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Blogging By the Sea
Wednesday, April 17 2013
For anyone not familiar with the Boston Marathon - it's a HUGE event. It's a world class event, welcoming thousands of runners from all over the world. An event that has been going on since 1897. It's always held on Patriots Day, which is a holiday in Massachusetts. Not only do families and friends of the thousands of runners come to cheer on their dads, moms, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons and spouses, but so does half of Boston and all the towns along the race route. Thousands of cheering, happy people there for a day of triumph and celebration.
A few years back my son ran in this prestigious race. This year my nephew and his family were in Boston to cheer on the runners. It was a beautiful day - a perfect day for a race. The streets are lined for over twenty-six miles with folk who come out to cheer the runners on, hand off bottled water and enjoy the tradition. The finish line loomed just a few feet away, complete with flags, bleachers and cheering crowds. If it hadn't been for an antsy toddler, my nephew might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A time when someone wanted to hurt America by setting off two improvised bombs with the sole purpose of creating as much pain and loss as possible.

Is this the price we pay for being who we are? For the freedoms we enjoy? For the prosperity and all that America stands for? We don't yet know if it was terrorists from outside, or disgruntled, home-grown terrorists, but whoever chose this path to express their hatred, they won't win. Boston is better than this. America is better than this. 

In the chaotic seconds and minutes after the first and then the second bomb exploded, echoing off the buildings and leaving screaming bloody victims in their wake, heroes rushed in. Runners that had just finished the race, bystanders there to cheer folk across the finish line, medical personnel on hand to assist exhausted runners, soldiers, policemen, volunteers. Many didn't know what had happened. Many didn't know where to go or what to do. But so very many ran toward the scene of destruction with the sole purpose of doing whatever they could. Some runners, already exhausted by covering 26 miles to reach that point ran two more miles to donate blood at area hospitals. That's what America is made of.

Boston is a wonderful city with history, tradition and soul. I know it will regain its confidence, even if it has lost a piece of its innocence. There will be grieving and those whose lives have been forever changed have a long hard road ahead. But America is pulling for them. When the runners and spectators return next year, there may be an edge of defiance, but the race will go on. Boston will celebrate. America will triumph again. My thoughts and prayers are with all who were touched most deeply. God bless you today and in all the difficult days ahead.  

Posted by: Skye AT 06:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, April 13 2013

A few Christmases ago Santa left three smooth Petco balls in Duffy’s stocking.  Duffy loved them and had a grand time playing with them on the beach. Duff has his own rules about balls on the beach and they don’t include fetch, or drop the ball at my feet so I can toss it again. Instead, he dashes down the beach dribbling it with his feet and snatching it up to toss into the air. Eventually he stops to roll on it and finally digs a hole into which the ball rolls. Usually! Then there are those odd occasions when he gets sidetracked and leaves the ball to roll slowly toward the water. Then I have to wade in and retrieve it. He loves the game and most of the time I don’t mind letting him play ball his way, although it would be nice to have a dog that brought the ball back to me when he’s done with it.

Eventually all three of those lovely smooth balls broke, but Petco no longer carries that particular type. I tried replacing them with a variety of other balls dogs are supposed to love. Anything but a tennis ball. Tennis balls are, of course, Duff’s all time favorites. But have you ever put a soggy tennis ball in your pocket? Slobber would be bad enough, but since all Duff’s games end with letting the ball roll into the water, they get downright soaked. And that leaves a soggy patch in my shorts or jeans requiring me to change when I get home. Unfortunately, I ended up giving all the replacements away to other less choosy dogs. Then it occurred to me to try a racquet ball.

So, off we go on a brisk breezy Saturday to play with our new ball. Duff loved it. He romped and tossed and had a grand time with it. Then, suddenly something caught his attention just before the hole-digging phase - which would have resulted in the ball rolling safely to the bottom of a nice sandy divot.  As usual, the ball began to roll toward the sea, but then a gust of wind caught it and it changed direction. Now it was headed down the beach - away from me. I walked faster. The wind blew harder. The ball picked up speed. I began to run, but the ball was gaining ground faster than I was. Duff loved this new game, and he began gamboling around me. I pointed toward the ball and shouted for him to go fetch it. This is when I really would have loved a dog who understood the theory behind “fetch.” Although to cut Duff some slack, the ball was now so far away, he probably couldn’t see it any more. So, here I am huffing and puffing after a ball that is leaving me in the dust with a dog jumping and caroming off me in joyous abandon.

WHOSE BALL IS THIS ANYWAY? The thought ran through my brain as my lungs threatened to explode. I am NOT a runner. I never have been. Not even when I was younger. I stopped running and gave up. I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of catching up anyway. But luck was on my side after all. A particularly exuberant wave surged up the beach, snatched the ball from its get-away run and hauled it back into the frothy turbulence. It still bobbed there, blue and wet when I reached the place it had met its match. And it didn’t leave a soggy damp spot in my shorts when I shoved it back into my pocket. Although I doubt we’ll play ball on the next gusty day either.

Posted by: Skye AT 10:55 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, April 02 2013

My Tenth Anniversary

Last night I attended the Great Easter Vigil at St Anastasia on the island in St Augustine. It was the tenth anniversary of my joining the worldwide Catholic Communion.

That night ten years ago in Tonga was the culmination of a journey I’d been on for years, but for family reasons, had never quite completed.  But that year my daughter became engaged to a faithful Catholic man. The idea of joining the Catholic Church wasn’t new to her either as she’d been enrolled in CCD classes during her growing up years. So, now, with her wedding approaching, she was preparing to be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. I was in the Peace Corps and stationed half a world away, but the closeness my daughter and I had always shared seemed to reach out and tell me it was my time, too. I went to see the bishop of Tonga for guidance and was set on a course of retreats with the sisters at the convent on my remote little island. Thus it was that thousands of miles apart, my daughter and I stood before our respective congregations on that most solemn and joyous of Christian festivals and confessed our faith anew.

As I sat in the pew last night, waiting for the lights to dim and the vigil to begin, I remembered back to Holy Week in Tonga, to the rituals that are so much the same for Catholics everywhere, and yet can be so different in each culture. Not just in language, but in observance and passion.

This year our new pope celebrated Maundy Thursday by washing the feet of young prisoners in Rome. He broke tradition by including women as well. Ten years ago in Tonga, the priest at my church washed the feet of young people preparing for confirmation. Often in our churches here in the states, it is people chosen from the congregation.  

On Good Friday my second year back at home in the United States, I experienced the Way of the Cross at the cathedral in St Augustine, Florida. The cross bearer, two boys with candles and the priest rushed from station to station rattling off the prayers so rapidly that I found it impossible to follow and had no time for reflection. Just a few years before I’d dressed in the traditional Tongan black and followed a young man carrying an enormous and very heavy cross through the steamy streets of Neiafu on my tiny South Pacific island stopping to pray at length fourteen times. Each time it was harder for the young man to pick up his burden and move on. Near the end, he was hoisted up and his arms lashed to the arms of the cross. He pressed his heels in hard against a one-inch block beneath his feet for support. As the prayers dragged on and the silences stretched out, the young man’s muscles began to quiver with the effort and sweat poured down his face. He wore a crown of thorns and it had pricked his skin adding his own blood to the sweat. It gave me, for the first time, a viscerally intense picture of the physical torment Christ endured during those three hours he was nailed to a cross to die for me and for many to wash away our sins. Two similar rituals, yet very different in impact.

Another vivid memory I have of my Holy Week in Tonga was the all night vigil. Each village was assigned an hour to keep watch at the cathedral in Neiafu. Our village had two to three o’clock in the wee hours of the night. I slept for a couple hours before rising to join my neighbors. We rode to town in the back of a pick up truck, then, in our traditional Tongan garb, filed into the cathedral to the small chapel set up for this night. It was decorated as only Tongans can decorate, with silver streamers and impossibly brilliant imitation flowers. Gaudy by my standards, but beautiful by theirs. We began with prayer, but then moved to singing. One thing the Tongans do supremely well is singing a cappella. They have beautiful voices and they pour their hearts and souls into it. We knelt on the hard stone floor, singing and praying in the still, semi-dark cathedral until we were relieved by the next village on the schedule. The ladies returned to the pickup truck while the men gathered in a cluster on the cathedral steps to talk. I remember laying with the other women on mats lining the bed of the truck, cocooned in the tropical night air, in the stillness of that hour, listening to the soft murmur of the men’s voices and staring at the vast array of stars overhead. I was filled with such peace and it was a moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Then came the Easter Vigil. I’d spoken with my daughter earlier by phone. I knew that in a few hours, she would be standing at the front of her church in New York, just as I was now standing at the front of the Cathedral on a tiny island in the South Pacific. Having grown up and been confirmed in the Episcopal church, we weren’t being confirmed, but rather reaffirming our creed and being received into the Catholic Communion. We had studied and explored the nuances of our new allegiance. We had made a good confession and been cleansed. We were eager and ready to confess our faith and be marked with oil.

When I left Tonga the following year in the middle of lent, I journeyed home through New Zealand where I worshipped at the Catholic Cathedral in Christchurch on the South Island. I found another Catholic church in Sydney Australia the following Sunday. The accents were different, but the words familiar. Palm Sunday found me in Thailand where I understood not a single word of the prayers or sermon, but it was the mass and I knew the English prayers in my head.  It began with a procession in the quiet streets of a neighborhood of homes and embassies in Bangkok. We carried palms and sang hosannas as we went. Later, inside the church, when we joined hands to say the Lord’s Prayer, I felt I was a tiny link in an endless chain that circled the globe. It felt good. Easter I celebrated in Vietnam, in an English speaking church a local man had directed me to in Hanoi. The voices were lighter and more lyrical than those in Tonga, but the music was just as heavenly. I realized I was now at home wherever I went anywhere in the world. As I repeated the prayers then and still, I know I share those moments with brothers and sisters in Christ who believe and worship just as I do in every part of this place we call Earth.


Posted by: Skye AT 09:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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    Skye Taylor
    St Augustine, Florida

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