Over my springbreak this year, I headed off to see my friend Kate Fagan-Taylor from grad school at Notre Dame. I'd been promising to do this since well into the last millennium, but poverty kept getting in the way. I even missed her wedding in August, so I now owed her bigtime. Now, at last, timing and finances were working out. As soon as I have my pictures back from the week up there, I'll even flesh this out with a real account of my good times.
BUT! I do get to announce that when I got up there, the first thing I got in my e-mail was the notification that I got the full scholarship and assistantship that I'd been wanting at Marquette University in Milwaukee. I'll be joining their Systematic Theology staff in August to begin work on my Ph.D..
THE NARRATIVE RESUMES... Well, I went to the drugstore to pick up my Canada pictures, I found that I had not loaded the film correctly into the 35mm camera that Erik Goldschmidt had nobly given me. So I have no Canada pictures, and I spent several hours being disappointed and raging against myself, for reasons you will shortly come to understand. All pictures on this page have been brazenly and pathetically lifted from other websites.
The journey itself had its own aura of being a comedy of errors. I got to O'Hare for my flight and discovered that since September 11th, I needed a passport to get into Canada. Fortunately for me, I always left my passport out on my coffeetable for easy grabbing just in case I need to flee the country. Unfortunately for me, it was still on my coffeetable. I'd idly thought about picking it up, "just in case," but idle the thought remained. Now I was being informed that I could board the flight, but if Canada wished to deny me entry, they could, and not only would I be denied admittance to Canada, but I would have a hell of a time getting back into the States. So I had two choices: leave my favourite Irish lass weeping at the gate in Victoria, or risk it. No choice. The flight was uneventful and upon landfall in Vancouver, where I was switching planes, I had a long and vigourous conversation with the fellow at my customs station, who dutifully drilled me to determine the authenticity of my American citizenship. I had all three of my last years' St. Joe school IDs out, and in the midst of a long oration On the Comparative Virtues of Catholic Versus Public School Education in the United States, he concluded that I was who I said I was and let me into the country. I was then stopped at another gate, and due to my inability to get power into a big TI-83 calculator that I'd borrowed a year ago from former student John Welsh, was forced to surrender said calculator as a possible weapon. Sorry, John: I'll pay you back. Then--off to the island!
The short hop across the Strait was quite pleasant, with my face pressed against the glass to enjoy the geography. Ferrys in the water, no sign of the killer whale pods which I combed the waters for, and--just edging over some of the tallest islands--we came to rest at Victoria's airport, which after Vancouver's mega-complex, seemed completely rustic. I was startled to see jets rather than biplanes. And there was Kate, looking all hip in her black leather jacket. Hubby Paul Taylor was off at a conference, which was another sign of my bad karma, but we were all at the mercies of our schedules. But for now Kate was plenty of fun and soon we were careening in towards the city, with Kate pointing out the landmarks along the way. We stopped for afternoon tea and did our initial catching up with Kate laying out all sorts of options for fun over the next several days, while requesting one piece of work from me: on Wednesday she wanted to me address the Catholic Student group at the University of Victoria on any topic of my choice. Hating anything on short notice, what else could I say but, "Why the hell not?"
So after a driving tour of the city, which left me hopelessly lost, we ended up back at their place where Kate then gave me a tour of her garden. Gardens became an early theme of the visit, as my first request ended up being a trip to the Butchart Gardens. Although it was a bit early in the year, it was still splendid and gave us plenty of time to talk, which is really where it's all at.
Over the next few days, there was plenty of walking and talking, tea, house-repainting oversight, climbing, eating, and so forth. A few highlights included my talk to the students at the University of Victoria on "20 Bizarre Moments in Church History" through which I wanted to give them a very brief overview of church history, a sense of the development of the church and of its doctrine, and an understanding of the Spirit being with the church despite its variety of experiences and styles through the centuries.
Other than being able to hang with Kate (and meet one of her sisters and her brother, Patrick, who spent an afternoon showing me the downtown whilst Kate talked to her garden) perhaps the literal high point of the trip was a day trip that Kate and I took to one of the islands off the coast. Saltspring Island is one of these places that is kind of a refugee from the "back to nature" movement; or "ex-hippie land" as I've heard it ungraciously said. The central town of Ganges was full of art studios and made for an excellent afternoon's wandering. We ate in the delightful Treehouse Cafe outside under a flowering tree and then made it to the "high point" of Mt. Maxwell with a panoramic view of the island below us. We had the spot pretty much to ourselves and sat up there for a long time talking quietly. It's tough for me to gauge this sort of thing, but I'm guessing that the land just drops away at this point and you're looking down for perhaps a quarter-mile. This is where it's painful to have blown my roll of film. As Kate and I were up here--at the very spot where I've stolen this picture from another website--a flock of golden eagles was soaring high in the air--below us. We took a number of what I swear were really striking photographs. And thus this description without pics is totally lame....
In the end, I returned to the United States with another stern lecture at Customs in Calgary about my stupidity in traveling without my passport. Then I was whisked through the US Customs inspectors--who seemed to Sikhs who preferred not to speak English, bizarrely enough, given the post-September 11th tension--and made it home safe and sound and delighted.