Later than I like to be this week, linking with LL Barkat and Laura Boggess at their kind invitation to speak to both 'a sense of place' and 'a sense of play.' My thanks to them both:
Monday was a quiet day for us. Usually our national birthday is a time of noise and family and food, kids in the pool, marshmallows over the coals in the chiminea, way too many hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill.
But all our kids had other plans this year, and we found ourselves on our own for the first time in a while. So the house was still, the guest rooms were empty and ... it was lovely.
I slept in a little that morning, in this lovely room which has become a small retreat space all its own. The French doors just to the right of the bed face east, so the morning sun comes streaming in across the transom. Somehow this makes it tougher for my husband to stay abed later than about 7:15 or 7:30, even on a holiday, so he had long been up when I roused.
And when I did rouse, I pulled up our woven blinds to let in as much light as possible, enjoying the sound of the fountain just outside the window, peering round to see the red bloom of the trumpet vine which lines the fence. A sunny day - something to be relished here on the central coast of California, where June gloom often creeps far into July. The hot summer heat of the central valley draws in the fog from the sea, and it rests itself all along our peninsula for much of the summer.
But Monday was glorious and clear, even warmer than it has been for a while. I opened the door to the yard, did a few of my usual daily ablutions and sat back into bed with my laptop open. I've been wrestling of late with the excessive amounts of time I find myself spending doing exactly this: sitting with my laptop open, reading blogs, making comments, trying to find my way in and around this amazing world, all the while hampered by some pretty poor technical skills and more than a little bit of confusion about how it all works, what is 'polite' and what is intrusive, what is helpful and what is too close to 'lurking,' trying to understand what the truly orthodox liturgy is in this new world.
I've had a blog for a long time now. But I haven't really written on it much until this year. There are a few personal reflections spread here and there, but after getting badly burned by one of those during a tender and difficult time for our family, I pulled way back from that kind of writing. Instead, I used this space to post sermons and public prayers. After all, the blog had been opened at the request of my boss at the time, who is a techno guy and urged us as a staff to join him in the blogosphere. So...sermons and prayers...sufficient, non-controversial, only as personal as any publicly spoken words are personal. Safe. Like this shy oriole who flits about our yard every spring and summer, I hid in the brush out here in the far western reaches of north America, choosing to keep things tidy, non-threatening, circumspect.
Then came retirement - and this increasing sense of urgency about writing. Just writing - about life, family, faith, doubt, death, aging, dementia, suffering, joy, beauty - but doing it more personally, more identifiably in my own voice... something I am still in process of discovering. And this kind of writing feels a whole lot less safe. In fact, it sometimes feels downright dangerous.
That urge to write less safely, more openly, led quite naturally to reading - lots and lots of reading - other people's blogs, community blogs (like ezines), blogs about blogs, blogs summarizing blogs, blogs, blogs, blogs. By Independence Day I was feeling increasingly DEpendent upon this time with the laptop, this need to figure out how -- if I actually did find my voice -- to create a space to be heard. I became more than a little bit obsessive about how to do it right, how to 'grow the blog.' Which is why I posted a bit about that whole struggle earlier this week with this post on what to do when you can't sleep.
So. Monday morning, I was just sitting here, doing my usual sorting through about one hundred email subscriptions to a wide variety of blogs, hunting for any meager indication that anyone was actually reading anything that I've written, when I stopped for just a minute and looked up. Just outside my large window - the one we laid out very exactly so that the gingko tree we love could be saved - I caught a glimpse of bright yellow in the lime green shrub that is almost out of my view from this vantage point on my bed. An oriole!
I have tried for the last three or four years to capture a decent photographic image of these birds. But they are very sensitive to movement and excessively shy, so it's been tough sledding. I knew my larger camera was in the house, instead of it's usual perch on the back seat of my car, so I carefully got up, found the telephoto lens and sat down very slowly on the end of the bed. And I got four shots before he heard the click of the shutter and disappeared from view.
Is he not the most gorgeous thing? Those of you living in other parts of this continent where all sorts of birds migrate in and out may think I'm more than a little bonkers to rave about a yellow bird. And maybe I am. But we see these birds so seldom around here. Their color, their markings, their behavior - all of it is somehow exotic and captivating - something very out of the ordinary, a spot of beauty that is often elusive and nearly irresistible. We can hear their machine-gun-like rat-a-tat-tat far more often than we can ever catch a glimpse of their vibrant feathers, so each time we do, it's a bit like a siren call. Where is he hiding this time? Come out, come out, wherever you are...
It's beginning to feel like it's time for me to come out of hiding. I've spent a good bit of my time, both as a wife and mother and as a pastor, encouraging others to relish who they are, to take risks, to speak their own truth, to step into their gifts, to partner with God in doing the kind of kingdom work that only they can do. Do I believe this for myself?
I am discovering that as your life circumstances change, your 'own truth' changes right along with them. Retirement gives me a smidge more freedom to say things and write things and ponder things aloud than being a stay-at-home-mom or a staff pastor ever did or could. And I loved being both of those things. I am beginning to believe that I will also love being retired, for a good long list of reasons - headed this week by the freedom to sit in my nightgown and take pictures of a transitory thing of beauty in my own backyard.