The season between seasons
November 15, 2013
I am looking for the well. I used to know just where to look when I was younger. I used to find a church with a charismatic preacher who made me question and filled me with gratitude and who taught me the whole concept of grace. When he left, or I left, or church became filled with pious people, burdened with rules and brimstone, I moved on.
I went to sunrise services on the top of the mountain at Snowbird. High in the tram in the dark. Stumbling to the light. Waiting together… fewer than 50 of us… for the sun to rise and the feeling of awe to hit me with a beam. But that was a one year wonder. It was bitter cold also and the wind blew and we arrived down the hill at a diner in Salt Lake City, starving, freezing, before seven in the morning.
There are still moments — dusk and dawn — when I catch something that has me feeling I am small and the world is large and I am blessed to go this way. But when Churchill’s big black dog comes wandering towards my porch, I look around in a slight panic. Where do I go? Books aren’t the same refuge they once were, though I still read more than I eat. Movies rarely inspire now or lift me. I laugh. I feel anxious and tense with great rushes of adrenaline. I feel enormous sadness for man’s inhumanity to man. But the "wow" and the surprise and the feel good-ness… rare.
I have read a few articles, in real publications — like the New York Times and Time and others I still prefer offline and folded back and crumpled in bed. And there is a conversation out there about the growth of fantasy from full-on science fiction to zombies to fairy tale television stories that have been fractured and futurized. And the popular thought is that as we have collectively grown away from organized religion we have looked desperately for a replacement. We want wonder and disbelief and magic. The way we once felt in the presence of the holy. When we recognized the holy.
We are days away from Hanukkah, which falls on Thanksgiving. One is late, one is early and in the land where nothing seems unique anymore they are both on the same day this year. Christmas, the remembered time of quiet joy and anticipation, real advent, started in big box stores before Halloween. Can the commercialization of Winter Solstice be far behind? Separating the spiritual, the sacred, the battery-operated sparkle becomes more difficult.
I’m not the only one worn out by it all. I’m not. And it isn’t just a generational thing. Thirty-somethings seem as annoyed and perplexed as sixty-somethings. The busyness, the clamor, the rushing, the feigned closeness, it all becomes more Styrofoam feelings in a pile. Replaceable, temporary, ungracious, unceremonial. The elegance of time of genuine leisure seems archaic, quaint but so old-fashioned. It is easier to plan the dinner out than the dinner in. Let a business prepare your holiday meal and sit in a large room with strangers dressed in fine clothes, where more strangers serve you food, you had zero to do with, to prepare the feast of gratitude.
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The kitchen is underused and the dining table, a place to catch mail or display artwork. Pies and potatoes and over-stuffed birds and the conversations that surround them are no longer a universal expectation within a certain income level. The ability to let time unfold and relationships do the same is rare, so rare as to be sacred all its own.
Being connected is clearly a priority but rarely an emotional one. Our handheld cordless phones ring or buzz or play notes from a song to interrupt conversations, to alert us we have incoming conversations or little notes we should pay attention to, at once. Real notes, hand-written, ink to paper, are no longer the expected communication after a kindness has been offered, received and connected. The text message "thx" serves as enough.
It is any wonder we have lost wonder.
Amazement, sure. New gadgets and gizmos wow us weekly. New discoveries in the oceans, the glaciers, the level of everything floating in the sky. The weather somehow feeling in line with technology, so it fails to move us when yet another hurricane, typhoon, avalanche or tsunami blows into our consciousness. We become hardened and inured to thousands who have been hit by tragedy because just last week there thousands hit by tragedy and the week before there were thousands hit by tragedy and the sum of all the suffering would be too much to feel if we ever stopped running from it. It would force action. It would force attention instead deficit disordering the order we have created.
This season-between-seasons can be hard. It can create spaces where questions can emerge that make us uncomfortable. Quiet can be new luxury. Escape from devices, the new indulgence. Conversations and home-cooked meals with just a few friends and/or family members, the real connections with devices muted, if only for hours. The strong and the brave will find ways to sincerely get back to basics in such a way as to re-grow heartfelt genuine connections. And the well… the well… shall tap into aquifers of kindness.
I’m gonna polish up and off a few traditional connections this weekend and see if I can’t prime the pump. The well itself needs attention and I respect that and plan to honor that this very Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.