Monthly Archives: June 2007

On the Fairhaven side of the hurricane barrier, what looked like three generations of one family stood along the edge of the water: three girls ranging from a preadolescent to a teenager, a middle-aged man and woman, and an older woman with gray hair and a big sun hat.

As I walked by, a small little drama unfolded. The tip of the oldest girl’s fishing rod started to bend down. She looked at is as if not quite sure what to do. Then it bent down even more.

“Dad!” she said. “Dad! I’ve got a fish!”

Dad, an energetic, friendly-looking man, bounded over the rocks towards her, calling out advice: “Now don’t drag it over the rocks, you’ll cut the line. Come down closer to the water. That’s it, now bend the tip of your rod down….”

By the time Dad had gotten to her, she had pulled the little silver fish up out of the water. “I got it!” she said triumphantly. While all this was going on, the older woman with the gray hair calmly pulled a slightly larger fish out of the water — but since the younger girls and the man were all watching the oldest girl, I think the only ones who noticed the older woman’s catch were the woman and me.

Dad helped the oldest girl unhook the little fish and throw it back, saying, “Now it’s my turn. It’s my turn to catch something.”

The littlest girl chanted in a singsong voice, “Daddy hasn’t caught anything, Daddy hasn’t caught a fish.”

Fifty years ago, I probably would have been thrown off by the fact that the family members had all different shades of skin from chocolate brown to palest white. Perhaps we have made some progress in this world, because I didn’t even notice that until after the oldest girl landed her fish. What I really noticed was that I just can’t get used to watching people fish in the ocean.

Saltwater fishing confuses me because I learned how to fish on rievers, lakes, and ponds. Saltwater fishing obeys the daily rhythms of the tides, whereas freshwater fishing obeys the daily rhythms of the sun. The seasons of saltwater fishing have to take into account the migrations of fish populations through the ocean, whereas the seasons of freshwater fishing (in this climate, anyway) depend on ice, water levels, and things like temperature inversions.

I suppose the father of that little family, who seemed to be the self-proclaimed expert on fishing, was teaching his children things like how to be aware of the tides. When we were kids, my father always took us fishing on freshwater. I have no awareness of tides. I’m acutely aware of the hour before sunset when the calm surface of a pond will be dimpled with hatching insects which will attract hungry trout; and some mornings I still awaken an hour before sunrise, ready to go down to the river and cast a lure into the lilypads trying to attract the hungry bass and the voracious northern pike.

Sometimes it seems that our adult attitudes are fixed by certain childhood experiences. I can’t get excited by the tides, but the evening and morning hours give me a thrill. And it never seems right to go fishing in the middle of the day, when any self-respecting trout will be sleeping on the bottom of the stream. And if I don’t even notice a mixed race family at first, maybe there’s real hope for the next generation.

Local vegetables

On my way to my sister Abby’s house, I stopped at a farmstand near where Carol and I used to live in Concord. I bought some asparagus to bring to Abby and Jim — cut that day, most of the stalks about as thin as a pencil and so tender you could eat it raw. The locally-grown produce is really starting to come in now: traditional spring vegetables like rhubarb, peas, strawberries, and asparagus (Concord used to be famous for its strawberries and asparagus); cool-weather vegetables like broccoli, kohlrabi, and bok choy; and the first of the summer squashes, zucchini, patty-pan, and yellow squash.

I not only bought asparagus for Abby and Jim, I also bought broccoli, zucchini, bok choy, and about five pounds of rhubarb. Rhubarb has become my favorite spring food. I like to cook up a pound of rhubarb with maybe a teaspoon or two of honey, just enough to thicken up the sauce but not enough to take the edge off the sourness of it.

I told my dad how I make rhubarb, and he made a little sour expression with his mouth. You have to understand that dad grew up on Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, with no lack of sugar. Once when he went to my mother’s house for dinner when they were still getting to know one another (the way she told it, it was the first time he went to her house to meet her family), mom cooked up some rhubarb with only a hint of sugar. She said that when she watched him eat it, she could tell is was too tart for him and she knew he must really love her when he ate it all. So when I told dad how I like my rhubarb, he screwed up his mouth a little, then smiled and said, “You take after your mother.”

“I guess I do,” I said, at least as far as rhubarb is concerned.

What I did at General Assembly

For my own reference, here are links to the General Assembly workshops and events that I wrote up for the UUA Web site. Two of the events I covered are definitely worth reading about, and I’m listing those first. The rest of the links appear after the jump.

Toward a Safer Congregation The dramatic story of how one Unitarian Universalist congregation survived when a beloved member of the congregation was accused (and later convicted) of child molestation. If you are a leader in a congregation, you must read this!

Home Grown Religion William J. Doherty, author of Take Back Your Kids: Confident Parenting in Turbulent Times, happens to be a Unitarian Universalist. In this lecture, he talks about the inadequacies of Sunday school, and he begins to outline what you families can do at home to pass on religious values to their kids. Anyone concerned with the current sorry state of religious education in Unitarian Universalism should read this.

Continue reading

Audio postcards

At this year’s General Assembly, an NPR reporter named Krissa Palmer volunteered with the Web staff, and produced a series of “audio postcards.” Much more interesting than the usual podcast fare. Worth listening to, and thinking about, as you plan ways to promote your own local congregation — which is exactly what I’ve been doing.



Stuck in Portland

My flight out of Portland keeps getting delayed. The gate attendant just assured me that I would get to San Francisco in time to make my connection to Boston. To be honest, though, I wouldn’t mind getting stuck in Portland for another day. Here are some reasons why I like Portland:

  • Everyone I have talked with in six days in Portland has been unfailingly friendly, polite, and just plain nice. It’s amazing what a difference politeness makes.
  • For me, the climate is ideal: cool, relatively dry air, plenty of clouds and light rain to break up the sunshine. You know you’re north of the 45th parallel.
  • It is a truly multicultural city.
  • The coffee is really, really good. True, good coffee is probably necessary to make it through the long, gray winters. But the coffee is so good, even here in the airport, that it just might be worth it.
  • You can see snow-covered mountains from downtown Portland.
  • The public transportation system is just as good as you’ve heard. The light rail system is fast, clean, efficient, and free in the city center. The Portland street car is charming. No one pushes or shoves or casts glowering glances. And they have special bicycle hooks built into the light rail cars.
  • Everyone rides bicycles. Riding the light rail out to the airport today, I stood behind a wiry man in a black t-shirt standing next to his hotshot mountain bike. I realized that his funny-looking bicycle helmet was actually a hardhat, and that his black t-shirt was from the local ironworkers union. In Boston, he’d drive a truck.
  • Lots of trees grow in downtown Portland, making the city feel green and delightful.
  • Free wifi throughout the airport.

Of all these reasons, the first one is most important:– it really does make a difference when everyone is polite. (One of the reasons I like New Bedford, where I live, is that most everyone is polite.) And the fact that everyone is polite and friendly has made the delay here at the airport far more bearable.

The free wifi helps, too.


General Assembly update #6

I manage to break away from my volunteer job at General Assembly long enough to go to the closing worship service, where Ysaye Maria Barnwell sang a couple of her songs. Dr. Barnwell is one of my favorite songwriters (and do I have to remind you that she is also a Unitarian Universalist and member of All Souls Church in Washington, DC?). (48 sec.)

I have to admit that I skipped out of the worship service soon after Ysaye Maria Barnwell sang, so I didn’t have to hear my least favorite Unitarian Universalist hymn, “Spirit of Life.”


Note: video host is defunct, so this video no longer exists.

Interview with the purple space alien

For this fifth General Assembly update, I interview Peter Bowden and the purple space alien. We talk about using online video as a means for spreading the word about Unitarian Universalism. A pink space alien joins us, and offers his/her/its own, umm, visual commentary. (3:07)

Watch the original purple space alien video….


Note: video host is defunct, so this video no longer exists.