Monday, May 28, 2012

Living in/through the "in-between times"

I have had a wonderful spring at home in Forks. Holy Week and Easter at St. Anne's were amazing. Working with Parish Council has been wonderful. I've met the new priest who will begin here after I have left, and I think he is a great fit for the parish.

My arrangements are more or less complete for my trip to the Midwest this summer. I'll attend the Nun's Life Community Summit in Monroe, Michigan on the grounds of the IHM Motherhouse in the first week of July. I'll go to Minneapolis on the 5th of July to begin my six month "monastic immersion experience. I'll stay there until after the first of the year. Then I'll make a trip to California on my way home to Forks.

My present plan is to be here in Forks briefly in the winter - make sure everything is in good order for an extended absence - and then I will return to Monroe, MI to begin a long period of discernment and reflection with the IHM sisters about forming some sort of connection with them.

People ask me if this is permanent. I don't know. Discernment is a two way process. It takes a long time. Since I know that I don't know how it will all turn out, I'm not burning any bridges. I'm keeping my place here in Forks for quite some time to come.

I'm already old - and I have an unknown amount of time left. But that's true of everyone at every point of life. We never really have more than today - so all we can do is to live today in whatever way we feel we are called to do it. For me, that means that I must explore the possibility of some sort of religious life, for which I am, by any objective standard, far too old. So I will begin that journey in all realization that I may never arrive at any clear destination. That seems fine to me right now.

What is hard is to live in the "in-between time," where one both loves and appreciates all that has been and longs for what still might be. I have less than five weeks left before I leave here. And I have much to do to leave everything in good order. I am loving sitting in my own chair, looking out my own window, at my own beautiful trees - watching the birds attacking the bird-feeders. I am sorting cupboards, drawers, closets, and the garage! I am loving sorting through the "stuff of my life," making decisions about what to keep, what to take with me, what to dispose of.

When letters or emails arrive from Michigan or Minnesota, my heart leaps with anticipation and joy. My family is coming to spend time here during the last couple weeks of June, and I am so looking forward to that! Other friends are coming for visits in the next couple of weeks. My friend Sally says I am having a wake before I'm dead! Yes! I suppose I am!

I have little understanding of how I came to these decisions.  I am a fish in the river, and a lure came floating down. I bit on the hook and took it deeply into me. Now I find myself being reeled in . . . and waiting, wanting to be landed on the shore. What comes next is mystery. It doesn't matter. The hard part is the in-between part. I'm not sure, though, just where past and future meet - maybe life is all an "in-between part" and we just think we know where things start and stop along the way.

A friend sent me this poem. It has come to mean a great deal to me, though I can't tell you at all what the "whole poem" means - just that certain lines and phrases speak to me.
It's called "Getting There" by David Wagoner, from his book In Broken Country.
        You take a final step and, look, suddenly
       You're there. You've arrived
       At the one place all your drudgery was aimed for:
       This common ground
       Where you stretch out, pressing your cheek to sandstone.

       What did you want
       To be? You'll remember soon. You feel like tinder
       Under a burning glass,
       A luminous point of change. The sky is pulsing
       Against the cracked horizon,
       Holding it firm till the arrival of stars
       In time with your heartbeats.
       Like wind etching rock, you've made a lasting impression
       On the self you were
       By having come all this way through all this welter
       Under your own power,
       Though your traces on a map would make an unpromising
       Meandering lifeline.

       What have you learned so far? You'll find out later,
       Telling it haltingly
       Like a dream, that lost traveler's dream
       Under the last hill
       Where through the night you'll take your time out of mind
       To unburden yourself
       Of elements along elementary paths
       By the break of morning.

       You've earned this worn-down, hard, incredible sight
       Called Here and Now.
       Now, what you make of it means everything,
       Means starting over:
       The life in your hands is neither here nor there
       But getting there,
       So you're standing again and breathing, beginning another
       Journey without regret
       Forever, being your own unpeaceable kingdom,
       The end of endings.

So I look at this and think. It's not about an in-between time at all. It's all about the journey, the "getting there." It's all about HERE AND NOW. Because that is all we really ever have. (Sometimes it means "starting over.")

Stay tuned. There's more to come. I think, anyway.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Total Immersion in California Life

Sunday, May 13, 2012, was Mothers' Day. Where for some families this means breakfast in bed for mom, maybe some flowers and presents, in my family it is the time to get up, pack a picnic lunch, blankets, folding lawn-chairs, baseball bats, croquet sets, etc. and head to William Land Park in California. This was the 74th annual Mothers' Day Picnic there. It started with just my grandparents, their children and their spouses, a one year old Dorita and 4 month old me.

There were 53 of us this year - a contingent from each of the four branches of the family: The Roger Bingaman's (my group), the Lloyd Bingaman group, the Hugheses and the Cunninghams. In my group were two of my three children (it's a long way from CT to William Land Park, Pam, so it's OK that you were home at Marvelwood!), and several of my grandchildren. And two of my three great-grandchildren. Here I am with a group of my gang . . . Grandson David, granddaughters Carissa, Lizzy, and CeiliJeanne, great grandchildren Lucas and Topenga. And the red van that used to be mine that I sold to David and MaryBeth last summer.

It was a wonderful experience for me. I sat under those great old trees and wondered if they were the same ones I looked up at when I was three - and ten - and a young mother of three - now an old lady of 74. They look just the same. They no longer have shrubbery growing down below - a sign of the times, perhaps, that we eliminate danger-spots. We park near the playground, within walking distance of the zoo and pony rides and duck pond, but I didn't go walking. I just sat on chairs in various small family groups, catching up on current events, watching, remembering, treasuring the past folded into the present. My 5 year-old great grandson Lucas is seeing what I saw so many years ago - so I loved sharing this with him.

My Aunt Louise is the last surviving member of her generation, and still looking good at 95. That's her above visiting with my sister Pat. She stayed all day, didn't miss a beat, sharp as ever. (I didn't have time this visit for a game of Scrabble, but, then, we all know she'd win!)

During the rest of my visit down here this week, I visited the ranch up in Arbuckle, the cemetery in College City, drove by the house we used to own there and where I had expected to live all my life. Another day I drove to Dixon and looked at the school where I began my teaching career. Had lunch one day with an old friend, one-time colleague, and enjoyed sharing memories from the 70's. Everything here speaks to me of my roots. I love crocheting together the various parts of my life.

On my way home now to continue preparations for my six months in Minneapolis. Life continues to supply surprises . . .