...and always at the threshold
photograph, Italy, 2004: Villa Emo, near the village of Fanzolo di Vedelgo, in the Veneto.
In an earlier post, I wrote this: "I'm aware of time's passage. It is carved on my face and hangs in aging muscles. But the concept of time escapes me. I'm in good company, though, because really intelligent people have struggled with this man-made construct."
My bright, thoughtful blogging friend, Gretchen Joanna, commented: "I admit that time is hard to think about objectively, as we are so immersed in it. But as for it being a man-made construct -- d0 you mean it's something we make up? Time is real, and it's something God put us in, so it's good, too. Like your stories, and process, and journey. I'm glad to be on the journey with you, fellow pilgrim."
I am thankful for those who hold me accountable. Yes, my friend, time is real and precious. I grapple with the measurements. During decades of writing five-year business plans, ambiguity crept into the process. Until, finally, the process was the point. No longer the product of creative, challenging thinking...just another plan, another round of resolutions wrapped around a vision or mission statement. An "another item off the to-do list" moment.
An advocate of planning and discipline, I consider these hallmarks of good stewardship. But I'm a simple [minded] person. Once guidelines and budgets and goals are set, I seem to operate best in the moment. Focused on the current activity. Listening to the spirit, to others. Hearing my own thoughts.
Thanksgiving is a case in point. First, we made a menu. Then, we made grocery lists. And shopped. Then shopped again. (Once must allow for last-minute inspiration.) Prep and cooking began in the days before our family meal and the ages converged. My grandmother and mother - long deceased - abided with me in the kitchen as I cooked. The smells and tastes of familiar recipes conjured glimpses of my children over the years.
Savor every minute. Susan B. Anthony wrote, "Sooner or later we all discover that the important milestones in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these."
When anniversaries and holidays do roll around, enter the time warp each affords. For a day, we can have a heightened sense of every age we've ever been, of all our encounters if we're present to this sweet/bittersweet, humbling/enlarging gift of convergence. After all, as Flannery wrote, "Everything that rises must converge."
How I spend my allotted days is no small matter. With mindfulness , I struggle to balance meditation, work, play, solitude, community. Without, I "kill" time. Literally.
The official abiding birthday is November 30. Thank you for joining me these past two years. I have no idea what lies ahead. No five-year -- or even one-year -- plan here. This is simply a journal of the journey. In the sort-of words of Minnie Pearl, "I'm just so glad to be here." Today.
I send you these good wishes from the writings of Neil Gaiman:
I hope you will have a wonderful year,
that you'll dream dangerously and outrageously,
that you'll make something that didn't exist before you made it,
that you will be loved and that you will be liked,
and that you will have people to love and to like in return.
And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now),
that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.
I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful,
and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can.
And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.