driving

 

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I have always valued car time. For me, it is time spent alone with people I love, where conversations can go on for a while without interruption, where all the passengers are looking forward, where scenery is mutually enjoyed and things (sometimes long unspoken) come to light. When I am traveling in the car alone, I like to blast the music from the iPod and sing along, relishing the fact that I can choose the playlists. I listen more closely to the lyrics, allowing them to speak to my heart as the sound fills the car. When I am traveling in the car with others, I savor the chance to hear and to be heard. To listen, and to respond fully. To be aware of the gift of this time together.

It seems that autumn, for me, has been a road trip season. Both of our children have left the nest and are away at college. So, beginning in August, we’ve driven to their respective campuses for move-ins, visits, and various deliveries that could not be accommodated by mail, from mini-refrigerators to repaired laptops to bookshelves. Lots of time in the car, all of it good.

I drove with our youngest daughter to Kentucky, the car packed up to the absolute max, the GPS set to her dorm’s address, her new home-away-from-home. I’m pretty sure we couldn’t fit much more into the car that day than a couple of extra water bottles. More than the physical “stuff,” during the long drive, we filled the car with conversation. We talked about her insecurities about college, from making friends, to getting lost on campus, to managing her money. I responded with motherly reassurances. On my solo trip back to Pennsylvania, my awareness was on the grace of that trip. The grace of both of us being able to really listen to the other. To respond with love. To help the other understand, and to help the other to grow.

A few weeks ago, I drove with a friend to an airport a couple of hours away. Her daughter was coming in on a late flight, and the dark drive on the turnpike is not much fun. In our hectic lives filled with jobs, family, and friends, our conversations have been reduced to 5-minutes of catching up here and there. Having the car time with my friend gave us the chance to go much deeper into many of the conversations we’ve been starting for the past few years. I talked to her a lot about her cancer, her treatment, her recovery, the financial pressures and the celebration of her cancer-free status. The grace of this time of communion with my friend continues to bless me, weeks after the fact.

More recently, I drove with some dear friends to hear Richard Rohr speak at a venue a couple of hours away. These are women with whom I have shared hours in the car, in airplanes, in restaurants, in each other’s homes. My soul sisters. It’s time in the car with them that illuminates the grace that we are in each other’s lives. When I think about it this way, I am astounded. Surprised. Grateful. Somehow, I know that the grace of the time spent together is truly a gift. When this awareness touches my heart, I give thanks.

Today, I pray that during this holiday time of car trips to come, an awareness of the gift of this time of grace will stay with me. I invite you to do the same.

Now is the time to remember that all that you do is sacred.

-Hafiz

for lost friends

As twilight makes a rainbow robe
From the concealed colors of the day
In order for time to stay alive
Within the dark weight of the night,
May we lose no one we love
From the  shelter of our hearts.

When we love another heart
And allow it to love us
We journey deep below time
Into that eternal weave
Where nothing unravels.

May we have the grace to see
Despite the hurt of rupture,
The searing of anger,
And the empty disappointment,
That whoever we have loved,
Such love can never quench.

Though a door may be closed,
Closed between us,
May we be able to view
Our lost friends with eyes
Wise with calming grace;
Forgive them the damage
We were left to inherit;
Free ourselves from the chains
Of forlorn resentment;
Bring warmth again to
Where the heart has frozen
In order that beyond the walls
Of our cherished hurt
And chosen distance
We may be able to
Celebrate the gifts they brought,
Learn and grow from the pain,
And prosper into difference,
Wishing them peace
Where spirit can summon
Beauty from wounded space.

-John O’Donohue, in To Bless the Space Between Us

patient trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything

to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,

something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress

that is made by passing through some stages of instability-

and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;

your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,

let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today what time

(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on

your own good will) will make you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit

gradually forming within you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

 in suspense and incomplete.

-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

direction

I’m sitting in traffic on 202, something that has become part of my morning routine. It’s a construction zone. I join hundreds (thousands?) of other people in a solid, 2-lane mass of cars, creeping along the rolling curves of road. It’s morning drive time. The rhythmic nature of my foot moving from the gas pedal to the brake pedal, the music playing from the iPod, and the sun streaming through the clouds makes the experience meditative.

This day, my eye catches some abnormal movement in my rear-view mirror. When I focus my attention to take a look, two solid lanes of traffic are dividing right up the middle. I spot the ambulance, its flashers blazing, driving only slightly faster, advancing through the space made between the lanes of cars as they move out of the way. The slow-motion scene in my rearview mirror finally catches up to me. I move my car to the right, off the roadway, onto the shoulder. The ambulance passes. Then, I watch as the emergency vehicle disappears into the sea of cars in front of me, crawling along, and I re-focus my attention to the song playing through the speakers: Life is wonderful. Life goes full-circle. I pray for the people that the ambulance is heading towards.

Eventually, I come upon the accident scene on the side of the road. The EMTs are huddled around the door of a locked car, working on opening it up. It doesn’t look good, from my perspective. I continue on my way to work and find myself acutely aware that it all could have been a dream. Because here I am, sitting in traffic on 202 again.

It’s been a few weeks since I witnessed the scene on the side of the road. And yet it stays in my memory, as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. I find myself wondering, what are you trying to tell me, God?

All those things have vanished like a shadow,
and like a rumor that passes by,
like a ship that sails through the billowy water,
and when it has passed no trace can be found,
nor track of its keel in the water…

– Wisdom 5:9-10

I wonder about the person who was in the locked car. Has their life changed significantly since that day? The life of their family?

Recently, my college-aged daughter made the decision not to return to the school 3,000 miles away that she chose as a freshman. The reasons are many, but they all converge to where we are today. She’s taking classes at a local university and hopes to be a bit closer to home when she moves to a new college next semester.

I wonder about her experience. Her year of living in a strange and new place. The things she learned. The ways she matured. The path she took to get to today. Today, I am acutely aware that her keel has steered her in a new direction. The year she spent there has changed her. The path was not an easy one. And yet, today, she is radiant, and energized, and happy.

Life is wonderful. Life goes full-circle.

Today, I give thanks for the ways that God steers us through the rough waters. I invite you to do the same.