Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Joy in the Journey

Hazy smoke from the California fires has settled into our canyon. We smell it in the air that is still as a rabbit watching the passage of a slithering snake. Yesterday it was windy and very, very hot (113 degrees) and we lost power at one point. Breaking the stillness inside, Bo, the wire-haired Griffon, leapt from the couch and rushed to the covered deck door, barking, something he rarely does. Jerry opened the door, Bo bolted out and there on the deck was a snake. Jerry thought it was a rattler, yelled for me to bring the .38 which I did but when I got there, he saw that the snake was a bull snake and wouldn’t shoot it. Bo, meanwhile, barked and baited it until it worked its way down the steps then fell through onto the dirt below. The dog barked, I tried to grab him, it made this hissing sound that to me sounded like a rattler, but Jerry insisted it wasn’t and he wasn’t going to shoot a snake that could eat mice (something we’ve seen more of since the cat was lost to coyotes).
Anyway, I finally grabbed Bo and dragged him from the snake; we came back inside sweating now from our exertion in the heat, and pondered our dog’s intention. Had it been a rattler, he might well have been bitten though he seemed to be just the distance necessary to avoid contact. At the very least, I think we’ll get another cat.
So begins our July. The river is still high so we have many more floaters than usual and expect quite a bunch come this Fourth of July weekend. I hope they bring their SPF 30. We’ve completed the first cutting of hay and are irrigating again. I’m home from a week in Grove City near Pittsburgh where I taught at the St. David’s Christian Writer’s Conference, visited with my agent and her book group then flew home for four more events. This is the first full week to be on the ranch since May and I like it, even without power sometimes.
Next week we leave again for Orlando where I’ll attend another writer’s retreat (I don’t have to do anything except write at it J), participate in the Christy Awards banquet, and attend several receptions, breakfasts, and have a signing while at the large trade show. A Tendering in the Storm is a one of three finalists for a Christy. My titles have been finalists for five national awards without being chosen as the winner and that’s all right with me. Jerry will attend the banquet and so will his daughter and son-in-law who we haven’t seen in awhile. Jerry will spend most of his time with his daughter while I’m chattering with other authors, hanging out with publishers, seeing what’s happening in this sometimes strange industry that makes it possible for my books to reach your hands.
Then later in the month I’ll be at Aurora hopefully fact-checking material for the quilt and craft book. It’s a very good life we lead and I am grateful.
The theme of the Pennsylvania conference was “Joy in the Journey” and as it happens, everything seemed to come together for that event with our discovery of joy along our writing way. I got to remind people to think “midwife” and not just wait until we’re published before finding that joy; we need to celebrate successes along the way. I don’t think that refers to the writers among us but to the parents, the teachers, the windmill operators, but for police and politicians, ranchers, laundry mat owners and on-line entrepreneurs as well. Other faculty, Gayle Roper, Barbara Hirshbaum, Lisa Crayton, Sally Stuart, inspired us and laughed with us opening doors to creativity.
Sometimes when I’m traveling (read that ‘journeying’) I don’t take time to enjoy. I’m concerned about getting to the airport on time, getting through security, hoping my bag will fit as a carry-on, wondering if the weather will affect my connection and who my seat companion will be and whether I’ll arrive safely at the other end.
But if I set a new attitude before I travel (the work before the work) it changes the entire journey for me. In Dallas, on the way to PA, the zipper on my favorite purse broke. But when my friend Bobbi Updegraff picked me up, she had a dozen purses for me to choose from, all made by a mission in Honduras that she supports. She travels and writes for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and has a special interest in Honduras where women there make purses from men’s ties. (For $25 you can have one too!). It was perfect! I didn’t even have to go to the mall to get a replacement and my effort helped a mission project in Central America.
At the conference, I found joy in listening to other faculty like Gayle Roper and Barbara Hirshbaum, Lisa Crayton and Sally Stuart and reading first chapters of participants. A couple of fans drove 4 hours from their homes in Ohio to listen to my presentation and we spent time just connecting. I wasn't rushed and so could also walk beside someone who was troubled and pray with her as she took next steps on her writing journey. I nearly froze back there (it was 54 degrees several days!) but I'd thrown in a shawl at the last minute and was fine, just fine.
Coming home, I had a joyful journey too. I sat next to a Texan who was in “gas and oil” and we shared the exit row seats with extra leg room. I got bumped up to that flight and avoided a storm delay. Turns out that oilman hated take-offs and I hate landings so we offered good support to each other.
While at the airport in Dallas, I bought Jerry’s birthday present. Jerry also checked in early at the hotel in Portland so when I called his cell to tell him I was there and couldn’t get through because Mariah had had that cell and it was full, the hotel put me through to him so he could come and get me. And when we got home, Bo was happy to see us both. All things worked on this journey.
Once, earlier in my life, while living in West Bend, WI, I’d made my then husband drive the 40 miles to the airport a day early, rent a motel then show up at 6:00 AM for a noon flight to Florida – before homeland security. The airport wasn’t even open at 6:00 AM! But I was so anxious I pushed us to get there early and so fearful that I wouldn’t know how to manage if something went wrong that I rarely enjoyed those journeys nor even the vacations. Now I do.
So this is a month in which I can encourage you all to remember that things do change; we do survive inconveniences and sometimes even disasters. Small doors open when we take the time to notice them. Rattlesnakes turn out to be friendly bull snakes; and dogs that get close can be caught and brought back. At least sometimes. This time. And smoke in the canyon isn’t always from a close fire; sometimes the smoke is from a trial far away where finding joy is a challenge.
In his song, "Joy in the Journey," Michael Card writes that "there is a wonder and wildness to life, and freedom for those who obey." Perhaps that’s the key this month, to allow the wonder and wildness to permeate the everyday and bring joy to whatever journey you’re on.
Next month I’ll have a new website. I hope you’ll come by. Meanwhile, thanks for your constant support of my work, interest in our lives and prayers for continued joy on our own Starvation Lane journey. Warmly, Jane

1 comment:

The Koala Bear Writer said...

This post was just what I needed... another's perspective on some things that have been on my mind lately. I love the idea of the joy in the journey, but too often I forget it. Thanks.

BTW, looking forward to seeing you in Edmonton in a month or so for the ICWF Fall Conference. :)