Friday, October 29, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reflection: A Sunday Afternoon's Walk

This afternoon I took a leisurely seven mile walk as I had some free time on my schedule. A weekend retreat for women in recovery was ending and a pervading quiet was settling in at the retreat house. The gusty winds of the past few days have ceased and the outside temperature warmed up to 57 degrees (14 C.) The clouds over the ocean appear as if a fog covers it. The clouds are evenly white with gentle curves. It looks like a mid-November sky although it is much warmer day.

I can smell the moisture in the air. Precipitation will be light if there is any at all. The moisture allows me to notice the earthy soil as decaying leaves form a blanket or browns and fading reds on the ground. The pine trees' fragrance has a steady scent. The stillness from above makes me notice the overlooked aspects of creation below.

I listen to the Estonian computer, Arvo Part, on my IPod and set out for my daily exercise. My mind does its usual wanderings as I spend part of my time in prayer and some time noticing the beauty of the land. I tell Christ about what has happened with my family during the past week and then spend some time telling him about my Jesuit life. The graces I received in Australia are still strong and I continue to offer my thanks to Christ for rewarding me generously. I tell Christ about the events of my week and the people who have moved me or are in need of prayers. Walking while praying helps me get everything out. It does not replace my contemplative prayer; it helps me clear out the cobwebs so my prayer in stillness can be more focused upon Christ. Somehow these forward physical steps assist my spiritual steps.

People bring beauty into their lives. The great mansions of Gloucester and the small houses alike do well to keep up their properties and these seasonal decorations describe the houses' and owners' personalities. Most of these decorations are flowers, gourds, stalks, or other natural products that make for tasteful seasonal displays. I find it incredible the variety of late-autumn flowers that appear so fresh and at the height of their lifespan. I would have thought that any cold would have diminished their growth and beauty. Beauty seems to bring up in less than favorable conditions.

While I admire the beauty of these houses and properties, I am past the point of dreaming of having my own place. I have lived in many places and met some truly good people along the way. I like staying in touch with them and letting them know I still care about them, but I feel like I am more truly living for Christ. No place seems like home and yet everyplace seems like home.

It seems natural to want to feel rooted, to have permanence, and to feel secure. Right now, I would feel hampered by possessing my own property. While I do like to maintain and care for the houses where I am assigned, I no longer feel as if I want to build a home. On the contrary, I want to give away much of what I do have. Perhaps it is the season we are in when the daylight leaves us more quickly than we want and we think about the cycle of life more intensely. I also care less for building my own status or honor. I feel freer to let my life be more about living it for Christ.

I consider how much death is a part of life. I am praying for many people who are sick or in need of surgery or are merely having a difficult time with some aspect of their lives. I feel for them and want them to do well and to thrive. I want them to be healthy and happy and to know how much the Lord cares for them. I realized the sadness a person feels when a loved one has died. The memories of these people remain with us and always will, especially as we advance towards our own death. Life will continue without us and we have to choose each day how we will best live it.

Death does not need drama. I want to be ready for it whenever it comes and I want to live a long life with good health and caring friends. I want to make the best choices I can for my happiness each day and want to live and die well. I want to take the words of the preacher Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes to heart: enjoy life, recreate well, choose your own happiness. I want to live in the freedom God extends to us. I want to be true to the Creator's hope for me. To do anything otherwise would be to act falsely.

Death comes to us all. I choose to live for Christ and to bring his message to anyone who wants to hear it. At this stage in my life, I realize my efforts and activities are not worth all that much. I have diminishing illusions about the great work I can do. I am settling into the reality that Christ merely wants to be with me and that he wants me to live as joyfully as I can. That's all. If I can notice the ways God gives us so much and gives us each other and I live in gratitude for people and their gifts, then I am doing rather well and I will be content in life. Give me only your grace. That's enough for me.

I enjoyed my walk today.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finally Fall

Today finally looks like Fall at Eastern Point in Gloucester. The roads are abandoned by tourists and visitors to the rocky shores of the retreat house. A stillness has settled upon the Point. The chill is clipped by the sun's midday warmth and the reddish leaves are clinging for dear life. A brisk wind will clear the foliage from its branches. The air contains a wettish fragrance that reminds me of an early spring day as it contains an earthy odor. I have no care in the world. I appreciate the transition in the seasons to help me with my transitions in life.

I took my refurbished mountain bike out for a spin this morning. It rides well. I passed a group of other bikers and I thought it would be fun to join a bike club.

I then passed a group of people who must have had a Corvette convention. They stopped at Niles Beach to sit by the ocean and talk about their cars. Ten cars lined the parking lot. The Corvettes had such variety to their kind because of the changes that were made to them over the years.

Last night, I went to my Tuesday evening rehearsal with the Cape Ann Singers as we prepare for our Christmas concert next month. We are singing a version of the Twelve Days of Christmas set to an international score; a compilastion of Alfred Burt Carols, a Jewish lament song, and the Hallelujah Chorus.

This afternoon, I will visit the elderly and infirm Jesuts at Campion Center in Weston, Massachusetts before I attend a lecture at Boston College by Roger Haight on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

I'll first stop at the North Shore Arts Association to see the gallery of watercolors. A friends' teacher won an award for her painting of a parking lot - of all things.

I'll stop at Boston College to drop off a collection of The Jesuit Relations, a journal series that chronicles the first years of Jesuit life and exploration of the New World by the first Jesuits to Canada, New France, and the northern regions of the U.S.A.

Earlier this week, I have found my walking route of 4.5 miles. I listened to the Estonian composer Arvo Part and I have reread Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style." Both are riveting.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Photos: Scenes around Gloucester; Around Salem, Massachusetts - the Witch City

To see photos of various places in Gloucester and scenes from Salem - the Witch City, please click on the link below:

Pics of Salem and Gloucester

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A National Holiday: Columbus Day

October 12th is the traditional day for celebrating Columbus Day, though the holiday always falls on the second Monday of October. Columbus is criticized for having the prototypical attitude of the European sailing captains and merchants who explored and exploited the Atlantic in the 15th century. He was a man of unusual ambition. He also takes the brunt of the criticism lodged against the European colonizers for the harsh treatment of the native populations of the Americas.

Four hundred years after Columbus' first voyage, President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed a national holiday to honor the landing in San Salvador. Harrison wanted to set aside a day that recognized both Native Americans and the many immigrants, including Italians, who were flocking to the U.S. in record numbers. This holiday would be the first one that was not a religious holiday or one that honored the Founding Fathers. It was to be a day that celebrated the ordinary people who were part of American history. It was planned to be a tribute to democracy as well: universal public schooling was recently instituted - a hallmark decision for democracy because it was designed to include everyone, not just the wealthy governing elite.

The first parade was held in New York City and its marchers were primarily 12,000 school children from each constituency. Public high school students led the way, followed by Catholics, then other private and national schools. The Native Americans were included in the procession. The parade was an attempt to universally unite every group who called themselves Americans.

Nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Two years before the national holiday was declared, U.S. troops massacred 200 Lakota Sioux people at Wounded Knee because of an unfortunate misunderstanding. The U.S. government acknowledge the tragedy of the soldiers actions. In a separate incident ten weeks later, eleven Italian citizens were lynched in prison. The Italians were put to death because of a public fears. Italians were almost as unpopular as the Native Americans. President Harrison was saddened by the events. It is conceivable that Harrison wanted to instill a spirit within the American people who could move beyond their own prejudice and to recognize the great contributions of its many diverse peoples.

The idea behind the holiday is much deeper than most Americans realize. We impose today's attitudes upon events that happened much earlier and that is intellectually dishonest. The goals of Harrison are certainly admirable. Columbus' landing was a momentous step in a world that would see monumental changes within a short period of time. Such a discovery rarely has happened in human history and for that alone, it is a holiday worth remembering.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It is finally Autumn

The cool weather has moved into New England as a very warm September has ended. The nights are crisp and the days are still warm. You can see many people walking around with cardigan and sweatshirts to take the chill off their bones. I'm still mostly in short-sleeved shirts.

The rains have come. We need the rain, especially as the precipitation from last week's Tropical Storm Katrina did not quench the grass's thirst. The surf is pounding violently on the rocks. It becomes a metaphor for God's everlasting quest to get through to our consciousness. It is persistently rhythmic.

To capture the stormy events outside my window, I took a bath where I could just immerse myself through my senses. It set my day right. Now I'm off to work feeling very refreshed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Photos: Sunrise, Sunset

To see photos of the sunrise at Gloucester and sunset on Cape Cod, please click on the link below:

Pics of Sunrise, Sunset