Open Book, March 2021

Basket of books, cup of tea

I stepped aside this year from professional public policy work at the state level. Dear to me as that vocation was (and is), it was time to take a break from the noise. During this time of transition I happened upon Robert Cardinal Sarah’s book The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise (Ignatius Press). The Guinean prelate’s name was familiar to me from news coverage and some of his social media work, but I had not known of the book before coming across a review of it.

Cardinal Sarah argues for silence as something to be cultivated as an indispensable condition for encounters with the sacred. The book is in the form of a conversation between the Cardinal and journalist Nicolas Diat. Each paragraph can be the inspiration for a period of contemplation. I’m finding it timely and challenging in the best ways.

Cover photo from book "The Power of Silence by Sarah and Diat; design by Roxanne Mei Lum
Cover image by Roxanne Mei Lum

Another book found via a review (h/t Wall Street Journal for this one): The Border by Erika Fatland (Simon and Schuster). I’m only one chapter in, and I’m hooked. The subtitle sums it up: “A Journey Around Russia Through North Korea, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, and the Northeast Passage.” There’s history, of course. There’s a travelogue of sorts, but that’s not how to classify this book. The author’s encounters with people are at the heart of her work. I’m eager to follow her on the rest of her journey.

I rescued Upon This Granite from a neglected shelf recently. It’s a history of the Diocese of Manchester (New Hampshire), my home diocese, published in 1998 (Peter E. Randall Publisher, Portsmouth NH). It was a labor of love by a diocesan priest, Rev. Msgr. Wilfred Paradis, and it’s as close to an “official” history as can be found. It’s no tell-all. I’m finding it a good guide to the history of various parishes, particularly the ones founded by and for Catholics of specific ethnic or language groups. I like thinking how those communities have changed over the years, adding to our little state’s cultural texture.

N.H. House committee says no to life-issue bills; full House vote soon

The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee has frowned on the recent life-issue bills. The full House will meet on Wednesday, February 24 and Thursday, February 25 to vote on the committee’s “Inexpedient to Legislate” (ITL) recommendations.

On three of the bills, the votes were 11-10 on ITL motions, with Republican committee chairman Edward “Ned” Gordon joining the committee’s ten Democrats in the majority.

Usually, overturning a committee report on the House floor is challenging. Most House members don’t have time to research every bill, and so they lean heavily on the brief committee reports printed in the House calendar. 

They also lean on two other things: recommendations from party leadership, and messages from constituents. Most of us can’t control the former. You can definitely influence the latter.

Read the full post at Leaven for the Loaf.

(Update: the House passed both bills, but not until after an extremely contentious series of events over born-alive infant protection. See Leaven for the Loaf for details.)

Easing into the year

Sandown Depot, Boston and Maine Depot, New Hampshire

I wrote last October about a layered trail: ice, mud, and leaves underfoot. That’s pretty much what I’ve found in January in southern New Hampshire, minus the leaves. Things are pleasantly messy, as long as I have some traction on my shoes. Yes, even for the flat paths: slipping on an icy flat trail in Mine Falls Park left me with a concussion a few years ago. That’s one winter adventure I don’t care to repeat.

I was in Sandown the other day, sharing a trail with some polite ATVers. The trail wasn’t so much layered as patchy: ice here, slush there, frozen tire tracks in the shade, and lots of mud down the middle. I accidentally hit on the best time of day to be a walker there: mid-afternoon, after most of the ATVers had finished for the day. 

Read the full post at Granite State Walker. Photo by Ellen Kolb.