We often imagine living in a heavenly place, somewhere where we consider we are always on vacation, away from chores and responsibilities, where we enjoy ourselves devoid of day-to-day hassles.
Such was such a day recently on a boat trip to Catalina, the wonderful channel island just offshore from the Southern Californian coastline. The weather was perfect, an almost calm ocean, an escort of dolphins for a while, and a day filled with beach weather, cycling and sightseeing up and down the Catalina hills. It was the sort of excursion that makes you feel the need for a “mental health” day and be filled with thankfulness for our lives.
On the way back to the boat, the pilot on the water taxi was asked the question, “do you live here full time.” She retorted with almost a hysteric response; “I get that question all the time” … “I wonder why people think I am so different from them just because I live here?” She was obviously disturbed, and it turned out this was the umpteenth time she had been asked the question today. After a little exchange, we explained because it is so beautiful on the island there was a certain amount of admiration and envy in the question, the questioner imagining himself living each day like the one we had just enjoyed.
Of course, for us, as day-trippers, the day was filled without agenda, deadlines and responsibilities, not so for the water taxi pilot. She had a working day, albeit on a beautiful island, still a working day.
A little further into the conversation, she noted that she always felt sad when leaving the island, indicating she also had a great affinity for the place and described how she met her obligations to see the family on the mainland but left with sadness as a result. The detachment was clearly felt on her face and emotions. She had gotten herself, perhaps by accident, into a conversation that went deep into her heart.
As we look for those days of retreat, searching for refreshment we could consider how God helps us in the process. Do we not find ourselves almost in immediate wonder, gratitude, reflection and consideration of our lives as soon as we can slow down? Does not the change of scenery help us appreciate our own, and force our minds and hearts into a different zone? Is this not why you make time for a retreat each year?
Perhaps this week, we can set aside some special time for one of those sacred places in your lives, and sit there a while with God. It might not be far, on a porch, a motorcycle, a second coffee on a Sunday morning. Give up some minutes for a micro-retreat in your everyday life; and then be grateful for all we have.
Searching for Avalon
How did I end up here, in Avalon?
I am sure it could not have found it alone,
For such fortune cannot be sought, only given.
Whatever the path, I am grateful.
For leaving is painful, made tolerable only by knowing I will return.
Copyright 2019 Reflection, poem and photography by Michael J. Cunningham OFS