Welcome to this blog, which I’ve begun during sabbatical. I’ll get to the sabbatical in a moment, but first, an explanation of how I came up with my blog’s name.

I’m eternally grateful to all of my teachers, all of whom saw potential in me. I’m especially thankful for my English teachers, who taught me to think and write clearly.

In particular, I’m thinking today of Mrs. Aumiller and Mrs. Diesenhof, who taught me during my senior year at Ramsey High School in northern New Jersey. It’s fitting that I write to you today from Ramsey, where I’m staying with my parents prior to my trip to Italy with my father. More on that in a moment.

The best class that I took in high school was actually a class in English composition for freshman at Syracuse University. Through a special partnership with Syracuse, Ramsey High offered the class for college credit, which was much less important to me than the course content.

For homework, we were given my dream assignment: to read the New Yorker magazine. And not only read it: we were asked to write essays based on the Talk of the Town short essays in the front of the magazine. As readers of the New Yorker know, many of those essays begin with these words: “A friend writes . . .”

That phrase has stuck with me through the years. It assumes a closeness between writer and reader, a friendship, a relationship in which people desire the best for each other.

It’s in that spirit that I begin my blog. In writing this, I hope that in some small way my words will move, interest, and edify you, whom I consider a friend.

Sabbatical update: I’m a little over a month into a three-month sabbatical. So far, I’ve ridden my bicycle more in a month than I have in years. I’ve gone out into the country roads around Tallahassee for several 4-hour rides during which I’ve had a lot of time to think, listen and pray. On these rides, I’ve also been preparing for a bike tour in Tuscany, for which my dad and I depart today.

It’s been 10 years since the last bike tour that we completed together. We were both younger then and thought nothing of ascending and descending the Tour de France climbs in the French Alps. We’re both looking forward to the gentler hills of Tuscany, not to mention the famous cuisine, which we’ll be able to enjoy guilt-free after cycling all day! We’ll also have the opportunity to visit Siena. In the near future, you can expect a post about one of the church’s mystic leaders, Catherine of Siena. I hope to visit her home and the church dedicated in her name.

Other sabbatical news: I’ve enjoyed time with my family, especially on the weekends. Jazz Fest in New Orleans, where we saw Leon Bridges, Marc Broussard, Alabama Shakes and many other excellent artists, was so much fun. I also brought my son, Paul, to a soccer tournament near Tampa. His team brought home the championship trophy.

I’ve been reading a lot on the Desert Fathers and Mothers and contemplative spirituality, including: Rowan Williams, Silence and Honey Cakes. Henry Nouwen, The Way of the Heart. Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk. John O’Donohue, Anam Cara. Fiction: Jonathan Saffran Foer, Here I Am. Making my way through Jonathan Franzen’s Purity. Poetry: reading St. John’s own Christine Poreba’s Rough Knowledge. Also, the Library of America’s Collected Poems of W.S. Merwin. I’m reading Merwin as I prepare to visit Hawaii for the first time with my family. The poet has lived on Maui for most of his life, and the natural beauty of that place informs his work. More on Hawaii in the next post.

Mostly, what I feel right now is gratitude. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to step back, breathe deeply, and open my mind, body and spirit to God’s renewing love and grace.   

 

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