Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Flying with John

By now you know I’m home. At least you do if you’ve been following the on-again, off-again saga of  “L’Arche Across America” in which my dream of six months was derailed in two weeks by the illness of one of our members.

Yesterday, I flew with John home from Seattle, a good decision. It was what needed doing, for his safety and long-term health. Last Thursday, John had a choking incident that may have included aspiration, which carries the risk of pneumonia. The ER doctors weren’t sure. But I was and so was our community leader-in-waiting, Jen, when I suggested it. John needed to come back to his L’Arche community in Haverhill, Mass., and as the closest to him of our traveling party, the obvious accompanier was I.

So that happened.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Turning Homeward with Gratitude

Yesterday, watching my own mini-van pull away from the curb on 15th Avenue in Seattle, pulling away without me and John, I felt sharp pangs of regret.

The “L’Arche Across America” tour, which I had done much to plan and promote and chronicle, was rolling on without me. The circus was leaving town and I wasn’t in it.

(The circus arrived in Portland late yesterday, as the picture proves. Left to right: Todd, Shonda, Doris, and Woody, with L’Arche Portland’s Adam, second from left.)

But today, waking up early at Angeline House in Seattle, where community has been very gracious to John and me, my thoughts are turning homeward with gratitude.

I am sifting through some little lessons granted by two weeks on the road in the company of some remarkable people.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

L’Arche Across America — Day 12 — Hidden Life

On Sunday, May 21, the “L’Arche Across America” van rolls on to L’Arche Portland and from there south to San Francisco and LA, before turning east toward home.

It is a bit hard for me to accept that the van and its story are rolling on without me. It is like knowing that the story of life on earth will continue without me after I am gone.

Following John’s two nights in Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital, Thursday and Friday, I agreed on Saturday, with the okay of leadership back home, to return with John to Massachusetts by plane early in the coming week.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

L’Arche Across America — Day 11 — Seattle

Someone is watching over us on this trip, either the Big Fellow Himself or a flotilla of guardian angels. Or both.

Just when we needed a rest, we got it. Just when we needed community, we have been enfolded by it.

We are staying three nights (Thursday thru Saturday) in two homes (Angeline and Shuinota) of L’Arche Seattle, when all along it was our intention to stay only one. And in our neediness, the community has been so hospitable to us, so kind, so good.

In the photo above, I am with Robin and Andrew at the breakfast table in Angeline House. Their kindness and that of so many others in community, beginning with Isaac, who has orchestrated our entire visit with Todd, is deeply appreciated.

The thing is, we were wearing out.

Friday, May 19, 2017

L’Arche Across America — Day 10 — Music

If I don’t write about music, you will not understand our journey. Since leaving Haverhill ten days ago, we have almost never been without music.

Woody, whose knowledge of rock and roll is nothing less than encyclopedic, is our music leader. He brought along a large paper bag full of CDs, and every afternoon one of the CDs comes out, goes into the CD player, and leads us to our next destination.

Top picks on Woody’s music list are anything by the Grateful Dead, as well as Jethro Tull and The Essential Bob Dylan.

Wednesday, on the way into Sea-Tac, we sang loud choruses of “The Times They Are A-Changing” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Thursday, May 18, 2017

L’Arche Across America — Day 9 — Doris

Doris was the first core member I met at L’Arche Boston North, as I wrote a year ago. That was in August 2015 at a picnic in Haverhill. I am only now beginning to understand how providential that meeting was, and how important Doris is to me.

It may not be particularly easy to convince you of Doris’s importance, because as the world usually reckons such things, Doris is not important at all. She lives quietly, often wordlessly on the ground floor of a Haverhill three-decker with her husband Woody, who is also among our travel party.

Doris is not particularly active. She requires a certain amount of personal care at her age and weight and level of health. She does not work outside the home. She does not “add value” to our economy.

But I am coming to think that Doris’s value is beyond estimating. Indulge me while I try to plumb the mystery of this important unimportant woman.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

L’Arche Across America — Day 8 — Travel Day

When I was a child, there was a TV campaign with the slogan, “See the USA, in your Chevrolet.” It was the era of the family road trip, and when I was about nine, my parents loaded their first four children in their Chevy wagon and headed off from Minnesota to see The Badlands, Yellowstone, and other points west.

That was my first taste of the boundless space and infinite skies that await anyone who travels beyond the Mississippi.

Now, more than half a century later, I’m seeing the USA once again, this time in my Toyota Siena minivan, which I’ve offered for a larger purpose, “L’Arche Across America.” It doesn’t have the same ring—See the USA in your Toyota Siena minivan—but the effect on me is just as momentous.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

L’Arche Across America — Day 7 — Great Men

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Especially when the words are my own while the picture, however amateurish, captures the joy of an entire way of life, something I could never do if I wrote about L’Arche forever and a day.

The picture on this page was shot at Mt. Rushmore and posted on Instagram with a single phrase: Eight great Americans. This may seem presumptuous, but please note that the four Americans in the foreground are living and the four in the background, however important to history, are currently dead.

And that we are called by Christ and sometimes by our own hearts to love the living while letting the dead bury their own.

Monday, May 15, 2017

L’Arche Across America — Day 6 — Mother’s Day

When a drive through the Badlands at dusk is the second best thing that happened, you know it was a good day.

On Saturday, Jane and I sat in the “way back” while Todd drove, and we talked about St. Catherine of Siena, for whom we each feel affection. I told her there was a St. Catherine’s Church in Luverne, Minnesota, where we were planning to spend Saturday night, and that the MassTimes app said it had a 5:30 Saturday vigil and a 10:30 Sunday morning.

Jane said, Bee-yoo-tee-ful, and it was settled.

But we were late getting to Luverne and so we “settled” instead for the 8:30 am Sunday at St. Mary’s in nearby Ellsworth, which is part of the same rural parish in southwestern Minnesota. We thought the 10:30 at St. Catherine would be too late to allow us to get to our next destination, Custer SD, in good time.

Man proposes and God takes care of the rest.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

L’Arche Across America — Day 5 — Minnesota

Saturday after leaving Clinton we beat a diagonal northwesterly across Iowa and entered Minnesota in the late afternoon. By then I was deep into memory.

The first trigger was the freight train that passed Arch IV in Clinton at 7 am or so, while I was talking with my wife and granddaughter by FaceTime. I turned the camera around and challenged them to count cars as the freight passed. They gave up at fifty.

Once you get past Chicago, trains are a huge part of the regional economy and of my own spiritual geography, too. I was raised outside Minneapolis, with family connections in the Dakotas, Montana, and Alberta; I lived on a lake in Minnesota, where my grandparents also lived; and I often fell asleep to the click-rumble-click-rumble-click of passing freights.

Today, showing the train to my own granddaughter, I felt the thrill of home.

And, by a short leap of the heart, the pain of those who have no home.