This is the first fall in 22 years that I have not had my morning routine include getting a child to school. (The first fall in over 25 years, if you count taking our first born to day care.) It’s kind of strange: nice to be free of that urgency, but a little sad to see it go. BUT…
It’s also the first fall in a long, long time that I have not been working, since we are on sabbatical. That sets up a whole other routine, to say the least. We’ve done our travelling, we’re at home, getting ready to return to work next week. Like not having children going to school, returning to work is a mix of emotion: sadness to see the sabbatical end, excited about reconnecting with our community of faith.
I’m back in the writing studio at the Loft. I didn’t rent it while we were travelling, but now cold December is upon us, and it is a warm and welcoming place. (There were even dark chocolates left for us writers today!) I look out at the Vikings stadium on this gray day, and see it’s massive black face staring back, a stark contrast to the white snow all around. Advent is a season to let go, to wait for that which we can’t see. Pretty much like being a Vikings fan since 1961.
I can see planes taking off from the airport, until they disappear into the gray sky. Part of me wants to flee. But I am tired of travelling, and my calling calls.
Our sabbatical’s theme was “Spirituality and Art”. (I should say it “is”, not was, since there are 10 days left!) During our travels, we saw incredible art (and I hope created some). As beautiful as the art was in cathedrals and museums, what impressed us the most were much of the memorials and the street art. Memory is so important, even—and perhaps especially—the painful ones. From memorials to the Holocaust and the Wall in Berlin, to a visit to the Terezin Concentration Camp in the Czech Republic, to the memorials to the disappeared during the dictatorship in Chile. Why don’t we have many memorials in the U.S.—to slavery, to the genocide of the indigenous peoples, to people fighting for worker’s rights, women’s rights, children’s rights? There are a few, but they feel cordoned off to me. In France, nearly every town we visited has a plaque—at a school, or a town square—remembering those deported to death camps. A small reminder of who we were and what we did and was done to us. Luisa and I want to talk to people about doing some kind of deportation memorial in Minnesota. Maybe just the names of all who have been separated from their families.
I spent a couple days in my hometown of Austin, MN, doing research for the novel I’m working on. The last day I spent hours reading newspapers from 1916-1919. When I got back to our house, it took me awhile to return to the present. I wonder if we could do that with Scripture in a way that was transforming.
This was the first Thanksgiving where I did not eat turkey and “all the trimmings”. Chile does not celebrate Thanksgiving, but alas, Black Friday is trying to gain a foothold there. I had been out of the country once before on Thanksgiving, in Mexico, while Luisa and I were courting. There were sufficient ex-pats in our circle that we had quite a feast. Luisa and I still laugh about how the Blessed Jim Peterson—who never quite got fluency in Spanish—sent the two of us to pick up what he thought was a 22 pound turkey. Of course, it turned out to be 22 kilos. That was a trip from the store to the car! Maybe our back problems started then! As I recall, we had to cut the drumsticks off the bird in order for it to fit into the oven.
Advent is a time for cutting off, or letting go. As the nights grown longer and the days colder, the Spirit moves us inwards: indoors, into the recesses of our heart, into the hurts of the world, and ultimately into the story of that migrant family seeking Posada, seeking asylum.
Be Fall. Be Advent. Be Beauty. Be Justice.