31 October 2018

Home From Trip to Morro Bay

Anita, Raschi, Elaine, and Karen
Well, after retreat weekend before last (I am posting this a few days after writing it) I had hardly settled back in here at Stillsong and yet, on Monday I traveled South to Morro Bay where four of us --- friends from high school (and junior high in a couple of cases) rented a house for three nights. Last Summer (2017) I wrote about going to a 50 year high school reunion where several of us spent most of the weekend together and went to a dinner for a larger group of classmates. What was astounding was how we found we loved each other even after so many years; as I think I related then, we shared faith stories for hours despite each of us being part of a different Christian tradition and only found how similar faith was for each of us. So, we recently texted each other (part of a group text) and decided we really missed one another; we had spoken last Summer about getting together again, but this recent sentiment resulted in a plan to rent a house on the beach and spend some quality time together sharing, getting to know one another even better (there were and are still 50 years of experience to catch up on!) --- simply renewing some very old friendships.

Anita drove from Sacramento to pick me up here in Lafayette and then we started South. Karen and Elaine drove up from Orange County and we met at the house in Morro Bay. We went out for dinner that night (fish and chips for some of us) and then went grocery shopping for stuff we had forgotten or been unable to pick up before leaving for the beach house. What a trip that was! We came away with food for a picnic the next day, but we also bought four different kinds of ice cream, caramel sauce, and (I think) two or three kinds of cookies along with a couple kinds of coffee pods (the house had a Keurig)! (We started on the ice cream that night as we talked until late sustained by excitement and the coffee! I fell asleep in the middle of it all.) The next day we drove to Cambria; Karen worked on school stuff (Karen's an adjunct professor at Concordia University) while the rest of us window shopped, tasted herbal teas, local honeys, and admired some of the really beautiful work by local artists..

Then, Karen's work mainly done for the time being and a little more window shopping and talking done, we went off to see the elephant seals up the coast and following that, had our picnic at the small schoolhouse on the ranch grounds of Hearst Castle (Anita, who was once an archivist at the castle, picked the spot; perfect). The elephant seals were fascinating (and the wind off the beach was astoundingly fierce). Mainly juveniles were left on the beach. I asked how long they nursed and was told "only a month!" Mom only has milk for that long. Starving and 40% of her body weight gone to nursing, etc, she must return to sea to rebuild her strength and body weight.  She will get pregnant again immediately but the fetus will not develop for as long as four months while she regains her health. The pups, who are left behind, stay on the beach for another month; then they go to sea where 50% will die shortly to predators and starvation. Speaking of food (or starvation), we drove back through Cambria and bought a Linn's chicken pot pie for dinner at home. Absolutely the best!!

Laurel, Raschi, Karen, Priscilla
That evening we spent another evening talking, reading, crocheting, watching some news (the mail bombs were a story we had partly missed and caught up on). Still, we tried to stay away from politics because we each fall at a different place along the liberal/conservative spectrum. I was reminded how important the Johnson Amendment is in our churches and parishes in ensuring the ability of people to celebrate their lives and faith without adverting to political passions and differences. That is something I appreciate about life in my own parish --- a real freedom of religion. Yet, it was our love for one another, not some law, that kept us from venturing into areas that could cause tension, pain or outright wound one another. (I suspect the ice cream helped some too! Just kidding!) We know where we each stand politically in a general way and in some instances we know more specifically and why. We may disagree with one another on this or that, but we love and respect one another --- and that implies trust that we will each reflect on and pray about matters and act in good conscience --- in light, that is, of that inviolable sacred "place" within each of us where God speaks.

One of the things I have been most moved by theologically in the past several years is how it is God brings all things together and loses nothing as he draws reality into the future. (See posts on God as the Master Storyteller for this idea.) Last Summer (2017) that was brought home to me in a very personal way by my time with these friends, not least because this time occasioned the healing of a loss of memory caused indirectly by the trauma of my seizure disorder; along with specific memories tied to this deeper sense, I had lost the sense of how profoundly loved and loving these friendships were. Though I had and have had good friends throughout my life, there is simply something unique and critical about the friendships we have in grade school through high school and I can hardly overstate how grateful I am for the gift last Summer's reunion was to me. While specific memories were mainly not recovered (and are unlikely ever to be recovered), there are now new ones which somehow allow me to access the deeper sense of loving and being loved by these friends.

The truth is that with God nothing is lost. We pray that God will remember us, and of course God does --- in every sense of the word! With God Who is Love-in-Act, Love secures and binds all of reality together; Love is the source and ground of all reality and in each of us that source and ground is made real in space and time. When you haven't seen or spoken to friends for 50 years or more and then discover they are a not only a constitutive part of your very heart who were pivotal in your own personal formation and capacity to love, dream, hope, etc, and who want very much to be an active part of your life now, the reality of God as the One  "holding all things together" and willing the reconciliation and perfection of all creation can hardly be questioned, much less denied. By the way, I know that posting this may well mean at least a couple of people will write critical and even downright snarky emails about what is clearly a vacation and whether hermits could need or should take vacations. One person in particular who apparently reads this blog and writes occasionally, is likely to question whether my delegates or directors and/or my bishop knew I was doing this and how they could "permit" it! (Her last question pushed my thought in the direction of considering the importance of play for the contemplative life so I owe her a real debt of gratitude!)

Laurel, Gary, Karen
In any case, let me say that while I might desire to forestall the snarky questions and relatively unloving critical questions (critical questions, I should note, can be loving!), I am more than open to reflecting on and answering questions that are the result of apparent contradictions between my life as a hermit and four days of vacation with very old friends; I believe such questions can help illumine the nature of this vocation even as it helps dissolve away destructive stereotypes and misconceptions. So please, if questions are raised for you by what I have written here about the eremitical vocation or the way I live it out do feel free to write with these.