Sunday, July 13, 2008

dazzled but sober

I’ve known fear and terrible solitude,
tranquillizers and drugs––those phony friends––
the prison of depression and hospitals.
I’ve emerged from all this, dazzled but sober.
Yves Saint-Laurent

I was torn between which quote to offer on the last blog. This one from Yves Saint Laurent is not as dark as it would seem at first glance. I like the phrase “dazzled but sober.”

Thanks for all those of you who actually have been reading this blog, and have been asking for me to add. For me writing takes a certain amount of composure and leisure besides inspiration, and these weeks have been a little topsy-turvy with goings and comings and traveling. But, to finish in brief my Italian soggiorno and bring you up to date...

We ended the choir tour with a wonderful dinner at an agritourismo place outside of Rome (I am always surpirsed by how little it takes to arrive in the coutnryside outside of Rome...), everyone celebrating the great success of the concerts, the efficiency and friendliness of the tour company and guides (Rita and Rita), and how much all enjoyed each others’ company. Mom and Dad were graciously allowed to attend the closing banquet with us as well and made a lot of new acquaintances as they are so good at doing.

The next day, Tuesday, I took off by train for points east. I always love taking train trips in Italy, and this was no exception. I headed almost straight east, a long trip across the country, to Fano, right on the Adriatic coast. There I was met by my friend and brother monk Natale. I know Natale from my earliest trips to Italy. He also did a year of study in Berkeley during my first year on my own and came quite regularly to visit me in Santa Cruz, even traveling with me a few times when I had to drive to one or the other gig. I think of him, for better or worse, as one of my Italian teachers. He himself consequently took an exclaustration from his community, the Eremo of San Giorgio at Garda.

Shortly after Natale returned from his exclaustration he was asked to transfer to another community, Monte Giove, a hermitage very similar to the one at Garda, both of them having belonged to the other congregation of Camaldolese who are strictly hermits, the Cornonesi. It is a small place with only eight hermitages around an old church with a beautiful choir area behind the altar, as is typical of the Coronesi houses. It also overlooks the city of Fano and the Adriatic. Natale was just ordained deacon, and appointed temporary administrator of the community, and is set to be ordained priest some time after the Consulta in the Fall so that he can be named prior, ordination still being a requirement for that office. They are a small community, only five. The hermitage at Garda was lovingly and beautifully restored by our friends Gianni and Giorgio, who acted as magnanimous hosts to Raniero and me our first times in Italy; and Natale has plans to restore Monte Giove in the same way. He seems to be looking forward to it all, which I simply marvel at and am quite impressed at how easily he has slipped into the role.

Natale then drove me over to meet another monk friend, Marino, formerly of Camaldoli, now stationed at Fonte Avellana. (Mind you, all of these locations deserve much more attention than I am giving them.) I spent two nights there. Almost all are in agreement that Fonte Avellana is the most beautiful of our monasteries. It was the home of St Peter Damian, biographer of St Romuald, cardinal and doctor of the church. It sits in a valley surrounded by pretty ominous cliffs in the Marche. The prior there is Alessandro Barban, who has also done an incredible job of restoration. They have a few young guys there as candidates, and seem pretty vibrant. I enjoyed visiting there, especially with Marino, another of my first Italian monk brother acquaintances along with Natale. Marino and I did yoga together in one of the beautiful side chapels that have been stripped down and restored to a pristine Romanesque purity. One evening I watched "Into the Wild" with them, which I had already seen in America. It was interesting to see it a second time, this time doppiato-dubbed into Italian. I loved it the first time, and the second time, and my confreres agreed that there was something proprio monastico about his whole thrust.

I made it back to Rome by Thursday afternoon, in time to have one more meal with Mom and Dad, and then say goodbye as they were about to set off in the morning for the first of their two (!) cruises, the first a Mediterranean tour, the second a journey home across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary with their pastor. I had one more day to myself in Rome to do laundry and wander a bit. It was as hot as a furnace there, especially in my room––for some reason the same room I have had the last four times I have stayed there, #11 in the corridor they call Monte della Luna––four floors up with no breeze at all. I did walk around quite a bit looking for a few small gifts, and accidentally wound up right in the heart of the tourist area, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona. I had never seen such crowds there before! It was almost frightening, and certainly not very attractive.

Then Saturday I made the journey through Zurich and across the Atlantic again for a week stay in New Jersey for the National Pastoral Musicians Convention. I have found that I am much happier attending those if I do not actually stay in the hotel where they are being held. Luckily my friend and godson Alberto, with his wife Dana and daughter Catalina, live right down the road from East Brunswick, where the convention was being held, in beautiful Princeton. Alberto and Dana have their own small Interactive Media Company, and are a couple of intelligent and creative people––both Yale graduates, and great company and hosts. As a matter of fact they are the hosts and creators of my Web page on Massmind. I always wind up having at last one intense conversation with Alberto along the way about the meaning of everything and our place in it, with Dana doing her best to arbitrate, and this was no exception. I had a great visit with them between work hours as well as with my other old friend Michael Dembesky, of Scranton, Pennsylvania who came over for one overnight.

At the convention itself, I offered a three hour pre-convention retreat, did a Psalite showcase for Lit Press and another for OCP, and sang for a performance of a new collection of Gospel inspired psalms with Val Limar, Rawn Harbor and Val Parker, with the attendant rehearsals for the same. And then the last day, Thursday, I gave a presentation for one of the "break-out" sessions. In between of course I had lots of friendly conversations with many old friends, some who go back 30 years now, such as Tom Kendzia the composer and producer now of Rhode Island.

Then finally home on the 4th of July, in time for fireworks with John and Marie and the girls over Monterey Bay. My brothers from Big Sur in the meantime had been evacuated up to St Clare’s retreat house up off highway 17 due to the Basin Complex fire in Big Sur. Apparently the hermitage itself was never in any danger but the firefighters started a backfire a few miles north on Dolan Ridge and due to liability had to require mandatory evacuation of anyone in the area. Five monks and some workers were allowed to stay behind for the time being. So this week I have been shuffling back and forth between my cabin in Corralitos, my desk at Holy Cross in Santa Cruz and the brothers up at St Clare’s all week. It has been interesting to have them so close for a week. I sort of played host for a recreation day last Monday and aided them wandering around Santa Cruz to book stores and snack places. It has been good to be so close to be able to go up and celebrate Mass with them. They are heading home tomorrow and I will be going down myself on Wednesday for the Visitation. Don Bernardino, the prior general is coming in with Bro Ivan, also to celebrate our official 50th anniversary on the last Sunday of July.

I hope to post a few photos soon: (a load just came in from our concerts in Italy) and maybe some of the recent talks on the Web Site: Until then…