GNL number 49

a report of doings at meeting #49, Sunday, June 12, 2011
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us. —–Boris Pasternak


Sue said she’d gone a good distance with this POTLUCK/surprise us/whatever’s on your mind topic.  She started with the idea of wildness and wilderness, wishing we could recall our membership in Nature instead of insisting on control—that when we can learn to loosen our grip, we’ll also be finding a wondrous big life we’re part of, and much to be grateful for.  She read Mary Oliver’s lovely poem In Blackwater Woods, and read quotes from Terry Tempest Williams and others.See AFTERWORDS.

Speaking of surprise, Christine was not expected by any of us, but she talked Paul into bringing her and walked in to deafening hoorays and airhugs.  And after a moving personal account of recent history (including the story of her strolling the hospital hall in her “easter bonnet” with Paul, and singing Easter Parade!), she said what has struck her so deeply has been the outpouring of love and support all through this experience. So what was on her mind today, and most days, was the power of friendship, and gratitude.  She read us several quotes about friendship, beginning with one from a favorite of hers, Marcel Proust.    For these, please see AW.  

Ann said (no surprise?) that what was on her mind, was frustration with things the way they are politically and culturally; that we keep going down the same wrong trails, into wars and global warming, e.g., over and over so they seems authentic, even “right”. Which, as she said, suggests the question, Why don’t we learn? And this led to a discussion that included hopeful speculation that we are in the process of reaching critical mass on some things, possibly even consciousness.

For Adair, this was her farewell meeting, as she was only a few days from moving to Maine, and had her sister here to help. She gave us an update on the moving experience and more exciting details on the new place, and reiterated her strong feeling it’s time now to follow her heart, and what it wants to learn.  At the end, we found that maybe this isn’t her last COS, as some of us gave her details about getting SKYPE!   We wish you all the best, Adair, and hope to have you with us at the next SKYPPY MEETING!

We were very happy to also have Adair’s sister Nancy sit in today too; she said she is a 13-year resident of Maine, so still relatively new by Maine standards, but she gave us more background on the state and area.  She’d lived in downstate New York earlier, and she remarked on the slower pace up here in Schoharie, and even slower up in Maine, but Adair is ready for it.

Anna was remembering her solo travels many years ago, and wondering at the apparent contradiction of such adventuring by one so young and unsure of herself. She spoke of working on a potato farm in the West and scootering through the country, but also doing some hitching, and she told one story that took our breath.  She took a ride with one guy who after a while turned off the main road and seemed to be intending an attack on her; but she began talking quietly about the qualities of a real man, which apparently gave him pause, because he apologized, turned back onto the main road, and offered her his jackknife with his thanks.  (We concluded she had plenty selfitude.)

Gail brought a book that has been circulating among us: the Century Project photo portraits of nude women from infancy to old age, many with histories of cancer or eating disorders.  She was very moved by it, especially because of the way she was raised with the idea of modesty as virtue, and the way that can be misunderstood as shame or lack of pride in one’s body.  She wants her granddaughter Virginia to grow up with a different, healthier sense of bodies.

Nancy’s first idea flowed from last month’s Art and Creativity theme, which made her remember a long long time ago as a teacher of family life education/life skills for Catholic Charities, doing programs for kids and adults; and one of her favorites was on Talents and Skills, because it was always such a nice surprise to find we’ve all got ’em.  The second idea came as she hooked up potluck with surprise, and was reminded how important the element of surprise is—the root of her delight, and delight makes her hoot or howl or collapse, in all good ways.  Details on the T & S program, and some quotes on surprise, in AW. 

We decided our offering today should go to the Butterfly Cafe, in Cobleskill, which we understand is now serving about 100 meals a week.


A story means to me a plot where there is some surprise.
Because that is how life is—-
full of surprises.
—–Isaac Bashevis Singer



Sunday, July 10, 2011, at Nancy’s, 155 North St., Cobleskill. The topic, taking a cue from this meeting, will be CONTROL and LETTING GO.


from Sue:

on Wildness-Resistance-Control-Gratitude
One of the darkest evils of our world is surely the unteachable wildness of the Good.
—–H. G. Wells
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet,
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
—–“Inversnaid”, Gerard Manley Hopkins

Terry Tempest Williams:

  • “To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”
  • “We can try to kill all that is native, string it up by its hind legs for all to see, but spirit howls and wildness endures.”
“The wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask.”
—–Nancy Newhall quoted in John McPhee’s, Encounters with the Archdruid, 1971

“We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.”

“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body,
but you will never imprison my mind.”
—–Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

“At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender,
in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.”
—–Maya Angelou

“Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free.
Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing.
This is the ultimate.”
—–Chuang Tzu

Be not like those who honor their gods in prosperity
and curse them in adversity.
In pleasure or pain, give thanks!
—–Midrash, Mekilta to Exodus 20:20

In Blackwater Woods
Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
—–Mary Oliver (American Primative)


from Chris:

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
—–Marcel Proust

Promise me you’ll always remember:
You’re braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.
—–Christopher Robin to Pooh

If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day,
so I never have to live without you.
—–Winnie the Pooh

True friendship is like sound health;
the value of it is seldom known until it be lost.
—–Charles Caleb Colton (1825)

A friend loves at all times.
—–Proverbs, 17,17

My mother used to say that there are no strangers,
only friends you haven’t met yet.  She’s now
in a maximum security twilight home in Australia.
—–Dame Edna Everage

One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.
—–Euripides (408 BC)

A sympathetic friend can be quite as dear as a brother.
—–Homer (9th c, BC)

I’m found again in the heart of a friend.
—–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

You can make more friends in two months by becoming
really interested in other people, than you can in two years
by trying to get other people interested in you.
—–Bernard Meltzer

A true friend is someone who is there for you when he’d rather be anywhere else.
—–Len Wein

You cannot be friends upon any other terms than upon the terms of equality.
—–Woodrow Wilson

It’s the ones you can call up at 4:00 am that really matter.
—–Marlene Dietrich

I have lost friends, some by death, others through sheer inability to cross the street.
—–Virginia Woolf

Go through your phonebook, call people and ask them to drive you to the airport.
The ones who will drive you are your true friends.
The rest aren’t bad people; they’re just acquaintances.
—–Jay Leno

Nobody sees a flower, really—it is so small, it takes time—we haven’t time—
and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
—–Georgia O’Keefe

Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends.
—–Czech proverb


from Nancy:

Thinking about Art and Creativity last month made me recall this:  About 25 years ago, teaching FLE/Life Skills for Catholic Charities, they let me dream up all kinds of programs, and the one I’m gladdest to have done was the one on Talents and Skills because it unfailingly turned out to be such a revelation to any age group.  Simple too: first, the question: How many here are talented and skilled?  And there’re few hands, mostly quiet.  Wrong, say I.   So we clarify the difference, and then brainstorm, with some questions and pump-priming, all the talents we can imagine, then all the skills, till we’re going past the usual suspects into more offbeat talents and skills, and have 2 huge lists up on the wall.  Then we all write our personal two lists, and invariably, when each person reports, everybody has a bunch of both, and among them are not only talents for things like singing, dancing, drawing, physical activity, numbers, but telling stories, making people laugh, babysitting, listening, being a friend;  and skills in reading, writing, riding bikes, swimming, using computers, doing math, playing musical instruments, building things, fixing things, gymnastics and other sports, chess and other games,  and so on.   Such an uplifting hour.

The secret of humor is surprise.

If it’s surprising, it’s useful.
—–Tom Hirshfield

Ideally, I’d like to be the eternal novice,
for then only the surprises would be endless.
—–jazz pianist Keith Jarrett

Dance freely—discover yourself by surprise;
create a space to really move and be moved.
—–Darina Stoyanova


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