Joe & Paul on a Glacier in Iceland.jpg

One Trip, Many Calendars

Knocking about parts of the world makes for interesting conversations between my son Joe and me. It has also made for a good amount of art.

What began in the 1980’s with family trips to the forests of Maine and New Hampshire, continued with deserts , mountains, and lakes in the West. It later blossomed into travels to Africa, South America, The Middle East, Iceland, the jungles of Central America and other locales off the beaten track.

But South America started the calendar project.  

If for a moment, I left out the rich variety of human encounters from our travels, I could still fill a respectable-sized photo album with eye-catching pictures: a fer de lance under a park bench in Costa Rica — a national park bench;  icebergs the size of houses floating in outdoor bathing pool in Iceland known as the Glacier Lagoon; a frigate bird stealing a fish out of the beak of a blue-footed booby that was rising from its underwater fishing expedition in the Galapagos Islands.

But long we trekked around in places like the Pantanal, Patagonia and the High Andes, we visited Ecuador. This first trip in 2006 was the genesis of our art calendars. What happened that summer resulted in something greater than a mere run-of-the-mill “itch to travel.” What happened began with a sudden phone call.

My home phone rang just fifteen minutes before the car service arrived to drive us to the airport for our flight to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.  The voice on the other side was that of Sister Anne Credidio and “the other end of the phone” was  Guayaquil, Ecuador. She was calling to tell me that she had heard from my older son that we were coming to Ecuador and promised to be at the airport to pick us up. She was. When we passed through customs sometime after midnight, she was waiting and waving.

The next day we spent with her meeting the patients and workers of The Damien House, her small private hospital for her poorest of the poor, the victims of leprosy, today known as Hansens’ disease. We were profoundly moved. A month after we returned home we decided to pool our talents and create an art calendar to advertise the Damien House and raise money to support it. 

This humble Brooklyn nun who has spent the last thirty-five years taking care of leprosy patients in Guayaquil is the Mother Teresa of South America. Had my older son not been a missionary there for a year and worked with her, we would never have returned to South America. There would have only been one trip, one album and no calendars.

If our art calendar has value, it lies in its missionary agenda: to promote the Damien House. If it pleases the eye and makes the two of us seem like intrepid adventurers, well, that’s OK too.

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