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.

That great fiction…

(1) We Live In The Dystopia Young Adult Fiction Warns Us About: Young adult fiction is awash in projections of a dystopian future, yet we’re still sliding into that future, and young adults are going along with it. (The Federalist)

“Complain about any of this, and where will it get you? Anyone who expresses dissent from the system has to be ejected from the system, have his or her work permit revoked, or be denied any possibility of advancing within the system. How else do you think a dystopia enforces itself?
So there has to be an employment blacklist where someone who expressed wrongthink will never be allowed to work again. In other words, just like today’s Silicon Valley.”

(2) English Vigilantes Use Ladders, Sticky Letters to Exterminate the Metric System: Members of The Active Resistance to Metrication launch ‘raids,’ brave arrest to convert signs to imperial measures (Wall Street Journal)

Weekend 403.0

“For more than a century the charred walls of Orval were at the mercy of the weather and of stone—and treasure seekers.”
– Spiritual Heights and Depths, 2011

(1) A quote from Trappist Beer Travels: Inside the Breweries of the Monasteries:

“This time of prosperity and celebration was cut short in 1789 as the French Revolution broke out, and Orval’s position along the French border made it a vulnerable and immediate target. On June 23, 1793, revolutionary troops under the command of French General Louis Henri Loison plundered and burned Orval to ruins. The monks sought refuge in Luxembourg, then at Orval’s daughter priory Conques—around fifteen miles north of the abbey—but the community was officially disbanded on November 7, 1795.

The once great Orval Abbey would have likely faded into the dusty scrolls of history if it were not for the de Harenne family, who eventually came to own the land containing its ruins. In 1926 the family made the generous decision to offer the plot back to the Cistercian Order so a new generation of monks could rebuild, live, and worship on this sacred grounds.”

Weekend 158.0

Weekend 402.0

(1) Quality, variety and surprise. How Walt Disney created a very real fantasy (Blooloop)

(2) Quotes from The Man in the Castle by Philip K. Dick:

“They want to be the agents, not the victims, of history. They identify with God’s power and believe they are godlike. That is their basic madness. They are overcome by some archetype; their egos have expanded psychotically so that they cannot tell where they begin and the godhead leaves off. It is not hubris, not pride; it is inflation of the ego to its ultimate — confusion between him who worships and that which is worshipped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man.”

“‘All afternoon assorted officials examined the alternatives,’ Mr. Tagomi said, ‘This is the most authentic of dying old U.S. culture, a rare retained artifact carrying flavor of bygone halcyon day.’ Mr. Baynes opened the box. In it lay a Mickey Mouse wristwatch on a pad of black velvet.”

(3) On my desk…
(a) Trappist Beer Travels: Inside the Breweries of the Monasteries by Caroline Wallace, Sarah Wood, and Jessica Deahl
(b) The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Epcot by Aaron Wallace

(4) Proposed Bermuda City Hall* (Architect’s Plan)

On this site, the Corporation of Hamilton plans to build the new City Hall—as shown in the architect’s plan on this page. This hall, when completed, will provide adequate housing for the activities of the Corporation, more in keeping with progress of the city than the present City Hall, which is located on Front Street, East. It will provide a Council Chamber, Municipal Offices and an Auditorium seating four hundred persons. The funds for the erection of this building were bequeathed to the Corporation of Hamilton by late Miss Catherine Browne Tucker, who died April 14, 1933, and whose father, the Wor. George Somers Tucker, was for many years a member of the Corporation of Hamilton and Speaker of the House of Assembly. The funds now available for this purpose are in excess of £52,000 sterling.

*Scan and quote are from Beautiful Bermuda: The Standard Guide to Bermuda (1947)

(5) One of the most famous airport terminals in the world is about to become a swanky hotel (Business Insider)

Bermuda (Devil’s Isle), Part 1 of 3

It seems like 6+ months since our plane dipped from the clouds and glided along the turquoise waters and emerald landscapes of Bermuda on our approach to L.F. Wade International on St. David’s Island. A business trip later, and some massive changes at work, and the restorative effects of that special island have been reduced to a severe longing for a rebook.

It was a grand trip though and I’ve finally scratched out a day-by-day summary using the meta data from my digital photographs and a semi-permeable memory.

Before we begin…

Whenever possible I’ve linked to photos on Flickr from the Limestone Archives. In most cases, those photos have a description with additional details about the object or place.

»This symbol refers to a tip that follows the day-by-day entry.

Day 1
We stayed at The Reefs in Southampton which is marketed as a “beach front boutique hotel.” We’ve been going to The Reefs since the 80s and have watched it evolve into a “boutique” whilst retaining its rich history and tradition. The Reefs opened in 1947 and Beautiful Bermuda: The Standard Guide to Bermuda (1947) describes it thusly:

“The Reefs is Bermuda’s New Cabana Club, a Cottage Type of Hotel Living. The “Motor Age” has made it possible to develop “The Reefs” which is located on Christian Bay, Southampton Parish. This section is know as Fort Royal, and we find it so marked on an old Bermuda Map of 1626, also showing it as the location of one of the original Forts…Perched on a bluff, overlooking a private, secluded coral beach and protected bay. “The Reefs” combines the most modern conveniences with the charm of old Bermuda.”

There isn’t a bad view at The Reefs and my happy spot is from any cliff side balcony.

After exploring the hotel and surveying the beach, we »rented scooters for the week from Oleander Cycles. Our “orientation” ride was to Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. The cast-iron lighthouse is very close to The Reefs and some sketches (and photos) from the beachfront show the lighthouse in the background. We »climbed the 185 steps and were rewarded with incredible views of the island.

The Reefs (1947)

We had dinner in Hamilton at the Hog Penny Pub on Burnaby Street and the bangers & mash was Old Ship quality.

»Rent scooters for the entire length of your stay. The island is very expensive, and the flexibility of being able to shop at local grocery stores is a great way to save money. Also, the transit options in Bermuda are great (ferry, bus, taxi, etc.) but the scooter buys you time and access to parts of the island (e.g. nature reserves) that aren’t always convenient.

»Climb everything and anything you’re allowed to climb. This includes steps in historic buildings (Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity), trails in nature reserves (Spittal Pond Nature Reserve), forts (Gates, Scaur, St. Catherine’s, etc.), and slopes (Botanical Gardens). The vantage is always worth the effort.

Day 2
We drove west to visit Somerset Bridge— the world’s smallest working drawbridge. The bridge links Sandy’s Parish with Somerset Island.

I like to choose a place I would live wherever I travel (here’s an example) and I found my Bermuda home on our first full day. In this case, it was a little fixer-upper near the bridge. We also explored Scaur Hill Fort and Park on our way to the Royal Naval Dockyard.

We didn’t spend too much time in the Royal Naval Dockyard; we had an appointment at the hotel and were clock-watching (on vacation). It can be a little hectic too (this is code for touristy) since this is where the cruise ships dock. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped for a »Barritt’s Ginger Beer at RUBiS on Boaz Island.

We went to Hamilton again for dinner (all roads lead to Hamilton) and this time ate at trendy Bulli.Social. After dinner, we continued on to St. George for some day trip scouting. In transit, my brother did a good impression of Tom Cruise in Top Gun on Kindley Field Road with his scooter at max. speed. We were starting to lose sunlight, but did stop at Gates Fort for some photos.

»Drink Barritt’s Ginger Beer whenever you can.

Day 3
We spent our third afternoon in the Town of St. George. We visited Stella Maris Church (RC), the Unfinished Church, Somers Garden, St. Peter’s, and Bermuda’s 400th Anniversary Monument. We also walked around town to take pictures before our dinner reservations at Wahoo’s Waterside Bistro & Patio. The streets in St. George are tightly clustered and should be ambled.

Bermuda Fact: Sir George Somers was at the helm of the Sea Venture in 1609 and deliberately drove the ship onto the reefs to prevent its floundering. All 150 passengers survived. The survivors later built two ships — Patience and Deliverance — using cedar and remains of the Sea Venture to continue their journey to Virginia. You can see a replica of the Deliverance on Ordnance Island in St. George.

In Part 2, I’ll pick up with days 4.

“These little islands are thickly covered with cedar groves, through the vistas of which you catch a few pretty white houses, which my poetical shortsightedness always transforms into temples.” – Tom Moore

Watercolors of sub-tropical scenes

(1) A quote from The Seven Storey Mountain from Thomas Merton:

“Bermuda in those days had no big hotels and no golf-courses to speak of. It was not famous for anything. It was simply a curious island, two or three days out of New York, in the Gulf Stream, where the British had a small naval base and where there were no automobiles and not much of anything else either.”

“We took a small boat called the Fort Victoria with a red and black funnel…and although I was very eager for my first site of the island, it came upon us suddenly before I was aware, and stood up before us in the purple waters, green and white. You could already see the small white houses, made of coral, cleaner than sugar, shining in the sun, and all around the waters paled over the shallows and became the color of emeralds, where there was sand, or lavender where there were rocks below the surface. We threaded our way in a zig-zag between the buoys that marked the path through the labyrinthine reefs. The H.M.S. Calcutta lay at anchor off Ireland Island dockyard, and father pointed to Somerset where, among the dark green cedars, was the place where we would live.”

(1a) The Sinking (and Exploding) of the RMS Fort Victoria in New York Harbor

Perennial Pondstraddler

BIG trip report after I dig out, but here are three things I don’t want to forget:

(1) Sea Venture Building
(2) Church Cave
(3) Bermuda Rose Society
(4) Mark V. Arenburg

…a place of refreshment, light, and peace.

Under a big W