Sit in Your Cell

One of my friends is trekking across Jordan, “the other Holy Land,” this week, with a group of Episcopalian priests and writers.  Another, a chemistry professor, and contemplative practitioner and writer, is in Japan, leading a group of college students on a multi-disciplinary and multi-faith adventure.  Two more, law school classmates, are posting sunrise photos from California, location of their daughter’s wedding.  A fifth is walking the coast of Massachusetts, praying her way through a week at a retreat house located practically in the Atlantic. And yet a sixth is hiking across northern Spain, journeying along the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route.

Meanwhile, I myself am recovering from surgery, and padding from living room to kitchen and back again.  My own version of this pilgrimage week is somewhat more circumscribed that that of my friends, but there are nevertheless a few sights upon which to remark.

The skies of Jordan stretch beyond the boundaries imposed by human conflict below, but this morning shortly before 6:00 I stepped out onto the front porch for a quick look at our sky of midnight blue parted by white clouds, framed by suburban trees and power lines.  The same Creator watches over both worlds.

Japan is a country of compact artistry.  A television program a couple of hours ago featured a segment on bonsai trees, a reminder that our creativity is perhaps limited by space, but never by imagination.

The friends whose daughter got married yesterday? It does not seem so long ago that my husband and I were guests at their wedding, but it’s been 37 years!  We have not experienced wedding excitement around here, but we do have two children who live nearby and have dropped in and out for the past five days.  When my daughter was finally admitted to the post-op area after my surgery, the nurse commented, somewhat in awe, “Look at that ~ her blood pressure went right down!” Weddings . . . surgeries . . . we need our family members. 

The photos from Gloucester, Massachusetts look autumn-perfect.  But the sun has been streaming through my windows all week and the leaves outside bear a slight trace of yellow. 

And while the stories from the Camino have poured out in bits and pieces, the best ones have told of community and solidarity in the midst of challenges posed by blistered feet and lost bank cards.  We’ve known a bit of that, too, in field trips to the lake and take-out cartons of soup.

My friend who writes from Japan reminds us that in the earliest centuries of Christianity, desert Abba Moses said to one seeking counsel from him, “Go, sit in your cell, and it will teach you everything.”  She also takes note of her own long retreat in Gloucester several years ago, and wonders about spaciousness in the simplicity of that space, and in her cluttered study at home.  The same questions arise, regardless of hemisphere or locale.

My cell these day is constituted by living room and kitchen.  Clutter does pile itself up (I assure you that I have nothing to do with its proliferation), but it seems that Jordan and Japan and California and the Atlantic Ocean and Spain converge here as well, traveling through family and friendship and writing, photographs and prayer.

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