Mise-en-scène

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Getting ready to film a reader in Bainbridge, Georgia.

A decade ago, during the summer of 2019, and during my husband Frank’s sabbatical, he and I worked on a book for Forward Movement. It was a Lenten Devotional called, A Spring in the Desert, and chock full of information about everything from cacti to camels.

The plan, when we finished the book, was to create a 20-lesson class at approximately five minutes for each lesson that Forward Movement would film. We created the classes and then the person who was to film us had family issues that would prevent them from doing so. It was then suggested that we film the class via Zoom. I was already well familiar with Zoom, at the time, as it was how I met with my writers’ group when one of our members moved to California, and the Communications Committee of Third Order, Society of St. Francis, met that way, as well.

As pretty much everyone can now testify, meeting via Zoom is not the most stimulating way to either converse or teach. The thought of people watching two talking heads for 100-minutes-plus appalled us. I also rebelled at the thought of having to teach that way as we would have to use notes and read so much of what we’d be teaching because of all the facts and quotes related in each class.

So, we offered to film and produce the classes ourselves. We were already flying to Arizona in late September to be present at our daughter’s White Coat ceremony for vet school; we decided to extend our trip by a few days so we could film some classes in the actual desert. Because Frank’s Nikon and iPad, and our iPhones, were already sufficient for filming, we invested in a teleprompter and a portable recorder with a shotgun microphone and headed west. We managed to get about half of the classes recorded in Arizona and finished the remainder once we were back in the Diocese. By this point, Frank has also become proficient at using a drone (practice made perfect while filming a documetary on Deaconess Anna Alexander) and we were able to use some drone footage in our classes as well. We chose as our payment for having filmed them the ability for the Diocese of Georgia to view those video classes for free.

Despite all we knew, we also learned a lot along the way, particularly that it is very difficult to film outside as airplanes are flying overhead nearly continuously and teleprompters aren’t nearly as easy to work with as one might think.

Preparing to film the sermon in Quitman, Georgia.

Fast forward a third of a year, and suddenly we are at the beginning of a pandemic that would drag on, and is still dragging on, for a lot longer than anyone dared imagine in March of 2020. Fortunately, though, Frank and I were already set up for filming, and by the time he was consecrated Bishop in May, we had learned a lot more. I’ll reiterate: complete silence is not a thing and to err is definitely human!

That is how we became a two-person film crew. With rare exceptions like Advent and Christmas and a few Livestreams that taught us livestreaming is fraught with things beyond our control, the two of us have filmed every Sunday service since this past June. Our churches are as far away as five hours in the southwestern corner of the state and as near as 0.7 mile away in our hometown of Savannah.

I volunteer my time for these services, which also helps lessen the Diocese’s financial burden. We have learned so much since this past March that even our production time has been trimmed down to the bare minimum and Frank saved up and bought himself a Black Magic Cinema camera, which has really helped our production values. Often, we will film two services in one day to further lessen our time on the road. It will be quite a readjustment when we go back to ‘normal’ visitations because they will take so much longer and cost nearly double what our virtual visitations do now. On the other hand, I look forward to visiting with more than a few people at time.

The best thing about filming these Diocesan services, though, is that they are a Diocesan effort—from the lay readers and clergy who take part in the services (masked and social distanced, naturally) to the musicians around the Diocese who offer their talents for each service by filming themselves and sending us the files. It has been a joy to behold the amount of talent present in our Diocese—something those of us who ‘attend’ these services might not have known otherwise. It has also been fun to show the Diocese their churches in the context of where they are located as well as the inside of the churches themselves. Not a single church in this Diocese is like another, and what a blessing that is!

White balancing and checking focus in Augusta, Georgia.

TAKE THEM EARTH FOR CHERISHING

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Cemetery

Take them, earth, for cherishing,
To thy tender breast receive them.
Bodies of men and women we bring thee,
Noble even in their ruin.

Once were these a spirit’s dwelling
By the breath of God created.
High the heart that here was beating,
Christ the Prince of all their living.

Guard them well, the dead we give thee,
Not unmindful of God’s creature
Shall God ask it, God who made it
Symbol of God’s mystery.

Take them, earth, for cherishing.  .  .
Comes the hour God hath appointed
To fulfill the hope of all:
Then, must thou, in a very fashion,
What I give, return again.

Take them, earth, for cherishing.  .  .
Not though ancient time decaying
Wear away these bones to sand,
Ashes that we might measure
In the hollow of a hand.

Not, though wandering winds and idle
Drifting through the empty sky,
Scatter dust was nerve and sinew,
Is it given to us to die.

Once again the shining road
Leads to ample Paradise;
Open are the woods again,
That the serpent lost for men

Take, oh take them, mighty Leader
Take again thy servants’ souls
Grave their name and pour the fragrant
Balm upon the icy stone.

Take them, earth, for cherishing,
To thy tender breast receive them,
Bodies of men and women we bring thee,
Noble even in their ruin.

By the breath of god created
Christ the Prince of all their living.
Take them, earth, for cherishing.

~~Adaptation of “Take Him Earth For Cherishing”
By Prudentius (348-413) Christian Roman Poet
Translated by  Helen Waddell.
Adapted by Sarah Buxton-Smith, November 2001
(at that time Chaplain, House of Bishops Spouses)

This poem was set to music in the 1960s by Herbert Howells for a dual American-Canadian memorial service, held in Washington, to mark the first anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death.  It’s been very popular in churches and concerts since.  Howells’s commission specified he could choose the text, and this is the poem he chose (in its original translated form “Take Him Earth for Cherishing”).  Howells had been aware of this poem at least since the death of his own (Howells’) son in the 1930s.  You can hear it here: Take Them Earth for Cherishing

The Run For the Roses

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TRFTR1

In 1970 (yes, I know, I’m dating myself), in the midst of my horse crazy years, my father gave me this little booklet prior to the Kentucky Derby that year. I remember we were houseboating that weekend and I had to listen to the Derby on my little electric blue transistor radio. Apparently, the booklet was an extra that came with the alcohol he had purchased:

TRFTR2

Honestly, I’m not sure I was aware of that until I retrieved this booklet from my bookshelf earlier this week after hearing that Secretariat had won the virtual Kentucky Derby on May 2. I remember watching Secretariat win his Triple Crown back in 1973, and I believe he still holds the record winning race time of 1 minute, 59.4 seconds.

After I confirmed that I’d dutifully noted his win that year:

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As I had every year through 1979 when I finally realized it was getting ridiculous and added some paper to make it all a little neater:

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And then never noted another win. Why? Probably college, first job, marriage, childbirth, etc., etc. By 1979, I had carried The Run for the Roses with me from California to Mississippi and then to Georgia, Hawaii and back to Georgia. Since then, it has traveled with me through at least 15 more moves.

So, looking at it this week, I had to wonder–why? With the internet, I can now easily look up who is winning the Derbies if I haven’t had a chance to see any. And now with digital photos and a blog post, I have access to this little bit of my history for the foreseeable future. The booklet has now been placed in the so-called “circular file” and that is one less object that will have to be dealt with upon my death.

And that is definitely one of the bright sides of this pandemic–it has helped me to refocus on what is really important to me.

A Prayer for Our Uncertain Times

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Jesuscovid-19

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love.

And during this time when we may not be able to physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.  Amen.

~~Fr. Michael Graham, S.J.

Magnolia Springs

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MSSP-Lime Sink Trail

Lime Sink Trail

After a week spent neck deep in editing a book for my cousin on top of dealing with the idiocy of our governor who decided it was time to open up hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys, I really needed to “get away” Saturday morning.

So, my husband and I took my little Turbo Abarth and motored up to Magnolia Springs State Park where we had the Lime Sink Trail all to ourselves.

Magnolia Springs has always had a special place in my heart as we often drove there with my grandparents when I was a child and picnicked next to one of the springs, cooled off in the swimming holes in the torrid southern heat, and toured the little aquarium with its native snakes, fish, and turtles.

According to its history: Magnolia Springs State Park encompasses over 1,000 acres between Perkins and Millen, Georgia. The park is named after, and built around, the crystal-clear spring water that flows through the area.

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The biggest of the springs.

During the Civil War, the area now encompassed by the park, was known as Camp Lawton. A stockade held Union soldiers captured as prisoners of war. The site was selected due to the abundant water supply. Between August and November 1864, Camp Lawton was planned, built, operated, and eventually abandoned. Despite its brief tenure, the prison held over 10,000 soldiers and was said to be the largest prison in the world at the time. The stockade was closed in November 1864, and its prisoners routed to other camps as General William T. Sherman’s army closed in during his infamous “March to the Sea.”

In 2010, archaeology teams from nearby Georgia Southern University uncovered parts of the stockade wall and artifacts from prisoners. Several of these artifacts are interpreted at the Magnolia Springs History Center located inside the park. Presently, archaeologists and historians continue to study this historic property to uncover more details about the camp and its occupants.

After the Civil War, The springs became a popular recreation destination long before the park was established. This area was used for picnics, church gatherings, reunions, and swimming for local citizens. These same citizens pushed for the development of the area for years until the park was officially created in 1939.

Like many early Georgia state parks, much of the infrastructure of Magnolia Springs was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, also known as the “CCC.” The CCC was responsible for damming the spring-fed stream to create a large swimming area for visitors, as well as building roads, a bathhouse, and other park buildings.

The land adjacent to Magnolia Springs State Park is the site of what was once the Millen National Fish Hatchery, later renamed the Bo Ginn National Fish Hatchery. The fish hatchery used water from Magnolia Springs to supply 25 ponds that raised sport and endangered fish. The fish hatchery was also home to a popular aquarium where visitors could observe native and raised fish. The hatchery operated until 2010, when it was closed by the Federal Government.

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Spring side water plants

These days, I would be hesitant to swim there as there are a number of alligators and water moccasins that call the swimming area their home!

To Fly Heavenward

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AngelLaurelGrove

Laurel Grove Cemetery

This is Love: to fly heavenward,

To rend, every instant, a hundred veils.

The first moment, to renounce life;

The last step, to fare without feet.

To regard this world as invisible,

Not to see what appears to oneself.”

~~Jalalu ’d Din, “Selected Poems from the Divan”