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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Vacation 2010

How’s your summer vacation?

Remember when summer vacation was from one school year’s end to the beginning of the next school year? As a kid, it seemed like the summer was a long stretch of time for play, relaxation, summer camp, swim lessons, family visits and trips—even across country. By the end of summer vacation, I had somehow grown up enough to be ready for the new school year in the next grade whether it was second grade, 8th, or finally 12th grade.

Now as an adult, summer vacation comes and goes in a flash. I usually have fun, travel a lot to see kids and grandkids, rest a little (maybe not), and I eat too much. Adult vacation is usually defined by being away from work and still being paid. Some say that going barefoot is a sure sign that you are on vacation. Pictures or videos tell the story, too. I just saw my daughter’s pictures of her vacation on Facebook. She and her husband looked so relaxed in the Rockies riding horses, hiking, and taking in the beautiful scenery of Colorado. Now that’s a vacation!

The word vacation is from the Latin word vacare, to be empty, at leisure. I’ve had one week of vacation from work this summer so far—a family reunion in the quiet and beauty of the state park in Indiana where my daughter lives. It was extra-ordinary! “Ordinary” in that 15 of us just hung out together and experienced the rhythms of each day without work pressures cooking and eating together, playing the spontaneous games that broke out with the grandkids, and telling stories about our lives over the past year. “Extra” in that all of us were at leisure and enjoyed being with each other—at least for a few days. One early morning awake before everyone else, I even found a moment of “emptiness” which gave me more space for being blessed by the presence of 14 other people that day.

This summer vacation has taught me to prepare for my next vacation by under-planning and letting empty space fill with a bounty of being with people I love as we tell stories and let the unexpected happen.

How has your summer vacation been or is it yet to be? How did you prepare for vacation (besides the packing preparations)? What will you remember from your vacation in the dead of winter? Did you  experience a sense of leisure? Was there a moment when you felt “empty” of all the pressures of everyday life?

Happy Summer Vacation!

by Betsy Perry, Guest Blogger while Doug is on his vacation.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Are you taking care of something, steadily, repeatedly, regularly, and not sure why you are doing so?  Do you ever keep at something, despite having mediocre-to-no-good results? Tending my garden is like that for me. Sometimes tending my call is like that, too.

For the garden, I read the instructions on the seed packets.  I try to learn the sunny spots, the shady spots, the partially sunny spots, the dappled shade spots.  I try to manage the compost, the water drainage, the weeds, the non-native invasives, the mulch, and the slugs.

For my call, my good work in the world which is part of creating the kingdom of God here on earth, I pay attention; I listen for guidance. I go to groups of like-minded people for support, or learn from lectures and readings for inspiration.  I pray, and I work.

Often, it seems most of my effort is in vain.  In the garden, is anything beautiful growing?  With my call, is more good happening in the world?

I recently was inpsired by the gardens in Maine - such color!  all native plants! perennials! easy care! So I came back to tend our garden here with renewed vigor.  I trotted out to the most forlorn spot - over taken by crabgrass and other scary weeds that I can't figure out how to manage. slowly and steadily I worked... surely something good can come from all this effort, eh?  Lo and behold! There was an itty bitty "Sacred Datura" plant.  Do you know this plant?  It's a wonder.

It is vespertine, meaning it's a night-flowering plant, attracting the nector-seeking night creatures such as bats and moths, which is why I love it. It looks like a very large morning glory, but is more closely related to petunias and tomatoes than those morning vines.  It grows wild along the banks of the Potomac River here in VA; it's origins are from the tropics, where varieties of the plant are still used by the shamans of South America. 
Datura growing along Potomac River

TWO YEARS AGO I gathered some seeds from their prickly pods along the river, and lovingly planted them in what I thought was good soil. I tended them well, for two years, and got no results.  Alas - a regular expereince for me.  This year, I'd given up. And wouldn't you know it - there is the beautiful wonderplant Datura, growing strong, all on it's own.

Madeleine L'Engle said a little benign neglect is good for children, the garden, and the soul. This seems true in my garden. I am wondering if it is also true in tending my call. 

by Tiffany Montavon

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where Do You Get Your "Call" Stories?

It’s the birthday of Henry David Thoreau, who said, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

If you heard me say the above sentence in the unmistakable voice of Garrison Keillor, then you are a fan of the Writers Almanac.  It happens to come on to my local NPR station at 8:37am each morning, which means I often hear it on my way to work.

In just a few minutes time, Keillor manages to tell what I see as “call stories”-- examples of novelists, poets, and other people who are doing or have done what they do out of a sense of passion and deep values.  The example above of Thoreau is typical.  The words come to me as I drive down the highway in my Volkswagen, heading to work where I will type on a computer while sitting in air conditioned comfort.  It is not exactly Walden.  Still, I find the Writer’s Almanac actually helps me to live, as Thoreau said, more “deliberately.”  When I am told the life stories of others, hearing of their perseverance and conviction, it helps me to live with perseverance and conviction as well.

Almost every day there is some example of what it means to live your call from of Writer’s Almanac.  Here are a few examples from the past few days of the show:

*The call to create something good out of a painful situation:  “After a young pig he was raising got sick and he failed to save its life, he (E.B. White) wrote one of his most famous essays, "Death of a Pig." Then he wrote a children's novel in which the pig doesn't have to die: Charlotte's Web (1952). It's the story of a runt pig named Wilbur who is saved the first time by a little girl and the second time by a wise spider. It is one of the best-selling children's books of all time.”

*The call to persevere:  “Mystery Novelist Donald Westlake got 204 rejection slips before his first book was published.”

*The call to both activism and enjoyment:   "My conviction simply is that power must always be defeated, that the struggle must always continue to defeat power. I don't go looking for fights. I'm really a very lazy person. I enjoy my peace and quiet. There's nothing I love better than just to sit quietly somewhere, you know, have a glass of wine, read a book, listen to music."  (Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka)

*The call to improve things through satire:  "Satire is the bringing to ridicule of vice, folly and humbug. All the negatives imply a set of positives. Certainly in this country, you only go round saying, 'That's wrong, that's corrupt' if you have some feeling that it should be better than that. People say, 'You satirists attack everything.' Well, we don't, actually. That's the whole point." (Ian Hislop, editor of The Private Eye)

And finally back to E.B. White for my favorite “call” line of the past few days:
"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mike Bikes

As I head into work this morning, I see Mike riding by on his bike.  Mike owns the local bike shop, and every day I see him ride his bike to and from work. Mike sells bikes, and he rides bikes.  This is one definition of integrity—“the quality or state of being undivided.”

What “business” are you in?  Are you living it?

PS  I pay a steep price when I live a divided life—feeling fraudulent, anxious about being found out, and depressed by the fact that I am denying my own selfhood.  The people around me pay a price as well, for now they walk on ground made unstable by my dividedness.  How can I affirm another’s identity when I deny my own?  How can I trust another’s integrity when I defy my own?  A fault line runs  down the middle of my life, and whenever it cracks open—divorcing my words and actions from the truth I hold within—things around me get shaky and start to fall apart. 
                             Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

Doug Wysockey-Johnson
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