Spirit Travel

Thank you, Mr. Albright

Until I began watching Ken Burns’ extraordinary series on the National Parks, I had never heard of Horace Albright.  He was the  first Deputy Director of the National Park Service, and together with the first Director, Stephen Mather, they laid out the foundations of our National Park system.  Together, these men sought out pristine areas of our country that were worth saving for future generations.   

What’s a bit hard to believe is that all the land for our National Parks up to the 1940’s was donated by private citizens.  This photo of me, my brother Don, and sister Jody, standing in front of the Grand Tetons, was taken several years back and would not have been possible had it not been for a little drive taken one afternoon by Stephen Mather and Horace Albright.  I had never heard of the Teton Range before we came upon it that day.  It was one of the most beautiful places I have seen, and the memory of that day will forever be etched in my mind.  How could I have never heard of this place?

The story goes that Mather and Albright were on their way from Yellowstone to Jackson Hole.  As far as I can tell from the dvd, both had never seen the Grand Tetons, and they stood in awe, at just about the same spot as we did in the photo above.  They scrambled to find someone to purchase the land that would include the Grand Tetons.  

Enter John D. Rockefeller Jr..  Mr. Albright took a drive with Mr. and Mrs. Rockefeller to show them the Tetons.  Mrs. Rockefeller was concerned about all the saloons and run down shacks that stood in the valley below the majestic mountain range.  Well, to make a long story short, when Rockefeller returned home to New York, he established the Snake River Land Co., and began buying up all the land surrounding the Grand Tetons. He spent millions in order to preserve the land that we had the blessing the stand on that spring day years ago.  

Yesterday, I wrote about the butterfly effect, and how our decisions today can affect many, many generations of people.  To think that this spectacular National Park exists because of the efforts of just a few people, men including Horace Albright, is a bit hard to take.  But it happened, and I’m so grateful it did.

If you have ever stood and looked across to Cascade Canyon weaving it sinuous way towards the summit of the Tetons, you will know the joy of being in a sacred place, designed by God, to be protected forever.

                                                                                                                                                 Horace Albright

Ignatian Spirituality Mind Spirit Travel

The Butterfly Effect

Do you remember these little stores in the malls named Successories?  They were always tucked away in some corner, and they offered inspirational gifts, which were really popular in the 90’s.  Well, Successories bit the dust some time back, only remerge as Simple Truths.  Only available on line, they offer the same kind of material.  

Somehow I got on their email list, and out of sheer boredom one day, clicked on the link to their website.  I was impressed by what I saw, and, since they were offering some fantastic deals, I bought a few books.  One of which was entitled, The Butterfly Effect.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but, since I like butterflies, I figured what the heck.

Well, I love this little book.  I’m going to blog more about its contents later, but here’s the basics of the story.

In 1963, a scientist named Edward Lorenz presented a hypothesis to a distinguished academy of fellow scientists.  His theory said:

A butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air- eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the planet.

Lorenz was laughed out of the building.  The others thought what he had proposed was impossible.  For many years, the butterfly effect only showed up in comic books and science fiction, but no real scientists gave it much thought.

That was, until some thirty years later, when a group of physics professors came to the conclusion that the butterfly effect was authentic, accurate, and viable.  Soon afterwards, it was given the status of a law, now known as The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions.

Now, you’re probably asking, what does that mean to me?  The rest of this little book goes on to speak about the fact that everything we do matters. Every move we make, every action we take, matters.  

There are generations yet unborn whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take today.  And tomorrow, and the next day.  And the next.

You have been created as one of a kind.  On the planet Earth, there has never been one like you… and there never will be again.

Your spirit, your thoughts and feelings, your ability to reason and act all exist in no one else.  You have been created in order that you might make a difference.

Knowing this, would it make a difference in the way you live your life?  How about the way you treat others?  Maybe change the way you use our limited resources?  You can do a lot with this, and I hope you will.  I’m going to try…

Catholic Church Ignatian Spirituality Italy Mind Spirit Travel

St. Catherine of Siena

Today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena (1347-80), a one of only three  women who have the title Doctor of the Church.  Over the summer, I picked up a biography of this great saint entitled The Road To Siena written by Edmund Gardener.  I’ll leave it to you to find out more about Catherine.  I just wanted to bring her up because, as I learned through reading this biography, she was one tough person who rose above the difficulties of her time and became a shining example of holiness.

Sometimes, actually, I think most of the time, every generation thinks that they have it worse than another other age.  We wonder how we will ever survive, yet alone thrive through whatever comes our way.  Reading the story of St. Catherine reminded me that we have been through worse times.  Catherine lived in a time of plague, heresies, schisms, object poverty and absolute decadence.  Sinful behavior seemed to reign.  In the end, though, people like St. Catherine kept it together, calling people to task, challenging those in power at the time to live for holiness.  Her forceful voice remains with us today, and her words speak to our time.  Maybe Pope Paul VI had this in mind when, in 1970, he declared her the first woman Doctor of the Church.   Read up on her.  Ask for her intercession, for ourselves, and for our Church.

Italy Travel

Ah, Tuscany Pt. I

Frances Mayes is out with a new book entitled Every Day in Tuscany. Mayes is the author of several books about life in Italy, and she is one of my favorite authors.  I’m about half way through this latest memoir, and so far, it hasn’t disappointed.

Her writing style is such that she draws you into the story, the experiences, and its as if you get to meet the people, share the food, drink the wine, see the sights right along with her.  I love it.

I was talking to my mom last night about the book, and she hadn’t heard it was out yet, but I think she’ll head out today and get her copy.  Several years ago, my family took at trip to Italy, and stayed in Cortona for a few days.  It is a beautiful little hilltown, and we wanted to see for ourselves what drew Mayes and her husband Ed to settle in this place that seems to date from forever.  We weren’t disappointed as we ate in the little tratorria she loves, bought perfectly ripe peaches from the frutta e verdura shop the size of a postage stamp that she buys her produce from.  We visited the museum where Fra Angelico’s magnificent  painting of the Annunciation hangs, bought plates and cups in the traditional pattern of Cortona.  At Christmas, I bring out my copy of the Annunciation and hang it on the wall in my living room.  When I’m depressed about something, or want to celebrate a special occasion, I eat off those plates.  For a moment, I’m back in Cortona, enjoying the sweet life…

Mayes draws you in to her experiences, and she leaves her readers longing for a little taste of la dolce vita.  As we were leaving Cortona, my mom asked the cab driver if he knew were Bramasole, the abandoned house Mayes and her husband had restored.  “Si, si,” he replied, and off we went into the hills.  Bramasole, which means to “yearn for the sun” in Italian, is not the grandest house, but I would take it in a heartbeat.  My mom noticed the windows were open.  “Are they home” she wondered?  We stood outside their gates, laughing, taking pictures, dreaming about what it would be like to live in this place.  I love the picture we have of my mom, with a big smile, standing at the gates of Bramasole.

In this latest book, Mayes writes that, even though the people at the gate don’t realize it, she and her husband do hear the laughing, the conversations, good and bad.  As I read this, I kicked myself that we didn’t yell up that day.  My mom would have loved to have been invited in to look around.  She may have decided to stay another day…

In my mind, there are few places in the world that get me dreaming as does Tuscany.  I’ve lead several tour groups there over the years, and after the last one, with the weak dollar and sky-high prices, I said that was it, no more tours!

That lasted about two years, and as I write this, I’m beginning to plan a fifteen day trip all over Italy for the summer of 2011.  I’m ready.