Thursday, August 16, 2007

Catching Up

It's been almost 2.5 months since my last confession. And frankly I don't quite know how all of that time passed so quickly. When I got to the end of the Chapter I was happy to forego the nightly stint to feed the blog beast. However, since then not only have I kinda missed the regular ruminations of recent events, but - surprisingly to me, at least - a number of folks have asked me what happened and why I wasn't keeping it up.

So, okay, I'll move ahead with it and we'll see what happens. But it will likely be once or twice a week and not every day. Keeping a daily blog means that either you don't really have a life, or that you're so disassociated from real people that you need to "relate" to those accessible through a screen, or you're doing something so interesting that it's a way to share the experience and process it for yourself. Two of those are not too good. I'll try to maintain the third option, within reason.

The main job upon my return was to move myself from Sacrament to Napa. Instead of living at the high school, I'll be living at our Provincialate office in Napa (Mont La Salle). An idyllic painting of the place is shown here. I commissioned it about 10 years ago when I was living there, but it's not far off the mark. It certainly is a contrast from the busy, loud, economically challenged neighborhood that Christian Brothers High School is in. Here the loudest think you hear at night are some birds that haven't gone to sleep yet, or the occasional cow in the attached farm. I spent the first couple of nights at Mont La Salle listening for the comforting sounds of a fire engine or some distant gun shots - typical noises from the area around the school.

After eight years in one place, it's amazing how much "stuff" accumulates. I found a set of boxes that I hadn't opened in all that time. The Director convinced me to just leave them there, unopened (they were pretty much books) and he would go through them for me, giving away what he could and saving what he thought I might want. I took him up on it. God knows there was enough other junk to go through. It made me think that simplicity really is a virtue, and that the more things we have, the more those things potentially have us. God save us from stuff.

There were movers that came and packed the things I hadn't yet packed, took the several items of small furniture, etc. that I've dragged with me from place to place, and deposited it all in my new room in Napa. Subsequent days were spent going through the boxes, saying "Oh, yeah." and putting it in a new pile in the room. Now I'm about 75% settled in. I still need to go through everything in detail and really decide where it should live.

Of course my responsibilities continued - contacting folks interested in the Brothers, exploring new avenues for vocation promotion, attending lots of meetings, etc. In the middle of the summer I traveled to Philadelphia for a meeting of all the vocation directors in the U.S. for the purpose of developing collaborative strategies, etc. A worthwhile meeting, actually, with some good results. I took the opportunity to go on to Washington, D.C., to pursue some vocation contacts there (didn't really pan out) and took a day to do the sights, meeting up with Sam Stefanki - former student body president at CBHS and now legislative assistant to Congresswomen Doris Matsui - who showed me lots of wonderful places. This included the Library of Congress, where I found out that anyone over the age of 18 could be member. Next thing I knew, I was walking down underground tunnels in pursuit of a membership card, which I eventually received. I thought I'd try it out and went to the music library - a real rabbit-warren of libraries make up the Library of Congress - where I sat down with some nifty folios from Alexander Gretchaninov that I'd been interested in for years.

When it came time to leave Washington, I'd arranged to take the train to NYC and then on to Chicago and Sacramento - a little vacation of sorts. However, through my own stupidity (lingered at a museum longer than I should have), I missed the train out of Washington by all of 2 minutes, caught a subsequent train (which was delayed en route) and missed the NYC train also by just 3 minutes. No more room in subsequent trains for a couple of days. So I ended up sitting on the floor of Penn station, surrounded by the rushing crowds, trying to figure out how to get back to California. Thankfully, I had my laptop computer, got online, found a $238 flight the next day to SFO, booked it from the cold floor, and had an adventure trying to get out to the airport. Lesson learned was: don't assume that you can catch a train by showing up 5 minutes before it leaves. Get there 30 minutes ahead of time. (I know, common sense.)

Other noteworthy things that I'll write about if the occasion presents itself:

1) Attended a Tridentine Wedding Mass and Reception (non-Tridentine) at the Sacramento Cathedral for Abigail Hesser (and Jonathan Burke). Brought back a flood of Latin memories.

2) Had my over-50 "procedure" - enough said. Spent a whole day indoors watching all of the Lord of the Rings movies; the uncut versions.

3) Spent a couple of days at the family cabin in Jackson, fixing things, visiting around, enjoying the time with my relatives.

4) Took my niece and a friend of hers to see Joshua Bell play with the Russian National Symphony right here in Yountville. Decided that life was too short for bad tickets, and so we sat close enough to really appreciate the experience. Passionate stuff, the violin.

5) Joined the board at La Salle High School in Milwaukie, OR, for a day of "bonding" (my word) through playing golf in the morning (made a hole-in-one, much to my surprise), lunch, and an afternoon of work at Medical Teams International's warehouse, sorting medical supplies. It's surprising how much "business" can get done in a casual setting - what someone else has called "parking lot conversations."

6) Went to a pool party at my brother's place in Manteca. They have a great lap-pool next to the house: the only way to go. All the family was there, and then some. A great time for everyone.

7) Did a couple of presentations / discussions at Saint Mary's College, at the invitation of Dr. Carole Swain. Two with the Lasallian Scholars Practicum of the Buttimer Institute, and one with the MA program participants in Lasallian Studies.

8) Spent a couple of days at our camp at Lake Huntington, joining a group of Brothers there for a short vacation. It's a gorgeous area, where we've had a lodge and cabins since 1954. Mostly used by others, but they keep a couple of weeks open for just the Brothers.

9) Did a Day of Reflection for the faculty and staff at Christian Brothers High School, Sacramento. Lots of great friends and acquaintances, and a find morning of interaction.

10) Joined my new community of Brothers for a series of meetings during which we set goals, principles, etc. for the upcoming year. It was held at Sea Ranch - kind of remote, but beautiful, near the ocean, with an interesting little non-denominational chapel (see picture) that's along the side of the road.

So, you see, it's not as if I've not been doing anything during the past few months. Naturally, the things that stand out for me are the "fun" things. But rest assured that there was lots of other work in between.

Enough for now. More later. Life moves on and we'd better be paying attention.