November 7th, 2005

little review

Poem for Monday

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It was another perfect day, perhaps 70 degrees at peak where I live though a few degrees cooler in the mountains above Frederick, and since George W. Bush was out of the country and there was no chance Camp David would be in use, we went to Catoctin Mountain National Park. The lower part of the hills are still mostly green with some orange and red, then there's a band of reddish orange, and near the top of the mountain it's almost all shades of yellow and brown -- it's like winding through the progress of autumn in one place. From the top of Catoctin Mountains one can see the Blue Ridge, though it's more of a golden ridge now. We had a picnic and hiked two different trails, though we made many detours because there is a lot of rock rising out of the ground on the mountain, which was part of the original ancient Appalachian chain dating from the Precambrian era -- erupted, then covered by sea-bottom sediment, then altered into metabasalt and eroded, so that intrusive granite basement rock more than a billion years old underlies the visible Catoctin Greenstone. Naturally our kids had to climb on as many of these rock formations as possible.

Then, because we were only about ten miles away, we decided to do something I say I want to do every time we drive past this area on the way to my in-laws' and went to the Grotto of Lourdes, a national shrine adjacent to Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg. This area is incredibly beautiful and the grotto, church and sculptures are built to fit into the hilly wooded landscape, which was dedicated two decades after the visions at Lourdes but had been a sacred space since the early 1700s when a group of Catholics left the area of St. Mary's City after conflict with the Puritans and settled in the area. Mother Elizabeth Seton, the first American-born saint, lived in the area for a time and her son is buried in the cemetery on the mountainside. There are reproductions of many well-known works of art set among the flowers and trees of the outdoor shrine, which also has a fountain fed by a spring.

News bullet today indicated that Threshold is moving to Tuesday nights opposite Commander in Chief -- it figures there are two women I really like on TV and they're going to be in the same time slot! Tonight we watched the live West Wing debate which was entertaining but bore almost no resemblance to a real presidential debate; I understand the decision to play it as an actual debate rather than the staged monstrosities we actually get between candidates, for both dramatic and ideological reasons, but at times it got didactic and at other times it just felt a little absurd which I guess is inevitable in a live recreation of a political event. (We were wondering whether anyone would turn it on, see the NBC News Live logo in the corner and think they'd stumbled upon a real political event...between two Democrats, because there aren't any Republicans of national prominence as moderate as Vinick, to my great regret!) Santos said some stuff I wholeheartedly agreed with and cheered, but for the first time maybe ever watching The West Wing I felt like I was being lectured, which might be an inevitable drawback of the debate format.

Since the kids were still awake, we put Rome off till the late Wednesday broadcast and watched the History Channel special on the Crusades, The Crescent and the Cross, which was quite interesting and kept our older son engrossed even though it covered information I know he'd heard in other documentaries we watched with him. Where do they find all these good looking professors to interview? *g* They covered the Jewish massacres by the Catholics and various other topics not always dealt with -- the impulse in so many discussions still seems to be to find ways to justify European excesses or portray the Christians and Muslims as equally culpable in all the atrocities that went on. It was interesting hearing about Marian pacifism and Urban II the same day.

And then, nervously, we watched the end of the Redskins-Eagles game. And Washington won!

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I read The Historian the whole way there and back even though I really wanted to look out the window, too; it's one of those books that is absolutely compulsive. Dracula and Eastern European history and Western European cities and university professors and a mystery and a romance...I am enjoying this as much as the original, and that is really saying something! And now I must go to bed, as I have another Ridiculously Early Morning tomorrow!