We woke this week in a strange new house, much our belongings still boxed up in closets, much of our furniture positioned on a trial basis. We were moved, but there was still much work to be done. There was of course, finding our place for everything, but then there were the minor maintenance projects, there was still the cleaning of the old house. The reward for a long moving day’s soreness was more work, more tasks to try to get this thing to normal.
I took my parents to Bay City UMC on Sunday. It is the church I normally attend when I have my Sundays free, and I was excited to introduce my parents to the worship housed in this beautiful country church building right on the bay. The message was the first in a series on Celtic Spirituality. Dave opened with a Celtic prayer:
I long for a great lake of ale
I long for the meats of belief and pure piety
I long for the flails of penance at my house
I long for them to have barrels full of peace
I long to give away jars full of love
I long for them to have cellars full of mercy
I long for cheerfulness to be in their drinking
I long for Jesus too to be there among them.
After just hearing that opening poem I knew I would enjoy these messages, and I suspected my parents would too. The faith of Christianity has sprawled out in many directions and has encompassed a lot of different ideas under its umbrella, but I find myself most fulfilled by times the faith orients itself close to the Earth and the simple joys of living—good food and drink, time spent with people, the beauty in being surrounded by nature. I am beginning to find more and more comfort again in these moments when I walk among the tall trees, when I taste something that begs to leave it on the tongue a little longer, when I spend longer than anticipated talking with a friend.
Sunday was the last day of my parents’ visit the forecast assured us would be dry, and we had worked really hard the day before, so we decided to spend an afternoon outside. I took my mom, dad, and Digby to Bayocean Spit, a spot Allyson and I just recently went to for the first time. The spit faces the Tillamook Bay on its East side and the Pacific on the West. We ambled along the gravely road and stopped periodically to try getting a good selfie with the snowy coastal mountains in the background. I told them about the resort town that used to be there and how some man-made changes to the bay had caused the much of the spit to wash out from under its buildings. We marveled at all the things that used to stand, now gone with very little trace. We looked at the large spruces on the hills and the bushes of ferns growing out of the crooks in their branches and trunks.
On our way back, we crossed over the spit and onto the beach. The sun shown through the overcast clouds as we stood on top of the dune with a high vantage point of the bay, the ocean, the dunes, the mountains. Sandpipers were running back and forth with the tide, and as we got closer, Digby became more and more aware of them. As I held him, he began to whine and yip like he couldn’t bear to let the little birds continue with their business uninterrupted. Someone needed to put them in their place. I knew he would run after them, get dirty and require a bath, and he would listen to me calling him back until he was completely satisfied with his mission to disrupt the pipers. But, I wanted to see him get to chase them. I wanted to see him running free, chasing after something elusive until he was out of breath.
He took off, full sprint, into the crowd of about 50 birds, stirring them into the air just enough to be out of reach. This is all Digby cares about doing. I’ve seen him try to run something down that doesn’t run away, and he doesn’t know what to do. But, if they run in fear, he trots back with his chest poked out, proud of his ability to intimidate. He sprinted after them several times, wading in the shallow surf enough to get his belly wet and caked with sand. Totally worth it.
After our break day, it was time to get back to work, deep cleaning the house we had just vacated. This was an all-day affair, getting out the remaining stuff, recycling and throwing away unused boxes and packaging, compiling a good-will bag, and of course the actual cleaning. There was scrubbing, sweeping, window washing, and carpet shampooing. With many hands, though, the work didn’t seem all that difficult. As I was hauling a load of recycling, two eagles started talking to each other in the trees above me. I looked up with plenty of time to seem them both fly just about 70 feet above my head. A moment of release and peace in the midst of a menial task.
We finished the house right at sunset and went out to the beach. My dad and I gathered up pieces of driftwood and dragged a washed up trunk as a place to sit. We dug a hole in the sand and constructed our fire. My mom threw a rubber ball with Digby. Hope joined us after finishing a run. We sat next to our flame, enjoying drinks and that wonderful view of the big loud ocean framed by the flickering firelight. Allyson looked over and said, “Good idea, baby.” Sitting with my bare feet in the sand next to the warmth of the flames, surrounded by people I love, I was in total agreement.
My parents left in the middle of the week, and the weekend brought one of our first retreats, one of which was our 2016 Summer Staff reunion. Gatherings like this reconnect you to what is good about camp life. We got to catch up with these people we had shared so many intense moments with just months ago. Seeing someone like this is grounding in many ways. It reminds you where you have been, who you have been, what is still within you that might have been resting recently.
Throughout the weekend, I kept seeing posts, pictures, and videos of the Women’s Marches happening all over the world. There on the screen reports from many of my friends in many different places, part of these huge gatherings of people, getting out to express themselves. I was amazed, seeing these shows of unity in such large number. There is something about being part of something much bigger than yourself, feeling part of some movement. There is a feeling of importance, there is a feeling that your efforts are made better being one with the whole. I think of moments I’ve found myself singing with a group of people to the point where I can’t hear myself. I am no longer just me, but part of something bigger. The strange thing is that in the moment, I can feel more myself than any other time.
I could not stop thinking about seeing so many friends women, men, and children making a statement. I know even now there are questions about why all these people were marching and what the march accomplished. I don’t think that’s the right question, because movement this large is something mysterious. It seems bigger than any one agenda. It felt like some large thing compelling people out of their comfortable homes into the world. Something deep within telling them to go out and follow that feeling. So many of us have sat home anxious, wanting to get out and run. Whatever it is, many have been drawn out. There is something to be done. I don’t know yet what it is, but it is important. I feel it moving in me too. A desire to get to the work of cleaning. Of blessing. Of chasing. Of flying.