easter 2014

April 12, 2014 diario/journal, easter

regina caeli laetare – queen of heaven rejoice1st entry – easter 2014

Tues-Aug13 020The last three years, I’ve been in Kaua’i during April break and this year I’m heading back north to Sault Ste Marie. The last time I was there in April was 2010. I had my new Forester with its manual transmission. (I was figuring out how to be comfortable with a stick so that when in Italy I didn’t have to add driving anxiety to my list.)

The Christmas 2013 posts used the O Antiphons as titles. I’m going to try and use the Regina Caeli antiphons for this Easter 2014 set. And to compliment the old Latin title, I’m using the image of the bell-tower of the church in the old section of Piobbico. Through the trees and with its mountain background the setting too is evocative of a long ago time.


April 14, 2014 diario/journal, easter

rejoice and be glad, o virgin mary2nd entry – easter 2014

Sun-13 017aOn my way up to the Sault, I decided to take a different route and stop in at St. Gregory’s Abbey south of Kalamazoo. I knew of the place from my visits to the Episcopal community of monks in Cambridge. (One of the Christian Brothers I’ve been working with, on charter school issues, suggested we meet there to follow-up on our conversation.) The group in Michigan lives in a rural setting in the middle of the farming belt that runs through Ohio and Indiana.

The monastery is very simple, but very well cared for. The community of monks is small and reminded me of what the isolated monasteries in Europe must be like. The community at St. Gregory is even closer to the Catholic Benedictine tradition, using Latin hymns and prayers. My visit was brief, because the weather was turning miserable. This morning was cold, wet and windy and rather than stay the day, I headed north wanting to do the drive in daylight and hitting the UP mid-day rather than after the sun went down. Didn’t want to risk icy roads and blinding snow. (I am not exaggerating, the landscape 30 miles south was a winter wonderland.)

The image is of a ladybug on the wall of the guest house hallway. I couldn’t believe that in early April a ladybug was out and about. And a ladybug indoors meant good luck, so I had to shoot it. The original image was not good, but I knew that by cropping off most of it, I could create an interesting picture.

I had forgotten how variable April can be in the northern climates. The temperature here is in the 20’s and it’s snowing. Down in Pittsburgh it’s almost 70 degrees.


April 15, 2014 diario/journal, easter

the philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation3rd entry – easter 2014

The image is of my parents’ driveway this morning. This will be the last time that I will voluntarily come up here in April. If I come up to visit in the spring, it will be after mid-May. Coming back to winter is depressing.

Today, I finally went up to the Board of Education hoping to find a trove of old photographs of the elementary schools from back in the late 50’s. Found nothing. The Catholic Board is housed in the old convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The all-girls high-school – Mount St. Joseph College – next door is the curriculum department. Walking into the door of the old high-school was like going through a time warp. The lobby has had no renovations done to it. It still looks like it did back in the early sixties. Here was a location that I spent many hours in while at St. Mary’s, the all-boys high-school. The Mount was our sister school and we had many dances together. (For one semi-formal, I helped to decorate. I had this idea of hanging streamers from wires strung across the gym. It was lots and lots of yard-long streamers and one of the other guys helping got all pissed at my insistence that they be one yard long. That was the last time I ever volunteered to have anything to do with school dances. To this day, I avoid school dances.)


will be the philosophy of the government in the next generation

In the open/liberal days of the 60’s the separations and restrictions of the previous decades were beginning to fade away. By the time Jo’, Rose and Mary were at the Mount, the boys from St. Mary’s were coming over to take classes at the all girls’ school.

The visit had me thinking about all the generational shifts that I’ve seen. I began as a young man believing that the structures and agencies that I had grown up with were worth joining and embracing. The structures were provided by the Catholic Church, so I went off and joined a group of teaching Brothers. What I found when I got there was a group going through a generational shift and I saw the organization and Catholic education radically change. The structures and agencies fell apart as the modern world exerted itself on the old order. Little by little the world that I had grown up in disappeared. The Church and the immigrant community were radically altered. All the familiar sign-posts fell down and new ones could not stay up in the quicksand that was the late 60’s and early 70’s.

I went from a hill-top village in Calabria, to a steel-mill town in Northern Ontario, the a monastery in Rhode Island, to a college in the center of the world – NYC – all in 13 years.


April 16, 2014 diario/journal, easter

the son you bore is risen, alleluia4th entry – easter 2014

Yesterday, I wrote the first of a set of posts that deal with generational shifts. The idea came when I opened the door to the old Mount and walked in to find the lobby looking just like it did back in the late 60’s. The school is now part of the offices of the Catholic School Board. (In Ontario, the Catholic school system is known as the Separate Schools. It receives almost total government support through an agreement between the Federal Government and a number of influential Church officials back in the 1890’s.)

I keep thinking of how one generation, while it’s still young, accepts the beliefs and cultural norms of its parents’ generation. I believe I accepted the beliefs and cultural norms of my parents’ generation. I grew up in a world created by their parents, my grandparents and I had no true idea of the legacy that I was living in and adopted.

It was many years later that I realized my parents were war refugees. Not in the same way that my grandparents’ generation was. My grandparents left Italy between the wars. My parents left Italy after the war. And yet both groups were motivated by the wars. My grandparents ran from persecution and conscription, my parents ran from economic disaster and great food shortages. But it took me years to see my parents’ departure as connected to the war.

In elementary school in Aprigliano, I remember watching films about undetonated land mines, but it wasn’t until I was in my 50’s that I connected the dots and realized that my parents were children of the war. And that they left their native land and the memories of war behind when they came to Canada. I’ve read about concentration camp survivors who never talked about their experiences when they got out of Europe.

Zinga 130My parents never talked about the war. I was raised to believe that we left Calabria, because of economic reasons; that my dad left Calabria to find work and cash in on the benefits that came from a steady job. And yet my parents grew up in the 40’s. They were teenagers when Hitler marched through Europe; when Mussolini harangued the crowds from the stone balustrade, which overlooks Piazza Venezia. And yet not a word was uttered. Instead I saw pictures of Aprigliano, of their friends in long, elegant coats. (Mafalda is third from the left.) I remember wanting to look like them. And BTW, I have two long elegant coats of my own.

Tues-15 026In 1968 at 17, I left Sault Ste Marie believing that I was joining an organization that would set me on a path that was consistent with the values that I had learned in my parents’ home. I was joining a group of Brothers who dedicated themselves to teaching. I was maintaining both a religious tradition and an educational imperative. However, when I got to the Novitiate in Rhode Island, I discovered a group a men on the cusp of reform. Religious traditions and educational imperatives were old fashion; I was told that I belonged to a new generation. I was told to not trust anyone over 30. And so began the shift. I had permission to walk away from what I had learned while living in my parents’ house; while living within the immigrant community in Sault Ste Marie. Like my parents who forget to tell us about the war; I could forget my Catholic upbringing; forget my immigrant roots. I could grow my hair long; wear bell-bottoms; toke a joint. The moon was in the seventh house and the sun would shine onto the post-war world; there would be no more falsehoods or derision.

The image is the Canadian centennial symbol. Back in the late 60’s they built the library that I am now doing work in as a commemoration of Canada’s 100 birthday. I remember coming down to the library when we were in high-school and pretending to do homework when in reality we were hanging out in the new building.


April 19, 2014 diario/journal, easter

he has risen as he said, alleluia5th entry – easter 2014

This is the last of the Marian antiphons.Sat-19 011

I am back at Rose-and-Derrick’s in Oxford, Michigan.

Thursday morning, I woke up to the sound of the snow-blower. There was Ciccio, at seven in the morning, running the snow-blower; there were 4 inches of snow in the driveway. I went out and helped. It was the wet-snow typical of mid-April and even though it was disconcerting to be plowing the driveway in early spring, by the afternoon the snow had all melted. Friday morning, I left. I had escaped from Sault Ste Marie. Paul claims that I really escaped many years ago, but each time I cross over into Sault, Michigan I feel like I got away, again.

This morning Rose, Derrick and I went walking and there was this huge day-moon in a blue-blue sky. We spend the afternoon on the back deck in the sun. I even got a bit of color. Supper was phenomenal – home-made lasagna, breaded chicken, rapini, grilled potato wedges and a wonderful Barbera red from northern Italy. (The day makes it feel like I’m back in a world I recognize.)


April 20, 2014 diario/journal, easter

easter sunday and the sky is blue6th entry – easter 2014

Sun-20 013We called up to the Sault to wish them Happy Easter and the reply was – too bad we were on our own. What does that mean? Is there a magic number of invitees that suggests you aren’t a social failure when hosting Easter brunch? The coda to the too bad statement was the suggestion that we should have been with the rest of the family. Never mind that the weather in the Sault is rain and grey skies; never mind the 10 hour drive. (It’s at these times that I sit back and admit that with regards to family gatherings I have little in common with my parents.)

Easter brunch was great, there was ham, asparagus and frittata with chives, mushrooms and green onions. We began the meal, after our two hour walk, with Mimosas. We needed something to do while waiting for the ham to heat.

Our walk took us past a tall red-headed heron and a cardinal eating left over winter berries. The heron is in the image on the left; the cardinal is in the slide show. The trail is the old rail line that went through this part of south eastern Michigan. Once off the walking path, we continued through old Oxford with its renovated old houses. The new sub-divisions are on the western side of M24.


April 21, 2014 diario/journal, easter

open water – the north channellast entry – easter 2014

Wed-16 002The image is of the north channel. I’m standing on the St. Joe’s Island side of the bridge facing east and shooting towards the mainland – Northern Ontario. The channel has one of the fastest currents in the Great Lakes system and that’s why you can see open water. The other side of the Island faces Lake Huron; this far north, the Lake is a solid sheet of ice.

Easter Monday officially ends the season. In Canada and among the Italian expatriates in Sault Ste Marie, Easter is still a big to-do. My family, minus Mario, the Thormans, Melchiorres and McCaigs, had their Easter celebration at lunch. (My dad couldn’t understand that here in the U.S. the holiday is exclusively religious and not recognized by any government entity.)

eggs2Calabrian-Easter-Breads2There are two foods that I associate with Easter – the Mylar-wrapped chocolate eggs and the home-made breads with an egg imbedded in the braids. The chocolate eggs were tall, shinny and crinkly; they also had a small toy inside. Ciccio would buy each of his children one of these and give them to us on Easter Sunday. I remember the breads as wonders – because I was too young to understand that the egg cooked while the bread was in the oven, I kept expecting to tap the egg and have it still be raw. My mother still makes the braided Easter bread both the long and the round. However, in post-war Calabria there were no Jimmies to sprinkle on top of the Easter breads. And Mafalda would never blemish her Easter bread with something as American as Jimmies.

I spent most of the today on the road, driving home from Oxford. I left early this morning and was home by noon. Michigan-24 was heavy with commuters heading to their suburban offices, but 75 South and the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes had little traffic; I was able to maintain a speed above 75mph.