Mural, north of Jean-Talon near St. Laurent. Click for larger image.
We slept in our own bed last night, for the first time in a month. The house still feels like chaos, but it's a more orderly chaos than yesterday, and it's much cleaner after the work of a team sent by the insurance company. Today I got up at the normal time, dressed, and rode my bike, for the first timethis year, to the studio. Normalcy returns, whatever that is; I think the cat has her own definition and would be pleased if we'd stick to it!
While our locational peregrinations over this past month may be understandable, I'm not so sure about the internal ones. I know that it's difficult for many people to understand why someone they see as fairly intelligent and rational would spend time, year after year, in self-examination during the apparent gloom of Lent and Holy Week. I know that. And all I can tell you is that for me, as for observant Muslims during Ramadan, these periods set apart from "ordinary time" are not gloomy at all, but fruitful, and that I actually look forward to them, the way one anticipates travel.
Because travel is what they are. There is the you at the point of departure, there is a journey -- with all the expected and unanticipated aspects that make travel what it is -- and there is a different you who arrives, back at a home that is no longer quite the same home it was when you left, because you are seeing it with new eyes and a changed heart.
If we don't ever travel, physically or psychologically, I'm not sure we can ever really see where we are. And, I suppose, I've always believed that the examined life really is the only one worth living. A large part of my attraction to the core religious teachings -- not the church itself, mind you, but the teachings and practice -- is that they encourage that sort of examination and movement throughout life.
This year, it was a double journey, because I was also experiencing my physical home - this city - from entirely new places. Living in the downtown core was very different from living in the Plateau, the neighborhood I normally inhabit. The photographs and posts here told some of that story but not all, because I haven't had time to digest it fully, or to compare the last month with what it feels like to be back home. I know that my view of the city is changed, enlarged, and more appreciative, but that I'm still glad we made our home where it is.
The road from Ash Wednesday to Easter was more subtle: it certainly can't be shown in pictures. It will take more time to think and speak about. The major thing that happened is that the questions I have had, about discerning new directions in my life and work, have begun to be answered. But these are questions I asked an entire year ago, last Lent! I find that completely amusing. I'm glad for the emerging clarity, and glad that I've become patient enough, and aware enough of how it works, to wait a long time -- open, but not pushing.
In one of my meditation classes, a young woman asked, "But how do I get God to talk to me? How do you get to the point of having a conversation?" Her frustration and impatience were so apparent, and she reminded me of myself many years ago. I smiled and said, as gently as I could, "All I can say is that it's more a matter of getting out of the way, of surrender rather than making demands." I saw, in her puzzlement, that she didn't like or quite get that answer, but someday, I hope, she will. I remembered all too well a teacher saying, long ago, to my own tears and frustration, "I wish I could give you the key! But I can only show you a door; you have to find the key for yourself."
Still, it's happened over and over in my life, this process of examining, looking into what seems like an impenetrable forest, waiting, and waiting, and then gradually, -- or sometimes, suddenly -- seeing a path opening up. A path, a door, a hidden key with my name on it...
Having the courage to take the path, open the door, try the key, is, of course, is another thing, but that's why Lent gives way to Easter.