By Sister Nancy Surma, OSF
Here I sit in northern Michigan, south of Traverse City by a half hour’s ride. My brother and sister-in-law asked me to dog and house-sit while they spend a long weekend on Mackinac Island. I gladly agreed, knowing this time of year is the height of the color season in this part of Michigan. For weeks I’ve anticipated the time here—peaceful, away from the stress of work—with sunny skies that allow me to soak in the color and glory of creation that happens only in autumn.
Alas, the reality has been somewhat different. Dolly has been just what I have come to know over the years. A golden retriever, she sleeps alongside my bed and looks up with big, beautiful eyes when it is time for food or a walk. She is a fine companion. It is the weather and my uninterrupted time that cross me up. For the four days I have been up north, there has been a total of 27 minutes of sunshine. The rest of the time has seen heavy clouds punctuated with occasional drizzle and one hard storm. Where is the blue sky that was to offset the golden and red colors of the trees?
And the quiet and relaxation that I ached for has also been punctuated with a steady stream of emails and texts from work along with some phone calls to take care of necessary business. Even the writing of this blog presses in, with its completion due just as I finish my time away.
How often I experience this same anticipation of perfection only to be brought low by the reality of imperfection. It happens with projects I work on, activities I plan, flowers I tend do, sharing with friends I look to for understanding, and on and on. I know the answer I should hold in my heart. It comes in St. Augustine’s famous Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Yes, remembering that does help me to think of life beyond death, to the time when (I hope) I will see God face-to-face. I know heaven will bring the satisfaction of every longing as we are filled with God’s love and life.
But how do I handle all this now while I live a life which I hope is many years away from ending? As I drove through the gloom with the trees in various shades of autumn all around me, something came to my attention that offered something for the here and now. The muted light gave the leaves a different look, almost a glow of golden light. It was diffuse and subtle, not the riot of color I would have seen had a high pressure system been sitting overhead. There was an aura of mystery and peace in the gentle tones. The beauty was there, but it was different than what I expected and had to be approached through different eyes.
And my interruptions, what good can I find hidden in them? That takes a longer time to tease out, a task I am not finished with yet. I suspect it has to do with having meaningful work that is a blessing which allows me to participating in God’s work. I guess I’ll have to ponder this more after I take Dolly out for a walk. She’s stirring and looking at me with those eyes.