Monday, December 31, 2012

And isn't it.. don't you think

As we have for the past several years, Mars and I again spent Christmas visiting with Bram, Monica and Cheyenne (son, daughter-in-law, and rescued greyhound grand-dog), in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
"Santa Fe (English pronunciation: /?sænt??fe?/; (Tewa: Ogha Po'oge, Navajo: Yootó)) is the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico.  Santa Fe (literally “holy faith” in Spanish) had a population of 67,947 in the 2010 census.  The city’s full name when founded was La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís (“The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi”)." (Wikipedia)

You might think that a town with this etymology in its past would be intensely Catholic and vigorously pro-animal.  And you would be at least partially right.  The religious icons and characters of the largest Christian church are firmly imbedded in the works of art and crafts that fill the museums and emporiums that proliferate in the “city different”

Although not “churchy people”, one of our regular stops is The Monks' Corner Gift Shop. The store supports the work of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert; a Benedictine community of more than thirty members located in Abiquiu, New Mexico -- about one hour away. Among its merchandise are religious themed items such as: a pictorial calendar of Russian church icons and various straw or silver crosses; useful theological objects like rosary beads and liturgical stoles; and plain old secular jewelry.

A couple of years ago Mars mentioned that the goods in the Monk’s Corner aren't that different from other gift shops in Santa Fe, which also feature Virgin of Guadalupe and other saintly images. To which Bram responded, "But at the Monk’s Corner they aren't ironic."
These sacred objects, ensconced in secular surroundings and created with temporal goals in mind, now convey a meaning exactly opposite from their original literal meaning.  Yet, paradoxically, many purchasers and admirers seem to experience an odd, earthly spiritual aura not found in other nonreligious artwork. 
Still, The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, aka Saint Francis Cathedral, is a dominant part of downtown Santa Fe.


"The cathedral was built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church, La Parroquia (built in 1714–1717). An older church on the same site, built in 1626, was destroyed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The new cathedral was built around La Parroquia, which was dismantled once the new construction was complete. A small chapel on the north side of the cathedral was kept from the old church." (Wikipedia)
It is the mother church of the Diocese of Santa Fe and the building upon whose grounds I found the following sign.

I showed the photo to Bram who immediately recognized the location – and the incongruity
“That's at, of all places, St. Francis, isn't it?”
Santa Fe is probably the most canine-friendly town Mars and I (non-owning dog lovers) have ever been in.  Hounds are welcomed in hotels, retail establishments and restaurants throughout town.  Cheyenne herself has joined the four of us out for lunch numerous times.
Pet advocate websites such as the gopetfriendly blog and extol the town’s openness to including man’s best friend into every part of its daily lifestyle.

Apropos of that pup-friendliness, just a few blocks from The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and its exclusionary signage is this statue of the eponymous holy man himself deep in conversation with a native New Mexican Prairie Dog.

And although Genus Cynomys, family Sciuridae is technically more squirrel than Canis Canidae – the point remains.
According to Kevin E. Mackin, O.F.M. of the monastic order based upon the principals of Saint Francis:
"[Every year in early autumn] at Franciscan churches, a friar with brown robe and white cord often welcomes each animal with a special prayer. The Blessing of Pets usually goes like this:
'Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.'”
My initial response to Bram (modified to fit into haiku form after he recognized its potential) had been:

Saint Francis was, I
believe, ambivalent on
household animals.
Clearly, according to those who are seriously attempting to live their lives in accordance with the beliefs and practices of the patron saint of animals, my initial (somewhat flippant) answer was incorrect.
Perhaps however the sign-making clergy at The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi are not in fact Franciscan Monks and therefore not adherents to the nature-loving lifestyle of the gentle Italian friar and preacher. 
Or perhaps, if they are O.F.M.s, in their new postmodern seminary they now take vows of Poverty, Celibacy – and Irony.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Crows Are Back n Town, And This Time They're Organized

It is early December and the crows are back in town.

They pass through our neighborhood here in Wethersfield, CT each year around this time on their way southward from northern New England in their search for a warmer place to spend the winter season. Since their arrival the temperature has been between forty and sixty degrees – evidently comfortable enough for them to chill here for a while. Eventually they will leave.

 In previous visits they would stalk our yard in groups of ten or more looting the acorns that our squirrels thought they had securely hidden in the front lawn. This year they are hanging around the sunflower seed feeders that we set out for the local bird population and (truth be told) for the tree rodents as well. The crows are too large to dine directly at the dangling eateries so they scavenge the ground beneath them for cast offs and partially eaten shards.

They also have taken an interest in our one certified, honest-to-God squirrel feeder. It is located on the trunk of one of our oak trees, screwed into the bark about five feet off the ground and takes the form of a downsized picnic table (complete with seats). A screw extends upwards from the tabletop onto which I twist one of the corncobs that I purchase, by the bagful, at my local nursery. The squirrels then scramble up (or down) the oak and sit Buddha-like on one of the side benches gnawing away at the yellow kernels.

Being somewhat wasteful eaters the tree-rats scatter a good portion of the uncooked vegetable onto the ground around them. The crows apparently have caught on to this additional source of free food and gather like worshipful supplicants under the maize altar awaiting alms.

Or at least they did for the first couple of weeks. Then the other day Mars and I noticed that one of the large black Corvus Corvidae had placed itself atop the pinewood eatery and was pecking methodically and (we assumed) greedily at the rapidly diminishing cob. But upon further observation we both concluded that what we were witnessing was not (totally) avarice but rather altruism, or at least joint action, as the pecking crow seemed to be deliberately tossing kernels to its fellow ebony avians below. In fact in the short time that we watched this lesson in cooperation we actually didn’t see it keep anything for itself. And, after a few minutes, another corvine cohort took its place and the former philanthrope became a willing beneficiary.

Unfortunately this excellent example of cooperation and/or charity has not caught on with our other feathered and furred mendicants – all of who seem to approach eating as if they are in a true state of nature rather than a gustatory Garden of Eden.

 It’s a sad, sad world when the best role models turn out to be a gang of hit-and-run, black-clad jackdaw intruders instead of the colorful, cuddly yard-pets for whom we provide room and board in exchange for entertainment and edification.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Think Phonetically

Signs of the Season, Signs of the Times

Deflated Santa –
Deserted house in probate –
No |e(ə)r| apparent.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Scanning the Headlines...

--> the Super Market Scandal Sheets

“Seeing Eye Squirrels”
“Kirsti’s twisted, sick, tell-all”
Life in the Trash Lane.

(full disclosue - the first line actually read "Seeing Eye Squirrels for Blind Dogs")