The soft wind from the lake

carries the scent of summer

like a message from the far shore.

Brushing against your cheek

like soft kisses,

it stirs the green leaves to life.

White birches sway in the wind

their branches brushing against the blue,

painting clouds upon the azure sky

Saint Villana Pray for Us

Yesterday I paid a princely sum of money for a hand built Italian bicycle. Not an easy thing to do for a recovering Catholic that still struggles to overcome the guilt of having nice things. Which got me into reminscing upon the Italian ancestry of the 20Prospect clan, as detailed in this old post from March 29, 2011.

In reading through the old blog posts from those days I recalled that one of the commenters, a fellow De Bottis, shared some geneology research about our “de Botti” ancestry in Italy.

One of the tidbits was that there is a Saint in our family tree. So I introduce you to Saint Villana de Botti. One of the many nuts on our beloved family tree.

from a Dominican wiki on Saints…

February 28.

Blessed Villana de Botti


St. Villana de’ Botti

(Died A.D. 1360) – Feast Day February 28th

Villana was a member of the noble family De Botti and was born at Florence. Her childhood was spent in acts of astonishing devotion and in the exercise of austerities such as are rarely practised even by persons advanced in age and virtue. She ardently desired to embrace the religious life; but, over-persuaded by her parents, she at length consented to marry and her nuptials were celebrated with the utmost magnificence. Possibly her early piety may have had in it some tinge of pride, which necessarily led to a fall. Be this as it may, immediately on her marriage she abandoned all her exercises of prayer and penance and gave herself up to a life of heartless and sinful dissipation. How long this lasted we are not told; but God, who had chosen her for Himself, at length recalled her to better things in a wonderful manner.

One night Villana was preparing for an entertainment of unwonted splendour. She was dressed with all the sumptuous extravagance of the times; jewels sparkled in her hair, on her arms, on her very shoes. Before leaving her room, she went to cast one parting glance at the mirror. But, instead of the dazzling image of her own beauty, a horrible spectacle met her eyes. God had permitted that the deformity of the soul within should become visible on the outward person. Her hair, bound with gold and jewelled chains, she beheld transformed into a mass of coiled and venomous serpents; her fair face was darkened into that of a hideous negro; her eyes were red and fiery, and, instead of her beautiful mouth and ivory teeth, there grinned the open jaws of a monster of hell. Then Villana’s heart opened to know where and whence she had fallen. She tore the jewels from her hair and left her palace, not for the gay entertainment that awaited her, but for the neighbouring church of the Dominicans, where, flinging herself at the feet of a holy Friar, she made, amidst tears of contrition, the confession of her life.

She returned home to enter upon a rigorous course of penance, which continued until her death. To atone for her past vanity and to honour the poverty of her Divine Master, she thenceforth wore only poor and shabby garments, and she divided her time between exercises of prayer and austerity and the care of the indigent. She earnestly desired to retire to a hermitage; her confessor, however, would not permit her to do this, but he gave her the habit of the Third Order. Trampling under foot all human respect, she wished to go from door to door begging alms for her beloved poor, and she only relinquished this intention in obedience to the will of her husband. She had thoroughly realised the presence of Our Lord in the person of His poor; and this truth was yet more vividly brought home to her by a miraculous incident. One day, as she was returning from church, she found a poor sick beggar lying in a miserable condition in the street. Taking him in her arms and gathering superhuman strength from her charity, Villana carried him to one of the public hospitals and laid him on a bed, whilst she went to seek the necessary remedies. On her return, the bed was empty, and the most careful inquiries failed to discover any traces of the sick beggar, who was always believed to have been our Divine Lord Himself.

On one occasion, when she had had a fierce encounter with the devil, Saint Catharine the Martyr appeared to her with a beautiful crown in her hand, saying, “Be constant, my daughter, and behold the magnificent reward which awaits thee in heaven.” This vision was regarded by Villana as a presage of her approaching death. From that time her sufferings and maladies increased and with them her thirst to endure yet more for the Beloved of her soul. “No, Lord,” she once exclaimed when she felt better, “I do not ask for any alleviation of my sufferings but rather that they may be increased.”

Having received the Last Sacraments with great devotion, she begged to have the Passion of Our Lord read to her, and at the words, “Bowing His head He gave up the ghost,” she placidly expired, A.D. 1360. When the Sisters of the Third Order prepared the body for burial it became resplendent with beauty, and emitted such dazzling rays of light that they could not fix their eyes upon it. To satisfy the devotion of the people it was left unburied for the space of thirty-seven days, and was still perfectly incorrupt when laid in the tomb. Villana appeared after her death to some holy women who were spending the night in prayer, and, in answer to their inquiries, she said, “Call me no longer Villana; now that I am in heaven I am called Margaret or the Pearl.” She was beatified by Leo XII., A.D. 1829.

Stockholm Syndrome

Fall 1989 through Spring of 1990, I lived in a the upstairs of an old farmhouse in the frozen north country of Stockholm, N.Y. A little “Hamlet” outside of Potsdam, where three friends and I had found cheap housing for our last year at College. As I blogged about many years ago, this home became a pivot point in my life, when everything around me seemed to be in flux, and I felt at times to be in a free fall. The hub of a spinning wheel of thoughts and emotions as I made the transition from childhood into adulthood. It remains the most harrowing, and strangely romantic year of my life.

Walking into work this morning amidst a late January thaw, I smelled it again and my heart ached. That indescribable scent of a frozen world beginning to melt will always bring me back to Stockholm. I long for the solitude and the pain of those days. Days when the whole world felt like an exposed nerve, so painful and so immediate that the future and the past became meaningless. The only thing that existed was the desolation of the moment. Dish water gray skies, and piles of old snow mixed with mud. The shadows of trees at the edge of the field beckoning me into the woods.

These days stumble on towards a future that I cannot see. Yet I know that somewhere at the end of these wanderings I will return. A different time and place perhaps, but unmistakably Stockholm. Silent hub where I can collapse and watch the world spin around me. The still point that stretches a moment into eternity.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you…

Skiing. Because it’s winter. Suck it El Nino, after a pissy St. Louis type start to the season we finally got some motherfucking snow. So I’ve been skiing pretty much every god damned day, because I have no faith that it’s going to last longer than a week. And by skiing I mean cross country skiing. Because I only go down hills that I am capable of skiing up. I consider this a good rule of thumb for preserving my ACL. Aging sucks.

But I am in better shape at the moment than I have been since… probably June. When you get to 47 you have a decision to make. Exercise, or Scotch. Thankfully, this is not a yes / no question.

So I exercise in the hopes of extending my life long enough to maximize my Scotch enjoyment. Because really, a life without Scotch just isn’t worth living.

In other news I’m looking at property in Thunder Bay. Because God damn climate change. Or maybe just Grand Marais, because I am not sure I could put up with a bunch of Prius driving Canadians all the god damned time.

Oh… Happy New Year!

Now you kids get off of my lawn!

3 words

Language is an amazing thing. A seemingly limitless construct of symbols that can be used to classify and represent the world we discover around us. This was brought home to me the other day outside of a Dunkin’ Donuts in suburban Philadelphia. There, on an advert were three seemingly innocuous words, arranged in a way that I could never have imagined.

Three simple straight forward words, whose individual meanings were solid, and clear, and un ambiguous. But, placed together these words transformed themselves into a concept so new, and revolutionary that my mind was completely blown.

Like a Zen koan, they opened my mind to an entirely new and undiscovered level of consciousness.

Snickerdoodle Croissant Donut.

The world is an amazing place.

A place filled with mystery and wonder.

Also donuts.


I hate El Nino years. Crappy, wet, warm winters that are just depressing as hell. It’s December 14th and it’s pouring rain. If I wanted to live in frigging St. Louis I’d move to frigging St. Louis god-dammit.

Yeah, I know, global warming isn’t going to make it any better either. That’s why I continue to dream about moving further north. Lake Superior maybe, even though it’s raining there too. At least then I could look out at the big water, and watch for ships. But down here on this soggy prairie? Just more waiting, and hoping as my skis gather dust in the corner of the garage.

Baby Jessica

Deep down at the bottom of the well

The world is reduced to a circle of white,

Like a moon in a starless sky

So bright it hurts your eyes

And blinds you to everything

So you stare downward

Into darkness

Into silence

So quiet that not even sad songs can reach you

Just your thoughts which have their own voice

Movement the only thing scarier than sitting still