Sabbatical Journal June 2008 John Calvi
It took a month to get the annual Beethoven Letter out- much longer than usual. Partly because my office systems were not kept up over the last few years with all my QUIT work, so address updates delayed me. Also I’ve 3 different computer programs for Email, paper mail addresses, and bookkeeping so it’s hard to find and keep complete records. The return to desk work cramped my brain with details and deadlines. Amidst this was a death in the family and giving the eulogy before my large family in my hometown small Catholic church where I had first communion in 1958. Sabbatical was derailed getting out the annual letter and as I cared for beloved cousins and waded through my own history of family in hometown.
Now it is early June and I am back working outside and it is a tremendous relief to both my body and mind. At the edge of my thinking is how will I return to the work of ending torture. What are the parts I am lead to and best at, what parts wear me down, and how to reenter the dance. But all this is only wondering without deep seeking or research , so as not to interrupt rest. But each day it comes to mind. Mostly my mind is removed for this but not entirely, not for long.
We’ve a few acres of meadow on a south-facing slope surrounded by pine, hemlock, and hardwoods. The meadow lies below the house where the slope continues into the woods down to a beaver pond and further downhill to a college for learning disabled young adults. Our field is being taken over by an invasive species of shrub called Buckthorn- a European import used to make hedgerows. We’ve rented a walk-behind brush hog that will cut small trees and I’ll take 2 days to schlep this noisy thing up and down hill and force back the onslaught. I remember hearing tales of Findhorn and certain plants asked to thin out or become more plentiful- would be lovely to work at that level. My spiritual communication is less than that.
I’ve been clearing a triangle of land above the house between the driveway and the road where two trees were taken down. I’ve gathered the logs for firewood and now am hauling the branches off into the woods hoping the deer will use them for windbreaks in the long winters. But I’ve started too late and each branch is entwined with briars, vines, and more Buckthorn making each move a tug of war until I find my footing, summon all my stubbornness- never really an issue as some know, and haul off another limb to be stacked. It would be lovely to put all this through a chipper and spread it below the 30 high bush blueberries we have at the bottom of the field, but that’s not a choice for now as this must be done quickly.
This afternoon I began to clear the old garden bed where we grew vegetables before 3 things got in the way- 1- a woodchuck who ate everything, including jalapenos, but the tomatoes and basil. 2- Marshall’s second masters meant he had no time for anything but working, eating, and sleeping. 3- I took on the QUIT work and gave up the gardens and yard. The whole outside around the house looked so abandoned that the deer began to live right up next to the house and thought it rude when we came out the door. The crack in the outhouse framing causing an updraft is another story, soon to be history.
I found 2 snakes who preferred I not retake the garden and I uncovered a pile of rocks that I will make into a stonewall if all goes well this summer. As my energy ebbed I settled into painting some plywood for an outdoor table and taking down 3 wind chimes for repair. Yards of fish line and a couple hours later, they’re ready to go back outside. One chime is particularly wonderful- it plays the chord outlawed by the Catholic church called the Devil’s tri-tone which evokes doubt, questions authority, and brings one out of settled patterns- quite subversive for a few notes!
I’ve two challenges at this point half way through my sabbatical- first - keeping the disciplines of physical work each day, staying hours outside and working my body hard. And the discipline of eating less heavy to lose weight, regain muscle tone, and lower blood pressure. While I can claim more capacity for stubborn when I decide to do something, I have a hard time changing patterns. I spent half my life underweight. And now to have to work to regain my body is more or less a shock as though I suddenly find myself in Japan and having to find a way home- quite odd. Second is finding ways to keep reverence before me in palpable ways. I’ve spent decades surrendering to spiritual guidance to do hands-on healing work. This process has meant being washed as I seek to make a gift to another. And now, without the urgency of another’s pain, I am having to find the stillness to bring this washing upon myself and interrupt the daily noises of life in the world. Really, it’s sort of like doing something left-handed for the first time- not impossible, but takes some thinking, some thoughtfulness, and some patience. Both these disciplines are so out of pattern to the life I’ve built over these past 25 years of healing work that I’m having to navigate new waters and set new ways of being. Instead of having just enough energy to do the work of healing/teaching/on-the-road/QUIT, now I am working to rest as much as I need and then work as much as possible but none of the previous work and none of the previous ways. Keeping all this in mind always is a push.
I made good progress on this while painting the upstairs, loss some of this while getting out the B-letter, but now I am back in the groove and hoping to stay groovy. It helps that summer is my favorite time and that my body is responding so well as I do work. I can feel my posture shift and muscle tone restored more each day. I’m feeling very blessed to be here now.