Today is the feast day of Guadalupe. For many years, the serenade with mariachis and festive Eucharist we celebrated in Fort Lauderdale was the heart and soul of my Advent preparations. Warm, rich vibrant colors define my memories of these celebrations. This has been a cold week here in Lowndesboro with frost on the grass every morning and most of the trees now stripped bare.
I’ve been folded in on myself for the past few days and a while ago, I was struck by the realization that there are very different, very new images at work on my heart and soul this Advent.
Just last week, this tree still had beautifully colored leaves on it that set it on fire. Now it is stripped down to the essentials of its structure. Watching the wind tear off leaves as the weather changed again over the weekend, I realized there was nothing gentle or sweet about this process of stripping away what was no longer life-giving, no matter how pretty.
In the early part of most afternoons, I hit a small but solid wall. In this new life of ours, I am almost totally responsible for setting my schedule day in and day out. I have been determined to make time matter but that small afternoon wall knocks the wind out of me, makes me question if what I have done since I got up amounts to a hill of beans. Even more insidious is the profound temptation to quit, to give into what in Spanish is called “desidia”. This word is derived from the Latin desidere, which is also the root of the word “desire”. Yet desidia, literally means to abandon one’s post. The translations are indolence, sloth, laziness. None of them are particularly flattering and in fact, what I experience is more about allowing despair and doubt about my ability to live my life with meaning and quality to take hold.
I’ve learned to recognize that wall. There is a profound connection between that sense of the air being let out of my soul and those hyper-critical little voices inside that just won’t hush. Once I made that connection, it became easier not to give into the desidia. I stop and take stock, instead, and make a concerted effort to find something that speaks to me about the meaning, goodness and quality of the life I have now.
On Wednesday afternoon at such a moment, I heard the tractor going and went and stood by the French doors out to the back. Sherod has taken the mower off the tractor and has the mold board plough attached instead. He was ploughing the land where we will plant our first garden next spring. I was struck by the amount of preparation having a garden requires. I went out and looked at the furrows the tractor strained to break the soil into. This hard Alabama clay is not easy to plow and there will be more to do to prepare it to hold and grow a crop of vegetables next year. Somehow, I found that a deeply moving image for Advent.
Finally, Sherod is almost done building the desk unit for the “room with a view” I am privileged to call my own in our new house. I painted the walls and have been restoring a bookcase. There’s a small “Florida Room” kind of space outside this office, unheated and light-filled most days. We put a whole lot of the boxes and stuff we have yet to unpack in that space during the renovation. A lot of what’s out there will go in my new office/work room. The rest needs to get to it’s place indoors because we will need that space to get a head-start on the growing season next spring. Besides, I want to have a nice view looking out as I do my work.
The mess still laying claim to one room, the other where I can already see clearly the clean lines and graceful contours of my workspace, where some of my old book friends already have a place, both fill me with anticipation and determination to keep slogging through, even when its so tempting to curl into something small and meaningless. And somehow that too, is what this Advent is about.
I am wearing layers now, I get cold and the colors I am surrounded by lack much of the vibrancy of the colors of the feast of the Guadalupana. But the hope and the waiting, and darkness pregnant with so many possibilities is here too.
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