17 November 2018

Active Waiting

As I wend my way through this year I have seen over and over again the power of waiting. It has not been so much a matter of 'good things come to those who wait' more a series of erratic stoppages in my life.

In the early part of the year it was waiting with, and on, my mom as she entered fully into dying. I had brought several knitting projects with me because I always bring projects down to my parents' house to work on, often times more than I could ever do in the week or two I plan to stay. Dad sometimes teases me about the number of bags or boxes in my car, but he also helps me carry them in the house when I arrive.

As I have written elsewhere, I found certain types of knitting a great antidote to waiting to do the Next Thing for Mom. I could feel like I was getting something done and keep my mind active, even as I was waiting for Mom to express her next request.

Several times she said variations on "I'm sorry to interrupt your work…" before asking me for help or to get her something. My answer was always that the project was only to fill time between requests, I was there for her first and foremost. We eventually agreed that she could say she was sorry for interrupting me as often as she wanted, as long as she went ahead and asked for what she needed with worrying. It sounds strange now, but it worked for us.

Over time, I came to realize that, for me, knitting a simple project that didn’t require my full concentration was helping me to stay in the moment. It gave my naturally worrying brain something to focus. If I was going to spend energy worrying anyway, I might as well focus that worry into keeping an eye out for dropped stitches; rather than what the next day or two might hold. I can (mostly) control the stitch count of a knitting project, I can't control how well someone will sleep or what the side effects of medications will be.

Having a focus that was outside of myself filled the waiting minutes but didn't distract me from the moment that I was needed to take action.

Other forms of waiting this year have been less fraught. I took over a crafting project to repair a blanket and for several weeks I was able to work on it actively as I figure out what stitch pattern and gauge was used to make the pattern. However, once my investigation was finished, I was left with the difficult part of the project: finding yarn that matched the existing project. Not only did the color need to match, but the fiber content, sheen, and weight needed to be close to the original. Commercially produced colors change from season-to-season and from year-to-year. Colors that were everywhere suddenly vanish into thin air. Add to that the fact that colors fade and change over time and finding a match becomes as much a waiting game as anything. I couldn't will the yarn I needed into existence, but I could keep an eye out for it, waiting as stock changed, or as I spotted new places to look for older yarn. I was actively waiting for the right yarn. Letting time pass while also keeping myself open to finding the right thing in an unexpected place.

Now I am in a new time of waiting. My favorite season of the church year, Advent, is almost up me. I have started my own tradition of getting out my Advent candles and my nativities in the week before Thanksgiving. This year Advent in the Episcopal Church starts on Sunday, December 2nd, so if I stick to my schedule, I'll be ready to light my first candle ten days early. 

I started my practice of setting up early for Advent because I frequently would miss the first week in the confusion and busyness surrounding Thanksgiving. Having everything set up in advance of the first Sunday in Advent make it easier to intentionally mark the start of the season and enter into the quiet the season brings.

Back when my own daughter was born, I wasn't a knitter. I did sew, and I made her a little, slightly weird, baby outfit of my own design. Maybe this year, I will spend some time knitting while my Advent candles burn through the dark time of the year.  They can light the way as I actively wait for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

03 November 2018

A Road to Guide Me

He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.
~Psalm 40:2

This time of year, in the Pacific Northwest the sun sets by 6:00 p.m. and it gets very dark very fast. This is in stark contrast to the late sunset and long lingering twilight of summer, when I can frequently see well enough to work in my garden past 9:00 p.m.

I was reminded of this as I drove from my home in Washington State to visit my dad on the Oregon coast. I was on the road by mid-afternoon, but typical terrible traffic meant it took 2 ½ hours to go the first 50 miles of my 200 mile trip. So instead of having daylight on my side for most of the drive, I ended up doing the darkest and most rural sections of the road in rainy, winter darkness.

The up side of being out on the road later on weekday meant there wasn't much traffic on the roads, however that also made me feel incredibly isolated. At times, it seemed as if my headlights were not just illuminating the road in front of me, but bring it into being before my eyes. This was especially true on the twisty and hilly sections of the road as I got closer to the end of my journey. As I approached a hill the road reflectors would glow from a long way off, but as I crested the hill or approached a sharp turn the road would seem to disappear, giving the impression that it would drop out from under me if I kept going.

Needless to say the lack of road was an illusion that was revealed as I started down the hill or around the curve and my lights caught the next set of reflectors. However, for the brief moment it lasted, it was disturbing.

I had faith that the road would be there. (Though I did sensibly slacken speed on some hills and curves-- there is faith and then there is being reckless).

As I was driving I thought, how in my faith, the trinity of Jesus/God/Holy Spirit is the road at night. I can't see beyond my headlights, but the road is still there. The road can't keep me from having an accident or doing something ill-advised, but it will not vanish from underneath me just because my headlights are no longer on it. The road exists independently of me, but I depend on it to keep me out of the ditch. I follow the fog line faithfully, even when I am blinded by the high-beams of on-coming cars.

And sometimes, even on an infrequently traveled rural road, I gain a companion in the darkness. For some time I am followed, or I follow another car. I can see their glowing lights in front of me and together we light up more of the darkness than we could alone. Or I am the leader and, as with tonight's drive, I spot a hazard in time to stop and warn the driver behind me with my brake lights*.

Time passes and my fellow travelers peel off to their own destinations and I am left alone again in my pool of light with the road firm beneath me. Without the road, I would be lost. With the road I am guided safely to my destination.


*A deer or elk was crossing the road in the dark and I spotted it in time to stop safely.

All bible quotes are from the NRSV text at Bible Gateway unless otherwise noted.