For the kidney stones, I think they have passed. But my kidney itself still remains enflamed from the backup and troubles, and I am hoping I don't have to see the doctor again tomorrow. Unfortunately, between bouts of pain and drug-induced slumber, this past week has left me barely able to function.
For my future, I had a very promising meeting with a Dr. Ruesink at U Dub yesterday. Before the meeting I felt quite good, like I was in the right place, and God was leading me. She graduated undergrad the same year as I, though taking quite a different path, and does quantitative studies of nearshore ecology and fisheries, primarily on mussels. Although I am more of a qualitative naturalist, much of what she is looking at I have an interest in. As she met me her 2 year old daughter arrived, so we took a long walk with the stroller around the green campus.
Dr. Ruesink was incredibly helpful. She was my last best hope for U Dub, having been recommended to me by 3 different people- and she confirmed that it wouldn't be an appropriate fit. She was fascinated by my interest in Suqutra, and encouraged me that this is definitely a dream worth pursuing, if only for the sake of science and discovery. But U Dub remains a very temperately-focused school. She did however know of a number of promising leads, including possibly getting general tropical studies in U Puerto Rico and U Guam. (Personally, because of the increased warmth of the Atlantic Ocean in the near future, I'd prefer to avoid the E/S coastal colleges. And I enjoy Indo-Pacific languages more than Spanish.) But she also highly praised Columbia and the Fisheries Dept. at U BC as good marine biology programs that have a strong international focus and are willing to try out new ideas- something helpful for working on an isolated island with a UN project already underway, in an area of the world with few Americans. Dr. Ruesink also helped set me at ease about the U of Wales in Bangor. Though it would be nice to study in Wales, and there seemed to be some links between that institution and Suqutra, I couldnt' tell from the website if it was a reputable school. Dr. Ruesink affirmed that it was actually a highly respected school. All together, this left me for the first time with a number of excellent leads to pursue.
Now, there's a place in the Dijon region of France I stumbled into one day, quite unexpectedly. I had a week in France during Spring Break while I was teaching, and was loosly following The Christian Traveler's Guide to France, a guidebook that takes you to significant historical Christian sites in France. Sadly, in France, most of them are historical. But there was one little snippet in the back of the book about a living worship, a place called Taize. I went just after Easter, expecting maybe a few 100 people. I found instead 4,000 people there worshipping- and 7,000 if I'd been a few days earlier. Mostly visiting, in the most primitive of conditions, in bunk beds with simple meals, they'd come from all over the world to worship Jesus. A large number weren't Christians, but they'd come there to worship Jesus. It turns out Taize is quite famous, being the largest and oldest Protestant monastery in the world- though with small numbers of Catholic and Orthodox monks present. A place where Kofi Annan, Pope Jean Paul, Archbishop Tutu, and the Archbishop of Canterbury have visited. Taize is famous because of a unique brand of ecumenical, international worship they have discovered. They repeatedly sing the same phrase in chanting form, but in many different languages- Latin, English, German, French, Korean, Chinese... some 25 different languages are in their repretoir. This allows you to engage in the worship, understanding the meaning, to bond with those of different countries next to you, and to fully dwell on each word that you are chanting in a large cavernous dwelling. If you have room for only one place in all of France to visit, I'd make it Taize.
Last night, for the first time since that visit years ago, I got to attend another Taize service, over at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. For the monks of Taize have exported their worship style around the world, and it has become quite popular. Arriving a few minutes late, I sat down on the side of the nave, with perhaps some 650 other worshippers, in complete silence. Above us were cavernous Gothic arches, stretching high into the heavens, willing the mind to leap with them. And then a pure voice rang out, leading us solo,
"Na-da te tur-be, na-da te es-pan-te.
Quien a Dios tie-ne na-da le fal-ta.
So-lo Dios bas-ta."
"Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten.
Those who seek God shall never go wanting.
God alone fills us."
And we began a Taize mass of peace and reconciliation. After the first solo everyone joins in the chant, all 650 voices. It takes a bit for me to focus as we go through the cycles of chants, and then I can focus on each element. Here, if we seek after God, we will always be filled; but then, it is only God who fills, and He fills completely.
We alternated between Latin and English, till near the end,
"I am sure I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the liv-ing.
Yes, I shall see the goodness of our God, hold firm, trust in the Lord."
The stanza promises that we will see God's goodness one day. What is the land of the living? Heaven. Where those who follow Christ are now. Where those who are alive to the Joys are now. But we aren't allowed to stop, seeing it as if only I get there, I shall see goodness. For the second line is bold to state that, yes, I will see that goodness- it is not simply a pipe dream.
After an hour we wended our way out of the sanctuary to the dulcet choir of men and women singing, "Dona nobis pacem Domine." "Give us peace, O Lord." I was filled with great joy, singing the tune as I headed to downtown Seattle to catch my bus.