Category Archives: travel

Good shepherds and pink splashes.

I didn’t know the name for it at the time, but one morning last week I experienced an acute and painful case of Cognitive Overload. It was the day I had been looking forward to for two months, when I would drive up to Pippin’s; the day before that I’d started packing my car with the books and food and even a 50-ft garden hose I was going to take to the family there in far-Northern California.

The morning of, I read an article about the coronavirus before I got dressed, and for the next two hours I debated whether I should change my plans. What if I were asymptomatically infected already? I could be the one responsible for bringing the pathogen to a relatively remote area. That was my main concern, and I worked myself into tears not being able to decide what to do.

Eventually all of my daughters weighed in, and the Professor, too. They didn’t just say, “Go ahead,” or “Come!” but they gave their reasons, which helped me choose among my own jangling thoughts and pick a course of action. I went.

I took along a dozen Mars Hill Audio Journal CD’s for the ride because I thought I might catch up on some of the interviews. One of the first ones I listened to was of Alan Jacobs talking about his book How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds. Toward the end of the interview when he and Ken Myers were talking about how thinking takes time and effort, and how “practical discernment must be cultivated and developed over time,” he mentioned a discussion he had with Jonathan Rauch about an aspect of thinking that Rauch told him he hadn’t emphasized enough; here are some snippets I transcribed:

“Jonathan Rauch reminded him of the inability of any one human being to bear the cognitive load of decision making that we are called upon to do every day… there is a necessity to offload some of this responsibility to a reliable and healthy community. Each of us individually can’t know what we need to know about every issue; that means we have to trust other people to help guide us and inform us. We just don’t have the cognitive energy to be able to do this…. that triage is impossible for any of us to do on our own. Don’t listen to the people who tell you to think for yourself. It’s not possible to think for yourself… we are always embedded both socially and temporally…  That can work for us, if we see to it that we are properly and helpfully embedded.”

There I was, driving up Highway 5, peacefully following through on a decision that I had made by offloading some of my cognitive load. 🙂 When I had a husband to confer with, that would have been enough community. Various articles on the Internet aren’t helpful because they aren’t humans in my community, but thank God I am embedded in a family.

In the days since then, I’ve been grateful for other communities that I am part of, for better or worse, and the way they have taken some of the load. We pray that by God’s providence, whether the decisions of our civic authorities are always the best or not, they will turn out for the best in the end. The governor of my state said that everyone in my age group should stay home, period. Soon afterward, the more immediate area I live in came under “shelter in place” orders.

I remember the many years during which I would defer to my husband about many, many decisions that I didn’t always think he made with the most wisdom —  even then I was often glad not to have to think through every last decision on my own; it was enough that I had the good judgment to defer. Maybe my tears last week were partly the cumulative outflow of five years of pent-up frustrations, the weight of a widow’s decision fatigue.

Before I learned of the governor’s edict, I had planned to attend church as soon as I returned, though everyone was debating about the prudence of that, even those of us who know that it’s not through the Holy Mysteries in the chalice that we could share pathogens. It’s all of us breathing parishioners and the surfaces we touch…. Here also I have been relieved of the exhausting effort to have perfect wisdom. My rector, with these words, has passed on to us the decision of our bishop to close the church for at least two weeks:

“Let us realize that we simply cannot know the burdens that our Bishops carry as pastors. We all heard the incredible words of the Savior on Sunday about the “Good Shepherd” in John 10 in honor of St Gregory Palamas, how a true bishop cares for the flock…. let’s remember that the bishop has the ‘mind of the Church’ and so we receive his words, actions and requests with joy, and yes, obedience.”

And Monk Seraphim of Mull Monastery, as he was embarking on a trip through five airports on his return to Scotland, wrote to us:

“This is not our time to ‘shine’ by showing empty courage and adolescent bravado. A Christian shines through humility and sacrifice of one’s self, sacrifice of one’s ‘courageous’ image in the world.

“We are human beings, made of flesh and bones. Flesh and bones can become Chalices of God’s presence in the world, but they can also become ill. As a Christian, my duty is to comfort and to love, to keep myself and my neighbour from harm.”

“Pray for the weak and those most exposed, and try to help any way you can. Forget about ‘playing it cool’ – no one rejoices in our pride except the evil one. Be human. Be a human being, surrounded by human beings, loving them, helping them, protecting them. In this simple, living, non ‘heroic’ attitude is the Cross that will lead to the Resurrection.”

I did try to protect my fellow humans as I traveled down the state. I used so many homemade alcohol wipes at gas stations and rest stops that my hands were in great need of TLC last night. Today I’m resting from the trip, and feeling comforted and joyful because of God’s care for me.

I want to tell you, too, more about my visit and fun with the grandkids, but for now I’ll just mention that I saw a thousand ? or so Western Redbud trees and bushes on my travels. The grass on the California hills is still mostly brown, changing to gray-green in some places, and these bright pink splashes all over the place are also speaking JOY!

Here with snow and a flower.

For many of us our daily lives have become more home-centered as a result of our larger community’s efforts against the coronavirus, and maybe some have more time for blog-reading. 🙂 I might have more time to write something about the mini book club reading Kierkegaard, or an update on my reading of The Plague.

If not for the fact that I drove up to Pippin’s in farther Northern California on Thursday, and my time and attention are devoted to Scout, Ivy, and Jamie for a few days. Oh, yes, also their parents! I’ve not given up on finding the wherewithal to compose a few thoughts and sentences on all the philosophical musings I’ve been doing, including those prompted by a dozen Mars Hill Audio interviews I listened to on the way up — but I’m not counting on it.

Today it’s snowing, and likely will until I go home, but yesterday I saw this lovely Greek Anemone, and send it to you as hopeful sign.

God bless the Ten Ren.

I’m home from Kate’s, and instead of sleeping in a room with Raj I will be conked out all alone in my quiet space tonight. While I was still in D.C./Arlington I wanted to write a little collage-y post about my last week with their family, but I was running out of steam. I haven’t really built up steam at this point, quite the opposite, but I do want to have blog closure on this, and I need a little time to wind down this evening, so…

We had the 4th of July, when I stayed home with Raj who had gone to bed, but I saw the fireworks at the Capitol anyway, out our window. Only blocked a little, by a big building across the way. We had glorious thunderstorms, which were also fun to watch, with horizontal rain and dramatic electrical and sound displays — but one of them caused flash floods nearby, which I’m sure the people getting rescued didn’t feel glorious about.

We did lots of baby-rocking and smooching, cooking and eating. Later I will try to post some recipes of what I cooked. All the cooking required shopping, so we made a fun trip to Costco to make use of me having a card. It was a happy-family sort of outing such as I don’t think I’ve ever had at Costco 🙂 . Six of us including two boys under two and the nanny Kareena — and the adults were all jolly.

On the way I told Tom that he should sing a going-to-Costco song, because he is often singing through the days. He considered this idea for only a few seconds before it came to him that the tune should be something by John Philip Sousa, and he made us all laugh with his lyrics to a rousing number that fit our mood well. Walking through the store Rigo slept peacefully in a front pack, but Raj in the cart started to get a little antsy as our explorations were prolonged. I distracted him by means of the cut flower display which he really did admire, and some Pringle samples.

Fitting all those groceries into the not-huge SUV with all of us was a challenge; I protected the tomatoes on my lap. Getting so many boxes and bags, plus two babies, out of the car and into the elevator, then out of the elevator on our floor, was a creative logistical work; the elevator was determined to close on us, and some of our company were very scrappy in the skirmish.

Today I woke at 6:00, Eastern Time. Lately Raj had been waking me up with more babbling than crying. After a while he was ready to get up, and I started him on his morning routine of dressing, playing, breakfast, before the nanny came on duty and while his parents were catching up from nighttime with a newborn. Sometimes lying in bed with me was a changed aspect of the routine. I started this paragraph the past continuous tense and had to change it… 😦 I hope Raj will continue, though, to wake up a little later than he had been doing before I arrived.

Actual flight time from east to west was barely over five hours, but by the time I got to my house this evening I’d been traveling twelve hours. I walked around my gardens front and back, and everything looks so healthy and good! I drank my Ten Ren “Relaxing Tea,” and may God bless it to be so.

I forgot that story already.

If only I were better at writing funny stories – I’ve had such good material for them the last couple of weeks! When the “funny” things are happening — i.e., the crazy days when I lose my keys, forget my phone, break a crown on my tooth, spend half the day on a cooking project that turns out barely edible, spend the other half driving back and forth to appointments or making fruitless business calls, and at the end of it all get stood up by my computer guy — my writer’s mind tries weakly to do its usual thing of organizing chaos into sentences, but only in synaptic spasms. And what exactly is humorous about this, anyway…? The exhaustion is total, and I only want to go to bed early.

The next day, if it is a recovery day — and I definitely haven’t had enough of those lately — I often do realize the hilarity of life, in retrospect. But I’m not a comedian, and when I start to relate my wonderment at how many things can go wrong, or I should say, how inconvenient adventures can be, it just sounds like a complaint. And if I did write my funny story, where would I put my beautiful flower pictures?

I thought of this once more after Columbus Day, which was fairly long and involved with things not going as planned. And I was feeling the deadline I was under, to leave town, and to get all my affairs in a good state so I could be away and not worry. When the problems were solved and I was all alone again, I found rest in writing about how a poem and my garden worked together to give me the needed R&R. I guess trying to write a funny story would be too challenging, a chore I don’t know how to tackle. My garden is easy, and writing (anything but humor) is my favorite kind of work.

I soon forget the germs of those funny stories, because they are so quickly superseded by compelling tales of birdsong and burst milkweed pods, babies dropped fresh from Heaven, and bread dough rising.

Clara

Oh, but I have to tell you why I am going to be away from home! I am right now flying to Colorado with that new Baby Clara herself. Don’t worry, her mother and her brothers are with us. Clara’s father will meet us at the airport, and I will stay to help them out in their new town for a while. More stories are on the way.