By Trudy Wischemann
I woke Sunday morning to a new view of the world, and of my life, as God’s art. It was as if a film had been removed from my eyes, though I know the changed perception occurred somewhere within, between my heart and mind. Maybe that’s where the soul is: somewhere between, and all around, though I sense it not so much as a place as a permeability. A film, transparent but not porous—like Saran Wrap—has been removed.
It might be the time of year. We’ve just entered the ten weeks of longest days in the earth’s yearly cycle. Here at the beginning of this period, with everything in leaf and flourishing, the long days are welcome, the early mornings absolutely beautiful, the evenings worth celebrating. By the end of this period we will be welcoming the longer nights, the decrease in hours of the sun beating us into submission. Ten weeks of glorious light and freedom from worry about getting cold. Probably just about as much as we can handle.
It might be the social distancing. Solitude for some people is pure hell, but for me it’s a relief from the burden of caring enough for other people to modify most of my natural instincts. I’ve come into my own self more over the last two months of semi-isolation, and I know I’m not alone. “Solitude without shame!” a friend named it in a phone call last week. There’s been time to examine that natural self and come to appreciate even its quirkier dimensions.
It might be the uncertainty. Even if you listened, watched and read the most authoritative news accounts of this virus, you still couldn’t know for sure what will protect you from it. We simply don’t know enough about it yet. We know a lot about viruses to be sure, and we know what doesn’t work in a pandemic (people freely milling about in large dense groups of strangers, for instance, or being packed into small spaces like feeder pigs.) But in the semi-final analysis, there is nothing to do but wait and see—and pray.
And regarding prayer, it might be the reading I’ve been able to do in this time of cloistering. Amidst reading several others, last week I picked up a book written by my mother’s first cousin’s husband, who was a UCC minister before he retired. It’s about ministers’ lives, maintaining and growing in the act of serving as a pastor. And though I’ve read it before, in his book and others’, the distinction between praying (as an act of speech) and meditating (as an act of listening) entered my consciousness for the first time. For the first time it occurred to me that I’m not comfortable with prayer because somewhere in the tiny back part of my brain I still believe that children are to be seen, not heard. Being a child of God makes me mute.
But listening—that’s something I have years of practice doing. The first sermon I ever heard Rev. Tom Elson preach in Lindsay was about listening, and it entered me. I find now that the more I listen, the more comfort I get, and the more sure I am that whatever the result, virus or no, it is better in the large scheme of things than when I don’t. Sometimes I have to decommission my brain, which is relentless in its perceived mission to know everything, and simply enter (what I call) “don’t know mode.” It’s kinda Zen.
The best thing about entering Don’t Know Mode is that I can see again. The filters come off. The film drops away, and God’s ongoing art shows up. The relationships between objects and people, which seemed immutable before, are free to change, expand, take on new light. Like mornings and evenings in the 10 weeks of greatest day length. Like families and friends. Like death and life.
Trudy Wischemann wants to express her gratitude to all those who make it possible for her to eat, sleep and pray during this deadly time. You can invoice her at P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
– This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.