by Angier Brock
This week, the second week of July, had shimmered before me, filled to the brim with an amazing promise: six days of free time. Sandwiched between two happy but busy summer weeks of houseguests and celebrations (Fourth of July, birthdays), it was a week I had deliberately kept clear of commitments in order to have blocks of uninterrupted writing time. Yes, this blog was due, and yes, a friend was coming for lunch on Monday. But otherwise, nothing. No meetings. No volunteer work. No bell choir rehearsals. No appointments, not even so much as a haircut. Even in retirement, a week that is essentially devoid of interruptions is as rare as it is desirable.
But plans change. Last weekend, my just-turned-eight-year old granddaughter broke her foot and therefore cannot attend the camp her working parents had counted on to keep her occupied this week. Her mother called Sunday night with the news, and the question: Can you help? (Gulp.) Of course.
And so yesterday morning, while she and her mother made the 75-minute drive from her home to mine, I began taking stock of the art supplies and books on hand as well as checking nearby libraries, museums, and theaters for activities that do not involve running, jumping, or swimming. Instead of working on this blog, I worked on filling my formerly clear calendar with possibilities. Monroe the Magnificent Magician will be at our library branch today. A Thursday afternoon children’s program about digging in the dirt and growing things sounds promising. Monsters University is playing nearby in 3D. I have ruled out The Lone Ranger (too high a body count, too much blood and gore according to on-line parental guidance reviews), but I just may take her one evening to see a live performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III (also violent, but in a less graphic and more literary sort of way).
Plans change. Sometimes they shift in inconsequential ways, sometimes in significant ones. Sometimes we welcome those changes; sometimes they lead to disappointment. I would be untruthful to say that I was thrilled to sacrifice the highly anticipated spacious and uninterrupted time of this week to run Camp Gran. But after dinner last night, as my granddaughter and I sat on the back porch and sang some of the rounds I learned at Girl Scout camp in Bon Air, Virginia, when I was close to her age, something happened.
Here I should say that for me, the singing of rounds (even the silly ones) is a precious thing. I have long believed that kind of singing, seated on logs in a circle around a campfire in the dark woods of Camp Pocahontas, shaped my deepest spirituality. Our backs to the dark trees, our faces lit by firelight, the sparks wafting up into the mysterious night sky, our voices rising and falling, the harmonies diverging and converging but ultimately blending as we entered the song in different places and sang the different parts—those are the ingredients of my earliest felt holy times, times set apart.
Last night, Lucy and I began with “White Coral Bells,” which I had taught her another summer when she was here with her sisters. From there, we moved to the orchestra round and then to “Seek Ye First.” It wasn’t quite dark, and we didn’t have a campfire, but the memories of singing at camp rose up in me the way the sparks from the fire used to do. And something other than my plans for the week began to change: It was not space on my calendar but space in my heart that began opening.
I have been called to do work that is different from the work that I had expected—and wanted—to do this week. It is nevertheless important work, good work. My prayer is that I rise to the occasion. Whatever else we do this week, perhaps one night we will build a little campfire, and I teach her another of my favorites, “Rise Up, O Flame.” Perhaps she, too, will one day look back and remember this week as a kind of as holy time.
PS: You can hear the group Libana singing an exquisite version of “Rise Up, O Flame,”: