|March Tour 2009
March 30th, 2009
Celtic Spring just returned from two weeks on the road, performing in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Alabama. This trip was dear to us for the special people with whom we crossed paths. We had our usual share of adventures and even a misadventure! We had three nearly all-night drives, and read two of our favorite novels.
I find reading aloud helps make the long hours in the car tolerable and even keeps crankiness and pugnacity at bay. I will read for hours until the audience drifts off to sleep, (“Sean, are you awake???) then I read another book to Greg, who has been driving all those hours. When he is tired, usually around midnight, I take over the driving. If we have to keep on driving, I drink a caffeinated beverage over several hours and sing every song that I can remember.I take great pride in my ability to drive through the night; my dad used to drive us across country every summer and he would drive nearly straight through from Boston to Arizona. As soon as we were old enough we would help him, so I was driving through the night when I was a late teen. I like the peace, quiet, and empty highways that night brings.(Irish music is great for keeping the adrenaline flowing!)
Our books this trip consisted of the first of the Chronicles of Narnia, and the first book of the Trilogy, the Lord of the Rings. I had intended to re-read all the Chronicles of Narnia, but we picked up another set of the Lord of the Rings in a used bookstore in Flagstaff, and Sean begged me to begin a re-read of our all -time favorite books. We finished the Fellowship of the Ring and look forward to reading the second book on our trip to Phoenix this weekend. (We had packed lots of school books, but made Lord of the Rings our study.)
I bought a wonderful book at our stop at Clear Creek Monastery, John Senior’s, the Restoration of Christian Culture, and that became Greg’s night read. He liked it so much that one night he exceeded his midnight curfew by several hours so I could keep on reading.
Our first stop was Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. After driving two long days from California to Kansas, with an overnight in Albuquerque, we arrived on the campus at 11:00 p.m. The college was very graciously putting us up in the Benedictine Monastery’s guesthouse. (We have a special fondness for Benedictine Monasteries, where we often stayed when we were performing in Europe.) We were told to ring the doorbell and the porter would let us in. I felt bad having to awaken the porter, but the porter of Benedictine Monasteries has the special work of welcoming each guest as if he were Christ, and is usually very saintly, growing in charity as he is frequently awakened in the night; he has mastered the art of greeting guests with welcome and cheer. Before we rang the bell I had said that the Porter would probably be a saint some day, so we should take special notice of him. I had pictured a very old monk would welcome us. Well, we were warmly greeted by a young monk-to-be, Brother Joe. He showed us to our neat, simple rooms. Each room had two twin beds covered with pretty off-white cotton quilts, upon which was a small piece of paper with the message: please remove quilts and pillow shams, and replace with the blankets in the closet. How was that for Benedictine practicality? We have friends who do not clean their house before guests come, but after, knowing that the guests would contribute more untidiness to the house, and undo their clean up.) I could do with adapting some practicality to our family’s household. Well, we exchanged the quilts for blankets, and had a long and deep sleep.
The next morning we were greeted by our very wonderful hosts, Joe Wertz and John Bunch. (John had found Celtic Spring at an Arts Conference last fall in Kansas City, Missouri, where we had showcased.) They too had mastered the art of hospitality and made us feel completely welcomed and at home. In fact, we loved our stay at Benedictine College. We were given a guided tour of the campus, attended Mass in one of the dormitory chapels, (said by another wonderful Benedictine, Fr. Meinrad,) treated to a fine lunch in the cafeteria in the company of our new friends, Joe, John, and Fr. Meinrad. Our vegetarian family raided the salad bar and the spice jars and made delectable salads covered with all kinds of herbs and spices. (Aidan especially liked being able to do his own decorating!) The Wood family split up into various conversations, Greg talking with John about business ethics and social encyclicals, and having favorite authors in common, like Wendell Berry. The young people were talking with Joe about our new favorite topic, the four temperaments. Laughing could be heard as Joe too had become recently versed in the topic and shared his own parodies of the various temperament descriptions. Deirdre in particular liked the melancholic description from Joe, “I am still holding fast to that grudge from when I was ten and you said... “ I listened to Fr. Meinrad tell the history of the Benedictines at the college. He had a phenomenal memory and was a gifted storyteller.
Then on to the auditorium for our sound check, where we met more fine people. All the staff at the college were a pleasure to work with. We did a theater length show to a very enthusiastic audience, afterwards meeting students, faculty, and people from the surrounding area. We spent the intermission with a beautiful family with nine children, the Riouxs. I knew the parents while we were all in college together and Jean, the dad, is a professor at Benedictine. They invited us to visit them at their farmhouse out in the Kansas countryside the next morning. We met several families who also played music together--- my dream is to someday highlight many of the musical families in this country in a big event.
After our show, an Irish session was held in the Roost, next to the Coffeehouse, Holy Grounds, led by John Bunch. We were first fed delectable smoothies and tea, and then various family members joined in the music. Fr. Meinrad was there enjoying the music and interacting with the students. We were all very impressed with the spirit of joy on the campus--- the Holy Spirit was clearly present working wonders with the young people and their mentors. We returned to the monastery guesthouse in shifts. Greg and I departed first with our little people, at 11:00. I told Patrick to make sure that the rest of our people return together, and not too late, so as to not disturb Brother Joe more than necessary. We later learned that not only were our orders not heeded, but the girls returned late and the boys returned very late. (2:00 a.m. and 2:30 a.m.) Brother Joe earned many points for heaven that night. Where there is music and good company, sleep seems not a priority for our young folk.
We learned that Fr. Meinrad had offered to say Mass for our family in the St. Joseph Chapel in the Monastery Church Crypt, at the very friendly hour of 9:00 a.m. There were also a few students present. We were deeply grateful to attend Mass before heading on to Dallas for the next leg of our trip. We parted with our new friends and continued onward.
Only a short way was made before we stopped for a short visit to the home of the Rioux family who live in the middle of Kansas farmland. More wonderful hospitality... Maria, the mom, like me, loves to walk, and invited us to take a vigorous walk before lunch amid the Kansas fields. Maria looks no different than when we were in college, and is spirited as ever, even with a fair amount of hardships in her child raising. Her second child has Down’s Syndrome, another child had some time of seizures, and she and her husband would say, “at least we do not have a child with cancer.” And then a four year old daughter came down with Leukaemia. I think God gives the burdens to those that can handle them and uses these people to be witnesses to the rest of us. Jean and Maria are heroes, and their children radiate their love. Adrienne Rioux survived leukemia having been offered a bone marrow donation from a baby sibling. Maria shared a letter with me from her grandfather who was killed by the Nazis in the Dutch Resistance. It was his last letter to his wife and children knowing that his life was going to be taken by the Nazis the next morning.He expressed his gratefulness for each family member and for his Catholic faith, and asked that the Faith be kept by his children. Maria comes from heroic stock. We were fed a delicious lunch of homemade bread and soup before reluctantly departing. One of the best parts of our musical endeavors is also one of the hardest--- we meet wonderful folk, partake in their generous hospitality, and then rush off. But then we say, without our music, we would never even have met up with these fine folk.
Our next stop was Dallas. Hospitality continued as we showed up at Greg’s parents house immediately taking over the family home. We are grateful for our performing, for it brings us to see our relatives far more often than if we were not performers. It is always great to be with family. We were given a tour of Grandpa Wood’s office at the University of Dallas where he teaches philosophy, fed a delicious vegetarian chili for lunch, then on to a house his parents own where Grandpa and Greg’s brother, Mark, have done the landscaping, then on to a restaurant with more relations in Dallas. Our taste in food and the rest of Greg’s familys’ taste is a little different. Greg grew up in a regular meat and potatoes eating family from the mid-west, met me, became a vegetarian, and then feasted on California cuisine for the next 25 years. Our children are even more picky than we are, not too willing to settle for ordinary fare. Mom and Dad Wood had suggested a restaurant, and our brave Elizabeth made a counter request. We all ended up at a vegetarian Hare Krishna Restaurant in downtown Dallas called Kalachanjdis. Those brave Wood souls were generously willing to say yes to Elizabeth’s request. They either liked the food or made a very big Lenten sacrifice, because nobody complained, and also present were Greg’s brothers, Mark, and David and their families. (Greg and I had gone to college in Dallas and used to eat at Kalachandjis back then, finding it delightful then and unchanged in the present.)
Our venue to perform in Dallas was a little unusual for us nowadays. It was Lochrann’s pub in the small town of Frisco, outside of Dallas. Greg was having nightmares that we could not possibly fit on the stage, and I kept reassuring him that we could make anything work. We make a fine team--- I am the usual pessimist, calling myself a realist, except at the very rare time when Greg loses hope, then I become a cheery, confident optimist. Our show was late on a Sunday afternoon before St. Patrick’s Day.
We attended a beautiful morning Mass at the Cistercian Abbey near the University of Dallas. The abbey church is a simply exquisite stone edifice, made of massive roughly quarried limestone blocks. It is full of light and powerful, simple beauty. The choir stalls in the front of the church held the old Hungarian Cistercian monks who had fled the communists in the late 50’s, and behind them were 8 of the 12 young monks-to-be, handsome and hallowed looking in their long black robes. Not too long ago, it looked like that Monastery would come to an end as the original monks were quickly aging. But new seeds have been planted. An elderly and frail monk said the Mass still speaking in strongly accented English even after 40 years away from his homeland. We did not expect too much from his sermon, but wisdom comes with age and suffering, and he reminded us that our bodies are the first home of Christ and the Holy Spirit, even preceding Christ’s presence in the physical church building. The Eucharist existed long before churches were built. So we need to use these bodies in a way that befits Christ’s presence. All the music in the monks’ liturgy was Gregorian Chant chanted by the monks, so were given a glimpse of heaven for that hour.
We arrived at the pub to have Greg’s fears dispelled. The stage was more than manageable. It did require some creative maneuvering--- Greg and I positioned ourselves on the floor on either side of the stage, and booths on both sides of the stage became the back stage and shoe- changing area. We do take pride in our ability to make anything work, with a little imagination. After our sound check we ordered some appetizers and requested that they be vegetarian, and I do not think Texans know what that means. The vegetarian chips and dip had bacon bits throughout them. (When we ordered a meal after the show we could not find one thing” The whole order had to be redone, because the cooks did not seem to know what “no meat” meant.
We ended up really liking the intimacy of the performance. We had a filled house, (or pub) and the audience seemed to be delighted. Our dear friends, Neal and Betty Jo, were there; we had recently all been together on the Irish Caribbean Cruise. We were happy that they had seats right in front. Also, Greg’s mom, and brother, Mark, and his family were there. (Grandpa had flown out earlier that day for a business trip to Philadelphia.) We even met up with college friends and fans from long ago. Our musical history in Dallas goes way back, as the North Texas Irish Festival was one of our first regular gigs back in the early days of Celtic Spring. It was a little funny to have performed last year in Dallas to an enormous crowd at the aforesaid mentioned festival, and then to be in the very cozy pub.
But we are just happy to play our music and share it.
From Dallas we drove on to Oklahoma, where we would be performing on St. Patrick’s Day. We were performing in the small town of Pryor, about 45 minutes east of Tulsa, and also about 45 minutes north of one of our favorite monasteries in the United States, Clear Creek Monastery. (Are you, reader, detecting that we like monasteries?) Clear Creek is another Benedictine Monastery that has a very interesting and very recent history. About 40years ago, a wonderful man, John Senior, started the Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas. He loved the “Great Books,” and his love was infectious. After studying under him throughout college, a group of young men embraced the Catholic faith and then went in search of the heart of Benedictine Monasticism at the 1000 year old Monastery of Fongombault in France. The Benedictines follow the rule of its founder St. Benedict, whose motto for his monks is Ora et Labora, Prayer and Work.
In 1999,the American monks at Fontgombault were asked to bring their Benedictine spirituality to the United States and they began to build a monastery in the wilds of eastern Oklahoma, a huge undertaking. We had the pleasure of visiting them early on and even performing for them in a rugged clearing next to the creek with a large fallen tree for their seating, and then performed later in Tulsa for one of their fund raisers. Our first visit Mass was said in metal roofed shed-like buildings. We had heard that they had since built their residence, and also the crypt for their , Church. They have had to become rugged pioneers, clearing rocky, tree covered hilly land to grow their own food to provide for themselves. Families have begun to buy land in the surrounding countyside and are also taking on “pioneering.” We knew one of the families, the Lawless family, who had moved from Southern California and we had it on our itinerary to also visit them. Greg and I have also held on to a dream of buying land out in the country near a monastery and attempting self-sufficiency, and we are awed by families that have done this.
Our soundcheck was scheduled for late afternoon and we were grateful to have a morning and afternoon to go to the Monastery. We got directions from Tim Lawless, the dad, and our first stop would be his house. From there we would go to the Monastery for 11:00 Mass. Because the Benedictines have hospitality written into their rule, Mass is at a very civilized hour. Of course the monks rise very early in the morning for prayer.
We drove for about forty minutes, taking all kinds of turns off various highways until we finally turned on to a road that very soon became a gravel road. We traversed this road for a long while before making several turns at odd roadmarks. The road got rougher and rougher and we bumped more and more with our big black St. Michael van (just washed right before our CA departure), finally arriving at a very rugged property with a big house, quickly emptying of a lot of happy faces of all ages. We were re- introduced to Tim and Teresa Lawless, and met seven of their eight children. (We had met the family once after Mass in San Diego, and our girls had gone to college with the oldest son.) We were graciously welcomed by the whole family. The children went off to meet the horse and cows, Greg went off with Tim to hear about their country life, and I visited with Teresa. Tim and Teresa were both native Californians and seemed quite happy in their rugged OK life. The land looked quite harsh to me--- all tree covered and rocky. Spring had not yet come, so everything looked dead and bleak. (This made California look like a tropical paradise!) I measure a land’s viability by whether roses could thrive. I am not sure one could even dig a hole to plant a rose in this place, Teresa showed me her new wooden planting boxes where she would plant herbs. It seemed that every project there was labor intensive--- but families were moving there and some were further along in actually being able to farm--- the Lawless family hoped to clear land to raise cattle. Suddenly we realized that it was past time to leave for Mass. As the crow flies, the Lawless family was about three miles from the Mastery, but by the rough roads it was nine miles. With Michelle Lawless as guide we sped our way through the nine miles of bumps and pot-holes, and made Mass just in time. (I was beginning to feel very sorry for our St. Michael van--- he was not used to these OK country roads.)
The Mass was awesome--- the monks chant the Tridentine Mass in Latin. Even the readings were chanted in Latin. I was following along in a missal and for the first time was deeply moved by that particular liturgy. I was too young to remember the Tridentine Mass from childhood and we have attended several since Pope Benedict made it accessible to all. My children have complained that they had had a difficult time following, but I am sure that all is needed is more familiarity. The missal explained the significance of every action of the priest and there was a richness that has been diminished in the Post Vatican II liturgy.
There seemed to be many monks--- about 40, and Elizabeth recognized young men from Thomas Aquinas College. After Mass, Fr. Bethel gave us a little tour. He explained that there are many vocations but not enough money to build fast enough. There are not even enough rooms for all the monks, so some live in shed like buildings next to the monks residence. Fr. Bethel explained that a hardship of building a monastery in the modern world is that funds have to be in place for the building of the church, instead of just being able to build one stone at a time, and take 100 years if necessary. It is either all or nothing--- well not exactly nothing. The crypt is built and that is where Mass and prayers are sung. But these beautiful and worthy monks need a church--- so if any of our dear readers feel so inclined, please remember these monks in your generosity. www.clearcreekmonks.org Fr. Bethel took the male folk of our family into the residence, and the girls and I visited with Fr. Bachman, a wonderful monk from Canada that I had known when he was student at Thomas Aquinas College more than 25 years ago. I remember when he was a senior and telling me about his vocation to be a monk at Fontgombault. I do not think he ever imagined what God had in store for him. But his countenance reveals nothing but joy and acceptance of the Divine Will. He always looked to me like an angel, fair skinned and blue eyed, and somewhat frail, now he is tanned, rugged and hearty looking from the manual labor at Clear Creek: clearing forests, raising goats, farming.
We made a hasty visit to the bookstore, bought a stack of books, including John Senior’s Restoration of Christian Culture, which we have loved! Greg, always eager for the next meal, was worried that we were overstaying our monastery visit, and compromising our time for lunch with the Lawless family. So we made a mad dash of the nine bumpy miles back to their home. Michaela Lawless, a cousin whose family had first moved out and bought land near the monastery, made a feast of a lunch--- real California Mexican food, including a pile of freshly cut avocadoes. (They must have come at a dear price to the wilds of OK) We ate more than our fill---which proved to be propitious as we were at the door of our misadventure. Again, a sad time had come. It was forty five minutes to our sound check in Pryor, and again we had to rush off. Back to another death-defying dash over bumps and holes towards our destination.
We were almost off the gravel roads when the girls announced that there was an odd sound underneath their side of the car. Our van is so long, that we could not hear it, but the car was beginning to feel strange. Greg pulled over to investigate. We had a flat on our right rear tire--- not just a flat but a completely torn up tire. So much for all those speedy rides... I was just marvelling the day before how with 75,000 miles of travel with St. Michael in two years we have been very blessed to have had no breakdowns, and little problems. (If you remember, a semi backed up into us on an exit ramp off a freeway at 3:00 a.m. as we were crossing into Canada, but at least we did not have to at a soundcheck.) I think these troubles happen to just remind us to not take anything for granted. Each day and moment is a blessing that is not owed to us.
We had never changed a flat on this van, and found the jack, which did not look quite up to the task for our very long and large vehicle. We called Tim Lawless thinking that we might need some help and he might have a heftier jack. Greg and the boys set to work, and Tim soon joined. I called AAA knowing that if we needed help, we were miles from anywhere, and they would take a long while to get to us. All seemed to be going fine, so I cancelled the AAA request. As the men were tightening down the lug bolts on the spare, they were not all tightening properly. Something did not seem quite right, but three seemed very secure, so we though we could at least get to our sound check and deal with the tire the next day. We piled in and Greg proceeded to drive, but the van would not move. OH NO!!! IT was hard not to PANIC. We have never missed a show--- we nearly did recently fighting LA traffic this past Christmas Eve, but even then, we managed to get there in time.
Furthermore, this was a rather important show, on St. Patrick’s day and well promoted. (We even saw a video of us on a large marquee, when we arrived at the hotel the night before.)
We called the presenter and explained the situation, but assured her that we would arrive and still have time to do the sound check and perform. I called back AAA and asked them to send a tow truck. We knew the situation was rather bleak, as the nearest Dodge dealership was an hour away in Tulsa. Furthermore,we had to be performing “Live” on cable TV in Birmingham two days later. Tim, most kind and gracious, piled us into his large van somehow fitting in all of our equipment, the floor, keyboard, instruments, and all of us except Greg. We would go on to Pryor, and he would deal with the van and the tow truck. We had never had to set up and sound check before without Greg. But you do what you have to do. (The band had left Sean and me behind one time, when Sean had a ruptured appendix and was hospitalized for two weeks.)
We were able to successfully set up and sound check, and Greg showed up far earlier than we ever expected him. (I would have been satisfied if he showed up just in time for the show.) Most kind and gracious Teresa Lawless and Michelle took Greg in another car as soon as the tow truck showed up. So all went well that night, and that crowd celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in fine style. We were happy to meet other families from the Monastery “neighborhood” that had come out for the show. The presenter, Kim Risner, was a very gracious woman also, taking all the stress in stride and having a lovely vegetarian dinner for us just to our tastes. Since we were still car-less, all of our equipment was very kindly delivered to our hotel by the mayor of Pryor. The Lawless family invited our children back to their home and the plan seemed fine, seeing that we were not going anywhere until we at best went to Tulsa to pick up the van the next day. Tim and Teresa left us their little car and piled all their 7 children and our six into their van. We now had two empty hotel rooms and our room full of all the equipment. I felt rather homeless, because our Sprinter van, St. Michael, is like our home when we are on the road. I could only imagine how much running around we would have to do the next day, and Greg mentioned the unimaginable scenario that the van might not be repairable in one day, and we still had to be in Birmingham on the 19th, with an eight hour drive before us.
We received the dreaded news that next morning. Greg and I decided to head to Tulsa for Mass at the Cathedral, since we knew we would have to pick up the van there. On the way I received the phone call that we had put in the wrong sized lugbolts on the spare tire and we had ruined the axle and the brakes, and the nearest axle replacement was in Michigan, The job would be finished on Monday or Tuesday. (We had obligations in California on Monday.) I explained the situation and asked if the axle could be flown from Michigan. I was told that that was a possibility. The soonest the car could be ready if the part arrived by Friday morning via plane was Friday afternoon. We still had to be in Birmingham what was now the next day.
To explain the lugbolts... we had in the usual manner put the original lugbolts on the spare tire. I was told that we were supposed to use new bolts which were shorter on the spare. That info came 12 hours too late. Where was the warning on the spare tire??? I am in friendly negotiations with Sprinter/Dodge Headquarters about this $1000. repair bill and $700. van rental bill.
After Mass we began to pursue van rentals. That is not usually a problem, but it was spring break and every large van was rented, and most companies did not even have mini-vans. The only three mini-vans we found were three times as costly as usual--- supply and demand economics at work. At this point I called our contact at EWTN cable TV, thinking that maybe Michael Masney would have some ideas. Maybe EWTN had access to cheap flights and we could fly to Birmingham from Tulsa. I must have scared him as well, because we learned later that he had told Doug Barry, the show co-host, that the show was cancelled. We would never not show up, but Michael did not know what stuff we are made of. Our main purpose for this tour was our invitation from EWTN that we received immediately after being on EWTN at this time last year, and we would be there. We drove to the Tulsa airport to rent the van for $230. per day for three days. There was a fellow renting a mini-van at the same AVIS counter at the same moment renting a nicer van for $69. per day. He had just made a reservation earlier.
We left the airport with the van and returned to Pryor where we now had to store our floor and keyboard, and everything that was not essential for the TV show. We had to fit eight people and instruments and sound equipment in the mini-van. We called the Harrison Library in Pryor, who had co-sponsored our show along with the OK Arts Council, to see if we could store our extra equipment there. More graciousness, as we were told that that was fine. We loaded up the mini-van with all the equipment, and it did fit, with seats down and no extra bodies. We unloaded at the library, again feeling quite homeless and humble---these folk had never seen our spiffy, shiny, black, Mercedes-made Sprinter van.
I did not want to drive on those horrible roads again, but our children were still happily at the Lawless family’s home. (They had wanted to spend more time with the family, so they got their wish fulfilled!) So back out again to the wilds of the monastery “neighborhood” where we were reunited with our children. We departed for the nine hour drive to Birmingham at 7:00 p.m. It was going to be a long night and I knew who would be driving into the wee hours.
The children entertained us with tales of their day. The girls had gone to the cousins’ home and were happy to tell us that their place looked much less intimidating with regard to ,
farming. This other Lawless family had bought an already working farm and had cattle,goats, and chickens. They were able to do much for themselves and the older children were already buying land from the parents on which to someday farm themselves. Our younger children had spent the day riding horses and exploring. They told us that upon arriving back at the Lawless home at 11:00 p.m., the cow still had to be milked and the job belonged to 16 year old Katie who went out to the animal enclosure with a big knife and the two German Shephard dogs, because there were many eyes to be seen glowing in the forest... probably just deer, but intimidating nonetheless. My young people learned the definition of “redneck” during their stay. The Lawless family says, with much humor, they are “rednecks” because they have three cars that don't move and a house that does. I think half our gang thought homesteading in rural OK to be the life, and the other half prefer the civilities of paved roads and towns nearby with health food stores and cafes. I just want to be able to grow roses and to be near a monastery, and have a milk cow, and a forest for wood, and a large field for a garden. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know???
I took a break from “Blogging” for dinner and our four younger children who had left at 4:00 to visit friends and had not returned by 8:00 suddenly burst in filthy and all talking at once. The gist of the story: our children are friends with a wonderful homeschooling family of nine who have five acres of land in our town of Ojai and have chickens, cows, homing pigeons, and just acquired some sheep. The plan was for Sean and Patrick to drop off Maire and Aidan for a few hours of play. They were just going for a short ride so they took our dog, Benedicta, with them. My students were gone so I seized the rare quiet moment to write this blog. The hours whizzed by and at 7:00 I realized that the boys had not returned. They were called and Deirdre was told that they were trying to help capture an escaped sheep.
Apparently, our dog had scared one of the sheep right over the barbed wire fence and thus began a two hour chase all over a wide radius involving the whole Short family, including the parents, and our four children. Maire told us they were on this wild chase on roads and off roads on foot, bikes, and in cars. Apparently three vehicles were employed in the search and rescue, including a large white van used for a road block. The sheep was finally found and retrieved several miles away in a huge flood control basin. It sounded like the most absurd event in Ojai in a long time. Who needs Oklahoma??? (We had just recommended the Momastic “neighborhood” to our friends who are the most rugged homeschooling family we know and one of our favorites!)
Back to our trip... Greg drove much longer into the night than was usual for him and I was delighted to be able to keep on reading. I took over at 3:00 a.m. and we arrived at our lodging at 5:00.in the morning. We were to meet at the TV studio at 2:30 and appear “live” on EWTN’s “Life on the Rock” at 7:00. We were grateful to be able to go to bed before the sun rose. We all woke in time for noon Mass at EWTN’s chapel, followed by a quick trip into Birmingham to eat lunch at one of our favorite lunch restaurants in the county, the Golden Temple. As you can see, our priorities on the road are daily Mass and good, healthy food. Our handy laptop helps us locate churches and vegetarian restaurants anywhere in the United States.
This was our third appearance on “Life on the Rock” and we felt ourselves to be very at ease about the whole undertaking. After America’s Got Talent, we are very comfortable in TV settings. We arrived at the TV studio to set up and sound check. It was great to see the same wonderful staff. We did our sound check and Chris, the head sound engineer, well knew our needs so that all proceeded smoothly. We had plenty of time to do our favorite endeavor--- just hang out playing music together. The show had a new co-host, Doug Barry, who along with Fr. Mark Stone made for a good team. Doug is rather fiery and Fr. Mark is quite relaxed. `Fr. Mark asked Sean if he could borrow his dance shoes and also if sean would teach him a few steps of Irish dancing. Sean heartily acquiesced and Fr. opened the show with his new talent. We liked the format---do a set or two and then have a short interview with the whole family. The challenge for us is to not all want to talk at once. We all enjoy the mic! Everything went smoothly and if you missed the show, you can order the DVD from EWTN’s on-line catalogue.
We were all exhausted after the show and did not stay up to watch a mid-night re-airing. They did give us several DVDs of the show immediately after, and our rental van had a DVD player, so our children had a midnight viewing during our drive back to Tulsa the next evening. Every once in a while we actually look like a “normal” American family and then we have a good laugh at ourselves.
The girls had agreed to teach a dance workshop in Birmingham the next morning, so the rest of us used the morning to do what we enjoy. Sean and Patrick took Maire and Aidan to the zoo, and Greg and I took a walk. At home we are all exercise devotees, but during our touring exercise is at a premium. We all met up for lunch and then headed to one of our favorite places in the United States, Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, where the founder of EWTN, Mother Angelica and 40 nuns all embrace the contemplative life and sustain human culture with their prayers. While we are all madly dashing in the world they are the backbone of prayer for the world. Their monastery is exquisite; it rises out of the Alabama countryside like any medieval European monastery. If only we could all help the Clear Creek monks have the same sort of monastery. Our Lady of the Angels was built in the last ten years with the most beautiful architecture and materials.
The nuns were expecting us, and as music is for us a golden key, we had the pleasure of performing for them in the parlor. The forty joyful and young nuns, behind the grill, greeted us with warmth and enthusiasm. We worldly dwelling folk think that those that choose to enter contemplative monasteries are making a large sacrifice to leave the world behind, but joy pours out of the countenances of those nuns. They radiate a happiness the likes of which we rarely meet in our worldly endeavors. Of course, finally, joy will come when we submit ourselves to God’s will and put our complete faith , hope, and love in Him whatever our vocation.
We performed for the nuns for 45 minutes, (several Irish danced and clogged to some our tunes,) attended vespers (evening prayer) sung by the nuns, and then left at 6:00 for a long drive back to Tulsa.
The rest of the trip was picking up our repaired Sprinter in Tulsa, and driving the 1700 miles back to California. We were happy to have St. Michael back in good form and the vehicle seemed both homey and luxorious after the rental van. The drive was safe and relatively uneventful. While driving through New Mexico, we made a short detour north to Santa Fe, attending Sunday Mass at the Cathedral, visiting the church of Loreto with the miraculous staircase, and having delicious French pastries at a cafe. We drove fourteen hours straight home from Santa Fe to Ojai, hitting heavy winds between Gallup and Flagstaff, and then snow flurries in Flagstaff. We were happy to be snug in our beds at 4:00 in the morning.
We have been home five days and are now driving to Phoenix for a show tomorrow. Back to Lord of the Rings...