2017 » 2018

“Our compartmentalized world, and the sterile values in it, are as the daily winter darkness compared to the long sweet late-day sunshine of spring shining in the windows of a liberated home. Once this spring penetrates the bones long accustomed to winter, it revives the shrunken heart, gives suppleness to arthritic limbs and joints, and infuses all with its hope.”

– Francis Kline, Lovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the Church

Christmas 2017 Sabbatical (P2)

(1) Yes! Yes! Yes!

(2) How Washington, D.C., Built a Bike Boom (CityLab)

(3) The Most Expensive Mile of Subway Track on Earth (NY Times)

“Along with interviews with contractors, the documents reveal a dizzying maze of jobs, many of which do not exist on projects elsewhere.

There are “nippers” to watch material being moved around and “hog house tenders” to supervise the break room. Each crane must have an “oiler,” a relic of a time when they needed frequent lubrication. Standby electricians and plumbers are to be on hand at all times, as is at least one “master mechanic.” Generators and elevators must have their own operators, even though they are automatic. An extra person is required to be present for all concrete pumping, steam fitting, sheet metal work and other tasks.”

(4) Three songs to start 2018:

(a) Angus & Julia Stone – Nothing Else

You just wanna grow old, sit still while everybody else runs
In the meantime, tell me your star sign
I’ll make something up ’bout how you have to fall apart to really be someone

(b) Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over Live
(c) Bobby Darin – Once Upon A Time

Christmas Eve 2017

“The monastic tradition has seen and done almost everything in its long history. Its most lasting achievement, however, has been to chart the royal way of holiness for the entire Church.” – Francis Kline, Lovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the Church

The men saving history from ISIS: In the face of danger, a pair of padres are finding and protecting ancient religious books and manuscripts from terrorists (60 Minutes)

Christmas 2017 Sabbatical

A placeholder for all the stuff cluttering my mind and desk over this holiday sabbatical.

“Taming the heart requires a sense of place. It roots not just the mind to a set of principles, but also the body to a piece of land.” – Francis Kline, Lovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the Church

“If you live long enough you will eventually find yourself a stranger in the land you grew up in.” – Scott Stallard, Bermuda Back in the Day

(1) I am just a Boxer by Roger Crombie (Bermuda)

(2) Tube etiquette via Cyril Power and the British Museum

(3) Quote from The Man in the Castle by Philip K. Dick:

“Then he opened the bag and lifted out his new possession for inspection in solitude, here in this little grass and path park of old men.”

(3a) Quote from The Rule of St. Benedict:

“…without an order from the abbot, no one may presume to give, receive or retain anything as his own, nothing at all–not a book, writing tablets or stylus–in short, not a single item, especially since monks may not have the free disposal even of their own bodies and wills. For their needs, they are to look to the father of the monastery, and are not allowed anything which the abbot has not given or permitted.”

(4) Is this as good as it gets? (Fairfield County Catholic, Pg. 16)

(5) Quote from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig:

“In its place grew that old feeling I’ve talked about before, a feeling that there’s something bigger involved than is apparent on the surface. You follow these little discrepancies long enough and they sometimes open up into huge revelations.”

(6) Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over Live (HQ) (YouTube)

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Belmont Arena Rendering(1) Belmont Arena Renderings (NHL)

(1a) Statement from NYRA President & CEO Chris Kay regarding Belmont Park and the New York Islanders (NYRA)

(2) Belmont Park from the Limestone Photo Archives (Flickr) (YouTube)

(2a) My reaction after the press conference

(3) TWA Hotel

(4) Queens Museum (Adopt A Building)

See what I did there with the 1 and 1a (Come on horse racing fans!)?

Weekend 406.1

Spire and Bell Tower“It towers above the polis like Notre Dame in Paris, but it is not a church building with a spire, cross or bells. Its architecture is monumental, evidently holding thousands of people, but it is not like a stadium open to the elements, or a convention center with a nondescript bulk. By its very color on the skyline of the city, you know it is different–feminine patina greens and browns with greys and pinks bespeaking an altogether special stone, not quarried locally, and adorned with copper. It is a building that immediately poses questions even as it decorates the urban center.” – Francis Kline, Lovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the Church

Weekend 406.0

(1) Oregon bike tax is coming: Here are a few quirks in the law and how shops feel about it (BikePortland)

(2) Lawrence Solomon: Ban the bike! How cities made a huge mistake in promoting cycling (Financial Post)

File Under: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas or Bah Humbug

Bermuda Redux

“As I looked at the glow, which I mistakenly thought had spatial boundaries, I was transported into an endless glossy sea with low clouds of gold on the horizon. Azure and gold, and all the sensations of warmth and ceaseless tropical life filled my brain. This was a place of rest, and, mysteriously, the source of all growth.” – Francis Kline, Lovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the Church

2017 Advent Retreat at St. Joseph’s Abbey (Updated)

St. Joseph’s Abbey“Open your eyes, then, and your heart, in an undisturbed solitude with God alone. Be still, and see what he is offering you, what he is to you.” – A Carthusian, The Prayer of Love and Silence

“He was a monk. As demands brought him far from the enclosure, wherever he may have been he remained constant in his monastic observance and his discipline…the monk never stands alone but lives under a Rule, in a particular place alongside others. As Francis grew in deeper communion with his brothers in monastic life, he saw in each and every one he met beyond the walls a brother, a sister. And he saw each place in which they stood, every world from which they came, a precinct of epiphany.” – Lovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the Church

I took three books with me on this retreat. The first was 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn. The other two were The Prayer of Love and Silence and Abandoned to Divine Providence. The last two I “found” in the Abbey Bookstore on previous retreats. The Prayer of Love and Silence has become a source of almost daily inspiration/reflection.

It started snowing on Saturday morning and didn’t stop until Compline. During meals we listened to Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri J.M. Nouwen. It’s the story of how J.M. Nouwen found his place (and purpose) from deep reflection on the Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt¹.

On Saturday afternoon, I drove my lil’ car to the Abbey Bookstore after conference with the “incident of 15” loosed in memory by the rapidly accumulating snow. But my trip was justly rewarded with a “find” called Lovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the Church by Francis Kline. I’ve just started it but already there are links to 7 Secrets of the Eucharist and The Prayer of Love and Silence. Also, it begins with a quote from Thomas Merton (and a reference to Bermuda and London).

“I shall lead you into the high places of my joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in My mercy which has created you for this end and brought you from Prades to Bermuda to St. Antonin to Oakham to London to Cambridge to Rome to New York to Columbia to Corpus Christi to St. Bonaventure to the Cistercian Abbey of the poor men who labor in Gethsemani: ‘That you may become the brother of God and learn to know the Christ of the burnt men.'”

Sunday mass was beautiful and it was imbued with a newness (as if that was possible) having finished 7 Secrets of the Eucharist the day before. I also always listen (be still) for themes on these retreats and Eucharistic Adoration kept drifting into my meditations. I’m going to find a local church/chapel so I can participate more fully in the paschal mystery. The other emerging theme was place/purpose (something that has always fascinated me). During the conference, Father Peter asked each of the retreatant(s) what our purpose was, and that certainly elicited some interesting responses from the attendees.

(1) In Search of Silence (NY Times)

“‘I’m not recommending people move into a monastery,’ he said. ‘We’re social beings. But in the silence, you meet yourself.'”

(2) Johnny Carson Craved Time Alone So Much His $80 Million Home Had Only 1 Bedroom. Did That Mean He Was Smarter Than Most People? (INC.)

(1) 10 Ways to Prepare Well for Christmas
(2) Galatians 5:22, Isaiah 21:6-9, and Ephesians 6:10-17
(3) Bishop Barron on the Mass (YouTube)

¹I’m a little troubled that my reaction to The Fighting Temeraire by J.M.W. Turner was a seed crystal similar to Henri J.M. Nouwen.

Thanksgiving 2017

(1) How to Talk About Star Wars at Thanksgiving With Your Ignorant, Rebellion-Backing Uncle (The Washington Free Beacon)

“On the forest moon of Endor, the Empire was able to build a shield generator without really bothering the indigenous life forms. They coexisted in harmony, Empire and Ewok alike engaging in a live and let live philosophy. And then the Rebels show up, convince the Ewoks that C-3PO’s some sort of god, and enlist them in a holy war against the Empire!”

(2) Our Love Affair With Digital Is Over (NY Times)

(2a) Staff Pick Premiere: the horror of our digital existence (Vimeo)

(3) Bob Gurr, Wheelmeister

Weekend 405.0 (…they sent us along as a surrogate band)

“Particularly when I am worn out by the upsets of the world, I cast myself without reservation on the love of those who are especially close to me.” – St. Augustine

“Memory. The key ingredient in looking back over our lives and history. Often coloured by nostalgia or clouded by age, it links us to our past.” – Scott Stallard

(1) Open Road Joins ‘Playmobil’ Animated Movie (Variety)

Bermuda (Devil’s Isle), Part 3 of 3

St. David's LighthouseDay 5
After a proper English breakfast in the clubhouse we departed for the Crystal Caves in Hamilton Parish. The caves were discovered in 1908 by two boys in search of a lost cricket ball. The guided tour is expensive, but the walk across Cahow Lake (at a depth of about ninety feet below the surface of the earth) is pretty memorable.

In searching for a description of the cave, this one from Beautiful Bermuda was particularly colorful:

“As we walk at ease upon a sturdy pontoon bridge, we behold the varied forms of nature’s tracery and marvel at the gleaming peninsula of purest crystal. Flashing, scintillating stalactite formations crowd together like vain beauty for a peep at their own charms in its smiling mirror. Stalactites and stalagmites, often suggesting the droll shapes of animals and plants, heighten the fantastic effect. Here and there, after centuries of toil, they have at last met and the columns so formed seem to support the natural roof. One stalagmite in particular attracts our attention, presenting as it does a great bank of snow. Each step we take across the pontoon bridge reveals some fresh object of delight.”

After the tour, we once again crossed the causeway on our trusty scooters, and made our way to St. David’s Lighthouse. This is the second lighthouse on the island and offers a commanding view of L.F. Wade International Airport. The property isn’t as well maintained as Gibbs Hill (there’s no gift shop, restaurant, and well manicured approaches) but it’s ridiculously raw and accessible. We spent a couple of hours on St. David’s Island also visiting the Lost at Sea Memorial.

For centuries St. David’s Island occupied a unique position in this little Colony…Seafarers they were, born with the taste of salt sea spray in their mouths and a barometer in their brains. They were proud of their homes…built by their forefathers…Suspicious of anything new, they…clung stubbornly to a tiny island in a changing world.

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazily on the beach. I haven’t written much about the beach, but the entire trip was punctuated by half-days on it (or in the infinity pool).

We had dinner at The Dining Room at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and this is not a kitschy -or- touristy restaurant. The menu is incredible and the views are spectacular. The dining room is very small SO make sure you make reservations in advance. I had the stir fried sriracha jumbo shrimp & scallops and it was my favorite meal of the trip.

Day 6
Our last day. It was Sunday so we headed to Hamilton for mass at St. Theresa’s Cathedral. We arrived a couple of hours early to take some final photographs of Hamilton. We ambled along Front Street and snapped some shots of the Cabinet Building and Cenotaph.

St. Theresa’s opened in 1932 and is the Cathedral of the Diocese. Once again, the prose in Beautiful Bermuda is most illustrative:

“Gracing a promontory in the lower reached of Cedar Avenue, the chase loveliness of the church greets the eye with medieval splendor. Its Spanish architecture harmonizes gables, windows and doors, above which rises a newly constructed Tower carrying the inevitable cross so dear to the hearts of the Catholic people…A beautiful white marble altar, sentineled by the red lamp of the Eucharist, graces the tiled sanctuary and invites devotion.”

The Bishop said our mass and his energy/enthusiasm was a fitting exclamation to our week of restoration, recuperation, and renewal.

We returned the scooters after mass and spent our final afternoon on the beach. We had dinner at Coconuts Restaurant at The Reefs Resort and Club. Our flight was ridiculously early on Monday morning but we still managed to enjoy a couple of Dark N’ Stormy(s) as we packed furiously and watched the lamp of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse from our cliffside balcony partially light the dark horizon.

“This little life from here to there –
Who lives it safely anywhere?
Not you, my insulated friend:
What calm composure will defend
Your rock, when tides you’ve never seen
Assault the sands of What-has-been,
And from your island’s tallest tree,
You watch advance What-is-to-be?”

– Edna St Vincent Millay, There Are No More Islands, Any More

Notes & Sources
Beautiful Bermuda: The Standard Guide to Bermuda by Euphemia Bell
Your Bermuda by George Rushe
Bermuda Journey by William Zuill

Weekend 404.0

“It was a peace that did not depend on houses, or jobs, or places, or times, or external conditions. It was a peace that time and material created situations could never give. It was a peace that the world could not give.” – Thomas Merton

Bermuda (Devil’s Isle), Part 2 of 3

Spittal Pond Nature ReserveDay 4
Our adventures started at the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. We spent a couple of hours exploring the thirty-six acres of flowers, trees, and shrubs. Make sure to visit the cacti / succulent hillside since most ascents in Bermuda are rewarded with a gorgeous vista (this one was completely unexpected and my plan is to build a café at this location after retirement). There’s a rose garden too.

Our next stop was Spittal Pond Nature Reserve in search of Portuguese Rock (formerly Spanish Rock). Bermuda Journey: A Leisurely Guide Book (1958) describes Spittal Pond thusly:

“The origin of this curious name is unknown, but there is a Spittal in Yorkshire, mentioned in Cobbett’s Rural Rides, which may possibly furnish a clue. The water of the pond is brackish, and at all seasons of the year wild birds can be seen resting there or hovering near by; the isolation of the pond suggests that it would make an ideal bird sanctuary. Between the pond and the shore are three curiosities, of which the best known is Spanish Marks. This was the cryptic inscription found by the first settlers, crudely carved in the rock, on a high bluff overlooking the ocean.”

The surge from Hurricane Jose made parts of the trail impassable BUT with shoes (and socks) removed we pushed on. There’s NO signage in the nature reserve SO finding the bluff (yeah, it’s a bluff) is a real true-life adventure. I’m not sure vacationers would choose this nature reserve in a top ten, but for bird watchers / birders and those seeking quiet it’s an incredible destination. The ascent to Portuguese Rock is a proper hike so budget time, wear appropriate footwear, and bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. This isn’t a stop you make in a bathing suit and flip-flops.

The view from Portuguese Rock is absolutely humbling. The site is marked with a sign that reads:

A bronze plaque near this sign records an early inscription believed to have been carved in the stone by survivors off a Portuguese ship wrecked on Bermuda’s reefs in 1543. The original carving has deteriorated but the bronze plaque was cast from a lead mould taken of the inscription in 1893.

The site was formerly known as Spanish Rock because the initials were mistakenly thought to be those of a Spaniard. Later research, however, interpreted the initials as R.P. (an abbreviation for Rex Portugaliae, King of Portugal) and the cross as the Portuguese Order of Christ.

The stranded Portuguese mariners did not stay long but built a new vessel and left the island.

After leaving Spittal Pond we drove west on South Road to Brighton Hill Road. We stopped at the Old Devonshire Church whose interior is entirely lit by candles. It wasn’t open, but we walked through the graveyard. Our approach to the City of Hamilton took us past the U.S. Consulate on Middle Road. We had two planned stops in Hamilton— Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity and the Historical Society Museum. Unfortunately, the latter was closed so we visited the City Hall and Arts Centre WHICH turned out to be serendipitous.

The Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity is an Anglican cathedral located on Church Street. According the Bermuda Journey: “Among the materials combined in the fabric of the Cathedral are Bermuda stone, quarried from the Parlaville property; Bermuda cedar; Caen stone from Normandy; freestone from Nova Scotia; stone and oak from Indiana; pitch pine, granite monoliths, and paving stone from Scotland.” The nave, pulpit, stained-glass, organ are all impressive. The altar screen is beautiful and features the sculptures of Byllee Lang (more on her shortly). We climbed the 155 steps of the tower and were once again rewarded, this time with an impressive view of the city and harbor.

The City Hall and Arts Centre contains the Bermuda National Gallery. It also has a slightly jaunidiced portrait of Her Majesty The Queen. The BNG has three permanent collections and my favorite was the wing displaying paintings of Bermuda from artists like Henry M. Gasser, Abbott Graves, and Catherine F. Tucker. There was a special exhibit (Celebrating Women Artists) that included a sculpture of the Virgin Mary in plaster by Byllee Lang and photograph(s) from Edith Watson.

Exhausted from our BIG hike and exploration of the City of Hamilton, we had dinner at the Village Pantry in Flatts Village. I had the special— Wiener Schnitzel & Hefeweizen Grapefruit Beer.

What you been chasing all these years?

I don’t know. A wounded ego and a missing eye, I guess.