Thursday, August 11, 2011

Anticipating the taste of THIS place

Sleep dissipated before the night. It is a common problem when sleeping in a different time zone. The body can't decide whether to believe itself or the hands on the clock. After thrashing the sheets for awhile in physical debate I finally opted to split the difference -- too early to get up in Portland but past time in Des Moines. It's just as well. A little quiet time at the beginning of this day is a pleasant derivative of an aborted night.

We all arrived on schedule -- perhaps 15 minutes apart -- and found each other in the airport baggage claim for this our fourth and final Terroir retreat. It has been quite a ride these past 2 years -- and at least for me, quite life changing. This grant-funded experience that the four of us agreed to make a play on with no expectation that our application would be favorably received has taken us to upstate New York, eastern Vermont, downtown Chicago, and now Portland, Oregon. Along the way we have met some fascinating ministers, artful and thoughtful chefs, and passionate and sensitive farmers, all with an ear for hearing what they had to teach us about the uniqueness of locale -- the taste of place. And in the course of things, we four -- one from Oklahoma living in Texas, one from Texas living in Iowa, and two Iowans, a blend of United Methodist and Disciples -- have had a lot of fun in each other's presence and care.

It's hard to imagine the experience coming to an end. For the past two years it has been one of the "big rocks" in my pile -- first writing the grant proposal, then waiting to hear from the grant selection committee; designing and booking each excursion; reading the preparatory books in advance; and then savoring the trips.

And as I hinted, along the way my center of gravity has shifted. In a way that I can't help but assume is part of the purpose and hope of the grant program, I am a fundamentally different person as a result of all we have passed through together. I see differently. I think differently. I eat differently. The way I practice what I do is different, but moreover, I am in the process of dramatically changing the very "it" of what it is that I do.

All of which is to say that this study in Terroir will hardly be over at the end of this weekend only now commencing. There is much to contemplate, much to pray about and consider, much to write and much to share.

But all of that will have to wait. The sun has finally come up, and the experience -- this final experience -- is set to begin, offering some lesson on the taste of THIS place.

Monday, August 8, 2011

More than a few of the details are still missing

I know, I know, I should have been writing about all this.  Since the seeds and seedlings went into the ground the summer has washed by in a Monet-like blur -- clear enough to recognize the general shapes and impressions, but seldom enough to discern the details.  But as with the heat that has finally broken -- at least for the present -- accompanied by some liberating rains, perhaps enough has shifted in me to allow a few more words, here and there, to emerge and dare to bear a little fruit.

A lot has happened, after all.  Since the first of May I have resigned my job -- the 19-year expression of a vocation I commenced 30 years ago this December; we planted a garden as the first down-payment on a new field of study and ministry; bought a farm south of town, readied our house to sell and officially got it on the market; undertaken the arduous journey of transitioning out of pastoral relationships and roles, and now prepare for the final few weeks as Senior Minister of First Christian Church of Des Moines.  From the gardens as well as the church there has been fruit to harvest -- okra, swiss chard, lettuce, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, radishes, cucumbers, beets, beans and onions from the former; new members and heart-felt expressions from the latter.  And it has been profoundly good -- if more than a little physically and emotionally exhausting.  We have been lost in the morass of transition through which we are only beginning to find our way.  There is still plenty to be done -- more than seems possible in the allotted time -- but we are also beginning to make out the Monet-like shapes of the life beyond, trusting that eventually the Impressionism will transition into Realism.