January and the first of a new year can be an unpredictable time. We have our conceptions of what this time should be, and we usually get some flavor of that. It should be cold, it should be dark and overcast. A new year should slide into something, make some sort of transition from last year to this year. We should shake ourselves out of bed, stretch, get dressed, and stroll out into the next chapter. In the places I’ve lived, January often defies convention and can take you to places you weren’t expecting. But why limit it just to January? My last two years have been a string of unexpected occurrences, but I know there are plenty out there who have much more of a claim on that than I do.
This week Allyson spent a large part of the week packing boxes, and I spent a good bit of time loading boxes. For the third time in 4 years we packed our stuff and moved to a new house. Fortunately, this move was just down the road, so there was less need to worry about carefully insulating every breakable or efficient Tetris-like stacks in a moving van. This move was, though, a sort of final solidifying act in becoming the Director at Camp Magruder. I did not come to this camp with plans for this. I certainly did not plan to do it in my second year. Our life has become this incredible surprise, uplifting in moments and terrible in others. It has been a very rugged, curvy road taking us from one house just down the drive to the other.
January is quiet at our camp. We have a few small retreat groups, but the sounds of the ocean and the birds dominates the ears outside. Lately, the sky has been so clear, often day and night. This is not how I have come to picture Januaries on the Oregon Coast. The sky was a deep blue that is typically only standard during a few summer months. This was my first full week back at work, and the sky was toying with me. I am the type who looks out the window during the long lecture, wishing I could toss off the civilized world and be outside. We have so little time here, and there is so much to be seen out there. And beyond all the places, there are so many ways to see them: bathed in sunlight, masked by gray overcast, shrouded in rain, received feathery snow all around. Don’t you want to know what it feels like? What it sounds like? What it feels like in your lungs when you breathe in?
After work and dinner many nights, I would load up the boxes and furniture I could carry on my own and cart them to Director’s residence. It was dark and quiet. It seemed like everyone in the world was asleep besides me. I enjoy evenings like this. I enjoy the quiet, the bigness of the empty world. The things that come alive when people are at their most quiet. On these nights, I could see my breath, but the lifting and moving kept my body warm. The stars were beautiful and bright, and it felt like I was the only one seeing them. I’ve felt many solitary moments in this past year, some I was seeking out and some I did not ask for. Some felt very lonely and somber. Some felt refreshing and restful. In this moment I felt a little of both. These nights of moving, reminded me of the difficulty and pain of the year. It also reminded me of the hope I carry with me for the future. Quiet, lonely nights offer reflection and perspective for the bright, hectic days to come. It is a contrast, a yin and yang.
My mom and dad flew from Tennessee to Oregon just to help Allyson and me during our move. Allyson generously agreed to pick them up at the airport, so I could stay back and finish up some work. At about 3 in the afternoon I received a phone call. It was my dad’s familiar voice on the other line. They had just made it over the mountain and would be in Tillamook soon. I could meet them at the Pelican if I wanted to. I rushed to finish up my remaining responsibilities so I could make the trek around the bay to meet them. In our world now it’s so easy to see and hear people frequently. It’s not a novel thing anymore to be able to talk with loved ones and see their face while you’re doing it. There is something different, though, when you hear that familiar voice and it is a declaring to you it is close-by. To hear this voice I’ve known my entire life on the phone line, to know that he made the long journey to our new home enough to know the places we’ve grown to know intimately. To know these two comforts sit waiting for me just down the road is both a relief and an excitement. I saw two eagles in a tree in Garibaldi surveying the Tillamook bay. They would be in the same place when my mom and I drove back through.
I came from a long line of hard-working people. My parents are the people you call when you need something done. I suspect that is a trait the goes way back down my line. I hope that people see me that way too. The first full day my mom and dad were in, they packed a great deal of boxes and furniture during the morning I took to be in the office. A large part of the house was moved by the time I took off. With me and my dad available for heavy lifting, it began to go even quicker. By the early evening, we had moved all the mattresses, frames, sheets, and pillows. They were set up to sleep for the night. I had not supposed we would sleep in this new dwelling the first time. I did not realized we had spent our last night in our former house already. Much like all this change, it came quickly, ready or not.
Allyson and I settled into our familiar bed in an unfamiliar room. Soon, it will become regular, we will fit ourselves to it, and it to us. I wondered if I would wake up to go to the bathroom and run into a wall, thinking I was in some other bedroom. I drifted off hoping it would not be too long before I woke up, feeling more comfortable, feeling a confidence and a peace with my tasks, my mission. I want these months to behave as they should, or I want to get used to what they are turning into. But, for that night, there was enough familiar. Allyson, my love, was next to me in our warm bed. Rolling around, kicking, and punching inside her was our little girl. Just down the hall my parents snored, deep in a jet-lagged sleep. Uncertainty and newness has not slowed for us. We were again in a new house, wondering where to put everything, and our life had a very similar feeling. But there was warmth, there were the stars, the eagle pair. There were many loving hands standing by, helping us believe the new will be something beautiful.