19 November 2009

New eyes

It's rather a pleasure to come home after more than a week away and to see the place with new eyes. Yesterday afternoon, even though the afternoon was sunless, I spent an hour strolling around the yard, finding subjects aplenty to photograph. Like Wilmington and Baltimore, we are having a fine autumn.

There's a tulip poplar volunteer growing near the screened porch which displays its own lace, letting the observer see the intricacies of the vein pattern in this prominent disintegrating leaf.

The Japanese maple is one of my favorite specimens in our yard, the leaves showing both red and green, sometimes in the same leaf.

Getting this shot required flattening myself on the ground in front of the dandelion and red leaf -- and ending up sort of disheveled looking.

The crepe myrtles are giving us double colors in the same leaf, some red and green, here showing yellow and green.

17 November 2009

Over achievers

With a plan to get a head start on the day I sprang from a warm bed at the first alarm and arrived in the basement to discover the treadmill, stationary bike and elliptical machines already in use. ("Grrrr ... over achievers," she muttered.) Not wanting to venture outside in the cold dark and into unfamiliar territory, I took to the halls and the stairs. While a circuit of three times from the basement to the 9th floor and back didn't take nearly the time I would have spent on the treadmill, it certainly got my heart rate up, turning my legs to rubber in the process.

Still thinking about adaptability I enjoyed first conversations with my mentees immediately after breakfast, two new relationships which will demand very different things from me -- from the knowledge I carry around to new areas (psychic, theological, ecclesiastical) I'll have to explore, from directing at one moment to letting a realization emerge over time, from addressing the complexities of family life to encouraging a social life outside the parish, from meeting face-to-face with one and via Skype with the other. The same calling, the same profession, the same vows, the same desires (maybe) to service coming to life along dramatically different avenues of expression and in a variety of outcomes.

Somewhat akin even to the early moments of my day, with the treadmill unavailable the stairs satisfied my need for exercise and discipline, these relationships will be a wonderful challenge. At the moment another helpful maritime image or term comes to mind: I shall have to develop sea legs in this mentoring role.

16 November 2009

The art of navigation

I awoke in the still-dark at the second of two alarms (my cell phone followed by the glowing, buzzing digital clock on the night stand) this morning and spent 45 minutes in the fitness room on the treadmill. When I emerged from the basement and that virtuous experience, I was delighted to discover sunlight -- the first in days and days and days.

At breakfast I had another conversation with one of the two harbor pilots from Bermuda with whom I shared the shuttle from BWI yesterday afternoon. He was like a just-struck tuning fork in anticipation of the simulator this morning. I learned more about the inherent difficulties posed by the new cruise ships: the vessels are dramatically larger than the older boats in the fleets, but the channels through which they must move in advance of docking are not. It's much better to determine if they'll fit in the channel by using the simulator than it is to try it in real time and space.

It's interesting to me that during the course of our day we have talked about the role of a mentor to new priests from all sorts of angles, trying to define what it is we will be doing and why it's important. By the time I meet my two "mentees" tonight I think I am going to feel ready to begin these new relationships and do so with a fairly clear idea of what it is I have to offer them. In rereading my notes during a break this afternoon I noticed that I'd written the word "navigate" a couple of times. We are helping new priests navigate their early years in the church, finding their way into congregational patterns, over supervisory bumps, through the vagaries of continuing education and giving themselves permission for some self care along the way.

And, here we are having this orientation in a place the primary purpose of which is readying sailors, harbor and river pilots especially, to navigate pricey ships through dangerous and tight waters. One of the pictorial displays (of which there are many) along the walls of the classroom building halls celebrates the pilots of the Columbia River and bemoans the mouth of the Columbia River. The display is complete with navigational charts and photographs of wrecks, the two most dramatic being those ships, old and fairly modern, lost on Peacock Spit and on the Columbia River Bar. To my eye the most notable photograph is of the 1892 Columbia River Lightship (as opposed to lighthouse) which came loose from its moorings in November 1899 and ran aground, where it stayed until the spring of 1901 when it was moved overland by a local house mover some 700 yards and repositioned, a marker for the mouth of the river once again. (Click on the highlighted name of the ship to go to a great link and the full story, which includes the photograph in question along with several others.)

So, the art of navigation is what we're about, a fact which leads me to the photograph of the day. This is the sign on the door outside the entrance to the All Weather Navigation Simulator, an 8-ship interactive blind pilotage simulation program employing Norcontrol Polaris Automatic Radar Plotting Aids and shiphandling simulator. For sure it serves as a warning to those pilots who (in fear and trembling?) enter the simulator.

It's also, I believe, a profoundly theological statement. And, I hope I can help my two "mentees" avoid a collision or two through the years we work together, saving more than a few days from ruin.

15 November 2009

Drooping eyes

Much more of this kind of fun and I'm going to keel over with exhaustion. So, the briefest of notes.

Yesterday's wedding, reception and evening picnic were lovely. Ida had moved up the coast leaving the weather cool, damp and grey, but the major rain event ended in time not to ruin anything. I had to be at the church by 9:30 before the 11:30 liturgy and the picnic ended at 9:30 in the evening. Although Tal and I weren't "on" all of that time, we weren't able to completely relax between things, making for a long day. As the hours and events progressed I was grateful to have had a 30 minute walk on the beach shortly after 7:00AM, entering the day with my spirit well oriented. The sun even tried to come out (this photo taken on that early morning walk), but this was all it could manage all day.

Today Tal dropped me at the airport in Wilmington at 9:45, staying long enough to make sure the flight to Baltimore was going to go. Wouldn't that be a disaster, combining being dropped off and a cancelled flight ... Anyway, USAirways was on its best behaviour and I hopped from Wilmington to Philadelphia to Baltimore without incident. And, so far, the Maritime Institute is measuring up to the all the positives I'd heard in the run-up to this meeting. In fact, I was on their shuttle from the airport with two men who will be learning to pilot the new generation of cruise ships, which according to them "don't fit very well anywhere."

As we were approaching the buildings where the conference center is housed, I spotted a remarkable tree. After checking in, hanging up my crunched clothes and double checking the schedule (wouldn't want to be late or in the wrong place for anything), I walked back along our route to find it.

A stunner, even with my late afternoon exposure troubles. I'll try again in the morning. An Atlas cedar, I think?

12 November 2009

In good voice

Well, good might not be quite the right word, but ...

As you can see from the photograph which I shot yesterday from the covered porch on the second floor of the main building, the apartment Tal and I are inhabiting is perched atop the yacht club's kitchen and eating porch. To me it looks a bit like some depictions I've seen of the cabin on Noah's Ark. Amusingly appropriate, given the weather.

We've been out only twice today, having had breakfast between here and the waterway with a friend. The Causeway Cafe, warm enough inside to fog my glasses as I entered, is pure local color and my big bowl of cheese grits and shrimp hit a hungry spot that needed to be hit. Mostly, though, the day has been low key with both of us wading through our respective books.

Overnight yesterday's heavy rain moved up the coast, replaced by wind, gusting, relentless and bearing a soaking mist. So, along with luxurious hours of reading, we've also listened to the changing voice and location of the wind. In the early hours of the day the wind buffeted the apartment's northeast corner; now the sound is concentrated in the southeast, farther away from the living room. At times the sound has taken me to winter storms in childhood and the sad moan around the eaves of the house during the night at Brookgreen. Less charming and bordering on alarming, I've had the distinct impression that someone might actually be just outside revving a chain saw!

Since our arrival we've not even stepped foot on the beach.

11 November 2009

Horizontal rain

I'm not surprised. This week at Wrightville Beach has been on the calendar as long as Tal and I have known about Megan Woodruff's wedding. It will be my honor to assist with the liturgy come this Saturday morning. We have anticipated eagerly through the past several months spending a few quiet days here, here being the apartment at the Carolina Yacht Club on Wrightsville Beach. Our arrival, and our drive from Edgefield yesterday, coincided with Ida's landfall on the Gulf Coast Monday and its inland path across the southern states to the Atlantic. Now, it seems stalled, the announcers on The Weather Channel even naming Wrightsville Beach, exclaiming over the inches of rain we are seeing.

While I'm not surprised, I am quietly delighted. The rain is mostly steady, at times swirling, but mostly horizontal. At the moment the tide is in and the waves have drawn surfers. Even apartment-bound we are not in the least bored or restless, the mingling sounds of surf and rain calming and inviting us into our books.

I've been out only once, keeping the camera dry competing with any hope of interesting photography. As I prepare to post this, the surfers are in retreat, the photograph below taken through the fogged window of the apartment.

07 November 2009

Nary a beep nor a flash

Tal and I were up this morning long before light to be ready for the arrival of Bruce, his son, for their every-other-Saturday early morning fishing trip. So organized was I that Bruce walked in to find fresh coffee brewing and muffins being extracted from the oven. Despite its being the coldest day so far of the autumn, they were on their way to Satcher Pond by 7:30, leaving me plenty of time to clean up the kitchen, start the laundry, shower, and organize my tote bag with all the things I need for a day of keeping the gallery in Ridge Spring.

Shortly after 9:00 when I went to car, so much wanting to have the gallery open in advance of 10:00, I was met with nary a beep nor a flash. The lights didn't come on with the driver door standing open. The key in the ignition caused no beeping or chiming. Turning the key in the ignition resulted in absolutely nothing. Nothing. How could a battery that worked yesterday not even make a noise this morning?

A telephone call to another AARS member got the gallery opened on time. But, all I could do was wait for Tal and Bruce to return home. Luckily, the battery powering the trolling motor died and they arrived home before 9:30 -- with 20 fish in the fresh well to show for their abbreviated trip. But, the extra car battery we keep here for emergency wouldn't take a charge. So, Tal set out for our local NAPA -- which didn't have a battery compatible with the Sable. Knowing that the service department at the Ford dealership is closed on Saturday, Tal went there anyway, for advice if nothing else. The dealership manager, who was there alone running the showroom for the morning, found a battery and, since he didn't have the paperwork to process the purchase, simply told Tal to have me come in on Monday to pay for it. There are moments when living in a small town makes me shake my head. And smile in wonderment.

As I left for the gallery less than an hour and a half late, Bruce headed toward home -- and the recycling center between here and there -- with three dead batteries to drop off.

02 November 2009

Smoking shredder

Today has been the day I have looked forward to for months. My work on the search committee leading the process of electing the person to be the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina is done.

Since we're reimbursed for all expenses (the diocese wanting to know as precisely as possible what it costs to elect a bishop) I counted all the paper in my notebook and files having to do with the search. After the count (which resulted in four piles -- single-sided B&W, double-sided B&W, single-sided color, double-sided color) came multiple sessions with the shredder. It took several hours to crosscut what amounted to two reams of paper, but the job is done. The shredder may never be the same.

Just as one sheet began its journey through the machine's jaws as it were, I spotted something hand written along the bottom margin of the page and managed to tear it off in time, saving it from becoming confetti. It's a quote by one of the candidates which I jotted during a group interview in Charlotte.

"A person who thinks he's a leader but has no followers is only taking a walk."

It got a round of laughter when he said it and, you notice, I did write it down. It's probably a good thing for a candidate for bishop to say and to believe and to expect.

From my perspective, however, the idea of a simple walk is profoundly appealing.

01 November 2009

That red coat

In the liturgical church, today is All Saints' Day. At the Episcopal Church of the Ridge, gathering today at Trinity Edgefield in their three-building worship cycle, the prayers will include the bishops of this diocese and the parish's clergy who have died over the years. The names of those in the congregation having "entered the larger life" (one of my very least favorite phrases) since last All Saints' Day, as well as others whom the members of the church have specifically requested be remembered, will also be read. It's a solemn day.

As always today I think about my remarkable grandparents, all four of whom are dead. And, earlier today I surprised Tal when I laughed out loud. In thinking about them I'd let my mind wander and found myself -- deep in memory -- at my first and ill-fated wedding reception. Actually it was a marriage that was ill-fated. The reception was quite nice.

My new husband's boss during a toast look credit for our having met each other, good-naturedly (pompously?) taking responsibility for the day. True to form, Grandpa Johnson, gregarious and full of humor, was having none of that! He proceeded to regale the crowd with the story of his having, as a young man, spied a really cute girl wearing a red wool coat, a teacher new in Milford. Had that not happened, he concluded, neither my mother nor I have been born and the wedding reception would not be taking place. So, if anyone could take credit for the day ... well, you get the idea.

In truth, it wouldn't take very much for our lives to be quite different (if they happened at all). One decision by any of a vast number of people would be all it would take. The web of connection among us is delicately balanced, even precarious, and likely should fill us with wonder. After all, if noticing a red coat turned a life in a particular direction and influenced countless others, not noticing it would have done the same thing.