Saturday, August 20, 2011


Well, look at that! Amanda over at Old Fashioned Girl has given me an award. It is an award to acknowledges wee little blogs like this one, with under 200 followers. It is very kind of her. There is only one thing that I can say about it:

Thanks Amanda!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How Beautiful A Day Can Be....

Every once in a while a day will come along that is as nearly perfect as it is possible for things to be on this Earth of ours. Today was just such a day for me. To begin with, the World Pipe Band Championships were being streamed live on BBC Scotland. The Worlds began at about 9 am British Standard Time, which would have put it at about 1 am here. I had to go into work at 8:30, so obviously pulling an all-nighter was not going to work for me. However, I did get up at a little past 5 and got in a solid couple hours of listening some really superb music, by the best bands in the world. This is the first time I've seen the broadcast for the competitions, and I found it tremendously exciting. Indeed, even if no other pleasant thing happened to me for the rest of the day, that glorious beginning put me in so fine a mood that it wouldn't have mattered.

In addition to getting a really good dose of piping, however, I also discovered that Celtic FC, out of Glasgow (my favourite football team*) beat out Dundee United 5-1 in their first serious game of the season. They beat Manchester United in a friendly match last week too, so they are off to a brilliant start.

And my own piping practice today went like a dream. I have been struggling with my pipes all summer, and practices have mostly been something of a purgatory for me. Today, however, everything seemed to lock in. I cannot remember the last time I sounded as decent as I did today, nor the last time that piping was so much fun. Och, there were still issues, don't get me wrong. I have a fiddly reed that takes forever to settle in when I'm playing, and which is highly sensitive to the slightest variances in pressure, so I was still cutting out a little bit, and the tuning, while acceptable, was not all it could have been... but, oh, I had the tunes, and my fingers were doing what I wanted them to do, and the over all sound was really very presentable indeed. I felt like a million dollars by the end of that!

Last but not least, when I was going for a quick stroll during my afternoon break, I passed a birch tree that shed a couple very lovely golden leaves on me. It is too early for autumn, and, indeed the day was quite warm. I think that this particular tree is changing colours more because of the abuse it has endured most the summer, with drain work and road work disturbing it continuously, rather than because it is a herald of cooler days. But the leaves were very fall-like, and as I paused in a golden shaft of sunlight to look at the birch in surprise and delight, a little breeze wove around us, and the lovely, intoxicating bitter-spice smell of autumn came wafting from it, making my happiness complete.

* soccer for those of you who think I meant a sport involving tackling and massive shoulder guards.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our Lady of the Snows

Today is a rather unique feast day in honour of our Lady - Our Lady of the Snows. It is an odd title, and it is even odder to be celebrating such a feast day during the high summer days of August. There is a very good reason for it, though, for it commemorates a miraculous fall of snow, which marked the location upon which Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the principle churches in Rome, was to be built. The legend of our Lady of the Snows runs like this: In the 4th century, during the reign of Pope Liberius, a holy man named John and his wife, being childless, made a vow to leave their earthly possessions to our Lady, and prayed that she would inspire them how best to dispose of their wealth in her honour. In answer to their prayer, she appeared to the holy couple, in a dream, and to the Holy Father as well, requesting that they build a church in her name upon the Esquiline Hill, and that she would give them a sign to show where the exact location was to be. The following morning, they all went in procession to the Esquiline Hill, to discover that a heavy snow had fallen during the night, to mark the location of Our Lady's church.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the oldest churches in the world to be dedicated to our Lady. It contains two very special relics, relating to her motherhood: a very ancient painting of the Madonna and Child, which is attributed to St. Luke; and the Crib of our Lord. It is the possession of that Crib that gives the Basilica its secondary title of Santa Maria del Presepe - St. Mary of the Crib.

On the feast of Our Lady of the Snows each year, a shower of white rose petals are dropped from the roof during Mass, to commemorate the miraculous snow that marked the church's foundation. Here is a clip of it: