Send in the Clouds

(Berrien County, Michigan) I snapped this while riding home from Lake Township Park in Bridgman. Where were my brushes, easel, and canvas when I needed them?

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Solemn Monastic Profession

(Chicago, Illinois) I was privileged to witness the Solemn Monastic Profession of Brother Gabriel (Justin) Sumerel, OSB at the Monastery of the Holy Cross on July 14.  Brother Gabriel was one of the first monks to welcome me when I transferred my Benedictine Oblate affiliation to the Monastery of the Holy Cross from Saint Meinrad Archabbey a few years back.  He is a model of Benedictine hospitality, in that he receives all visitors as Christ. Brother Gabriel and his fellow monks invite you to join them for Solemn Choral Vespers featuring Schola Laudis on Saturday, July 28, at 5:15 p.m. (CDT).  The monastery is located at 3111 S. Aberdeen Street just west of Halsted Street and is within walking distance of the home of the Chicago White Sox, who will be playing the Toronto Blue Jays that night, complete with post-game fireworks.  Deo gratias!

The Prior examines Brother Gabriel prior to his Solemn Monastic Profession. Brother Gabriel passed with flying colors.

Brother Gabriel greets his family and friends after his profession.

Brother Gabriel Sumerel, OSB, a fully professed monk of the Monastery of the Holy Cross. Before you visit the monastery, visit:

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Travels with Natalie

Seeking Sargent in the Second City

by Charles McKelvy

Natalie had a notion that we should go to the Art Institute of Chicago and see their new exhibition: John Singer Sargent and Chicago’s Gilded Age, and so we did.

On Friday the 13th at the height of summer vacation, no less.

What were we thinking?

Well, we were thinking of our last train trip into Chicago, back in March, and so we envisioned a nearly empty 10:55 from Carroll to Van Buren.


“Where did all these people come from?” Natalie asked, as we scrummed for good seats on a car with a restroom.

“Summertime, my Dear,” I said, trying to go with the flow.

Natalie wasn’t so sure, and she really wasn’t on board a short time later when a nearby passenger asked the entire car to join her in singing “Happy Birthday” to her husband.

“How come you didn’t join in?” I asked when the last chords of that classic ditty were tumbling down the line.

No answer. Just the look.

As in: What were we thinking?

Well, we figured we would give ourselves a day off from retirement and spend a productive afternoon at that lion house on Michigan Avenue, beginning with the aforementioned exhibition devoted to what the Art Institute calls that “beloved American portraitist,” followed by close examinations of exhibitions featuring work by two of our favorite artists, Ivan Albright and Charles White.

But first we had to run some errands in the Loop. More like weave and dodge through a wet blanket, actually, because the downtown sidewalks were jammed with workers on extended lunch breaks and tourists by the ton.

I was about to grumble about the latter when I looked down and saw the camera hanging from my neck and thought only good thoughts about our beloved visitors from near and far.

We thus survived our sweaty march in the hot town, and soon found ourselves in the cool, dark confines of Regenstein Hall for a good look at what Mr. and Mrs. Sargent’s boy, John, had done with all that encouragement they had given him as a boy.

We soon decided that the man could certainly slap on the paint, and I elected Sargent’s painting of his fellow artists and friends, Wilfrid and Jane Emmet de Glehn, at the fountain in Villa Torlonia in Frascati, Italy as my “best of show.” Natalie complained that we had seen that painting a million times, as it is part of the Art Institute’s permanent collection, so I asked her for her favorite. She did not have one, because, as she explained, “Sargent seemed to have painted the rich people of his day. But I did like some of his street scenes from Italy.”

It was obvious Natalie was ready for something on the darker side of art, so we strolled to nearby Gallery 273 for a look-see at what that grim realist, Ivan Albright, had to show. Albright, you see, was a medical draftsman during World War I, so his artistic sensibilities were stood on their head as a young man, and so he produced such disturbing masterpieces as Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida. And, yes, that particular painting was a central part of the “Flesh” exhibition, and we spent a goodly time with it, learning that “the model for the portrait, Ida Rogers, was an attractive young mother of nineteen and a ‘very decent nice girl,’ according to Albright. His goal in artificially aging a young model was to capture youth and old age in one haunting image.”

Bravo, Mr. Albright!

And then after taking our rest under a Roman bust of Hercules, we went to the nearby modern wing and went back in African-American history with the late Charles White. The retrospective of his work includes more than 80 paintings, drawings, and prints. White went right to the heart of the black experience in America, and you feel the pain and suffering as you behold his penetrating paintings and images of Civil Rights leaders and everyday folk.

We were emotionally exhausted after spending time with Charles White, so we left the rest of the galleries on Natalie’s list for our next visit, probably after Labor Day when all the kiddies have gone back to school.

After battling our way up Michigan Avenue on the overflowing sidewalks, we found respite in Millennium Station with food, bathroom breaks, and the good, old 5:28 for Carroll Ave. We did find seats, but so did the families with crabby kids, but as I said to Natalie, “It’s only summer once a year, Dear!”

You know where to find the South Shore, and you can find the Art Institute online at:


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Freight Haulers

South Shore Freight was gearing up the other evening in Michigan City, Indiana for some serious freight hauling.

The last of the rush hour trains are in; time to haul some freight.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

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Seeking Sargent

(Chicago, Illinois) We sought John Singer Sargent at Art Institute Chicago Friday and saw his work and so, so much more that we will simply have to submit a complete report in a day or two.  As we unwind from our big day in the Windy City, chill with this:

The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy by John Singer Sargent. This is my favorite Sargent, and I know it well because it is part of the permanent collection.

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Repeat Offender

(Bridgman, Michigan) This male Red-winged Blackbird dive-bombed me three times while I was riding south on Gast Road toward Snow Road. But I had my camera ready the fourth time he prepared to attack. Gotcha!

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Pretty as Petunias

Now that I have finally figured out how to care for plants in a hanging basket, our petunias are pretty as petunias.

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