Monday, February 5, 2007

Morning Lift Off

Sounds like a caffeine-laden breakfast drink. But those are the words that came to mind when I opened the back door this morning and about forty egrets took flight out of the guayaba tree. (I've talked about those birds in a previous post. I said there were about thirty. I was wrong. There are over a hundred who sleep there every night. They're on the other side of the tree which faces the estuary -- and a neighbor across the water who waits each evening for the "National Geographic moment" when they come to roost. We've just seen the low rent group who face our house!)

Watching the egrets is one of the rituals around here. Routine, ritual, whatever. I've just finished re-reading Kathleen Norris's little book The Quotidian Mysteries: Liturgy, Laundry, and "Women's Work." It's a gem. She compares the daily work that must be done, and redone, and done once again -- like laundry and cooking, mending and cleaning -- chores that in the past have traditionally been the province of women -- to the rituals performed in churches and in the course of daily worship. It's the little rituals, she says, that keep love alive and the community intact, whether the community is one of family or faith. The morning kiss, the cup of coffee, the laundry done on time. It's the ritual that saves us, that comes to our rescue when things get tense and challenging. It's in times of crisis that the words of prayers uttered perfunctorily day after day, flare into beacons of comfort and hope. All of a sudden we're listening and cherishing every word. Ask any widow or widower what they miss most. It's the routine.

So in my foundering around down here in Mexico, talking about "leaving church," I have to consider what exactly it is that I want to leave behind. I'm still working on that. In the meantime, I can rail on about the Christian Science "culture" I was raised in. I can smile indulgently at the "cultural" Catholicism I see around me now. But more times than not, culture provides comfort. It's "comfortable" knowing what to expect. Whether it's the well-worn beads of a rosary, or the certain knowledge that the Lord's Prayer comes here in the service, rituals may be considered "empty, " -- until someone starts tinkering around with them.

Journeys of the spirit and of the body can be rigorous. When I was bouncing around the world on airplanes I found that landmarks, touchstones, are important: East bound flights on American Airlines start taking breakfast orders in first class from the front of the plane; west bound from the rear. (Took me several years to figure this out....several years of being stuck with Special K sitting in seat 6F out of Orange County.) The Hampton Inn has soft pillows and they have eggs on their breakfast buffet; the veggie pizza at Applebee's is available, even if it's not on the menu. Provided with the essential "comforts," I could pay attention to "what mattered." I'm not sure "what matters" now, but the comforts definitely matter.

It matters right now that I hear Larry back from his morning walk with Kody. That he'll come in and ask me if I want another cup of coffee. And I'll ask him if he wants breakfast, and he'll say, "sounds good." It matters that the garbage man comes today, and that Hilda and Chano come tomorrow. And it matters that those egrets feel safe and secure in the tree out back.

No comments: