Technically, one of these is a noun, and two verbs, denoting some action. The truth in life for me is that all of them are actions, all require work. As in most things in life, there are things we plan to do, those that get handed to us along the way, and those things we never anticipated. This was true of becoming a bishop, and the same is true for most new things you take on in life. It is true for this sabbatical. Of course, if you are following this at all, you know the plan was to learn Spanish and Surfing. That has definitely come to pass. What wasn’t planned was a move, from our current house to a new place. To be exact, from a big house, to a small condo: thus the downsizing. For all the right reasons the Diocesan Board made the decision to do this and the sabbatical time seemed like the right time. So far, that is bearing out and we, as a family, are quite excited about something we had talked of doing at some point, and now find rather abruptly upon us. More about all of that later.
Our first venture was to the School of the World in Jaco’, Costa Rica. We traveled out on July 7th and on our plane, which we did not know ahead of time, were the combined youth groups from the east side who were headed toward their mission trip in Mississippi, so we had some Olympia companions on the first part of our journey!
When I booked the time at the School of the World and read on Trip Advisor and Yahoo the reviews, which were glowing, I thought something must be up! But I have to say, it is all true. It is a most wonderful place. We shared the community literally with people from all over the world: Scotland, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Congo, Switzerland, Germany, St. Thomas, VI, Holland, Australia, and of course, the USA. We were immersed in the beautiful country and people of Costa Rica. It was a life changing experience for my family. We learned more about a new country, a new people, and about ourselves. We all stretched into new things, a new language, and new experiences. (Incidentally, because I know the question will come up, the Diocese did not pay any of the expenses for my family. Those expenses were born entirely out of our family funds.)
There is actually so much to tell about this time which is finally underway. Blogs are supposed to be short and to the point and I am struggling with that, so I should be clear this will be in installments, what a blog I guess always is, snippets of a much longer and ongoing story. I suspect out of these three, surfing and downsizing will be short lived realities, something for now. I don’t intend to downsize or move anytime soon, and I don’t see myself surfing on a regular basis around here either. Spanish on the other hand, well, that is, and should be, a lifelong endeavor. And the reading on First Nations is going along all during this. I am currently reading Alice Kehoe’s, North American Indians, and have many others on my reading list.
So, more about Spanish later, more about downsizing later, and First Nations reading, but for today, since I put out that Facebook profile picture of me holding a surf board (which has garnered some attention and lots of questions), I will address surfing.
There are more metaphors in my experience with surfing than could possibly ever be used in today’s post. There is a list of upcoming ones. I hope, for your sake, I do not overuse them. Should I, please do not hesitate to let me know. Primarily, I want to admit, like in many things in life, that I made a lot of assumptions about surfing. Assumptions that fall away about the first time you pick up a board and begin to walk out into the surf.
When I posted the new profile picture yesterday of myself holding a board, expertly shot by my son Austin, (who, while I was learning surfing was learning digital photography and has become quite adept at it if I do say so myself,) I received a few comments to the effect of “you are only holding a board, the hardest part is actually standing up on it, let’s see some of those!” At first I was indignant, thinking, “spoken by someone who has never done it!” And then realized, that, four weeks ago, I would have said the same!
Remember, in all of this, that I turned 50 just before leaving on sabbatical. I received my AARP card just days before departure, and I was the “old man” of the surfing bunch, with most of the rest in their 20s and some 30s. I was actually standing on a board the first day out. It wasn’t pretty, mind you, but I did it. Of course, the board was 12 feet long, had a bathroom and kitchen on board, and was affectionately known as the “Titanic!” I called it the aircraft carrier. I needed a trailer just to launch it into the water. My three week lessons brought me down to a 9.6 foot board, which you see me holding in that FB profile picture. We surfed two hours a day, sometimes at 6 a.m., sometimes at 4 p.m. The School of the World sets the schedule for all of its classes each week: Spanish, yoga, digital photography, around the tides. Surfing is best at high tide and so we bend and mold to it.
The truth is: standing on the board is not the hardest part at all. The hardest parts come all along the way. The hardest parts are getting yourself to that moment, that brief miraculous coming together of many things, where the only thing you get is the chance to try. I suspected I would find lots of analogies of where we find ourselves in the church today. I surely did. They may be stretches, but I intend to take a stab at them in the next few months.
Until then, here is a picture of me, one of many, where I was blessed enough to make good on that brief moment, and was up on the board. So for you of little faith… a bit of proof!