While waiting for the mechanic to give me my oil change bill today, he mused how suddenly he saw Christmas decorations in the stores. He complained that he hadn’t even had time to be happy about Thanksgiving. I laughed and told him Christmas decorations have been up in the stores since about Labor Day weekend in early September. Soon, I expect, we’ll see Christmas decorations while we’re getting potatoes for our July Fourth celebrations.
Last week on vacation I saw tremendous changes in a very short time.
Over a few days we went from almost eighty degrees and sunny to half that and rain with fifty mile per hour winds pushing us out of the Appalachians and back to Charleston. It took Charleston a day or two to warm up after our return. Hurricane Sandy had blown through South Carolina and hit further north. We were lucky to have planned to leave the mountains when we did. Many parts of the Appalachians were deep in snow from the storm’s backlash.
Moving to the South was supposed to be my great escape from cold, wet winters. Granted that it is more like autumn here during the winters than in New England or the Midwest. Nonetheless, I often wonder if I should not have gone further South or settled around Asheville to enjoy a more moderate summer and winter.
Our seasons have changed. The heat of summer is gone. It was actually shocking to see how colorful the trees were in the Appalachians last weekend. After such a dry summer, we had no expectation of such a blessing.
The seasons of the earth have changed as well. It is no longer metaphorical. I remarked to a New Jersey native that if the Dutch still owned Manhattan, it would have storm walls around it as there are around the Netherlands. We should expect the unexpected. Our world has given up the predictable seasons of one hundred years ago.
In all of our lives some things remain. Before I went on vacation last week I was Told that I would have work to do on vacation. Nothing as mundane as when I sit at my office desk and play with data and spreadsheets. It would be spiritual work.
I remember the last time I had a vacation when a whole two-thirds of it really was vacation. The last week of that vacation was very busy and sad, but it ended and I returned home to recover from it.
This vacation I misunderstood that I would have a little work to do one day, it would take a few minutes and life would go on. What a dreamer I was!
The fact is that the whole of vacation was taken up with spiritual work. As it unfolded I totally misread the clues and expected to quickly complete my spiritual work. Instead it increased as the day continued. With each day there was more work to do and it took more of what little energy I had left. Surprisingly, it was a huge relief to be able to leave the mountains that I love so much and return to the seaside. Yet barely had I returned when I was Told that I was silenced. I could not write about my experiences. I could discuss them with both my spiritual director and my spiritual twin (the other half of my God zygote) and that was enough.
I am reminded of some of the work I did several years ago. I was silenced then for several years concerning that particular work. It was a fantastic experience. Literally, it was like something right out of a science fiction or fantasy novel. At the time of that experience—when I spent several weeks performing an exorcism on a priest—I felt as though it was all impossible. How could a nobody like me clear demons out of a priest, rabbi or minister?
It’s not the American experience.
What we see out of the corners of our eyes is what is in front of us. The words we are afraid to say are screamed. It wasn’t the fact that Munch painted The Screamer that was so incredible. It was that he had the thought to dare to force humans to look at their innermost selves. The thoughts we are afraid to have are our true reality.
I see heaven and hell. When I am sent, it is my job to go into one of them. It’s all very nice to have a forty hour job and to have my private life. My spiritual work is my real life. What I thought was going to be vacation turned into an unplanned extended trip in the spirit world.
Now one of my dogs is sitting beside me. He is very tired of me being so busy, of my mind and heart so far away from this world these last two weeks. He is reminding me that it is time to return to the mortal world.
The seasons pass as they will.