Thursday, April 30, 2009

Like anyone cares, but anyhow...

I don't know when I became antagonistic towards cologne. I used to wear it on evenings out some years back, but in recent years I have found all cologne smell repugnant, sickly. It doesn't matter if it's some expensive and fine one; I hate it when I encounter it passing by other people, from skaters in baggy jeans to men in nice suits. Even in moderate doses.

When I got back in my car this morning after getting gas my right hand was permeated with cologne smell. I don't know if I got it from the gas pump handle, from the cash machine buttons or the cash I got back from the cashier, but it stank of some stupid synthetic substance probably advertised as attractive to the opposite sex.

Which is part of why it I think it's repugnant: it's synthetic - and when that mingles with the real smell of porous skin, it makes for an ugly result. Like, what are you trying to mask? Does cologne merely act as a carrier of one's normal smell, and perversely make it worse? I remember this eccentric old lady; really a great old lady, but she wore this lipstick...oh, it was so bad.

I notice how no manufactured cologne or perfume can really copy real smells, like lilac bloom or even common mint. And even the the most expensive cologne becomes stale on the wearer. Even ones that are supposed to be light or non-oppressive are oppressive and heavy.

I find even most deodorants are sickly. Oceanwindmountainspice or whatever compound the deodorant uses, I find is a guarantee that it is sickly.

Yes, it's non-scented - or the next best thing to it - for me, without anti-perspirant. Actually, since I ran out of deodorant about a two months ago, I haven't bought any yet. I haven't noticed much of any difference at all. Of course, I don't live in a tropical jungle, nor refuse to take showers, so I'm probably not the best person to advocate using less deodorant (I'm not saying stop).

Oh, and fruity smelling shampoo...ugh - or any shampoo that tries to manufacture a smell other than regular soapy shampoo - it's gross.

And don't get me started on toothpaste. When I brush my teeth I want good plain cleaning; the almost searing quality of unapologetic mint, unsweetened; I don't want freaking candy in gel form.

Stupid, stupid companies. Stupid, stupid us.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sirach 24:8

"Then the Creator of all gave me his command, and he who formed me chose the spot for my tent..."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Real prayer and false voices

In the past few weeks I've been trying to come to terms with, and consequently reject, what I believe has been disclosed to me as a "false praying voice". It's an interior voice - and we have many adopted voices within us - that clicks into gear whenever the effort is made to pray. It is dislocated from my true self; it is the voice of automata. It is carry-over from Lord knows what and how many different influences; it is listless, lethargic and heavy as a bag of rocks.

But its disclosure is far, far from a cause of misery. It is a great relief and joy. My small discoveries in the realm of prayer could be tantamount to this, which is nothing new: that true prayer is grace and simplicity itself. Grace is everywhere; and simplicity is the continual state of the real - in spite of ourselves.

The intimacy with which our converse with Christ takes place is in the realm of what is real and what is everywhere. Grace is not just some kind of useful laser beam with which we get struck; it is a realm.

Sometimes before the Blessed Sacrament I get the notion that Jesus is letting me, with great patience, burn out or exhaust this voice, before lighting His instantaneous simplicity on me, and sort of saying, "Look, I'm right here".


And now we can begin really talking - for real. In that reality, if one tries to grasp it, or exert effort, it disappears.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

No regrets?

Ten things I will not regret having NOT done, eaten, received, seen or heard in my lifetime, when lying on my death bed:

1. Bungee jumping/Skydiving.

2. Human train in the Caribbean.

3. Blog award.

4. Rotten shark meat.

5. Tattoo/Piercing.

6. Gone with the Wind.

7. Tea at the Empress.

8. Oscar award.

9. Hugging tree.

10. Twitter. (Don't even know what it is)

Bonus 11. Going vegan.

If you want to be memed, then let this be a meme!


Second time into the woods that I've forgotten my pencil sharpener. I keep pencils and books in an arm bag meant for a laptop, but the pencil sharpener has a way of getting into my coat pocket every time. And as the weather is warmer...

Happily, I had bought three new pencils, which were already sharpened. But that didn't last long. You work with limits, use dulled pencils, pour out yourself as much as possible over the blinding white of the drawing-sheet in the sun.

Getting up to leave I only then noticed the meadow grass is at a height somewhere below knee level, and every new blade of it a large, perfect, deep green lance. And there was a tree in the midst. Having laboured over the blinding white sheet in the sun, my eyes took it all in as darker, as happens when you go inside a room after being in the bright light outside. For a minute it was like I didn't know where I was. And the grass was the grass of faerie.

Friday, April 24, 2009


As patience leads to peace, and study to science, so are humiliations the path that leads to humility. --ST. BERNARD.

Father Anthony Ho

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Divine Mercy

The following is part of a writing from Mark Mallett in the post To Those in Mortal Sin. If you desire, you can get it in pamphlet form in bulk for distribution right here.

To those enslaved by pornography,
Come to Me, the Image of God

To those who are committing adultery,
Come to Me, the Faithful One

To prostitutes, and those who use or sell them,
Come to Me, your Beloved

To those engaging in unions outside the bounds of marriage,
Come to Me, your Bridegroom

To those who worship the god of money,
Come to Me, without paying and without cost

To those in witchcraft or bound in the occult,
Come to Me, the Living God

To those who have made covenant with Satan,
Come to Me, the New Covenant

To those drowning in the abyss of alcohol and drugs,
Come to Me, who am Living Waters

To those enslaved in hatred and unforgiveness,
Come to Me, Fount of Mercy

To those who have taken the life of another,
Come to Me, the Crucified One

To those who are jealous and envious, and murder with words,
Come to Me, who am jealous for you

To those who are enslaved by love of self,
Come to Me, who has laid down His life

To those who once loved me, but have fallen away,
Come to Me, who refuses no soul…. and I will blot out your offences, and forgive your transgressions. I will remove your sins, as far as the east is from the west.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I command the chains which hold you to be broken. I command every principality and power to release you.

I open my Sacred Heart to you as a hiding place and refuge. I will refuse no soul who returns to Me trusting in My infinite Mercy and Love.


Run home to Me, my beloved, run home to Me, and I will embrace you as a Father, clothe you as My child, and protect you like a Brother.

To the one in mortal sin,
Come to Me! Come, before the last few grains of Mercy fall through the hourglass of time…


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Latest Dappled Things

DappledThings has the Lent/Easter issue out.

MacArthur's poems stand out and Miller has another strong sonnet and Bluett has a striking "concrete" poem. There's a couple of good short stories, of what can be read on-line.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gold leaf

Working with gold leaf forces you to work slowly, methodically and meditatively; even to the point of watching your breath. Hence talking is not a good thing. So you are also forced to be silent. Towers fall or crumple when you do anything out of rhythm, like the single movement of your arm causing a miniscule draft. No surprise this: as ever, every unthinking gesture and habitual movement that one makes and which one is mostly unaware of, are brought out and emboldened in all their stumbling, crude folly, when writing icons.

The old and the new

Monday, April 13, 2009


Sheila at Enchiridion has a sonnet contest. This one was my entry:

As wide shores are rained with feeding dunlin,
so every place our drumming sin persists:
depot, hearth, school; our tenor-tide consists
so much of sin, needs we bury it in
a din, heirloomed from stranger, friend and kin;
while those appear upended that resist,
for by fulsome sin we make our sheen subsist:
we winnow, grind, knead digestible, sin.
Still the price of light's our stain's exposure;
but little demarked of our sins' bored tread,
spells some exposed, freely, on another:
as he who accepts light's light imposure
can no longer be the counterweight lead
that holds at mid-height, sister or brother.

I think it's the second or third sonnet I've written, and it was done specifically at the prompting of the contest. I remember trying to write a couple a few years back; posted them on a hefty poetry forum and they promptly got torn to shreds by acute criticism. They were deserving of that I'm sure.

I've noticed that in writing sonnets you get extremely dry, hard parts to write where literally every word comes out like a pathetic gasp; and then you get parts, particularly in the last five or so lines, that are so fluid that you can hardly even catch up with the words coming out.

Out of whack

Brush and Ink


By Pavel Chichikov

The redbud tree
Whose unearthly purple blossoms
Grow on Earth,
Outlined arms of April
Lit along the branches,
Cressets on the streets of paradise—

We look, and only see
The color not the street
Ascending from that place

Then look twice—
O city without end
O paradise

By Pavel Chichikov

To give us wine the grape is crushed
To give us bread the wheat is threshed
So did the Lord of blood and flesh
Make joy and light of what He wished

As from dark chaos He made Earth
As from the moon He made the month
As from the sun He made the Sabbath
As from the word He made the truth
As He made Easter out of death

He harvested as we should live
To grow to harvest is to give

At Cana it was wedding wine
On Golgotha your life and mine

The Poetry of Pavel Chichikov

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Open-Pollinated + Distributism = Sustainable Living. Whoa, like far out man.

"During the period from 1984-1987, 54 of the 230 mail-order seed companies in the United States and Canada went out of business. The majority were smaller companies that had been rich sources of unique varieties. The loss of those 54 companies resulted in 943 non-hybrid varieties (19%) becoming unavailable. The collections being dropped, which sometimes represent the life's work of several generations of seedsmen, are often well adapted to specific regional climates and resistant to local diseases and pests. Far from being obsolete or inferior, these may well be the best home garden varieties ever developed. It is entirely possible that half of the non-hybrid varieties still available from seed companies could be lost during the next decade...

Most of today's breeding programs produce hybrid varieties for commercial growers, often designed to facilitate mechanical harvesting and long distance shipping. Commercial hybrids exhibit highly uniform characteristics, often ripening almost simultaneously. Hybrid uniformity is essential for commercial growers who must mechanically harvest huge fields with a single pass, but is often poorly suited for the home gardeners who wish to spread canning chores and fresh produce over the longest possible harvest season. Many commercial varieties rely on tough skins and solid flesh to withstand mechanical picking and cross-country shipping. Gardeners, on the other hand, are primarily concerned with tenderness and outstanding flavor.

The old varieties are threatened today, not because of any defeciencies, but because they are not suitable for factory farmers and the food processing industry. As long as food crops are being bred for machines and large commercial growers, the needs of the home gardener will be of marginal importance. The old varieties will survive and flourish only if they continue to be grown by backyard gardeners and sold by local farmers markets, organic food co-ops and CSAs." --Suzanne Ashworth, Seed to Seed

Monday, April 6, 2009

All Things to All

Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law--though I myself am not under the law--to win over those under the law. To those outside the law I became like one outside the law--though I am not outside God's law but within the law of Christ--to win over those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Life Link

Getting away from one's mortality
has never once proved an occupation
worthy one's time: this signal most broadsided
on the mind, morning rise, night-time drowse,
like the very trickling on the sheer stem
of the dripping skimmers of the sun
when the wind insistently plies the polished reed,
so the mortal moment lies ahead
of everyone - and yet is already there:
you, if you don't die, are already dead.

Need Both

Drawing is Confession. Painting is Communion.

The Little Sprout that Could

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rules to be posted on parish doors for future Palm Sundays

1. Palm leaves are not to be woven into cross shapes during Mass time. If you want to weave them, do it after Mass.

2. The blessing of the palm leaves is not an empty formality. After the blessing has been pronounced they are blessed objects. Peeling and dividing the blessed objects to carry out the abovementioned Mass-time weaving, and then leaving those pieces and strands of the blessed object on the floor and all over the pews is inappropriate handling of blessed objects.

3. The extra minutes of the Palm Sunday Gospel reading do not legitimize you taking "sit rests". If you are capable of standing more than ten minutes doing dishes or laundry or any other task, then you are capable of standing the extra few minutes of the Palm Sunday Gospel reading. Don't be a wimp.

4. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, not the beginning of Easter. It is Holy Week, not Easter. So stop saying "Happy Easter" to other parishioners on Palm Sunday you hippies.

Small Kindnesses

I woke up this morning thinking about a little incident that happened at the grocery store I used to work at. Maybe it had something to do with the wonderful weather. My bedroom windows are south facing, so waking up can be at times stuffy - like a greenhouse. Especially when sleeping in. Lying in bed with the beautiful sunny weather blaring I suddenly remembered that I could start opening up my window again. Oh, how I had forgotten.

So, for some reason, lying there with the window open and the breeze coming in, I started thinking about this incident that happened; then I started thinking about a small article my Granddad Stilwell had written, some few years before he died.

He was a rather prolific writer in his way, and a poet. He had pieces published here and there throughout his life. This one article talked about doing small acts of kindness; about how we are negligent especially in small kindnesses.

I was thinking about this article and this incident at the store, which I'll get to. Then, later in the morning I came on this post by Amy Welborn. Then I really started wondering. Why would I, on waking, just start thinking about this little thing that happened:

It was my evening shift at the store. Before I came into work I stopped at a nearby parish, my local parish, to go before the tabernacle. (As is usual with any story worth relaying on this blog, it started off with my going to Adoration first.) I came into work buzzing. I remember it was a good work shift. I got all my tasks done in due order and the time breezed by. I came to the front to take my manager's place at the cash register.

Somewhere in the time that she was getting off the phone to go into the back to have her supper a lady came into the store and asked to use the phone. She seemed kind of harried. She used the phone. When she got off the phone I understood she was having some problem with her vehicle.

She didn't ask me to do anything, but simply thanked me for letting her use the phone, and conversation-like, I asked if she was having problems with her vehicle. She confirmed; it wasn't starting, but it was turning over. But there was nothing in her way that suggested a plea for help. She seemed to be in another place, and to be going there, and for a split second I almost let the incident alone. She would walk out the store and that would be that.

But I was buzzing on something. Without making any fuss or noise I said to my manager to wait a few minutes more at the front while I go help this lady. My car was just in the parking lot. I went and pulled it around and up the street, parrallel with her truck. She had jumper cables. I popped my hood and connected the two batteries and she started up her truck; I handed her the cables and her face had a look of relieved gratitude, almost desperately relieved. And she was off.

When I came into the store the next day one of my co-workers told me some lady had come in looking for me and that she had come to say thank you and that since I wasn't there she would come back some other time to say thanks.

One day she came while I was there. She shook my hand and told me thank you so much and what could she do for me; do I like movies and would I want some gift certificates, and there's me saying oh no, it was nothing and yadda yadda...and then she said these words:

"You have no idea how much you helped me".

I didn't learn what it was I helped her with and really, I don't want to know. And I'm sure at the time she didn't want to lay it all on me, whatever it was. But I remember that certain definite feeling, or a chill, when she said those words.

What if I didn't go to Adoration beforehand? Would I have jumped up to help that woman? Maybe I would have.

But maybe not.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dawn Redwood part 2 (they're flying)

You may remember those dawn redwood seeds I collected:

From this post.

A little more than a week and some started coming up. Unless any more decide to sprout there was eight altogether (Sorry about the picture quality. I don't have the better camera right now):

One started keeling over so I removed it. As mentioned, I didn't give these a stratification in the fridge. Whether or not dawn redwood seeds need a cold strat. these ones had one already since they were lying on the ground all through winter. Though that wasn't really the reason why I didn't give them a cold strat. I was just impatient and wanted to have some fun and see what would happen.

When growing tree seeds it is somehow very gratifying and joyful to know the parent tree from which the seeds came.

Forest Drawing

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Is Spring Here Yet

Fruit among the thorns and poison is the fruit
keeps me in the brambles' digging loops,
sapping strength into these vines, irresolute,
eating fruit among the thorns and poison
is the fruit. Winged black things rain down and peck my head
and gobs of flesh fall down like fruit which they reject
and will not eat, but encircle round and dig their beaks
like picks into my skin, until their fallow reek
comes sailing slow into my skull. Is spring here yet,
they caw and swarm in greater hordes, and peck and peck.
The blood is draining from my head and rootless
are my feet; my arms grow looping bramble thorns;
the blood's last stoppers are removed and rivers flush
out all red onto the ground, grow cold and waste away;
the thankless sleet is falling fast - is spring here yet.
Faint and dizzy reels my bleeding head, each beak
a bullet, shoots and plucks out flesh and blood and wings
away with mad jeering speech; thorns are here my feast.
Sapped strength and asphalt roads and empty tasteless fruit;
everything is lacking vigour; one thraldom of sickliness
grows the globe. Crows and poison fruit. Is spring here yet.

Fourth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II

Song For Karol from Mark Mallett on Vimeo.

A little more art, and less entertainment, wouldn't hurt

I remember learning in English class in high school how the Elizabethans were informed of the things that were going to happen in a play before the play started. So the play they were about to watch and listen to was already, in a rough manner, in their minds. I don't know if this was the same practice for plays before that time period, but wouldn't be surprised if it was.

They would do that for reasons other than by way of introduction. Perhaps it could be likened to walking fully around a building before entering it, as though they were getting something out of the way before biting to the meat of the matter.

Or take the scop who composed Beowulf. Many a time he betrays, albeit in dim portents, what is about to suddenly happen. And then after the event has happened, like say a battle with a monster, the event is retold numerous times, by one character to another. The event is not revisited per se (not a double-back), but is re-set, like a tree growing longer, stronger roots - or wider and wider rings around its center.

It is the additive layering in a work of art (not always strictly in the abovementioned form, but in many forms) that suddenly hits you with the jolt of the reality of its living center. Being merely devoted to what is going to happen next - though not in itself an impediment - gets conquered.

I dread to think that what they were getting out of the way is what we today as a modern culture have taken up as the main constituent of our diet.

If I might make a harsh transition from theater to film: I think it's important for someone not to know what is going to happen in a film of course - SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT - but what level of shallowness have we attained when simply not knowing what's going to happen next is concomitant with what film is all about?

There's a difference between not knowing what's going to happen next simply adding to the enjoyment of a film, on top of which something yet better subsumes it, and not knowing what's going to happen next being something like the sole point of a film. (Whether it is defying expectations through deliberate shock, twist in plot, or the more unpronounced wanting to be not predictable.)

I guess when the showing times for movies are classified under "entertainment" they aren't lying. The filmmaker is reduced to mere performer. We know that merely defying expectations is one of the lowest, lamest levels the artist can hit. It's one of the things that I don't like about Hitchcock's aesthetic, not to mention career; though I am a big Hitchcock fan. No, the filmmaker is not just to play the audience "like a piano".

And of course film, with its ever present "cut", so often abused and so often mistaken as to what stitches a film together, is prime turf for the "defying of expectations".

The cut (which in the fully developed film aesthetic is not what pieces the film together but is rather a necessary evil, to be couched and drowned as much as possible in the film's totality, which paradoxically has the effect that the cuts employed become beautiful) has been the bane of both film and film-viewing, enslaving both in a deadening, one-eyed shallowness.

I wonder: if a film's quality is diminished to the degree that it's plot or otherwise is known beforehand, then is it all that great of a film? That is to say, if a film is good only on first viewing, and is either weak or boring after that; if we always follow the story of a film at the behest of its cuts, then what is the point?

Again, I do think a film can be ruined for someone by being told everything, whereas if they watched the film without knowing anything they could then return to it often afterwards and enjoy it more and more. But really though: if you were told the whole plot of Terminator 2: Judgment Day beforehand would it be any less of a film when you actually watched it? No, not really. You wouldn't mind watching it again as well.

On a lowest common denominator scale: can a film be both predictable and compelling? My answer is yes. My answer is yes because the art of film does not depend on being unpredictable. Of course, neither does it depend on being predictable. The point of film simply rests somewhere else.

Which brings me to the film I was going to review, but will have to wait until later. A Hitchcock film.