Monthly Archives: October 2021

Not some sky daddy!

How many times I recall educated American (and European) friends protesting that while they might believe or feasibly be able to believe in God, they could never believe in a childish idea of a Bearded Sky Daddy(TM?). For some reason I’ve never found the traditionally imagery of God the Father to be revolting. Like this:

It’s the whole Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But my question is, what advantage or appeal comes from thinking that God is a vague force of nature with no personhood, no Incarnation, no relationship to you or me? So many of God’s best qualities are qualities that manifest in the relationship of persons: love, compassion, tenderness, mercy. Even the conversation of prayer!

Mangled words!

Thick polyester “fleece” blankets are popular in the winter here in the Rio area. I mean double thick heavy things, far too warm for the actual 60F night temperatures. I find them clammy and unpleasant. They are popularly printed with colorful scenes or cartoon characters. Sometimes they are just plain brown.

Of all weird names these blankets are called “edredom” (eh-dre-DON) which seemed a mysteriously un-Latin thing to call a blanket. No Portuguese in their right mind would have invented that word. It’s a bit like “gorgurão,” the long-suffering version of the French word “grosgrain” (a kind of ribbon, if you don’t sew). These are the sorts of mouthfuls that the young people in my English classes struggle with. Too many consonants in all the wrong places.

Finally, the mystery is solved.

Edredom is from “eiderdown,” the ‘featherbeds’ used in northern Europe at night, which in the USA we would call a ‘down quilt’.

The word apparently crept into French from Danish, and from French it spread into Catalan, Spanish, and Portuguese. I assume it spread along with the sales of imported or imitated Danish eiderdowns into Iberia. Perhaps when some Danish princess popularized them during a marriage or a voyage?

Ever wondered what eiderdown is? It’s the down feathers from a kind of duck what lives in the north Atlantic. It’s collected from the abandoned nests of the ducks: the female ducks line the nests with these delicate feathers. Sixteen nests yield a kilo of feathers – the tradition of collecting the feathers dates to the 9th century.

A cool video about it:

And the mysterious origins of polyester fleece:

Painting the Heavens

Medieval illuminations often have interesting things going on in the sky.

Little angels peeking over the edge of heaven.
Patterns of blue-on-black foliage fill the sky.
The faces of dozens of angels looking upon Christ and the saints.
God the Father and an array of little angels worked in tiny golden brushstrokes.
Some beautifully worked foliage patterns in the sky.
The angels are obvious, but there is also delicate white filigree filling all the blue of the background and sky.
This one is full of obvious angels, but a closer look reveals myriad half-hidden angels, too.
Here the choir of angels frames an ordinary sky full of stars.
And here some rather cute angels peak down at the Virgin Mary from a sky full of stars.


By Tango7174 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Some twist of conversation the other day brought up the subject of very ancient trees whose products are still being harvested:

The world’s oldest cork tree

The Thousand Year Old Rosebush

The World’s Oldest Apple Tree (browse the photo galleries)

The Olive Tree of Vouves (there are several other very old olive trees listed here, too: Wikipedia List of Oldest Trees)

The Hundred Horse Chestnut Tree


Adventures in shopping for fruit: Best done at dawn, at the CADEG (a sort of wholesale market).

Fruit picking techniques: Melons, knocking. Pineapples, sniffing. Oranges, squeezing. Mangos, looking.

Best smells: mangos! What a perfume! It filled the car on the way back.

Oddball specialties: just beer and salt cod; just pumpkins; just watermelons

Fun details: varieties of veggies that look almost like north american ones, except a little different, such as the yellow and green bell peppers, or the pale green zucchinis.

Best people watching: the very elderly shopkeepers and their elderly cats; the shoulder-carrying skills of the shop assistants (or, in the photo below, the convent’s driver)

Shattered glass

A friend was mentioning some teachings that stood out in his mind over the years, that I likewise found touching:

God takes the shattered pieces of our lives and makes a beautiful stained glass window out of them.

God is love. But sometimes we think of the love part in human terms, and try to fit God into that limited view. Better is to recognize that we need to conform ourselves to His love, not conform Him to our love.

When we pray the Our Father, the “Our” reminds us that Christ is praying with us and we with Him. It is the prayer he taught us to pray.

It’s really amazing to read the stories of Esther, Jael, Judith and other great women of the Old Testament in light of Mary. Sometimes the modern imagery is all syrup and sorrow, which doesn’t do Our Lady justice. I have half a liking for this unusual engraving. That’s Jael (lower left) and Judith (lower right), dispatching their enemies.

Image found online years ago. I don’t know the source.