Tuesday, July 28, 2015


One would wonder if we go to the movies weekly???  Many of these movies I saw before I entered religious life.  My brother Jeff and I often went to Saturday matinees with friends, and my Mother was a real movie buff. We have had friends over the years who taped for us or sent us movies, so we can watch on Sunday night.

If I were to divide films into categories it would be:
    Favorite DIRECTORS:
Alfred Hitchcock would be at the top as he made so many movies that we like, esp. Rebecca, Rear Window, & North by Northwest.

I personally love the Coen Brothers: O Brother Where Art Thou (Mother Prioress' favorite)
Steven Spielberg:  I add him as he did some of my favorites: Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List
(already mentioned), Raiders of the Lost Ark (Indiana Jones series), and Back to the Future.

I take after my mother (who was an opera singer) as I do not like a lot of  MUSICALS but
West Side Story, American in Paris, Singing in the Rain, and My Fair Lady can't be beat.

Some movies on a lot of lists, I hated,  such as Forrest Gump (sorry America), Rocky, Les Miserables (miserable!), and The Truman Show.

CLASSICS not yet mentioned are: Gone with the Wind (I cried so hard the first time I saw it I was an emotional wreck for days- what can you expect of a 12 year old?) African Queen (still a movie we all like to watch- Hepburn & Bogart at their best), Lion in Winter, and the tragic Red Shoes.

BOOKS made into great movies: How Green Was My Valley, Old Man and the Sea, To Kill A Mockingbird, Wuthering Heights (the original with Merle Oberon & Laurence Olivier), Jane Eyre (again the original with Orson Welles & Joan Fontaine), Fried Green Tomatoes, The Life of Pi, and A Town like Alice (done in a series).

Other GREATS of long ago (really that long ago??) Roman Holiday, The Sting and Cool Hand Luke (both with the great Paul Newman), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Patton, Rainman, Star Wars, Driving Miss Daisy, Guess Who is Coming to Dinner, (Spenser Tracy shows up a lot), and Lady Hawk.

NOT SO LONG AGO GREATS: The Pianist, Dances with Wolves, In the Name of the Father Never Cry Wolf, As Good as It Gets, The Bucket List (Morgan Freeman again), Tea with Mussalini, The Impossible (which should have won Naomi Watts the Oscar), Avatar (I was not prepared to like this), Much Ado About Nothing (Kenneth Branagh & Emma Thompson).

Speaking of Emma, if it had not been made for TV,  she would have had an Oscar for Wit.

The Big Year (my Community said they understood my obsession with birds after seeing this) and last year's The Grand Budapest Hotel.

There you have all the movies I have loved  (or hated) over a lifetime (as far as I can remember).  Now go watch some!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


I probably could do another ten blogs on movies- it is fun to go through the list...now, what would I like to see again?  The first movie I remember seeing was Bambi which got me  thinking of movies about children, some of which I saw when doing my PhD. I had intended to do a film of animals with children in therapy, so saw many movies about children in those years.And there were some great ones!

What initially struck me in my study of films about children was very few were being made by American directors, and if they were, they did not delve deep into a child's psyche. This has changed in the past years, but I feel the European and other foreign directors led the way.

At the top of the list are (and some of the best are foreign): Forbidden Games (While not initially successful in France, the film was a hit elsewhere winning many awards). The Red Balloon (French), Whistle Down the Wind (UK),and  Miracle of Marcellano (Spanish). A Grand Prize Award winner at the International Cannes Film Festival about a little orphan boy who causes a miracle. Left on the doorstep of a monastery as an infant, Marcelino was raised by the monks. He was well cared for but lonely and missed having a mother. One day he found a special friend in the forbidden attic... hanging on a cross. A friend that would repay Marcelino's kindness by granting him one heart-felt wish .

The Color of Paradise and Children of Heaven (both by Iranian director Majid Majidi), My Life as a Dog (Swedish), and Pan's Labyrinth (Spanish). The latter is  one of my all time favorite movies  showing the indomitable spirit of children crushed by grim reality of cruelty, esp. in war. It is a dark  fairytale containing all of those classic mythical archetypes of  Jung’s collective unconscious, esp. the battle between good and evil.

The Fall from the director Tarsem Singh (who was born in India)  is a visually stunning epic fantasy about a bedridden man who entertains a curious little girl in a remote 1920's hospital  by telling her a fantastical story of exotic heroes and far off places which reflects his state of mind. As the man's health reaches to the point of peril - so does the story he is telling her...with potentially fatal consequences.

The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins  and Spielerg's E.T.  are old classics. The Dollmaker, the only movie of Jane Fonda's I ever saw. (It breaks your heart especially when the little girl Cassie dies).

Some more recent movies cannot be overlooked esp. Moonrise Kingdom (really funny) and Beasts of the Southern Wild (In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural order is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. It garnered Quvenzhané Wallis an Oscar nomination- she was 7 when she made the movie.

Also we have Little Miss Sunshine, and The Secret Life of Bees. All of the children in these recent movies have "disabilities" of some sort which they overcome thru true grit!

Of course there are the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings Series- masterworks in their own right!

Monday, July 20, 2015


Shaw Islanders are not singing in the RAIN according to our Fire Chief, Jon Shannon.  Most people think that we live in one of the rainiest parts of the continental USA.  Our Islands are in what is called the Banana Belt, which means we get less rain than the mainland.  But the last few years have been drier than usual.  In January of this year Jon's curiosity led our "Official Shaw Island Amateur Meteorologist" to some eye-opening rainfall statistics, which started in his garden.

“As a gardener I am constantly digging holes in my yard. I always take note of the degree of soil saturation and how deep the soil is wet. A few days before Halloween last year I was planting some trees and dug some holes. I expected the soil to be wet or at least moist, but found instead it was bone dry. It made me curious about rainfall so I started looking into it. I was shocked. At first I thought it couldn’t be right and that I had somehow made a mistake while compiling the data. I double-checked it against the National Climate Database numbers and found that the numbers were correct: 7 inches of rain in 2013!  It just didn’t seem possible.”

As surprising as those statistics are, there’s another set of numbers that might startle some islanders. Jon also compared the recent actual rainfall to the “long term” average. The set above used the average from 1999 – 2014. The more recent annual average was 17.65 inches. The long term average is 24.97 inches. That makes the recent years look even drier compared to the long term normal.

 Is this a look at our future?
The fact that the long-term average of 24.97 inches per year has fallen to 17.65 inches per year in the new millennium is pretty astounding. Weather is fickle and who knows what the future will bring. It’s certainly nothing to panic about. Compared to Texas, California and the Southwest, this is nothing. But  times are changing and we could be  heading into a different climate regime as many experts suggest.
But compared to most places in the USA, our island is still a green paradise!
Information: Shaw Island Website  (Sharon Wootton)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Someone said to me recently, " since you have done some blogs on books, what about MOVIES"?

The Catholic Church and the movie industry have a relationship that goes back almost 100 years, to the beginning of film itself. Beginning with the Legion of Decency, the Church has had an impact in Hollywood that continues to this day, with a priest serving as a member of the appeals board of the Motion Picture Association of America. But the Church does not merely stand apart from film, casting judgment. The Church is frequently the topic of film – for good and for ill. 

I made my list and then decided to check some Catholic sites, both here in USA and the Vatican. I was amazed that many of my favorites were on those lists.  So I will divide this into three parts- here are the one's listed in Catholic sites. Many are from another generation but I would encourage movie fans to check them out.

Foreign films that made the list are: The Passion of Joan of Arc (an extraordinary silent film done in 1928), La Strada, Life is Beautiful, Francesco ( the best film ever done on St. Francis), Au Revoir les Infants,
Babette’s Feast, Bakita: From Slave to Saint, and Giuseppi Moscata: Doctor to the Poor (I have shown this film to so many people I have lost count- but always inspiring - acting is great too).

The only musical to make my list  was The Sound of Music

American classics, not necessarily religious in nature but with a main thread of Christianity: are: Grapes of Wrath, The Quiet Man, The Miracle Worker,
Casablanca ( It’s a pro-marriage, pro-loyalty, pro-sacrifice romance. Victor Lazlo is a classic Christ figure), It’s A Wonderful Life, Chariots of Fire, The Princess Bride,  Shawshank Redemption  (A story of hope and salvation in  Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) as an innocent man convicted of murder. He enters the prison as an outsider, and brings hope and salvation to his prison mates by setting an example of charity.

2001: Space Odyessy, Braveheart, Ghandi, and Schindler’s List one of the best films ever made. Oscar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a model Christian in both his self-giving and role as savior..

Of a religious theme are: The Passion of the Christ, Diary of A Country Priest, Keys of the Kingdom, Hitchcock's I Confess, Boys Town, Molokai, Lilies of the Field, A Man for All Seasons (perhaps the movie we have seen the most over 40+ years and possibly one of the best saint bio-pics ever ).

The Scarlet & the Black (one of our favorites with Gregory Peck), The Mission, Ben Hur, Of Gods and Men ( a true story of modern day martyrs), The Nun’s Story, and Come to the Stable. The original story was written by Clair Luce Booth about our Abbey in Ct. but when Hollywood got a hold of it she withdrew her script. The actual story is more fascinating and riveting than this watered down version but it is still a fun movie.

Also on my list were: Heaven Knows Mr. Allison 
 (Robert Mitchum out of character but wonderful with my favorite Deborah Kerr), Sister Act and Moonstruck- all fun movies that I never tire of seeing.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Other than the lives of the Saints, which I devoured, I did not read much non-fiction when I was younger, but in College was swept up with  Dr. Tom Dooley in his books: Deliver Us From Evil, The Edge of Tomorrow, The Night They Burned the Mountain.  I wanted at that point to be a medical missionary and here was a man doing it all.

I loved Steinbecks's  Travels with Charley: In Search of AmericaMary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser,  My Family & Other Animals by Gerald Durrell (which I still read when I need a good laugh-This account of naturalist Durrell’s childhood years in Corfu is an unforgettable blend of wonderful human comedy and the foibles of older relatives and family associates as seen through a child’s eyes- those same eyes looking in wonder at the abundance and variety of wildlife in the world around), Nicholas & Alexandra by Robert Massie and The Road from Coorain  by Jill Ker Conway. These books all took me to places I had never dreamed of going, while introducing me to fascinating people.

Later came Thomas Merton's Seven Story Mountain, Black Like Me (John Howard Griffin), Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (James Agee & Walker Evans), A Room of One's Own Virginia Woolf ,The Lives of a Cell  Lewis Thomas, The Diary of Anne Frank, Night by Elie Wiesel, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, With God in Russia by Father Walter Ciszek, SJ (who became a friend at RL), Anne Morrow Lindberg's Dairies & Letters (another Abbey Friend). Later her daughter Reeve  would write the poignant No More Words.

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Books that colored my work with children were: Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl,
Dibs in Search of Self  (Virginia Mae Axline) and Robert Coles' wonderful series, Children in Crises.

Since being back in the West I have discovered All Creatures Great & Small (series) by James Harriot, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou), Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt) and the similar, All Over But the Shoutin' by that southerner,  Rick Bragg. Personal History by Kathrine Graham gave me insight into a period of our country and Timothy Egon prepared me for life in WA with The Good Rain. Goat Song (Brad Kessler) was such fun reading that all in my bookclub loved it even if they had no interest in goats.

Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds by Olivia Gentile  about the famous birder, Phoebe Snetsinger, is such a fabulous story and everyone  should read about someone with such a passion for something that it spills over into obsession. And you don't need to have an interest in birds! (see Blog 1/26/2013)

 Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, is pretty much the same type of obsession but one with a more humanitarian bent and the haunting The Flamboya Tree by Clara O. Kelly (a local author who presented the book on Shaw and brought her mother's painting of the flamboya tree) is a must read.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World (Tracy Kidder) and  Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo  (Zlata Filipović)  both gave me a glimpse of a harsh life in other parts of the world.

The Glass Castle Jeanette Walls is a shocking but lovely story, maybe too often true, of people who choose to live on the fringes of society, with children. The Zookeeper’s Wife Daine Ackerman tells the story of people prepared to lay down their life for others.

Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking,  speaks for us all when we loose a loved one and Darkness Visible by William Styron describes deep depression as no one ever has- from inside the mind.

A few influential saints are: Ella: Princess, Saint and Martyr by Christopher Warwick (Blog: 1/24/2013) and Pilgrimage & Exile: Mother Marianne of Molokai   (Blog: 10/21/2012).

Among my favorites are Flannery O' Conner's  Prayer Journal (ed. by W.A. Sessions) and The Habit of Being (her letters edited by Sally Fitzgerald).


Thursday, July 2, 2015


        The new issue of our Seattle Catholic Magazine  has done a lovely article on life at Our Lady of the Rock. Mother Prioress is on the cover- photo by Tari Gunstone, last year's intern (other photos by her as well).
You can check it out online. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Recently I came across a list of the 100 books you must read before you die. It got me thinking of the books which have somehow influenced me over the years, including in my childhood. These lists do not always take into consideration one's passions in life (such as birding), ones vocation (be it religious, married or  the single state), education, or where one is in one's life emotionally, mentally or spiritually. What we loved in our 20s does not hold up in our 60s!  There are certainly hundreds of books that I want to read before I die, but I’m not going to stick to somebody else's idea of what they should be.

One day on a long ferry ride, I decided to try and remember as many of the books as I could. It was a fun exercise, bringing back many memories!  I did not include books of the saints as they would be in the many hundreds. When in Catholic school I devoured every book in the library on the saints ( a passion which has continued in my life). In my list I came up with about 70 fiction and 30 or more non- fiction. Here I give you the fiction.

In my childhood the first books I can remember my mother reading to me were Bambi and a book on St. Joan of Arc.  Both had the same awesome effect. Of course the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, The Yearling, and Wind in the Willows topped the list  along with the Chronicals of Narnia and Saint-Exupery's Little Prince.  When I was bit older Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn made it into my life.

My Mother once said I would read in the shower if I could find a way. Throughout High School and College I read voraciously and as you can see my reading  was very eclectic. And while some of the books made the "top 100" lists some did not. I limited my list to books published in the 20th & 21 century, which eliminates a whole range of great literature from  Shakespeare to Jane Austin.

Favorites I could remember were: The Good Earth by Pearl Buck  and all of  John Steinbeck's books, especially The Grapes of Wrath.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee,  A Town Like Alice (Nevil Shute), Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and William Golding’s  Lord of the Flies  both of which captivated all youth of my generation. 

 Cry the Beloved Country (Alan Paton) sent me to S. Africa, James Mitchner’s Hawaii to another paradise I would later live in.  Leon Uris took me to the Holy Land in Exodus and Richard Llewellyn to Wales in How Green Was My Valley (where I later learned my ancestors came from).  

As long as I can remember, I have read books with a MAP in front of me so I can follow every city and back road, even one of our favorite mystery authors, Tony Hillerman. This way I have learned about so many parts of the world I never had a chance to visit.

I have always loved mysteries, Agatha Christie and  Sherlock Holmes. And I went through a phase where I read all things Russian, my favorite being Doctor Zhivago ( Boris Pasternik).

There were American classics such as: Death Comes for the Archbishop & My Antonia  (Willa Cather), Hemingway’s  Old Man in the Sea  (I never cared for much of his other works), and George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  

The Citadel &  Keys to the Kingdom, by A.J. Cronin and  The Power & the Glory by Graham Green fed on my faith as did The Agony and the Ecstasy (Irving Stone).

I was taking German in school at this time so loved German works esp.  The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann  and Siddhartha  by Herman Hesse
I never cared much for short stories, but reveled in Flannery  O’Conner's.
By the time I entered religious life my reading habit did not change much, just more contemporary books and certainly more spiritual. C.S.Lewis' wonderful space trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength and  Sigrid Undset 's Kristin Lavransdatter  were favorites. Since our Abbey was of a French foundation, we had a lot of books from that country and some of my favorites were:  Francois Mauriac (He encouraged Elie Wiesel to write about his experiences as a Jew during the Holocaust, and later wrote the foreward to Wiesel's book Night.), among his books are  A Woman of the Pharisees, The Kiss to the Leper and Therese Desqueyroux. Georges Bernanos makes everyone's list with The Diary of a Country Priest. My favorite poet of this same era  in France was Charles Peguy, especially God Speaks and On the Mystery of Hope.

But I also loved Alexander Solzhenitsyn, esp.  Cancer Ward & The Gulag Archipelago.  Chaim Potok's The Chosen & Richard Adam's Watership Down are memorable as  is Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.

The child in me still quotes Judith Voist's Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (having been to Australia I  say it can be better!). 

Since moving to Shaw Island  I have added many books to the list- perhaps because my recall is better on books I have read in the past 20 years. Topping that list is The Boys in the Boat  by Daniel James Brown. If you don't read another book in your life, you need to read this!   

The Book Thief, Secret Life of Bees, The Harry Potter Series, The Hunger Games, Stieg Latsson’s Girl with Dragon Tatoo  Series,  Life of Pi (Yann Martel- the movie was also great),  House of Spirits by Isabel Allende (a favorite author), Fried Green Tomatoes ( Fannie Flagg), Cold Mountain (Charles Fraser ), The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follet), and
The Madonnas of Leningrad (Debra Dean) will all certainly be saved as classics.

Less known but still wonderful reading are: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer, Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper (by Harriet Scott Chessman’s, our Mother Abbess Lucia's good friend), Mark Salman’s beautiful  Lying Awake, Mark Spragg’s Where Rivers Change Direction, The Sparrow  by Mary Doria Russell ( I am not into science-fiction but this is a treasure).

In the mystery genre we all loved  the Mary Russell (wife of Sherlock Holmes) Series by  Laurie R. King and the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters (herself an Egyptologist), and The Number 1 Ladies Detect. Agency  series  by Scotsman  Alexander McCall Smith is a hit with the entire Community.


Certain authors stand out and while I love most of their writing, I choose:  Snow Flower & the Secret Fan  by Lisa See, Gail Tsukiyama’s The Samurai's Garden, The Language of Threads and Women of the Silk. Moloka’i  and Honolulu by  Alan Brennert, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, and anything  Adriana Trigiani' writes, especially The Shoemaker’s Wife,  and  the Big Stone Gap Series. 

There are some difficult ones too like Jose Saramago”s Blindness, which I read twice.  I chose it for our Island book club and was nearly stoned! Not to everyone's liking!

Famous in Seattle is Nancy Pearl who wrote a series of books called Book Lust listing her must reads.  I gave you mine, now go find your own. There are certainly hundreds of books that I want to read before I die, but I’m not going to stick to somebody else’s idea of what they should be. Follow your heart!