Sr. Helen
Okay OKAY OKAY. Nuns are not a contest. St. Benedict would not be amused.

It’s just that Jennifer Fulwiler’s lovely photo essay and subsequent posts about the trip she and her husband took to Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon have inspired me to talk just a bit about our own day trip to Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey in Pecos, New Mexico.

My husband’s family has made many trips to this monastery, but this was my first visit to New Mexico, so we made sure to stop by. Know who else was there? Just not at the same time?

Mister Jeff Bridges.

I mean, maybe he was there somewhere, playing his guitar and looking out over the lake where he and Robert Duvall did a little fishing in “Crazy Heart,” but I didn’t see him. That’s not why we went, anyways. It was a SPIRITUAL PILGRIMAGE.

This is the wood of the cross
The monastery was once a dude ranch. We arrived in time to walk around for a little while before joining the community for noon prayer.

Mosaic of the Risen Christ

We chanted a Psalm in alternating groups, and I noticed that we all tried to rush through the process. While it’s true that a tasty lunch awaited us, I think it was more just our collective habit of zooming through life without stopping for a breath. “Slow down, please,” intoned one of the monks. I want a clip of his voice installed on my computer, to be played at random hours of the day. “Slow down.”

Mural for Our Lady
This mural, which you see as you enter the chapel, is a collage of Marian apparitions around the world.

After lunch, Sr. Helen (shown above) gave us a very thorough tour of the monastery proper. She has started an extensive monastic garden and dries beautiful bouquets of lavender. She delights in the challenge of growing flowers in the rocky desert soil.
St. Michael the Archangel

I hope to enjoy the monastery’s simplicity and the warm hospitality of its community again. If you are around Santa Fe, it’s about an hour’s drive away. Then, when you are finished with your visit, head towards Taos and sample the offerings at Black Mesa Winery.
Black Mesa Winery
You can keep sampling their samples and never get a migraine. No sulfites, or something.

It’s all about slowing down.
Go with God

Old-School Gaming

“Why do we have all these board games and we never play them,” asks Mr. Efficiency, angling for a later bedtime.

I glance over at the six-year-old, wise beyond her years.

“There’s something I have realized about myself,” she told me yesterday. “I mean what I say, and I say what I mean.”

Profound. And what did she mean by that?

“I’m not really sure what that means.”

Still, it is the sign of an active intellect that she has engaged in such contemplation. I think this means she is ready…for board games. (Here I pass over Candy Land).

We are people who go to the Renaissance Festival and make the children wear costumes. So, on a Saturday night, time to bust out with: Settlers of Catan.

I bought this game for Matthew a few years ago despite the fact that I’d heard it wasn’t much fun for only two players. He is a fiend at Scrabble, such that I refuse to play with him because I am a poor loser who believes only I should be smart enough to observe that sitting to my mother’s left will always ensure triple-word-score setups. He treats a game of Monopoly as though it were a trading floor and not a gentle competition to see who can land on “Free Parking” the greatest number of times. (I don’t want to hear about that’s the way you’re supposed to play it. Fifth grade rules are still the rules in my house.)

Anyway, the game is much better than Monopoly, with a vaguely similar premise. You compete and collaborate to gain resources, build settlements, and amass points. The game is more fun if people are willing to trade and strategically help one another out. And the game is much more fun if there are more than two players.

I thought we’d give it a trial run with the children. My older son considers himself an apprentice grown-up, so I knew he would catch on quickly or pretend to know the rules rather than be banished back to the kids’ table. The question was whether his sister could also follow the complex rules for how each turn is taken – a player can amass resources, trade, and then build “stuff” on every turn, while avoiding the dreaded robber.

An hour and a half later, we still hadn’t finished the game, but nobody had been banished. I lay out the ground rules ahead of time – “You will receive three counts (along the lines of “1,2,3 Magic,” a system we intermittently utilize). After three counts, you go to bed. No whining, no bragging, no teasing, no trash talking (that rule was for me), and no complaining if you think you might lose the game.”

I call that a successful game night – and I was impressed at how, after the first few rounds, the children were starting to play with strategy. We stopped and took a photo of the board setup, so that we can resume play another time. For some reason, we couldn’t just leave all the pawns and cards out on the table. Hmmm, now…what was that reason…

Baby behind bars
Ah. Right.

So, while we’re still novices, I would highly recommend this game, even to families less nerdy than we. (99.2% of the world’s families). There are other “historical” versions of the game set during the Stone Age or Ancient Roman Ruins Times, along with a version called The Settlers of Canaan and an out-of-print version based on the Book of Mormon. Interesting. You also can play online, which is not something I comprehend but might be interesting for my son.

If nothing else, it’s a nice break from Hi Ho Cherry-O.


Originally uploaded by Dorian Speed

Well, aren’t you the sweetest little thing.

Box O’ Prayer

Box O’ Prayer
Originally uploaded by Dorian Speed

Inspired by this discussion of making a space in one’s home for prayer , I made this little display box for our bedroom wall. The plant is too big for the space, I know, but I like having the icon of Jesus as the Vine next to an actual vine. Because it’s SYMBOLIC.

So I may rearrange things, but this is it for now. The framed card at the bottom was given to a friend of mine by Mother Teresa. It reads:

The fruit of Silence is Prayer.
The fruit of Prayer is Faith.
The fruit of Faith is Love.
The fruit of Love is Service.
The fruit of Service is Peace.

I’m still working on the Silence part.

I made the “box” from an old drawer I picked up at the Habitat for Humanity thrift shop for $1.00. ONE DOLLAR! Whee! I removed the hardware, primed and painted it, and lined the inside with gold foily paper. I stuck a picture hanger thingy, the kind that looks like alligator teeth, on the back, and I nailed it into what I hope is a stud in the wall, since it’s fairly heavy with the plant on the “shelf.”

I would like to do more of these around the house now that I realize how easy it is.

Seven quick takes for houseplants

I really, really love it that our hostess, Jennifer, spent several takes today discussing a picture of her hand, because I myself was thinking about taking a picture of my hand today. But now I can’t remember why.

1. I have now kept a small community of houseplants mostly alive for an entire month.

2. I celebrated this accomplishment with a trip to Home Depot to find one* plant for the “prayer box” thing I am going to set up in my bedroom one of these days. We have a crucifix for our wall but I haven’t mounted it yet because I’ve had this idea for about thirtyteen months and didn’t want to put the crucifix up just to take it down right away, or something. So the crucifix is in a drawer with a scrunchie and my headphones and it all just seems like a big metaphor waiting to happen.

3. We left the house today at 10:15 and returned at 7:30, having made ten different stops. I had originally planned to make each stop a “take,” as it were, if you will, so to speak, but then I realized I’d made three too many stops. Would that I had enjoyed this epiphany earlier in the day, pre-GameStop.

4. The Home Depot trip was #8 of 10 stops, occurring at approximately 5:07 p.m. on Friday evening when my husband is out of town and I am feeling all emo. The suspects entered the premises from the southwest corner and remained inside the location for 45 minutes, emerging with *five plants, six pots, and other houseplant-related paraphernalia. The small blonde girl appeared to be talking to a houseplant, which she then installed in her carseat’s cupholder.

5. My mother is coming to visit and to help next week, and so I have a giant list of things I wish to accomplish before she gets here. Re-potting houseplants was not on that list, but I felt they all needed a little reward for staying alive despite their proximity to me. And, besides, that only takes like ten minutes or so, right? To re-pot eight plants? Factoring in time to search the garage for the other bag of potting soil and to root around in the dark in the back yard, looking for two more pots that had dead plants in them, since I failed to purchase the correct number of pots today.

6. Having now spent 75 minutes on Project Plant-O, it has dawned on me that I have given the girl child a box of mud for her (CARPETED) room. In the store, it all seemed so homeschooly, letting the kids each pick out a plant to be in their respective rooms. To nurture, to observe the carbon cycle, to rejoice in God’s creation of Exotic Angel Plants®. I enlisted the salesman in lecturing both kids about proper houseplant stewardship, and how we can name our plants and talk to them but should not water them too much or pet their soft purple leaves too enthusiastically. As we tumbled out of the car with our new friends, her plant was nervously drumming its tendrils against the pot. It shot me a look – “What did I ever do to you, lady, besides respirate?” Have no fear, “Cutie,” I am sure you will be well-loved.

7. This evening’s fun with dirt and rocks has reminded me why I see no point in manicures for myself. I’ve had two manicures in my lifetime – once as a Christmas present, and once for my wedding. And, while they were both lovely, I am just not a manicure kind of girl. I know there are plenty of celebrities and realtors out there who are able to interact fully with their plants and their art supplies and still keep their nails long and lustrous – or is that their eyelashes? – but I just don’t. Plus, having my nails longer than a micrometer is very irritating when I attempt to play the piano.

Did you click on that last link? Is that for real? Do people actually soak their hands in Clorox as part of regular nail care? I refuse to believe this is a genuine recommendation as part of increasing one’s self-esteem.

But I do, at last, remember why I was going to take a picture of my hand. Don’t remember where I put the camera, though.

Home again

Originally uploaded by Dorian Speed

Had I realized this would be my historic 500th blog post, I would have stressed out about creating something timeless and contemplative to mark such an occasion.

The photo above is more significant than it may appear at first glance. For I secured Crabby a fleeting night of freedom – through the power of my mind.

That’s correct – immediately after publishing a post in which I jokingly suggested that our little red claw crab might leave the safe environs of the Olde Mill House for the greener pastures of the front hallway, he read what I wrote and worked his way out. He was frozen in time by the steely glare of the cat the next morning, who couldn’t figure out how this weird spider creature made it all the way over to the plant stand without stopping for water.

No picture of that, of course, because it all happened before I awoke. That migraine medicine will knock you out, man, so you better be ready for some serious shut-eye. He’d been unceremoniously dumped back in the tank before I staggered out to make my morning pot of coffee.

He hid out in the attic hideaway of the mill house for several days, leading us to wonder if he had escaped once more, paying off the cat with an exclusive deal on a school of tetras in exchange for her silence. We finally picked up the house, shook it vigorously, and discovered him clinging to the ceiling for dear life. My husband wants to build his own version of this underwater biosphere thing which would allow Crabby to have access to open air without making a break for it. In the meantime, we have covered the opening at the top of the tank with screen, which we hope will forestall future escape attempts.

Crabby’s been back in business over the last couple of days, gesturing with his claws for the Plecostomus (algae eater) to get off his deck and go find a job. And, just like everyone else around here, Crabby leaves his stuff all over the place for somebody else to pick up.

Extra claw