Dad and I are settling into a rhythm, and after several indulgent days of lazing and slothing, we are becoming more active, exploring our surroundings and adhering, somewhat, to a rhythm of life. A personal rhythm of life--the term adopted from St Benedict's Rule of Life--is designed to help us listen for, and be faithful to, the best in ourselves, and walk with the Holy every day. My personal rhythm of life includes physical exercise, spending time outdoors, writing, reading, creating, intentional prayer time, and joyful care for others. These are things I know uplift and sustain my growth as a Person, and thus, my relationship with God. Or, perhaps, the truth comes in reverse order. Which makes me happy and fulfilled, the thing that we cannot be without God (to our knowing or not). It is a marvelous gift of The Church, rooted in faith and discipline and The Spirit, but like so many of its best gifts, The Church keeps it hidden in dusty drawers and shadowy closets, only to be used when the most devout seek it out on their own. Imagine if The Church introduced itself to people by saying "we understand what you're feeling and thirsting for, and establishing a rhythm/rule of life is one of the best ways to help you achieve peace, love, and grace, because God WANTS those things for you" instead of "now we turn to page three hundred and whatever for the confession of sin. Make sure to feel extra guilty. You should kneel for this one (because of the extra guilt), but later on you can either stand OR kneel, so long as you first hesitate and then just do whatever the person next to you does."
So in our daily rhythm we rise and read the Washington Post over coffee (oh blessed Washington Post how I've missed you-the New Orleans papers are cute but provincial and laced with AP briefs), often on our front porch in rocking chairs, nodding to the few cars that pass by. We discuss the day, whatever is in the paper, and either retire inside for more reading (and Internet time) or get to the plans of the day. Afternoons almost always afford a nap, which really is a beautiful thing. We even act like we earn it. On the way back from a two mile walk a couple days ago, "we are really earning our nap today." "Yes, I totally agree. We are seriously earning that nap with this walk."
I have missed dearly being among the mountains, and daily life here provides many opportunities to gaze into the middle distance and dream, imagine, and wonder. These are crucial elements to a life well-lived, and came with the natural rhythm of my life in Virginia, and even in New Orleans until my last couple years there. But living here even the day to day encounters with the woods, old broken-down farmhouses, and ghosts of glory are a doorway to dream.
A few days ago we found ourselves at a town-wide lawn party in Timberville to benefit the fire department and celebrate the end of school in the county. A friend's son, just out of college, played in the bluegrass band, and during a set break he came over and sat beside us. "Y'all sound great." "Thanks." "You done any fishing lately?" "Yeah, I was out on the river last week. Lost count of how many I caught over 16 inches. I take the kayak and float down mostly these days. Y'all want me to take you out next week?" "That would be awesome, yes, lets do it." "Alright, I'll call my buddy to get an extra kayak and we'll go. Lets do it Monday." "Thanks so much, looking forward to it." "Glad to do it."
The lawn party was actually a small carnival, with little mechanical rides and games like the dart toss, fishbowl ring toss (win a fish!) and cheap food ($1.25 for a burger), all stations manned by members of the fire department, most of them young guys. The later we stayed the more the younger folks streamed in, pastelled and camouflaged, to troll the grounds in packs and celebrate the freedom and wildness of a teenage summer. Valley life is beautiful that way, generations mixing together; the old blue hairs passing time in the bingo tent; parents lining up their kids for the tilt-a-whirl; and the adolescents roving in bands of sexually frustrated energy, pointing and darting behind corners.
On our way out we stopped by for some frozen yogurt at a shack off main street and picked up a few groceries for the next couple days. We took route 42 home, past those farmhouses and along a ridge that gave us a view of the little valleys on either side as the sun slanted its smile just over the mountains and cast down a pale shadow over the pastures. "Nothing more beautiful than this." "Nope. This is glorious."
Many Miles Ahead, at the Timberville Lawn Party