Saturday, May 31, 2008

quiet spaces

As I sit down to write, my knee-jerk reaction is to explain where I have been, to justify my more-than-a-month of bloglessness. But it is what it is. We all know that life sometimes shows up in ways that push just about everything aside for a while.

It has been a difficult week for me. My heart is heavy with upcoming transitions and sad losses. All the while, the looming monster of homework deadlines makes its presence known. Yet God, in his grace, has allowed a few quiet moments for my heart, and for those I am so grateful.

A few days ago, it came in the form of taking a walk, after finishing one novel and before starting another, both for my Theology and Contemporary Literature class. I read them with homework in mind, taking them in as I would a cup of coffee consumed for its effect rather than its enjoyment. Just to ward off the headache, or in this case, the inability to answer a test question. That is one of the things I look forward to most about graduation, actually; I can hardly wait to read books for their flavor again, lingering over the words the way that I would slowly sip an expensive latte in a favorite coffee shop.

For my walk, I chose a route meandering down the alleys, so that the sound of my footsteps on gravelly dirt could compete with the noise of passing traffic. The alleyways revealed middle-of-the-block houses that would otherwise go unnoticed. They are small, some with neatly painted garages and bright flowerbeds, others with dilapidated roofs and used-to-run cars nestled in unmown grass. Occasionally, there is an overturned canoe or a rusting fishing dingy, both of which would seem more at home if there were water anywhere nearby. There is not.

It is spring, and helicopter leaves (what are those really called, anyway?) are beginning to cover the sidewalks. I paused every so often to toss one into the air, smiling slightly as I watched it spin whimsically back to the ground. At one point I plucked a puffy white dandelion and sent its seeds floating into the wind with a puff of breath. These, too—spinning leaves and floating white seeds--are coffee shop-paced things, but I know by now that I can’t do everything at the speed of productivity and still handle life, so I do them anyway.

Another one of those frivolous, latte moments came in the form of stopping to sit by a pond last night. I had come to the park on my mountain bike, hoping to ride off some stress. Not really wanting to move (sometimes the hardest things to get going is a heavy heart), I managed to drag myself out the door just in time to enter the quiet world of the rugged park at dusk. Just a few minutes before arriving at the pond, an absolutely huge owl had surprised me by lifting off and gliding away just a few feet away, where I had not even noticed its presence. Now, I sat near the water, hearing only the distant hooting of another owl, the melodic chattering of springy-type birds, and the chirping of a single—but very loud—cricket. The quiet of it created some space in me, where I had felt nothing but tightness and anxiety before. Thank God, I thought, for the warm air at dusk, and enormous owls, and ponds and crickets and mountain bikes. Thank God for letting me breathe when I need it most.

The few days ahead are going to be difficult. I know this. Yet I know that God will know just when I need to breathe. And I know that when I didn’t even think it could come, I’ll find myself near an alley garden, or a hidden pond, or another space that only God can create.