While here in South Africa, I took the opportunity to meet Martin's family (Martin is my Dominican brother whom I came here to see. He is the one on the right). We had a wonderful time. His family is as kooky as mine... as are most families when it really comes down to it.

I touched down today in Johannesburg, South Africa, to visit an old friend and learn something about another face of Africa.

One thing about Rome that always intrigues me is how very old it is. These pillars have been standing here for two thousand years. So much has come and gone in that time, so many great things and so many truly horrible ones as well. The rest of the building that this was once a part of has long since crumbled, but these pillars endure.

Will anything I say or do in my life endure so long?

People are funny. Sometimes when all the culture, art, and beauty in the world beckons, all you want is a candy bar.

"Honey, do we have any more Baby Baby Ruth's?"

One thing you can always say about Rome is its beauty. It is a beautiful city, old and new, historic and yet still vibrant, with all of these strands woven together in a complex tapestry.

I especially love the way the light filters down into the narrow, winding streets, reflecting off the ochre walls of homes that are centuries old.

Sitting on the belvedere of Santa Sabina, watching the sun go down over the Vatican, sharing a glass of Amaro with an old Dominican friend, Mike O'Rourke. As we watch the beauty of the scene unfold, our conversation revolves around computers, network routers, and database programming; but there is still time to talk about life, mission, ministry, meaning, and how all that is shaping up for each of us, for the Dominicans, and for the church. A lot to talk about. Good thing a glass of Amaro lasts a long time, as does a Roman sunset.

In this photo the sun had set but the city had not noticed yet. Street lights had yet to come on, leaving the city in deepening darkness as the sky glowed orange. As the city turned into a two dimensional shadow, the dome of the Vatican became an arrow pointing to the sky and the beauty of the sunset.

It occurred to me that this is the church at her best. Not a magnificent basilica, nor even a sheltering dome protecting the faithful, but a pointer to God's presence in the world.

While in Oxford, I had the opportunity to get away for a couple of days hike with Peter Hunter OP. We went to the Ridgeway, a trail that runs just outside of Oxfordshire following a chalk ridge through the English countryside. The pastoral scenes along the ridge remind one of the Tolkien's descriptions of the Shire in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Lying between Oxford and London, sandwitched between the intellectual ferment of Oxford and the incredible bustle of London, the trail seems oddly peaceful, like the Shire sandwitched between the warring nations of middle earth. All is calm here, and walking the trail, one has no concerns for what might be going on in the outside world. No cell phones, no newspapers, today we simply worry about where we will stop for lunch, how far to the next pub, and how the harvest is doing in the fields we pass.

The wonders of modern travel. I fell asleep in Cleveland, Ohio and woke up in London, England. A short bus trip then brought me up to Oxford for a couple of days.

Oxford is so lovely and perfectly collegiate, that walking around it, one gets the sense that it is almost a caricature of itself. Everything is proper and well kept and in neo-gothic splendor. The tourists in shorts really look out of place, almost as much as I do. Quick, someone loan me a tweed jacket!

Summer is here in full swing now. Here at the lake, that means a very full schedule of doing just about nothing. All day, if you want. The cottage has a great front porch with screens and a glider, so you can sit all day rocking, just watching the water, talking, or, for the more adventurous, sewing. Here is my mother Arlene needlepointing a bird and flower design.

When you are sitting on the porch, no one ever asks what you are doing or what you are going to do next. The answer is always the same: nuthin and more nuthin . Nothing is fine with me.

Racing go carts at Goofy Golf is my nieces' and nephews' favorite activity, as you might guess from this photo. This is Nascar Nation. Evan is the one out front grinning from ear to ear, beating his father and two older cousins.

As for us old folks (like his dad), we enjoy mixing it up with the kids, so if they are too far ahead, we slow down to drop a lap so that we are in the lead again... sort of. Because you know what they say, it's not whether you win or loose, it's how many times you can bang into the other cars that counts.