Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tatlayoko Lake, Looking South

The title of this post takes its name from a photograph title given not by myself, but by the photographer, one Chris Rowat, head designer for the very successful area magazine, Kootenay Mountain Culture. Back in the days of creating Touchstones Nelson, the new museum, although she was no longer the managing director, Shawn still had a number of responsibilities, about which I naturally maintained an interest. Thus, over morning coffee, I would ask her what she was up to at work.
And quite regularly, while the permanent exhibition, on the second floor of the old city hall, was coming into being, she would say, "I have to go and see Chris and Daiva." This was the couple who were designing the PME.
Having once prided myself on my role as a kind of cultural welcome wagon to creative types new to Nelson, I was curious about these two, especially as Shawn assured me they were very good at what they did, but I knew that all my concentration had to remain on the Church and my writing and music research. Anything and anyone not a direct responsibility was a distraction, and any alteration to that schedule could only be wrought by startlingly plain act of Providence.
Or, more precisely, a series of acts, as in a play. 
The opening act took place two or three years ago when KMC editor Mitchell Scott and I began emailing back and forth about the possibility of my writing something for the magazine. I had noticed the publication's  beginning efforts years before in the gym, when local outdoors supplies and clothing store owner Dave Elliot had started up a small, beginning, version, because there was a good little article in it on interval running by Ed Natyshak, founder of the Summit Health and Fitness, where I was  busy learning about weight training; but I had paid only a limited attention to the more ambitious successor because I was no skier, and although I hiked constantly in our local hills, I rarely climbed mountains. Nor did I skate board or mountain bike. I did wonder about writing for KMC at some point, but there seemed no way in specifically open to me.
But because they had once lived on Lasqueti Island, where my father logged with horses after World War II, I was pulled into the KMC orbit after I met Jim and Lily Drake, who had sold their house on  the island and moved to Nelson. Jim became, briefly, one of my keyboard guinea pigs, and he and Lily were also parents of Julia, Mitchell Scott's wife. I happened to drop by one day when Julia was visiting her Mom, and Lily handed me a copy of the latest KMC, just brought along by her daughter. From that particular issue I learned why Whitewater, our local ski hill, has such enviable powder, as opposed to the coastal ski slopes. But none of this was going to tempt me to turn skier. Contemplation and writing about contemplation were adventure and challenge enough. Moreover, as a story teller I still had miles to go before I had done justice to the time I had spent in the kind of youthful adventures KMC thrives on.
But then came an inspiration to somehow crack the pages, and also have a bit of literary fun. MT and I went out on the annual search for huckleberries, an integral part of her fabulous winter feasts, and we went with a new picking device, a kind of toothed scoop, actually modelled, I later learned, on a native implement carved out of wood, usually cedar. Our scoops were red plastic, from Lee Valley, and they really worked, although it took me all day to catch up with the skill Marianne exhibited from Bush One, and then it was only because an incredible, bone chilling, deluge in the berry mother lode convinced me to imitate her profoundly swashbuckling approach and thus catch on. Her buckets had all day filled at an humiliatingly greater rate than mine, but I somehow clung to my own more careful approach until the heavens opened.
Once I did catch on, the whole process got quite exciting, especially with the thunderous sound track of primeval downpour and the gale in the trees, and I was reminded acutely of the climax of Ernest Hemingway's unmistakeable classic hunting tale, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. Macomber had lost his nerve when his lion charged, then regained it later when dealing with a herd of Cape buffalo. I had stopped being meticulous in a losing cause, and finally learned to go with the flow. There was, I realized later, an analogy, with a story and a summer of Hemingway stories I had always felt grateful to have had the opportunity to study. And there was also a way into Kootenay Mountain Culture, which seemed important to utilize.
So I got in touch with the magazine, and wrote, and then had to fiercely edit - in the middle of the night, which is usually dedicated to contemplation over much more significant things than huckleberry harvesting - and was published, in company with the most wonderful photograph of dear old Ernie with his gun and a mighty black buffalo, quite dead. Shawn had said to me one morning, "Peter Moynes came into the museum yesterday and said 'Wait till Ken sees the photo we found to go with the story!'" Peter is co-publisher of KMC and the photo editor.
I did wait, eagerly, and then when I saw the photo I was delighted. Nothing could be better. Nothing could more clearly state, in print registered for all time, how much of a debt I felt to Hemingway for those clarifying literary summers of my apprenticeship as a writer. It is quite possible that because I was a mystic I got more of him than anyone else ever has, but all the special illumination of his sparseness by the mystic's Muse still required the blood, sweat, and tears that went into his text in the first place was a most useful clarifier for my imagination. And he was probably the first modern writer who had given me a sense of my own writing voice, or who put pressure on me - as well as giving me hope that I could do it - to feel my way into my own style. He was startling in that way, as F. Scott Fitzgerald, to a lesser degree, would be a few months later. Other writers had given me other things, of course, but not with the same authoritative sense of myself.
By literary summers that particularly belonged to Hemingway I mean those of 1956 and 57. By 58, theology had taken me beyond humanism, and as much as I might enjoy reading fiction thereafter, I knew that its earlier signal influence as my only mentor had been lost forever.
The way that the publishing  industry works now, you can barrel along at it for some time without actually meeting any of the people at the hard copy end. A stunner, of course, because in my days with The Ubyssey, I even knew the press men, because I had to wander into the print shop behind the front office to hand them corrected galleys. So it was months before I met Chris, and learned that it was actually he who had found the buffalo photograph and judged it the perfect match for my story. And we ran into each other entirely because of accident, because we both wanted to talk to the same man, even though he had nothing what to do with my story or Chris' magazine and other commitments.
The man was Stan Triggs, who grew up in Nelson and had been attending UBC and was involved with the student annual as photography  editor the same year I met Shawn. He played an excellent mandolin as well as sang folk songs, and we had found ourselves jamming together one afternoon in the Ubyssey offices. A few years later, while I was teaching in Terrace, I spotted a Folkways record he had put out, Bunkhouse and Forecastle Ballads of the Pacific Northwest. It became a standard in our record library, and I used a number of his songs in the classroom and in performances with Shawn and others. We met again after we moved to Nelson, as Stan regularly returned to his roots from Montreal, where he was by then director of the McCord photography museum at McGill.
It was for this part of Stan's history that Chris was anxious to meet him. He had grown up hearing about Stan's work from his own mother, and when he first learned about the virtual museum  exhibit in Nelson that Stan had helped with he could not believe it was the same man! This was another of those early morning tales from our household and just one more in the long roll of annals of the initial disbelief in the world class excellence of so many aspects of Nelson's history and culture.
Chris and I arrived at the building about the same time, I think, somewhat after the initial proceedings of simply gathering, so we were contending with a standing room only museum lobby and a long job of getting near to Mr. Triggs. So we took the next best step: we started taking to each other and thus two things of vital importance to past and future fell out together. Chris described the anxieties he goes through over his design projects, such as matching just the right illustration to my story, trying to combine the best elements in the best way, and then somehow it came up that he knew Tatlayoko Lake and area very well. He had encountered it on a mountain bike tour a few years back. I might have said, in reference to the late buffalo, that it had been my dream at the time  that when I was rich and famous - in just a few years, of course - I would come back to the Chilcotin and hire Alf Bracewell to take me on a moose hunt, and thus get my own experiences as a hunter to write about.
But I also mentioned the music research and, as I feel relatively close to publication point, began to search him out about designing the text. That it will have to be more radical than anything ever printed so far is a foregone conclusion, and I have always hoped that all that creation could be done right here in Nelson.
Eventually, he said he was too busy. For one thing, KMC has recently doubled its output by adding a Coast version. But Chris and I continued to rattle our computer keyboards at each other and he swiftly sent me the photographs he had taken on the Tatlayoko/Chilko Lake bike tour.
And then things really started to take off, as I will continue to explain. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Anthony Trollope

We have been watching the BBC television production, The Barchester Chronicles, once again. The series has been around for a while, and will never be forgotten in this house, but this time it has quite outdone itself by inspiring more than pleasant memories, meditations, and gratitude for the talents of actors, screen writers and all the other skills of the crew that can make something so entertaining and abidingly worthwhile. This time it sent me rummaging for our hardbound copy of Barchester Towers, the novel that made Anthony Trollope an unquestioned master of his craft, and as soon as I started reading it again, before I went to bed, I realized that I had been set upon a turning point in the current schedule of literary deliberations. The spirit of priority has come and gone with that book, over the years, but now it was time for it to come, and stay, with major significance.
I first met Trollope when I had just turned twenty two. Or, rather, I met his spirit and reputation, for I had never heard of him before that voluntary moment, in spite of his brief mention in the major text of UBC English classes 100 and 200, College Survey, and I did not read him for a year-and-a-half after that first acquaintance.
And even then, I did not read the novel right through, as the personality of Mr. Slope and the doctrinal squabbles of nineteenth century Anglicanism were poor competition to the texts I was also reading by that time, The Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Summa Theologica. Slope was simply outrageous, Bishop Proudie was as unlike the "Iron Duke", as they called the archbishop of Vancouver in his day, as any "bishop" could be, and Mrs. Proudie and other clerical wives, good and bad, had not existed in the Roman Catholic Church for a thousand years. Given the pressures to learn the wisdom of the Church I had not known at all in my youth, at the level known it by John of the Cross and Thomas Aquinas, Trollope was simply not that high a priority. Moreover, although in one of his later novels I wondered if I detected a hint of the heartbreaking beauty of mysticism, I could find none of it in the otherwise excellence of Barchester, and I was much beyond believing and applying the ordinary rule of the novel, that the major plot must turn around a romance, especially a romance that shared none of the high adventure of my own courtship.
But it is also to be admitted, and forcefully, that some of the text had been an unforgettable inspiration, a professional directive from on high, for in the book, in the main, I had beheld the possibility of my own fiction, as fully staffed with clergy and doctrinal discussions. In my youthful confidence, of course, and totally unaware as yet - and for some time - of so much of the hideous material that would later occupy my inspirations of plot and character - I assumed my own masterpiece was just around the corner, like Agamemnon's swift conquest of Troy, and had no idea that such a fiery little feast of light - precisely aboard the Canadian Prince, as she throbbed through Johnstone Straight on her way to Alert Bay - on radar - through the dense fog of middle August, 1959, would not find its true target for many years, and in a certain sense, insofar as the whole truth of a major piece of fiction is concerned, for half-a-century.
Such are the ways of God with a story teller also a mystic. The greatest thing any man can do is pray, and the better God makes him at this most supreme and most universal of arts, the more likely he is to be more of a soul of prayer than a soul of anything else. After all, there is a good deal of writing, even of literature, which never got anyone out of purgatory, whereas it is well known that simply by being devoutly hidden away and not writing a sentence for the eyes of the world, humble, quiet, religious are helping souls get out of purgatory all the time.
They also help the Church get itself out of disastrous situations, which has been a pressing need of these times, as the pages of the press and the records of the courts, both criminal and civil have amply shown. And by the press I include the newest members of that profession, the bloggers, especially those who write out of a genuine love for theology and all that pertains to it. Just hours ago, Marianne was bringing me news, from one of the Net columnists she reads regularly, of a list of the theological crimes of the Basilian priest, Gregory Baum, a cleric in high places who yapped incessantly for years, with no one in authority shutting him up, in such a way as to flatly contradict everything Saint Paul ever said. The little man from Tarsus probably received more respect from Mohammed than he has from Baum. I vaguely recall Baum, I think, at the height of his influence, when I saw a late 60s TV special on the intellectual climate of Saint Michael's, the Basilian stronghold at the University of Toronto, which was disturbing on an astounding scale. I think that was my first intimation, locked away in the Kootenay mountains, of other areas of the Church smelling as bad as the diocese of Nelson under Emmett Doyle and a variety of other perverse priests.
Baum, who had been a peritus, or expert, at Vatican Two, was recently interviewed by Father Thomas Rosica, also a Basilian, who runs the Net programme, Salt and Light. Why he would give time and space to such a plain enemy of the Church I have no idea. Baum left the priesthood and got married long ago. Like Luther. The only thing more stupid that I can think of would be for a judge trying an alleged murderer to allow him to take a nice chunk of the court's time to air his theories on the value of murder as a method of population control.
But back to Trollope and his skill at making clergy the interesting protagonists in a work of fiction. As I said, there was a small mention of the Victorian novelist, enormously successful in his own day, in our text book, but I never saw it then. I did not swat my books, because my main interest was my fellow students, especially at the Ubyssey, who were all themselves writers of one degree or another, and if not novelists or playwrights in themselves, at least capable of being interesting characters within either format. So, in my fifth year on the campus, half-way through, in February just after Shawn and I had met, she announced to me that the Vancouver writer Ethel Wilson, originally from South Africa, was giving a lecture on Anthony Trollope and his writing and she was definitely going to it, and I could come if I liked.
I distinctly remember my first two responses. I was embarrassed at not knowing anything of Trollope at all, and I was delighted at the idea of sitting beside her listening to a fellow, local, writer catch me up on someone, Shawn said, who had been right in there with Dickens, Thackeray, and George Eliot. This sort of opportunity was  precisely what I had come back for, instead of trotting off to Toronto to become a journalist. To be honest, I knew nothing of Ethel Wilson either, but I have always been grateful for that lecture.
There was a full house, although I can't remember in what setting. I do remember that there were a lot of windows in the the north wall, and that the February light streamed through them as Ethel poured out her appreciation of the man that Britain had learned to forget, not just at that time, but decades earlier, not very long after Trollope was dead. Listening to her was like listening to Lister Sinclair a couple of years previous. I can recall no precise words of advice, just the utter conviction that without a life with literature, you had no life at all. And here was a new star in the firmament I had known ever since I learned how to read.
Nonetheless, I did not immediately sack the UBC stacks for every Trollope they held. I had been at work on my own novel for a few weeks by then, I was getting increasingly hammered by the dark night, and I was inch by inch crawling toward my final leaving of law school. And, of course, hanging on every word Shawn Harold said, and every gesture she made. As Trollope experts will have to admit, this simply made good sense. As brilliant as he was with his early morning pen, he created no Catholic intellectuals, especially of the female sort. This novelist already had something to study neither he nor his British culture never laid eyes on. At least not in any print that I had ever seen.
To be continued, as was the landing on the beaches of Normandy.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Light in the West

A few days ago, as I was nattering at Marianne about some of the mental and spiritual house cleaning I have found necessary over the past while, I said something that provoked her to say, "That's because God is incomprehensible."
If I remember correctly, what I had said was something to the effect of wondering why I had recently been feeling as if I had been much better at keeping my mind clear, that is, out of the devil's continual programme for confusing me, when I was a mere beginner in the spiritual life than I was at the moment. Of late, I said, I had been continually making mental errors. From the strictly human point of view within the process of ordinary logic, what MT said had no plain connection. At least to me it didn't. But it carried an obvious conviction, from her point of view, and I accepted it. Good thing I did, because the Incomprehensible has just shed some light, in fact so much light, that I can at least say that a fair chunk of spiritual activity within myself that I had been much puzzled over has suddenly, very dramatically, become astoundingly clear.
And, as an old newspaper man, I rather like the way God chose to illuminate me the way He did, not only through the secular press, which the Church periodically fails - sometimes grossly fails - to appreciate, but through the very big city daily I once worked for, the Vancouver Sun.
In a household dedicated to the spiritual  life, while it is unquestionably charity that makes the day go round, what makes the charity real is good order and teamwork. You have to have a game plan, and designated assignments, and you have to learn to play only your own position, stick to your own duties, and don't interfere with the other person's unless asked for help.
This attitude and programme works utter wonders in nature and grace on our property, but not always without clashes of opinion, and even, for the moment, personal conviction. With a novelist's imagination I have to be the chief offender in this regard, but my companions also know occasional moments when their bright ideas have to be growled at, usually over breakfast, which is always leisurely as well as delicious and very worth getting up for. Nobody leaves the table until all apparent contradictions have been resolved. Case in point. At one time I left early, feeling the call of other work. Shawn told me I was to stick around for another fifteen minutes or so, and her schedule proved to be the correct one.
All these organizational problems arise, of course, from the apparent conflict between the Lord's two fundamental commandments: love God with your whole being and love thy neighbour as thyself. At our age and experience the chance of dissension arising from self-love is virtually non-existent. All errors come from misjudging the three-fold radar devices' continual sweep of the always needy human race.
As befits contemplatives, a lot of this sweep is entirely of  a divine causality, immediately sourced from God, or clued from the pages of a distinctly spiritual text: the breviary or a spiritual writer. You have to lead with these, day in and day out, and at regularly scheduled times. This is the routine that incarnates that boldest of prayers: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Back in the days when we all stood up first thing in the morning and recited The Lord's Prayer, even in government schools, that was the one sentence I felt I had no hope of understanding. The rest of it seemed straightforward enough, so why the mysterious part? I had to wait years even to begin to see why something apparently so impossible should be included with requests that were not only quite achievable but actually made such obvious good sense.
The Lord, of course, was simply including his contemplatives. Only they, and only a fraction of them at that, were going to get his point in all its fullness, but that didn't mean that such a small audience should be left out. His mother already understood him, and Mary Magdalene and a few others would eventually catch on. Even I, unschooled contemplative as I was at the time, would catch on.
But, of course, only because of the grace and providence of God.
Possibly this is the most concentrated essay on the pastoral theology of a domestic monastery that I have produced so far. After all, the Christian life is best fulfilled by looking beyond one's own needs, as soon as they are, as they must be, taken care of. Vatican Two, for example, insisted that even bishops, as diligently as they were obliged to care for their own dioceses, were to consider the needs of other parts of the Church not as fortunate, one way or another, as their own. If this inward look is indeed so emphatic, its cause is my just learning of the establishment of another monastery, in my own province yet, very much to my own liking. The nuns involved have been in the province, in the archdiocese of Vancouver, for over a decade, but I had not heard of them until precisely a week ago, when Shawn descended the staircase between the first and second floors to hand me a page from the Vancouver Sun (August 11 edition) long ago, for a very interesting six months, my employer.
It's always been one of her jobs, the locating of a text, large or small, that she knows I need to read.
Sometimes it's a book - Beethoven's sonatas, Turgeniev's Sketches From a Sportsman's Diary - or a magazine or newspaper article. She has an old friend from her museum days who passes on his Suns, Globe and Mails, and Macleans for her to browse through. Out of her enormous concern and compassion for the needs of the universe, and of her interest in its triumphs and tragedies, she reads from cover to cover, front page to back, and prays accordingly. When she finds something she instinctively recognizes I need not only to pray for but to deal with, she hands it to me.
Thus a few years back, as she was sensing my getting closer and closer to using the computer, she handed me a Macleans with an article on Tim Berners Lee, the man who invented the Web and thus became one of the most important agents of civilization and the spread of the Gospel since Gutenberg. That was very interesting, and an unmistakable sign, but I don't think it hit me in the heart like the front page of the August 11 Sun.
That was a show stopper, as they say in theatrical circles. The audience rises to its feet, and roars such a volume of approval that the conductor has no alternative but to direct the performers and orchestra back to the beginning of the piece, and do it again.
Not only a convent of contemplative nuns, but eventually twenty of them, it was hoped, and Dominican sisters at that. It was almost too much to believe, for an old contemplative long schooled in the inertia of the world and the spiritual sluggishness of Canadian Catholicism, but there it was, not in the pages of a Church publication, but on the front page of, arguably, the leading daily of western Canada, the story of the foundation, 5 million dollars' worth, at Squamish, of The Queen of Peace Monastery.
What a bloody miracle, not only in the fact, but in the presentation of the story. I suspect it's going to take a number of posts to explain why this establishment is one of the most exciting pieces of news I've heard in a long time.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Perfect Diet

This morning I hit the bathroom scales at 168 pounds, so now the story is safe to tell. This diet really does work, and faster and easier than any diet I ever designed before. No doubt part of the reason for the better pace is that at least one of the principle ingredients was not due to my input, but Marianne's, via Dr. Christopher the herbalist. And even that was something of an accident, because the two little capsules of cayenne pepper turning up at the dinner table for me before each meal were not chosen initially because anyone had any ideas about them helping weight loss. They were there because of the threat of high blood pressure.
And I speak of diets that I have designed only because my previous compilations of calories out versus calories in always featured a significant degree of exercise. In the summer of 2006, for example, I was logging 35 miles a week along the Nelson waterfront walkway. And of course ripping off the fat, in spite of my then intention to create a programme actors would like, which means that I was not especially stinting on the booze. But I hurt my knee, as I have related, and then turned to solo dancing, as I've also related, and that was also very efficient, without any damage to the joints. So I felt very happy with myself, grateful for some of the great groups there are to dance to, and the technology of walkmans and earphones. Life was good.
But there was not just an obligation to health, there was also the obligation to researching music instruction, and the conditions for this were a definite enemy to fat watch. The little rubber keyboard and the earphones that went with it were definitely a Godsend, because I could hammer away, for an hour every morning, at not only my ignorance, but also that of the teaching and publishing industry - which since the Renaissance seems to have lost touch with some of the most important pedagogical fundamentals - in the sacred privacy of my own head. But anyone who has to get out of bed at four in the morning simply to face into his own stupidity needs a little comfort, and also a little stimulation from legitimate pleasure. It's dark, it's cold, it's lonely, especially with a cat who thinks the only good that can come out of the only man in the house is food. It wouldn't be lonely, the mystic must insist, if I were just there to read John of the Cross, but that was not the mission statement. So a sensible red blooded male does the sensible thing: he opens a bottle of beer, or pours himself a good shot of sweet vermouth. But you must not drink on an empty tummy, so a stout piece of homemade bread also joins the mini feast. Calories? Oh yeah.
So for two or three years, it was an elevator ride with the weight scale. It was at Christmas, eighteen months ago that I peaked at 183.5 pounds. As I graduated from high school at 150, you can imagine the profile. But I still "had miles to go," as Robert Frost said, and no sooner did I realize another secret of sound piano fundamentals than a further problem turned up. I did get down to 170 or so last September, with the walking, dancing, rowing, but then I was still miles from the core of the musical earth. I said to hell with the weight scales, and dedicated the months up to Christmas to a bare knuckle, no holds barred, assault on some remaining conundrums. Thus by the festive season of six months ago, I had sufficient final clues to abandon that schedule of consumption, but I was back up to 180.5
Now at that point I definitely got the grace to stick with the change in the game plan. At this moment I do not actually recall what the great secret of music analysis it was that freed me up, and I'm not going to look in my journals at this point to find it. It may have been a key discovery regarding analytical structure, it may have been something about reading music - always my bugbear. Whatever it was turned Tim McDaniel, as well as myself, in a further right direction, and that's the important thing. So it was time to return to the weight question.
I made modest progress with my current methods, and looked forward to the spring, when some lengthy jogs would up the progress.
But then I got sick. At the end of March I came down with a bronchial problem, preceded by a spiritual event of some six days that was at the beginning incredibly painful, then for the latter half of the schedule most consoling. I was sick enough that I had to miss three consecutive Sunday masses, and of course the household was attentively concerned. From my studies of nasal breathing I could calculate that the invasion of my bronchial tubes had cut my oxygen supply faculties by a third, and I thought that my exercise opportunities were thus totally trashed. Until the affliction passed, therefore, weight loss would be impossible.
But at the same time as the bronchial problem, more or less, Marianne came upon Dr. Christopher's thought on blood pressure and cayenne and introduced a pair of little capsules before each meal. Concerned about the blow from my illness, I consulted the scales frequently, and happily realized that I was not gaining weight, but still losing it, although I was aware that the lack of exercise had also diminished my appetite. This pleasant situation continued, making my curious, and one day I was inspired to some research of my own, Googling for the connection between cayenne and weight loss. And there it was: there was no herb known that was more effective than cayenne for raising the metabolism, thus aiding digestion. And the history of my recent weeks was proof positive.
Of course, it must be said, the cayenne is not entirely the magic bullet. MT runs a model kitchen, not totally vegetarian, but as vegetarian as most well-organized convents, so mindless fat sources don't have a chance to screw things up. And for years we have done the Ayurvedic daily schedule, with the big meal at noon, so the afternoon activities can burn the calories, and a light supper, so the calories unburned by little or no activity can't resolve themselves into unwanted lard.
My target? At least 160. And at that point, perhaps some other issues the Ranger has discussed will be resolved as well.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

l939 Revisited

Writers have a variety of sources for inspiration, and anytime they feel they are suffering from writers' bloc, they are especially conscious of the extent of that variety. Although the latest chapter of Not Without the Angels has generally been going well as far as I can see, the too many days previous to yesterday afternoon's installment were not a little trying, with no production, and no ideas about how to get any. A day or two off I'm very used to, even when I feel on a roll, simply because the nature of spiritual writing in itself rarely allows quantitative output, but when the days start to multiply I can get anxious. For some reason I've never completely shut down the devil trying to tell me I'm lazy as quickly as I would like to. I always beat him in the end, but the end doesn't always come as quickly as I think it should, and the bastard gets his licks in. Time wasting, of course, but this is not quite heaven, and the father of lies must be allowed his innings, I suppose.
So I have to be patient, and humbly wait to be surprised by the next source of inspiration and clarity. Do I need to prowl in a book? Will the insight come from a story in the media or a film drama? Does someone in the household have the gifted word? The parish? Or should I take another stroll downtown? Or do I simply need to wait through an extended stretch of the dark night, with or without it being connected with the latest words being run through the computer?
With yesterday's input it was mostly waiting. The day before, I did find myself coming out of the black tunnel with an idea - which turned out to be the key - but I had to wait twenty-four hours before it was anything but the barest skeleton. This was not very pleasant, but I knew I could not push the Muse around just so I could feel good at supper time.
Besides, He had decided to give me the grace to get reunited with my apprentice days and Ernest Hemingway, and I had been somewhat enjoying The Sun Also Rises. I say "somewhat" because there's an awful lot of booze and sodden company involved in that tale, and the relationship between Jake Barnes and Lady Brett is so painful, but the boy from Chicago remains a provocative stylist and I can never quite give up thinking that he could have been a great metaphysician if he read as well as he fished and hunted, and maybe given up that hogwash about bull fighters being the only men who lived life all the way up. But, as I said, he was definitely a writer's writer, as well as, for me at least, a huge insight into how to think about my own wilderness, and when I went to the computer, to see if I could move forward - I could not - I was moved to reread what I had written so far, and cut out more than one quite superfluous adjective, and then, as I said, wait a day. The neat things about the other side of the Muse is that, for a long time now, the tiniest correction has always carried so much of a mental reward, actually hard to believe.
And then came yesterday. A lot more Jake and Brett, but the promise of the trip to Spain, and then I was suddenly back to the typewriter, where some stuff I'd always known as extremely challenging to get right, actually was made to work, and I came out of it all rather buoyant, finished the modest heel of a bottle of sweet vermouth, and sat down to a very tasty supper. I couldn't help but feel that some corner had been turned, and I couldn't help but feel for some time that I might have enough bounce to follow up with what is now this post. But I didn't, because while I was waiting for the computer I read my daily ration of Marianne's poetry, and I think that left me thinking I had better wait again. Besides, it was almost time for the weather news, and then the household's evening recreation, which for the past few weeks has been the BBC series, from the books of James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small.
The last half-dozen episodes have all carried a mention of the immanence of World War II, and last night we heard Neville Chamberlain announcing the decision to keep Britain's promise to Poland and take on Germany.
Which was precisely what I needed to remind me of the need to go on treating the Canadian Conference majority as if it were public enemy number one.
When will I stop? When their deliberations and canonical actions annihilate the ridiculous tone of our Sunday liturgies, unless of course the Pope simply bans guitars and pianos. Unlike Gregorian chant, which has within itself sufficient spirit to persuade the Holy Spirit to inspire good souls singing just a capella, the current popular slop, like AM radio, could never survive without an instrumental foundation, or at least a celebrant who so confuses noise with prayer that he takes any opportunity to perform.
The War had its Nuremberg Trials. When this nonsense is over, will we have the Liturgy Trials? Do we have enough gallows to hang all the guilty? Perhaps not. but Purgatory has lots of space, and I think God has considerable eagerness to punish those, clerical and lay, who have so blithely defied those very early words in Sacrosanctum Concilium. If, as John of the Cross insists, God will certainly
punish spiritual directors who do not do their job properly, even though they are responsible for only the tiniest fraction of the Catholic population, what can He possibly say to the leadership that has so abused just about everybody who shows up for Mass? Christ died for every man and woman of good will, not just for that little band that tries to take perfection seriously.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Two Thumbs Up, and How!

In three days it will be precisely four years since I began the Kootenay Ranger, the blog that became a little family of blogs, and the perfect kind of outlet for a writer like myself, a much studied senior citizen who suffers fools gladly in any office except that of the editor or publisher. April 30, 2008, feast day of that stern old Dominican pope, Saint Pis V. I didn't intend the timing, it merely came up as the result of my asking the junior agent's opinion on yet another prospective guinea pig for piano studies. It was getting close to lunch time, and in order to make sure I actually got fed - the agent also wears a chef's hat - I had to back away from the student plan, quickly, and agree that it was time I started putting my ideas on the Net. The rest, as they say is history, and not a little success, given that a writer who spends so much effort promoting the toughest writer that ever lived, the impregnable John of the Cross, king of all the mystics, can acquire four thousand hits from around the world. Selling pain has never been the route to fame and fortune, even when it is acknowledged that the great Carmelite's brand of agonies paves the fastest track to Heaven man will ever find, so those four thousand nods, even though many of them were entirely accidental, are not a little satisfying.
What is equally satisfying, I have lately been made to realize, was that my instinctive reaching out for what would have been my youngest experimental student was not entirely in error. There was something utterly primitive provoking my inquiries over basic fingering fundamentals, which was most certainly not being answered by any teachers or texts that I was aware off. I think now that I would never have found the solution with a child that young, however, and I know that there was still a great deal of analytical probing to be done. And oddly enough, and I think quite to my surprise, the solution actually lay in close study of written music, and not only written, but written in four-part harmony. In other words, a lot of attention to Bach's two-part inventions, etc, was not the full answer by any means.
Again, Marianne had a lot to do with this. She has been getting more and more involved with chant and Latin, partly through listening to what's available on the Net, and partially by printing from the same source. About two months ago she found the Vatican Kyriale, all 156 pages of it, laid down in four parts by the Belgian musician, Achille P. Bragers, in 1937. She printed it out and put it all in a big ring binder in nice plastic sleeves. I did not actually leap with joy at first, to tell the truth, but quite quickly some great progress with Tim McDaniel's reading skills led to my realizing that Bragers would be the perfect text. I had learned. more or less, how to decipher modes so that we could read the chant texts in numbers and Tim was eager to fly at it, with something more substantial than nursery rhymes and folk songs.
And some how, I had found the secret I had been hunting for so long: with four parts the key is to begin reading with the alto and tenor lines, played at first - and for some time - only with the respective thumbs. And I mean respective, just one at a time, at least for a while.
Tim has done so much work with intervals, with both thumb involved and thumb entirely removed, that he is very precise. Adding soprano and bass notes with the requisite finger follows quite naturally.
Honey, we're home.
Now, how long will it take the Canadian Conference, currently playing around in the music publishing business with the worst melodies imaginable, to catch on?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Interdict

Is the Pope pondering the interdict?
I've just read a directive out of the Diocese of Calgary, written by Simone Brosig, PhD, Office of Liturgy. From the very first sentence to the last it is full of heresy, so flagrant that this woman must be suspended by her bishop, and if not, then he must be subject to Papal discipline. It is also, I suspect, full of lies and confusion over the question of not keeling in the pew after the reception of communion. I mean lies about the Vatican, and if it is not, then the Vatican is wonderfully stupid or wonderfully careless.
Having lived through some pretty careless papal thinking and papal acting, all in the name of letting the rats steer the ship, I could still be worried, as Benedict, I suspect, still has some lame brains in his curia. But he's cut them all off at the pass with his declaration of the theme for Lent: Fraternal Correction.
Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will correct My Church.
What Christ sees is that the Canadian Conference, having, with much help from Rome, finally more or less exorcized the devils of inclusive language from its midst, is now trying to develop one of the other lines of non-reasoning that hell has so generously tickled its privates with, sentimental doctrines of community, fed with  the worst liturgical music in the history of the Church. The Conference has clearly yet to learn its lesson. Better from the Pope than a close personal friend of Elijah's, and perhaps the Transformation. I mean the real one, not the average preacher's concept.