The last thing I did last night, before I fell asleep watching The Colbert Report, was write.
Today is just beginning for me. Ginger and I have had breakfast and talked about what our days hold. The first thing on my list this morning is to write because this is where I can find time, where the space is for me to keep my Lenten promise. Since I’ve done little else but eat and sleep since I last sat at this desk, my first question is I wonder what I have to say? I turned to the stack of books that are my traveling partners and found this story in Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water.
There’s a story of a small village where lived an old clockmaker and repairer. When anything was wrong with any of the clocks and watches in the village, he was able to fix them, to get them working properly again. When he died, leaving no children and no apprentice, there was no one left in the village who could fix clocks. Soon various clocks and watches began to break down. Those which continued to run often lost or gained time, so they were of little use. A clock might strike midnight at three in the afternoon. So many of the villagers abandoned their time pieces.
“One day a renowned clock-maker and repairer came through the village, and the people crowded around him and begged him to fix their broken clocks and watches. He spent many hours looking at all the faulty time pieces, and at last he announced that he could repair only those whose owners had kept them wound, because they were the only ones which would be able to remember now to keep time.
“So we must daily keep things wound: that is, we must pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy, when our bodies are in pain.
“We may not always be able to make our “clock” run correctly, but at least we can keep it wound, so that it will not forget. (96)
One of the quirks of an old house – at least in New England – is very few of the rooms have a central overhead light. Every one of our rooms is populated with a variety of lamps, each placed to illuminate its little corner. One explanation I have heard for this phenomenon is it shows New England to be a land of readers. You need a lamp, not a big light overhead, to light the page. One consequence is we are always replacing light bulbs somewhere in the house.
Or, I should say, there are always light bulbs that need replacing.
A couple of years ago, I learned about a brand of light bulbs called Reveal that simulate natural light along the same lines as some of the more expensive lamps that help people to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder. In the short days of winter that ran long on depression, even the slightest ray of hope was important, so we began using those bulbs. The cheapest place to buy them is at Target. The problem is, at least the way my life is going these days, Target is not on my regular travel route. I’ve been trying to get there for two weeks and haven’t made it, which means Ginger and I have incrementally been sinking into deeper and deeper darkness as the lights keep going out one by one.
Today, when I finish writing and after we walk the pups, I’m off to Target. Let there be light.
After the Touchstones gathering yesterday I went to see Ken, my spiritual director. Since I was sick and missed my appointment last month, I had much to tell. I was ebullient after the meeting, but then moved to talk about what I was learning from Barbara Sher’s book. Ginger and I spent some time talking this week about why I was a better starter than finisher and I realized I didn’t find much of a payoff in finishing. What I internalized growing up was finishing something only meant it was time to start something else; nothing was ever enough.
“So how can you learn to celebrate accomplishment?” Ken asked.
That question was like finding my grandfather’s old pocket watch in the dresser drawer, picking it up and noticing the engraving on the front, pushing the button to open it, and then winding the stem to see if it would still work. Ken was asking about a part of my life I have not kept wound. As we talked about how to cultivate that sense of celebration, I could hear the second hand begin to tick.
“How did God celebrate after creation?” he asked.
“Rest,” I said.
“And how will you find rest?”
Damn, he’s good. Not long after that question we came to the end of the hour and I drove home thinking about the answer. There’s more to it than just a one time response; answering the question, for me, will be a lot like replacing the light bulbs around the house: I will need to learn how to do it in a regular and ongoing pattern.
Even for God, creating was not a one shot deal.
Time’s a funny thing. There’s the hurry-because-we’re-gonna-miss-the-train time that dogs and drive us; there’s the dentist-has-a-drill-in-my-mouth time that drags on forever; and there’s the walking-hand-in-hand-in-the-sunshine time that stretches out like the ocean. I can find the time I need to learn how to rest and celebrate.
Light’s a funny word. It means “not dark” and it means “not heavy.” Light illuminates and relieves. When the bulbs are replaced later today, I will be able to see things in a way I have not been able to see them for a while, maybe even find some things I have been looking for.
I’m trusting that will be true, as well, as I learn how to rest and celebrate.