The Sun White Citrus Collection

Mountains & Deserts

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolution- More Art & Hockey

Last week my mother and I had the unique opportunity to witness up close an amazing art exhibit entitled Vatican Splendors. Since late September, the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) (only one of three exhibits in the US) has on display a massive treasure of Vatican art and artifacts. Truly inspirational and captivating!

Here’s my recommendation. Take a road trip to St. Paul and visit the Historical Society and the Cathedral of St. Paul… home to 800,000 Catholics in the Twin Cities. For a delicious downtown Italian meal visit the Trattoria Da Vinci and try their yummy pasta! Finally, catch a Minnesota Wild hockey game at the Excel Center. They have several home games in January including exciting match-ups with both Edmonton and Anaheim.

Due to popular prayer, Vatican officials extended the exhibit in Minnesota so don’t wait too long. The curtain closes on January 19th and it’s likely that an opportunity like this won’t be available for some time, if ever again. The tour takes about 1 ½-2 hours depending on the crowds. It’s worth purchasing the headphones to hear selected audio descriptions on the origins and stories behind the objects on display. Plus, having the headphones on kind of blocks out all the distracting conversations that typically occur during a guided tour like this.

For a free download message from the audio tour go this link.

Press Release Short:

Approximately 200 objects will be presented in galleries and recreated environments that enhance the visitor’s understanding of their historical and artistic significance. Items in the collection – which include tiaras; mosaics; paintings; works by well-known sculptors; papal rings and jewels; intricately embroidered silk vestments; precious objects from the Papal Mass; armor, swords and uniforms of the Papal Swiss Guard; and gifts to the popes from such notable figures as Napoleon and the Dalai Lama – are on loan from the Vatican Museums, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, the Reverenda Fabbrica of Saint Peter, the Apostolic Floreria, private collections and the Papal Swiss Guard.

"The art and artifacts in this exhibit are doubly precious – because of their deep religious significance and because of their beauty and rich cultural heritage," says Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

What's your favorite hockey song?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Looking for Christmas music? Check out Catholic Music Express or Catholic iPod.

Blessed is he who possesses Bethlehem in his heart,
and in whose heart Christ is born daily.

- St. Jerome

Sister Winter from Matthew Forrey on Vimeo.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Year of the Song

Here's a collection of songs that caught my attention this year. Nothing too eclectic or ground-breaking, just some harbor star favs, beats, and ear candy reflections. Selecting songs from imeem is rather interesting. Even though the rock category tends to dominate their site, I do see an attempt to provide for a broad selection of musical genres. Keep in mind that blogger geeks are limited to certain genres when creating goofy music playlists like the one found below.

Nobody will ever allow old school-CD quality soul, jazz, or country to be available on these sites will they?

Well, one positive is that imeem does provide direct download links to iTunes and Amazon. It's just that... well.... I mean.... man I don't want to deal with purchasing 128 or 256bps downloads anymore. Give me CD quality or heaven forbid the analog album. I'm soooo tired of poor quality audio and poor quality streaming. Blah, blah.... yeah I know that many folks find download sound quality acceptable on iPod's. When is it going to improve?

Oh why did I get rid of all those obscure 80's indie rock albums. What about the Godfathers! As one critic suggests, too much guitar and not enough synth. Kind of like my religious devotion at the time.

Alas, I'd rather be playing music at our station.

Year end promo-- Be sure to tune into 91.7 KAXE or visit our website and read about staff and volunteer music favorites. We always provide MP3 clips of recent shows and featured programs like Center Stage (MN Music). Tune in New Years Eve for a special On The River with you hosts Heidi and Tom. I understand they will be featuring many, many music favorites from 2008.

My selections below may conjure up a smile or a frown. You might dance to the music, or plug your ears to the noise. Reflect perhaps. Hopefully pray. It's all for you.....

For The Waiting- 2008

Not included but worthy of mention:
- The Acorn "Crooked Legs" (Glory Hope Mountain)
- Jonatha Brooke "There's More True Lover's Than One" (The Works)
- Hacienda Brothers "Soul Mountain" (Arizona Motel)
- Raphael Saadiq "Keep Marchin" (The Way I See It)
- Justin Townes Earle "The Good Life" (The Good Life)
- Jakob Dylan "War Is Kind" (Seeing Things)
- The Dynamites "Every Time" (Kaboom!)
- Gary Louris "True Blue" (Vagabonds)
- Fleet Foxes "Ragged Wood" (Self-Titled)
- The Mother Truckers "Quiet Night" (Let's All Go To Bed)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

That Special Place or The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Everyone has special, quiet places they cherish don’t they?

Perhaps it’s on the deck, or in the ice-house, or at the cabin. Maybe it's more specific- that corner window seat in a local coffee shop. That 3rd floor couch in a Minneapolis library. The 14th pew... about halfway down the aisle is the exact spot where the sun shines through the stained glass window and lights up the church. All of these places serve a purpose.

Shhhhhhhh. I’ll let you in on a secret. There’s one more. You may not know it yet. You may not even know what or where it is. You may even have to ask someone directions. It’s….. your local Adoration Chapel!

Fortunately for Duluthians, we have a perpetual adoration chapel located downtown across from St. Mary’s hospital next to St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish.

Adoration chapels are one of God’s greatest gifts. Here is a place to spend quality time with Jesus. Pray, vent, laugh, cry… but most of all take part in adoration of Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist.

Most of the time I pray in silence. Some nights people just walk in ready to talk. A situation arises where I get to listen to a homeless or intoxicated person. This usually doesn't last to long unless...

Last month was very interesting. I walked into the chapel on a regular Tuesday night and immediately witnessed a rather vocal discussion between the 5pm adorer and a gentleman with a pronounced Irish accent. Once they realized I was here for the 6pm hour, the conversation muted. After a few minutes though, I understood the issue. An attempt to convince that the English are to blame for a variety of maladies in Northern Ireland.

It really happens folks.....

One of the greatest benefits of Tues. nights is seeing my favorite couple the Balaich's! They come every week… always with a smile. Best of all, they never forget to say goodnight.

No matter what mood I come in with, I always go away feeling blessed. Tonight being no exception.

I want to share with you a brief passage from the late spiritual writer Henry Nouwen. He’s very popular, especially with Catholics. Henry has that rare writing gift. A special ability to capture the essence of our longing for God.

This is from a collection of writings entitled “Living in Hope” (Tuesday, 3rd Week of Advent). A reflection that seems to be addressed specifically to me, given my grumbling lately. I'll spare those details for now.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. John 10: 14-15

[Increasingly, we feel we have less and less influence on the decisions that affect us. So it becomes increasingly important to recognize that the largest part of our existence involves waiting in the sense of being acted upon. The life of Jesus tells us that not to be in control is part of the human condition. His calling in life and ours are fulfilled not just in action but also in passion, in waiting.

When we realize that God in Jesus Christ is waiting for our response in divine love, then we can discover a whole new perspective on how to wait in life. We can learn to be obedient people who do not always try to act but who recognize the fulfillment of our deepest humanity in passion, in waiting. The spirituality of waiting is not simply our waiting for God. It is also participating in God’s own waiting for us and in that way coming to share in the deepest love, which is God’s love. ]

(For Sherilyn and your brother Nate… praying for you)

“The waiting is the hardest part”
- Tom Petty -

Oops... I forgot. This blog is supposed to be about music.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Santa's Little Trucker

Need to find a last minute gift for that sweetheart trucker gal or guy? Consider these items recently found in the Pamida clearance section….

CB Trucker cocktail glasses? 10-4 good buddy. There perfect for serving up tasty martini’s to thirsty business executives. Add olive and stir so dust doesn’t affect taste.

Trucker Music? No problem. Cue up these snappy beats and you’ll have them talking and dancing in no time.

20 Most Wanted List

What do I want for Christmas?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Forester Sale Adminstration- Pt. 2 (Yellow Birch Trees!)

Below are some photos showing one of several forest management projects I’m working on.

This forested area is located 5 miles north of Beaver Bay, MN in a large-patchy landscape dominated by northern hardwoods, aspen, and paper birch. After several field visits together, the forester and botanist agreed to prescribe a regeneration cut timber sale. Both envisioned a stand that would contain many structural and compositional characteristics of an older growth stage but still allow for selective timber management. Many of the trees are reserved from harvest including all of the conifers and the larger, older northern hardwood tree species like black ash, basswood, sugar maple, and the mysterious yellow birch.

The harvest prescription is to remove all of the paper birch, aspen, and maple less than 14" dbh (diameter at breast height) in strips and small gaps. The harvested openings will provide room for suckering and sprouting tree species like aspen and sugar maple.

My task as the sale administrator is to make sure the logging crew implements the set of instructions written up for the sale. But of particular interest to me as one who loves silviculture (and who can't seem to find a job in it, or even utilize my Union to challenge it) is how to regenerate the elusive, yet very unique yellow birch.

The silvicultural literature out there suggests four main requirements that are necessary for yellow birch to regenerate successfully and grow into mature trees:

1. Adequate seed trees and seed to regenerate. Check.

Although it’s rare to find in Northern MN nowadays, this stand has the seed trees! Many large diameter, mature (some decadent) trees are found throughout this area. Le Magnifique!
Yellow birch typically has good seed crops every 2-3 years and this season appears to be exceptional. Upwards of 1-5 million seeds/acre can be dispersed in a good year. Most don’t take however.

These are seeds (pistillate bract) I collected today before old man blizzard explodes over the North Shore.

2. Adequate seedbed conditions. Question mark.

The literature is very consistent here. Although seed can grow and germinate on stumps, mossy logs, and decayed wood, the best conditions is exposed mineral soil. According to the USFS Silvics manual (one of the traditional i.e old school... sources of silvicultural information):

"In undisturbed stands, yellow birch can only regenerate on mossy logs, decayed wood, rotten stumps, cracks in boulders, and windthrown hummocks because hardwood leaf litter is detrimental to its survival elsewhere (45). In June most seeds germinate in compacted leaf litter that birch radicals and hypocotyls cannot pierce (10). Drying of the litter during the growing season kills most germinants. The remaining seedlings later succumb to frost damage or are smothered by the next leaf fall. Unless stands have been burned or heavily disturbed by blowdowns or logging, abundant birch regeneration is normally restricted to edges of skidroads or landing areas on well-drained sites. On less-well-drained soils, sufficient moisture remains in the leaf litter to result in adequate establishment if advance regeneration of other species is removed."

Harvesting this sale was not allowed during non-frozen ground conditions. That restriction was prescribed to ensure that soils and herbaceous vegetation would be protected. Perhaps the greatest benefit of this regulation is the protection of the shallow (fine) roots of desired reserve species. One problem with frozen ground harvesting however is that the skidding process doesn’t necessarily scarify the soil adequately enough. It appears that only the main skid trails have leaf litter removed and exposed mineral soil. One way we can get around this is to underplant yellow birch bare-root seedlings and other preferred species directly into the ground.

3. Adequate light and other environmental conditions for optimal growth (post-harvest). The literature suggests small openings or gaps from 0.1 to 0.6 acres in size. Check.

Given the nature of the felling and skidding patterns, a variety of gap sizes are present. This should allow us to try a few different regeneration strategies including different planting configurations.

Adequate control of and protection from competitive species including vegetation and animals. Unknown.

Rabbits, deer, aggressive raspberry shrubs, sugar maple, and other damaging agents all play a role in preventing that little yellow birch seedling from maturing into a sapling and eventually... a fully grown tree.

I get asked this question a lot. When will you know if this project’s successful? Some new forester 10 or 15 years from now will have to answer I suppose. Guessing the DMT needs more stressed out program foresters to help the ECS specialists with this too....

Now… enjoy this from the other elusive "burch"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Found...One Dollar Bill

Here's a great little find from the streets of Duluth.... near a neighborhood dining experience that connects books to people and so much more.

The upside down dollar bill tells all in December. Check this out- Found Mag

What have you found lately?

When you awake finds Duane Allman attempting to tease out a gut bucket from the swamp! Gator Country

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Forester Sale Adminstration Pt. 1

Foresters throughout the State are busy administering timber sales and for me this means more opportunities to get out of the office!

Since we haven’t received much snow lately, most of the upland forest mesic soils in Northern MN have had time to freeze properly. Occasionally there are small inclusions ( wet areas ) however that aren't adequately frozen just yet. These might be located in one of the main equipment traffic areas like a skid trail or a haul road. One way that foresters allow loggers to operate across these wet areas is by recommending the construction of a "slash mat bridge".

Typically, a slash mat bridge contains a grouping or piling of small logs, brush, and/or branches that are placed on top of a semi-frozen drainage or wet area. This allows equipment to travel over the sensitive area without seriously damaging the soils. Properly constructed, a slash mat bridge minimizes compaction and prevents rutting.

Skidder with a drag of aspen crossing a wet ash drainage -
slash mat bridge installed

Stay tuned over the winter months for more examples of foresters and loggers working together to manage and sustain Minnesota's forest resources...... if we make it through December.

It's hopeful anticipation mixed with economic blue.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Reading

Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.....

The Feast-time of the Year

This is the feast-time of the year,
When plenty pours her wine of cheer,
And even humble boards may spare
To poorer poor a kindly share.

While bursting barns and granaries know
A richer, fuller overflow.
And they who dwell in golden ease
Blest without toil, yet toil to please.

Dora Read Goodale (1866 - 1915)

[The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.]

- Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation- 1863

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Post-Halloween Film Recommendation

Mix dramatic monologues with keen theatrical production and what do you get? Tales from the Madhouse.

Netflix describes it simply : "Inside a run-down Victorian sanatorium, eight peculiar individuals share their confidential stories of encounters with Jesus of Nazareth, an incident that's had a lasting effect on them. It soon appears that each of these odd characters bears a contemporary resemblance to characters found in the Gospels. "

Pilate’s Wife [Mat 27: 19]
The Rich Man* [Mat 19: 16-22]
The Best Friend [Mat 27: 3-5]
The Mourner [Luk 7: 11-15]
The Servant Girl [Luk 22: 56-62]
Barrabas [Luk 23: 18-25]
The Centurion [Mat 8: 5-13, Mat 27:54]
The Thief [Luk 23: 33-43]

For a glimpse check out this trailer.

Additional Links:

Catholic Video
The Bible Society

Originally released by the BBC as a Lenten and Holy Week reflection, Tales from the Madhouse seems appropriate for the Advent season as well… a time of poignant anticipation and quiet hope. The genius behind Tales comes from the quality presentation of the actors including heavyweights like Claire Bloom and Jonathan Pryce. Although the overall presentation leans toward the halloween thriller genre, a closer examination reveals significant insights into the Gospel characters and our response to them. Keep in mind these presentations are not Bible expositions, nor am I advocating this as authentic Christian interpretation.

If you rent this film, it’s best to watch one or two segments at a time. Attempting to watch the whole thing through may spoil the reflection. Even if you know nothing about the Bible, an engaged viewing will give you a deeper appreciation for Jesus Christ.

Some say Tales from the Madhouse is hopeless? I ask the curious...What do you say?

It’s kind of like TV on the Radio vs Cat Stevens:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Asking You, Asking Me

Have you ever been asked that get to know you question, "what do you do"? I hear it all the time and I continue to be amazed by the response I get to my answers. Here’s the scenario.

Q: Joe Plumber- What do you do for a living?

A: I’m a forester.

Q: Joe Plumber- Oh. What’s a forester do?

A: A forester is a person who is engaged in forest management or conservation. I’ve been called a tree hugger, a timber beast, and everything in between.

Q: Joe Plumber- Oh.

A: Let me explain. As a state forester our mission is to "provide a long-term, sustainable yield of forest resources from state forest lands; improve the health and productivity of other public and private forest lands and community forest lands; and protect life, property, and natural resources from wildfires." The Minnesota Conservation Volunteer actually included an article about what state foresters do. Read more – Tree Guardians

Q: Joe Plumber- Oh, you mean a forester doesn’t just walk in the woods all day and count trees?

A: Well, yes we do…. but I see your still confused. Let’s dig a little deeper. It’s easy to imagine what a wildlife biologist or a naturalist does, right?. They study and describe all the neat, cute little animals and plants of the world. Birds, flowers, deer, fish…. these are often strikingly beautiful and easily observable to most backyard aficionado’s. But wait a minute. Let’s not forget the trees!

Foresters love working with trees and learning everything about them. In fact, we love them so much that we are pleased to announce a brand new re-publication of Minnesota's Forests and Trees: A Primer. This is FREE and available just for you Joe! After reading and studying, you just might know what a forester does. You’ll certainly be able to impress and educate your family, friends, and scenesters with things like:

  • Tell a story by studying a tree’s growth rings.
  • Have comfort that you can still love the Earth and cut trees.
  • Know the location of Minnesota’s first sawmill and when it opened.
  • Be able to explain what happens with fall colors and the weather.

    • "This book is written for those of us who care about trees and forests and who want to share our knowledge with others. With a little motivation, each one of us can teach about trees, care for trees, and establish a legacy of trees around our schools, homes, and communities. Please share what you learn with students, neighbors, community leaders, and others who care for trees and forests.”

      Joe, you should also check out this new video on the one-billionth tree awaiting next year’s planting!

      And remember Joe- A happy white pine is a protected white pine!

      ... from seedling to maturity...

      The timber program forester:

      Now I’m going to ask you what everyone’s asking me…. What do YOU do?

      The Owls "Channel" from Magic Marker on Vimeo.

      Monday, November 3, 2008

      Vibraphone Your Vote

      Ace Records
      Voter indecision got you blue? Let the vibes help with the circle or the square, or rectangle (musical selections on Playlist above).

      If all else fails, you're encouraged to pray... always.

      Friday, October 24, 2008

      Replacing the '98.6' hit song with '91.7'

      Northern Observer: "P Dubby aka Harbor Star was arrested last night for allegedly stealing music lyrics and posting a shocking music video on You Tube."

      "Criminal investigators are looking into a local case regarding P Dub's involvement with the 1967 hit 98.6 by Keith. A Spokesman for PD claims that his miranda rights were violated and that musical adaptations are legal under the common law Public Domain (Trad.) clause. A bootleg video has been obtained but due to legal copyright and authorship, Judge C.R. Magney has refused a release to the public. P Dubby's court appearance is scheduled on October 31st, in Grand Rapids, MN District Court. "

      It really works! If your favorite song lyric contains a radio station frequency or "baby", try replacing it with 91.7FM, Jesus, or Mary. Not only will this provide the opportunity for unique interpretations, it will encourage you to support Authentic Local Radio KAXE!

      Sing along and have fun!

      Good evenin' moon I say it's good to see you shinin'
      I know Blessed Mary brought you to me
      She prayed for me yesterday hello your silver glowin'
      Got autumn and winter runnin' through me

      Hey 91.7 it's good to hear you once again, oh
      Hey 91.7 her love's the medicine that saved me
      Oh I love my Mary

      Hey K..A..X..E…... I see you’re beamin’
      Must be because I found my Mary
      You know she's got me floating… On The River
      I want to go to where it takes me

      Hey 91.7 it's good to hear you once again oh
      Hey 91.7 her love's the medicine that saved me
      Oh I love my Mary

      You know she's got me floating… On The River
      I want to go to where it takes me

      Hey 91.7 it's good to hear you once again, oh
      Hey 91.7 her love's the medicine that saved me
      Oh I love my Mary

      Wednesday, October 15, 2008

      Is Acedia Really The Eighth Deadly Sin?

      Tonight on KAXE 91.7FM, radio host and producer Heidi Holton interviewed author Kathleen Norris on her book- Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life. Although it was brief interview- those interested in Psychology,Writing, Relationships, Christian monasticism, Prayer, and perhaps even that old nemisis Existentialism may find this of interest.

      Kathleen’s book has been described as “a personal and moving memoir that resurrects the ancient term acedia, or soul-weariness, and brilliantly explores its relevancy to the modern individual and culture..” (Amazon)

      Unfortunately I haven’t read the book yet but I did have few thoughts on the interview. No doubt these will evolve as I explore this topic futher.

      ["Great interview with Kathleen Norris. So many interesting little discussions and there was so much potential for sideboard discussion tangents as well.

      Words are important.

      I appreciate that you & Kathleen fleshed out the definition of acedia. It’s so important to know the origin of a word and it’s context.

      Although there are similarities defined in modern psychology, it’s important to think about how early monastic Christian monks though about this state of mind. This continues even today. In fact, Mother Teresa experienced this state for much of her life. That might surprise many because outwardly- in her relationship with her sisters, in her amazing work with the poor- she was a radiant, loving human being. But in her book 'Come Be My Light' we get a deeper and more profound understanding of acedia I think.

      I wouldn’t necessarily consider acedia on the same level as the seven deadly sins (including anger, pride, lust, etc.) although I could be wrong here. Still, Kathleen used words like dryness, apathy....a “spiritual morphine” to define acedia and these are very important. I’ve often heard the term the 'dark night of the soul.' Perhaps they’re similar or maybe I’m off on my own tangent.

      For me, the discussion pointed directly to my relationship with God. Not that there isn’t a number of practical areas in my life where acedia might apply directly- negative thoughts & self-image, political apathy, family issues, work. But, I found myself considering how to deal with acedia in terms of prayer life rather than psychology. A grounded prayer life should focus on the Psalms and Gospels as a means for listening to the divine Word of God rather than simply memorizing passages to deal with daily situations. Christian Tradition calls it “Lectio Divina”-a slow, contemplative approach to reading and praying scripture. A means of opening ourselves to God.


      I was hoping that the discussion of acedia could have touched upon that a little more, but I certainly understand the sensibility and broad direction of Kathleen’s approach to the subject.Your discussion of Merton’s quote, 'It takes real courage to recognize that we ourselves are the cause of our own unhappiness' .... was spot on."]


      US Catholic
      Penguin Group

      Now... enjoy this from a gifted artist with a good dose of "ennui".

      It is such a privilege for us to have such a dedicated radio producer as HH. You can listen to her interview at the Real Good Word’s archive.

      On a side note-- the literature world continues to graple with the topic of sin as well. Listen to National Public Radio's October 18th interview with author Sharon Dolin on new book of poetry entitled Burn and Dodge. Less of an academic unfolding, Dolin's book lifts sin up to the light of the conscious allowing us a glimpse into the multitude of creative little narratives. Her poems are strikingly imaginative. Playful yet brave enough to look you straight in the eye.

      Thursday, October 9, 2008

      Marian Eucharistic Congress

      Every two years folks in the Fargo Diocese put on this wonderful event. I am very fortunate to attend now for a second time. What is a Marian Eucharistic Congress you ask?

      ["The Marian Eucharistic Congress is a gathering of people who come together to reflect on the Treasure of the Catholic Church. Holy Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, prayer, talks, and teachings make up this two and a half day spirit-filled weekend. It is a time to show our love and devotion to Jesus in the Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist, and to understand and appreciate the role His Mother, Mary, has in this Great Mystery; to promote a greater love for Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar; and, to endeavor to make reparation for the outrages which have been committed against His Divine Presence in the Tabernacle. A powerhouse of enthusiastic speakers and musicians will charge up your "faith batteries." It is a weekend to assist us getting through troubled times, and to look beyond an often-times difficult world."]

      For those of you who are interested, I'll take some photos. Some of the speakers include well known priests like Fr. Benedict Groeschel CFR (my personal favorite), Fr. Andrew Apostoli CFR and Fr. Mitch Pacwa SJ from EWTN. The always charming and charismatic Fr. Bill Halbing is back too. Yippee!

      Here's a sampling of Fr. Halbing's gift:

      2008 Marian Eucharistic Congress by HarborStar

      Roman Catholic Benediction from Stephen M. Kessinger on Vimeo.

      Pray for me that I may listen to and understand our Father's Word.

      Wednesday, October 8, 2008

      "I no longer needed to get something, I needed to give something."

      October, 2008 marks the 60th anniversary publication of Thomas Merton’s, The Seven Story Mountain— an expressive and influential autobiography of the definitive spiritual and Catholic vocational experience. Maybe you remember, perhaps you dreamed or read about, or even cursed it.

      I do.... and I continue to praise the book to this day(not the last one silly).

      Writer Mark Sullivan wrote a revealing article in the September 28th edition of Our Sunday Visitor (OSV). In the opening text, He quotes author Paul Elie ("The Life You Save May Be Your Own"-Farrar Strauss and Giroux) summarizing the importance Merton has on modern culture "The Seven Story Mountain describes what it feels like to be in the grip of God. Merton makes you feel that not only is religious experience real and possible, but that it is necessary, vital and attractive, the center of life, just as Catholic tradition insists that it is…"

      And this is where it begins.

      I have my mom to thank for introducing me to Merton. Age sixteen I believe. This was was my first experience reading Merton’s narrative. I don’t recall the book having much of an influence, not like it does today. At sixteen I was just trying to fit in. Because I read it then... as a teen, I sincerely believe the transformative blessings of the book began to resonate...... into my adult years, long after I forgot about Merton's trial. There would be many years in between readings too. Not college.... nor even a blissful relationship.... did I reflect on the Seven Story Mountain. Not until 08. A current time. Merton’s narrative bell (perhaps gong) rings when I least expect it. Is that why I never parted with my HBJ 78’ edition copy?

      Yes I said in 83, 86, 90, 98, 08. Time to dig into this or that chapter, contemplate the vocational calling.

      This little book made it through several moves too. From house to house, neighborhood to city, to Europe and back. Always there in my imagination, stuffed away sure. But to my surprise, I usually found it at the top of the "Mayflower Transit" packing boxes.

      Today my tattered copy barely remains in the jacket. The pages are beginning to show the slightest signs of yellowing paper. Earmarks are plentiful. So are the many underlined, starry eyed paragraphs and sentences. I'm fond of the little pen notes in the margins- from 78 to 08. Things like-"The function of art", "Virtues", Putting yourself in the Passion", "Representation of poverty manifested through Harlem", "The purpose of community", "St. Therese", "The crux of conversion" On and on they go. Thirty years of quotes. They read like my own spiritual development- turns and bends in the pilgrim road. Obstacles. Stumbling blocks. Insights are here too. So is Grace.

      Here’s just one of my favorite paragraph’s. My margin note- "Merton’s conversion of heart (circa 1990?)…

      "For now, in these days, I was often alone in the chapel, under those plain beams, watching the quiet Tabernacle, and things began to speak inside me. This time, it was a much deeper impulsion, the expression of a much profounder need. It was not a movement of appetite— intellectual if you like, but still of appetite towards some good that could be seen and felt and enjoyed: a form of life, a religious existence, a habit, a Rule. It was not a desire to see myself vested in this or that kind of a monastery. It was something quite different. I no longer needed to get something, I needed to give something."

      Although written from a male perspective, I am certain that women will enjoy this book. In fact, many secular and religious women have commented on it over the years. So has the music world. In 1981, Joan Baez recorded music to the words of Thomas Merton:


      Sweet brother, if I do not sleep
      My eyes are flowers on your tomb
      And if I cannot eat my bread
      My fasts shall live like willows where you died.
      If in the heat I find no water for my thirst,
      My thirst shall turn to springs for you, poor traveler.

      Come, in your labor find a resting place
      And in my sorrows lay your head
      Brother, take my life and bread
      And buy yourself a better bed
      Take my breath and take my death
      Buy yourself a better rest beneath the bells of Gethsemani

      When all the men of war are killed
      And flags have fallen into dust
      Your cross and mine will tell men still
      He died on each for both of us
      That we might become the brothers of God
      And learn to know the Christ of burnt men
      And the children are ringing the bells of Gethsemani

      For in the wreckage of your April Christ lies slain
      He weeps in the ruins of my spring
      The money of whose tears shall fall
      Into your weak and friendless hand,
      And buy you back to your own land
      The silence of whose tears shall fall
      Like bells upon your alien tomb
      Hear them and come, they call you home
      And the children are ringing the bells of Gethsemani

      Yes, if they had been there
      They would have taken that crown of thorns from his hair
      And stayed for a while in that place of despair
      Ah, but what do I see, my brother is there
      And he's ringing the bells of Gethsemani

      Recently, singer-Songwriter Kate Campbell along with Spooner Oldham recorded a beautiful prayer song on Merton’s words on her album "For the Living of these Days".

      My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going
      I do not see the road ahead of me
      I cannot know for certain where it will end
      Nor do I really know myself
      And the fact that I think that I am following your will
      Does not mean that I am actually doing so
      But I believe that the desire to please you
      Does in fact please you
      And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing
      I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire
      And I know that if I do this
      You will lead me by the right road
      Though I may know nothing about it

      Therefore I will trust you always
      Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death
      I will not fear for you are ever with me
      And you will never leave me to face my perils alone

      Thoughts in Solitude© 1958 Abbey of Gethsemani

      Thomas Merton’s The Seven Story Mountain is available at your local independent bookseller. Give it a read this Fall.


      The Merton Institute
      Thomas Merton Blogs
      Thomas Merton Internet Bibliography

      1968 Merton- "You say goodbye, and I say hello"

      Tuesday, September 16, 2008

      Befriended and A Slice of North Shore Pie or We Wished For Agates

      Thank you Sara for "Befriending". Now you know why pies are the pinnacle of a north shore experience. "A short stranger will soon enter your life with blessings to share."

      Bright As Yellow: The Innocence Mission

      And you live your life with your arms reached out.
      Eye to eye when speaking.
      Enter rooms with great joy shouts, happy to be meeting.

      And bright,bright,bright as yellow,
      warm as yellow.

      And I do not want to be a rose.
      I do not wish to be pale pink,but flower scarlet, flower gold.
      And have no thorns to distance me,

      but be bright,bright,bright as yellow,
      warm as yellow.

      Even if I'm shouting,
      even if I'm shouting here inside.
      Even if I'm shouting, even if I'm wanting, that I want to be so bright,bright,bright as yellow,
      warm as yellow.

      Next time I find an agate, I'll mail it to you...

      Wednesday, August 20, 2008

      The Gitchi Gami Got Me

      I love the experience of riding new bike trails in Minnesota and last weekend's Gitchi Gami ride was a heart pumping extravaganza.This years ride consists of a 12 mile round trip peddle along the Lake Superior coast from Gooseberry State Park to Beaver Bay.... and back.The route between Gooseberry State Park and Beaver Bay ride is really the heart of this trail.

      It's only the beginning.

      Let's not forget the 21 mile Co. Rd 4/ Lax Lake Lochness Monster / Silver Bay Pain Hill/ loop that included oxygen stops in rural Finland, Silver Bay, and eventullay Beaver Bay. Once again, our trail club dedication proves that Northern MN excels in a high quality trail ride experience.

      Biking the complete 55 mile ride left me rather winded, but certainly not speechless. For most of this trip I heard " Are you Ok?", "Is everything allright?", "Man, this next hill goin to drop you". There's always the silent bike rider's glimpse- mouth open, tongue displaced, a leap for air- and the shared riding code, "we're all in this together".

      Thankfully, there were a few simple rest stops where one could hydrate and snack... and chat. I was following a really sweet group of riders up to Finland, but by the time I reached Eckbeck campground, I began to think I was part of the sag motorcade.

      More hills and hills too. Keep peddlin.... Usually I get stronger throughout the day and so far no cramps.

      More peddlin leads to some jive chatter, I'm feelin' ok now. Cut to the taconite railroad haze.......

      All I remember is a long, painful bike climb out of Silver Bay en route to the first and last Beaver Bay rest stop.

      I know this seems goofy, but I still recommend this trail ride to amaeurs, families, and even serious gear-heads. The north shore is one of the few areas in Minnesota that you can experience the "bikers climb", yet be blessed by Lake Superior views and tales and visions..........why will He come back? My Innocence Mission.

      Wednesday, August 13, 2008

      Playing With Fire

      Occasionally land managers use fire as a tool to regenerate or restore jack pine native plant communities/forests. With that in mind, several DNR foresters and smokechasers I work with conducted a prescribed fire on a recent timber harvest site located near Brimson, MN.

      To the right is a color infra-red aerial photograph showing the site before it was harvested. The red lines depict the burn boundary along with the yellow ignition points. The brownish color shows the extensive jack pine-black spruce forests in this area. Above that are recent timber harvests that have been planted or seeded with a variety of tree species including norway pine, white pine, white spruce, and jack pine. This area was not burned.

      To learn more about jack pine forests visit My Minnesota Woods.

      Photos courtesy of Jeff Jackson

      Saturday, August 9, 2008

      Breaking Away or My Summer Debut on the Mesabi Trail in 51 Miles

      Saturday August 9th is a familiar date for folks who live on the Iron Range. It’s the 5th Annual Great River Energy-Mesabi Trail bike tour. That’s pedal bike not motor bike by the way. What could possibly be better than spending a gorgeous day outdoors in Northern Minnesota? Perhaps watching a few films about cycling on the verandah, but when the opportunity comes to get outside on one of the premier bike-trails in Northern MN, one should never turn the opportunity down.

      This year I made a promise to re-unite with Black Beauty- my 20 year old Gary Fischer mountain bike- which unfortunately had been placed into semi-retirement. After taking her up to the 2008 Winnipeg Folk Festival for a test run, I knew she was up to the 51-mile bike challenge! Like any decent Gary Fischer bike, I wasn’t disappointed.

      Although the Mesabi Trail is best suited to the modern tour bikes available today, I 'm an old sentimental fool. Give me my old Fischer, or no biking at all. It doesn’t matter that I can’t go 15 miles/hour consistently, nor does it matter that I have knobby tires. I just want to ride like anyone else. Ultimately, that’s what the Mesabi Trail folks have created. A trail suited for a variety of skill levels and bike types. On any given weekend you will find families, gear-heads, duffers, and everyone in between.

      The planned route this year promised to be relatively easy. An occasional uphill climb was antipcated with only a few pedal-stomps to exceed an 8% grade. Thankfully this turned out to be true, although I was still sucking wind and cramping up by the end of the 3rd leg! That's expected though. Pain is defined by the name.... learn to accept and understand it.

      The overall purpose of this day is a charitable one with proceeds going toward expansion of recreational trails and for promoting Independent Public Radio (IPR). As you know, our own KAXE is one of 12 independent/community based radio stations in Minnesota, and to ride for our station was especially motivating for me. In addition, we also know that this type of physical exercise has such a positive influence on physical and mental well being. Two excellent reasons to spend a day on a bike!

      As early as June of this year, I begin to mentally prepare for this tour by watching and studying several fine films that involve cycling..... more or less. I’m sure you don’t want to miss any of these so search them out today. Remember any of these?

      The Bicycle Thief (1948)- Italy
      Breaking Away (1979)- USA
      How can we forget this gem. A charming yet goofy bike film. Anyone remember the TV series Breaking Away featuring Shawn Cassidy as Dave Stoller? Yes, a rare nugget that’s extremely hard to find. Only in the 1980’s could TV execs pull this off- it barely lasted a season. Oh where or where can we find this?

      American Flyers (1985)- USA
      The Cyclist (1987)- Iran
      2 Seconds (1998)- Canada
      Beijing Bicycle (2002)- China
      Cyclomania (2002)- Finland
      Hell on Wheels (2004) Germany
      Le Tour De France 2005: The Magnificent 7 (2005)- France
      The Flying Scotsman (2006)- Scotland

      How about some highlights from my personal Mesabi Trail tour? You can check out my photo-log below:

      Iron Range/Mesabi Trail Ride 2008

      Brief mile-marker harbor star observations coming soon. I'm too tired to continue.

      A special thanks to all of the Mesabi Trail volunteers and staff for making this a special experience. This tour would not happen with out your commitment. Cheers to all of the riders, cutters..... I mean miners, and to everyone supporting IPR / recreational trails!

      Tuesday, August 5, 2008

      The Whole of the Moon

      The Waterboys came up with one of the finest songs and melodies ever written in the 1980's. Both Prince and C. S. Lewis are cited as major influences at the time. This is such a fine example of what it means to shine! A song for all.

      The Waterboys

      Photo Credit- Michael Myers

      Sunday, August 3, 2008

      The Forest for the Trees

      Here's one of my summer film recommendations:

      Ever experienced what it’s like to change careers, move to another city, try to establish new friends? Sure. Everyone has. 1st time director Maren Ade crafted an amazing, true to life indie-film titled The Forest for the Trees. This German film is one of several foreign and independents that have been released by the smart folks at Film Movement.

      Unfortunately I couldn’t track down a trailer, but I’ve included several reviews for the film. Critics are all over the map on this one, but if you like movies that focus on one central character this might be worth watching. A must for teachers.

      Synopsis from Film Movement:

      Bursting with idealism, Melanie Pröschle, a young teacher from the countryside, starts her first job at a high school in the city. Desperate to fulfil her hopes, Melanie intends to do everything the right way. Politely she introduces herself to her neighbours with homemade schnapps. At her first day of school she gives a very ambitious speech for her colleagues. She wants to be a "fresh breeze" to the school, but it is not easy to start a new life, as Melanie copes with loneliness, established teachers and ninth grade students.

      My thoughts on the film:

      The Forest for the Trees is a difficult fim to watch yes, but compelling enough to view all the way through. Eva Loebau is outstanding in portraying Melanie- the un-assertive, socially challenged country bumpkin whose life takes a serious plunge when taking up a career change and moving to the city. While she ends a long-term relationship and moves away from immediate family security, a new career brings possibilities that she feels ought to be explored. Unfortunately, things quickly devolve into a series of anxious, stressful encounters with unruly children and zombie-like city slickers. Loneliness starts. Existential dread creep in.

      With the exception of one friendly co-worker who she trys to avoid for unknown reasons, most of the characters are portrayed as cold, judgmental, and aloof. Is this her perception or is this truly a reflection of the fast-paced city culture, or even German people? Perhaps all three.

      I lived in Germany for three months as part of an internship (pre-911). I directly experienced all of the emotions and longing that Melanie has. Although I love the country and certainly met many wonderful people, there was a sense of indifference from some of the locals. Worse yet, understanding the native language was difficult. This alienated me from the culture to some extent. Still, watching this film brought back many pleasant memories of Germany even though there were moments that caused lots of squirming. Which reminds me- I need to scan in my old Black Forest photos.

      Unfortunately, this film fails to reveal Melanie's inner spiritual world except for perhaps the ending. Is director Maren Ade providing some symbolism here? Is Melanie really in the "driver seat" or is it...God. Are Melanie's actions/re-actions becoming a pathway to another place? Some would say an auto-pilot cutaway scene. Is it really?

      This film begs for empathy, but a close viewing can help to re-affirm our attitudes and treament of others. It provides the context that allows thoughtful reflection on what it means to befriend someone different from you, even if they don't seem to care. Of course there are boundaries between individuals that must be repected.

      Now, watch and enjoy this video from Nouvelle Vague covering an old Cure song- A Forest