It had been almost four months since I’d been at work. Four months away on an amazing sabbatical and vacation that emptied and filled, healed and restored me. And now, here, late June, wondering how I would find my way back home to Seattle and the responsibilities that awaited me here. The work that I’d had the privilege of putting down for a while so I could take this time away.
Even after twelve years of ballet classes, I never did master what it takes to move from one set of steps to another. Too often, held on too long to the familiar pattern or jumped ahead too quickly into the new. To witness a great dancer, is to watch a great flow of breath and being. A seamless transformation of the old to the new.
Because I am not a great dancer, I was anxious about making my transition home. I knew I wanted it be a good one. But how? I was clear that jumping on a plane in New Hampshire, where I was spending my final weeks away, and landing in Seattle seven hours later, didn’t feel right. Too abrupt, too quick of a change.
But as my sabbatical turned to its final month, something began playing in my imagination – the possibility of driving home across the country. My parents offered the use of their car. My nephew, Peter, who had just graduated from high school, decided to come along. The pieces began to fall into place.
Taking the long road home – 3,514 miles to be exact – was exactly the right way for me to transition home. Peter and I met in Cleveland at a Detroit Tiger’s baseball game and we took the next ten days to camp our way across the country. Peter stepped up to doing something he’d never done before – planning our trip. He set up where we would camp, how long we would drive, and most importantly, have dinner that night. Amidst all we “planned” to do and see, so much delight and surprise found us along the way. We met wonderful people. Plunged into as many bodies of cold water as we could find. Mastered the art of setting up our tent in the dark. Skipped rocks. Tossed the Frisbee and talked about God. Sang along to hours of schmaltzy pop music, the kind that both of us like. It was an amazing gift of time together.
And along the way, I felt the power of a journey of intention: a meeting of past memory with the fullness of the present. A release and opening to the possibilities of all that lies down the road ahead.
I imagine that there are no transitions forward without a wrestling with our pasts. What I know is that as we drove through Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota, I remembered all the times I had been in these places before. Joy in the memories. Tears as well.
As we drove through places I had never been – North Dakota, Montana, Alberta – realized, once again, that my imagination can’t possibly contain the wonder of all we discovered is out there in the wild and open new spaces before us.
We ended our trip here in Seattle two weeks ago today. On our last evening together, we went to see a beautiful and haunting new movie from Poland called “Ida”. Coincidentally, the movie is about a road trip taken by an aunt and her 18 year old niece. I never do know what to do with such “coincidences”, but as I sat in the theater with my nephew, I knew again the gift of knowing a surprising grace that carries us all.
Like our road trip, “Ida” too is a movie about a journey of intention. As Ida and her aunt seek to move each of their lives forward, both have to come face to face with a family history that is deeply troubled. The movie, a reminder, as I have been learning, that in order to step into the new, we need to integrate the truth of what our past histories have been. Past histories, that not for any of us, have been “perfect”. Pasts not all we might have hoped them to be. But the necessity to face the truth of our past histories and set them down, once again, into the hands of forgiveness and grace, a holding larger than our own restless anxiety and longing to fix what cannot be changed.
As Ida and her aunt seek to come to terms with how to move forward, both make choices. If there is a “message” in the movie, I wonder if it is that the risk and terror of “life” and new life must be chosen, again and again, even given the very troubled and broken, imperfect worlds in which we live our lives.
Perhaps these past months, you have discovered, as I have, new ways of being. Or maybe, recognized your longing for such. Faced things you could never have imagined facing. Learned about a courage and faith you never knew you had. Asking, maybe as I am, how to live into the fullness of your life, your responsibilities, in newer and deeper life-giving ways given what you have experienced and learned along the way.
We all know what it is to return to the familiar patterns and ways we have made of our lives. And we all know what it is not to. To dare to raise our sights and look out and beyond – to witness a broader horizon, the greening of new life here, within and around us.
Tell me, what have you seen?
Tell me, how are you finding your way home?