Getting away, staying present

A friend who recently moved to Portland, Oregon, posts pictures of Lenten roses blooming right on cue, at the beginning of Lent. Shall I post pictures of yet another Southwest Michigan lake-effect snow? I am tired of snow pictures, mine and everybody else’s.

At mid-February I envy anyone who is seeing signs of spring or living or traveling in warm sunshine. I love the upper Midwest three-quarters of the year but in late winter, get me outta here.

This year our getaway is in early March, to Italy via Istanbul. Our Istanbul guide points out that the Blue Mosque will be closed for prayers Friday morning but open for tourists in the afternoon and asks whether we like seafood. After two days there (Turkish Airlines had the best ticket deals) we are meeting our son and his wife in Rome and driving a few hours north to an old Tuscan town, where we’ll hang out for a week eating great food, drinking great wine, and exploring cobbled streets. Our son has found a classy flat on Air B&B.

Need I say I can’t wait? That Friday in Istanbul is three weeks from yesterday. I am having difficulty living in the present (slippery roads, temperatures in the teens). Instead, I am mentally fast-forwarding, booking hotels, car rental, even printing a map to get from Leonardo da Vinci airport to our Rome overnight hotel. I have shopped for a few bright springy sweaters and comfy walking shoes.

I needed a trench coat and was miffed to find department stores still stacked with winter coats that they are trying to unload. I found one acceptable coat, which was too big, so I’m altering it. No sewing job is more complicated than altering a coat but even this tedious task gives me pleasure because it is for the trip. That will take up this snowy afternoon. I bought a pot of hyacinths at the grocery store to remind me that spring is right around the corner, even if I have to travel halfway around the world to meet it.

But staying present despite dissatisfaction of all kinds is a worthy Lenten practice, even though I’m not very good at it right now. This poem comes across the social network:


“If you belong to God,
command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

—Luke 4.3

And then this boring meeting to become a circus,
this flabby body to become a work of art,
this life to become something else.

You can spend your life (oh, how we do)
inside a bubble of judgments and desires,
and never know even a simple stone.

No, stay here.
Let the stone be a stone,
the traffic be traffic.

Even this broken life,
this troubled soul,
this difficult time.

Otherwise how can a joy be joy,
a wonder a wonder?
Life is this, not something else.

This is the mystery of the fast,
the hungry day that is a hungry day,
free from the dictates of desire.

Nothing needs to be what it isn’t.
There is glory enough in the stone.
And in you, already a child of God.

You can’t command the transformation,
but only present yourself to God,
who can.

Just smile at Satan and say,
“No thanks.
I’m good.”

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light



One thought on “Getting away, staying present

  1. Pingback: Kneed | the practical mystic

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s