Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fish Crossing

Every year, as is our custom as Missionary Servants, I make an annual retreat. A week of silence, prayer, and reflection. I generally take long walks every day, and I see many things. Almost always, one or two images from this week of walking makes such an impression that it continues to bob to the surface of my thoughts the rest of the year.

Here is the moment that won't leave me alone this time around. I am standing on a muddy sidewalk in Pennypack Park, wet from the steady mist, my glasses speckled with water. I am looking down into the palm of my hand at three tiny silver fish. I can feel them wiggling in my hand.

I keep remembering that moment: seeing the fish flipping around on the sidewalk and bending over to pick them up, admiring them, and then tossing them into the creek. There had been flooding rain, and the creek had overflowed, stranding many little fish on the wrong side of the sidewalk as the water subsided. They were just trying to get back where they belonged.

Was this the most important thing God had to show me while I was on retreat? I spent several minutes rescuing fish, then I sat on a nearby park bench to rest. A man walked by and took up the same mission soon after I sat down. There was just something irresistible about the tiny fish struggling to go home.

Meanwhile, back at Trinita, we are in full gear for the Fall, plowing away at a number of labor-intensive projects such as confirmation retreats and other programs. I squirm as I realize how little time I have left to finish my readings for the upcoming Women on Wednesday group, the calls I still need to make, and there is that stack of letters I need to take care of that I almost forgot about. My immediate conclusion, when the image of the little fishes pops unexpectedly to the surface, is that God is reminding me to be attentive to the little unexpected encounters of the day despite my absorption in my latest big projects.

But maybe that is not the reason I keep remembering the moment. Maybe, God wants to remind me of something else. That I am a little fish, struggling in the palm of God's hand. And if my life really does depend on accomplishing the impossible task of swimming across a sidewalk, then don't worry. In some crazy, unexpected way, I am going to get where I need to go.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Green Tomato Pie

Nothing says Fall has arrived like setting up for that first mass in the Lodge for St. George's confirmation retreat. I decided to turn on the heat, which meant closing all the windows. Which meant unblocking them first, since they don't stay open on their own. The Lodge windows, left to their own devices, simply slam shut if you are bold enough (and tall enough) to try to open them. I am sure there's a metaphor there, but I can't be doing all the work here--you can figure it out for yourself, no doubt.

Something else says Fall, at least here at Trinita: stunning fall colors. Yellows and reds and oranges all blowing in the wind, swaying in the breezes. But not this year. This year, we get drab brown instead. Might as well be back home in Louisiana. We have been getting so much rain, the leaves are simply molding and shriveling and dropping despondently to the ground. This is seriously messed up, in my opinion. But there is not a thing we can do about it. Rain, followed by torrential rain, followed by steady drizzle, followed by thundershowers, and so on. The fire pit looks like a pond. We had water coming up out of the ground in our storeroom off the cenacle.

Last week, we had twenty teens here from various Cenacle Family missions. Our annual Be Fire Teen Conference. We hiked into the woods on Saturday night, some of us carrying benches to install at trail's end. It was fascinating. Super humid, so that every breath created fog. Super-saturated, so that depressions became swamps and ditches became babbling brooks. I saw individual droplets of moisture floating in the beam of my headlamp. I saw salamanders tucked in the roots of trees. We clambered over fallen trunks and rocky brooks, finding alternate routes to avoid the worst sections. I laughed to myself, remembering how last year at this time I had packed a fire extinguisher in case our prayer-fire caught the dry leaves on fire.

Yesterday, I surveyed Nancy's garden and realized we could never eat all those tomatoes, even if they do have a chance to get ripe before a freeze finishes them off. I found a recipe and made green tomato pie for supper. Honestly, I did not have much hope for success. I have never made it before. Mama used to make them, but the last time I had any was decades ago. The very concept of green tomato pie is crazy. But when I took my first bite, the flavor flooded my mouth and transported me to my childhood. Success!

Fall is here, wet or dry, colorful or drab, and we just do the work we are given to do, regardless. But now I have a new way to enjoy the fall, no matter what it looks like out there. Green tomatoes have a special, secret beauty all their own.