Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

The Gardener

This is a quiet ground to garden,
This resting-place of the dead, and yesterday
Should have been quieter still, with the Sabbath
Falling after the executions of the day before.
The rich man's tomb is filled now,
That I saw, rich enough to have a guard
Set overnight: some rowdy Romans drinking

Until all hours, and even when they slept,
No peace and quiet -- all night the sky lit up
As in that year once of the great star,
More star-born winds among the rocks and trees,
And sounds like flocks of birds in passage
Overhead. I kept my hut. The dead are walking,
Was my fear. And here it is day again,
Bright in its dawning, brighter still
For what is over. Little has stirred:
Only a pair of mourners, with their urns,
Women most likely, walking this way
Slowly, and just about to meet a third.

~Nancy G. Westerfield Kearny

Picture: Le Tombeau Vide - The Empty Tomb
Vie de Jesus Mafa

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday

O earth, who daily kissed His feet
Like lowly Magdalen,—how sweet
(As oft His mother used) to keep
The silent watches of His sleep,
Till love demands the Prisoner,
And Death replies, "He is not here.
He passed my portal, where, afraid,
My footsteps faltered to invade
The region that beyond me lies:
Then, ere the dawn, I saw Him rise
In glory that dispelled my gloom
And made a Temple of the Tomb."

~John Bannister Tabb

Photo of the Sisters' Cemetery, Ndanda Priory

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

There are no words for that moment
When the temple veil was rent
As darkness overtook the day
Or when water and blood streamed
To form a pool that seeped
Into the fleshy veins beneath

There are no words for scenes
Like these
Yet there is a prayer
Constant in its inexpressible grief
A cry on lips that reaches heaven
A breaking of the heart
That bruises nature
And shrouds the world.

Belfast, Co Antrim, Ireland

Photo of the Way of the Cross, Sister's Chapel, Ndanda Priory

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Garden of Gethsemane

Indifferently, the glimmer of stars
Lit up the turning in the road.
The road went round the Mount of Olives,
Below it the Kedron flowed.

The meadow suddenly stopped half-way.
The Milky Way went on from there.
The grey and silver olive trees
Were trying to march into thin air.

There was a garden at the meadow’s end.
And leaving the disciples by the wall,
He said: ‘My soul is sorrowful unto death,
Tarry ye here, and watch with Me awhile.’

Without a struggle He renounced
Omnipotence and miracles
As if they had been borrowed things,
And now He was a mortal among mortals.

The night’s far reaches seemed a region
Of nothing and annihilation. All
The universe was uninhabited.
There was no life outside the garden wall.

And looking at those dark abysses,
Empty and endless, bottomless deeps,
He prayed the Father, in a bloody sweat,
To let this cup pass from His lips.

Assuaging mortal agony with prayer,
He left the garden. By the road he found
Disciples, overcome by drowsiness,
Asleep spread eagled on the ground.

He wakened them: ‘The Lord has deemed you worthy
To live in My time. Is it worthiness
To sleep in the hour when the Son of Man
Must give Himself into the hands of sinners?’

And hardly had He spoken, when a mob
Of slaves, a ragged multitude, appeared
With torches, swords, and Judas at their head
Shaping a traitor’s kiss behind his beard.

Peter with his sword resisted them
And severed one man’s ear. But then he heard
These words: 'The sword is no solution.
Put up your blade, man, in its scabbard.

Could not My Father instantly send down
Legions of angels in one thunderous gust?
Before a hair of my head was touched,
My enemies would scatter like the dust.

But now the book of life has reached a page
Most precious and most holy. What the pen
Foretold in Scripture here must be fulfilled.
Let prophecy come to pass. Amen.

The course of centuries is like a parable
And, passing, can catch fire. Now, in the name
Of its dread majesty, I am content
To suffer and descend into the tomb.

I shall descend and on the third day rise,
And as the river rafts float into sight,
Towards My Judgment like a string of barges
The centuries will float out of the night.'

~Boris Pasternak

Painting by Faraja Ramadhani, Class of 2010, Aquinas Secondary School, Mtwara, Tanzania

The Last Supper

They are assembled, astonished and disturbed
round him, who like a sage resolved his fate,
and now leaves those to whom he most belonged,
leaving and passing by them like a stranger.
The loneliness of old comes over him
which helped mature him for his deepest acts;
now will he once again walk through the olive grove,
and those who love him still will flee before his sight.

To this last supper he has summoned them,
and (like a shot that scatters birds from trees)
their hands draw back from reaching for the loaves
upon his word: they fly across to him;
they flutter, frightened, round the supper table
searching for an escape. But he is present
everywhere like an all-pervading twilight-hour.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

[On seeing Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper", Milan 1904.]

Friday, April 15, 2011

Only 102...

On April 15th, the Titanic sank, Abraham Lincoln died, Americans pay taxes, & I headed off to the salon. I wanted to celebrate my birthday in a special way. The last two times I went to the salon, I spent 7-8 hours in the chair without getting up once! But I have been so busy with school work that I have not had another entire –free- day to spend doing absolutely nothing. So when I walked into the salon last weekend, I was prepared to sit there until dark thinking God only knows how long my hairdresser would take! But to my great surprise this “yebo yebo” design only took two hours! What a treat! Of course, having my hair done like this does wonders for international relations. Staff & students alike love it!

So during our weekly student assemblies, the entire school will sing “Happy Birthday” to our teachers when he or she is celebrating a birthday that week. The students also sing, “How old are you now?” and they expect you to tell them. So I told everyone that I was 102 years old today. The students squealed with delight and they were AMAZED that I could be that old!!! One student, Nyabasi, said, “Naaaw, Madam, you only look about 90 years old.” Another student, Amina, told me that she was going to live to be 500 years old.

Because I am a Class Teacher, my Form IV students, all 42 of them, celebrated my birthday in a big way. Then one of my students, Christopher, had a hard time believing that I was a 102 years old. Eyeing me curiously, he said, “Really, really Madam? Aw Madam, you are forever young!” Well, if I am forever young, it is because of the great joy these students bring to my heart…

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Song of Lawino" by Okot p'Bitek

Song of Lawino is a book length poem by Ugandan Okot p'Bitek, published in 1972. The character of Lawino speaks in the first person as an African woman lamenting the cultural death of her Western-educated husband Ocol.

The poem is related to and inspired by traditional Acoli oral literature, but it also uses aspects of Western poetry. It was originally written in the Acoli language, then later translated by the author into English.

I love the images and the rhythm of the work. As you may guess, I am highly sympathetic to Lawino's point of view.

Here is a comment of hers on ballroom dancing.
"My husband laughs at me
Because I cannot dance white men's dances;
He despises Acoli dances
He nurses stupid ideas
That the dances of his people
Are sinful,
That they are mortal sins.

"I am completely ignorant
Of the dances of foreigners
And I do not like it.

"Holding each other
Tightly, tightly
In public,
I cannot.
I am ashamed.
Dancing without a song
Dancing silently like wizards,
Without respect, drunk ...
Since arriving in Tanzania Diane and I do not touch each other in public. Especially, any show of affection is considered shamelessly bad manners.

On keeping time and calendars,
"My husband is angry
Because he says,
I cannot keep time
And I do not know
How to count the years;
"When the baby cries
Let him suck milk
From the breast.
There is no fixed time
For breast feeding.
"In the wisdom of the Acoli
Time is not stupidly split up
Into seconds and minutes.
It does not flow
Like beer in a pot
That is sucked
Until it is finished.
"A person's age
Is shown by what he or she does
It depends on what he or she is,
And on what kind of person
He or she is.
Lawino is not condemning the ways of foreigners but rather imploring her husband not to categorically throw away his own native cultural legacy.
"A certain man
Has no millet field,
He lives on borrowed foods.
He borrows the clothes he wears
And the ideas in his head
And his actions and behavior
Are to please somebody else.
Almost fifty years after independence are Tanzanians still basically trying to please somebody else in some matters such as their educational system? -Earl

[ I found out about Song of Lawino when Diane used this book in teaching English Literature last year. The entire syllabus consists of writings in English by African authors. No Shakespeare! ]