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Monday, August 27, 2007

Feast of St. Augustine ~

"Too late have I come to love You, O beauty so ancient and so fresh; too late have I come to You", you said. 

And centuries later I learned to love Him early, Augustine, sitting there as a teenager, reading your words, in the seminary chapel.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Frankfurt, Germany ~

I stepped onto the train in Frankfurt and it sped off to the south. The people seemed different, I heard the first sounds of German again. They were not Americans, they were going other ways, thinking other thoughts. Nevertheless, somehow I knew that I belonged here with them. It has become my home. . . Those whom I love are here. That, I know, is everything. What more could I want?

Over France into Germany

Ready for the new day I looked at the wing of that stalwart Boeing 777 and paid my thanks and respect to her for what she had done. Somehow I felt one with her. Descending slowly now, I knew she had brought me back.

Over the Ocean

Purring through the night across the ocean at an altitude of 12,000 meters and speeding at 850 km/h I sat in stillness writing these impressions. When morning light came I looked out across an endless majestic carpet of clouds on which landscapes of hills, towers and mountains were formed, all energized by a bright light only seen up this high. I thought the psalmist must have imagined a sight like this when he was composing his praises to God for his wonderful creation. With him I thanked God for all the beauty that He had allowed me to see.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Over the Ocean ~

The two ladies that sat behind me spoke with such a charming, lilting Southern accent that I had to cock my ear and listen. They talked until late into the night. All the while it seemed as if a gentle music were coming from behind.

Over the Ocean

While flying over Canada and Newfoundland I had a little bracer — a Jim Beam on the rocks. Then, a short time after, a delicious meal along with a California red.

Flying back to Detroit

She was 87, the lady beside me, heading for Raleigh, North Carolina. Grandchildren there, and elsewhere. She could drive it, she said, but likes to fly. Gets me around faster, she whispered, with a twinkle in her eye.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ~ Departing

Stayed overnight with Nancy, my sister. We took our morning walk together. It was raining. Under umbrellas we walked in silence but each of us knew what the other one was thinking. We had breakfast, a little extended agape. Talked about Mother and Dad. The way things were. It had stopped raining when we walked out the driveway. I looked up at the trees. Then we got in the car and were off to the airport.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Butler, Pennsylvania ~ Departing

My brother Jack's house on Washington Street. I stand here looking. Jack's Ann is fighting her battle with cancer. When Jack dies the last of us will have been taken from this spot on the globe, our earthly home. Oh, dear little town of Butler where my fondest memories lie entombed . . . it is hard, ever harder to leave you, not knowing whether I'll return.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Butler, Pennsylvania

She invited us for drinks, Catherine, whose husband Bill, my teaching colleague at Point Park College and golfing friend, left her five years ago. She talked lovingly about him. Showed us the rooms she since has redecorated. Bill's too. I noticed she still had his bathrobe hanging there on a shiny brass hook.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Butler, Pennsylvania ~ St. Paul's Church

Sunday Mass at St. Paul's. Sang with the choir. Looked down at the sanctuary where I spent my boyhood serving at this altar. Through younger eyes I saw only green marble steps, candles, the Gothic arches. But then I thought I was standing in the modest church in our little village in Germany where, through older eyes, I would now be gazing down upon an altar and see surrounding it, the great wonder and the mystery.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania ~

Found a quaint little restaurant where delicious homemade cherry pie sells for $1.00 a slice.

Butler, Pennsylvania

A few people still know me at home, but I notice how the memory of my parents is fading as the younger generations coming on.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Butler, Pennsylvania ~

Drove by the beautiful home we lived in for so many years. What is it like inside now? Does Mother's, does Dad's spirit still linger there? Should I knock at the door and see?

Butler, Pennsylvania ~

Stood at gravesites of mother and father. There are no flowers. Just grass. They are alone. Nearby, our obelisk. There is room for me and my family. The question arises: Here? Or there?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Philadelphia Street ~

She pranced across the street that morning, a stand-out beauty, elegantly dressed in black, postured high above the others it seemed. She walked briskly, exultantly. I watched her turn the corner, disappear. First class Philadelphian, for sure.

My brother and I walked through Washington Park and then on to Walnut Street on our way to City Hall when I happened to see her again, sitting on a bench close to the street curb, her smooth, bare legs crossed, leafing, blasé, through a magazine, waiting for a pick-up.

State College, Pennsylvania

Stopped at the University of Pennsylvania on our way back home. A wonderful sprawling campus in a valley surrounded by woods. 43,000 students. All on vacation. But the football team was practicing for the upcoming Notre Dame game. We walked in to Arts Museum. There in the entrance, a Chihily, fulgent with color. I walked over to it like to an old friend.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ~

My brother was celebrating his birthday so I took him to one of Philadelphia's oldest restaurants, Bookbinder's. Sedate oaken dining room, excellent food. The maitre d' treated us as honored guests. Recommended German wine. The couple at the table next to us were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. Asked what had held the marriage together for all that time: I like his shaving lotion, he likes my perfume!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ~

At the motel I refused to watch television. In America you are bombarded with commercials. They are insidious, yes, a curse.

Philadephia, Pennsylvania ~

Caught in the swirl of throbbing Philadelphia I thought about the quiet peace of my Black Forest village where, devoid of distractions, I feel myself so much closer to those things in life that really matter.

Jottings inside the Museum of Fine Arts ~

Art is busy trying to express realities in ways more understandable than the reality itself.
The poet asks: What words must I conjure up to make beauty lift her veil?

Philadephia, Pennsylvania ~ Museum of Fine Arts ~

She was seen in a church hall in her traditional Black Forest costume but instead of a prayer book she was holding a musical instrument she was about to play for the birthday celebration of the local pastor. I remember the demure looking askance, the modest dropping of the eyes.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ~

Others wouldn't stop but a friendly black girl went out of her way, asking two other couples for information, to tell me where I should catch the bus for the museum.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ~

A Chinese couple stood beside me as I read the original Declaration of Independence.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ~

People waited in long lines, patiently, to get into the rooms where our Founding Fathers debated and brought forth the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. How close the figures came: Washington, Ben Franklin, the redheaded Thomas Jefferson, John Adams. One makes a pilgrimage to a cradle like this. It is a hallowed place.

Lancaster to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ~

On the train we passed through the lush Amish country. Beautiful farms. Men working the fields with teams of horses. Modest stone homesteads. White barns. Nothing has changed in the last 200 years. No electricity, no cars. Devout people. I felt they were close to the earth, and by being so, close to God.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania ~

I walked out before breakfast into a bursting rising sun. Walked along the edge of a cornfield and thought the whole time about the young 24-25 year olds, young lovers, who went into battle here in the Civil War, and had to die in these fields. I thought that after having had to experience the horrible spiritual death of being wrenched apart from the girl they loved, they must have faced their bodily death in the enemy's fire, willingly.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lancaster, Pennsylvania ~

Evening walk through the downtown area. There were no people on the streets. Looked through wrought iron gates into a courtyard with a fountain and where people were dining. There was a policewoman on duty there. We talked. She told us to be very careful, to best be off the streets. Awful things happen there at night. The week before someone had been shot to death just one block away.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Mass in a Greek Orthodox church. The priest spoke movingly about Mary in aesthetic terms, telling that it was her beauty resulted in her becoming the fitting tabernacle God chose to house Himself in.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ~

Sofie is Jonathan's daughter. He is divorced and might soon be marring our Alexandra. Sofie is a delightful 9 year old who likes to hear me at the piano. Whenever I played her song, Edelweiss, she would come and sit next to me on the piano bench.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ~

It was a heartwarming scene, the old couple in the store. They were lined up and paying for their many purchases that consisted in large part of cookies. A boy pushed their cart out to their SUV and they walked, hand in hand, and carefully stowed their cache.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ~

Visited the Carnegie Museum. Exhibition of glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly. Couldn’t pull myself away from his intriguing creations. He learned glassblowing techniques at the Murano school in Venice and brought it to the States. His Italian teachers learned to admire him for his spontaneity and freedom of expression.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ~

While shaving this morning I looked out the window and saw two full-grown deer in the back yard standing in the bushes eating the berries.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Canonsburg, Pennsylvania ~

Had to stop here to pay homage to Perry Como. Stood silently at his monument in his hometown square and thanked him for the songs he sang that have lightened my life. I listened for him to sing. . . If you were the only girl in the world . . .

Bethany, West Virginia ~

Took a short jaunt to West Virginia. Visited Bethany College. No students on campus but we ran into two women from the clean-up crew who began to tell us about their 17 years of service there. Talked with them for half an hour. They were devoted to the students and for many of them a substitute parent. Knew all the professors. I could see them becoming prouder minute by minute as they spoke. Saying goodbye, it all ended with long, hearty handshakes.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ~

Invited to lunch at the sedate Pittsburgh Athletic Club across from the University of Pittsburgh. In spite of the horrific heat all the men wore suits and ties. Ladies were well dressed, sheer and colorful. Some had fans. A pianist at a Steinway.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ~

Morning walk in Virginia Manor. Tranquility along the path. Heard robins, cardinals, bluejays— birds I miss in Germany. It seemed as if they had come out to welcome me back.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Flight: Detroit, Michigan to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ~

She sat beside me, wife of a Marine, mother of two teenagers eager to join. She was very concerned about that but knew they would be enlisting soon. Her eyes filled. Said she was so happy that her husband had made it through Vietnam.

Over the Ocean ~

Oh, the distance! If I were not flying back to what was once home, I would feel completely lost and alone. Up over Scotland along the edge of Iceland over Newfoundland, Canada into Detroit, Michigan, to board there again for Pittsburgh. All in 9 hours. By ship it takes 8 days. Home is far away. Easier to arrive there poetically, and on a deeper level, spared of stark, unpleasant realities.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Home ~ Trip to the the U.S.A. ~

I am flying back home, to Butler, Pennsylvania, I say. But where is home? I have lived in Germany for so long. Is there really a home somewhere?