Pardon our dust

Hello faithful readers! Adam here. It sure is dusty around here. I blame Ed. I joke because the state of repair of the site is strictly my fault. I am actively working on fixing this place up and making it look right and proper. So you might see a few things out of place or out of order or missing. Know we are still working on it, but we’re getting a lot closer! If you see something off just ping a comment here and we’ll get it fixed.

Yes, permaculture.

Last time I introduced the concept of permaculture (assuming some might not already know) and offered a sampling of Catholic teaching which fits neatly – some would say plainly – with the practice of permaculture.  Then I said some hopelessly optimistic things about living with Mother Nature.

This time, a start at implementation.

Most of the resources I’ve encountered seem to agree on the principles of permaculture, which are summarized here.

As the Permaculture Association has it, the first principle is “Observe and Interact.”  Other permaculture resources say likewise, and some recommend an observation period of at least a year, if not longer.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!  No, but seriously, I’m a 21st century American – who thinks I’m going to wait around after I’ve just publicly committed to starting into permaculture?  I’ll observe, alright – then immediately act!  What, am I supposed to be patient, and restrain my desires?

Almost took up an inverted soapbox there.

Fortunately, I have been observing, and for longer than a year.  Every time I’ve mowed the lawn, I thought how I would like to incorporate more garden beds, and how to arrange them.  Once we started a garden in the backyard, I noticed how the sun moved across it, how the wind blew, and where things would have room to grow or climb or drain.

According to my foray into permaculture, it was observation by accident; but according to purposes I already had in mind, it was sustained observation.

For example:  One technique suggested for implementing permaculture is an herb spiral.  There are even videos guiding the curious to herbal glory.

We Pluchars like herbs at the ready, and so I thought of two locations, and Marcy picked one – the more reasonable one, of course.  This is just outside our back door:

Foundation for our herb-phitheater.

Now, as to observation:  This particular location is on the south side of our property.  That white vinyl fence is on the south side of the frame.  That particular area – next to the heat pump, with a short concrete sidewalk and two pebbled areas – has always seemed hot to me.  This struck me immediately, from before we bought the house, and has been verified repeatedly.

I believe this is because our house and the neighbor’s (relatively close by – maybe 40′, with a fence in the middle) act as a wind block, the heat pump generates heat in the summer, and the sidewalk and pebbles absorb heat on top of that.  Even when the “weather” is breezy and tolerable elsewhere on our property, it is stifling in this area.

Furthermore, I believe we will modify the herb spiral, in favor of an herb amphitheater…or and herb-phitheater, if you please.

Weep at my raw talent.
Weep at my raw talent.

The reason for this is that any herbs on the north side of a spiral would have precious few hours of sunlight – given the house sandwich.  Another drawing?

Site Map - Herb garden

Therefore – I presume, at any rate – an amphitheater design will be more advantageous.

But where to find the building materials?

Why every day cannot be Christmas Day

I write this at peak Christmas.

Peak Christmas does not happen on Christmas Day – it happens the night before.

All of the preparation, the carols, the extra coins in the red bucket at the grocery store, the stories of good will toward perfect strangers, the re-focusing on just what Christmas is all about, the magic of the nighttime, the anxious awaiting of dawn…

It reaches a head just before bedtime on Christmas Eve.  You could stride along, atop the sheer anticipation.

There are those universal moments – the story of a stranger pulling over to help someone stranded on the side of the road, or a famous person discreetly providing toys to poor children, or a church getting together to feed the homeless a hot meal – which elicit the lament, “Why can’t every day be like this?”  Or you sometimes hear it declared, ambitiously – “Make every day Christmas day!”

It would be nice, wouldn’t it?  A universal disposition toward concern for others, finding satisfaction in bringing joy to others, making impossible things happen – even the gaiety of spirit one experiences, alone, driving along a dark road with Christmas lights shining brightly.

Why can the people in darkness not see a great light, every night?

In the classic carol, “Little Drummer Boy,” there are two lines which go:

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum 

I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum 

This verse presents the Incarnation in a striking way.  A boy who is weathered by the elements, who knows hunger, who is always only days away from wasting away – this boy empathizes with the King of Kings, because the King has so completely relinquished His power.

He has arrived utterly powerless, utterly impoverished, an infant lying among beasts.  Of course a shepherd boy could relate.

What’s more, a few lines later – “Then He smiled at me.”

This can be our Lord’s simple pleasure at a shepherd boy’s humble song.  Then again, if you hold in mind the shared poverty, something else emerges:  It is a blessing.

The baby to the boy:  Your humble station, your poverty, are not the shackles you think they are.  You are here before the Almighty, aren’t you?  Did you not see the heavens open up, and angels arrayed like a mighty army, singing my praises?  And with Me, what will be impossible for you?

Of course, on the one hand, we cannot have our own birthdays every day.  Even if you tried to celebrate every day this way, it would – very quickly – exhaust your body’s ability to feel pleasure and your mind’s ability to call it happiness.

So that is the first answer:  Celebrations stand out from ordinary time, and require the experience of ordinary time in order to create the contrast, the novelty, the superlative atmosphere for which they are known.

See it another way – our ordinary experience in the modern world is Christmas-like for those from another place or time.  That the ordinary is no longer special is not only tautological, but part of the human condition.

The second answer rides aloft upon the first:  We are not home yet.

The Incarnation was a rescue mission, an invasion by God Himself to save His children when nothing else would work.

That He arrived as a baby was a profound stratagem, one that brought Him deftly behind enemy lines.  He evaded the princes and principalities, and He softened the guard each of us keeps on our hearts.

That the Almighty became frighteningly vulnerable; that the all-knowing became ignorant of His own name; that He who is Holy, Holy, Holy was tempted to sin…

All of this was done, to save you.

Nothing could be more extraordinary.  “Christmas every day” could never capture it, and it is undesirable in any case – because it would be a fraud.

What Christmas gives us is a flickering light through a dark glass.  It is nostalgic, like the memory of a long-deceased father who loved us very much.  It is one frame per second of the memory we wish could play over and over again.

It is, in short, a reminder of our true home.  Not even Christmas – not the best, most magnanimous, most inclusive, most abundant moment of Christmas – can truly accomplish what is longed for when we ask for Christmas every day.

That is achieved when God remakes the heavens and the earth – this world, the darkness, will pass away.

Everything else is a paltry imitation, and even the holy day itself merely points to this.  You will know it is really Christmas when you hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”



I’m late to the The Newsroom party, but not as late as I was to The West Wing.  The West Wing was quite a show, and among other things, I was highly titillated by the walk and talks, the snappy dialogue, the impossible-to-be-real witticisms.  I was one of those about whom Thomas Schlamme said, “They say they hate our politics, but love the show.”

Actually, I didn’t hate the politics.  I just disagreed with some of them.  Where some people agreed with the politics, they seemed not to like the dialogue.  They thought it just wasn’t realistic, and that it was turn-off, and that became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But I thought that the dialogues were realistic – we just don’t often operate at that level, though perhaps we should.  I think that’s one of Aaron Sorkin’s morals in the series.  Do better (better angels).

Anyway, they were entertaining to this viewer.

We (my wife and I, and our housemate) just watched the “Bullies” episode of The Newsroom, which comes to a head when Will McAvoy berates a black, gay man, Sutton Walls, on primetime television for advising the campaign of Rick Santorum.  Santorum, of course, is against gay marriage in real life …and on the show.  (I think this point is not as obvious as it seems).

The line of McAvoy’s questioning suggests that Walls has failed an implicit ethic that he should never support or work for a candidate who opposes gay rights.  Doing so makes him a traitor to the cause.

Finally, Walls dispenses with his canned responses and forbearance and turns on McAvoy with a fury.  How dare McAvoy, Walls wants to know, decide for him what is important to his life and what is not?  How dare McAvoy make him nothing more than “black” and “gay”?  And he throws back the charge that McAvoy assumed he was immune to – stop being so narrow-minded.

One can almost feel Walls’ breath, his unconscious perturbations in space and time, coming through the screen.

And this is something like what I mean by being wholesome.

Or, as the poet Marc Barnes has said elsewhere, you are not a walking erection.  You are not your genitalia.

The best demonstration of wholesomeness I have seen – that I have the privilege of seeing – is in young children.  They are not yet left-handed or right-handed, not yet defined by sexuality, not yet even defined by religion or lack thereof.  (Ours are baptized, as fits children of Catholic parents, but none of them would tell you that he or she is Catholic)*.  They are not even defined, not really, by their likes and dislikes (the credit or blame for which probably falls on their parents).  Our eldest does not like tomatoes, but she is not defined as “she-who-does-not-like-tomatoes”.

In fact, none of this makes any sense to them.  I dare to say that when you ask them to think self-reflectively, the thing that comes next in their minds is best described as “essence.”  They can only conceive, vaguely, that they exist, and that they think and do and feel certain things.  They could tell you about their family and friends, their social happenstance.  And then – at least if my memory serves me – the rest is pure potency.

They are whole persons, and not the sum of their parts (which sum always seems to add up to less than a whole person).

But ask many people today, and you’ll get descriptors flattened out and sterilized – political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, gender.  You will hear them listed like height, weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.  They don’t describe a person, they describe 3/10 of a caricature.  No one brings their biologically significant statistics to a first date or a job interview; nor should they walk around as though their socially “significant” statistics are at all indicative of the kind of person they are, or the kinds of things they would die for, or the true content of beliefs they hold.

You are – in all likelihood – sexual, but you are not only sexual.  Only the fool, or the coward, or worse, the devil, emphasizes it beyond proportion.  Sutton Walls understood this, and I admire him, even if he’s fictional.  He’s at least one person speaking the truth, even if we need to remove him from reality to give him a platform.  (The irony – that he’s actually a caricature, properly defined, doing better at speaking the truth than real persons – is not lost).

And circling back to the fictitious Mr. Walls – why was he supporting Santorum, anyway?  He was crusading against abortion.  He said, with all possible fire and conviction, that he believed as strongly as Santorum did about abortion, and he would fight to protect the rights of the unborn.  What do we make of a gay, black, pro-life man?

Make this of him – he is a whole person.  Even if Walls does not exist, that man does.  You have not, by identifying three characteristics, somehow portrayed the whole man.

I know that particular line – the stance against abortion – merely comes from the pen of Aaron Sorkin; it also comes from the heart of men like me, “white” and “straight,” who try to be complete human beings.  It speaks of recognizing personhood.


*I hope it will not be interpreted that I am wishy-washy about religious education.  Why would I believe what I do, unless I thought it was the truth?  If I think it’s the truth, why wouldn’t I tell my children about it?  But my point is that we do not emphasize beyond proportion that we are Catholic, and that children do not innately gravitate toward a religious identification.  Though…if I may extend the footnote…they may implicitly gravitate toward a catholic – in the sense of universal – religious sensitivity.

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Venerable Antonietta Meo

Venerable Antonietta Meo

Antonietta may become the  youngest (non-martyr) saint ever canonized by the Catholic Church.  At least that’s what Wikipedia tells me.

This is really amazing.  I think this is probably a good example of what Jesus meant by child-like faith.  Thanks to Mike Lloyd for the link.

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It is difficult to capture the miracle of the Resurrection.

On the one hand, we all experience it every day, arising from our sleep.  On the other, none but a small child believes he goes to sleep for the last time when he lays down his head.  (Is it a terror of existential darkness that causes young children to avoid bedtime?)

The finality of death is a cleft in the mind, the pit into which all fall and none recover.  What one makes of this creates a divide, while there is no division about waking up each morning.

What happens after we die?  Many guesses.

Whether death is an end, whether it just is the observed failure of the body to persist, whether it is the excising of a very particular person and presence from the world in the way she was commonly known?  Yes, no one argues this.

Put it this way:  Say you believe a loved one lives on, and well he might.  Now you observe him in little signs, a serendipitous word from a stranger, a rare species of flower where one does not ordinarily find it, an annoying thing he always did that comforts you now.  Here is the test:  Would you rather have these little signs for another 10 years, or one more day with him, in his fullness?

Death forces your hand, leaves you the scraps when you crave the feast.  It is a savage compromise, but that is the Universe we are in.

So much for the true and severe loss of death.

Now Good Friday is the collapse, the utter devastation and lifeless plummet into the pit.  It is the heavy-weight fight, the clash of Titans – Life vs. Death.  And Life, as expected (though recklessly hoped against) staggers and falls from unimaginable height to unimaginable depth.

One loses his breath.  Of course he does – he watches the Source of that breath, breathing His last.  He goes under, lost, never to return.


Easter Sunday is the unfathomable resurgence, the great inhale, the impossible gasp.  It is the cure of all depression, it is cause for an old man to leap to his feet and run like a child, it is fire and purpose to accept, stare down, … praise God for a torturous death.

Or become child-like again.  If the night brings terrors, what does the day bring?  What irrepressible joy comes with the dawn of a new sun?  What verve of anticipation passes through your bones just to think of Christmas morning?  (And why Christmas morning, and no other?)

Run, and never grow weary.


Easter is our great Hero finding the bottom of a bottomless pit.  It is saving the souls of the irredeemably lost.

It is slipping into darkness, clawing to stay awake, alive…the sheer terror of all joy, all love, all of everything being ripped away…

…and then you wake up, and there are no more tears, and all you know is love and joy and the thrill of existence.

See – It is death that is impossible.  You will live.

Happy Easter.

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Two Catholic Guys Podcast – Episode 3 – Lectio Divina

Two Catholic Guys Podcast – Episode 2 – The Rosary

Two Catholic Guys Podcast – Episode 1

Two Catholic Guys Podcast – Episode 1

The Podcast Episode 1 marks the return of the podcast. In this episode Adam and Ed set up the new podcast series on Catholic devotionals as well as take questions from the mailbag.

Two Catholic Guys Minute for May 29th, 2016

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