. I need to do that. As Jesus says, anxiety won't get us anywhere. Prayer, on the other hand, is powerful. Will you join me?