Feb 08 2011
Sunday afternoon, February 6, 2011
It is a balmy 39 degrees, the sun is blazing, and the piles of snow are melting in Danvers, Massachusetts, as the first six weeks of my sabbatical draw to a close. What a journey this has been so far! Now I am in that liminal space between homes, as one chapter ends and another is just a page-turn (and a cross-country flight) away. I am sitting in Boston’s Logan Airport, waiting for a delayed flight to wing me home to California for the next month—and you, dearly loved community, are much in my mind and heart.
Here are a few verbal snapshots from this first leg of the journey:
n 4,322 miles, 12 days, 11 towns and cities, countless states, and at least 22 opportunities to pack and repack the Mini Cooper as we took the southern route across the country from San José to Danvers in late December and early January: what worlds this country contains! Ever-changing landscapes unfurled past the window—desert, plains, forests, mountains, lakes, and seas—with time enough for the beauty of each to work its way into my system. Each day’s drive dropped us into a new region’s culture. We witnessed the depth of the recession in some towns, and everywhere we were struck by the power of simple acts of kindness and hospitality from strangers to touch our hearts and make our day. It matters how we speak and act with each other.
n Once we arrived in Danvers and were safely moved in, our pictures become white-on-white images of … snow. Mountains of snow. Blizzards and flurries, sleety snow, flaky snow, snowy air itself. Pastures of untrampled snow; walls of snow blocking the sightlines on freeway entrances and in parking lots; peaked roofs piled high with snow (and the disaster of collapsing roofs keeping everyone on edge). Six-foot-long icicles hanging like spears from the gutters. Even the hardy New Englanders have grown weary of this toughest winter in some 15 years. Kevin and I have the incredible blessing of apartment living—no need to shovel!—so our exploring of the picturesque neighborhoods all around us has been only partially restrained. Still, moving has its challenges: getting lost, getting sick, losing possessions, losing our bearings. I knew that my “flexibility” muscles would be strengthened by these changes in our lives—and they are indeed getting a workout!
n Sabbatical study: Though I am still learning how to slow down, there is a spaciousness to these days that allows each reading and reflection to enter into my mind and heart with a depth I had been missing. This month’s study has focused on the art of preaching, on Buddhist meditation and philosophy, and on the discovery of a Unitarian novelist from the Victorian era (Elizabeth Gaskell) whose values and spirit for social reform and for gender and class equality have much to teach us 21st-century UUs!
n From the heart: Friends, I miss you more than I expected! I miss walking together through all that life brings us—and I know that a whole lot of Life is going on out there among you, and that you are caring for each other and for our wider community in generous and thoughtful ways. It has been particularly hard to be away from you when crises arise. I have hungered to be with you and to wrestle our way toward meaning in the face of tragedies like the shootings in Arizona in January or in light of the recent pro-democracy uprisings in Egypt; in times of illness and joy, and in times of community distress or discovery. One of the unexpected gifts of this sabbatical is the chance to experience afresh the value of and the need for the community we make together. I often wake up singing one of the chants that Anand Solest and the choir have taught us: “Love, you are fragrance” or “We are blessed.” I carry you with me, close as a breath—and I move forward on this sabbatical journey with you as my companions and my desire for your well-being as my guide.
The next chapter of this journey begins tomorrow, February 7, as I join 375 Unitarian Universalist ministers at Asilomar in Monterey for the Institute for Excellence in Ministry. I look forward to being with Rev. Geoff and other dear colleagues—and to reconnecting with those aspects of my identity that can only be expressed at home! May your own journeys take you to a depth of appreciation for the love that surrounds you; to new sources of personal, spiritual, and communal hope; and to the actions that best express who you really are as the “Love people” and makers of justice and peace.
With much affection,
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