Archive for January, 2016

January 29, 2016
Fate awaits

Fate awaits

The end of the shipping season was here.  The big lake was freezing over, and the ice was forming its blockades in the shipping lanes.  There was one more load to go, and Daniel was going to make this last trip before winter set in, and then stay at home with his wife Marie and their two little girls, Heather and Ellie, until the spring break-up.

He called Marie before the ship left its port, loaded with grain from the Midwestern elevators, making it’s way to the east coast to be shipped further to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

“We’re leaving within the hour, Sweetheart.  This is the last trip for the year, and then I’m home for the next three months to be with you and the girls.”

Marie was holding back tears on the other end of the phone, because she knew that this was the most dangerous trip Daniel took each year. She knew that the ice that had built up was nowhere near the size of the bergs in the North Atlantic, but that it created terrible, and deadly, hazards nonetheless.

“Daniel, I wish you would find another job.  I know you love sailing, but I miss you when you are gone and I get so afraid every time you climb aboard your ship.”

Daniel never imagined a sailor’s life, but the first time he saw one of the big grain ships off the port of Cleveland, he knew that sailing the Great Lakes was what he was going to do. Since Heather and Ellie had entered his life just a few years ago, he was constantly re-evaluating the risk he was taking by plying his trade on the big inland waters.  For the first time, he was seriously considering staying on shore next season.

But leaving the shore to cross lakes Michigan, Superior, Ontario, Erie and Huron was what he was made for.  A short time after he had started sailing, he took all the tests and gained all the experience necessary to be a captain of one of the big freighters, and he was mighty proud of that fact.   He commanded a crew of 30 men and women on his ship, and he was fair to all, but highly disciplined.  Daniel was respected by every member of his crew, and every crewman and woman would have gone to war for him.

” Marie, you know that I can’t just give this up.  For one thing, there is no way I could make the money on shore that I am making here.  We couldn’t live on half my salary, because that’s what I would earn.  And as young as Heather and Ellie are, they need you to be at home with them.”

“Don’t worry sweetie, I’m a good captain who would never take our ship into a situation that would endanger the ship, the crew or me.  I’ve got two girls who I want to see graduate from college, and I need to be there to walk them down the aisle.  Now I’ll be home in two weeks, and then I’m all yours until April.  Now I’ve got to go, we’re ready to pull out of the harbor.  Kiss the girls for me – tell them Daddy loves them!  I love you too, Marie.  I’ll call tomorrow night.  See you soon!”

“Daniel, be careful!  I couldn’t live without you.  I need you, the girls need you.  Please come home safely, and then we need to talk about you staying home.  For good.”

“Don’t worry, Marie.  I’ll be fine, and we can talk for the next three months, only interrupted by the laughter of our daughters.”

He pressed the little red button at the bottom of the phone to end the call, smiling as he was thinking of the squeals of delight from his two little girls when they would run to him as he walked in his front door in two weeks.  He smiled even more when he thought of embracing Marie, smelling her hair and kissing her with all the love he had for her.  He hollered out the commands to his crew on the bridge for the big freighter to begin it’s departure, getting assistance from the tugboats in the harbor as he backed away from the pier.

In the dark, a hundred miles away, the ice had grown to shipwrecking size, but had also gone undetected.  Daniel’s was the last ship out, and the ice lay directly in the path he was following.  Little did he know, but he would never hear his girls laugh again, or smell the intoxicating loveliness of Marie’s hair.  He would keep his promise, though, in that there would never be another trip.

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The Proper Order

January 28, 2016

 

Shadow ladders

Shadow ladders

I visited a friend in the hospital today.  It was a good visit, because she was there for some serious stuff.  She looked good, even though she had just undergone life-altering surgery that was anything but planned.  When I left her room, I made my way to the elevators and, while waiting, looked out the window to see this street stretch off into the horizon.   As the sun was setting, the cross streets created an open corridor for the last rays of the day’s light to illuminate their paths, while the homes and trees in the blocks in between filled the space with shadows.

untitled shoot-1010

Abandoned and forgotten

 

I left the hospital and walked down the street I had just seen.  A block away from the hospital is a group of homes that no longer have occupants.  As is their wont, hospitals like to acquire property because they grow like nothing else. These homes were in the way, and the owners – a group of investors – wanted to knock them down and sell the land to the hospital.  The homes were considered by some to be historic, and therefore a hue and cry went up up prevent their destruction.  Now they sit empty, and the owners will give them away for the taking, and pay $10,000 towards the moving cost.  In the meantime, the environment is taking its toll. The once beautiful and distinct homes, filled with unique character, are going back to the land.  The paint peels, the wood rots, and soon enough they will be beyond repair and will come down on their own.

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Two dimensions

 

While the paint comes off the wood, the trees show their outlines against the chimney, perhaps in a scene from the future as the only thing left will be the shadows of what once was.  Even brick and mortar give themselves up to the wind, the rain and the cold.  It won’t be long before the shadows will migrate east as their screen disappears.

Light and water

Light and water

And then the snow, the cold, forbidding snow, loses its grip on the roofs and sidewalks as the sun warms it and turns it, drop by drop, into the water that will eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico.  Today it came down like diamonds falling from the sky.  By Monday, the snow will be back and winter will slap us once again.

My trip to the hospital was quite an adventure.  My friend is resting, recuperating, and we pray for her.  The shadows will come and go again, and the homes will make their way to the land. This is life.  This is the proper order of things.

Sundance

January 27, 2016
Sundance

Sundance

The sun shone impossibly today, creating a sky so blue it looked like something that came out of an animators imagination.

I knew there was a shot here somewhere, so I walked around the block with the intention of finding it.  This 365 project has had the tremendous benefit of helping me see things that I have never seen before.  Or, more accurately, to see things I have never seen that I have seen hundreds of times before.

I’m starting to find that my minds eye is matching up to my camera lens.  I can picture the shot before I press the shutter, and the photo is looking like I had imagined it would.

This brings back a couple memories for me.  More than 50 years ago I was in the 2nd grade at St. John’s school in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Our teacher, then named Sister James Marie, had us make puppets out of construction paper and the cardboard from rolls of toilet paper.  I struggled with drawing pictures and making them look the way I wanted them to look, but the pirate puppet I made looked EXACTLY like I thought it would look.  I was overjoyed with that result and showed it off to Sister James Marie, who made me think I was a master puppet maker.

As a sophomore in high school, I struggled with geometry.  Mr. Parkinson, my teacher, was a no-nonsense kind of guy who loved teaching math.  He worked and worked with me to understand proofs, those exercises that required an awful lot of logic.  Then one day it clicked, and they made sense to me.  I came to love geometry and went from a C student to an A student.

Seeing a photo before capturing it is like the pirate puppet and geometry.  This is a tortured metaphor at this point, but stick with me.  When I started this project in November, I did it with the purpose of creating forced practice, and the goal was to become a better photographer.  Practice has paid off, and now I can make a pirate puppet to look just the way I thought it should, I understand geometry, and I can see the picture before I take the shot.

I loved the light in this picture, and when I saw the delicate moss on that little branch, I knew that I wanted this shot, and exactly this shot.  For you camera geeks, it’s ISO 100, 63mm, f/2.8 at 1/125.

I don’t believe this will win any awards or be sold for thousands of dollars, but I like it a lot.  What I really like is what it represents, which is the learned ability to see not just what is, but what could be.

What’s on your desk?

January 26, 2016
My view

My view

We all have hard jobs, and none of us can do them alone.

I have constant reminders on my desk that not only can I not do my job alone, there is no reason for me to think I should do it alone.  These images of the Blessed Mother with the infant Jesus, the Holy Family, and St. Michael the Archangel vanquishing the evil one remind me that I am not alone, and that my prayers are carried to the Lord whenever I ask for that assistance.

Some of my Protestant brothers and sisters hold the mistaken notion that when we have images of Mary, Joseph, the Angels and Saints, that we are committing idolatry because (they believe) we are praying to the images.  That is simply not the case, however, as these images are just reminders of the fact that they are able to help us in our prayers as they intercede with God on our behalf.

Another wonderful aspect of having these images in my office is the sheer artistic beauty of the pieces themselves.  I was given each of these as a gift, and I remember distinctly opening up the package that contained this framed image of Mary and Jesus and weeping. It was such a beautiful, wondrous work of art, making me think of how much Mary loved her son, and how much Jesus and Mary both love me.

I have many images of Mary and Jesus in my office, as well as Angels and Saints, giving me comfort and joy whenever I see them.  Knowing that they see me as I work, working for the glory of God in all I do, makes me content in my labors.

Hard jobs don’t have to be lonely jobs.  We may have been given great responsibilities, but we were never given them with the warning that we were on our own.

Kaleidoscopes

January 25, 2016
Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope

I loved kaleidoscopes when I was a kid.

Every once in a while one would enter into my life for my enjoyment.  I remember getting little ones from toy boxes at the dentist or at the shoe store.  Holding it up to my eye and twisting the little cardboard tube to make the bits of glass inside change colors and shapes was fascinating.

I can’t remember the last time I looked at one.  Then today in the office I was stressing about what picture to take to get back on track with this 365 project.  I was the only one in the building, as it was past 5 and everyone else had gone home.  I walked into the common area and looked up.

In the ceiling is a large domed space with skylights and a real old and ugly light fixture that looks like bowling balls suspended on wires.  In a perfect world, that fixture would not exist.  It really is a tribute to bad taste in interior design.

In fact, and I make no secret about this, the inside of our offices are not what one would call aesthetically pleasing.  I often joke about it with visitors and co-workers alike.  The building was a Savings and Loan at one time, and then the bottom fell out of that market and the S&L went away.  It was bought by the Diocese close to 30 years ago, and even though it has been upgraded in spots, it still retains it’s natural shade of hideous architecture.

The saddest part of the story is that it was built on the spot whence stood the Carnegie Library, a grand old edifice with Greek columns, two stories and real character.  Tragically, the library was torn down to make way for modernization and our tribute to the beauty of pre-stressed concrete construction.

Tonight, however, I looked up with the eye for something different.  I have seen that light fixture thousands of times, but never from the perspective of looking up at it from the laying on the floor.  That’s the advantage of being the last one in the building, as you don’t have to worry about who is looking at you and what they are thinking.

I saw a character in the light fixture and ceiling that I had never seen before.  It was so unique, so monochromatic in the dark interior of the building that it took on it’s own beauty, a beauty that has escaped me all these years.

I always loved kaleidoscopes, and I never thought I’d see one in the ceiling of our building.  Like those old cardboard kaleidoscopes, it’s a wondrous thing to see shapes of things change before your very eyes, even when nothing really changes.

That was great…

January 24, 2016
Wow

Wow

Sherry has taken on a new ministry where she finds housing for people who travel to Cheyenne for diocesan events.  She has done this for a couple years now, and the first event was the Right to Life march last year.  She did it again this year, and the one request she got was from a group of teenagers and their chaperones who live in the Powell – Cody area, which is a 7 hour drive from Cheyenne.

In the end, we talked about having these folks just stay with us.  Kind of a scary thought as there are 9 teenagers in the group.  They did stay with us, and it was the most incredible blessing we could have received.

This is a fine group of people.  They are friendly, polite, responsible and faith-filled.  They give me great hope for the future of our world, and we are grateful to God that they joined us for the weekend.

Holy Hour – Right to Life Weekend

January 22, 2016

Adoration

Down in Adoration falling,This great Sacrament we hail;
Over ancient forms of worshipNewer rites of grace prevail;
Faith will tell us Christ is present,When our human senses fail.To the everlasting Father,And the Son who made us free,
And the Spirit, God proceedingFrom them Each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,Might and endless majesty. Amen.

Blessed be God.
Blessed be his holy name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
Blessed be the name of Jesus.
Blessed be his most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be his most Precious Blood.
Blessed be Jesus in the most holy sacrament of the altar.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and Immaculate Conception.
Blessed be her glorious Assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, virgin and Mother.
Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
Blessed be God in his angels and in his saints.
Amen.

 

 

Cash Economy

January 22, 2016
St. Patrick

St. Patrick

Another day of catching up.

It seems that I have missed two days in a row.  Let me explain what happened.

I wrote about the fact that I was in Casper for a couple days for out clergy Institute.  On Tuesday, after a full day of meetings and topped off with Mass, I had visions of checking into a comfortable hotel room, then getting something to eat, followed by some work and a good nights rest.

I approached the front desk at the hotel and told the clerk my name.  She pulled out the reservation form and said “We’ll need a credit card” for the room.  I had reserved the room and paid in advance, but this was standard procedure so I reached into my pocket for my wallet and discovered – nothing!  My pocket was empty.  In my other pocket I carry a small pocket knife and chapstik.  They were missing also.  I came to the abrupt realization that my wallet, which held my credit cards and cash, along with insurance information and my driver’s license, was sitting on my dresser in Cheyenne, 180 miles away.

Oh my.

Fortunately, I had just stayed in this motel a few nights before and the clerk recognized me. After making sure the card on the reservation form was the one I wanted to use, she gave me the keys to my room without further documentation.

I carted my things up to my room and sat in despair, wondering what I was going to do.  No money, no credit, no ID.  My gas tank was empty, and I couldn’t even drive home if I wanted to.  I had to get some cash, and had to do it right away.

I texted one of my priest friends who was back at the Institute and asked if I could borrow some cash.  No answer, which was real unusual because his phone never leaves his hands.  I was getting real hungry at the time, too, and feeling a bit of desperation start to set in.

I drove to the Institute at St. Patrick’s church, which is where I found my friend. He had not seen my text until I asked him about it, and he immediately started to take me to his car where he had some cash. Before we took another step, another priest friend asked what was going on and we explained the situation to him. He said “I have a bunch of cash in my wallet right here!  Take what you need.”  So I did.

First stop was the gas station.  Now when I fill my gas tank, I ALWAYS use a credit card and fill right from the pump without going inside.  This time I walked into the store and handed the clerk some cash. She asked what I was doing and said I didn’t have to prepay.  I filled my tank and then headed off to get something to eat.

When I returned to my room, I came to the realization that my situation was not desperate at all, but rather of series of incredible blessings.  First, I had a warm and comfortable hotel room. Second, I have friends who will help me out without any hesitation.  Third, if my priest friends had not been able to help me, I knew of at least a half dozen other places I could have gone to get a bed and some food, and money for a tank of gas to get home.  God has blessed me abundantly with loving friends who would help me without question.

And finally I learned a little about what it must be like to live in a cash economy.  I am spoiled in that I can pull out a credit card from my wallet and pretty much get all my needs taken care of.  If I had to depend on cash for everything, and if I didn’t have access to a bank, the situation requires more planning and thought.  There are plenty of people in our world for whom a bank is just not an option, and their lives are more challenging than many of us can imagine.

Thanks be to God for my forgetting my wallet.

I didn’t post the last two days because of just being too tired to write anything.  The days of an Institute are long, and the drive home Wednesday night was in the snow over ice covered roads, and in the darkness to boot.  It was terrifying.

Thanks be to God for getting me home. And thanks be to God for allowing me to post this tonight.

PS – The photo is the stained glass above the choir loft at St. Patrick’s Church in Casper.

January 19, 2016
Another day at the office

Another day at the office

I find it utterly amazing that I get to do what I do.

I’m in Casper for a meeting of our clergy.  We have these meetings, or Institutes, twice a year. The one we have in January is just for the clergy, and while I am definitely not clergy, I always attend.  It’s a working trip, as I schedule meetings and hold workshops.

After the meetings we go to Mass.  Our Bishop is the celebrant, and we have 40 priests concelebrating. We also have 25 deacons in attendance as well, making this an extraordinary event.

Our priests and deacons are wonderful men.  So very dedicated and filled with the Spirit.  I have great love and respect for every one of them.

All this getting-together is for a couple reasons:  The exchange of information, education, and sharing the sacraments.  But the real reason is …

Jesus.

Plain and simple, without Jesus there is no Church, no priests, no Institute.  The Church is the Church of Jesus Christ, who is still its head.

Yup, it’s great.  And amazing.

Rainbow

January 18, 2016

 

Color

Color

The snow melted some today.

There has been snow on the ground in Cheyenne since the middle of December.  For many places where winter is reality, that is not so unusual.  For us, it is.  Most years we’ll get snow and then it melts, or blows away, a few days later.

Today the temperature rose a little, to the point where ice was being replaced by water and people were clearing melting snow off parking lots.

This little bit of color took away some of the gray of winter.  I understand the toxicity of what I was looking at, but I still liked it.

There is still plenty of snow around, but this was a nice respite.


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