Saturday, February 27, 2016

new octopus video

I love Norcia, and am not going to move if I can help it.

Normally I only post videos of very small subjects, that's where my interests lie and what I have the equipment to do very well. But this encounter with an octopus out hunting on the reef was just too fun not to share. It really seemed unbothered by my following it. Notice how it would whip its tentacle membranes over an entire coral head to catch anything that might try to escape. This was filmed at Nathan's Dent on Guam with a GoPro that was mounted to the cold shoe on my DSLR housing. I hope you'll enjoy and share it. (Octopus cyanea, thanks Ron Silver).

Posted by Macronesia on Saturday, 13 June 2015
But man, o man, do I miss the sea...


Sunday, February 21, 2016


I ran into Fr. Benedict and Br. Augustine when I was on the way home from town this morning after running some errands. They were on their way up my road and off to the nearest village, Cortigno, to offer Mass, which they said is a very beautiful place. They kindly offered me a quick lift home up the hill, and in the two minutes it took, told me, with a little eye-glimmer, "Go look at"

"Is it about the beer?"

It's always about the beer.

For a long time I thought Chimay (red) was the best beer I'd ever had or was likely ever to have again (my mother's home made and heavenly raspberry lager notwithstanding). But this stuff beats it.

The big monastic news of the winter is that they've started shipping it to the US. You can order some here on their website.


Saturday, February 20, 2016



Those mornings when the entire pot of espresso has no effect whatsoever. Sssooooooo sleeeeeeepyyyy...

I raked up about ten tarp-loads of leaves yesterday afternoon, some of them very heavy from weeks of rain and snow. There are four oak trees in my garden, that is about 90% slope. And I guess oaks only fruit every other year because I really don't remember last year having the same Egyptian Plague-level of acorns. Acornpocalypse. I must have raked up 60 pounds of the things, and yesterday spent quite a bit of time pulling up the little mini oak trees where tiny forests of them had taken root at the base of the rose bushes.

Today's job is to get the last of the leaves up and start digging in the composted leaves from last year into an area I've started turning into a veg bed. I've composted two buckets of soil from kitchen scraps too, so it will be really good soil.

After that my big ambition is to take the billhook I got for Christmas and build a wattle fence for my bed. There's so much hazel around here they won't even notice me cutting rods. Should have done it in January before the sap started running, but ... oh well...

I love this guy's accent. Sounds like home to me.

My mother told me once that her uncle Bill was a hurdle maker. Can't let the family trade die out.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I still miss her

I can't tell you all how much I miss little Winnie. While I was sick, she started sleeping next to my pillow so the first thing I saw every morning was her little face looking back at me, little sleepy slow blinks to let me know she still liked me.

The day before she died, I took a long hike up into the hills behind the town, looking for a good place for her. She had seemed a little stronger that day, but the next day she was obviously sinking very fast. Dr. B came that evening and I took her up to the hills the next day and built a little cairn of big stones over her.

People don't think cats are important, or they think they don't get attached to us, but it's not true. They don't show it the same way, but the attachment is just as strong.

It's getting to be pretty springy around here now, and the kitties are having a ball in the garden. They're pretty awesome, but I can say that I haven't really bonded with them the same way I did with Winnie. She was my alter ego. We understood each other.

God is more kindly and delicate about our feelings and hurts than we could ever be. He gave us pets, and for a lot of us who are going through life with a little more damage than we can handle, attachment to these little creatures is more helpful than we usually think.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Slow Life

No, Norcia isn't like this.

But it sort of feels like this, in a way that's hard to describe.

I do my laundry by hand, on the whole. In the bath. And I hang it on the line.

I'm amazed all the time at the things my friends think are absolute necessities. I don't want a washer, and couldn't afford to run one of those wasteful things if I had one. The gas for heating the water, the electricity, the water itself. And for what? So I can save time and effort. Yes? Time that could be better spent doing what? Surfing the net, perhaps? Watching TV?

The picture to the left is page 8 of the Luttrell Psalter.

See the rest here.


Reasons to love the innernet: the Macronesia project

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that the larger issues of state and Church and whatnot are really not what get me through the days.

There are a lot of reasons to trash the internet, and I've not been holding back on them lately. But I always add the caveat that I actually really love the innernet. I wouldn't be employed without it, for one thing, and I'd probably still be living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, would never have gone to Toronto, never started writing professionally and never have reconnected with my family in England or lived in Italy or moved to Norcia or become an Oblate.

Another thing I probably wouldn't have done was get into cephalopods or marine biology, a rediscovery of an avid childhood interest.

Marine Biology, however, is a huge motivator.

The name says it all: the flamboyant cuttlefish is one of the most striking cephalopods, in appearance and behavior. Usually no more that 8 cm (3 in), their small stature is offset by their big and bizarre behavior and literally "flashy" coloration. They usually move around by "walking" along the bottom, waddling by moving the bottom of the mantle back and forth in a comical elephant-like shuffle, while undulating their fins and waving their brightly-colored tentacles. When startled, they will "gallop" off, darkening in coloration and waving their tentacles wildly. Most striking is their habit of flashing black and white bars of color along the mantle. When at rest, they can go light or dark to find camouflage on the ocean bottom.

The flashy color and flagrant behavior is no bluff...they are highly toxic, one of only three poisonous cephalopods.

One very useful thing about the innernet, arguably the most important thing it does after informing, is getting people together. The other day a good friend sent me a link to the Facebook page of 2240 other people who think cephalopods and nudibranchs and sea stars and mantis shrimp are the best thing evah.

No, I'm not kidding. Ask anyone who actually hangs out with me.

Will Hilary suddenly interrupt a perfectly good conversation about Pope Francis or the end of the world with the exclamation, "You guys have to see this amazing cuttlefish!"

Yes. Yes I do. All the time.

More people than you would think are big cephalopod fans. Here's a guy, Shane Siers, who has made a whole career out of making videos of the cuttlefish and other fauna in a tiny island in the South Pacific. Macronesia.

My kinda people.