Monday, November 7, 2011

Autumn in Georgetown

This past weekend was highlighted by spectacularly beautiful autumn weather.   After being on the road for the past several weekends including last week in Naples, FL, it was a luxury to be home the entire time.  Except for driving one of the fathers to the airport at 5 AM on Saturday there was no need to get into a car.   It was nice just hanging around, running the occasional errand and enjoying the cool dry air. 

In a bit of an exercise that recalled the long retreat I took the camera with me everywhere I went.  A few of the resulting photos are below.  During the long retreat I began carrying the camera with me at all times.  Some of the best shots happened because I had the camera slung over my shoulder while walking to and from the main retreat house for Mass in the evenings around sunset.  The Boy Scouts are correct: Be prepared.  (Those of you of a certain age will recall Tom Lehrer's song "Be Prepared" which began "Be prepared, that's the Boy Scout's marching song. . . ."  That ear worm is going to be playing for the rest of the day).  Nonetheless, having a camera over my shoulder (a slip-it-into-the-pocket camera without a viewfinder is never going to cut it) forces me to look at things differently and allows me to notice things that would otherwise escape my attention or, as some of the photos show, see things are so familiar that I ignore them. 

While in Florida I gave two lectures to the Collier County Alzheimer's Outreach Network.  One was on medication and the elderly and the other was titled, "I Did Not Forget Thee O Jerusalem: Aging, Memory and Spirituality."  One of the emphases was on the use of photographs to preserve memories and to jog them into consciousness.   The importance of photographs for my own memories has already become apparent.  While sorting through some from Australia, Viet Nam and Taiwan to illustrate the lectures I found myself reliving experiences and moments that would be difficult to intentionally recall without the photos: a cold, damp, and foggy morning at Sevenhill, the movement of the boat and smell of the engine in the Mekong Delta, and the sweat dripping down my back as Ignatius and I climbed a 2.2 mile mountain path in Taiwan.

St. Augustine got it right when he wrote: “Memory preserves in distinct particulars and general categories all the perceptions which have penetrated each by its own route of entry . . . Memory’s huge caverns, with its mysterious secrets, and indescribable nooks and crannies, receives all these perceptions, to be recalled when needed and reconsidered.” Confessions X, 8:13.  This is a better description of memory than anything I've found in a neuropsychiatric textbook to date. 

I made multiple trips through Healy Hall over the weekend.  This is the back of the Georgetown seal on the front door near the chaplain's offices.
Among the top three things I will miss when I move is celebrating Mass at the Visitation Monastery next door.  The sisters have been wonderful.  Celebrating Mass with other religious is always a pleasure because certain images and allusions in homilies would not work in a parish setting.   The first is one of the upstairs porches overlooking the cloister.  The symmetry of the lights and fence were what first attracted me. 
The next is a detail of the sisters' choir.
Here is an example of noticing what one usually ignores.  This is a shadow of the gate on a wall at the 16th and P Street entrance to the university.  The wall is shared with the Visitation.  I was on my way there when I took this. 
This is the detail of a house down on P Street.
Here is the St. Ignatius statue in front of White-Gravenor on the Georgetown Campus.  W-G is where the campus tours began.  I had to learn how to give lost families the directions there from every point on campus very soon after arriving.  The other two big sites are "The Exorcist Steps" and The Tombs. 

This is one of the lamps in front of Copley Residence Hall, a perfect example of noticing  something familiar for the first time.
Finally, Healy Hall.  A bit of overexposure gave the silhouette effect.  The small jet stream adds a nice note. 
Cameras: Not just for travel anymore. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ

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