This was quite another year. The winter started with the furnace dying and heating only with space heaters while the repair company was trying to obtain a new unit. Because the previous owners did not extend the ducts, a new ducting system was needed to replace the insufficiently old one. Together with a new solar attic fan and a new heat pump, this was a very significant upgrade to the house in ventilation, comfort, and also price.
My annual Holy Week solitary retreat this year was in Tucson, Arizona, visiting the Sabino Canyon recreation area and Saguaro National Park, the San Pedro Chapel and the San Xavier del Bac Mission, Mt Lemmon, the Tucson Botanical Garden, Tucson Cathedral, and visiting family I haven’t seen in decades.
In the northeast, pretty San Pedro Chapel faces the north and I was able to catch the sunrise skimming through the facade of the church. It is an active chapel used for weddings and other ceremonies. https://sanpedrochapel.com/
In the southwest, the San Xavier del Bac Mission was a very fascinating historical site. https://sanxaviermission.org/ It remains true to its active mission as a church and in addition, is a historical landmark and pilgrim attraction. https://sanxaviermission.org/photoalbums/confirmation-mass-04212021/31633.jpeg
The drive to the top of Mt Lemmon was interesting, going through many climate zones within 90 minutes. At the top is a quaint, family-owned specialty shop that served some of the best pizza. https://www.thecookiecabin.org/
The desert was hot even in the spring, yet in spite of this, I immersed myself in the desert in solitary retreat the entire Good Friday. This gave a small glimpse of Christ’s passion while carrying His cross amidst the heat of the midday sun. The saguaro cactus is very tall, resilient, and is the dominant feature of the landscape. The saguaro advises:
Be patient through the dry spells.
Reach for the sky.
Sabino Canyon recreation area had an inspiring landscape, and fitness enthusiasts also inspired other visitors. Although it was early in the season for the saguaro cactus flowers to bloom, there was one in particular in full bloom.
Mi Nidito Restaurant is a Tucson historical landmark and is frequently visited by celebrities. https://www.miniditorestaurant.com/ Cousin Annette, Alma, and Uncle Vince invited him there for a lunch reunion. It had been decades since we last saw each other in Chicago. Uncle Vince is now 95 years old, still drives his car, and until recently had his pilot’s license. He’s quite an inspiration for healthy living. Relating my new condo in Bacolod City was surprising news to him, as that area used to be sugarcane fields. The last time I saw Annette, I just graduated from high school and she was in college. Alma is her soul-mate and inspiration. It was a truly wonderful visit.
Easter Sunday Vigil Mass was at the magnificent St Augustine Cathedral. It evokes a mission-style architecture and a very active parish in both English- and Spanish-speaking communities. http://cathedral-staugustine.org/
Tucson Botanical Garden showed a very fascinating display of the native vegetation and habitat, as well as local culture. https://tucsonbotanical.org/
I had Easter dinner at the Churrasco de Brasil Steakhouse. These places are usually very expensive, but this one in Tucson had reasonable prices, very delicious food, and excellent service. https://churrascodebrasil.com/
After Tucson, I was due to fly to the Philippines. However, the airline canceled the flight due to COVID-19 conditions and mandatory institutional quarantine. I rebooked for November and again, it was canceled. I had just received my refund.
Soon, it was time to book my trip to Spain for the second summer of my studies. It was nearly impossible to find any booking class for the airline credit from last year when I was denied boarding at the last minute. So, I had to purchase another fare. I had to wear a mask throughout the entire flight even while asleep over my CPAP and connecting at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Arriving at Madrid Barajas Airport, I was counting on having lunch at the restaurant just outside the baggage claim, but it was closed. I boarded the 2-hour bus to Ávila and arrived in the late afternoon at the Universidad de la Mística. https://www.mistica.es/universidad-mistica/ideario-universidad Supper was not until 21:00, so I was so hungry that entire day.
The university community has the students, faculty, and staff living together in prayer, liturgy, meals, studies, and recreation. The building is shaped like a star signifying the inspiration that the Lord gave St Teresa of Jesus to reform the Carmelite Order. Outside my window, I have a good view of the most preserved walled medieval city of Ávila. Tuition, room, and board are very reasonable in Spain, a fraction of the cost in the United States.
The studies in spiritual direction were the most intense I had ever undertaken. Even my classmates who were native Castilian speakers were challenged by the neuro-linguistics. The prerequisite studies were essential. The schedule is so packed from morning until the night that there is no time to study. There is so much material, and the only way to really absorb this in-depth is to study in preparation for the term and after the term. But after the term were family visits, the return home, resuming life and work, a photography trip, and then a visit to Mom.
Writing the final project, the most time-consuming part was all the references and formatting. Much of the material flowed in my mind, thanks to the prayers of our Carmelite Secular Community that sustained me through all my studies. The paper became a full-blown thesis due to many foundational concepts that needed to be laid in preparation and support of the discussion. Having done many scholarly writings in the past greatly helped this experience with very conscious discernment, self-awareness, and decisions. In the end, this was a major contributor to the final grade where I earned the superlative distinction. I will be incorporating the evaluator’s suggestions before publication and translation from Castilian Spanish to other languages. My evaluator and esteemed professor had just died: https://www.mistica.es/component/k2/capilla-ardiente-y-misa-de-fneral-de-romulo-cuartas-ocd
Family Visits and Photography Trip
The COVID situation made travel so challenging and a constantly moving target. Taking the train to Basque Country, I was only able to meet in Bilbao with Ion and his girlfriend Sara who I met. My visit to Marcial and Agurtzane was canceled and we longed for the time we can finally greet each other with a warm hug. Nevertheless, Donostia was still a charming place to visit. The afternoon cool water swim at La Concha was so refreshing after the heat exhaustion I experienced in the central desert plains of Ávila. I was able to visit the Universidad Jesuita de Deusto to inquire about the law program and see the facilities. I will be making my application in January 2022 and hope to be one of the very few they admit each year.
Mom’s siblings were going to visit her on Labor Day weekend, so she asked me to visit at that same time. We had much to discuss regarding Mom’s care in her healing after the stroke last year. It was a good visit also with family, as we haven’t seen each other in many years. I photographed them and gave them cooking lessons, as well as my latest jokes.
I then took a two-week trip around Western Washington as a farewell to the state I have desired and lived in for the longest period in my life, in preparation for my departure next spring. It was a very productive trip, with hundreds of images under various weather and lighting conditions. Coping with the weather was a challenge, but it is how Mother Nature maintains her equilibrium, so we adapt to the conditions. The trip took me and Colby to Mt Tahoma, around the Olympic Peninsula, through Lake Quinault, Ruby Beach, Hoh Rainforest, Forks, Rialto Beach, Lake Crescent, Sol Duc, Port Angeles, Sequim, Oak Harbor, Deception Pass, Anacortes, Orcas Island, Mt Baker National Forest, and North Cascades National Park.
The time seems to go too fast when overwhelmed with things to take care of for parents in addition to upkeep of the house alone on top of daily work. I was now at the heels of selling the house, and a real estate investor bought it to remodel and resell in the spring. Things are going very fast in preparation for the next chapter in my life as a digital nomad running a consultancy from my many global certifications and accomplishments in music, fine art, spiritual direction, supply chain, data design, and hopefully soon, digital law.
Until next year’s stories:Numbers 6:23-26
‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:
24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”‘