What do humans do on a rainy Sunday afternoon? Staring across the marsh, its surface battered and pummeled by rain, looking over the berm towards the choppy waters of the Strait of Georgia where it feeds into Rosario Strait off the northern tip of Orcas Island, it occurs to me that I have no reason not to stay in my dry living room, listening to classical music while reading the New York Times.
I've read the NYT every day since the late 80's when my career took a turn into the chaotic waters of talk radio. Today I stopped three places before I found my Sunday NYT. Country Corner and Ray's Pharmacy were both out. Darvill's bookstore had only two left and I was told I was lucky, "they're usually all gone by 11 AM." It was already 2:30 PM. At Ray's they groused, "probably the tourists snapped them up." The Sunday NYT is it for the island--the daily version are only delivered by mail (takes over a week) unless you have it fedexed--for an annual cost somewhere in the neighborhood of leasing Lamborghini.
My conservative friends will be chiming in with sarcastic comments about the unlined birdcage and such, but the fact is reading the NYT everyday, the paper version, not online, has become part of my intellectual and cultural mix, which when spiritual meditations are mixed in, are substantial fodder for my integrative thinking. Meanwhile back to staying indoors on Sunday.
In AmeriKa (what my island friend Tom calls the mainland) such a leisurely meandering respite would seem like a guilty pleasure--so many other things I should be doing--socializing, seeing the latest film, eating out, shopping. Here where life operates at a slower pace, a rainy day, especially on Sunday, is an invitation to do what humans are meant to do on such a day. Stay in. Stay warm. Be fed--physically, spiritually and intellectually.
I've just returned to the island after a two-week whirlwind. I moderated the International Arts Movement in NYC (where among other things I interviewed Irish poet Micheal O'Siadhai and artist Mako Fujimura). Nigel Goodwin and I headed off to Jacks Swiss Chalet in Cle Elum Washington, where with Marty O'Donnell, we co-hosted a weekend Kindlings Hearth Retreat with ten artists, writers, filmmakers & others. We then returned to Seattle where I hosted the live The Kindlings Muse @ Hales (on the Bono-fication of Christianity), The Kindlings Muse @ the Cs Lewis Centre (Burke Museum Cafe on the UW Campus) and taped The Kindlings Muse @ The Movies.
Sometimes islanders envy the richness of my off-island life and I always tell them I am weary of being off-island. I think they suspect I could not savor island life were it not spiced up with the off island forays.
But I recall my earliest days as a child in a small Southern Oregon logging town (Bly, population of 600 at the time) and these are the shaping days for me. One paved road, a colorful assortment of interesting folks, no societal distractions, no diversions--only a rugged natural setting in which to be human.
I remember in the summer an ornithologist visiting summers to track some Sand Hill Cranes, a local was an international expert on fungi/mushrooms, a man there invented a piece of logging equipment that revolutionized the industry. Ruby, the grey haired woman next door was the schoolteacher and her son had left town to become the CEO of a major grocery chain. One day a huge tree, big enough to fill the entire trailer of the logging truck, was brought into the mill. Everybody in town gathered to see it. Entertainment was real, local and free.
A rainy Sunday for us here on Orcas is about quiet pursuits off the beaten track, with people we like and don't like and always keenly aware that we need to coexist on this rock we called Orcas. We renew our spirits on this rainy day so tomorrow we can get back at the work of stewarding the patch of earth and maintaining our neighborliness in a place where the longest drive is 25-30 minutes, there are no stop lights and pretty much everybody knows your name.
Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.