We opened this week with sunshine and warm temperatures. On Sunday, I drove up to Devil’s Cauldron, and Digby and I walked the paths at the foot of Neahkhanie Mountain. I was content to sit on a rock and watch the waves roll in and crash against the rocky walls below. I got enough sun to change my complexion a bit. It was the weather and the scenery you want to soak in with your whole body.
I’ve gotten back in to a running routine over the past few weeks. I’m up to about 6-7 miles, and my running track of Pacific Ocean beach makes the time go by much quicker. Running is in the realm of spiritual practice for me–it gives my mind time to drift, lets me unload some pent up energy, and of course the cardio-vascular benefits. During these runs I have an hour to admire the scenery and ponder the ideas currently consuming me.
I’ve had several moments this week, especially during these sunning days early in the week, where I’ve marveled at this place I live. To think that I live right on the ocean, with huge cliffs all around, mountains just behind us, evergreens shading us. I exercise next to the great Pacific Ocean. I think a lot about the type of gratefulness appropriate for these realizations. I find myself occasionally putting my arms out like an airplane during runs–the world just feels so big, and I feel like this tiny privileged piece buzzing through it.
Ash Wednesday came this week, and clear warm skies seemed to leave as soon as clock struck midnight on Fat Tuesday. I am very drawn to the Christian seasons like Lent and Advent, that encourage sort of monastic, reflective practices. I find these times grounding me and reminding me to be humble and appreciate the blessings in my life. At the end of my weekly fasts, there are so many different emotions I come into contact with. I went to the Ash Wednesday service in Tillamook, received the ashes, then communion, and so a new season began.
As I drove home in the rain from Tillamook, I thought about how this route up 101 is now a familiar route to me, how I know the potholes, the angle to take the curves, the optimal moment to start the turn signal. To a degree, I’ve settled in here and the familiarity I’ve been craving since moving here is starting to become more real. There’s still a ways to go, but seeing some of it here fills me with this sense of promise that this place I admire so much will seep into me more and more.
It is the way with our rituals, regardless of their purpose, that as we repeat them over and over, they take on new, more layered meanings. A drive down a road can conjure up feelings that have been compiled for decades. The act of quickly placing one foot in front of the other can send the mind and body to places far from the track. Communion is an act of eating bread and drinking grape juice/wine. The application of ashes is just someone putting a cross on your forehead.
I’ve been doing all those things for many years. At this point, they all feel sacred in some way. It takes time for something to become sacred. It takes attention and effort, it takes repetition. We see more than just one thing in something sacred. It it makes something pretty simple on the surface speak volumes to us in just a set of moments.
I began my first fast of the Lenten season this Friday. I have been doing this for several years during Lent and Advent. I will go through the daylight hours without food. This practice still surprises me, still hits me freshly each time. By lunch time, I was beginning to feel a weakness, the longing my stomach would inevitably experience. But, that physical longing gets tied into many of the other longings in my life. If I focus correctly, it gets me in touch with the longing I have for purpose, the longing I have to see the world and be in it. The longing I have to make a positive impact on the world, to change people’s lives for the better. I can feel that in my stomach as it feels more empty, throughout the day.
One of our weekend retreat groups is a Conference Choir Camp. Church choir members from all over Oregon and Idaho travel here to the coast to spend the weekend learning a choral piece and performing it the final night. This was the first retreat group I helped host last year when I had first moved to camp. They were my introduction to the camp. So, this is the first time I’m seeing a group that I met last year. It is marking an anniversary for me. I am reminded where I’ve come in a year, I’m excited to renew and grow relationships that were begun last year.
After welcoming so many of these kind, newly familiar faces back, I sat down at the table and ate for the first time that day. I put some risotto in my mouth. It tasted so rich and full. I ate the pork tenderloin, that was so tender. I bit into the fresh baked bread with butter and let it set in my mouth a little longer than normal. This was a holy act. In this weaker state I had given myself to get in touch with my longings, I was tasting what it is like to receive that thing you long for so much. It felt so satisfying, but so humbling. I felt so thankful for it, so content with everything immediately there surrounding me.
I looked around at all these people who remember me, who know me. I have had this feeling in life many times, but it is just beginning to be more common here in my new home. I have felt so much longing here. I have taken part in that sacred act, stepping out of my comfort zone, challenging myself to embrace something totally new. It creates this see-saw of highs and lows. Throughout this time, wherever it takes me, I hope I will inhabit it with all of myself. I hope it will feel like a holy thing.