Monday, October 26, 2009
Listening to the sound of a train's whistle crescendo as it races through town and a bird sounding like a bad imitation of a crying baby drowns out more familiar melodies of chirping birds. But the winds just listen, like me, this beautiful sunny, baby-blue sky morning--listening for God. Wondering what God will say to me today.
Beauty and wisdom can be found up or down; up and down. As I stopped to rest on my hike back to the monastery, I looked down. And there among the Berkeley greenery I saw a gray rock (painted it seemed) with clusters of three-leaf clovers growing around one side out of the dark rich soil. The three-leaf clover is a cultural symbol of luck; and one doubles one’s luck if among them one discovers a four-leaf variety. “Between a rock and a hard place” (in this case the cement sidewalk) this felicitous and iconic plant grows and thrives. If it can do so “between a rock and a hard place,” surely we can too because God is our rock, our refuge, and a very present help in times of trouble.
I wondered to what extent one could detect the changing of the seasons in California. The weather, of course, turns a bit chillier; although it has been pretty warm most of my days here. But the maple tree lives here as in the mid-west and east. Geography makes no difference. Whether she is planted in Ohio or California, in the Fall her locks turn butterscotch, burnt orange, pomegranate red, and they fall from her head leaving behind bald branches. But in the spring, as in the east, she will again don a full head of healthy lush hair. This late October day in fall, her discarded leaves lay a carpet on the ground and become crisp beneath my California feet. Geography makes no difference for other things as well. An African American woman sporting a natural hair style always elicits some stares as well as interesting and crazy comments, even from other black women. This happens from coast to coast. How beautiful are the falling leaves and the confident black woman with the natural do from east to west. God designed both.
Thursday, October 29
I had a final lunch with my cousin buddy. I’m glad we had the time together to reconnect. We ate at an Italian fast food restaurant around the corner from his job. He had chicken primavera and I had vegetables and spaghetti – it was very good. My Italian lessons are paying off. Early into my lessons I noticed the close similarities between Latin and Italian—many of the verbs and nouns are the same. One of the menu items at the restaurant read “Frutti di Mare.” I remembered “mare” as the Latin word for “sea.” The description was shrimp, mussels and other shellfish – “fruit of the sea.” Languages open up a side of the world that otherwise would be closed to us.
My cousin gave me a parting present of a post-card magnet of Oakland. He collects them. I presume the one he purchased while we were at Jack London’s square replaced the one he gave me among the collection that covers his green refrigerator. I purchased a pair of hiking shoes from Buddy’s store with a 40% discount as a relative. They are very comfortable and I’m looking forward to wearing them in Naples....
This evening I felt a little sad about leaving Berkeley and the monastery. This place has grown on me; it is beautiful; it has become a part of me.
Father M knocked on my door last evening to say good-bye. We had a short conversation, and I discovered that he is a doctoral student at the Graduate Theological Union – in his second year. He primarily takes courses at the Jesuit School. I discovered he is not a Camaldolese monk, like others, but a Benedictine monk; they are related, however.
Friday, October 30
I set the alarm on my cell phone for 6:20 am so that I could attend my last laud and vesper service with the monks. Today, as a result of my conversation with Father M last evening, I paid closer attention to the hymnal. It contains songs and prayers, but most of the litanies are taken directly from the Bible—primarily it seems from the Psalms and the prophetic books. Today the readings were of Psalms 100 and 51. After Father T read from the Gospel, we entered into a few minutes of contemplative silence. Father A prayed for me—my future as I leave this place. It warmed my soul. It is always nice to have someone prayer for you. My mother prayed for all of her children. When she could not sleep at night, she would sit on the side of the bed. And I remember asking her what she was doing—she said praying for her children. I hope to get to the point that when I cannot sleep instead of laying there like a blank slate allowing any and all thoughts to parade through my mind, that I will take the opportunity to connect with God in the silence of my body’s discontent.