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.

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