Monday, March 08, 2010

Just one breath away from being home

(The two italicized quotes in this post come from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.)

The Lenten tradition is associated, in the cultural mainstream, with giving up meat or chocolate or even Facebook, now that the latter has become such an addictive phenomenon. However, traditionally, it's associated not merely with deliberately punishing one's epicurean sensibilities, but with penitence and spiritual renewal. It's a time for repentance, though not necessarily the most abject, self-flagellating variety. (It's the kind of repentance a favorite teacher of mine used to espouse. When a student would come in late, spouting excuses and justifications, my teacher would smile kindly and say, without rancor, "You don't have to explain. Just say 'I'm sorry I'm late,' and take a seat.") It's also a time to remember that, as Jesus wandered for forty days in the wilderness, so too we wander in our own spiritual, mental, and emotional wildernesses.

And, oh, how complacent a wilderness can make a person. It's not about wanting to be in such a place; it's about not having the energy, courage, or gumption to leave. As I mentioned before, I became extremely sick with the H1N1 virus, on the heels of which followed pneumonia. Although I may joke here and there about coming close to dying, it's truer in a sense than I sometimes admit. Part of me did die with that illness—the slothful indolence that allowed me to continue going down a slow road to nowhere. I came back to Blacksburg in December, after being gone for a month, and realized that as much as I love my friends and my church, I was staying put for the wrong reasons.

"My heart is a traitor," the boy said to the alchemist. "It doesn't want me to go on."
"That makes sense," the alchemist said. "Naturally it's afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you've won."
"Well, then, why should I listen to my heart?"
"Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you're thinking about life and the world...you will never be able to escape from your heart. So it's better to listen to what it has to say."

Back in January, right around the time I wrote the Avatar review, I had been visiting Floyd over the course of two weeks. The county and the town have fascinated me for some time, and something—call it whatever sounds most appealing: the Holy Spirit, the ordering principle of the universe, serendipity, those are all good terms—told me, "You need a break. Go explore Floyd." Actually, what I set out to do was drive on the Parkway and get a cup of coffee at one of the two coffeehouses in Floyd. (The fact that this town has a population of four hundred and contains two coffeehouses should give some idea as to why I liked it from the start.)

However, the Parkway was closed due to snow, and Café del Sol was in the process of closing for the same reason, as it looked like a storm was coming in. I went across the street to the Black Water Loft. And, somewhere in between the time I entered the Loft and when I left, I felt something that I hadn't felt in almost five years: utter certainty. "The love that casts out fear," as the apostle John said.

I've realized, rather belatedly, that I haven't discussed that one moment of clarity I had so long ago. Back in the spring of 2005, I went on a trip to see Maria in Orange, Virginia. Among other things, we took a trip over to Barboursville Winery. It was technically closed, but a door from one of the rooms to the outside was unlocked and ajar. I snuck inside, despite Maria's protests that I was going to get in trouble, and gazed out through a wall of windows at the westering sun settling over the vineyards. Something inside me said, "This is where I belong." That thought took root and blossomed over the course of the year it took for me to wake up, one morning, and think "I'm going to open a winery." It was the clear realization of a truth axiomatic enough to open new doors of understanding and belief.

"[Your Personal Legend is] what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend...It's a force that appear to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your Personal Legend. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It's your mission on earth...To realize one's Personal Legend is a person's only real obligation. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."

And so my perception has begun to change in the past two months. I suppose you could say I got that vineyard back, mentally. My poverty and lack of work in Blacksburg has not been a curse or a punishment, but a clear sign that it is time to move on. Life and work in Floyd is, and will be, another tale. I can't wait to tell it.

(Although I try to avoid being so self-absorbed that I quote myself, this was relevant enough that I didn't want to try to bother rephrasing it. I'll hope I can be forgiven this one exception.)

"I really do believe that everything will unfold the way it should. Without that, what do I have to hope for? I believe that eventually I'll end up where I need to be, and that things will fall into place somehow. ...I'm not afraid anymore. I don't think I have to be. Even though I have no idea where I'm going, I know that I will find out eventually. And after all that's happened I have reason to believe I'll be all right in the end."
-May 12th, 2005





(I'm still flying.)

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