he retreat this year was as timely as could be. Wiped out all summer from the antibiotics I'd been on to treat this infection, I had been nausea-free for a week when my departure date arrived, with me sort of waiting day by day to see if I would make it, or if this nausea would rise up again. I headed out to Kansas City without incident, though, Saturday the 30th of July, chatting on the flight into the airport with a woman who was just coming back from her own annual getaway with a group of high school girlfriends, from where they had been down in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Michael was waiting for me outside my gate, and we were off, talking over last-minute arrangements he had made regarding our food-purchasing and transport plans. We stopped on the way to his place to start purchasing perishables and drink. Costco provided some very good deals on vegetables and salad, especially, and Michael then took me over to a liquor store where I could nose around for some Tuscan reds for some better dinner wines.
We got to his place where I had the great pleasure of seeing Beth and the kids again after a year since my previous visit, and so I spent some time having Charlie show me the details of his coin collection, John, a little more shy and independent, finally engaging me on Legos and videogames, and little Molly, now four years old, was particularly engaging, very careful to be kind, since she had really latched on to Michael or Beth telling her that I had "a sick tummy," and repeatedly checking to see if I was comfortable before engaging me in talk, or showering me with new-made drawings. She was very taken with the video of me giving Sophie a piggyback ride from April, and was sure that they would be best friends if only they lived closer together. I assured her that they could room in college and that seemed to please her. Michael then grilled a lovely large side of salmon for dinner, and we all sat down to that, with grilled zucchini spears that came out fantabulously tasty, and a pasta/pesto thingie that made for a perfect light starch side to all of this. I caught up more with Beth while she and Michael managed the children, who seemed naturally a little riled up with the excitement of a houseguest.
When the kids went down, I had the great pleasure of listening from the other room as Michael read to the boys from the first chapter of The Tower Treasure
, the first of the Hardy Boys Mysteries
, which I had repeatedly devoured when I was in junior high. Years removed from that reading, I had an interesting flashback as I heard the town of "Bayport," home of the Hardy family, described in the opening chapter. Back when I was an avid fan of these books, I had poured
over atlas in the library, trying to find Bayport somewhere on the east coast, only slowly and reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the whole thing must be fictional. I suppose that this was the earliest manifestation of an "entertainment geography" interest of mine that is today manifested in noticing and trying to identify filming locations in television and movies that I particularly enjoy. Now having resources that my seventh-grade self couldn't have dreamed of, I idly googled Bayport on my iPhone while listening to Michael read, and discovered to my surprise (and the wonder that is Wikipedia) that there was
a Bayport, New York that seemed to be the model for the Hardy Boys' Bayport. This also led me to discover that the books I read, which seemed very 1950s to me when I read them, were the revised editions of the original Hardy Boys Mysteries, written as far back as 1927, a fact which this article on the historical Bayport of the time
, was all too important for providing a wealth- and crime-rich setting for the sons of a famous private detective. So that was an unexpected and random piece of fun for me.
We left in the morning, after I'd had a woefully sleepless night (maybe 45 minutes), the rest of which was plagued by my idiot brain re-running scenes of The Adjustment Bureau
(which I'd seen in the theatre early in the year), and which now my mind, quite independent of my will, kept bringing up as possible illustrations for talking about the theme of Grace and Freedom in some future version of my course on grace. And that after a night of less sleep in my anticipation of leaving for the retreat. Stupid brain. I posed for this shot with the charming Molly as I left, and were on our way. It seemed a very quick drive this year, Michael and I, as usual, had no trouble for coming up with conversation. In particular, the drive down gave us extended time for him to fill me in on the details of what he was doing in his music ministry as he was getting more connected with the folks at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, which is a devotion that Michael is particularly attached to. He also described a west coast session of the sort of retreat for athletes for which he will provide music and content (since he has the "street cred" of being a former Notre Dame player), this one also featuring a number of professional actors as well as professional athletes. Among the attendees, he ended up spending some time talking with Jim Caviezel, and he laughed about the strange visual effect of looking into the face of the actor who has most famously portrayed Christ on the screen in our time, and the occasional visual "tease" of memory seeing the character rather than the actor in front of him.
We grabbed some fresh fruit and last minute perishables and the like in the supermarket in Eureka Springs, then drove out to Winterwood Lakeside Cottage
on Beaver Lake, south and west of the town. We almost turned around when we got a phone call from Kevin saying that he and Wurtz had already arrived, and already left, and were camped out having drinks at a bar in town, until we remembered the perishables we had in the coolers behind us, and drove on. We unloaded all of that, and our own stuff, and waited for everyone to arrive. Scott arrived from St. Louis, as well as the other two, and festivities were in full swing. (Henri wasn't going to arrive until Tuesday.) My camera was forgotten, and I took no photos that night, but we opened with an evening of steaks (since they seemed to have begun to thaw on the road) after we had our opening Mass and Vespers.
I mostly remember the night ending in long conversation, with Kevin staying up later with me and McGlinn, especially talking over the last year and everything he had experienced and learned in it. It seems like each of these retreats takes on a distinct character. I'm not sure yet what I'd call this one. The first one, back in July 2002, was a follow-up to the Notre Dame Vocare Retreat
in Indianapolis earlier that summer, where Kevin, as one of the coordinators, had had me and McGlinn lead talks. Some of the guys attending that decided to rent a place for a follow-up gathering outside of Nashville, Indiana, and McGlinn had brought Scott, a friend of his then at Vanderbilt University, along with him. So the theme of "vocation" was still being kicked around then. When we gathered in May 2008
, now with the regular lineup (minus Henri, who couldn't make it), we seemed to produce an extraordinary amount of music, along with a lot of serious reflection on the actual possibilities of what we were calling a "Do-It-Yourself Retreat." (Having a Catholic "Do-It-Yourself Retreat" was made much easier by the fact that Wurtz was now ordained and could provide the sacramental side to the experience.) When we gathered in Winterwood in August 2010, we now had more momentum, and the vision of something a little more regular and fruitful in our lives. I never wrote up my audio journal from that retreat (or at least have yet to), but what is standing out in my mind from that retreat most of all is the way we all began, without plan or intention, to approach Wurtzie for the sacrament of Penance, with all of us at one point or another, sitting down with him out on the balcony for confession. This time around, I'm at least initially struck by another contribution Wurtz provided, which was suggesting a touch more formal spirituality in the retreat by adding morning and evening prayer. Talking this over in our regular round of planning emails, we decided to do Lauds independently, whenever anyone wanted, in the mornings, and to do Vespers immediately after Mass, which we generally had at 5:30, before dinner. I always liked the communal prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours when I visited the Abbey of Gethsemani, so this addition felt like a good one to me (although I missed chanting it all). I'm not sure how I'd summarize this retreat yet; I think I might have to sit with it for awhile. But after being sick for two month, between the actual infection and the number these antibiotics did on me, I certainly know that it all felt like resurrection. Continued