Well, here I am: two thousand miles away from my baby. I arrived in Collegeville on Monday afternoon, just in time for the barbeque and orientation. There are twelve writers, three workshop leaders, and a handful of preternaturally gracious Institute staffers. The days are scheduled but not overly; mornings are with Eugene Peterson, and afternoons are spent in workshop, discussing one another's writing. There is time for writing, here and there, if you can pull yourself away from the ongoing conversations between participants - there will always be someone in the kitchen ready to keep talking about writing and the pastoral life. Also, the lake: to write, you have to pull yourself away from the lake. Yesterday I skipped lunch (and writing) to go swimming, remembering how much I have loved to swim in a lake. Unwisely, I went alone, and even though there were some kids diving off the pier nearby, I was so overcome with fear of the fish a few feet below my toes that I scrambled back to the sand straightaway. This, after I'd asked the lifeguard if I could swim past the buoys. (This, though I am willing to swim in the Pacific, which has greater dangers than bass.)
I have written. Not yet the magazine article that I intended, but a few reflective pieces and, surprisingly, a poem. The poem felt indulgent. It had a purpose, of course, but no function. Poetry is like that. It refuses to be reduced to the functional, and that is its best grace.
The message this week is that writing is not complimentary to our pastoral lives, or an avocation tacked onto our vocation. Writing is part of our pastoral lives. We don't need permission to write. We don't even need permission to write words that can't be put to good use. We can (must?) simply weave writing into our pastoral lives - a life that can be lived in freedom, not busyness, if we can find a rhythm that works.
I miss Juliette like mad, and her dear redheaded father, too. The quality of this experience is a comfort; at least I didn't leave them for a so-so continuing ed gig. I suspect I will return renewed, with any hope to a household that is moving toward sleeping through the night - a feat I have yet to accomplish in this lonely bed.
And with that: goodnight.