Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Land of Rainbows

I awoke this morning to see this brilliant arching rainbow that stretched from one end of the beach to the cliffs on the other side. I have seen quite a few rainbows here, which is very nice, but it means that it rains more than I would like. Usually I see the mountain in the morning before the clouds come in, but today there was bright sunshine everywhere but on the mountain. Since it was so sunny I thought I would head to the mountains after Mass with the schoolkids, but sure enough it clouded up, which precluded me from hiking. I was very surprised at the end of Mass when the students presented me with a welcome card that listed each of the students and teachers names with well-wishes. As the daylght comes to a close, I am sitting in my kitchen looking out at the mountain, the right time that I can see the mountain at sunset. It looks bold and refreshing. I want to climb it.

I drove in the direction of Mt. Egmnont just in case it cleared up during the day, but when it looked less promising, I drove onwards to Eltham. I was pleased with that town because it is about 5 times larger than Opunake. It has a vibrant downtown area and there is more commercial activity other ththan farming. I headed down to Hawera and was royally surprised to see the busy commerical area of the town.

I visited a priest who is the administrator of the Catholic Church there during the absence of the pastor who suffers from terminal brain cancer. I ha a nice lunch and visit and I will return to Hawera because I can do some window shopping, visit a bookstore, or take a coffee somewhere. It is only 40 minutes from my house. Not bad. I have an alternative to the silence of the farm area if I ever need a break.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Day of Sunshine

I awoke this morning to bright sunshine though the mountain was obscured by clouds. I decided to head out immediately before the weather changed as it rapidly does. I traveled along the Opunake Walkway and during my two hours, I only saw two other people. This is a very quiet town.

It is amazing how there are different parts to this town: the beach area is noted for its surfing, the coastal walkways have great cliffs, the land is for dairy farming, and a huge mountain provides recreation. I posted photos of my walk in an earlier post.

When I came home, I decided to take a bath since there is a tub in the house. It is very long so my body fit in there nicely and I could submerge for relaxation. I read a few issues of the Tablet to get caught up on the news in the church. When it started to not relax me, I put the magazines aside.

Other than that, I said Mass today in Opunake and I'm getting ready for a funeral on Thursday.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Photos: Opunake's Beachwalk

To see photos of the coast of Opunake, please click on the link below:

Pics of Opunake's Beachwalk

I'm Lost

This morning I set out on the road to visit a parishioner whose husband died over the weekend. I mapped out the address on google maps and set off in plenty of time to make it to their house on time. The house would be down this one long, desolate farm road by 23 kilometers. I'm still used to miles. So I set off armed with the postal address, but I noticed that the numbers kept descending, which from my point of view was the wrong way. I figured that once I reached a particular town the numbers would begin to increase again. They didn't. In fact, I was now down in to the 100's when I was supposed to be in the 3,000's. Damn thing was I could not pull over to ask anyone for directions because there was no one to ask. There wasn't even a town until 30 km down the road. Finally, they told me what I knew: I had to turn around. The person giving me directions told me to go back until I reach Pahkita road and then turn around and come back by two houses. I did not have confidence, but it was at least something to try out. The name of the mailbox was the correct surname, but the mailbox number was 1,000 off. As I pulled into the farm, I could tell it was not the right house. With my proverbial tail between my legs, I turned around to head back to the parish. I talked the 30 km back to the intersection near Opunake and I found a postal worker delivering mail by car. She gave me the proper directions - after I come across a particular road, it was the second house on the left. Wonderful. All in all, it was about 3 km from my house. Arghh! I had a nice visit with them.

My visit, however, made me late for visiting priest friends in New Plymouth. Without a mobile phone, I headed north for a 60 km trek. It was a miserable drive because of the driving rain and it was doubtful that I would catch up with these priests because I would be late for lunch. Well, I finally arrived, but could not park near the church because of a large funeral. I was right. Those priests did head out for lunch and so I decided to go to the city's mall and grab a quick bite at the food court. I recalled remarking to myself that here I am in a land where I know no one, and somehow I don't feel alone or lonely. Just then, a woman ascending the escalator waves at me and thanks me for baptizing her niece the other day. What a small world. It was the first time I had been to this city and someone recognizes me.

On the ride home, when I reached Pangarehu, I realized I was almost home. It is odd how a foreign land can feel like home so quickly.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Song: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version of Somewhere over the Rainbow

To see a video of Somewhere over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, please click on the link below:

YouTube clip by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

A Baptism

I had the pleasure this morning to welcome an infant girl as a new member to our Church. The family was so proud of this moment and the little girl was all smiles. Fortunately for her, I warmed up the waters in the baptismal font so she wasn't shocked when I did the baptism. It was a great start to the day.

I visited the family at their farmhouse after the baptism. I was so impressed with the construction and beauty of the house and the landscaping. The house is 100 years old and is in immaculate shape. The tasteful choice of wall paint and the modern artwork makes this house very inviting and comfortable. I'm envious of their television set.

This was a day of walking discovery. As the clouds rolled away and sunshine provided afternoon light, I embarked for my traditional walk around Opunake. I diverted from my path onto a sidestreet that led me past a fast-flowing river. It fed into the Opunake Lake. I had not noticed it before and it is quite a scenic area. I'll have to walk there over the next few days and take my camera with me. It leads to a bluff that looks out over the Opunake beach. It reminds me a lot of the pond at Gloucester, Massachusetts.

As I stood at the banks of the lake, two rainbows shot up into the sky. Just at that moment, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version of "Somewhere over the rainbow" came on my ipod nano. This was a song used on a KAIROS retreat. I thought how coincidental. How neat.

The late afternoon sunlight had such a soft touch on the clouds. It would have been photographic splendor, but I'll just have to store those images in my personal memory bank. I'll walk along that lake very soon. Wish you could see it. It passes through farmlands with cows and horses and it goes into the bush and past a cemetary that leads up to the vast ocean.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Photos: Kiwi Country and Waterfalls

To see photos of the Mt. Egmont's habitat, please click on the link below:

Pics of Mt. Egmont's habitat

Kiwi Country and Waterfalls

I am having a very pleasant day. The sunrise was again as spectacular as can be. I called over to Sr. Veronica to see if she wanted to have Mass as it is the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist. The fact is I wanted to have Mass as the day is memorable to me. I love when Zechariah's mouth is opened when it is time to name the child: "His name is John." There is such firm affirmtion in that line. I feel like I have identity when I hear those words. Something stirs within me. Also, when I was entering the Jesuits, I closed on my condo on June 23rd and had to vacate it on the morning of the 24th. It was certainly a reminder that I had to decrease so Christ could increase.

I went for a drive this morning to get close to the base of the mountain. Sr. said it was not a good day to see the mountain. I took off to see the environment. Well, somehow I took a road that I thought could get me to the base of the mountain and I found myself on a road to Dawson's Falls, which is near a visitor's station that contains many mountain trails. I gathered information about the trails and told the attendants that I would be back when I was prepared to hike. I walked around the lodge and saw there was a nice coffee shop. I figured if I went for an easy walk I could come back and have a nice hot coffee as a treat. I'm so glad I went for that walk. I earned my 11,000 steps.

The mountainside is an area where the Kiwi bird lives. The visitor stations respectfully educates the trekkers about the situation of the endangered bird. They are nocturnal creatures so I didn't expect to see any.

I learned that you ought not to wear white pants while walking on a muddy path. They trail narrows at certain points and I looked like a mess when I emerged out from the trails. My once-clean sneakers have changed color. I was rather eerie as I was the only one of the paths. Some of the areas could have used some pruning, but those days are behind me. The paths are actually well marked and well maintained. I thought once or twice that is was dangerous for me to be hiking because one is never to hike alone and is to always stay on the path. It is difficult to get lost because you just walk downhill on a mountain or you follow a stream, but it could be inconvenient if you stray.

The mountain views are compelling. I can't wait until I do another hike, except this time I will bring a trail map. The vistas are splendid and many waterfalls and pools dot the scenery. The silence was indeed golden and the birds were melodic, except I must have scared 10 eagle-sized birds at various times. They startled me. It is an eagle's habitat, but there are other large birds in the area. I will have to get a guide to help me spot and recognize them on future walks.

The fragrances kept changing. It brought back memories of looking for Christmas trees or walking in the woods during a grey November day. At times, a mist settled on the forest and everything was dripping wet even though it was a very sunny day. Water oozed from the banks of the trail and often overflowed. Sometimes it was easier to walk off the path where it was dryer. The air smelled so clean and pure - almost like a Rocky Mountain high.

I began to think about the passage of time. The volcanic mountain I was on has not erupted in the past 250 years and it probably would not erupt in my lifetime. It remains dormant, but still has activity. I love the mounds of rock and earth it has produced because it is lava that has congealed before it had a chance to wash to the ocean. It makes for a handsome landscape. But I think about how we spend our time and misuse it. I think of how irrelevant most of our activity may be in the long run. Who will remember us in 250 years. No one. Why spend all our time on activities that are just busyness? I believe we will be remembered by God, and that is enough. I think of the ways in which I want to make myself, and Christ, meaningful to others, but in the end just living in relation to God and neighbor is the most important. Time is quite a mystery. I need to spend more time experiencing time.

Oh, for my treat, I did get that cup of Flat White (coffee with milk) and a date and orange muffin. I enjoyed that muffin immensely. Together it cost NZ $7.50 for which I gave them a $10.00 and they didn't give me change!

Amazing. When it was time to leave, I started the car, heard the radio playing and quickly turned it off. The noise seemed like such an assault to my ears. I could not belief what I was doing. It is so quiet in my life right now that any sound is welcome and I turned off that darn radio. I wanted the peace that the mountain and plains offered me. What is happening to me. I shift my standard car into gear and drove away feeling free.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Slow Day

Today was a rather slow day. The sunrise was awesome. I spent most of my morning just watching the sun rise over the crest of Mt. Egmont. I noticed it is difficult to awake naturally in the morning. Since it is the shortest day(light) of the year, the sun begins to rise about 7:10 a.m. and it is dark by 4:30 p.m. It is odd that the feast of John the Baptist is tomorrow. It is really a Northern Hemisphere feast.

I cooked some terrific fish today. I wish I knew the name of it because it was so tasty with a solid consistency. I finished it off with mixed nuts Turkish Delight. It can't be healthy, but it is scrumptious. Other than that I did some cleaning and tidying up. I went for a fairly long walk as well before of the winter rains began again.

Photos: Pastoral Days in Opunake

To see photos of the rural life of Opunake near New Plymouth, please click on the link below:

Pics of Pastoral Opunake

Photos: First Days in Opunake

To see photos of the town of Opunake in the Taranaki region, please click on the link below:

Pics of Opunake, Taranaki, New Zealand

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Visit to the Parish School

This morning I walked to the public library. I enjoy stopping at local libraries because you can tell something about the fabric of the community from it. This library mostly had novels and fiction as well as local lore. In Australia and New Zealand, many of the smaller libraries are catalogued alphabetically by author. You don't find a difference in subject matter the way you would in a bookstore like Borders or Barnes and Noble.

I noticed that the cows have the best property. All along the coast, the cows roam freely. This would be expensive prime property in the U.S. The values are mercifully different here.

It is neat to see people horseback riding. I sense it is not strictly for entertainment. We don't have man sheep in New Zealand anymore. There used to be 40 million, but now we are down to 22 million because few people are importing lamb. It is lovely to see the sheep run along the hillsides.

Each day in town there is a deep reverberating gong. It is the clock to tell us that it is noon meridien.

I visited the parish school today. There are 128 students in it and the classes are mostly grouped into 2 grades. It is a small school but the kids are very well-behaved and respectful and they were very diligent in their work. I'll say Mass for two of the classes tomorrow. It was a little cool outside today and the kids were running through the fields with no shoes on. They walked into the classroom with bare feet. They are amazingly rugged people.

I said Mass in Pangarehu this evening. These folks are very kind. I met one man from the Netherlands who grew up with another boy from the same town and school. They both migrated to this area and have been friends all their life.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Break from Silence

I began the day with the news that New Zealand picked up another point in the World Cup when they tied defending World Cup Champs Italy. The island nation is beaming with pride and respect. It is a nation of a little more than 4 million people. The tiny island nation of Singapore has 22 million people in a fraction of the size of New Zealand.

Anyways, I decided I would drive around town and the environs today just to see where I am. I tell you. I am nowhere like I've ever been. I drove for half an hour to get to the next town, which is smaller than Opunake. The landscape is great though.

I returned to the Presbytery (parish house) and Sanjay, an Indian Herald of the Good News priest, and his friend Martin from Malaysia was there. Since it was their day off, they decided to stop by Opunake and visit me. It was nice to have some sound in the house. We had a coffee and I gave them a tour of the place. I was grateful for their visit becuase otherwise I would not have uttered a word or heard a spoken word all day long.

While the silence is uncomfortable, I will learn something good from this experience.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The First Hours in Opunake

Quiet. No, still. Silence. Dark. Alone. Sneakers squeak. Fog. Mist. Clouds. Grey. Sea. Lost. Rush. Wind. Blown hat. Here. Where? Hush. Sleep. Wonder. Wander? Stirring. Where are you? Dawn. Rays. Mountain. Peaks. Snow. Ridges. Gasp. Climb. Majesty. Green. Bright. Mist. Mystical. Journey. Walk. Desolate. Fool. Unicorn. Irish hills. Stones. Hills. Castles. No, homes. Castles. Lamb. Comfort. Settled. Peace. Relax. Cows. Earth. Soil. Clean. Strong. Virulent. Fragrance. Pure. Walk. Ponder. Step. Another. Forward. Time. Long. Place. Upside-down. Remote. Rural. Coastal. Smile. Warmth. Firm. Hands. Warmth. Stoic. Strong. Silent. Light. Stillness. Presence. Laughter. Dig. Deep. Down. Penetrate. Alone. Connected. Flush. Same. Honor. Music. Routine. Another Day. Forward. Hover. Always. Near. Still. OK. Movement. Fine. Friend. Longing. Who? Steadfast. Abiding. Consoling. Now. Now. Grace. Still. Quiet.

The Quiet Town of Opunake, New Zealand

Opunake is very different from any place in Australia. I am a foreigner in a remarkably different country. I can't even know where I am because the street signs don't clue me in. They are basically Maori words. I sense I will have sufficient adjustments to make as I settle in.

I arrived in New Plymouth, New Zealand on Friday – a bustling city of 68,000 people. Fr. Tom collected me at the airport and he brought me to St. Joseph’s Church to meet five other priests for the Palmerston North diocese. After dinner, I visited the mission parish in Pungarehu and then settled in at Opunake near Rahotu. I have a large presbytery with four guest rooms. It was pitch black when I arrived (no street lights) so when I awoke the next morning I was stunned to see the huge mountain, Taranake, in my backyard. It dominates the landscape and it looks like the mountain in the movie "The Ten Commandments" with thick clouds hovering at the peak. It is filled with thick layers of snow and is a 20 minute drive from my presbytery. Wow. It is amazing though. Today as I looked out the window, the mountain was gone. The fog and clouds engulfed the entire mountain even though the visibility was fairly good.

The beach is a two minute drive from my place and is very nice as well. It has black sand instead of white, but it is cared for nicely. The people take great pride in their beach. The land is much like what I expect Ireland to be like. It is so moist and green and there are small hills dotting the landscape. It is a pleasant place to be. The temperature is fairly warm, but they say the cold comes after the shortest day of the year, which was yesterday. Now we’ll get a few more seconds of increased daylight each day.

It is very quiet here. I'm sure I will get a little lonely. There isn't a sound anywhere and the television has one fuzzy station. The people are looking after me well though, especially Sister Veronica who had me over for Sunday dinner and to watch the All Blacks beat the Welch. The place is so quiet.

Mass today was quite good. The church of St. Martin’s in Pangarehu was interesting. The people sang very well and loudly. They also have such nice smiles. The first three people I met were from the Netherlands, Ireland, and Switzerland – and they enjoy living here. I was so touched by their kindness to me and their dedication to church. The Mass in Opunake was much larger and all the men served the Mass as Eucharistic Ministers, ushers, and even singers, though we had a good female vocalist to lead the congregation. The men stayed around longer after Mass to chat and catch up on the village news. Virtually all the people have such firm handshakes and joyful smiles. Their faces light up when they greet another person and you can just tell they like being around others. I get a very good sense of happiness and comfortableness from them.

Anyways, I hope to drive to the mountain tomorrow as it is my day off. It is so quiet here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Photos: Melbourne: Boston's Sister City

To see photos of Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road, please click on the link below:

Pics of Melbourne, Australia

Photos: The Cleared Bush of Pymble

To see photos of the bushlands that I cleared at Canisius College in Pymble, please click on the link below:

Pics of the Cleared Bush of Pymble

A Weekend in Melbourne - Boston's Sister City

I just had a great weekend in Melbourne. I enjoyed the architecture and landscaping of the city and the way the city seems to have pride in itself. Sydney seems to have a sharper edge to it, but the buildings seem to blend a traditional style with a contemporary one. It seems to be a blend of Boston, D.C., and a European city. I quite liked it.

On the first day, Maryann collected me at the airport and then I met her husband, Rodney. Maryann is a professor at Monash University and Rodney is one of the principal founders of Tract, a landscape engineer. His work is seen all over Australia. We went to Romeo’s for an Italian dinner where we met their sons, Adam and Bennett, and their girlfriends.

On the next morning, I walked my 10,000 steps by leaving Toorak via William Street and following Alexandra to the athletic domes. It was quite a compelling cityscape at which to marvel as one walks along the esplanade. I could not resist the Botanical Gardens. When I finished the walk, we went into town by bus and tram. We looped the CBD (Central Business District) and visited some of the main sites of Melbourne. We went by the regal Parliament House, the Catholic Cathedral, and then went into a Sofitel hotel (Telstra building) where we could get a bird’s eye view of the city.

We then took the tram to the Docklands and walked along the areas of new construction. We passed by Channel 7’s offices right in front of the new sports stadium. The area is newly developed and will soon be connected with the new and popular Harbourtown shopping area. At one of the local restaurants, we had the tastiest coffee, coffixx, which was like drinking a meal. Mmmm. To top off a great day, Maryanne cooked a tasty lamb meal that complement our consumption of red wine very well.

The following morning we went to Mass at St. Peter’s in Toorak. Fr. Brendan Hayes studies at Weston Jesuit so we knew a lot of the same people. After coffee, we set out for their Wye River estate on the Great Ocean Road. We stopped at Freshwater CafĂ© that makes original desserts and homemade meat pies.
As we passed Anglesea, where the Jesuits I later learned have a villa, we spotted a pack of at least 20 kangaroos grazing on the bluff. We passed through the hopping town of Lorne. Since it was the Queen’s Birthday holiday, many families spent their weekend at the coastal towns.

I was amazed at the nearness of the koalas in the gum trees at their house at Wye River. They are difficult to spot unless your eye is trained to see them, but they make this most incredible noise. It sounds as if motorcycles are revving their engines a few miles away, but it is the koalas keeping in touch with the others who are nearby.

After sipping some Sevenhill Fine Tawny Port, we went to the local pub for a meal, and returned home for some more port as we watched the 1997 classic film, “Castle.”

The next morning, Rodney cooked a deliciously-prepared French style eggs with bacon and we headed back to Melbourne via Torquay, the surfing capital of Australia. On the drive back, we were initially elated then very worried about the Boston Celtics. They were playing Game 5 of the NBA Championship and were leading by twelve with three minutes to play. We called their son Bennett to check the score and he said he would call when the game was finished. We waited half an hour for those three minutes to be played and we hadn’t heard an update. Finally, we had to call and Bennett said the game just finished with the Celtics winning by six points. Kobe had an amazing game, but Pierce put the team on his shoulders. The Celtics can win it all next game – quite an amazing feat. Maryann recorded the game so we decided to watch it when we returned home. We fast-forwarded through all the commercials and we were riveted as the game wound down to two minutes. At that moment, the recording finished and we were stunned. We felt cheated, but the Celtics won and all was right in the universe.

From there we drove to Xavier Catholic School in Hawthorne/Kew and saw where Bob Stewarts clothing is located. We drove to Richmond, a tony suburb, and we saw a plaque that denoted where Mother Mary MacKillop once lived. At that point it was time for me to return to Sydney. I blessed the house (and earlier on, the house on Wye River) and I had to leave some good friends. I had such a pleasant time and it seems as if Maryann and Rodney have been my friends for a long, long time. They at least will be. And yet, I also enjoyed returning home to Canisius College in Pymble.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Life is Good

For the past two weeks, I have been back in Pymble (Sydney) where we have studied two areas of Jesuit life: social justice and our Constitutions. Though Sandy Cornish did a nice job with the social justice presentation, I very much enjoy reading the Constitutions. It reminds me of reading Canon Law. I like that a lot too. Anyways, we have had great discussions on the Constitutions and the spirit of the General Congregations who modified the Complementary Norms. I take it seriously because I wonder when I will have this great opportunity to do it again.

My garden work.

I have worked strenuously on our back lawn over the past two weeks and I am proud of the work that I have done. If maintained, it can be a great place of prayer and reflection in a natural world setting. I’ve ripped out logs that have fallen years ago. I’ve eradicated many insidious vines and creepers and I’ve removed the brush that lays on the bush floor. I’ve cleared major pathways for people to stroll through the bush and come to an opening that is teeming with birds – especially kookaburra and owls. I’m tired, but I can see tremendous results.

One nasty thing that happened because of the many rains that we’ve had recently is an increase in the number of funnel web spider sightings. I saw four last week and a novice saw another one. They are quite energetic little beings with a deadly punch to them. Thank God we have antidotes.
On the vigil of Pentecost as I was working in the fields, I stopped to admire the work I was doing and a big Kookaburra swooped down and bonked me on the head. He did not attack me, but it was a gentle nudge. I decided that he was trying to thank me for making dinner for him so accessible. OK. The disciples of Jesus gets a dove; I get a kookaburra. I can take that.

One day as I was breaking my back moving logs and cutting deep brush, a Jesuit comes down to take a look at the grounds. He remarks about the good work that I have done and then he says he will help me out. He cuts the branches off of a tropical plant, drops the long leaves on the ground, and leaves!!! I guess he is happy that he did his part, but he doesn’t realize that he created more work for me. A group of young Jesuits also cleared a small new path in the bush. Instead of taking their rubbish to the great heap of a pile right outside the clearing, they drop their rubbish right at the spot that I had recently cleared out!

One tertian came down into the clearing and remarked, “My God, this is beautiful. Think of all the possibilities for beauty and reflection by retreatants in this place.” He suggested that I ought to finish clearing it so others can enjoy it. For what reason does he think I have been doing this?


Otherwise, I am very happy. I enjoy my brother tertians. Adrian and Joe are good directors. The other Jesuits in the house are interesting and kind men. The novices are generous men. All is good. I feel very blessed by God.

Awash in Light

Last night, four other tertians and I went to Sydney Harbour to see the Opera House and other buildings awash in light. For two weeks the Harbour will have these artsy lights beamed onto major buildings to tell the story of Macquarie's history. I can't believe it is winter because it was such a warm night and I wore a short sleeve shirt. I tried to take photos of the light display, but I did not have a tripod or enough knowledge about how to set my camera. I'll have to do a little homework for my next trip there. It is so worth seeing.