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Saturday, 24 August 2013

August Thoughts

It is hard to believe that August is almost at an end. If I were in the States, colleges and universities would be getting ready for the opening of the new academic year. If I were teaching again, I would be sitting in workshops discussing copyright laws, at-risk-student behaviour and how to deal with it, meeting old and new faculty members, and working on my syllabi.

I lived and worked in academia for so long, that the academic year is my year. When I home schooled, we kept to the academic year scheduling as well, for discipline and balance.

In Europe, of course, as many of you know, the academic year begins much later, much. Bristol did not and does not start until the last week of September.

Cambridge Michaelmas Term begins on October 8th and Oxford's on October 7th or so.

So, for me, this is an ending of summer time and a beginning. or least, the looking forward to the beginning of a new year. The odd combination of endings and beginnings makes one thoughtful, like T. S. Eliot, or Dante, looking at one's life, progress, plans.

But, being in the Dark Night changes all of this. Time becomes a shadow of what it use to be, as time had to be a brilliant, harsh light bending one to timetables and schedules, meetings, and long hours of work.

In the Dark Night, time becomes more fluid and less rigid, as one is living a double life. The interior life becomes so much more important that one is hardly conscious of days, weeks, time...

But, God works in the fluidity, shaping one into something new. The obscurity of the spiritual life works hand-in-hand with daily chores. So I do washing, cleaning, ironing, shopping, talking to strangers who are lonely, praying, writing, reading, doing research, corresponding with many people, and now and then, talking on the phone, but rarely. My days are mostly spent in silence.

In the Dark Night, things happen automatically, as in habitual chores. Such was the case in Tyburn, when I could leave the chapel after Adoration and clean the stairs, hallways, get the rooms ready for guests, and so on, while remaining in silence. Or work in the kitchen, cleaning, setting tables, taking tables down, setting out food, and so on, responding to bells, surrounded in complete silence in order to stay in the interior life, while doing the best job I could do at the same time.

In fact, I think one reason some people find monastic life difficult is that it is the same everyday, all day. Now and then, a special feast or a rare special guest, like an abbot, may change the daily schedule, but all days are the same. And, all years are the same.

My old life of academia-time suits me, as I can anticipate the ebb and flow of working within a larger framework, but I most likely would have adjusted to another time, as I am flexible.

Living on two, or if I count Malta, three islands in this time period, also creates in one, a different sense of time, as well as place.

Ireland has been unusually sunny this summer and very warm, but the normal rain and cold are settling in for the long wet, grey months. The same is true in England, where the autumns merely flow into the winters, although there has been more snow of late.

Island time creates a different rhythm of its own, as one of the characteristics of island people is that they do not stay on the islands all year. I have not talked with one Irish person of any age, English person, or Maltese person. who stay on their isles for twelve months solid.

The pattern of their lives is coming and going out, going and coming back.

Island people understand me and my pilgrim way of life, as they have grown accustomed to this mobile state. But, at heart, I am a continental person, my formation of bones and flesh respond to the beauty of the changing of the four seasons, and the extremes of climate, the changeability of weather. Continentals have a relationship with the land, a sturdiness, a heart connected to the earth. And, I must miss all that....

Interesting, the patch-word quilt of time and place in our I muse in late August.