Hey Guess What
I'm the chaplain for the Pawlet Volunteer Fire Department now. I might get to carry a pager, I'm not sure yet. Actually, that's not true; I don't think they're going to give me a pager. I just thought it would make my life more exciting if I had one. I'd be happy to suit up in the bunker gear and don an air pack, too, but I don't think they'll let me do that, either. I used to be a volunteer fire fighter, which was sort of a George Plimpton moment for me,: I was just really immensely curious about how they did that, so I went through all the training, I must have looked ridiculous and I know those nice instructors at the Fire Academy kind of looked the other way a little when it came time for me to pass the tests. It was nice of them; I liked being part of an all-male world like that. Plus, I love fire.
It could be argued that that's been kind of driving force in my life, to enter into worlds I'm unfamiliar with, mostly because I want to see what's going on there, how things are done.
There were times in my life when I was afraid I'd be exposed as a fraud, knowing so little, as I did, about something. Then I turned a corner somewhere and I realized that it was much more fun to just let the same curiosity I had as a kid propel me forward into almost everything in life: what does it feel like to fall out of a plane? (I most certainly did not jump; the guy I was attached to jumped, I had no choice.). What kind of light do you need to take a good photograph? What does the air in the desert smell like? How does a sewing machine work? How do you sharpen a knife? What does it feel like to give a sermon? What the heck is fly fishing? Is rock climbing hard? Can I actually get up on water skis? How do you make a candle? Will someone buy it if I write a book? What does it look and feel like when someone takes their last breath? Will a hen get mad if I take her egg? How do you make a newspaper? What does it feel like to marry two people together? Is Mt. McKinley really that big? Why does everyone think paddle boarding is fun? Does the sun really not go down in Sweden on the summer solstice? How hard is it to hold those yoga poses?
Yes, those of you who know me, yes, I am taking yoga lessons. And yes, this was something I vehemently eschewed all these years. Yoga was for all of them and not for me.
Mind you, I did say lessons, not classes. I'm not going out into the world with this; this happens right here in my living room. Someone I love has just gone through the intensive process to become certified to teach yoga and I am the lucky recipient of her newly-acquired knowledge and wisdom. We have a lot of fun going through the motions. I crack myself up, trying to shape my body into foreign positions. But, hey, if I get a longer spine, a stronger back and a humbled spirit, it's a win.
The older I get the more I understand that the only way to go through life is with an open heart and an open mind. The older I get the more I realize, more than anything, what a moron I can be.
A dear friend of mine's dad died the other day, on the first day of spring. What a day to go! I really loved her dad, he was a sparkling gem of humanity. He walked into the room and sat down or stood next to you and you could just absorb his light, that's how generous he was with his love. This beloved friend of mine asked me if I would lead the memorial celebration for him in June on Martha's Vineyard. And you know, I was doing all these things: school work and answering newspaper emails and charting hospice visits and making calls to local folks to check in with them and taking my car to the shop and in the swirl of all of this my friend Polly asked me to do this magnificent thing for her and her family and her dad.
And I stopped. And I thought ... this is the highest honor there is. THE highest honor, save being Sam and Nate and Coco's mom. To be asked to lead, to guide a service in celebration of the life of a man who, in his 80 years here, filled this world with love and kindness and joy. To channel, for a moment, who he was for all those who will come together to remember him and to prop each other up in their sorrow. To sing, to pray, to tell stories, to be the person who gets to guide the flow of that moment in time ... if you are ever wondering ... how does it feel to do that? What is that like? I can only tell you this, it is as close to on earth as it is in heaven as it ever gets.