Coming Home in Another Direction

I’ve returned from my two week’s retreat writing on the Eucharist.  I composed my draft not from the two boxes of reference books and notes I brought, but spontaneously from my mind and heart, aiming for brevity and intensity, for someone’s lectio, for the person who has only a few minutes a day to give to an inner life.  I have no idea what I wrote.  When I have time I’ll look at it again and get to work revising, clearing, slashing, tossing, or, maybe, ever so gently drawing out of the draft that which is lovely and good and hopeful.  Who knows?

On the return trip I took the hour-and-a-half  ferry trip from Orient Point to New London.  Sitting on a bright blue bench on the less windy side of the boat, notebook in my lap,  I prayed the swells rocking the ferry like a cradle. I prayed the gray green water and the cloudy gray sky. I prayed the rain and the wind and white foam and salt air.  I prayed, feeling utterly myself, alone between homes. 

I once took a private retreat at Lebh Shomea House of Prayer in south Texas.  I couldn’t have been there long, because I had two little children and I was pregnant with my third, but I know the retreat was long enough to sink into the holy solitude.  At the end of the retreat I flagged down the bus on the highway and found myself sharing a seat with a garrulous preacher who talked all the way to San Antonio. Recalling his service in the Korean war he said, “So a young man said to me, ‘Chaplain? That’s all very well to say I lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help but I lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh mine enemy!'”  I never forgot the shock of conversation after a week of silence.   I feel that shock now.   

The sisters have been busy with garlic planting, October mulching, harvesting and processing apples, walnuts, husk cherries and tomatillos, and making  juice from the unsold vegetables from Market Day.  I came home to lovely house guests, laughter, Saturday night pizza making, Sunday Lauds, Eucharist, common meals, meetings, Vespers, Compline, and Sunday night “reacreation” playing games together.  From writing about  Hours to real Hours.  From writing about Eucharist to a Eucharistic life.

As I sit at my desk this Monday morning surrounded by unopened mail, facing two weeks of chores to catch up on, preparations for tomorrow’s fireside (gathering costumes, completing paper mache mask for the wolf of Gubbio, marking texts for scenes from the life of St. Francis) I’m thinking about how I lose myself in work, in detail, in checking off items on my lists of things left undone.  I’m also thinking about that sense of longing for home I wrote about in the previous blog entry.  I’m thinking about how, throughout my life, I’ve always been particularly sensitive to sense of place.

Here’s what else I’m thinking.  Neither the Long Island scents of tidal marshes or the farm with its prophetic purposes is home.  (Well, that’s true literally, but go on anyway, Guthrie.)  But while I sat on that blue bench in solitude on the ferry, I had no sense of longing.  In a terrible sense, I was home then.  Home between homes.  Home between states, land forms, responsibilities, past and future, in a liminal gray fog between sea and sky while the ocean swells lifted and dropped the ferry plowing the sea between ports of home.   


I’d copied this quote into my notebook.  It’s John Drury writing about an Annunciation by Duccio.  I thought of it as sister rang the Angelus bell at the beginning of the offices this weekend.  

The “clean heart” is ready for the creative spirit, the clear mind for true conceptions, and the simple, pure eye for the invasion of light. 


One Response to “Coming Home in Another Direction”

  1. Su Murdock Says:

    I love those glimpses of home, and the sense of that you had on the ferry. Nice to ponder. Thanks

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