in Paradisum

in Paradisum is an antiphon sung at the end of a Requiem mass as the departed is being removed from the church. It offers the wish that the departed will be welcomed to paradise by a chorus of angels. Through the centuries, composers have used this antiphon as a vehicle for tone paintings of their vision of Paradise. Some have produced pieces of surpassing beauty–I think, in particular of Fauré.

Of course, Paradise has a visual component as well as an auditory component. Over the last weekend I have been there and seen it. I didn’t have a near death experience. It was much simpler than that, but I can report that Paradise is sublimely beautiful.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RR

My Muse and I went to Chama, NM to ride the train. We stayed in an RV park right on the Chama River close to the Chama Station. When we checked in, we were instructed that every morning we had to either  be on the train or down at the river  waving at the recently departed as it went by, so we did some of each. The C&TSRR is right on the New Mexico/Colorado border, and the route actually crosses the border 11 times in the run from Chama to Antonito, CO. The route was chosen by the Denver & Rio Grande RR in the 1870s, and completed as far as Durango in 1880. The track from Chama to Durango no longer exists.

Rocky Mountain High Country

Rocky Mountain High Country

This is high country. Chama and Antonito are both above 7800 feet and the track runs through Cumbres pass at over 10000 feet. The scene at the left is over 9000 feet. By this altitude, exercise is becoming difficult if you are not acclimated because the amount of oxygen in the air is less than 75% of sea level. But, if you are acclimated, this can be a wonderful life. Look at those beautiful yellow flowers. They are Dandelions. I don’t think there are that many even in your lawn.

 

Mountain ranch.

Mountain ranch.

Here is another view. I love these high mountain meadows; the broad, glaciated valleys; snow on the mountain tops and even at our level. The rivers, which seem to be everywhere, were running high. The snow pack was low last winter, but there have been several weeks of frequent rains. I like New York, too. But, that isn’t Paradise. This is.

The Race is O’re…

DC-RnR-2015-medalThe race is over, and we’re back home. We left Thursday for the DC Rock and Roll Marathon and returned today.

The race was Saturday morning, and the temperature was perfect, in the low 40s. The rain, however, was not perfect. It had been raining since before midnight and continued until at least noon. By the end of the race at RFK Stadium, we were all soaked and pretty cold–the ambulances running from the medical tent at the finish were unusually busy.

I haven’t examined my splits in detail, but I was ahead of schedule at 5 miles and still on schedule at 10 miles. I finished about 4 minutes behind schedule, so I had to have lost that time in the last 5 k. I didn’t feel bad, and there were no notable terrain features. The rain got a little worse and the wind came up, and I guess that slowed me down (oh, Ok, I suppose the milage had some effect, too).

Surely the weather took some toll, and being somewhat under prepared had an effect, but overall I was still happy with the race. The worst part was standing around in the cold rain after I finished waiting for my Muse, who walks, to finish her race. There was almost no shelter and close to 30,000 people to be accommodated. There were lots of crazy folks there that day. And then there was standing in line to get into the metro station and trying to ride with a waterlogged metro card. When they are that wet, they don’t go through the machines.

Our schedules are pretty busy for the next few months, so we may not do another half until September. But, maybe we’ll try to find something close to here in June.

Aside from the miseries of the race itself, the weekend was wonderful. Our main purpose in going was to celebrate the return to health of Middle Daughter who has spent the last year dealing with breast cancer. We took Older Sister with us, and Brother lives in the District, so we had a glorious celebration. Saturday was, of course, Pi-day (3.14.15) so Daughter-in-law made pie and we all got together for that at the end of the day. Sunday was more family time. The ladies went shopping for running gear, and Brother and I played with the granddaughters.

“Cancer free”–a wonderful reason to celebrate!

 

Pictures of my Heart

The front page of this blog has four pictures that show places I’ve been, but more importantly (at least to me) they give some insight into me. That is what this blogging stuff is all about, right?

The first picture is a place called Ward Lake. Ward Lake is in a state park north of Ketchikan Alaska. I took this after finishing a 10k trail run in the rain. I love this picture. It is so peaceful. It is so green. I have painted this scene several times, and will paint it again—somehow I don’t ever manage to get it quite right. It isn’t that the painting doesn’t look like the subject, but that  the painting doesn’t quite capture the feeling of repose that I remember. I would like to go back and experience the place again, although I probably never will. As a contrast to the peacefulness of the green, I especially like the drift of little yellow flowers on the bank. It speaks of optimism in the return of spring.

The second picture is Beijing at night. My Muse and I went to China with our local Chamber of Commerce, so I guess it was a business trip. I should probably go back and amend my tax return for that year. This was taken while waiting for the bus after dinner one night. Beijing, of course is a large city with all the expected hustle and bustle (well maybe more of that than we westerners expect), and Lots (and Lots) of people. We were taken to large restaurants that serve Chinese food that westerners would eat without asking too many questions. I think it was probably because we were Americans that one entree every night was French Fries. China is one of those places that you cannot adequately learn about by reading, or even by listening to someone who has been there. You have to go there and see it yourself. I remembered those pictures from the ’90s of a thousand people on bicycles waiting for the stoplight to change and I expected to see that. No. That’s all gone. Everybody has cars. Imagine a city of a million cars, all driven by people with almost no experience. That is what “chaos” means.

There is a concept in Celtic spirituality of places where the veil (between earth and heaven) is thin. Ghost Ranch, in northern New Mexico, is one of those places. This is a summer sunset—frequently spectacular. The feature at the left is, appropriately, Chimney Rock. The area is full of high mesas with steep cliffs of red and yellow rock. The ranch headquarters is in a canyon surrounded by these cliffs and looks west across a lake to mountains 20-30 miles away. The veil is, indeed, thin, and once you have settled into the rhythm of the ranch, the place itself encourages, perhaps even demands, mediative spirit. We spend a week there every summer, and just returned from spending yesterday and last night there. Even one day is enough to reset your clock.

There are a few other places I have been that appear to be thin places—places where the spirit feels the nearness of heaven. Another such place is St. David’s in southwest Wales. Small village, lovely old cathedral, but most of all the feeling that it is a sacred place and has been since long before these “modern” fixtures were put on the land. You may have been to places where you felt that there is something special here; this place is not like the rest of the world. Think back and find those places and tell me about them.

Thin places can also appear because of events that happen there. My Muse plays the harp and spends much of her time playing for hospice patients. I haven’t been there with her, but she says that the veil is thin at the time that someone passes out of this life.

The final picture is the Cliffs of Mohr on the west coast of Ireland, south of Galway Bay. This is a place where peace and ruggedness collide. There is a strong sense of remoteness even though the area is developed for sightseers and there are lots of people there. I read one travel writer who whined that, while visiting the cliffs is free, it is remote and there is only one car park for which you are charged 6€. They thought that demanded a boycott. What a mistake that would have been. I didn’t feel it as a thin place, but rather a place of power: 600 foot cliffs falling straight into the ocean; a pretty constant wind. The place is immense, and you are tiny. Strength and power abound.

So, you see 4 pictures. One representative of life in a dense urban area, and 3 exuding remoteness, peace, and the beauty and power of nature. You have some idea of where my heart lies.