Reading in bed

Why is reading in bed a thing? I recall it being not only a thing, but a wonderful thing when I was a kid. I would read voraciously, even reading under the covers with a flashlight after lights out time. Lights out meant exactly “no more reading.”

At some point I stopped reading in bed. I think this was in part because books became larger and heavier. One can’t easily hold and read a large hardcover book in bed, at least not without a lap desk, cushions to support a semi-seated position, prism glasses and so on.

I’ve also rarely had a bedside table. I still don’t. Usually because the bedroom is too small to fit bedside tables next to the bed. Without a bedside table, there’s no handy reading light nor place to put your book when done reading.

And the fact is that even now that I have a kindle and a cell phone, both of which are designed to facilitate reading in bed, I really prefer to read books on paper, so I generally read in a chair in the day, not at night in bed. I especially love reading while holding a pencil and making little annotations as I read.

So there ya go. Life without reading in bed. It’s sort of like life without breakfast in bed: it looks rather intriguing and picturesque, but it’s not part of my life and doesn’t seem worth a big effort.

The glorious Virgin Mary was reading when interrupted by an angel…

Come spend the day!

Detail of a tapestry showing the visit of the Most Holy Virgin to her cousin Elizabeth. She stayed a while!

One of the many strange things I’ve adapted to in Brazil is really long visits. I was so used to the all-business, in-a-hurry, let’s-not-overstay-our-welcome kind of visits I knew in the US that it’s taken me years to acclimate to the pace of visits here. This week’s spate of post-quarantine visits included:

  • Six hours with a dear friend: 3 hours of cheese, salami, olives and wine; followed by a one hour walk to digest and pray a rosary, then two more hours eating beef stew and talking.
  • Five hours with another dear friend a few days later: lots of conversation; coffee and cake; more chatting, taking photos, and hanging out; turning down the invitation to stay for dinner (tripe stew…I couldn’t do it).
  • Eight hours with another dear friend the day after that: several hours of conversation, several hours of eating, more talking, more eating, and a good long time spent looking at beautiful art books.

I was telling another friend about it later and she said the customs that she’s known are a) the ‘come for lunch, stay til dark’ visit and b) the ‘come spend the day while the husbands are at work’ visit.

I was marveling at the quality of time one gets with a friend when one spends all day, and not all day running around going places and being seen and so on, but just sitting at home talking. With that kind of uninterrupted attention to each other you really can delve into long stories and wandering musings. The friendship gets treasured and pampered and polished and cared for. It seems to me to put priorities straight. God gave me these friends to love and be loved by. Generosity and gratitude seem much better responses than fussing about whether I’ve checked off three more to-dos on my to-do list.

Then again, I’m a gringo, so today there were no more visits and I fretted over my to-do list. But I do think most everything on it, barring a few bills to pay, can be done tomorrow with no harm to anyone.

God scolds Moses

Moses is standing at the shore of the Red Sea. The Egyptians are closing in. A dispute arises as to what to do next, which Moses takes some time to resolve. He leads them in prayer, and then continues to pray, saying:

“O Lord of the world! I am like the shepherd who, having undertaken to pasture a flock, has been heedless enough to drive his sheep to the edge of a precipice, and then is in a despair how to get them down again…”

He goes on at some length. “But God cut short his prayer, saying: “Moses, My children are in distress-the sea blocks the way before them, the enemy is in hot pursuit after them, and thou standest here and prayest. Sometimes long prayer is good, but sometimes it is better to be brief.”

I had such a laugh at that. And it happens several more times, as Moses attempts to part the Red Sea and the sea argues with him, and he then talks to God again, who explains again what to do, and so on, repeating several more times “Don’t just stand there praying, Moses!!”

This is from Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginsberg. I love exactly this aspect of the tales, for they show such an intimacy with God.

A gift from the Hermits

I received such a lovely email today from some Carmelite hermits in the USA. I post a few excerpts here, lovely for meditation. You can find out more about them or donate to support them at their website.

How I’d love to show you the lovely infinite horizon beyond creation that I experience and contemplate… He reveals and makes Himself known to souls that really seek to know and love Him. Everything on earth… seems to shrink, to lose value before the Divinity which, like an infinite Sun, continues to shine upon my miserable soul with its rays. Yes. I have a heaven in my soul, because God is there, and God is heaven.”
-St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes

“Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary specifically under her glorious title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel entails a certain realization and acknowledgment of the primacy of the spiritual life, of the interior life of human beings who are endowed with a spiritual soul created in the image of God and made for eternal union with Him.”

“As we gradually grow in a knowledge of the mysteries of the Catholic faith revealed by the Son of God incarnate through His Church, we will find the depths of our souls enkindled in love and zeal for God and His eternal, immutable Truth. This divine love will sanctify and purify our souls and dispose them for more intimate interior communication and union with God, in anticipation of the fullness of union with Him in Heaven, for which we have been made, and which alone can make us truly happy, no matter how much the world, the flesh, and the devil lie and deny that fundamental truth of human existence.”

Yesterday’s feast of Our Lady of Carmel was touching, and reminded me how very dependent we are on God’s mercy not only for our mere existence, but for every sustenance. That He gave us His own Blessed Mother to keep us, console us and guide us is a treasure. Here is another image of Our Blessed Mother, from Avila, Spain.

Flos Carmeli

Tomorrow is the feast day of Our Lady of Carmel. This is very widely celebrated in Brazil, but not necessarily in other places. Our Lady of Carmel is one of those devotions I seem to have by accident, along with Saint Benedict. They just keep accumulating in my life without much planning on my part, so I take that as God’s work and go along with it.

I did go to Avila once. It was really neat to see the places and things associated with Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross, though I always find it a bit painful when sacred objects are displayed as museum items. Spain is one of several countries I’ve been to where a lot of sacred places and objects have been confiscated by the state and turned into stuff for tourists. There’s plenty of prayer to be done in such places.

I had a large antique rosary that had belonged to a Belgian Carmelite. It was a connection to someone with a deeper life of prayer than mine, and I treasured it for a while, even though I was sure such a thing should properly have been buried with its original pray-er. The medals were worn from being touched. I must have given it away, as today I went looking for it to pray for the feast, but it was no where to be found. I’m guessing I gave it to a Carmelite friend.

The story of the origin of the Carmelites is fascinating. It’s worth a long read from the Catholic Encyclopedia for the full immersion version of the story!

I am most grateful for the repeated blessings, tenderness and guidance of Our Lady of Carmel and various holy Carmelites in my life.

Don’t ask

Chatting with a friend after a blessed morning at Mass I quipped that no one ever asks me for my opinions. She, not being a native English speaker, was confused. I clarified: “No one ever asks me, so what do you think about this or that. I actually think a lot of things, and have a list of opinions so long it probably reaches all the way down to hell.”

She looked at me with a grin and retorted: “It probably has its origins there.”

Very funny. But probably true. Aren’t most opinions just a kind of sideways complaint or criticism?

Useful Knowledge

It amazes me how many thousands of little things I’ve learned to do in 54 years. There are whole ranges of detailed movements relating to cooking, drawing, gardening, cleaning, and so on which would take a tome to catalog. Beating an egg is something one learns to do, and I remember it being difficult at first, with my little arms not quite able to master the rapid circular movements.

The timing and gesture most likely to snag a mosquito is something practiced, too. So is the shift in weight that means my shopping bag is giving way and the quick readjustment of grip needed to salvage the fruit before it rips through the plastic or paper and hits the sidewalk.

I was agreeing with a friend the other day that one thing that has ended up being so very useful in life is accounting, which neither of us studied formally but only learned by experience. It might have been helpful to study it more formally, as we spend hours a week laboring with the accounting for our households and small businesses.

Nominal regency

It’s fun to see what parts of Portuguese sort themselves out as time passes. The current theme is the gender of nouns (a task of memorization), and even more so remembering to match the adjectives to the noun. This latter part (called ‘regência nominal’) is not about memorization, but about real-time phrase generation and planning. Of course, it is dependent on the former problem, since if one doesn’t know the gender of the noun, no amount of planning will produce the right string of preceding adjectives.

I am not usually conscious of what noun I am going to say until I arrive at it, and by then I’ve already said all the adjectives, and now, if the noun turns out to be feminine and I just said a bunch of masculine adjectives (the most common problem), then I have to go back and re-say half the sentence. I think in time one must have at least an unconscious anticipation of the upcoming noun such that one can pre-match the gender of the adjectives before arriving at the end of the phrase.

Brazilians find this particular difficulty hilarious. ‘O PUC’ (pronounced oh pooky) once left a godson in stitches, and he couldn’t stop bringing it up for months. PUC is the abbreviation for a local university. University is feminine. It should therefore be ‘a PUC’ (ah pooky). He said o PUC sounded like the name of a dog. Here pooky, pooky. I give him credit for being one of the few people to ever correct me. I have carried on with silly errors for years, sometimes, because no one had the courage to point it out. The other day a gentleman I barely knew corrected me without hesitation, and it was so unexpected that I simply stared at him in confusion and someone else had to explain. Godchildren are the best for the correction, once they’ve gotten over thinking they have to be polite around me. Then they just mock my every error and have no fear of piping up in front of anybody to tell me what ridiculous thing I just accidentally said. Thanks be to God.