Thursday, September 24, 2009

L'Abri One


I’ve been in Greatham, England for about a week and a half, but it feels like I’ve been here for months. Not in a way that’s good or bad—I just feel like I’m in the rhythm of it, I’m learning the place that I’m in and I’m learning it quickly. When I wake up, I expect to wake to a light breeze coming in the window, a dampness, a morning whose grayness brings out the thousand shades of green that we’re surrounded by at the Manor House.

There’s too much to say to tell it all. We work: laundry, gardening, cooking, cleaning, etc. We study, which for me means reading Marilynne Robinson’s Home. We discuss and debate, and the discussions and debates have depth, and weight.

Yesterday, we had a work day. The apples were ripe, and the workers were worried that if we waited any longer, we’d lose some. So we spent the whole day picking apples, peeling them, chopping them, rinsing them in salt water, and packing them into bags to be frozen. But then, some of the apples went to Louise and she made a streudel for the coffee break; and then Edith used the red parts of the peels to make jelly.

The food here is amazing. Every single meal thus far. All of it’s cooked by the workers and helpers, who are from Hungary, South Africa/Holland, England, and Sweden, with us helping them in the kitchen.

One of the workers from Sweden said that she doesn’t understand why anyone ever buys bread, as opposed to making it. Just thinking about the implications of that statement delights me to no end.

Most of the meals are served and eaten in the homes of the workers. And the whole place speaks of hospitality, of welcome.

It hasn’t been without its difficulties, which I think will become much more pronounced as the term goes on. You live in a house with 30 people or so. You eat every meal with them, you live with them, you debate with them, you work with them. You see them all day, they’re in the room with you as you go to sleep, and they’re there when you wake up. There’s a lot of room for discord.

But at the same time, there’s a grace in it all. It’s hard to explain.

It’s going well, I suppose, is the best way to say it all. It’s going really well.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Country Roads

To say that things have changed over the past weeks would be a vast understatement. Right now I'm sitting in my parents' home in Knoxville, reflecting on the few short weeks I've been in the US. Tomorrow, I leave for England.

There's a lot to say, but I think I'll leave most of it unsaid. I've enjoyed so many cups of coffee or tea, so many important conversations. I've shared so much life with people, really, since I've been home. I don't think I could have asked for more. Thank you all for your kindnesses. Ultimately, for your love.

For a long time, my heart hadn't been in a very good place. Many were praying for healing. Be glad to know that their prayers, like mine, have not gone unheard.

And being here--something about this place still commands my attention. A country road. Horses standing against a fence. A line of trees on a hill, perfectly straight, across a meadow. Forests that swallow your car whole, sending down only speckled sunlight. A broad lake. The mist that rises from it, the life that moves inside it. And all those same things by the different light and scent of night.

There is something significant about knowing a small, winding road. How your hands move the steering wheel in anticipation of a curve. How your body articulates a reaction before your mind knows to need it. And how it can be this way with not only roads but people, not only routes but communities. And somehow, in a way that's difficult to describe, they become home, and seeing them feels like pulling into your parents' driveway.

I'm ready to see the life of the English countryside. I'll be glad to learn to live within it. And hopefully I'll have time to share here a little about the new roads I'm learning. Far away, yet again, from the ones I know.