"Silence is the necessary space around things that allows them to develop and flourish without my pushing. God takes it from there." Richard Rohr
It's the last days of classes with my students at Mount Mansfield Winter Academy. The Academy is an interesting and unusual place: kids come from schools all over the northeast to train, race and study. From November through March they have an intense schedule of athletics and academics. As a life-long lover of all things skiing, it was really fun for me to have a glimpse into the world of these young racers. They're really interesting people: deep thinkers, funny and dedicated to their sport.
It's been so great to have had this time to return to my English literature roots. Over the past months, the kids and I have studied many of the books, short stories and poems I was required to read as a teenager, only this time around, not surprisingly, they held new meaning for me. The Canterbury Tales, A Streetcar Named Desire, Song of Myself, Macbeth, Hamlet, The Call of the Wild, Othello and The Count of Monte Cristo all took on new flavor and meaning after decades of living. What a gift is was for me to have had this time to revisit all of those great tales of adventure, love, revenge, death, love, the great outdoors and love. It seems that's all great writers ever ultimately write about: love. Funny, huh?
The other treasure I found during this time was the drive out to Stowe in the mornings. The stretch of Interstate 89 that takes one from Williston to the Stowe exit is one of the finest drives anywhere, and it never stopped holding me in awe. The road curves, the mountains loom and the light can be exquisite. No billboards, of course, because Vermonters are smart that way. I loved my time in the car, sometimes quiet, sometimes listening to music, sometimes writing pieces of stories.
Here is the thing I've noticed these past few days. Some folks have been giving me credit for following my dreams, or chasing my dreams, that sort of thing, because of what's happening with the Pawlet Church. But I have to tell you something: I really haven't been in pursuit. If anything, those dreams and plans and ideas have been chasing me. As soon as I sat still long enough and prayed clearly enough, the 'dreams' came home to roost.
We engage, in our lives, in what seems to be an extreme outward search for meaning and purpose. I see it all the time. People seeking, looking everywhere for their story, when, in fact, it is already seated deeply within. And reading the self-help books and going to the the yoga classes and seeking the right person with the right answers, though all done with good intention, tend to distract from rather than enhance the quest for meaning in life. Motion isn't the answer; stillness is. The things that get us to the answers are the things that we humans find really hard to do: sit still, be quiet, pray (ask) for guidance and wait. And wait. And wait.
Generally speaking, we suck at these things and we'll do pretty much anything to keep from having to sit quietly and alone for any length of time. The word, "busy" has come to be synonymous with "important." Everyone is so very busy. And so very hyper-connected. We are deeply afraid to be alone. But alone is where we find the answers to the questions that will propel us forward into a life that is designed specifically, miraculously for us. It is in stillness when the angels sidle up beside us, and there's no telling what can happen then: weird things; surprising things; truly joy-full things.
I have been so very grateful for the outpouring of love and support these past few days, but please make no mistake, I am not pursuing any dreams. I am allowing the truth of my existence to manifest itself. I am listening and I'm praying for courage to move in the direction of the opportunities that present. I'm moving stuff out of the way so there's more space for life's holiness to fill. I am neither hunting nor chasing; there is nothing out there to be caught. I am tending to the seeds that were planted in me, perhaps as early as the very beginnings of the cosmic creation. I'm gardening. It's messy. It requires dirt and air and sunshine and water and patience.