Archive | June, 2008

Anticipation builds

June 23, 2008


My mind took a turn toward the largemouth bass on Saturday when I strolled the shore of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. I was carrying my camera and setting up a shot of a wedding party with Lake Harriet in the background.

I took just a brief moment to scan the now-weedy waters and think of upcoming bass-fishing trips. I have never fished Harriet, but spend a good deal of time on three neighboring lakes — Calhoun, Lake of the Isles and Cedar. Harriet intrigues me and I would really like to try it this summer. It has muskies and walleyes and some people say it has some nice bass in it.

I intend to find out first hand. One positive thing is it doesn’t seem to get much pressure for bass. That’s always a good thing and generally makes a lake appealing to me. Also, the lake seems a lot like Calhoun in terms of depth, water quality and weed growth. It is infested with eurasian watermilfoil, just like Calhoun and the others. Although some folks, especially sailing enthusiasts and swimmers, consider milfoil a curse, it’s actually great for bass. As many anglers know, bass love cover, especially weeds, and milfoil offers plenty of it. Therefore, you can often find lots of bass in milfoil, especially bigger ones.

That said, it is also well documented that milfoil can be very difficult and frustrating to fish. I have found this to be true, but with the right tackle and technique, milfoil can be cracked. I have caught nice bass on the city lakes, all the way up to 21 inches. All were caught in and around milfoil. Yes, the fishing can be tedious and, often, a slower and deeper presentation is most effective. Yet, the rewards can be great. I look forward to a great summer of fishing bass. As strange as this sounds, my favorite and best time to fish for bass is July and August. The fish are deeper, but they bite better and more consistently than many people realize.

Just ask the tournament pros. Years ago, some told me they bring in their heaviest catches in July and August. I remember a two-day tournament in late July on Lake Minnetonka when a pair of bass anglers won with about 70 pounds. For some people, that’s a summer’s worth. The interesting thing is, some of the other teams came in with a total weight of more than 60 pounds. That doesn’t sound like dog days to me!

Here’s the best part — because of the outboard motor ban on the city lakes and the belief by many that the fishing slows in July and August, I often have some of the spots I fish, if not the whole lake, to myself. That’s hard to beat. I often have a big grin on my face when I land a nice bass and look around to see no other fishing boats in sight. Usually, the ones I do see are manned by muskie anglers, which is just fine with me. In fact, I do hook and occasionally land a muskie while fishing for bass. So much the better.

As of right now, I’m planning on my annual Fourth-of-July outing with my friend Dave. It’s an annual tradition that we both look forward to. Dave shares my passion for bass and he really likes to find new spots and try new techniques for bass. We talked yesterday and are making our plans for the Fourth. If we go nice and early, we won’t have trouble finding a parking spot, which is one problem you can run into on Calhoun, especially on weekends and holidays. There is only street parking near the boat landing and the spots can fill up fast. That’s why I often go on weekdays, when the parking is usually easier.

Now that the weather is finally heating up, the bass soon will establish their summer patterns, which involves moving out to the deeper weedlines. They’ll stay there all summer and well into the fall. I’ll tie on jigs and plastics and have at it. I can’t wait ’til my first bite — and first bass aerial show — of the summer!

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Can you live like a monk? To create a better world, maybe we all should!

June 18, 2008


“Finding the Monk Within: Great Monastic Values for Today,”
by Edward C. Sellner

We would live more fulfilling lives — and our 21st-Century society would be a better off — if we were to adopt the values lived by monks and monastic communities through the ages.

That’s the message Ed Sellner delivers as he shares the wise ways of holy people who lived the ascetic life in various ways since the times of the early church. He summarizes it so well with his perceptive concept that every person today needs “to live simply, to pray often, and to choose well,” but there’s so much more that adds practical, concrete approaches that anyone can take up — and not have to move to a monastery to do so.

Sellner, who teaches at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, has really done yeoman’s work here in this HiddenSpring publication by Paulist Press. The 272-page book — minus notes — takes readers on a journey through the lives of a handful of monastic “celebrities,” if you will.

Chapters include the likes of Athanasius of Alexandria, Antony of Egypt, Martin of Tours, Hilary of Poitiers, Augustine and Monica, Brigit of Kildare, Gregory the Great, Benedict and Scholastica, and Bernard of Clairvaux, among others. Sellner shows how the monastic tradition grew and developed from the Third Century in the Middle East to Europe in the Middle Ages as monastics learned from their elders and added charisms that were needed at their time in history.

The stories of these saintly folks aren’t always compelling reading, but there are enough passages of interesting details in their lives that will keep a reader moving through the pages. The gift of this work, though, is that Sellner consistently brings the reader back to the values these ancient folks practiced and why those values are important for those of us currently on the planet.

Which holy figures teach what values?

  • Athanasius: Sharing stories, “and that one does not have to be a monk in a monastery to live out monastic values today.”
  • Antony: Silence and solitude, and how they can foster discernment, the ability to begin to see differences between right and wrong.
  • Hilary of Poitiers and Martin of Tours: faith, and its participative and communal dimension.
  • Augustine and Monica: friendship.
  • Jerome, Paula and Eustochium: the need for qualified spiritual mentors.
  • John Cassian and Germanus: the value of disclosing our secrets, plus dedication to inner work.
  • Brigit and other Irish monastics: compassion, and including lay people in monastic communities and women in decision-making and leadership positions.
  • Gregory the Great: contemplation.
  • Benedict and Scholastica: stability and love.
  • Bernard of Clairvaux: learning to read the “book of experience,” the book of our lives, as well as the book of our hearts.

Why would anyone wish to follow in the footsteps of the monastic headliners?

To both develop an interior life and to make a difference in the world, according to Sellner. To do so one needs to identify the values the monastics lived and incorporate them into their own deeper selves.

“These are not only monastic values,” he writes, “but values of the soul — and they apply to everyone, regardless of gender, occupation, material status, or place of residence.”

Sellner puts it well in his conclusion:

“What our study of monasticism reveals is that to affirm and nurture the growth of the true inner self a ‘new monk’ must develop an asceticism of loving. This form of asceticism, so much need today, presumes that to love well a person needs discipline, the setting of limits, the investment of time and energy in relationships and work that reflect at least some of the values discussed here.

“Such an asceticism of living involves a commitment to growth in self-knowledge, self-discipline, and self-love, all based upon the profound conviction, so difficult at times to believe, that God created us for a purpose, that God loved us first. To discover this and make this a daily, lived experience, one must learn to listen to the heartbeat of God.” — bz

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An interesting vacation

June 16, 2008


Our family got to spend last week at a lake near Bemidji. The good news: The lake was beautiful, it held some nice crappies that we caught and cooked, and my new boat worked splendidly.

The bad news: The weather was stormy and volatile all week, with lots of rain, high winds and cold temperatures. Get this: The high last Wednesday was only 49 degrees! Hard to believe it was that cold in the middle of June. But, that’s the kind of year it has been.

Amazingly, despite the cold, the mosquitoes were out in full force. In fact, they were abundant and ravenous. And, try as we might, we couldn’t keep them from infiltrating the cabin. So, by week’s end, we all were sporting welts aplenty.

Yet, there was much to be grateful for. And, I led our family in a short “gratitude” session on the drive back home. I feel it is important to cultivate the virtue of gratitude. So, I instructed every member of our family to say aloud things he/she is thankful for. It’s a good thing to do. And, it can help us keep a balanced perspective.

I, for one, am grateful for the wonderful couple, Bill and Margaret, who let us use the cabin in exchange for some photography services. They stayed later than they wanted to on the day we arrived to make sure we knew how everything worked and where to find things that we needed. And, Bill came up the night before we left and helped me load my boat onto the trailer the next day. The heavy rains had left the steep gravel loading ramp soft and our minivan does not have four-wheel drive. So, I was worried about being able to drive back up the ramp with the boat on the trailer. Bill and his son, John, came to the rescue with a four-wheel drive vehicle and some muscle to get the boat on the trailer and up the ramp.

Bill also has a nice fish-cleaning station set up on the back end of the garage. It features a nice, tall table, which meant I didn’t have to bend over and get a sore back from cleaning the crappies I caught. And, best of all, there were not one but two electric fillet knives at my disposal. I have been curious about them and have seen others use them with great success. I had been wanting to try one and, last week, I got my chance.

I’m happy to report that the Mister Twister electric fillet knife performed magnificently. It was easy to use and fast. Someone had told me previously that it takes a while to learn how to use it and that I should plan on ruining a few fish during the learning process. In this case, I botched only two of 21 crappies on the first try and zero of six on the second. Pretty good “filleting” average, I would say.

Upon returning home, I did the natural thing: Put that knife on my Father’s Day list. And, my wife, Julie, happily obliged. But, I’m not sure, at this point, if it means I will get permission to go on more fishing trips. For now, I’ll stick closer to home.

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Conflict boils over in novel about post-Vatican II parish life

June 16, 2008


“Waiting for Mozart,”
by Charles Pilon

A page-turning novel because of the drama in the conflict, yet not exactly bestseller quality?

Interesting characters, but sometimes quasi-believable stereotypes?

Spot-on lessons for life, yet propaganda-filled?

The questions were the aftertaste from furiously reading Chuck Pilon’s “Waiting for Mozart.”

It’s a good novel, if you judge by the fact that you just have to keep reading to find out how the conflict is going to end between the pastor and the parish council at fictional St. Mary Parish in fictional Mapleton, Minn.

But the getting there isn’t smooth.

I’m certain there is a parish somewhere where disagreements are unknown, but I’ll bet everyone who has ever been involved with a parish council – or run up against seemingly unreasonable leadership in any setting – will both recognize and empathize with the people caught up in St. Mary’s tempest.

Pilon’s captured the flavor of some of that in the post-Vatican Council II church. Since he formerly served as a priest, I’m sure that he’s writing in part from real-life experiences.

Yet the jagged edges of the writing, the dialogue that just doesn’t sound like any real person speaks, are distracting, from a literary critique point of view. I’d have loved to have read this book after a tougher editor got a hold of the text.

For contrast, think of the crisp repartee in the play “Mass Appeal,” for example, superb writing on a similar subject matter.

As delicately as it is worded, there’s propaganda on these pages, and maybe enough to anger Catholics on several sides of the celibate male priesthood concept. Pilon has an archbishop character predict that, “When the time is right, the Holy Father will make the change in a way that will re-introduce the idea and the practice of having a married clergy. Eventually that will include women.”

That kind of statement would surely earn the darts of one segment of the church, but then the character quickly adds, “That’s my opinion. I think it’s coming, but the Church isn’t ready for it. The people aren’t ready.” And that will just as surely tick off another segment. The permanent diaconate takes a shot as well.

But this is a novel, after all, and it deserves to be read as a novel. The propaganda isn’t hidden, it’s right out there in the open.

And the lessons Pilon shares are worth absorbing, such as:

  • “Sometimes the wrapping is as important as what’s in the package….Commitment and being right aren’t the only important things. You’ve got to reach the listener. It’s possible to always be right and never be heard.”
  • “We’ve got to keep in mind that the really crucial issues, even in today’s church, are few in number. Not many that a guy would want to die for. I don’t have to have an answer for everything.”
  • “The only day worth living is the day I do something to bring people together.”
  • “Be hard on the problem, go easy on the people involved.”
  • “When you’re in the heat of things, it’s hard to remember that war almost never brings peace. You forget that you can’t be a reformer if you think in terms of them and us. That way, everyone loses; nobody finds the Grail. You get fixed on final, forever-like answers. You write the last chapters when the story is still unfolding.”

So, despite it’s lack of perfection, “Waiting for Mozart” is worthy of print and worthy of reading both by the leaders of the church and the People of God, if only so that some of the novel’s lessons enter into those contentious times in church life. — bz

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Humbling experience

June 2, 2008


I was all set to take my family on my new boat’s maiden voyage yesterday. After a busy spring of turkey hunting, I was turning my thoughts to the fishing season.

The planned destination was Turtle Lake in Shoreview, but a packed boat landing and parking lot made a change of venue necessary. So, we journeyed farther west in Interstate 694 and pulled in to Lake Owasso. It was less crowded there and I was able to launch the boat within minutes.

I jumped in with my oldest son, Joe, and turned the key to start up the motor. The groaning sound indicated the battery power was too low. So, the cruise across the lake would have to wait. Then, I decided to try out the bow-mount electric trolling motor. Bad news there, too. The foot pedal was seriously out of adjustment, which made steering difficult.

So, I packed it in, loaded the boat back on the trailer and went home. End of trip. Unfortunately, on top of that, I reacted very poorly to the mechanical problems and set a poor example in front of my wife and children.

As I reflected and prayed about the episode later that day, I knew I needed to ask everyone’s forgiveness for my bad attitude and expression thereof. The great thing about kids is they’re very willing to forgive, especially when they know you’re sincere about your penitence, which I was.

The good news is, I’m already working on the remedies for the boat problems. I’ve got a battery on the charger that I bought last year and know is still good. Also, I called MinnKota and got information on how to adjust the foot pedal on the electric trolling motor. And, I hope to take the boat out later this week to make sure everything’s in good working order. After all, our family is going on a week-long vacation up north at the end of the week and I would like to have full confidence that the boat will function like it should.

I also hope and pray to have God’s blessings on all of us, and the boat, too. And, I think another worthwhile task this week would be to find out the patron saint of boaters.

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