The coast this week saw a few days of overcast and drizzles, but overall we continue to experience beautiful sunny, mild days. The locals tell me this is not typical and that next year it will be cold and difficult. In the back of my mind, though, I’m imagining Kentucky and Tennessee where friends and family haven’t been able to drive or go to work for a week, where icicles are forming on roofs the size of peoples’ arms, and each night the weather man speaks of record cold snaps well below zero. So I take those warnings with a grain of salt.
Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and Lent snuck up on me this week. I really value the Christian seasons of Lent and Advent that ask us to slow ourselves down and reflect, to deny some of our luxuries, to take stock of what’s important and what we long for. When I take part in the practices of these seasons, I find myself feeling really grounded, really connected to the Earth, to people, and to my faith. There are a lot of reality moments. I think about the poor, about tolerance and coexistence with the life around me. I think about how little I really need to find happiness and how free that makes me feel. But, it takes concentration to practice Lent. You have to work to slow yourself down, you have to drop some routines for a while, you must be a little uncomfortable.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed I’m posting a Lent Haiku each day. Haiku and poetry may not be your thing, but the nice thing about haiku is that it’s short, so it’s something manageable for me to write. I’ve also found haiku forces you not to blab on too long. Like twitter when it’s used well, it asks you to only include the important words, to get to the freaking point. I think this is a perfect companion to the spirit of Lent. Let’s cut out all the crap and get down to what really matters, what really speaks, what really puts a picture in your head. I’m not doing that perfectly with every haiku, but that’s what I’m shooting for. And, just the fact that I’ve given myself this assignment makes me pay more attention each day, so I’ll have material to write about.
But, when holidays sneak up on you, you’re not always prepared like you should be. You spend time sort of scrambling to get everything together the way you want it. For me there’s been a sort of spiritual scrambling, trying to get ready. You can’t just tell yourself to appreciate something and then it’s so. You have to sit with it, consider it, let it soak into you. You have to clear your brain of your tasks for a time, kill the idea of multitasking and give your whole self to that thing. There’s so much on my mind in this new place, that’s it’s hard for me to give my whole self to anything. There are 5 different directions to go in at any given time. This will settle, I know, as I get more acclimated, but I want so bad to do everything right now that I sometimes feel like I’m doing nothing.
On Tuesday I took the afternoon off and trekked about 20 minutes north to Oswald West State Park. Tim, a good friend who taught me to tree climb, told me it was one of his favorite places in the state, so I knew there would be some
phenomenal forests, which is a pretty solid guarantee I would love it. Like much of Oregon so far, it was better than even my high expectations suspected. There were old growth trees here as large as the young redwoods Allyson and I were married under. I felt like I had returned to Muir Woods–there was a rushing creek winding next to the trail and trees as wide as I am tall. It felt ancient and huge. Surfers with their boards passed me, coming back from the beach at a cove that comes inland with cliffs on either side, like a secret I was lucky enough to have been told.
I put my hands on these giant trunks to remind myself what something so massive and strong feels like to the touch. I stretched my neck and turned my eyes straight up to the sky to see how these trees branch out for yards and yards in the air with arms far bigger around than my whole body. I wanted to get a picture to take back to everyone, so they could understand what I was experiencing, but in every picture they looked like regular trees. I took a picture of myself next to the tree, but I’m not a good enough photographer to really capture the scale. It was fun playing with the camera timer, the angles, the picture settings, but nothing tells the feelings I had inside.
I hiked up to Cape Falcon, located at the edge of one of the huge cliffs that drop about 300 feet into the ocean. It was a sunny day and the ocean was so blue. There was a light breeze. Miles away I could see Twin Rocks, telling me where camp and my home was. I am still reminding myself that this is my home, that Cape Falcon is 30 minutes from home. It’s not a vacation that will end in a few days. I will know this place if I will continue to immerse myself in it. It will feel like my skin if I sit still with it long enough. I was running out of time and was supposed to be back at the house soon, but out on the cliff I told myself I needed to stay there longer. There was so much sunlight and ocean blue to soak in, so much wind to pass into my ears, so much of that open air to breath and hold in my lungs longer than normal. I was still not completely satisfied with my pictures.
I took a walk out on the beach yesterday and called to talk to my grandmother for the first time since making the move. She had hip replacement a few weeks ago and is in a rehab facility right now. She’s doing really well, recovering ahead of schedule and sounds like herself. I told her all about this new place and rubbed it in a little bit that I was walking barefoot on the beach while everyone there was snowed in. I described the water and the beach sand at low tide, Twin Rocks, and the mountains that watch over my shoulders on these beach walks. She said my mom had showed her a few of my pictures. I told how I’ve had so much trouble capturing how beautiful the place really is. She said that sometimes God must send stuff that’s just for us. I guess I’ve been getting a lot of that lately, because there isn’t much I’ve photographed that really looks the way I think it should. I’m happy to post pictures and share them and will keep doing that, but I’ve also had this feeling that I need to put the camera away a lot of days and see if there’s something there that is just meant for me right now, something I don’t need to document right now, something I just need to sit with with my full attention.
I fasted on Friday, which is another practice I’m taking on during Lent. I went the day without eating, waiting until sunset. Being hungry certainly offers incentives to slow down, it changes your perspective, reminds you of your weakness, and how humbling being feed really should be. I chopped vegetables as I talked to Allyson, feeling weaker and more tired than usual. I thought of what a blessing it is to have her in my life to live in a time I can see her on my computer thousands of miles away or talk to my grandmother while walking next to an ocean. Cutting those vegetables, I lived with the hunger, with the confidence knowing I’d be fed and it would be good. The food baked for an hour, and when I tasted with sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, and potatoes I savored them like an expensive, gourmet feast. Eating felt like praying. Really many of those moments I’ve mentioned during the week felt like praying. Who knows what I’ll feel by the end of these 40 days?