Paradise Lost

Reentry is never easy. I’ve just been on a vacation in the woods of the northwest and yesterday marked, via eight hours of air travel and airport waiting, my trip home. Tomorrow work begins again and I hope for the ability to adjust quickly into some kind of routine. Humans are creatures of ritual. We may call it religious or secular, but we draw comfort from knowing what to expect. Vacation disrupts with its mandate to relax and be among loved ones, and with its low level of demands. It can be time to think clearly instead of being harried and harassed and hurried all the time. Today I have to remember how this is done. How east coast time works. What the bus schedule is and how to enslave myself to it once more. I think of how being in a cabin in the woods felt like a restoration of my soul. In fact, it can feel quite a bit like a religious experience.

Silence, for one thing. In a world of constantly competing noises it’s easily forgotten what a commodity quiet can be. The silence of the woods is restorative. Although it was occasionally abused in my days at Nashotah House, quiet was often enforced as spiritual discipline. Nature, in a way that’s hard to appreciate so near to New York City, can be supremely tranquil during the night. Darkness as deep as the silence reminds us what night was meant to be. No priest needs to direct meditations since the soul is already attuned to the divine in such situations. Awaking to the chatter of a red squirrel rather than the rumble of a bus can remind one of what is truly important. When we value our vacation over our vocation there is a message hidden in plain sight.

Today I glance ahead to an unbroken string of work days and the premature end of summer. The hot days can be uncomfortable and that rush of everyone toward the water can lead to endless crowds and congestion. Still, I empathize with those seeking a break from the routine. We are all souls seeking respite from days programmed by others so that the Trumps of the world can reap the rewards of other’s labors. Bleary-eyed from the time change of three zones’ difference, I’ll go to work tomorrow with twigs in my hair, sand in my shoes, and a kind of private paradise in my head. I’ll soon be cured of that as the secular routine takes hold once again.

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