I am back from eight wonderful days in sunny California, bouncing between Sacramento and the Bay Area and visits with friends, sisters, brothers in law, nieces, and nephews. We were fortunate to be the guests of the Passionists at Christ the King Retreat Center, where my former spiritual director directs a retreat center. That place turned out to be a godsend.
I found it rather jarring to be back in California, driving to all the familiar places and seeing the familiar faces but not having a home there at the moment. I felt as if I was in another world, and my various roles–professor, postulant, mother, sister, aunt, friend, Franciscan–were all clamoring for my attention with none of them being fully satisfied. I was asked to preach on the 27th, and so preparing for that took up much of my mind time even as I was catching up with my sisters’ families at Christmas. I had a hard time grading my students’ assignments because I had no Internet access at the retreat center. I only got quick glimpses of friends at churches on Christmas Eve. Even when I got to spend a lot of time with a friend, I had to keep saying goodbye, not knowing when I would see that friend again.
However, coming back to the retreat center each night and waking up there each morning helped to ground me. Going running each morning and ending the run with a long walk around the green fields was a great gift. For some reason, those green fields and the oak trees reminded me that, as disjointed as I felt at times, there is a Oneness that I call God that is all around and that draws me into it. I find peace in that inner place.
I am happy to be done with airports, lost luggage, long waits on the tarmac for a gate, and airport security for a while, and excited about beginning another semester at Yale. Meanwhile, I have more assignments to grade for my students, as their grades are due on January 4th! I’d better get back to it. I hope you also have some opportunity for retreat as you gear up for the new year.