Saturday, August 09, 2008


I'm here a week now, as of this afternoon. In that time I've presided at no Masses, heard no confessions, led no prayer sessions, done no Bible studies -- in short, I've not done anything remotely looking like what I as a priest am accustomed to doing.

Instead, I've been sitting at a desk a lot, looking at computer screens, and wandering around from the CHUs (containerized housing units -- think of it as me living in an industrial-sized dumpster with a door and a window mostly covered with ratty duct tape, but with an air conditioner that works) to the office, to the DFAC (the dining facility), to the latrines (the ones in the dumpster-like buildings are preferable to the porta-potties), to the shower facility (another dumpster-building).

There's gravel almost everywhere.

Lots and lots of gravel -- quite deep in (too) many places.

When was the last time you marched along in fairly deep gravel? It crunches underfoot not unlike schlepping along in deep, really cold snow.

In this heat, it's at least as taxing, though not as cold.

I've sort of lucked out -- the shower-dumpster is just is just a few CHUs down from my CHU, and I can skirt around the margins of that building, along the space between the backs of the CHUs, and around the margins of the latrine dumpster to get some relief -- without having to endure too much gravel. I don't have to deal with quite as many of those pebbles as some others do, in their quest for "personal PMCS" (preventive maintenance checks and services). :-)

Try it in the middle of the night, wearing flip-flops (we call them 'shower shoes'). One would not dare enter either of those two aforementioned buildings without wearing foot covering of some sort, ever.

Shower shoes and gravel are not a happy combination, especially in the middle of the night. Nor after a shower, the whole point of which was to get the feet (among other things) clean.

Oh well.

Early in my life as a Jesuit I spent lots of time in the "little finger" of Michigan, at the Jesuit summer place on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay. There's very little in the way of natural, sandy beaches along the part of GTB where the Jesuits have their property. Among the gravel up there one can find Petoskey stones -- which are a fossilized coral animal from some 350 million years ago.

I find myself instinctively looking for Petoskey stones as I'm trudging along in the pebbles.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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Anonymous said...

Tim sj

Not so much a comment but a query. I have a nephew bound for an area of the Middle East that is absolutely totally landlocked -- no sea coast whatsoever. Lots of action. If that is where you are, any way to get your locale to me so I can safely pass it on to him? He's an officer, so probably could track your formal address. You are just the kind of priest he would respond to; I think you'd do likewise. He doesn't need any steps (yet), but a dog collared friend would go a long way. Let me know in any way you can, if you can. Bert

Anonymous said...

I see my comment may have left an incorrect impression -- my nephew is not a priest, but a "good" Catholic boy

Steve C said...

Hey Tim,
I am grateful for your safe travels, and can imagine the knot you are feeling inside. Siting on the bench waiting for an opportunity to do something meaningful was/is something I hate so at some level I think I get what you feel. I don't think patience will ever be one of my virtues:) LOL
Just got back from the land of Petosky stones with some other people who love you.
I have a lot in front of me the next several months and need to keep remembering to stay only with the next right thing in front of me. As you have told me,if I do this all that overwhelms me will sort itself out. Gonna act as if the best I can.
I am pretty sure you will get in the game, and when that happens I can only imagine how great you will be. We all love you and are praying for you. Best Steve

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