Monday, July 30, 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

We are reflecting on what's happened these past four weeks, having just completed the first part of our pilgrimage. The sabbatical was to begin June 24 with an initial entry time devoted to visiting museums in NYC and elsewhere in preparation for the journey. Given the intensity of the past two months with more than a few pastoral challenges this period was spent in less leisurely pursuits. We did manage three fabulous weddings and a trip to Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ . We will go back there often in the months to come. It is quite stunning and refreshing and whole families should go. Next time either family visits, it will be on the agenda. Just terrific. The acres of property are arranged for the over 200 substantial sculptures. Water features, paths, landscaping are all meaningfully arranged. So we had that moment, but we were still pretty wound up by the time the ride came to JFK.

The first phase of travel was a sandwich. The initial purpose was to visit Lamberts Glass but that was bookended by Munich and Prague. Munich was a wild time meeting up with our son Austin, who was finishing two years working for Bus2Alps, his work based in Rome. He came up from Florence, and met us on our first full day. We spent time on bikes or visiting museums, baroque churches, and of course, bier gardens. He took in some surfing the Eisbach, while we watched, of course. The eisbach is a river in downtown munich having a permanent wave across one section. Surfers in wetsuits - eisbach means iceriver - test their skills for thirty seconds apiece by turns. Munich is a huge bike city and the chimes ringed by the bikers through the crowds is a lasting aural memory. The history of a city rebuilt from rubble is quite a story. The old buildings are exact replicas built in the 1940-80's. There are a few old authentic structures. Then there are these stark modern cubist things, the subject of one of my blog poems ( Austin and i were arguing about style. The communal nature of the city is refreshing for those of us used to NY. The rococo style of things is also unusual. Few examples of it exist in the states, some might add, happily. Acanthus leaves, those things at the top of Corinthian columns, grow like the plague over everything in the building. Fun, and as they frequently adorn glass caskets of formerly famous people now bejeweled skeletons, the plaster leaves and guilt clutter make for a sure impression. There are significant art collections in Munich and we experienced them all. Then there is the food and beer and leather shorts on men and great fun band music. Wagner was on at the state opera but it was sold out and I think our son would have balked.

DeutschBahn is a model for how to get around. Far better than by car. So off to Waldsassen in East Bavaria close to the Czech border. Lamberts glass ( is the factory making mouth blown sheet glass. The US importers the one who got the idea for this whole trip idea started 12 years ago. The owners welcomed us graciously and we stayed at the apartment above the factory. First night we were invited to join at the Zoigl -a unique east Bavarian thing where a pub is open only five days a month when the Zoigl beer is ready. Food was great too! The glass blowing in a 24 hour thing. Glass blowing start at 4 am through 10 followed by the reload of the furnaces and the careful tending and mixing of the boiling silica brew through to the next day. While there we met another artist in from Korea, Fr. Cho, who is really a force of nature. He has convinced us of our next trip. His glass work is frigging huge by any standard. Huge. We all took a class there in silcone lamination technique. Watch out! We were all trading ideas and Fr. Cho is expecting to collaborate in the years to come.

The Czech train from Cheb to Prague was something out of Harry Potter ( for HP fans there is a St. Norbet's Monastery and thier beer is the best ever, which on this trip is saying something). Our hotel in Prague was just feet away from the justly famous Charles Bridge. Still a quiet respite from a city overrun by us tourists. Austin gave us some marching orders as he had returned to Florence after four days with us in Munich. Gloulash, the castle, and a place called U Felcku. We found music was the biggest part. Concerts in fabulous churches ( see blog again). Perhaps the highlight was the National Theater, the prestine most prestigius example of Art Nouveau we have ever or ever will likely see. We couldn't believe it survived and in such fabulous condition. Impossible to really describe. Every detail. Every tile. Every chandelier, every stick of furniture, every stage, every seat. Like rococo but in that sleek clean manner of deco. We took in a jazz show there - opera singers and musicians playing Brahms and Mozart improv and scat ( blog ). And all there inside that building.

We are writing from Athens just after a 16 hour trains planes and automobile transfer. Good time to reflect before the Acropolis. You can imagine how many toasts we have made in three languages now to Eli Lilly, our supportive families, friends, parish and diocese. The blog poems or only a few of what is pouring from a deep place, and are notably rough drafts. The IPad has been great for drawing and sketching as well as posting.

Well too early to summarize or even partially make a response to all this. Just a note to say this things seems entirely in the flow - flowing together with intention and purpose without the fight and anxiety. I know things continue - our thoughts and prayers for those who know who you are, as well as for larger contexts - Aurora.
Then there is they way we get news here. Another poem from that.

So we will chat again in a couple of weeks.

Love to you all,

Phil and Jan

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