Last year, in early January, as I began training for the half marathon walk I participated in with my friend Marsha, folks in my circle of web friendship were finding a word to claim for 2013 and though I had not planned to choose one, I did. I wrote a post about that word here. It was way more prescient than I would have wished for. I am grateful for the endurance that allowed me to walk in that half marathon, I am grateful for an amazing community that made it possible to endure through very hard times at the end of the year. I am grateful for the enduring love between Sherod and me and what I have learned about endurance with him.
Last night I began my ‘formal training’ for a new half-marathon, this one in Nashville in early March. There’s all kinds of symmetry happening, since I lived in Nashville and went to Vanderbilt, dropped out and haven’t been back since the late 80’s. As I walked, not a word so much as a phrase insinuated itself into my thinking: Cultivate Joy. Doing my regular etymology schtick, I found all kinds of layers of meaning for this phrase. Cultivate derives from the Latin cultivare word that means “to till”. In turn, cultivare is a derivation of cultus–care, labor, reverence, worship.
On Saturday afternoon, I spent some time opening furrows in the planter I gave Sherod and then planted lettuce seeds. I also have this tray of mini-planters to germinate some of the heirloom tomato seeds as well as some of the more delicate lettuce with names like Jaune Flamme tomato and Freckles Lettuce. My nails were crusted with dirt, the smell of loam lingered for me and there was that wonderful sense of anticipation and impatience-. Grow already; let me see what you are going to be! Cultivate–to grow, to care and labor for, to deepen a capacity for reverence. It is all so incarnational, so much about effort, commitment, and in the end, gifts and fruit. I already find myself fantasizing about picking a fresh tomato and coming in to make me a ‘mater sandwich still warmed by the sun. I used to do that with my friend Carolyn in Dalton (Ga) and then with Sherod in Alabama and Tennessee. With company, and a fresh loaf of bread–pure banquet.
So cultivate joy. That’s my phrase and work for 2014. I cultivated joy in these past two days in these ways:
–Spending time at a bus stop just trying to pay attention to the people who were waiting for buses or got off of them. There was one young woman in particular whose features just looked wooden with the burdens of life. We made eye contact, I smiled and all of a sudden her face lit up and she was so beautiful.
–Talking to members of the discernment committee of the church that had been considering me to be their rector. Generous, curious, brave, several have reached out to let me know how disappointed they were that I withdrew my name from their process, eager to ask if we could stay in conversation so when Sherod and I get to Alabama there might be a way for me to help them as they try to find a way to welcome Latinos to their community.
–Connecting with my friends Robin, and Joe, knowing how easily I tend to self isolate and what an amazing chance I have with my new work situation to not let that happen.
–Starting my training for that new half marathon on March 8. It felt like I just zipped down the street, listening to Mason Williams and Lindsey Stirling. I made good time and grinned remembering what it was like crossing the finish line in B’ham and hugging my friend Marsha.
Joy. That sounds like this: