This is a season of thanksgiving and in that spirit I am thinking of the many ways that I have been blessed this year and in my life in general. I’m grateful for my life, my wife and family too. In a few weeks I’ll be sixty-one. Each year everyone seems to be getting younger and my definition of what constitutes an elderly person gets older. I’m grateful to be retired and volunteering at The Warming House and Blount Library. On Friday I was asked to serve on the Blount Library Board. That’s a great honor and I’ll be reunited with some of my former colleagues. I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend daily Mass at St. Philomena’s Church in Franklinville. I’m grateful to have worked with so many wonderful people at Franklinville Central School, who treated me to a wonderful dinner at the VFW and presents from the Franklinville Teachers Association. I’m grateful to be able to renew my passion for reading in general. Today I finished a book I borrowed yesterday from the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System. It was an ebook that I borrowed wirelessly, Dr. J: An Autobiography. I’m grateful for the new opportunities to serve and grow. I’m even grateful for the snow and winter that has arrived.
The celebration of the Eucharist at St. Philomena’s was something I planned to attend last night when I retired to bed. This morning at 6:30 I was thinking of excuses not to attend and to stay between the flannel sheets. The spirit moved me out of bed at 6:40 and after an abbreviated yoga routine I got ready to walk the one mile from our home to the church. Once I was out of the house and walking down the hill I was grateful to be up and moving at a time when most of our village is still not quite awake. The air was still, the sky was blue and I was grateful to be up and out. Fifteen minutes later I arrived at St. Philomena R.C. Church. Mass today was in the chapel. There were four other people plus Fr. Marino in attendance. I actually arrived in the middle of the first reading. I love the little chapel. It is such and intimate setting for what is really a celebration of the Lord’s Supper or Passover Seder which took place in a dining room not in a synagogue.
Following Mass I continued my walk down Plymouth Avenue to Main Street and throughout the village for a total of over five miles. Walking can be a contemplative exercise and I like to think that my walks are just that. I’m grateful to be alive and able to walk about and enjoy the sights and sounds of life in a small village and one that has been my home for over thirty-five years.
Today is the feast of All Saints. This morning’s walk to St. Philomena’s was more arduous than normal as I had to lean into a twenty mile an hour headwind. Following the twenty minute walk from my home to the church I was greeted by Fr. Robert Marino. Along with Fr. Marino I spotted many friends and others I have not met yet. One thing that impressed me was the number of congregation this morning. Here at 9:00 am in a small village in the foothills of the Alleganies were nearly one-hundred of the faithful. The altar was adorned with the fruits of the harvest and included several pumpkins. I have been attending Mass at St. Philomena’s occasionally for the last thirty-five years and never have I seen such beauty. The parish is growing and that’s palpable. There can be no doubt that Fr. Marino has captured the imagination of the community. Fr. Marino’s homily was a story of his own grandmother and the role she played in his vocation as a priest but more than that her embodiment of what it means to be a saint. His homily reminded me of a quote from Mother Teresa, ““Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Last night I taught a small group of seniors. They were an attentive lot and they were my first students this fall. The topic was “Beginner Computer Basics.” You may have guessed by now that these seniors were not seventeen and eighteen years olds. A couple were octogenarians. Nonetheless, the oldest student already had a Gmail account which was part of my lesson. We covered the basics and I opened up a Dell Optiplex desktop so that the class could get a good look at the insides of a typical computer. I had some short videos that I put together for them along with a Wikispace that I created especially for our class.
I arrived about fifteen minutes early to ensure that all was set for our class. The oldest student was already there and eager to begin. We began promptly at 6:00 pm and ended ninety minutes later. In the process my students learned some basic terms, got an inside view of a typical desktop computer and learned how to create a Gmail account. We even got started on how to create a document in Google Drive. Thank you to Jessica Frank, Director of Blount Library who asked me to put together some introductory computer classes and to my students. You made my day!
Today following breakfast I walked from my home into the village and along North Main Street past Franklinville Central School. I intended to stop at Maple Haven Restaraunt on the north side of the village to purchase some oatmeal raisin cookies that they sell there. I stopped to visit a former co-worker who hailed me as I was ambling past the high school. It was good to see Sue again and we caught up a bit since our last visit a couple of months ago. Looking up North Main and just above the horizon I could see the dark gray clouds that usually precede snow. When I left the house this morning I had checked the thermometer but not the forecast. Snow was in the forecast for tonight but I don’t remember hearing anything about today. Now, though as I made my way along I could see and feel the precipitation which was almost snow. The wind began to pickup and the slight chill in the air was accentuated by the presence of nearly frozen precipitation. Dressed only in a fall jacket and baseball hat I decided that I would postpone my date with oatmeal raisin cookie and instead return to my home.
The telltale signs of fall have been in the air. Flocks of Canadian Geese along with other migratory birds have been filling the air. I love the sound of the geese honking across the sky. Even though I prefer warmer weather I love this annual procession to winter in Western New York.
Gates Creek flows next to Riverside Drive in Franklinville, New York. Tonight I was out walking with my wife and we wandered over to the creek to see how it looked after all the recent rains. It was deeper than usual but not muddy as I expected. Diane used to bring the children here to cool off on hot summer days. Those days are long gone and now there are only great memories.
Today we’re getting some white showers. Yes, a bit of snow is in the air here in the western southern tier of New York. I’m sitting next to my pellet stove enjoying the warmth it is supplying. We are having a cool day today and one is forecast for tomorrow as well. With few exceptions this has been an exceptionally warm spring and a lovely March and April. Were it not snowing I’d be mowing the our lawn. The grass has grown enough to invite its first mowing.
Today is the first day of our spring break. In a week Franklinville will be home to the Western New York Maple Festival. The festival has been on tap here since 1967 when it was started by the local JayCee chapter. Since then it has grown into a widely attended festival. When I first moved to Franklinville a bit over thirty years ago the festival featured more crafts and there was an art show, square dancing, a ham and leek dinner and more. In the past ten years the emphasis has shifted to a more general carnival. I enjoy the smell of the carnival like foods, it’s a reminder of what’s in store at county fairs and fireman’s carnivals which dot our countryside in the spring, summer and early autumn.
I’m not making a pilgrimage to the southern states this year and I kind of wish I was. Maybe that will come later in the year. In the past couple of years I’ve visited Georgia, the Carolina’s and Virginia in April. This year I’m staying home. I might take some day trips and I’m going to enjoy my time off.
A couple of days ago I wrote a short piece for a colleague who is the senior class adviser at Franklinville Central School. I was trying to be helpful and I’ve found that whenever you try to help others you invariably help yourself too. Several people have responded to that request. My son who works in the Rochester, New York area was one of the responses. Devin realizes how important it is to give these young people a hand. More than that many of these students who come from low income backgrounds get a chance to get out and see what opportunities exist for them. It can be a mind expanding and opportunity expanding experience for them. Franklinville’s need has been our opportunity to be helpful but also to think about how we can help on a broader scale. Peace.
Last night I was walking back to my car from Friedsam Library at St. Bonaventure University and I as I looked into the night I could barely make out the familiar lines of Merton’s Heart. It’s a clearing on the mountainside just south of the campus of St. Bonaventure University. As I looked up and thought of Merton, my life and St. Bonaventure University I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude that my life has taken this new turn. Just four months ago I had contemplated retirement and now I’m very much in the thick of academic rigor again. I’m learning a great deal and I’m enjoying the discourse, much of it “online” in our Moodle format for the course in Educational Leadership and School Law.
In retrospect I wish I’d have done this earlier, but where and how that would have been possible I really don’t know. Just Saturday night at the Mt. Irenaeus 25 year celebration I had dinner with Sr. Eleanor and she related how she returned to graduate school at 57. At every turn I’m greeted by people who encourage me. I like my classes to at Franklinville Central School. I’ve been blessed with great students who challenge me at every turn and force me to learn software and programming that I wouldn’t otherwise.
Last night as I walked up the steps and into Friedsam Library at St. Bonaventure I thought again of Tom Merton and how I’m following his footsteps once again. It’s almost mid-night here at home and I’m just finishing my homework seated next to our pellet stove which radiates a good bit of heat. Deo Gratias!