Springtime beauty is fleeting.
DC’s Cherry Blossom Season came to an end today, and, in spite of the flowers being surprisingly long lasting this year, the trees were already looking pretty spent on Wednesday. Still, the pink puffs of the trees are quite pretty to behold, and unofficially mark the start of spring for many.
The fields of daffodils, which inspire wandering lonely as a cloud, are no longer buttery yellow. Instead, the flowers have faded, and normal grass has sprung up to cover over the leaves. Crocuses are long gone, leaving their white-striped green leaves like tufts of long grass, with no sign of the purple and yellow heralds of spring.
Leaves are no longer red-tinged in tender newness, but are fully green and unfurling in the warming sun of the longer days.
Even if many flowers have faded, late spring is the beauty of becoming. If early spring is the beauty of potential, late spring is the beauty of actualization. Plants are starting to become fully themselves, conducting their proper business of deepening their roots, setting fruit from the flowers, or flowering for the summer pollinators to fulfill their duty.
Enjoy the beauty as it comes; God in His wisdom provides us reminders of His bounty and the beauty that comes from becoming what He wants us to be.
We are now in Passiontide, the last two weeks before Easter. Statues are covered in purple, and parts of the liturgy (mass in the Extraordinary Form, as well as in the Liturgy of the Hours) are trimmed. Today’s Gospel for the Extraordinary Form includes the line, “Jesus autem abscondebat se” — Jesus hid himself from them. Traditionally, the Friday of Passiontide (the Friday before Good Friday) commemorates the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.
The Church has packed lots into these two weeks (next week being Holy Week) to help us redouble our Lenten efforts and prepare for the intensity of the Triduum so that we are ready to share the joy of Easter.
…and the cats know it.
We’ve been visited by the full range of springtime birds: wrens, sparrows, robins, cardinals, and at least one blue jay. Crows recently made an appearance, too. On the bike path a week ago a particularly aggressive goose hissed at me. The cats have been going nuts watching the birds flit around outside the windows as they look for insects and other food and gather nesting material. The combination of bird song and cat chatter is interesting to say the least.
The squirrel highway across our back deck has officially reopened for the season. Even though it was a fairly mild winter, the squirrels have been eating anything they can find. I’m sure the nearby park is providing a great post-winter buffet for them. I saw one squirrel carting off a nearly-uneaten apple that was almost bigger than it was. Again, the cats are not amused by this sudden influx of wildlife in their domain. Benson was so taken by the hunting urge that he made a dash for the outdoors last week. Usually he’s content to sit back when we go in and out, but this time he must have seen a squirrel and ran out as I was trying to go out the door. He got halfway down our front path and froze when I called his name, so I was able to pick him up and get him back inside.
Beyond the exterior activities, the cats have been much more rambunctious than usual. I suspect the series of pressure systems that have been moving through play a role, but their early morning and evening play times have been more aggressive than usual, with more hissing and meowing than they typically exhibit. Couple that with their minimal springtime shedding and yes, the fur has been flying.
In non-animal spring issues, the lettuce and radish we planted are already sprouting. Of course, once I got the seed in the ground the persistent rain we were getting every two or three days stopped, so I actually had to water the garden. I suppose I’m glad the ground has had a chance to dry out a little so that the next rain we get won’t immediately cause puddling and runoff.
Spring is definitely in the air, and we’re enjoying every minute of it before summertime hits.
Just before Lent began this year, I was struck by a bible passage from Isaiah (1:11-18):
11 What do I care, the Lord says, how you multiply those victims of yours? I have had enough and to spare. Burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of stall-fed beasts, and the blood of calves and lambs and goats are nothing to me. 12 Think you it is a welcome sound, the tramp of your feet in my courts bringing worship such as yours? 13 Vain offerings, bring them no more, this incense of yours is an abomination. Enough of new moons and sabbaths, of thronged assemblies where none but sinners meet! 14 The new month begins, the feast day comes round, how it cloys the appetite! These be hateful tasks I can bear no longer. 15 Hold out your hands as you will, you shall get no heed from me; add prayer to prayer, I will not listen; are not those hands stained with blood?16 Wash yourselves clean, spare me the sight of your busy wickedness, of your wrong-doing take farewell. 17 Learn, rather, how to do good, setting your hearts on justice, righting the wrong, protecting the orphan, giving the widow redress; 18 then come back, says the Lord, and make trial of me. Crimson-dyed be your guilt, it shall turn snow-white; like wool new-washed yonder scarlet stain. [Isaiah 1:11-18, Knox Bible]
I am focused most on verse 11, but provide the entire passage for more context. What comes to my mind is that Lent, but actually our entire prayer life, is about more than just the small sacrifices we make (our “giving up” something for the time of Lent), it is about making time for God, or offering Him a sacrifice of time.
The basic thought is that we have everything because of God; it all rightly belongs to Him as creator and Lord of everything. He gives it to us for our (proper) use, but really offering anything to Him as a sacrifice is only giving it back to him. Some have more, some have less, which is why the ancient Jewish practice specified different sacrificial animals for people who could afford more or less. Time, however, is given to all equally (24 hours each day, no more, no less), and each individual makes choices every moment on how to use it. What Isaiah 1:11 seems to be saying is that the physical offerings will be refused if one is not turned properly to God. The passage goes further to indicate that even prayers will be unanswered if actions do not match with God’s precepts (“setting your hearts on justice…protecting the orphan…”). Going through the motions is not enough, there has to be a total conversion to God.
What it comes down to is a question of how you choose to spend your time: Are you in pursuit of holiness, not just by praying (which is important), but in your actions? Do you take the time to be present and see Christ in those around you (and treat them as such)? How about those Works of Mercy? Or are we too busy and self-absorbed to take the time so that others can see Jesus working through us? These actions do not usually require financial or other resources, they just require time. The question is whether we are willing to sacrifice that time to God by putting it towards His goals, rather than ours. Lent is a time to review our approach and maybe give a little more time back to Him who stands outside and above time itself.
March weather has been maddening, at least for this bicycle commuter. Winter and spring are playing tug-of-war, and we’re caught in the middle. I’ve about had it with the temperature swings and wind. Also, Benson’s built-in barometer is making him act up as the weather systems move through.
This past week was a perfect example. We didn’t get the bomb cyclone that nailed the center of the country, but we did get some serious wind. Thursday and Friday both featured gusts of well over 20 mph. This isn’t actually all that bad, but for the fact that the gusts we’re actually pretty sustained headwinds for all my commuting trips.
The temperature fluctuations also make it hard to pack the right gear. Monday I was under-dressed for the morning ride, and Tuesday afternoon had to shed a layer on the way home. Thursday and Friday were phenomenal, temperature-wise, but the wind made me seriously consider throwing a windbreaker. The problem with Friday is that rain was in the forecast, so I packed my rain coat. The rain never materialized, of course, so I packed the rain gear for no reason.
They say March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. I’m looking forward to when the lamb finally wins out and we get some predictability on precipitation, wind, and temperature.
One of the fun things about an auto-immune disease is that it is highly individualized. What triggers an arthritic flare for one person may have absolutely no effect on another one. That’s why you almost see websites about arthritis with possible flare triggers (at least about psoriatic arthritis) use also sorts of wiggle language and caveats. Some of the most common I’ve seen include caffeine (no change for me, as evidenced by coffee-free Lents), cheese/dairy (I haven’t really gone full dairy-free, but have no change when I reduce dairy), alcohol (no change here, whether I imbibe or not), sugar (early on I tried this and went added-sugar free for about a month on the theory that sugar, or at least too much sugar, is an inflammatory. No change during, no change when I added sugar back in, no change when I indulge in sweets cravings). So, auto-immune really is a case of “your mileage may vary.”
All that said, I think I’ve run across one thing that usually triggers an arthritis flare for me: lack of sleep/disrupted sleep. As long as I clock about 6-7 hours a night, I’m fine. One or two days of a little less, and things seem OK. Much more than that and I do start to feel pain in my hands. I should note here that although I have a few swollen joints, my particular manifestation of psoriatic arthritis is not usually painful. A twinge now and then is all I usually have. Things look much worse than they actually are (and they don’t look all that bad, really).
Since I was on travel last week, my sleep schedule was completely disrupted. The jet lag from being five hours ahead, along with a couple of later than usual nights, as well as a couple of long plane trips conspired to give me a flare up part of the way through the trip, and that I’m still trying to tamp back down. The main thing is getting back to usual amounts of sleep so as not to make things worse. Secondarily, I’ll take a minimal dose of an anti-inflammatory if the flare continues more than a few days, so as not to cause damage to the joints. This usually gets things back under control after a couple of days.
Again, what works for one auto-immune patient might not (probably won’t) work for another. This happens to be what sets things off for me, and one way I’ve come up with to handle it. As with most things in life, your mileage may vary.
Well worth reading, both for the passage on Lent in the desert, and for how older Catholic books treat older children (those who have been confirmed, which used to be at a much younger age than high school) as full members of the Church Militant.
From previous years, but still worth a read! How did I happen up on this? In the usual, wandering way. I went to archive.org and typed in “ash wednesday” in the search box, and after wading through a bunch of sermons and pamphlets (including one I had written!), I happened upon this, and stumbled into a huge rabbit hole. […]
For better or for worse (for worse, in my opinion), the local jurisdictions around here have all started pilot programs for various forms of “dockless” mobility device sharing–bikes (some e-bikes) and e-scooters. The dockless bicycle program seems to be much less popular than the e-scooters, at least based on the numbers I’ve seen. Unlike the initial bikeshare program, which has designated docks scattered throughout the area, you pick these up wherever they’ve been left, and just park them at the end of your trip.
Now, in theory, this is an OK idea, especially in this urban environment where the bus system is not all that great for actually getting you from point A to point B in a timely manner without making you go through all sorts of gyrations to make it work with your schedule. Rather than needing to procure your own bicycle or other vehicle, you pick one up close by, pay via app for the short trip, and leave it parked when you get to your destination so another person can take it. These companies seem to have found a niche to fill, so good on them.
That said, the execution has been lacking. Just because the scooter or bike is dockless, doesn’t mean the users get to be brainless. Shortly after the scooter programs got the green light, I started finding them parked really poorly, obstructing the bike path or sidewalks. The first offense was last summer, when one was parked on the sidewalk at an intersection in such a way as to block BOTH directions at the cross walk. You absolutely had to detour around it. Later on this fall, I ran across a scooter parked in the middle of the span of the 14th street bicycle/pedestrian bridge, blocking at least half of the route. This happened not just once, but several times. It’s as if the person using the scooter ran out of time on his or her payment, and just left it there rather than paying to go another half mile.
Things have actually gotten worse recently. In the last four weeks, I’ve had to physically move three scooters out of the way so I could get around. Two were blocking the curb cut to a very busy cross walk. Just this morning, I had to move one off the sidewalk so we could walk to church without detouring onto the very soggy strip of lawn between the road and the sidewalk.
In addition to this lack of consideration, I’m seeing more and more people riding these scooters (which are motorized, remember), recklessly through areas where there are lots of tourists. You almost never see a helmet (even though they can get up to some significant speeds), and I’m seeing more and more scooters carrying two or more people. Again, just because they don’t need to think about where to park, it’s like many of the users forget to use their brains at all.
Sure, there are many responsible users of this program out there, and it fills an obvious need. That said, before the pilot goes permanent, I would like to see the companies step up the enforcement of their own published guidelines: do not block sidewalks when parking, wear a helmet, and ride responsibly. If the companies do not/cannot/won’t enforce, then it would be nice to see a few fines levied for obstructing a public thoroughfare or endangering others to drive home the point.
In the traditional Catholic calendar, today was Septuagesima, or “Seventieth.” This is a misnomer, because it is certainly NOT the 70th day before Easter. The 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia, as reprinted at New Advent suggests that it may just be named this as part of a series (since Lent is Quadragesima, or Forty), or that it’s possible that this is the earliest that Lent began for some early Christians (who would have excepted Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from counting for the fast). It comes down to this being one of those tradition-inertia things that we have held onto.
In any case, what it does mean is that we’re in pre-Lent. It is a reminder that we should begin preparing ourselves for the great fast that is coming. We have three Sundays to plan out our Lenten observances, and really figure out how to get ourselves ready for Easter through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. As a sign of this, the liturgy (at least in the Extraordinary Form of the Catholic Mass) changes. We lose the Gloria at mass. We also lose the Alleluia, which is replaced by a tract (essentially, an extended psalm without antiphon responses) in mass. Traditionally, the Alleluia is “buried” the Saturday before Septuagesima (no, really, a paper or banner with the word is buried, to be brought out again at Easter). The priest wears purple. In many ways, it starts to look like Lent, even if we aren’t quite into the full-blown Lenten season yet.
Still, Lent is coming, and the liturgical changes serve as that wake up call to get us thinking about it.