Last night, Anne and I were walking to the guest house, where we stay here on the farm, and were admiring the moon and the stars. I breathed deeply and said, "It's so nice to be back here in the dark!" We had only been gone two nights, but that big open starry sky with that bright shining moon felt to me like long lost friends, and I was so glad to find them again.
Of course, they didn't go anywhere; I did. After a lovely, reverent, sometimes hushed and sometimes exuberant service on Christmas Eve, and a festive little party afterwards, Anne and I ventured out to visit my family for Christmas. It was wonderful to spend time with my folks and my sister and brother-in-law, and to visit with my large extended family, now with SEVEN little ones running around. My cousins' children are sweet, funny kids, and I was privileged to participate in a lights-out dance party with some of them, ages ranging from 11 to just 2. I loved talking with my aunts, learning about my grandfather's love of gardening, and it warmed me to feel that I am somehow more connected to him through this path I'm taking. And I learned a bit more about my uncle's family, who were dairy farmers, and talked with the husband of one of my cousins, who yearns for a little homesteading plot himself. All these connections, I'm just now discovering.
And then on Sunday, we went to my parents' church, St. Patrick and St. Anthony, a Catholic Franciscan church in Hartford, CT. We walked in, and I realized that for two whole days, I had been swept up in the gift-giving, family-seeing, cookie-eating parts of Christmas--and as for the spiritual grounding of the holiday? Not so much. It was as if the meaning of the holiday had basically slipped away the further we drove from the convent, and was completely faded by the time we began our big holiday family get-together. It shocks me, how easily I can just slide into regular life, how hard it is to maintain the spiritual focus and appreciative mindset that envelops me at the farm. I realize more fully, right at this moment of writing, that part of the purpose of having a spiritual practice, whatever it may be, is that it helps one maintain one's moorings, no matter where one might be. Looking back on this holiday, I'm a little more cognizant that I've been relying too much on the structures of the convent, and the schedules of chapel and meditation time that are kept; it's time to work on developing my own spiritual practices that I can take with me wherever I go.
So, back to last night: there was some relief in my statement, a feeling of coming home to the dark night and starry sky of these hills. I felt a little in awe of how much the farm now feels like home, and remarked to Anne that pretty soon, it will be a year since we first visited the farm. And she replied, "Do you think you ever could have imagined that this would be your life, a year ago?"
We laughed, because a year ago I was struggling and frustrated and wanting to make a big change, but I just didn't know where to go or what to do. I was cooking and baking and learning how to be frugal, and wanting to be engaged in more creative work. I had no conscious desire to delve into my spirituality, I had no idea I even liked gardening. I was reading books about career changes, and just spinning, spinning, because many possibilities seemed interesting, but none grabbed my heart.
And then, on a whim, because our trip to Honduras made me remember how much I love being out in nature, Anne suggested we visit the farm. And my whole world opened up again.
There is a kind of hope that comes from knowing that life can change dramatically, that your longings--even the ones of which you aren't fully aware--can be fulfilled, that nothing is as fixed or set as it might seem to be. This is what I am trying to inscribe down in my deepest bones, so that I will remember this feeling whenever I worry about "what comes next." It is entirely possible that I cannot even imagine at this time what life will look like a year from now. My experience tells me that if we remain open--to unseen possibilities, to feeling when our hearts leap, and to following that which makes us come alive--then anything is possible.
May 2010 bring you love and light and joy, and all that which lies beyond your imagination.