Tuesday, July 31, 2012

we have made it home again

"send me home now to my own dear country: longing has come upon me to go home."
The Odyssey; Book XV, 88

The coffee pot is brewing. The kids are noisily mucking about in the family room, playing some game, or working some sort of mischief.
And I'm back in my sunlit yellow kitchen, blasting Ingrid and Some Nights from el Macbook as I prepare the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for baking.

Home is feeling particularly hobbit-y today, and I couldn't be happier about it. The last night at the rancho before we left, it was dark and stormy. A perfectly cliché, spine-tingle-y Dark and Stormy Night. Whenever I hear the phrase it was a dark and stormy night, from now on, I'll immediately think of the July thunderstorm that raged outside as I sat on the sunporch, watching nature's fireworks flash in the night.

But this morning, everything is golden, bright, and delightfully familiar. I went on a run this morning, back in my familiar neighborhood route. Running by each familiar landmark, pond and tree felt like greeting an old friend. 
Sidenote: the squirrels, surprisingly, run away from you if you run towards them. And they're not the size of small dogs. Bizarre.

Today, I can tell, is going to be one of those comfortable days. One of those days which feels all cozy and quiet and the world moves more slowly. That's what home in its essence ought to be. Elves, dwarves and men may know how to adventure better than hobbits, but the halflings certainly mastered the art of being home-y. (I've seen the trailer for The Hobbit about five times now and started re-reading the Fellowship. I'm looking at the world through a Tolkien-tinted lens.)

So. We've gone there and back again. Yet again. That's what going between home and college is often like: an endless series of there-and-back-agains. There's that one verse in Paul (Corinthians maybe?) about the journey of a Christian being journey of transformation from glory into a greater degree of glory. That's traveling between Notre Dame and home is: a journey from one home to another. 

There's nothing as sweet as sinking into my own bed in my own purple room late at night; leaving travel and adventure to another day. The road goes ever on and on, but 
I at last with weary feet, will turn towards the lighted inn, my evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

everyone's a critic

I don't have words.
People are funny. People are just funny.
This is funny. This is really funny.
This is also funny. Really funny.

Friday, July 27, 2012

your obstinate soil, your destitute bread

I am not a domestic goddess who bakes luscious desserts and then post beautiful photos of them on her blog. But today I pretended I was. 

My sister and I holed ourselves up in my grandmother's spacious kitchen and made the lime pound cake above and the chocolate chip cookies below.

Sometimes it's nice to try on the domestic goddess diadem for a day.

And then right after dinner, in rolled a summer thunderstorm. My mom and I sat on the front porch and watched the rain pour down. 

Summer rain is so sweet.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

fair and cold as the spring morning

“'And what do you fear lady ’ he asked.

 ‘A cage ’ she said. ‘To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

--J.R.R. Tolkein, The Return of the King

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

a moment to be thoughtful

Peeps, as I write this, there is a mama deer right outside the window. The mother I assume, of this young gent we found galavanting around earlier:

I took copious amounts of deer photos as the deer clan roamed around their feeding station. 

 This is life at my grandparents' house--the rancho, as we call it--beautiful, peaceful, and slow-paced. It's the perfect place to retreat into the woods. We're literally surrounded by woods, and that's just the way I like it. The deer wander through the backyard throughout the day. They are encouraged not only by my grandmother's luscious vegetable garden, but also by the peanut butter and corn that my grandma puts out for them twice daily. My grandma and I are basically kindred spirits. So I spent my day in my favorite room of the house photographing the deer.

My camera turned inwards as I proceeded to harass the other occupants of the sun porch with my shutterbug lens.
Do I dare eat a peach?

The peach didn't mind being photographed. My sister was deep in a Harry Potter book and had no time for paparazzi.

Behold, the intellectual beauty in her natural habitat
This morning as soon as I woke up, I decided that today would be the day I ensconced myself on the sun porch and begin to write. And I wrote and I wrote and my little sister came in and braided my hair as I wrote, and then my elder sister wandered in (still reading the Harry Potter book) and my little sister braided her hair, and my other younger sister came in and we chatted over lunch (I ended up eating the peach), and then I wrote some more. I pored through all the notes from the Vision summer class, and was struck by the beauty of them. Viewing them through the lens of the past four weeks was incredible. 

For the past week, I've been longing for this exact day. The day where I can find solace on the sunlit sunroom of the rancho, sit back, and take a moment to truly reflect. To let life stop, and let the deer, the sun, and time pass me by, and just take several moments to bask in the blessings I've received and ponder lessons I've learned. 

I came to the woods...to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

bon anniversaire, papa!

The happiest of birthdays to the man who taught me how to love generously, selflessly and humbly;

who taught me how to live with joy and taught me how to play; 

who taught me to listen for God in the little moments, and to find Christ's presence in those around me.; who taught me that gentleness and strength are wedded together inextricably. 

Happy Birthday to the most amazing man in the world. I love you, Dad.

Monday, July 23, 2012

family vacay

Speaking of new adventures, how 'bout this family road trip?
To give you a picture of everyone's mental states: we visited a "French café" (cue the askance faces) in the heart of Gettysburg, PA this afternoon for lunch.
My father ordered a shot of espresso. Because he's the best he only drank half and then let me have the rest.
Mistake number one. I haven't stopped talking since approximately 2:30 this afternoon, when that glorious rich nutty liquid hit my lips and brought me new life in mysterious ways that I can't even begin to plumb. So I think I've been incredibly amusing and witty, and graced my family with my clever commentary and my hilarious insights. I think they might view the situation differently. Clue Number One: they're not laughing at my humor as much as they were six hours ago. I mean, thank goodness I still find myself amusing, or else this would just be a lose-lose situation. 

I'm joking of course. Kind of. But really.


There is absolutely no better mode of travel than trapped in a mini-van with eight emotionally volatile family members. Trust me. The only thing that makes it better is if one of them (namely myself) is on a caffeine high, one of them is trying to make heads and tails of the numerous attacks and counter attacks of the various Confederate and Union brigades (tears ensue), one of them is trying to find new creative ways to lie down in the backseat (while surrounded by two other people. Good luck, kiddo), one of them is instigating tickle fights when things start to get "dull" (this is my 22-year-old sister. My personal favorite quote of hers thus far on this trip is: "Oh I'm not really worried. I was just making a big to-do about it because I'm bored." Save me. Someone.), and one of them is amusing himself by bouncing a ball off the seat of the person in front of them (prompting loud repetitions of the phrase: STOP. NOW. Sadly, Common Courtesy is usually the first casualty on family roadtrips). The other three people (namely parents and smart-aleck brother) are obsessed with trying to explain the Battle of Gettysburg to the rest of us. 

If we all have our sanity at the end of the week, it will be due to no merit of our own. There, but for the grace of God, go I was a phrase obviously penned by some person who was reflecting on the beautiful insanity of their family.

A photo gallery of our day:

My little sister really entered into the spirit of reverence and awe that surrounds the solemn battlefield.

"Renée, take a picture of me! Take a picture of me here on this cannon!"

My brother and I entered into the spirit of solemnity and awe that surrounds ice cream.

Note the waffle cone as big as his head.

My father staged a sneak attack on my sister, in a desperate attempt to steal some of her milkshake.

We really do take ice cream seriously.

But in all seriousness, this place is remarkable.

The golden hour hits the High Water Mark on Cemetery Ridge.


Today I left Notre Dame and left behind ND Vision 2012.

The amount of beauty, joy, pain, adventure, learning, growing, forgiving, and loving that was packed into these past six weeks is truly unbelievable. We spent all of yesterday (at least the parts we didn't spend dancing) reflecting on the summer. 

My friend Denise and I headed to the crypt of the Basilica, foiled in our attempts to enter the main church by the trillion weddings--like football, an inescapable part of Saturdays at ND--and so we entered into the quiet, air-conditioned crypt. As I sat on the floor, trying to put on paper what that summer had been. I pored over the notes, the reflections, and the scraps and sentences that I had jotted down throughout the summer.

One phrase leapt out at me like a neon sign. The first time it entered my life was that opening retreat, and it had whirled around in my heart and soul throughout the summer:

Behold, I make all things new.

I love looking back on things, because I love seeing how much change has occurred in myself, sometimes without even realizing it. And the incredible amount of growth that has taken place. And it's amazing to me how much change and growth has happened in the past six weeks. I feel completely made new.

And so, today marks the beginning of a new adventure.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

the air I breathe

Today marks the end of ND Vision 2012.

We had a day full of beautiful reflection, meditation, and a chance to try to begin to process the summer, and see where God's call was present during the whole experience.

My day began when I went for a run in the early morning to bid goodbye to campus for the summer. Tragedy struck when I stopped to stretch by the lakes, and I set my phone and room key down in the grass.

Cue to fifteen minutes later, when I picked up my phone and walked a couple yards away.
Wait. Where's my key?
I walked back to find my key. The thing about grass is that it all kind of looks the same, so it's hard to remember your exact location. Really hard. In fact, it may take twenty minutes and the helpless but good-hearted assistance of a stranger in order to find it again.

As I searched for my key, I did two things:
One: pray to St. Anthony. That dude and I have gotten real tight over the years.
Two: Call my mom, and, in desperate tones, beg her to pray to St. Anthony.
Three: Get down on hands and knees and comb the ground for that key.

As I was crawling all over the grassy mound, searching for the key, the St. Anthony prayer under my breath turned into a different prayer. It took me a moment to register what I was saying, but my involuntary prayer that rose like a reflex out of my heart was:

Oh Lord our God, unweary is your love for us.

Bizarre, I thought. And returned with renewed vigor to the St. Anthony prayer. After a few moments, I laughed. God was teaching me a lesson. A lesson about self-giving love. A lesson about His love. Just as I kept relentlessly searching for that key, God keeps relentlessly seeking us. This is an imperfect analogy, because:

A) I was wearying. There was a Panera breakfast waiting for me; and I was stuck out by St. Mary's lake, digging through the grass like a crazy person. Was I happy about this? No. Did I almost call it a day multiple times? Yes.
B) I needed that key. God doesn't really need our love, He just desires it madly. I needed that key to get back into my room and also to avoid the: "Congratulations, you've lost your key now you owe us money" fine.
C) I'm not God.

But when you're searching desperately for something, you come to understand what sort of immense value it has for you. And I realized that if that small little feeling of desperate searching was a slight insight into the way God seeks us, then it was worth loosing that key.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

planting seeds

I know that I could not survive this summer if I could not hope for meaning, meaning to 
my mother’s life,[my husband’s] and mine, to our children’s, to all the larger family, to 
everybody, to all things, including the rock at the bottom of the brook and the small frog. 
What that ultimate meaning may be I do not know, because I am finite, and the meaning I 
hope for is not. But God, if he is God, if he is worth believing in, is a loving God who will 
not abandon or forget the smallest atom of his creation.

--Madeliene L'Engle

Top Nine is a thing we do during Vision to recap each morning what happened the previous day. So here are the Top Nine prayers of a Vision Mentor, a small person trying to find the right words to convey the right meaning, trying to find meaning in a difficult week, trying to let the meaning of their lives shine forth, and not get in the way of the light this summer:

9. Come, Holy Spirit.
8. Help.
7. I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step enough for me.
6. Stay with me, then I shall begin to shine as you do; to shine so as to be a light to others. The light, O Lord, will be all from you; none of it will be mine; it will be you shining on others through me. (full prayer)
5. He must increase but I must decrease.
4. Let me not speak right now, but let You speak.
3. Don't let me get in my own way. Let the Truth be present.
2. I trust in you.
1. Come, Holy Spirit.

Friday, July 20, 2012

liturgical posture

From my perch in the back pew, I saw a young man encounter the altar. He wavered. But he did not genuflect. Awkwardly, cautiously, the boy paused, unsure of what to do. A native of a casual world, a lax universe where blasé is king, he had been taught to view kneeling with askance. Rituals and rites (the embarrassment of the enlightened) are glossed over and ceremony is relegated to the superstitious and religious, which are of course, the same thing (in case that was unclear).

But this boy paused.

His muscles tensed, prepared but not committed to their next step. His eyes did not flicker, but gazed with clear, steady vision at the luminous gilded high altar. The staring competition between the altar and the boy lasted for the duration of only a few heartbeats, and then the moment passed. He moved on, but that breath of suspense, that small but piercingly significant rest in his motion was more praise than many genuflections often offer. That moment was a strong, virile young man encountering something--someone-- greater, deeper, more beautiful, more profound, more real. He encountered Someone outside himself, Someone to whom he owed homage. To whom he surrendered. That pause in front of the altar was a moment of surrender. A moment in which creature encountered creator. A moment in which the creature acknowledged, humble in its uncertainty and discomfort, that he was in the presence of a mystery. Of a great mystery, greater than himself. He stood upright as he stared at the altar.

But his soul was genuflected.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

my bones are shifting in my skin

So, the wonderful thing about losing my journal (I know what you're thinking: you're thinking--there ISN'T anything good about losing your journal. Bear with me and listen here) is that everything I've experienced in the past few months has just sort of flowed through my life like a wave. I haven't been able to capture it down on paper. Everything has just been experienced. There's been a certain kind of living in the moment that I don't often do. It's refreshing.

My old friend is back with me, so nothing to fear; I'm not letting my diary out of my sight again. But it was nice to be on my own for a few weeks.

Vision has been an incredible time to reflect and regroup from the school year. And going to my grandparent's house this next week will be an excellent time to reflect and regroup from Vision.  And I'm glad I have my trusty diary with me at the Rancho. During Vision, there really isn't much time for journaling. A million other duties call you. But at the Rancho, everything slows down. The only duties are to eat peach cobbler at least twice a day, walk in the woods, sit on the screen porch, talk, look through old photo albums, eat, talk, eat, talk, and ride the bikes up and down the driveway over and over again, enjoy the sound of silence, and write. Write write write. You might think it sounds suspiciously like heaven. And you'd be right.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

glide away on soapy heels

but it sounds kind of like magic.

In one piercing moment, he felt as though the music was the only thing that mattered. In singing the honey-golden phrases, the world, boiled down to a cohesive, simple phrase of melody interwoven with harmony, made perfect sense. The mellifluous notes tugged at his heart, begging him to lift it up, to relinquish a vise-like grasp on his own adoration, as he proclaimed every day he would.
Ubi Caritas et amor Deus ibi est. 
The music was a calling and an answer. Challenge and consolation. The song was an oasis in a desert of a world--a world unutterably confounding and complicated.
One thing is needful. And that was to sing. 

She was running. Running through the mists of the early morning. Running through the sunlit dewey droplets on the grass. Early morning runs are excursions into the heart of a world reborn; bursts of speed and experiences of a world renewed. Casting magic-y golden shadows over the earth, the sun was just about to hit its stride, gaining in strength and brightness. Moving from glory into glory. The tree over the water beckoned. She cast aside her shoes, and lightly darted into the labyrinthine haven of the tree. As she balanced between the worn and weathered branches, the golden sun bathed the tree in light. The light danced off the water, and reflected off the leaves. The water was singing its sweet, silent  song. The tree swayed to the rhythm of the wind. Creation was palpably alive--in all its silent solemn glory. Sitting on that tree--one small girl on the face of the giant globe--she was a part of that glory. 
The weight was easy to bear. 
It was effortless and natural.

He ran out of Mass. His eyes were red, containing tears that he had refused to let escape. But then finally, out they came. He sat under the awnings of Debartolo hall and sobbed in choking, gasping heaves. Sobs that had remained hidden and unheard for months and months made their way to the surface. His body, wracked by sorrow, could do nothing but pour tears and snot out of his body as his voice cracked, choked on itself, and cried out in sorrow. Sadness and hurt are painful. But they're more painful when kept inside, twisting in on themselves, embedding themselves in a soul. Crying dislodges the pain. The sobs washed his soul free from the months of hurt, frustration and disappointment. It was the sort of crying that can find cessation only through a friend seeking forgiveness. And when forgiveness comes, it finds a soul washed anew by its own tears, a soul refreshed and renewed. A soul yearning to take his brother in his arms and somehow make him feel how entirely forgiven and loved he is.

Sammy executed handstands gracefully, effortlessly. His muscular body barely twitched as his arms lifted his body up into the dark night air. He walked around as if his hands were simply another set of feet. Watching someone turn themselves upside down and then acclimate themselves to the antipodean world so simply is dangerous. It begets copy-cat behavior. I felt the rush of achievement as I balanced on my hands for a few seconds. Fantastic job. Just throw yourself into it a bit more. So I threw my body up in the air for a second time. My arms were not as strong as Sammy's, and they crumpled. As my body collapsed downwards onto my head, I heard the bones in my neck crackle and crunch. In shock, I laid on the ground, my first thought: I'm paralyzed. My spine is broken. After realizing that neither death nor paralyzation was my lot (at least for the moment), hysterical laughter broke from my lips. Some prayers come from your gut: S--t. S--t. S--t. Oh, dear God, help me. S--t. S--t. Sometimes life is painful, and you just have to let out a choice word or two. The good Lord knows wazzup. The pain was overwhelmed by the sheer gratitude and joy of being alive. In that moment when the world turns upside down, we forget to take life for granted. Life again becomes something marvelous, mysterious, and delightful. In seeing the world through upside down eyes we remember that intoxicating moment when our eyes first saw the world.

the moment when you last felt alive

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

paradox wrapped in enigma

The greatest mystery you'll ever encounter on God's green earth is the human person. People are endlessly fascinating: constant pools of mystery to be delved into. Paradoxes wrapped in enigmas. The essence of a human being is a creature trapped between chronos and kairos. Having a life in the physical world of time--chronos, but living their life in the deeper reality of a time outside of time--kairos.
Many authors, Madeleine L'Engle especially, is fascinated by the tension between kairos and chronos in our lives. We all have moments of kairos--the silence the rests in the music of life. She writes about a moment when chronos seemed to stop, and the floodlight of warmth of a moment of kairos permeated her being:

"After a long and very difficult labor the doctor dropped a small wet creature between my breasts. 'Here's your son, Madeleine.' He said. And I heard the angels sing."

The golden warmth of a world beyond the world burst through the dingy exterior of pain, suffering, and blood that plagued the chronos of the moment. In a human, there are moments where the glorious luminosity of their grace and elegant beauty shines through, but the wearies and worries and uglinesses of the exterior often are the only visible portions of a person's character. It is so easy to get lost in the layers and layers of armor each human being accumulates through their life in chronos. Perceptive souls look for the kairos--each person has it in them. The angels only sing for those who are willing to listen.

Monday, July 16, 2012

be here. now.

Please do not place burned out candles on top of new candles.

Confession: My name is Renée and I'm a hopeless Romantic. Romantic as in Romanticism. As in: I believe in moments. I believe in signs. I believe that God speaks to us through the tiniest, ordinariest day-to-day coincidences and occurences. Because when you look at the world through eyes of Faith, eyes that are oriented correctly. Eyes that have been taught to see God in all things, because God is the One Thing, then you do see God everywhere and in all things. Even places you really wouldn't expect to find Him. You see Him in the woman singing PAINFULLY off-key next to you in Mass, you see Him in the ridiculously glamorous young gallant/secular intellectual who wines and dines you with intoxicating elegance, and you see Him in just random, dreadfully quotidien signs, such as the sign instructing you not to smother the new candles with the old.

The sign caught my eye as I was praying at the Grotto. And I was mesmerized by it, and I smiled as I realized that the sign was telling me more than to please not removed burned out candles and put them in the bin above unused ones. The sign was telling me something more important. Don't take the junk from the past and cover up the light of the present. Don't let the burnt charred remnants of past faults and mistakes blot out the light of grace. Don't get caught up in the old and let it bury the possibility of the new.

Last week was an intense, beautiful, and incredibly difficult week. Week 3 of Vision did me in, folks. I felt absolutely like a candle burned out. The thing they don't tell you about being a lightbearer is that the light has to burn something in order to shine. What does it burn? It burns away your Self. It burns away the part of you that would cling to yourself. But you must lose your life in order to save it. You must give it all away in order to receive it.

But don't place the burned out candles on top of new candles. Let the used candles go. Pick up a new candle. Light it. And let the light burn anew. 

To paraphrase Mama T:
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Vision 2012, Week 4. 
Let us begin.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

sacrament of love, par excellence

This summer, I'm working as a mentor-in-faith at a Summer camp called Notre Dame Vision. All this you knew. 

Right? Right.
Okay. Next statement.

This summer, my world has been exploded open in the most marvelously beautiful and terrifying way. 

Yesterday, during Tim O'Malley's incredible talk he does each week on the sacramental, Eucharistic vocation of a Christian, I realized that I wasn't the same person that left Notre Dame in May. Once you realize that the Eucharist is your vocation your world sort of isn't the same. 
Let me say that again, because it's taken me approximately a month and a half to barely begin to understand what that means: 
the Eucharist. Is. Your. Vocation. 
Our vocation. Yours Mine and Ours. 
We are called to be the Eucharist for the world.
Meaning, as Christ pours Himself out in an endless and insanely beautiful sacrifice of self for us, we are to pour ourselves out in love to others.

It is actually ridiculous and insane. Because if God is not at the center of your worldview it will actually look ridiculous and insane. If self-giving love is not the order of your world, then the universe will frustrate your attempts to understand it.

This week has been undeniably the strangest and most intense week of my life. Everything is familiar, nothing I recognize is in it's place. The world is brand-new. And I'm on an adventure into the heart of this brave new world.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

rising to a delicate and tender point

Every word of this delicate song makes me fall in love with it. 

We sang this in a round with burning voices.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

some nights all day, e'ry day

Seven States. Seven Days. 
A Break Week Story.

We did it, y'all.
We made it through break week. 
In one week, we hit up seven different sovereign states of our glorious union.

We daydreamed our way through Newport, Rhode Island. We danced our way through NYC, and we trudged our way around Boston.
"It's a very walkable city," quoth our host. Yes, indeed it is. We walked all over that thriving metropolis.

There is nothing like adventure for
A) Forming new friendships. Travel allows you to see new and wonderful sides of people. A game of hot seat in the house in Worcester was one of the most delightful evenings of the trip.

B) Teaching you about yourself. You have to leave the comfort of your environs to learn more about the world and about yourself and how you encounter the world. There's something about travel that allows you to exit your little world you build for yourself. Travel takes you out of yourself and into yourself. It's a beautiful, healing things. Hitting up Walden Pond and walking through the woods is definitely a moment of self-encounter.

C) Returning home again. Home, (or the Dome) would never be as wonderful if were always there. Home is a place to come back to. Driving through the night to arrive back on campus at one o'clock AM was completely worth it as soon as I saw the beautiful Golden Dome glistening against the starry sky, and my heart skipped with joy. Returning back to the familiarity was such a joyful treat. Returning back to all the Vision family we'd missed was also very joyful (also, we got to brag about our break week. And that was fantastic.)

Some nights I always win. I always win break week.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

the future lies within

This song by Ingrid is my new favorite. This is the life of a twenty-year-old girl in a nutshell. The possibilites, the different stories, the myriad futures that lie in store for you creates that heady rush that defines the delicate turmoil of a young woman. To be twenty means to be on the verge of everything and in the thick of it all at once.

Friday, July 6, 2012

i went to the woods

Walden pond.

Those words evoke memories of solitude, quiet. Loneliness, happiness.

Something magical.


Pine needles. Giant trees. Sunlit Forest.

The pond is actually more like a lake.

Cool, pure blue-green wavelets. The surges of water are like pieces of the sky.

Enchanted pieces of sky that fell into the water.

If you dive beneath the surface, you can see the sunlight shining through the perfect blue water.

You have to open your eyes though.

The quietest place at Walden isn't the pilgrimage site to Thoreau's House.

It isn't the large beach.

Or the replicated cabin.

It's underneath the waves.

Dive beneath the loud surface to find solace.

Sunlight. Water. You. Silence.

It's the most beautiful place in the world.

Only the essential facts of life.

and you.

Meditation and water are wedded forever.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tea time in Boston

Oh Lordy, lordy. 
My friends. I just spent the 4th of July in the hotspot of revolutions, the metropolis where it all began: Boston. And oh my what a day it was. I experienced Quincy Market. Quincy Market, not to be confused with our beloved Quincy's Cafe back home. One of them peddles erotically delicious coffee and a borderline pretentious intelligentsia-esque atmosphere [can you tell I miss it?] and one of them is a bustling marketplace complete with borderline tourist-trappy aura and full of sumptuous (overpriced? maybe) food selections. 

Seafood. I could write a novella about the seafood. I had lobster for the first time! It was almost sinfully delightful. Amazing. Beautiful. Yummy. Everything good was wrapped up in the succulent meat of this  crustacean.

The day was filled with the most beautiful moments. We climbed the Bunker Hill monument. That in itself was less beautiful and more like 294 steps of tortuous hell. But collapsing on the green grass of the hill afterwards, our legs shaking like jelly, the wind kissing our faces, was a moment of sheer pleasure.

We walked all over that city. And I mean ALL over it. This lead to two things:
One: I got to understand the city fairly decently. NYC is still mostly a mystery to me. But I think I could competently find my way around Boston given a map, a GPS, and a emergency signaling system.
Two: Exhaustion. We walked, and we definitely tired. It was hot, my friends. Very hot. 
So, when we arrived at a park that had a row of fountains, and I saw children playing in the fountains, I was like: guess what I'm going to do? If I had said that out loud, my companions would have responded: What, Renée, what are you going to do? But before they had even finished asking, they would have seen me make a beeline for the fountains and begin playing in the water with the children. I ended up playing a very fun game with several little boys called 1-2-3. The rules are simple. Stop a water jet with your foot, and on the count of three, everyone steps off the water jet, releasing the stream of water skyward. The best.

Everyone in college is always bemoaning the loss of childhood. Rubbish. If you want to go back to your childhood, you just have to do it.

Finally, the day ended with the Boston Pops concert/fireworks. Jennifer Hudson was there! I wasn't anywhere close to the stage, so they could have been fooling us and just fed her voice through the speakers, but she sounded phenomenal. But despite that, I was a grumpy gus. The island was crowded, sweaty, claustrophobic, and I was stuffed full of lobster from dinner. And I was tired. I have definitely discovered what my purgatory is going to look like. On top of that our group had got divided, and trying to locate the other half was a stress fest. A lot of times, people say to me: "Renée, do you ever get grumpy?" And I say to them: "Oh honeychild. You have no idea." Because if I reach critical mass, yes. I do get grumpy. Which usually means I just get quiet and retreat off to the riverbank to prevent my grouchy mood from spoiling the evening. When insults and foul imprecations are the only words you can really think of to say in a situation, usually it's best to just not say anything at all.

My bad mood evaporated like the sweat off my skin when the fireworks began. They were amazing. And on top of that, the rain we had been expecting all day came right as they started. I don't know if you've ever seen fireworks while standing in the rain, but it's a breathtakingly exhilarating experience. The firey bursts of light combined with the refreshingly cool rain showering down upon you is maximum joy of the senses. I couldn't stop smiling. I didn't have any words. I just looked up at the fireworks, surrounded by the sweet ocean of a summer rainstorm. America the beautiful, indeed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

this is it boys, this is War...horse

Tonight, I lived for the first time. 

Meaning, tonight I saw Warhorse.

It was so beautiful.

To recap, briefly, the play tells the sweet little tale of a young boy whose rash father looses their mortgage money to buy a little foal--half draft horse, half thoroughbred--and who then raises the horse not only to ride like the wind but also to be mega useful around the farm and plow. If you (like I did) thought you would never be able to get excited enough about a horse trying to plow that you were sitting on the edge of your seat, wringing your program in your hands, this show proves us all wrong.

So obvi, this super mega useful horse fetches a tidy sum when the British army comes through town being all like: Yo. it's 1914. Time to declare war on el Kaiser. Joey (that's the horse) gets sold into the calvary, while our poor Albert (that's the boy) is torn from his side. 

And of course, the rest of the play is Albert's and Joey's journey back to each other. And it's incredible. The beautiful thing about a horse being the protagonist is that the storytellers have a neutral entrypoint into the story of war. And there are several fantastic scenes where Joey's in the midst of several different characters from different sides, and watching the drama that unfolds in those situations is magnificent. 

Telling a war story on an epic scale is rare in the theatre, for several reasons. One of the technical difficulties the play overcame was the language barrier. German, French, and English soldiers, when they encounter each other can't speak each other's language. They can't understand each other. In a film, you can have each side speak their own language, and use subtitles so that the audience can understand what's happening. In a play, you can't do that. If the German characters speak German, roughly 85% of your audience are just as lost as your English-speaking characters. The actors did a remarkable job of making us believe the language barrier. I found that one of the most impressive feats of the show, on the part of the actors.

The puppets. I can't even begin. I tear up just thinking about them. What I absolutely love about puppetry is that it's an art of self-giving love. A puppeteer's job is to bring the puppet to life onstage--to give it breath. And in the process of doing that, the puppeteer effaces himself. If a puppeteer does his job well, he disappears. I'm in total awe of their artistry. The way they take us into the story, and the characters of these puppets. I never thought an audience of hundreds of people would gasp in sadness and horror as a puppet made of wood and cloth was about to be shot. That's the magic of theatre.

It was the best first Broadway show I could have asked for.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

the fidgety-oos

Somedays, there's nothing to do but drink coffee and sit around and talk with friends.

I know what you're thinking, you're thinking: HA.

If you think that I'm describing heaven/a pipe dream, you have not yet experienced the metanoia of a Lazy Sunday. I know, I know. I used to be right there with you. I thought: No. Lazy Sundays were a thing of the past. Lazy Sundays existed back in the Jurassic period when there was no homework, meetings, or 500 group projects to complete.

But then today happened. I left the house twice: once in the morning to go on a walk in Elm Park (hey, one of the oldest parks in the nation--whaddup) and then once in the evening for Mass (hot. sweaty. But beautiful music [hey, Cantique by that French composer whose name escapes me at the moment--whaddup]) and ice cream (Hey, Friendly's where everyone is friendly--whaddup). And it made me realize: THIS. THIS is what SundaytheLord'sDay is supposed to look like.

I mean, I could've done without "watching" the Eurocup. Most of us didn't really watch it. I was mostly sending e-mails trying to get grants, etc. during that time. Okay, so that was a part of my Sunday that didn't really fit in with the "work-free" theme we were going for. But whatevs. I spent a Sunday where I did almost nothing but put on my Sunday best and said: there's lots of world out there. But I'm content to stay in the air conditioning and not experience it. I found enough adventure in the evening air with pasta salad (the quintessential summer food!) and a Sunday sundae.

This taking it easy dealio is not a bad life.


Road trip today=winning. I am currently in New England for the first time in my life. To celebrate our roadtrip into the heart of the original thirteen colonies, we listened to this song (among several others) on repeat.


LOVE IT. Gives me chills.