Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winter in Chardon, Ohio

Linda shoveling the snow after a "lake effect" in Chardon, Ohio.
In a typical year we might get 120 inches of snow in the Lake Erie Snowbelt. That means a lot of shoveling and snow-blowing. We probably get double the snowfall that Cleveland gets.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Poem by Frank O'Malley


By Frank O’Malley

Let the Christbrand burst,
Let the Christbrand blazon.

Dartle whitely under the hearth-fire,
Unwind the wind, turn the thunderer,
And never , never thinning,
Forfend fear.
Flare up smartly, fix, flex, bless, inspire,
Instar the time, sear the sorcerer,
And never, never sparing,
Save all year.

Let the Christbrand burst,
Let the Christbrand blazon.

(Frank O’Malley was a beloved English Professor at the University of Notre Dame)

Winter Solstice Poem

Winter Solstice

The chill creeps into the bones:
December 21 and sun gone long before 5 o’clock;
Huge gray clouds roll in off Lake Erie
Riding the Witch’s gale, spitting sleet and

Fears as real and as organized as the swirl
Of pin oak leaves down Lakeshore Boulevard.
This day, shaken by nameless fears,
Seems to last forever:

I wonder how I will get through the next minute,
And the minute after that,
And the minute after that,

Wonder if I can make it
Until hope returns

Until peace-which-surpasses-understanding,
As mysterious as winter solstice’s fear--
My heart standing still, turning cold,
My spirit abandoned--

Until peace returns like grace like unexpected


                        Robert M. Coughlin

Summer Solstice Memory on Winter Solstice

Summer Solstice on Lake Erie--off Mentor Headlands, Ohio

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas in Jail

Last evening my daughter Carolan and I joined about 30 other church members (from St. Mary's Painesville, a church in Burton, St. Bede's, St. Anthony's, St. Matthew's of Kalispell, Montana (Carolan's parish), and a few other churches) in a Christmas celebration of song and prayer.

This activity took place in the Lake County Jail, under the watchful eyes of the corrections deputies, in the 4th floor gymnasium. We had 3 separate groups: the first group, maybe 40 or so women; the second group, maybe 30 men; and the third group, maybe 60 men. Fr. Mark Riley, of St. Mary's Painesville, led the activities. Behind him were the choir members from St. Mary's and three musicians, including St. Mary's music director (and flute and whistle player extraordinaire), Mary Ann Ratchko.

This is the second such religious liturgy/celebration that I've taken part in at the jail. And each time I've been amazed how the prisoners look so much like my students and my daughters' friends. The women especially are young--most appear in their twenties or early thirties; they were enthusiastic participants, singing and even dancing to the final song (the joyous "Feliz Navidad"). There was a greater age range among the men, and some appeared "harder" in some ways, especially with all their tattoos. Even they, at the end of the night, sang joyfully (and some even danced) to "Feliz Navidad."

In my Catholic grade school (St. William's) and high school (St. Joe's) I learned the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy--one of which is to "visit the imprisoned." It was a blessing for Carolan and me to do that last evening. I hope we brought the prisoners some solace and joy; they sure gave us those Christmas presents.

Postscript: At one point last night, Fr. Mark Riley asked everyone to pray for the 20 families in Newtown, Connecticut who have lost their six and seven-year-old children. I noticed great sympathy among the prisoners--and anger, too. I had the feeling that many of the prisoners would have protected these little children--would have defended them.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bluegrass Music at Aunt Maudie's in the 1970's

In the winter of 1971, Chris Cotter and I took over, from Peggy Scherer and Anne Weinkam, the apartment at 225 Orchard Street in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood. Over-the-Rhine was one of the most interesting neighborhoods you could find in America. It was a mostly poor, urban Appalachian area, with remnants of German and Italian-Americans, and a scattering of other ethnic groups. In 1971, there weren't many Blacks in Over-the-Rhine; they were, for the most part, in the West End and on the fringes of OTR. There was a small group of Vista workers; some Mennonite workers from Bluffton College; some peace activists (I guess Chris and I fit into that category); and some young people who were artists or craftsmen. Some people fit none of these categories!

About one quarter mile from our Orchard Street home, near 13th and Main Streets, was a Bluegrass bar called "Aunt Maudie's Country Garden." I am sure that you could not find better Bluegrass music anywhere. We had the best, and there was no cover charge. The beer was served in mason jars and was cheep and plentiful. Life was good!

On the weekends, a band called the "Stony Mountain Boys" played music at the bar--they were stuffed in the back of the long, narrow bar, behind the pool table, just to the right of the men's toilet, on a small, slightly elevated stage. I once asked Junior McIntyre how much he was paid per night. If I remember correctly, he told me $7 bucks a night. Now that couldn't be possible. But whatever they were paid, it wasn't much, and it did not match their incredible talent. [More coming soon]