Yesterday, I had a bad day and the legalist in me can’t help feeling it’s because I haven’t let Advent settle into my heart. I haven’t plugged in the Christmas lights enough, I haven’t read the manger story, I haven’t tried to do anything special.
This morning I lit a new candle before settling into my corner on the couch: Candy Cane Lane, it says. “Do you like candy canes?” I asked Teddy as he finished up his breakfast. “I don’t hate them,” he said. And now they have left me alone and the room smells like sweetened mint.
Outside, the sky is white and Prince waits by the fence for his apple. Inside, there are bowls of fruit on the counter—our contribution to the high school band fundraiser. “I would eat more oranges,” Jeffrey said earlier as he fingered the round fruit stacked over the rim, “if I didn’t have so much trouble peeling them.” I showed him the orange peeler from Tupperware his aunt gifted me with for Christmas one year. “This is your go-to tool for the citrus,” I said.
I am eating a grapefruit right now. No sugar, just all juicy tartness. My mother-in-law says that now her medication is changed she can eat grapefruit. I think it is a blood thinner. I imagine the blood coursing more freely through my veins with each bite.
An abundance of fruit during Christmas time reminds me of my grandfather. I think he once told me that fruit used to be considered a treat before candy was so readily available. I am missing my Grandpa as I sit alone on the couch.
This morning as part of my Advent devotions I read an essay by Andre Dubus called “Railroad Sketches.”
“Travel by air,” it begins, “is not travel at all, but simply a change of location. So my wife and daughter and I went to San Francisco by train…”
I went with them, by rail, across a beautiful and sometimes hard country. The author’s attention to detail sometimes did me in and I thought what a gift it is to see.
I’ve only been on a train—besides the subway variety—one time, which seems odd since the rail is such a part of the landscape around here. But that one time similarly stirred my soul. We were on a fall foliage excursion and the scent of woodsmoke mingled with diesel to create a strange sort of dream state. My husband was hungover from a party the night before and we were young enough that I was angry with him. He slept through the wonder of it all, giving me the gift of silence as I stared out the window at passing tree and hill, river of glass, and azure sky. I do not think my eyes saw as much as those of Andre Dubus, but then, I was angry.
As I read his winding tale I thought about the contrast this slow, meandering story of open eyes makes to the world today. We don’t slow down enough to see, to feel the earth and time pass beneath our shifting feet.
What are we afraid of?
Author and minister, founder of Bread for the Journey, Wayne Muller, says we are afraid that in slowing down, we will feel the emptiness inside of us.
…For some people, emptiness can feel fertile and spacious, alive with possibility, as a womb is ripe for the child to come. But others feel emptiness as an ache, a void; something painful, in need of being filled.” ~Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives
Instead, we must learn to listen to this ache inside of us, Muller says, for all of creation begins with emptiness. “…it is” he says, “the quiet hollow reed through which the wind of God blows and makes the music that is our life.”
I think Andre Dubus must have been very good at listening to the emptiness. This morning, his simple story of a rail excursion is teaching me. Today, my special Advent practice will be to notice. Let the wind that is God blow through all the empty and open my eyes wide to the holy of it all.