Since sunset last night, and until sunset tonight, is the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews. Today is the Autumnal Equinox, the Optional Memorial of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, Priest, known to the faithful as Padre Pio (died 1968), and today is also the date of the formation of the Republic of West Florida in 1810. At sunset today begins the three-day Islamic feast of Eid-ul-Ahda.
The central themes of Yom Kippur are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Yom Kippur completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days. Leviticus 16:29 mandates establishment of this holy day on the 10th day of the 7th month as the day of atonement for sins. It calls it the Sabbath of Sabbaths and a day upon which one must afflict one’s soul. Yom Kippur is a legal holiday in the modern state of Israel. There are no radio or television broadcasts, airports are shut down, there is no public transportation, and all shops and businesses are closed. Today is the date of the Autumnal Equinox; the center of the Sun spends a roughly equal amount of time above and below the horizon at every location on the Earth on this date (and on the date of the Spring Equinox), night and day being of roughly the same length. In North America, autumn is usually considered to start with the September equinox, but in other cultures, it is considered to be the mid-point of autumn; and a case can be made that in modern America autumn starts on the day after Labor Day and ends at Thanksgiving. (My personal reckoning, based on the average daily temperatures in SouthWestCentral Louisiana, is that Autumn starts on the day that Daylight Savings Time Ends.) Turning to today’s Saint, he was born in 1887 at Pietrelcina, Benevento, Italy as Francesco Forgione. At age 15 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars in Morcone, Italy and joined the order at age 19. He suffered several health problems, and at one point his family thought he had tuberculosis, but he persevered, and was ordained at age 22 in 1910. While praying before a cross, he received the stigmata on September 20, 1918, the first priest ever to be so blessed. It was reputed that his condition caused him great embarrassment, and most photographs show him with red mittens or black coverings on his hands and feet where the bleedings occurred. As word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following World War II, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, and was reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. He was also reportedly able to bilocate, levitate, and heal by touch. In the 1920s he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide. He founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. He is a relatively recent Saint, having been canonized in 2002; he is the Patron Saint of civil defense volunteers and of adolescents. And today is the anniversary of the formation of the Republic of West Florida in 1810. The portion of land from the Perdido River (the current western boundary of Florida) and the Mississippi River, and from 31° North to the Gulf of Mexico, languished in a political no-mans-land after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The Republic was thus formed, with its capital in St. Francisville (now in Louisiana), and with a flag designed by Melissa Johnson, wife of Major Isaac Johnson, the commander of the West Florida Dragoons. The United States summarily annexed the land ninety days later. To this day the parishes of Louisiana south of 31° North and east of the Mississippi River are known as the Florida Parishes; and I can attest (having lived for some years in Slidell, Louisiana) that the Florida Parishes are culturally more in tune with the coastal counties of Mississippi and of Alabama than they are with the rest of Louisiana. Turning to the Islamic world, today begins Eid al-Adha, the celebration of the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a sheep to sacrifice instead. A family that can afford to do so slaughters their best domestic animal (depending on the region, a cow, camel, goat, or sheep), and the meat from the sacrificed animal is divided into three parts. The family retains one third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors; and the other third is given to the poor and needy. Concerted efforts are made to see that no impoverished person is left without an opportunity to partake in the sacrificial meal during these days. During Eid al-Adha, distributing meat amongst the people, chanting the Takbir out loud before the Eid prayer on the first day and after prayers throughout the three days of Eid, are considered essential parts of this important Islamic festival. In some countries, families that do not own livestock can make a contribution to a charity that will provide meat to those who are in need.
The Autumnal Equinox arrived at 3:20 am, and I woke up at 8:45 am. I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, and Richard got me bacon biscuits from McDonald’s, which I ate while starting the Weekly Computer Maintenance. I then found that Richard had taken in the flag for me; I put it back up, measured it for Liz Ellen (it’s five feet by almost three feet), took photos, and then brought it back inside. I started my laundry, sent an Email to Liz Ellen with my photos and the measurement, then read the morning paper. The Email for Liz Ellen did not go through, so I sent her a text message instead. I then finished the Weekly Computer Maintenance, and started the Weekly Virus Scan.
I left the house at 10:30 am; at a random convenience store in Crowley I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for tonight’s drawing. In Lafayette I ate lunch at Piccadilly Cafeteria and continued reading H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O’Brian. I then went to Barnes and Noble. I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Second Day of my Novena to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Richard called me to tell me that his brother Butch in Baton Rouge was at the hospital having another toe removed (he has diabetes, but the full extent of his self-care is taking insulin shots). Richard then sent me a text that he was going over to his friend Chookie’s to drink absinthe. I continued reading H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O’Brian.
Arriving home at 4:45 pm, I watched the second half of Jeopardy!, then came to the computer to finish setting up my November 2015 photos for this weblog. Richard came home, and I finished my laundry. We left the house at 6:30 pm, and went down to Crowley to eat a very good meal at Fezzo’s Seafood, Steakhouse and Oyster Bar. We arrived home at 8:15 pm, and I got on the computer to do today’s Daily Update. When I finish with the computer I will finish reading H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O’Brian, then do some other reading before going to sleep.
We have no Saints to honor for a few days, but tomorrow is the first full day of the Islamic feast of Eid-ul-Ahda. Tomorrow is also the anniversary of when Hurricane Rita made landfall in 2005. In the morning I will iron my casino pants, apron, and shirts, I will then leave the house at about 10:00 am and head over to the Clinic for my 11:10 am appointment with the Renal Specialist. While there, I will change my appointment with the Dietician to either Monday or Tuesday at 12:00 pm. (I realized that driving myself in separately, and having Richard go home at 11:00 am while I wait for my 12:00 pm appointment uses the same gas as driving myself in on my day off; and I would rather not have to come to the Clinic on my day off.) On my way home I will stop at Wal-Mart and purchase my salad supplies, and in the afternoon I will make my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday.
Our Parting Quote on this Wednesday evening comes to us from Ruth Patrick, American botanist and limnologist. Born in 1907 in Topeka, Kansas, her father was a banker and lawyer and hobby scientist with a degree in botany from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He often took his daughters on Sunday afternoons to collect specimens, especially diatoms, from streams. Patrick attended the Sunset Hill School in Kansas City, Missouri, graduating in 1925. Her mother insisted that she attend Coker College, a women’s school in Hartsville, South Carolina, but her father arranged for her to attend summer courses at Cornell, through fear that Coker College would not provide satisfactory education in the sciences. When she graduated in 1929, she then enrolled in the University of Virginia, earning a master’s degree in 1931, the same year she married her first husband, followed by a Ph.D. in 1934. She began her association with the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which had the best collection of diatoms in America, as a graduate student in 1933. Her father convinced her to keep her maiden name in her professional life, and she is denoted by the author abbreviation R.M.Patrick when citing a botanical name. In 1937 she became an assistant curator of microscopy, an unpaid position. She was also advised not to wear lipstick to work. Only in 1945 was she put on the payroll, and two years later she established the limnology department, now called the Patrick Center for Environmental Research. Her breakthrough came in 1948, when she led a study of Conestoga Creek in Lancaster County, Pa., to obtain data on the relationship between diatoms and water quality. The creek was chosen because it suffered from many types of pollution, including sewage, fertilizer runoff, toxic substances and metals from industry. Her team, including a chemist, a bacteriologist, and animal and plant experts, determined the types of pollutants in sections of the river and then identified the plant and animal species. Patrick found that some species of diatoms thrived in water that was heavily contaminated with organic material like human sewage, while other flourished among chemical pollution. Refining this finding, she was able to examine a sample of stream water under a microscope, determine the type and numbers of diatoms present, and tell what kind of pollution was present and how severe it was. To check the number and types of diatoms, Patrick invented a device called the diatometer, a plastic box containing microscope slides that when strategically placed in a stream collects the maximum number of the organisms. More broadly, her results showed that under healthy conditions, many species of organisms representing different groups should be present. Patrick’s research in fossilized diatoms showed that the Great Dismal Swamp between Virginia and North Carolina was once a forest, which had been flooded by seawater. Similar research proved that the Great Salt Lake was not always a saline lake. Patrick taught at the University of Pennsylvania for more than 35 years. She wrote more than 200 scientific articles and was the author or co-author of a number of books, including Diatoms of the United States, Groundwater Contamination in the United States and Rivers of the United States. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1970. She was the chairwoman of the limnology department at the Academy of Natural Sciences until 1973, when she was named to the Francis Boyer chair of limnology. From 1973 to 1976 she was chairwoman of the academy’s board. Patrick believed it essential that government and industry collaborate in curbing pollution and was a consultant to both in developing environmental policy. In 1975 she became the first woman and the first environmentalist to serve on the DuPont Company board of directors; she was also on the board of the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company. That same year she received the $150,000 John and Alice Tyler Ecology Award, then the world’s richest prize for scientific achievement. She advised President Lyndon B. Johnson on water pollution and President Ronald Reagan on acid rain and served on pollution and water-quality panels at the National Academy of Sciences and the Interior Department, among others. Her first husband died in 1985. Patrick received the National Medal of Science from President Bill Clinton in 1996. In 1998 the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography initiated an annual Ruth Patrick Award “to honor outstanding research by a scientist in the application of basic aquatic science principles to the identification, analysis and/or solution of important environmental problems.” Her second husband died in 2004. On November 17, 2007, a gala was held in honor of Patrick’s upcoming 100th birthday at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA. Notable guests included Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell. She died at the age of 105 (died 2013): “My great aim has been to be able to diagnose the presence of pollution and develop means of cleaning things up.”